Saturday, 27 January 2007

I'm sorry, did you say NO BUNDY???????????


Well, yesterday was my second Australia Day spent away from home but it was my first one spent in Dubai - I was in a fantastic Aussie bar in London last year getting the knee high suede boots trodden on and splashed with hideous snake bite drinks!

Jena, Renee and I got all dolled up in our Aussie finest (read: bonds singlet, rolled up jeans and Aussie flag thongs) and hit the pub: AUSSIE LEGENDS.

Their first mistake was declaring their legendary status before telling us that they DON'T SELL BUNDABERG RUM!!!!! I was salivating all week for a Bundy and coke and was so disappointed when I was told I couldn't have one. I almost choked on my chewing gum!

I settled for Bacardi in the end and we proceeded to make very light work of our drinks. About 8 rums later (some of them doubles), I was feeling rather sober. Not sure what that was about, but a packet of Allens snakes did make an appearance.

We saw a few guys we know dressed up in green and gold dish dash and they made for fantastic photos. We posed and got up close and personal with them, NOT what you'd be normally doing with a local.

I wore the Aussie flag as a coat and was consequently targeted with this pathetic pickup line: "Did you know someone's put a flag on your back?" No, REALLY?

I must say, snaps for Queensland and some of the other Aussie states for banning smoking in bars, pubs and clubs. The number of lit cigarettes I had to dodge while weaving through the sardine-like packed club was outrageous. I even had a HOLE burnt in my Aussie flag by my bestie JENA. Not happy Jan, but the Barcardi numbed my outrage. I saw the hole this morning when I woke up and it all came rushing back.........nah, Jena makes awesome Anzac biscuits and I remembered I had one in my bag, so all is good.

The pub was full of crew, no doubt half of them called in sick to make it. Luckily I was on days off, but if I was unfortunate enough to be rostered for something unsavoury, I'd have been pressing 2 with all my weight behind it! We bumped into so many people we knew and it was just a fantastic night. Jena discovered the benefits of drinking beer through a straw and I had the dirtiest feet I've ever seen! By the end, I was sitting with the purser from my last Brisbane flight, guzzling potato wedges and downing tequila shots. I've not touched tequila in about 6 years and this morning I remember why!

Monday, 22 January 2007

Reflections + Insomnia

I've just watched the first episode of the third season of Desperate Housewives and I must say it looks like a great season! Murderers, adulterers, patients in comas, shopaholics, workaholics, obsessive compulsive cleaners - it all makes for must-watch tv.

I had a massive nanna nap this afternoon and of course now I can't sleep. I'm sitting on the couch and am reflecting on the past year, how much has happened and how I want this year to be. Heavy stuff. When asked what I miss most about home, apart from the obvious like friends and family, some things are a little quirky. Like lightning storms - we get some rain here in Dubai (flash flooding this year!) but we don't get proper scare-the-dogs storms.

I was recently in the cockpit at night time and there was a huge lightning storm about a kilometer to our right and it was the most beautiful thing to behold. I miss things like that, but it takes seeing one again to make me realise how much I miss them in the first place!

Like good quality stone fruit from Australia. Dubai doesn't have many locally grown industries and fruit definitely isn't one of the few it does have. There's a chicken farm here somewhere but that's all I've heard of. Good fruit here is on the $$$ side, so you can imagine my delight recently when I found a pack of two brightly coloured, ripe and unbruised mangoes for a bargain at only 14.5 dirhams! That's only about $5.50! I snapped them up and took them upstairs for examination. They smelt like Aussie mangoes, but for that price, they couldn't be! I was due to go on a Bangkok/Hong Kong trip that night, so I placed them carefully into my cabin bag and toted them around for the trip. I ate one on the Hong Kong shuttle and I can confirm THEY WERE AUSTRALIAN.

Another of my Mum's pearls of wisdom is that there's only one way to eat a mango: Get as messy as possible. I did so, in the back galley, as far as the EK standards would allow. No doubt I had a big yellow smudge on my face and bits of mango flesh between my teeth, but it was totally worth it. I think I might have to get some in honour of the fast approaching Australia Day.

