Thursday, 28 December 2006

Singing Carols in Singapore

In the early early hours of Xmas Eve, I flew out of Dubai bound for Singapore, where I would spend Xmas with a lovely crew and my horde of presents from home. However, prior to leaving I delivered the previously mentioned bribe photos with innocent sounding Xmas cards. Am still awaiting reactions from some of the recipients.

Arrived in Singers at about 3pm, had a quick nanna nap and headed out for ... SHOPPING. Then, feeling weary but in need of some good Food Court food, headed to said food court and ate ourselves stupid.

Needless to say, I wanted to roll back to the hotel and go to bed, but where was my Xmas spirit? I was only a few hours away from my second Xmas spent overseas and I was dammed if it was going to pass me by while I was sleeping on uncomfortable pillows at the Carlton.

We headed to one of the clubs over the road in Chijmes, where there was a slightly outrageous live band, complete with silly string for the countdown. That's right, the countdown. Appartently Xmas in Singapore is celebrated like New Years. I must say it was slightly disorganised though, as the singer didn't have a watch on and had to ask US what the time was!

I was with a fellow Aussie, a lovely Welsh girl and our two slightly conversationally challenged cockpit crew. One of which was intent on showing off his skills at flipping large stacks of coasters off the bar and catching them with the same hand. Seriously riveting stuff. I think I'll stick to tying snakes in knots in my mouth thanks.

At about 12.02am we decided to make a hasty retreat in the direction of the hotel, which was still proudly displaying the fantabulous gingerbread house. No-one believed me that it was REAL gingerbread and wouldn't go near it, for fear I was playing a joke.

Yawning loudly at about 10.30am, I set about opening my pressies and calling home. All the family were celebrating at Nanna's and all the girls together sounded just like a gaggle of geese. Made me miss home a little, but as I was jetting into Melbourne the next morning in time for the BOXING DAY SALES, I wasn't too disheartened.

Our passengers were mostly lovely and in quite the festive mood, with Santa hats and a hearty appetite for booze. We were all wished a very merry Xmas as we disembarked, which was a lovely surprise. I think there were even a few hugs from children in there somewhere. The lovely caterers from Singapore presetned us with some specially wrapped Xmas cookies - one for every crew member. Such a lovely thought, with a little Season Greetings decoration inside, minus the 's' from seasons.

Upon exiting the customs area in Melbourne, I had a serious celebrity moment. Coming through those doors and facing a sea of people all clearly expecting someone other than myself was a little scary. A bit like the end scene from Love Actually, one of my all time faves.

I managed to push my way through, dispensing the very last of my polite 'excuse me's', not wanting to resort to 'move out of the f***ing way'. Very inappropritate language that would have gone with the highly inappropriate facial expression I don't doubt that I was wearing. Seriously, some people leave their brains at the airport doors. And these ones weren't even travelling!

We hooted outside in search of the bus and was bewildered to see that my breath was almost FROSTY. In the middle of December! Our bus driver proudly told us (as only Melbournians can do) that it was the coldest Xmas in Melbourne in 30 years, and that it had topped 14 or 19 degrees the previous day. I immediately knew I was going to be in strife with my thongs for my shopping expedition.

Tumbled out of bed at about 7.30 to have brekky with my lovely flatmate Ashleigh and old flatemate Phoebe, who now works for Virgin and lives in Melbourne. We joined the throng of people who clearly thought the hotel would be a better option for brekky than any other place in Melbourne that Boxing Day morning.

I miss Phoebe dearly and it was wonderful to have a little belated Xmas celebration with her and Ash. She dropped us into town and we embarked on our shopping adventure. I'd forgotten what a real sale was like and am a little embarrassed to admit I was worn out rather quickly. We found a few bargains and retreated to the hotel, where I quickly crashed and then it was time for the dreaded wake up call. I swear 17 hours in the delightful Melbourne isn't long enough!

Back to Singapore and we all quickly bombarded the back room to check our rosters. I nearly squealed with excitement when I saw that the powers that be had given me new years day off. Then we changed and headed to the food court once again. This time I managed to convince a few of the crew to get close enough to smell the gingerbread house and once they'd got a whiff, they couldn't resist a little taste. I felt like a proud Mum as I watched all their little eyes go wide with wonder when they realised it was real gingerbread.

Relatively non-eventful time in Singapore and then back to the sandpit where the next thing on the agenda was to decide what to do with New Years..............

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Home for the Holidays

Having scored myself a Brisbane trip in December, I set about packing all my Xmas goodies into my suitcase and lugged it to briefing,where I discovered to my delight that there were 6 Aussies on the flight! All looked set for a fantastic 9 day trip, and fantastic it was.

We partied in Singapore, followed by playing drunken soccer with sparkly xmas decorations up and down the street and trying to sample the life size gingerbread house in the foyer. It smells like real gingerbread and according to one of the guys, the 'mortar' between the 'bricks' tastes just like icing!

