Saturday, September 26, 2009

-- DOH-DAC-DOH-TIP-CMN-TIP-DOH-DXB-DOH...OMG --

Just landed from my monthly-basis Dubai turnaround and I'm glad that finally got two days-off to rest from the Flying Marathon I had the past days. It's also the main reason why I haven't been updating the blog.

It all started with my unsucessful Stand-by session which I didn't get pulled out of, so I was forced to stay in Doha for almost six days in a row ( new record since I started flying ). Because of this I was kind of looking forward to operate my next flights , just for the fact of flying and leaving the city.

So I was wearing my huge smile on the briefing room for my rostered flight: Doha-Dhaka-Doha-Tripoli-Casablanca-Tripoli-Doha-Dubai-Doha, all of these sectors with the same crew.
It's like rostering gives you a package of seven days to bond with some crew members and try to work things out in diferent flights and days.

Luckily for me, the crew were very nice and we really worked together pretty much well in all sectors ( we were 'Suffering Buddies' ) and the enviroment inside the aircraft was very positive, even in the harder sectors which I'll be explaining step by step.

Most of the crew are a little scared about Dhaka flight , considering that Bangladesh is a really poor country and most of our passengers bound there are labourers working in Qatar or the UAE with no basic sanitary conditions such as proper toilets, so you can imagine how messy the flight can be, but even though one passenger vomited on the corridor while we were serving meals, the flight went without any troubles and the passengers were quiet and peaceful.
On landing into Dhaka, my crew seat was facing my bengali passengers and I just got impressed with the glow in their eyes on touchdown as they knew they were finally home. I can identify myself with the feeling of getting out of the aircraft as quick as possible and just hug your beloved ones when arriving home(I can't wait to go home).

Dhaka Zia International Airport is quite modern and neat, the hotel is near the airport and has all the amenities of a decent terminal and the hotel was brilliant and very comfortable. But is it worth to spend the whole time at the hotel when you have new world to discover?
I slept for one hour , had a huge buffet brunch and took a taxi to downtown Dhaka and explored a little.
My luck was that they were celebrating Eid festivities in Bangladesh so traffic on the streets was very light and had time enough to see all Dhaka main sightseeing spots.
The city is really messy and you see beggers eveywhere , yet the contact they have with their own culture shown in the way they dress and the way they live their life in general still impresses me big time. ( maybe the whole experience was completed with a little help from my taxi driver who kindly made me listen a Hindi music CD on the car radio,changed at the end of the day for a mixed 'Female Pop International Collection' one ).
Went to the former Royal Palace, a beautiful pink building surrounded by well-groomed gardens and lots of guards and then to Dhaka University with a typical Indian/British architecture.
The taxi driver also took me to the Parliament , a huge building with the architecture completely based on geometrical forms ( triangles, squares, cylinders ),then to a Hindi Temple named Dakeshwhari and in the end of the day, straight to Gurjan zone to buy DVD's.
The taxi driver was crazy for me to try some typical Bengali food but I just wouldn't like to go back to Doha as a dead-heading passenger all sick and full of virus running through my digestive tract.
Got to hotel just in time for dinner with some six of the crew members and we just ate a lot ( the food was brilliant ) , talked about many things, laughed and had a great time dining.
The next day it was rainy and cloudy the whole day , so I decided to make it a 'relaxation and lazy day' which meant: waking up , look through the window, sleeping more , waking up again, order room service, sleep more, watch half of a movie , internet , gym , some pool when the sun was out for like an hour , some more internet and then prepare for the flight back home.

The flight back was not really full and I got my galley again ( seriously, now I'm Mr. Galley ) and we were just enjoying the flight laughing so the five and a half hours just flew by very fast.

Got into Doha at almost midnight and went to bed as I would have only 24 hrs before the next 'leg of the race'. Didn't really have much time, so I just did some laundry , went for a quick lunch with my friends at Chilli's and went to the Mall to buy some things and groceries in Carrefour.
I didn't even unpack my suitcase, just took out the dirty clothes and put some new ones on it , the rest remained the same.

So again I was on the aircraft with the same crew going on what was going to be a really long flight starting with boarding when most of our passengers wouldn't speak English and none of the crew members would speak Arabic, now imagine how to tell a passenger that refuses to hear that he has to take his/her seat as the plane is full and can't simply swap because they want to chit-chat during the flight.
How come ground staff don't figure out that? How come didn't they passengers say that to them?. There was a time that all of the crew doing boarding looked at each other and started to laugh , it was just useless to even think about a solution.
Felt like playing 'Passenger Tetris' after a while , as we were already delayed and just asked to the passengers to seat in the nearest available seats and try to arrange them in a way that they would feel a little satisfied ( maybe? ).

