Friday, August 28, 2009

-- Get me out of here! ( and September Roster ) --

I must say that I am not a 'work-a-holic' and I normally enjoy resting and sleeping , but having four days-off in a row when I didn't ask for it ( and believe me , there are crew that practically fight to have them ) was just too much for me.

Got to a point that I had to call rostering and tell them that I was (gasp! ) WILLING TO WORK ON MY DAYS-OFF! How bizarre, never thought in my whole life that I'd do that!
Even felt a little nerdy by doing it but it's ok , they didn't call me anyway and I got to spend those days enjoying our beautiful Qatari summer weather.
The good thing is that I got to sort a lot of things out , some visa stuff for my annual leave , which I'm getting really desperate to get as I'm dying to see my family and also got to spend some more time toasting at the beautiful swimming pool that today wouldn't make me feel better as the water was also hot, so there was no relief whatsoever to the fourty-ish degrees Celsius temperatures here.

"Ramadan Kareem" for you people! We can't drink or eat in public , so standing by the pool under the Arabian sun without having any water is also a big issue.
By the time I got home , I was tired, sunburnt and dizzy...but I'm not complaining, had great company so it was definitely worth it.

So , I got my roster when I was in Rome and this is what I got:

- My month starts in Munich ( remember that I swapped that one for my Saigon?) where I'll have a short but nice layover good enough to go buy some scale planes at Herpa, some original and thick german Nutella and some Haribo cola gummies.

- Coming back and with minimum rest I'll go to London Gatwick. The original intention of that flight was to go with a friend who would show me around South London , but I got the flight and he didn't, so I have to go to London and do some japanese tourist sightseeing by myself ( and also buy some Wham candies ).

- Some days-off and one lovely Bahrain-basketball turnaround later, I am going to 'P'iliphines, to some city named Cebu. I requested this one because they told me it was cheap and there were some lovely beaches around the islands.

- Now things get hard as I got a nice round of Stand-by's together even though I've always been lucky with those , let's see if this month my love story with rostering still continues.

- Then things are even harder as Mr. Roster is always trying hard to send me to Dhaka, so as the first month , I got a beautiful Doha-Dhaka-Doha-Tripoli-Casablanca-Tripoli-Doha, being a total of six days in the roster with the same crew.
If you thought that was enough , arriving from Morocco I got minimum rest and got my monthly basis Dubai turnaround.

-Cairo follows ( this time on a A330 ) and then I'm off to some beaches again to beautiful Cebu!

That's basically it , I can't really say that my roster is gonna remain the same as it's always changing, normally for good.

Once again , Ramadan Kareem for you people, I am not fasting but still trying to lose some pounds in the new rowing machine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

-- Eurotrip? --

My lip healed and I was cleared to operate my Paris flight which I was really looking forward to as my roster this month kept changing and changing like an Indian airport departures board.

I flew there with two of my batchmates, as it was our first operative A340-600 flight and we were rostered together.
At first I thought we were going to Bombai as most of our passengers were Indians ( bound from different cities around the subcontinent ) going to Paris and yes , all of them carrying European passports and speaking french. Still, the flight was really quiet but since we had two services, it was really hectic and we had the chance to rest for only half and hour.
Time to land in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport with a beautiful weather , different from our departure city (Doha ) which these days resembled of a steam oven,and we are the rice being cooked.

No time for resting , twenty minutes after getting our hotel keys , we took the commuter to Paris Notre Dame Station.
Outside the station , just walked a little and there it was the beautiful Sena river and of course Notre Dame church bursting with people as some light summer rain started to fall when we arrived.
Getting into the church was really hard considering the amount of people but it was worth it, inside there were beautiful religious pieces and a really colossal architecture.

We didn't have too much time , so after taking some pictures we started our long walk along the Sena to the Louvre Museum and Square, beautiful place but really overcrowded so I decided that I would actually go inside on my next Paris, the weather was just way too beautiful to waste it by seeing paintings.
From Louvre we just followed the Gardens to Concorde Square and then walked feeling the 'chicness' of the Champs Elisees towards the Arc do Triomph.