Onwards to Brisbane, where I caught up with family and surprised my Grandma for her 83d birthday. We celebrated with naughty chocolate cake, which put everyone in a very sugar-inspired festive mood. My little cousin Stella commandeered my camera, so there are some shocking shots of us from a little person's viewpoint. Think numerous chins and nose hair shots!

The first 2 days in Brisbane flew by and had us all scratching our heads in the foyer on the morning of the Auckland shuttle, saying 'where did the last two days go?' Our flight was delayed, which meant the day would be like a normal turnaround flight, no sleeping on ground in Auckland. Much of the flight was turbulent, which meant queasy bellies, limited service, and the inevitable.....VOMIT.

Now, for all those who know me well, I don't do vomit. In such circumstances, I love to delegate, and being senior sometimes has its perks. One of the guys volunteered while I was practically dry reaching in the galley. The culprit, a 10 year old boy going home for the holidays looked rather shell-shocked - kind of like he couldn't believe he'd puked all over himself.

We made it back safe and sound, and I was lucky enough to experience a night time landing into Brisbane in the cockpit. A beautiful experience, but of course my camera was down the back in my bag. The sunset above the clouds was the most stunning I've ever seen, with all sorts of clouds and shooting rays. I was very tired, and started having brain lapses. You know when you jolt awake and realise that you've actually just been asleep? Well, I had a few of those and was rather embarrassed, as I was in the company of two very senior pilots!

Despite being tired, we all frocked up and hit the valley for a night out. I was left feeling rather old, at the ripe old age of 24. I swear the clubs were being invaded by 16 year olds with fake IDs. Perhaps I'm just getting old. That'll be my little brother later in the year - a scary scary thought. We ended the night by walking from the Fringe Bar to the hotel in the city, stopping for greasy kebabs along the way. We finally wandered into the hotel at 5am. All in all, a very good night!

Next night: a bbq for my nearest and dearest friends and family. My aunt and uncle from the States were there, along with the little munchkins from Gran's birthday. We cooked oodles of snags and had fantastic homemade puddings. Needless to say, this trip was similar to Frankfurt - food was the main focus for most of it. It was lovely to catch up with those who could make it and those who managed to remember it.

Of course I stocked up on good Aussie food that's not available in the sandpit. I took loaves of raisin toast, bbq sauce, snack chocolate and of course - allen's snakes. I seemed to be the only one on the trip who could tie them in knots in my mouth - clearly not the talent I thought all possessed. Perhaps that could be the special skill I mention in future briefings......

After a spot of shopping and much puddle jumping in Singapore, it was onwards to Dubai, where my suitcase weighed a whopping 27.3kgs! It was so heavy I very nearly put my back out trying to lift it onto the belt. It was the heaviest of all, and I was terrified of two things: 1. It would bust open at some stage due to the fact that everything was tightly jammed in and I'd had to jump on it to close it or 2. customs in Dubai would demand I open it and then I wouldn't be able to fit it all back in to get home.

Luckily neither happened and I got it home and dumped it on my bedroom floor, where it still is 3 days later. Mum loaded me up with all my Xmas pressies, some of which she allowed me to open while I was at home. I'm the proud owner of more pink poodle things and some super sexy new pjs.

I have some rather incriminating and embarrassing photos from our frequent nights out that I'm thinking of printing for Xmas and delivering to mail boxes...... perfect bribe material.

Merry Christmast to you all. Wish I could have been there on the day, but am deliriously happy I managed to get home in December at all.

Lots of love xxx

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Girl's night out

As a celebration of the crazy festive season upon us, and also of four of us all being on days off together, we got all dolled up and hit the town.

Having had a few drinks in our apartment, we decided to pop in and visit our friend Dan, who's beautiful Mum has been visiting from Sydney. We'd shown her the local handbag places and wanted to say goodbye before they headed off for a few days at the Seychelles. Ringing the doorbell like crazy women, we invaded his apartment, tripped over his suitcase, played his special egg shaped Lebanese ukulele / guitar type instrument, posed for photos on his bed and then departed like a whirlwind of perfume.

First stop,
360° - a bar with a fantastic view of both the Burj and the Jumeira Beach Hotel. We were set upon by a few guys who asked me if I'd like to take a trip. Naive me thought I was being offered something like a trip in the golf buggy that had delivered us like celebrities to the bar. Turned out I was wrong - different kind of trip.

We scooted out of there, and hit the local sleaze club that was offering free drinks for the ladies. Full of the usual smoke and pulsating impossible-to-dance-to Hindi music, we hit the bar and were befriended by a mistached 'mature' man who looked like he'd either been a HUGE supporter of MOvember or had escaped from the circus. Think massive handle bars like that crazy cartoon character Yosamite Sam that chases Bugs Bunny. Turns out google was wrong and there were no free drinks that night, but this kind man insisted on paying. It would have been hideously rude of us to decline, so we accepted and immediately hit the dance floor.

Now, some of you may remember an email detailing a crazy night of couch dancing and almost setting that couch on fire about 8 months ago. This was my return to the same club, but I managed to stay off the couches this time.