Flight departed and we were doing just fine, the service went quite well and the passengers were quite happy with the service and the meals...Dejej? Samac? Cafe? Chai?.
After five hours in the early morning we arrived into Tripoli and around twenty passengers disembarked here, so we still had pretty much a full flight to Casablanca. Transit was peaceful but I was feeling really tired already.

Last part of the flight and we had another service, again the passengers were pleased and I was impressed by the new use of the air sickness bags: you can stow some of the useful things that come with the tray and even some hot meals ( for later ).
Anyway , landed into Casablanca and the weather was just beautiful. The queue in the airport was massive , even for the Crew fast track lane, so we got to the hotel only two hours after our arrival.
I didn't notice much , as soon as I boarded the bus , just fell asleep heavily and woke up at the hotel door near Casablanca City Centre.

Had a quick one-hour nap and headed straight to the train station to take the train to Marrakech, where a lot of people told me that was beautiful.
Anyway, the Concierge at the hotel gave me the wrong schedule so by the time I got there, the train was already gone and it was not worth to catch the next one as I was gonna get into Marrakech too late and would have to come back too soon to Casablanca.

Went back to the hotel, had some water and decided to walk around the city.
My first stop was Ancienne Medina , an old market full of streets with old-fashioned and creepy hotels, stores where you could find anything you could imagine and seafood restaurants.

Then following my 'cheater map' ( call it like that because on the map everything looked so close, which of course it wasn't ) I got to the Grand Mosque , which some people told me it was the biggest mosque in the world...not sure about it , but it was quite big and impressive.

Every details in the walls , fountains , ceilings and corridors was prefectly thought and the place is peaceful and beautiful.
The way they managed the lights, the shadows, it could be really hot outside but inside it's always pleasant and well lit.
Took several pictures and met a lot of tourists , most of them were Spanish and Portuguese coming on several cruise lines that arrive to Casablanca and then continue by bus to Marrakech or Fes.

The mosque is by the ocean so the Atlantic breeze was perfect for the mild weather and clear skies we were having.
Decided to go further and went walking to the Lighthouse ( a bad choice as the place was very dodgy and dangerous) and then found a Mc Donalds when I had a quick pit stop and then just took a taxi back to the hotel.

Already tired, decided to quickly check my e-mails, ordered some room service and had a nice sleep until the next morning.
Next morning I was feeling lazy and knew that I had to be well-rested to cope with the return sector , so just stayed at the hotel , went to the gym, ordered a huge breakfast, watched TV, slept more and did a final photo shot round on the Ancienne Medina before preparing for the flight back.

Flight back was very challenging , from Casablanca to Tripoli was quite empty so it was really easy, the worst part was that most of our passenger embarked in Tripoli and then it became really heavy as they wouldn't speak any English as well ( nor we'd speak Arabic ), most of them were very rude and we even had some unruly passengers on board.

Just got home this morning incredibly tired and went straight to bed as I had minimum rest and then woke up and got ready for the Dubai turnaround.
I like this flight, it's usually peaceful and hectic so you can't even notice about timings as when you finish the service , you are landing already.

Anyway , I finally got back and have two well-deserved days-off. Next month is gonna be really hectic as well and even though I feel tired, I kind of like it!
Also bought a ticket to Cairo for my days-off , so next month I'm gonna see the Pyramids and some other things I've been wanting to in a long time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

-- Eid Mubarak = Early Roster --

I'm not trying to be disrespectful with any Muslims , I respect a lot their religion and somehow I find it interesting ( maybe not when the mosque besides my building wakes me up at four in the morning with the prayings in the loudspeaker ).
With the end of Ramadan comes Eid which is the biggest celebration of all the fasting period, therefore everything came earlier this month : payments, administrative issues and my October roster.

September was not very attractive to me as I got a nice round of Stand-by which I didn't get pulled out of and one trip to the airport for an useless Airport Stand-by session ( I was about to be pulled out for Tunisia, but then the crew member showed up so I didn't ).

Anyway, I scored my record of block hours for October ( around 120 ), no Stand-by's and only two easy turnarounds.
My month starts in Cebu, which I decided not to swap as I do believe that the beaches and the experience in beautiful Philippines is worth the 10-hour flight.

On the even brighter side, I will be going to London not once or twice, but FIVE times, so will practically be moving to the UK. Still I do believe that as London is one of the world's capitals, you'll never run out of things to do there and I like the shopping as well.

What else? Oh yeah , they got me two Trivandrum's ( India ) which I didn't request for , but still beats other Indian destinations as it is a 24 hours layover and not an overnight extremely tiring turnaround.

Seychelles what? Twice? Heading to the tropical and beautiful Seychelles islands paradise two times this month with crew that I actually know, so the fun is guaranteed.

Have one lovely row of days-off also so I'll might be heading out to those places I've been wanting to go like Cairo , Abu Dhabi or Petra (Jordan).