Lots of stores, bistros and people just walking around taking pictures and enjoying the view.
We were starving so we had...Mc Donalds? but looking at the bright side: we had Mc Donalds at the Champs Elisees!
Arc do Triomph is bigger than I imagined , and it's actually inside a roundabout , so you have to go through a tunnel to get there.
The place is really nice , full of details talking about the French history and revolution, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Eiffel Tower was calling me since we landed so after a quick walk we got to this beautiful architectural know when you have goosebumps just because you saw something you never thought you would? (at least not so soon). I felt like an idiot just looking at it trying to believe that it was actually me staying there. Camera coming out of my pocket and time for plenty of pictures to prove myself that I was actually there and also for some cheap Facebook showing off.
Then walked under the tower to take a closer look at the engineering and then to the Champs de Mars to have a coffee in an original french 'bistrô' and finally laying down on the grass to see the Tower transforming with the beautiful night lights.

Tired of walking and jet-lagged we decided to go back to the hotel which was a really hard task at the time as lots of the subway lines were on maintenance by night so there were a lot of detours which of course we didn't know about until we reached the stations. There was a dutch family equally lost so they were our partners in finding the right way to our final destination.

Second day in Paris and I wanted a day for myself, so I just took the train and went to the city alone. First Stop: Sacre Coeur , a beautiful church at the top of a hill. Has any of you watched that movie Amelie Poulain? that's the place with lots of steps where she tries to find her 'unknown date'...I even took a picture of the carrousel that appeared on the movie! climbed to the top and the view of a beautiful and classic Paris appeared to my eyes. It's incredible how a city so hectic could still preserve its classic architecture and have that old and vintage air.
From there a couple of subway stations away there's the famous Moulin Rouge. I just took a quick snap from the outside, maybe someday I will go inside...who knows, I'm not a theatre/cult boy.
Time to get into the subway as I gathered enough courage to have a quick trip to Versailles (considering that I would have to be fit to fly in some hours).

Versailles was the palace built by Louis XVI outside of Paris, the place is huge and just beautiful, the queue was big but moving fast so decided to give it a chance and have a point of no return: 3:30 must be on the train back no matter what.
Time enough to see everything around , took the tour and saw all the main chambers in the palace , including the stunning Chamber of Mirrors, The King's bedroom and Maria Antoinette's bedroom as well. Somehow you can easily imagine a moment in their life, I always imagine them at late afternoon just minutes before the evening starts, getting ready for a huge dinner and then having all set up for sleeping early with several people assisting them.
Back to reality and just wandered around the huge Gardens ( as my classic japanese-style tour) and then back to the station to go on the train back.
Just had a nice rest at the hotel and then time to go back to Doha. Again flight was really smooth, specially because most of our passengers were sleeping.

Time in Doha was minimum, as I uploaded the pictures ( or should I say report to my family ) and just slept for the rest of the day.
It's Ramadan in the Middle East so you can't basically do anything in public spaces: no eating , drinking , smoking, smiling?. Getting food on daytime is really hard so I rode my bike in some lovely 43 degrees Celsius and went to the supermarket which was open and full of people buying groceries.
Night time and some light sleep before unpacking-packing the suitcase and get ready for Rome.

Flight was even smoother, the crew was really nice and happy about going to Rome as everybody had bid for it. I had such a great time on the flight , the services were smooth and fast and I could barely feel the flying time.
Arriving into Rome again , no time for resting. Twenty minutes later me and other two crews were taking the subway to our first stop: The Colosseo.

Goosebumps ahead, getting out of the subway station you encounter this enormous and beautiful structure (again took some moments to actually believe that I was there) and then time for snapshots and queue to get inside.
Thought it was good from the outside? from the inside it is speechless! the place is enormous and just smells like history , it's amazing how a structure like that has remained in such good conditions for more than 2000 years!.
After wandering around the place for some minutes we headed to the neighbour Foro Romano , which was an important part of Ancient Rome.

Coming out of the place (really hot by the way) went through Piazza Venezia and found our heat relief on Fontana di Trevi , a beautiful fountain with cristal clear water where some people were even drinking out of it.
Some blocks away was Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) where we had our lunch with some pasta, bread and pizza.
Piazza San Pietro was waiting for us. Place was stunning , an incredibly big and beautiful open space, really famous because of the Pope's events held there everytime.

Short queue and time to get inside and climb the Cupula to have a beautiful sight of Piazza San Pietro, Vatican and of course Rome.
We were already knackered , so after this place we took the subway and headed straight to the hotel for some resting. I was supposed to go to the gym afterwards but I fell asleep and woke up the day after! ( that makes fourteen straight hours sleeping).

Nobody would want to go out with me the next day , as they were really tired of walking and climbing steps , so I took the subway and went by myself to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
I'm not a really big fan of museums , but I really wanted to see the Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Chapel.
In order to see it , you have to go through the whole Vatican Museum , click here-click there, paintings here-paintings there, time to get besides the tour guide from some random group to hear the explanations and finally, the Michelangelo!