For those of you who have never eaten a mango - get onto it!

Let me share a beautiful description of how a mango tastes:

Jon, one of my favourite people and a very good friend who moved to Australia from England when he was 12 and had never eaten or even seen a mango before said that his first bite tasted like sunshine. I don't think anyone could ever top that description. Jon, I thought of you that day when eating the mango and trying not to spill it all over my uniform!

For those of you in Dubai - if you ask nicely, I might tell you where the quality mangoes are sold. It's such an unlikely place (read: all their other fruit is crap) that I never thought of looking before!

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Blog's New Feature

I'd like to introduce you all to Babs........

Ok, when I was in New York last November, which I still haven't written about, I bought the most fantastic book.

It's called Bad Cat and is pretty much about cats behaving badly. If you're not cat lovers, you might not find it as uproariously funny as I did.

Let me set the scene: Have been searching for a few days for the Magnolia Bakery of Sex and the City cupcake fame and while wandering along the wonderful Bleeker Street, came across a fantastic little book store, whose exterior was under construction. There was a big sale going on (sale = magic word!) and I was temporarily distracted by the search for the bakery. I was rummaging through the books when I found this little gem.

I have three cats at home, who I love and miss dearly. They each have their quirks, just like people and on many occasions have had me in fits of laughter at their antics. The pictures in this book reminded me of my three and just how nutty and fantastic cats can be.

I realised with a start that I was lost in my own little world and was laughing uncontrollably at a few of the funnier pictures. I then realised that I was in public and such laughter might be construed as something a little more mental than a little giggle. I turned away from the shop, tears in my eyes and what should I spot across the street? MAGNOLIA BAKERY! I quickly paid for the book, bought a few delicious cupcakes and found myself a seat where my laughter would be slightly less obvious.

Upon my return, I tested the book out on my two flatmates, who both prefer dogs. The book was met with rather odd silence. Where was the side splitting laughter, streaming tears and inability to catch one's breath? Hmm ...... further research needed to be carried out. I consulted my friend cat-loving friend Jena, who just about wet herself when she saw the first page. All was well and I was not in need of a psychiatric consult.

Each page of the book features a different photo, which has a caption and also some funny information about the cat. I'll endeavour to feature a new cat each in post for you all to have a giggle about.

The book is available in Australian book stores and probably world wide. The full reference is:

Edgar, J. (2004).
Bad Cat. Workman Publishing: New York, USA.

Leaving Dubai

Exhausted again and it's only 10.40am!

I've just returned from the airport and am sad to say that Patrick is up up and away..........

The plan was to put him on the direct flight to Melbourne but the cheery staff travel agent at the airport told us that all the flights into any Australian destination for the next two weeks are overbooked. Just what I wanted to hear at 6am! I asked about Pat's chances on all the other flights and it became clear that there really was no chance of a flight today. He said I could try listing Pat on the Perth flight, which leaves half an hour before the Melbourne, so I did and he got the last seat!

It was all very touch and go - kind of like a serious suspenseful movie that you just can't bring yourself to look away from.

So all my carefully written instructions for Melbourne airport are out the window and I really don't know that much about Perth. Apart from the fact that the international terminal and domestic terminal are separate and either a taxi or shuttle bus are required to navigate between the two. Not the most crucial fact.

When staff or their families travel on concessional tickets, it's all very last minute and we have to wait until the flights are closed to the public before we can see what seats are available to us. So, we're usually issued tickets about half an hour before the flight leaves and have to RUN to the gate. It was all over so quickly! Pat was handed his ticket and told to run to the gate. Harvey from staff travel was jokingly yelling "RUN I TELL YOU, OR I'LL CHASE YOU MYSELF!!!".

So Pat did his best Forest
Gump impression and made it to the gate. I warned him that after customs, it's a mammoth walk/run to the gate. Dubai airport is pretty much a logistical nightmare. The new terminals are being built in preparation for the badly delayed A380s and there are more than 40 gates! It can be a 20 minute walk to some of the gates and if you're the last passenger and you've just been told to run for that far off gate, the pressure is on!