These days haven't been flying , as I said, after Cebu I had three days-off and then a row of unsucessful Stand-bys. Yet it was a good oportunity to think about a lot of stuff, do some shopping, as I was really needing some things and what I like to call as ' friends rediscovering' ( even managed to watch The OC with one of my friends, the whole first season in one afternoon! )
As for me , tomorrow I've got the last Stand-by which I don't think I'll be pulled out of and then gonna be heading to lovely Dhaka for some ISC experiences , pampering at the hotel and some DVD shopping.

Eid Mubarak for y'all!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

-- Philippines, Sirrrrr --

Who would have ever thought that a twenty-minutes Bahrain turnaround would complicate things so bad afterwards?. I had this lovely and easy turnaround in the early morning ( had to wake up at 5 am) and then I went home for some minimum rest in preparation for my Cebu flight.
Just the basic things: met friends, went to the gym , had some dinner , went online and then got ready for a long night of flying.

This flight is particularly easy: not many passengers and filipinos are really easy going, most of the crew were also filipino as they bid for the flight to see their family and friends. Everything was looking so easy but sometimes you just cheat yourself.
Flying time: 10 hours and 10 minutes, now I remembered why I hate such long flights without any rest. My Bahrain experience in the morning really kicked out after five hours of flying when I started to feel crushed and sick.
I got my mid galley (you can call me Mr. Galley now ) and everything went just fine for the first half of the flight until we passed over the Bengali sea when our calm flight became a rollercoaster: turbulence, dive up and down and I got one of my lovely stomach acidity attacks so the feeling was not good at all, we even had to put ahead our top of descent for one hour and just sit and secure everything as weather was not helping at all.

Arriving into Cebu the weather was not nice , but it was not rainy and it was really hot and humid. I just wanted to know about two things: eat something nice and sleep.
The hotel was really nice, right besides a Mall so it was also very convenient. Cebu also reminded me a lot about Latin America , sometimes felt like I was staying in Colombia or Equador, surrounded by a crowd of people and 'jeepneys' (Cebu official public transport) trying to make their way through the streets.
We just got dressed and lots of the crew gathered at the lobby for dinner so we went to this really nice restaurant that served filipino dishes like Sizzling fish and Grilled Squid, and everything so cheap and neat.
You can really see how filipinos love shopping (as our filipino purser said), the city is not really big sized but they have like four major shopping centres with every store you can think of, even Mark and Spencers!

After a good night of sleep my phone rang at 7:30 with a singaporean crew calling to wake me up for a sightseeing day , we took a taxi to the port and jumped into the first ferry to Tagbilaran on Bohol Island.
It takes one hour and forty minutes to get there and the place is just beautiful. Rented a van for the whole day that took us through the island to see the Tarsier: the smallest monkey in the world which is also an endangered animal and looks odd: big eyes , bat ears, rat tail and monkey body. Then straight to the Chocolate Hills which are a natural phenomenon created when the whole region was under water so the massive waves shaped the terrain with perfectly simetrical hills that resemble chocolate drops on the ground (although it looks like it was man-made).
Again came the ' What am I doing here?' feeling and just enjoyed the view for a short time as then we headed to what I was looking for in my Cebu trip: the beach.
Some major highlights about this van ride was the fact that the road is really narrow in the mountains and still the driver was trying to overpass the cars when taking curves (almost pissed in my pants a little bit) and the best part was when I was falling asleep and I got woken up by a cellphone ringtone, one minute later I found out that our driver was TEXT MESSAGING whilst driving , how cool is that!. Talk about crazy driving huh!

The driver took us to Panglao Beach and we were there for the rest of the day. The beach was just beautiful: white sand , blue water, coconut trees and the best part: no people around! (ok, maybe ten maximum ).
Just lazing around in the hammocks, bathing in the warm water, playing with the starfish (now I know how starfish turn themselves up to the right position) and we even rented a kayak to wander around the water for sometime.
Even though I really didn't want to leave the place , we had to, so time to take the ferry back to Cebu and then just sleep like a baby for several hours.

Last day in Cebu was a 'lazy day' just went out to the Mall for some filipino grocery shopping: that purple marble bread loaf, otap , polvoron and of course my new addiction: dried mangos!.
Then just resting at the hotel ( as I learnt my lesson from the flight to Cebu) and got ready for the flight back.

Flight back was full but nice , we had some really heavy bumps along the way but nothing compared to the previous flight. The crew was just lovely helping each other, smiling , making jokes, some of the girls even brought filipino food for us to have a taste...anyway I didn't feel the ten-hour flight back to Doha.