Clock was ticking so I just took the subway back to the hotel and wandered around the pool with that beautiful mediterranean sun shining ( burning ) over my skin. Then some sleep and check my new ROSTER! Fresh from the oven, which I'll be explaining later.

Time to get ready and flew back to beautiful and chilly Doha! flight was just perfect, got a lot of compliments from my passengers, flight was light load, service was easy , had a great assessment and the crew were nice again.
Now I'm here, tomorrow's a busy day but I think it will be worth it. Also managed to swap my Ho Chi Minh for Munich ( fair change ) so I'll be going back to Europe this week.

That's it for me! See ya around.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

-- Doha Days --

A reader once asked me about how my days in Doha are when I am not flying. The past days have been 'Doha Days' for me as after my lovely double-sector, I got my basic monthly Dubai turnaround with roughly fifty passengers and then I had days-off before some training on A340 aircraft and then more days-off!

Suddenly I got pulled out from Stand By to operate a Sanaa turnaround ( that's Yemen...yes, that's a country ) and when I was running to get ready I cut my lip shaving, result: No Sanaa flight for me!
So yes, it has been almost a week without flying which was good to solve many things on my apartment and get rid of some unnecessary things that a person like me like to collect on the trips thinking that IT MIGHT be useful someday.

My social life is also back, as I've been quite busy with this difficult cabin crew life on days-off. I still wonder if I ever gonna get tired of wandering around the swimming pool, I know my skin is as yesterday the thermometers reached forty degrees with ninety per cent humidity, it was like walking into a huge oven.
All I know is that my skin is really red now and last night I felt like dying.

Tomorrow's gonna be a good day , I'm off to Paris and it's gonna be my first time there. It was something like a 'must go' in my life ( and got this one by accident ) so I am really looking forward to it.
Arriving from Paris I got a lovely minimum rest and then I'm off to beautiful Rome , so it's gonna be a pretty busy week.

That's the update from the oven...I mean Doha!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

-- Is this a movie? No , I am in Vietnam --

How to describe a place where you never thought you would set a foot on? When I was joining QR I didn't know they had flights to Vietnam , so when it was time for bidding on my roster, Saigon looked like an interesting place , and all the crew were telling me that it was a nice layover so I went for it.
After another one of my 'catch-the-refreshment' double-sectors, I was preparing myself for the unknown ,specially because all I had heard about Vietnam were things about the war and that was it.
Crew was really excited as well as most of them had bid for that flight so they were looking forward to explore the place.

Flight was quite long but enjoyable , most of our passengers were european people and vietnamese-europeans, so the flight was not demanding and it was quite fun. Most of them speaking a little french , so everytime they had to tell me something they would think that I was a french speaker as well...ehem...Bonjour? Merci? that's it!
As it is monsoon season in southeast Asia , we had a really bumpy flight and had to sit for nearly three hours before we could do our second service and prepare for landing.
Anyway after flying over Bangkok we were landing into Ho Chi Minh City.

Beautiful airport must say and the weather was really pleasant and hot. Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is a really humid place and like Singapore or Bangkok, they never have winter or seasons , it's hot and humid the whole year round.
Headed to the hotel between what it looked like a bee race , full of motorcycles that would go across every vehicle respecting no traffic law whatsoever.
The city is massive and dense populated ,nearly five million people live in this city full of motorcycles and neon signs, they speak vietnamese that sounds a lot like Thai but they also use some Chinese characters to write.

Just loved the people , they were always smiling and welcoming and the most important thing about Vietnam: It's just incredibly cheap!
Anyway, after a long day flight , nothing better than have a really nice typical dinner, so most of the crew went to the 'backpackers district' to book a tour for the next day and have some nice Vietnamese dishes.

I had the yellow noodles with some sea food , small portion but fair enough. The whole meal including beverages and desserts was around six US dolars!
As it was already midnight , headed to the hotel for some rest, after all , we would have to wake up very early in the morning for the tour.

7:15 in the morning and we were taking the bus for the tour along the Mekong River Delta. The trip was quite funny , our guide was vietnamese and was telling us about Ho Chi Minh City's peculiarities and about the role the city had in the Vietnam War ( don't ask me about it , I was so sleepy that I understood half of it , and the other half just forgot on the way back).
After three hours on the road we got into this little port where the boats were waiting for us.

Have you ever been to a place that you never thought you would even set a foot on? This was the place for me!. As I was just looking at the Mekong River and was about to ride the boats just thought to myself : 'So I am in Vietnam? How come? '.