Luckily he made it, although I am a little sad he couldn't stay for longer. It's been a year since we've spent so much time together and I really have missed him. I may have to read up on "gangsta" cars and such things for his next visit, so I've got some idea what he's talking about and he doesn't think I'm the most uncool person in the world.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Ski Field Madness

It's now 10.45pm and I've just finished packing Patrick and all of his things. I've written detailed instructions on all things like landing cards, customs declarations, customs procedures and how to switch from an international flight to a domestic flight. I'm exhausted!

We went skiing today and it was oodles of fun. Pat had never skied before and it was my second time in Ski Dubai. I've done a few ski trips during high school, so I was a little way ahead of him, but he absolutely exceeded my expectations of a new skier. We stacked it of course, throwing heaps of snow into the air and landing in tangles of arms and skis. Luckily we did it separately, as I'm sure it would have been very messy if we'd run into each other.

Being the chatterbox that I am, I met some lovely US Navy guys on the ski lift and was interested to find out that one of them is a search and rescue swimmer - just like Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner in the movie The Guardian. He didn't mention how true to life the movie was, but seemed to be a fan of it.

Pat is definitely a fan of all the outlandish cars here in Dubai. We've seen countless Hummers, Lincolns and all things 'Gangsta'. He could tell you the exact amount of each car we've seen, but I just nod and smile. Cars mean nothing to me. I think the most interesting features are the colour and whether or not they have air con!

He's bought custom designed shirts, cheap clothes in Karama, an Ipod Nano and of course, sheesha pipes. It will be interesting to find out how he goes getting three of them through Australian customs.....lucky he's not carrying the tobacco as well!

Sadly, the drinking age here is 21 and Pat's only 17. He was quite disheartened to discover that he couldn't go clubbing and that many of the licensed restaurants don't allow underage patrons the privilege of entrance. Last night turned out to be a dry night, in honour of the Arabic New Year and it turns out that every except myself knew this. We went to the pub in the hope of an early dinner and staying inside under the radar, away from the prying eyes of the bouncers. The pub was CLOSED!! After all, what's an Irish Pub if it can't serve beer? We snuck him into one of the pubs closer to home for a pint and some dinner, but we were all so tired after our week that we piked after dinner and our first drinks!

We've had a fantastic time and it's been so wonderful having him here. Always good to have a normal, friendly face from home. Also, he acted as my courier and I've now got a good supply of BBQ shapes, freddo frogs, Allen's snakes (for knot tying!) and good old crunchies.

My friend Michael, who owns a bread making machine has just hand delivered a freshly baked loaf of bread. I think I might have to go and have a slice of toast......

Tomorrow is the "leaving Dubai" saga - chances of sub load tickets out of here are like hens teeth!

Friday, 19 January 2007

Desert Safari

Well, the last few days have been great with Pat visiting from Australia.

We've done some good shopping, he's LOVED the fact that we have cable and that all the fast food places deliver.
Last night I dragged him off the couch and we did a desert safari.

We were picked up by a local man dressed in the traditional outfit in a big 4
wd and driven to the desert, where the real fun began. We did some serious dune bashing and were thankful the 4wds were reinforced. We hooned up and over and around the massive dunes, squealing and laughing as we went. The dunes look rather harmless from the road, but up close and personal some of them are several stories high!

Our car was the lead car and we set the pace for the 9 cars following us. We made it without incident to a lookout dune, where we all took photos and had a quick drink. From there we hooted to the
bedouin village, where we were greeted by camels and dirt bikes. We made our way quickly to the camels, hoping to get in before the other 9 carloads of people, and were stunned by how rude our fellow safari goers were. Many of them are from cultures that have no concept of lining up and just pushed in front, with their millions of children.

We finally got on a camel and it happened to the be black sheep of the group - kicking and
harassing the other camels. Lucky it had a muzzle on or it would have been biting too. It was making weird grunting noises and hopping all over the place. Needless to say we hopped off quick smart when it finally kneeled down and the ride was over.

Pat decided he'd like a turn on the dirt bikes and was off like a shot - I didn't even have a chance to take a photo of him! He rode around the dunes and at one point I saw him poised on top of the biggest dune out there, ready to zoom straight down the front of it!