Huge bottles of Moet were being delivered to the VIP tables on massvie stretchers held aloft to a tune similar to the Superman theme song. As we weren't couch dancing, we didn't get to partake in such celebrations.

A great deal of very co-ordinated dancing was done, along with borrowing a complete stranger's hat. We met a Jay Z look alike, with the biggest lips I've ever seen!

We were politely kicked out at closing time and made our way home. Shoeless again.....i think!

Friday, 8 December 2006

Frankfurters.....from Frankfurt?

Following a mega 2 hour delay and having our cargo loaded on the WRONG AIRCRAFT, we finally arrived at about 2pm, right in time for the night Christmas market in Mainz. Boasting hot fried potatoes and cauliflower, freshly boiled corn on the cob, sickly sweet lollies, authentic German gingerbread and the famous gluwein, we quickly changed into our winter woolies and hooted down the road in search of Christmas cheer.

Stopping here and there to take happy snaps of the gorgeous scenery on the way, we were delighted to find that Germans are certainly not short on Christmas cheer in December. Hundreds of people crammed into the market place, which was absolutely buzzing.

We marveled at a huge spinning windmill-type ornament, complete with carved people and then made a beeline for the tent selling gluwein. Now, I’d heard fantabulous things about gluwein and must admit I was disappointed. Having paid 3 euros for my little blue mug of the piping hot drink, I breathed in the fantastic aroma of cinnamon. Then I tasted it and got a mouthful of insanely hot red wine, in desperate need of at least 5 teaspoons of sugar.
Which I added, to no avail.

Next stop: sampling the food. We didn’t find any German sausages, but attacked some fried potatoes like the crazed, starving tourists we were. I was still toting the full mug of gluwein, which made eating and taking pictures rather difficult. While the garden drank my gluwein for me, I saved the mug, which was covered in yellow stars as a little memento.

We wandered around, staring open mouthed at stall after stall of dazzling arrays of sweets. I bought some little gingerbread bites that are beyond fantastic. I want to eat them, but am sad that there will be none left, so I’m carefully rationing them. No doubt they’ll be all gone by tomorrow!

We all met up at the entrance to the market, and by this time, I was munching on a choc coated banana. From there we wandered to a fantastic little restaurant that’s been around for donkey’s years and proceeded to order MORE food. Not like we needed it, but felt pressured to sample as much fantastic food as we could in the space of a few hours.

I settled for apple strudel and the others ordered pork knuckles. I was beginning to worry that I’d have to be rolled home, what with my massively swollen belly, when the remains of a pork knuckle and crackling were thrust my way. The meat was mouth-wateringly tender and the crackling was just enough crackle and just enough salt. Perfect in every way.

Food was clearly the only thing on my mind on this trip.

We all sat and digested in stupefied silence for a while and then headed back to the hotel for a well earned sleep.

All in all, a wonderful trip, which had us pondering the origins of a few different foods on the way home. Frankfurters from Frankfurt, hamburgers from Hamburg and chillies from Chille.

Can you think of any more???

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Birthday celebrations

24 at last! Much better than the fateful 22, which I was adamant I was NEVER going to be. I started the day by snoozing till about 11 and then decided it was time to open my presents.....ALONE. My first birthday away from home. I flung the door of my bedroom open and peered into the hallway, hoping either of the girls would be home. Upon entering the lounge room, I found balloons dangling from light bulbs and our rather pathetic and straggly wall plant. I was home alone.

A strange feeling, to be sitting on one's bed with a bag of goodies from halfway around the world that had been perched on my desk mocking me for the entire previous week. They'd been delivered by my flatmate Ash who'd had a Brisbane flight earlier in the month. I was delighted to discover, amongst other things, a hand painted canvas from my beautiful three year old god-daughter Stella in the brightest of colours.

I exited the shower and found that someone had deposited a stunning bunch of pink lillies on my bed. Having heard rumours that covert surveillance of our apartments might be in play, I (drama queen) immediately suspected the worst, but Ash had come home and was the culprit. We busied ourselves with presents and decided it was time for food, shopping and pampering. A birthday outfit was on the agenda.

We ventured to the local beauty boutique where I treated myself to a full body massage, complete with a rather uncomfortable boob incident. If you ask, I might divulge details.

Much later in the evening we were joined by our closest friends at Scarletts for drinks and then braved the super spicy noodles next door. Over dinner, I was presented with horse riding lessons from the girls (complete with lego riding man) and immediately had flashbacks to my glory days of pre-teen pony club and my little white pony named Bubby.

Having a Halloween birthday means I have to share it with copious amounts of pumpkins and freakily dressed people who like to think they’re getting into the spirit of things. Instead of copping it from the door bitch, we were screamed at by a vampire in a coffin! There were plenty of screws and knives protruding from body parts and the occasional inadequately dressed Disney-like character.

Needless to say, it was a great night and ended with two shoeless girls catching a taxi home in the early hours of the morning!