We jumped into the boat and the first stop was the Floating Market where you could see plenty of boats where the people also live, selling pretty much everything you could imagine : potatoes, coal , lichias, fruits , even pigs!
Second stop was the rice paper factory where I had the chance of trying to make a sheet of rice paper.

It was something like making a really fine crepe, almost transparent and then setting it off a table and waiting for it to dry , they use it for packing things and also for making the world famous Spring Rolls.

Then was time to cross the immense Mekong River and go to the man-made islands on the delta.
Islands were made by taking dirt out of the river's bottom and set it into some wood cages who would act as walls for the new islands that would be populated.

We sailed between the channels , going under bridges and sharing the space with fruit boats and some tourist boats as well.

Had a great lunch and then got some bikes for sightseeing around the islands roads. It was a really nice ride as it started to rain, cooling a little the steamy weather and pulling that fresh wet rain smell out of the woods ( felt like home ).
We also had the opportunity of playing with a piton they had at the restaurant as a pet, it was cool but it was drooling too much.

Time to go back with a nice surprise: we would be taken out on the typical boats as they used to do centuries ago , so we had to wear those cone-shaped hats and get into this little boats , rowed by the most fitted elderly women I have ever seen in my life.
One hour later met the big boat and headed back to the port for some lichia shopping and taking the bus back to Saigon. I would say that the trip back to the city was one of the longest ones of my life, we took four hours to travel 120 Kms , the delay was basically because of the intense traffic near the metro area and before reaching Saigon we had to take a really bumpy and dusty detour in order to try to get there a little earlier.

I arrived at the hotel completely tired but still as I promised myself to lose some weight and get fit again , went to the gym for some treadmill therapy and some crunchies.

Next morning woke up early and went with a south african crew to the market nearby and bought some souvenirs, then headed to the Reunification Palace where I could see a little of the Saigon history and how this place worked as a Presidential House during the Vietnam War.
Outside the building there are original tanks and combat planes from those turbulent times also.

To complete the Vietnamese Experience, we took a 'bike rickshaw' and wander around the City Centre dodging cars , motorcicles and just everything that came in front of us in that coordinated mess they have. Traffic sign? Why, someone will stop anyway!
We couldn't leave the city without a really cheap one-hour massage ( no happy endings ok? ) with some fresh watermelon juice.

The day practically was finished there as we walked to the hotel and had some rest for the return sector. Flight couldn't be nicer, passengers were really easygoing and since the crew bonded quite well , we had a lot of fun inside the plane.

Somehow I got a little lost on the internet , I've been flying a lot these days and everytime just coming home extremely tired, but since today I am on an another beautiful stand-by ( after a double sector and one quick turnaround ) I am updating my dear readers around the world.

Monday, August 3, 2009

-- Messing around messy Kathmandu and a quick turnaround --

I've been in Kathmandu before, so this was gonna be my second time in beautiful and exotic Nepal. I had requested for this destination back in June so I was feeling very keen on operating it again ,specially because some of the nepalese crew ( we do have some) had been telling me which places were really worth going.

Back into the plane for a four and a half hours flight, again with two big passenger profiles: the tourists and backpackers in search for some hiking experience through Nepal , Butan and China and the nepalese laboureres who have been living in the Gulf for many years earning almost nothing and finally flying back home for some well deserved holidays.
So it's an interesting mix of people because you have very well travelled passengers who know how to use the toilets, how to behave on the plane and when to press the call bells and the other side of the coin with the passengers who jumped into a plane maybe once in a lifetime , don't have a clue on how to use the IFE and press the call bell by accident many times.

Still I like the flight , as nepaleses are really friendly ( even when they don't speak english ) and understanding. They do want to drink a lot on the plane but somehow I feel sorry for them as we know their living conditions in the Gulf, so I would just give them the booze on the plane, not to the point of getting them drunk of course. It was the first time that I saw all our whisky running out and most of our beers as well.

-' Sir , would you like chicken or lamb?'
-'And to drink Sir?'
-'Yes' ( look at my landscape face here)
-'Yes Sir, but what?'
-'Hard drink'
-'Sorry , what?'
-'Red Label' ( imagine this part with a really shy smile).

Arrived into Kathmandu with some scattered showers again and a really hot weather. Again their living conditions are obvious. A nepalese crew told me that even though the country looks really poor, people there live happy and everyone has a house.
And I thought Latin America was messy! but I really like Nepal specially because of its culture, they are really in touch with it, they praise when they have to , they eat what they have to and it's just so different from my hometown, it really feels like I'm in the lost world.