Now I am here, having three days-off before my next ' beautiful roster' assignment: Airport Stand-By.
Enjoy and Salamat!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

-- Eurotrip Part 2 ( and fasting pax ) --

My willing to work was tested to its limit as I was even looking forward to operate my Beirut turnaround so , with the major happiness I wore my uniform and went to the airport to operate this 'lovely' turnaround.
The crew was nice and the outbound flight was really empty but most of my passengers were fasting ( Ramadan ) and they were really moody.
As the sunset came, they started to really get impatient and anxious and when the fasting time was over we were already descending, now tell me: Try to explain them that we couldn't give them anything to eat as we were preparing to land. They almost ate us alive so we had to improvise some things to give them and keep them happy, air sickness bags are so handy sometimes!.
Beirut seemed lovely , I will definitely go there on my days-off (considering that from next month I'm gonna have my rebate tickets ).
Way back was full, but most of them were nice and the service was easy.

Some minimum rest after I was back on the airport to operate a Munich flight. This was my first time in Germany and a swapped flight (bye-bye short Saigon) so I was looking forward to it.
Both sectors were full and I got the 'privilege' of having the galley on the way there. Must say that loading six carts twice , plus do all the paperwork really killed my back as I am still having some back pain.
That was a tough flight physically speaking and catering was not helpful with me. Luckily I had my korean assistant who really helped me a lot.

Arriving into Munich we had a short layover so I tried to make the best of it.
The weather was just beautiful and me and the three romenian girls decided to go for a walk and have some dinner. Since it was Monday ( I think ) the only restaurant opened nearby was an Italian restaurant , so we ate Italian food in Germany!!!

Had some nice sleep as the next morning woke up really early and went by myself for some sightseeing. The hotel was in the City Centre so I just walked across the beautiful English Gardens and went to more gardens? and then Alexanderplatz and Marienplatz.
Even had the chance to see the little fake people in the Marienplatz clock tower moving as it was the o'clock hour.
Then went to buy some German goodies a.k.a. Haribo and Nutella, and then just wandered around the river until I got to the hotel again through the English Gardens where at this part of the day were full of naked people taking a sunbath.
Couple of hours of sleep and then got ready for the way back.

Flight was good as well, my passengers were polite and asked me lots of questions about this Cabin Crew life even when we were landing.
Not much time to rest and some hours later I was there again bound to London Gatwick.
Most of my crew was changed and pulled out from Stand-by to operate this flight so they were not enjoying it as much. I realized that it really changes the entire mood in the aircraft, I can't say they were bad, but I really didn't have fun on both sectors.

Again got a galley and had a really physical job, I just couldn't bear my back anymore and some lovely passenger that was coming back from Bangkok and apparently got food poisoned, vomited all over my galley later on making it the highlight of the flight.

Anyway , thought it was time to rest? half an hour after I got my key and me and one paraguayan crew went out to London (town?) to meet a friend of mine who was gonna show us around , so Victoria Station was our meeting point.
So nice to see friends ' on the other side' as we say , specially when we haven't seen them in many years and we can also notice how moving really changes people, how they grow up , how they sometimes become colder or warmer or even more humble.

First stop: Buckingham Palace, snapshot here, snapshot there, Lords here, Statue there and time to continue the 'Japanese Tour' , walking through Hide Park we got to Picadilly Circus when I had the classical picture with the bunch of signs 'à la Time Square' and then some rest to have something to eat.
As we were on the City Centre, I decided to do some quick shopping and went to Covent Garden area to find what I'd say it was my favourite candy shop ever: sweets from all over the world and of course: My beloved Whams!

Then some blocks away while eating my Whams and we got to Trafalgar Square where we took pics of the National Gallery and took some shots inside the lions mouths, very American!. From there we could already see the Big Ben and walked straight there.
That's a classical London moment , to go and take several pictures at Westminster Bridge where you have a clear view of the city's skyline , the London Eye , Aquarium and of course, Westminster and the Big Ben.

After half an hour of a cheap photo shoot session , decided that it was time to take the Tube (and mind the gap) to Tower Bridge, another famous landmark.
A perfect place to experience the city's weather as it started to rain and get really windy until our umbrellas got inside out.
From there we went into the tube again and headed to Greenwich village where we had a really nice picnic in the gardens and then some funny moments at the Greenwich Line ( like when I went to Equator ): one leg on each side of the world.

Day was getting cold and dark but the place was lovely , you could see all of London from the hill and also all planes approaching into Heathrow , we even saw our beloved A340-600 doing the final turn , inbound from Doha.

As I was 36 hours without having any sleep , my body was crying for some rest so, bus here, tube there, station here, transfer there, train here, walking there, we said our good-byes to my friend and headed to the hotel.
Got online for like one hour and when I realized I was mixing portuguese with spanish and english when chatting with my brother, I knew it was time to sleep.
Flight back was next early morning and passengers were fine, service was also quite easy even though still the crew was not in a really good 'aura'.

Back in Doha now for four lovely days...hope I don't run out of ideas on what to do around here, the good news is that is not that hot anymore and nights are becoming more pleasant to go for a walk or some light snacks at the Souq.