I say 'Yes'. She calls me into the front galley, pulling a series of scripts from her smartphones, asking me to read out scripted passenger announcements written in English... but in Spanish, for a brief moment, bringing memories of my time working in the Middle East for Qatar Airways, which by now looks like a lifetime ago.
Three fellow members of the crew approach me, thanking me with weary yet quirky smiles, whilst and I am offered an unlimited assortment of food and beverages free of charge.
What I once dreaded as a flight on one of the most infamous low-cost airlines, turning into an incredibly pleasant flight, improvising a lie-flat seat by stretching my legs over a row of three, napping and munching on an over sized bag of salty pretzels and a can of Minute Maid.
Some three hours later, the plane overflies the Gulf of Mexico and an endless lineup of orange street lights emerge from the thick morning fog leading our sleepy Airbus into Houston Intercontinental Airport where we wait on the tarmac for several minutes for our gate to be ready.
Despite the somnolent outlook of the airport from the outside, the terminals inside burst with travelers both entering and leaving the United States, moment in which I am directed to a queue where high tech totems perform an immigration check on ESTA travelers, most of whom grin in frustration after being redirected to another queue for a second inspection holding their passports and a stub of paper marked with a big X.
In my case this morning, this second inspection leads to confusion and some time spent in the 'secondary inspection room'. No access to my passport, blinding neon lights forcing squinting eyes and prayers sent upwards.
A friendly officer calls my name within a pool of travelers who seem to have been waiting for hours holding onto their colorful canvas bags, saris and golden jewelry, their skins looking paler under the lights of scrutiny and uncertainty. Seconds later, I am waved my way into the United States with a smile and I run across three terminals and a sky train to make it to my connecting flight.
The distance between Houston and Los Angeles is covered in under four hours in a pretty uneventful flight in which most passengers seem to be asleep, allowing me to perform several trips to the back galley in an pointless effort of shaking the jet lag and fatigue out of my system.
Damp clouds make way to a clear sky revealing the bone dry landscape of the Nevada desert whilst the airplane balances side to side in an effort of conquering the San Bernardino mountains on its final dive into the busy motorways of Los Angeles and the international airport, a moment sweetened by the amicable conversation of a girl from Chicago (now living in Houston) , her passion for Ireland sprouting from her thick American accent, her love for children pullulating from her blue eyes framed by thick square glasses.
The fatigue abruptly takes over my body, transforming a bus journey from the airport to Santa Monica into a faded fusion of direction-giving (despite not being local and being my first time on a Californian public bus) and chitchatting with a lost Brazilian mother and her child, as well as a vague awareness of following the bus route so I don't miss my stop.
A toy store magazine catalog. A landscape coming out of a magazine for Lego or Mattel. This is Santa Monica to me.
Manicured gardens, squeaky clean streets, colorful pastel signs which are oddly proportioned to the building they are embedded in, athletic blonds politely fighting for space with jocks wearing salmon-coloured jerseys and hordes of Chinese tourists with overly sized SLR cameras.
I take it all in whilst my lungs fill with the fresh humid air coming from the Pacific a few meters down the road and check into one of the nicest (and most expensive) hostels I've stayed in, the Hostelling International in Santa Monica where a friendly receptionist promptly complete the basic formalities and invites me to have breakfast.
The convenience of shower rooms coated in shiny green tiles polished by a thick layer of Dettol, or starched-drenched dry cleaned bed sheets which only accentuate the softer touch given to a much-needed power nap shall never be under appreciated anymore.
A light layer of oceanic winter mist prevents the sunshine to break loose over the famous Santa Monica pier, crowded with foreign and domestic tourists alike, which seem to almost hanging off the wooden deck and steel railings, like seagulls waiting for the wind to pick up and soar over the emerald-colored cold ocean.
I walk through the pier and, in a desperate attempt of avoiding the crowds of Chinese tourists clumsily spending money on price-inflated junk food and waving selfie sticks and iPads across the heads of those who are relatively taller than them, later venturing on a long walk sinking my feet in the cold sand all the way to Venice Beach, greeted by a weak late afternoon sunshine which turns the waves into a wobbly silver sculpture scratched by the painfully-looking lines of surfers conquering the high swell.
All of a sudden, my body craves for fat, perhaps consequence of days surviving on rice with beans, fruit and vegetables in Central America, and I find true satisfaction on the oiliest corn dog Muscle Beach has ever seen, followed by a quarter-pounder, a cinnamon roll and a 'slushie' to wash it down. Surprisingly, a sugar rush whose energy fuel my walk back to Santa Monica, surrounded by a street line up of small family homes facing a weak sun now disappearing across the overcast horizon drawn over the deserted beach.
I collapse early at night, only to wake up the next morning to the bluest of the skies, a lavish breakfast and a stroll around the Santa Monica promenade to do some last-minute shopping.
Shortly after midday on a Sunday in which Californians start queuing for brunch blending in a series of light jumpers, shorts and large sunglasses, I take the bus back to Sepulveda Boulevard for some 'head-shaving plane spotting' by the In-n-Out joint, indulging on my last couple of California-style burgers topped with bright yellow cheddar cheese and crimson tomato sauce.
The Dreamliner awaits. A 12-hour flight aiming to teleport me from the sun kissed glass windows and sweet-smelling convenience stores of Terminal 2 in Los Angeles International, to the gloomy depths of London Heathrow's Terminal 3. All seats bar one are taken, to my delight, such seat is next to mine, making the cramped journey slightly more bearable.
Sleek, modern, silent. The Dreamliner is any aviation geek's candy store, their heart (and mine) racing with excitement at the sound of novelty chimes, LED-powered lighting, or my all-time favourite: the lack of window shades.
Hours over Manitoba and Hudson Bay go by. The Danish Girl disturbingly messes up with my thoughts over the Atlantic, and a nice sunshine breaks through the shade-less windows on approach over the Thames. I try to transfer onto an earlier Dublin-bound flight unsuccessfully.
I land myself and reluctantly take the 'tube' into the city, only emerging at Picadilly Circus for a breath of fresh wintry European air. 'I am home, well almost there'.
I stretch my legs by briskly walking from Picadilly Circus to Covent Garden. It is already Monday and the city is swarming with both, tourists shopping and Londoners selling. Pause for a coffee for the soul and a bit of granola with yogurt for the bloated body.
My head lets go, tilting sideways with the rocking train. The sun dips into a horizon dominated by tall Victorian houses as we cruise over Hammersmith. I fall asleep and -luckily- wake up as the train pulls into the Heathrow station.
A woman in green uniform prints a boarding card, the airplane is nearly empty, we taxi and wait at the threshold, I blank out...
...I feel a heavy bump from the plane's undercarriage. Outside my window, the flaps are fully deployed. One light becomes two, the sequence repeats and multiplies, we touchdown. I have now landed in Dublin and the chilly wind pressing against my sunburned skin enlightens my journey into the city center.
Memories of the past weeks sprout through my head. The volcanoes, rivers, lakes, chicken buses. The surf, the frustration, the laughter, the sickness, the people met, the stories now created.
Central America has taught me about (the lack of) personal space, about smiling through the struggles of life, simplicity, about resilience.
As I learn that many people travel to run from their reality, I also learn how much I look forward to face mine, to return to the comfort of my one-bedroom apartment in the Victorian side of Dublin, to my friends, to return home.