The hotel is so nice and they have a free buffet breakfast so as soon as we got our hotel keys , I went to my room , changed in two seconds and went downstairs for some nice food ( I hate the plane food , I just can't eat those things anymore).
I was about to leave for my sightseeing when I turned on the TV and that indian movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' was beginning and as I had been wanting to watch it for a long time, I just laid on my bed and did.

Must say that the feeling of watching a movie like that in Nepal was really interesting , as they have the same culture. Again the ' I'm a cabin crew flying the world' feeling came and it just felt nice, a year ago I could have never imagined that I would be on that place.
The movie gives you a interesting picture of Indian capital cities ( in this case Mumbai) and how they have really rich people and extremely poor ones in the same space, living side to side.

After the movie the weather got even nicer and hired a taxi to take me to Nagarkot, a little village that was about 30 kms away from Kathmandu.
The village had nothing really interesting itself, but since it's at the top of the Kathmandu Valley , you can see the city in one side, the beautiful rice crops terraces rising through the montains and on the other side the beautiful Himalayas and specially the roof of the world: Mount Everest.

So there I was on my little taxi , picture here , picture there, car here, car there, tuk tuk here , tuk tuk there, COW! those are sacred, definitely in Kathmandu they don't have clues on what a traffic law is as everyone drives the way they want , sometimes it can really get you on your nerves as you get scared of being hit several times.
As we headed to the mountains we took this little and narrow road to climb up around a thousand meters to the village.
The view was just incredible as we were climbing passing though the rice fields and then as we were higher , thought the pine and eucaliptus woods. Every curve was a thrill as the road is wide enough for only one car and sometimes you could see the car in front of you on the curve having to break immediatly and give some room for the car to pass by.
Taxi driver was just laughing so much at at my reactions as I kept saying the whole time things like : 'Be careful', 'You can take as many time as you want , as long as I get there alive'.
As we arrived there, I got to this resort with a beautiful terrace...the view was just breathtaking, even though it was still a little cloudy, facing the top of the world (again Mt. Everest) is just priceless. I stood there like hypnotized by its size, breathing that pure and pine-scented mountain air, wandering how the hell did I get there.
The restaurant besides the terrace was playing some nepalese music , so the experience was very complete, might buy a CD next time.
Time for some pictures, then some scattered rain, them more pictures and then time to go back to the hotel as the trip back to KTM would take something like two hours.
I slept for a bit on the way back, I was just too tired to care about the curves and the lack of traffic laws.

Back in the hotel I slept for two more hours and since it was the first day of my new 'healthy life' I went to the gym and ran for sometime in the threadmill ( oh how I miss those days when I used to be so fit and athletic ). Then I had some really nice indian food at the Indian restaurant in the hotel, again cheap and just perfect , some time at the crew lounge to check my e-mails of course and then back to bed.
I was about to sleep when I turned on the TV and they were airing the finals of the Swimming World Championships in Rome...that was a must see.

Next morning woke up with the wake up call , got ready and took the plane back to Doha , flight was light loaded and it was a really easy flight again with the two types of passengers.
Again , take off and some minutes later the Himalayas on the right hand side of the plane...all passengers taking pictures through the windows as we were doing the service.
Arrived into Doha around midday , had some lunch with the friends that were not flying...INDIAN FOOD AGAIN (I discovered how much I love paratta) and then headed to the Souq for some coffee and to look for a present for a friend whose birthday is this week.
Went there with two friends so the three of us took our picture wearing arabic dish-dash's and got it framed for her. I think that will make a really nice present.

As we are feeling rich and powerful ( pay day was last week and having no social life got me a really nice paycheck) we got ourselves some mountain bikes, so now we can go everywhere in Doha without the hassle of looking for a cab or walking under the arabian summer sun and widespread dust.

Time for some rest and back to the airport again for my Abu Dhabi turnaround, the last flight of the week before my beautiful two days-off.
I got a galley which for this flight was easy as it was light load and the service is really basic ( flying time is 35 minutes). Since it was a nightstop I got the oportunity to explore Abu Dhabi's airport and duty free, nothing really interesting to see , the airport looks like 'The Snorkels' houses and duty free products are basic yet cheap.
Went back to the plane and few passengers boarded the flight back to Doha, arriving in the early morning and then sleeping.

Days-off are there! and I've got a new bikes and no debts whatsoever! ( also managed to pay all the money I was owing so freedom feels so nice now ).
Hope you have enjoyed, I will upload some pictures of this short but nice adventure.