From there we headed inside and sampled some Arabic food and coffee, henna tattooing and
sheesha - the traditional flavoured tobacco smoked in a bong-like instrument. In my flu-ridden state, I had one puff, inhaled it too far and was in a very uncool coughing spasm that clearly gave me away as a non-smoker.

We had a session with a belly dancer, who must have been freezing! She shimmied and pranced around the dance floor, getting unsuspecting people up for a bit of a jig. She got to us and we tried to refuse, but one of the drivers came along and dragged me up. It was rather embarrassing trying to emulate her fabulously flexible hips and I must say I was a terrible student.

This world really is a small place - Pat and I were trying some little sweet fried puffs and struck up a conversation with a fellow Aussie who happened to work with the boyfriend of one of my best friends from home - who stayed with me in October and we went on the very same safari! We took photos to show our friends, who wouldn't believe us if we told them!

We came home and fell into bed, rather exhausted.

Today we're off for some skiing at the Mall of the Emirates. I think someone might need a lesson before being let loose on the slope!

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Ferrett Face comes to town

I got up at the wonderfully early pre-dawn hour of 5.30 this morning and joined the hordes of people waiting for their loved ones at Dubai's airport. My brother, aptly named Ferret Face was scheduled to arrive from Brisbane at 6.20am and there was no way I was going to miss him coming through those doors.

He was travelling on a dirt-cheap staff ticket, which is fantastic for the travel opportunities, but scary because sub loads mean STANDBY. Also, those on standby are worth less than cargo, so he stood the chance of not getting on in Brisbane or of being carted off like a deportee in Singapore if a full fare paying passenger happened to fancy a trip to Dubai. As I was flying back from London while he was on route to Singapore, I was pretty much in the dark as to where he'd end up. When I landed, I was thrilled to get a message that said 'I'm in Singapore and will be in Dubai in the morning.'

I was all excited and set my alarm and climbed into bed for a few short hours. Luckily my rather noisy flatmate woke me up as she departed for the ultra-glam Paris. Had I not heard her clanging around, I'd have woken up at 9.30, not 5.30! That would NOT have been the best first impression of the uber cool sister who lives overseas that I wanted to portray. Instead I turned up at the airport looking like a human incubator for god knows what disease!

He finally came through at about 7.15 and I realised that the 17 year old Patrick is no longer my 'little' brother. He's about my height now (6 foot) and looks like a serious rugby player. I nearly didn't recognise him through my teary sneeze-induced eyes!

We made it back to the apartment, where our head security guard that we've affectionately named Mufasa eyed him warily. I had a giggle when his eyebrows shot up under his hairline when I announced that this was my brother. Apart from him being a boy with blue eyes and me being a girly girl with brown eyes, Pat and I look fairly similar. Mufasa is always on the lookout for intruders and I think he was mildy disappointed when he couldn't order one of his minions to march us from the premises. Nah, just kidding, he's rather sweet. He always opens the door for me and has a smile at the ready.

We had some brekky, watched a bit of tv and then I indulged in a small nanna nap before heading to the clinic to be diagnosed with a sinus infection and being presented with all the drugs I'd need to start my own drug ring. We then hit the Mall of the Emirates, where his eyes bulged at the sheer size of it. Not to mention the indoor ski slope! We wandered, ate and then started to grow weary.

We have grand plans for a desert safari later in the week, as well as an attempt to take Ski Dubai by storm. The boy's never been skiing before, so this should be rather amusing!

Stay tuned for further updates.....

Lousy Time in London

Well today saw me become the owner of my very own pharmacy, compliments of work.

I returned last night from a trip to London, where I shopped up a storm. That was fun, but somehow, even though I was rugged up to my ears with the knee high beige suede boots, jeans, long sleeved shirt, jumper, pink leather coat AND scarf, the 5 degree cold still crept in and gave me the flu.

Now, having lived in Dubai for just over a year, I don't get sick very often. I got most of my illnesses during my first 6 months of flying, while still getting used to all the airborne diseases our passnegers carry and transmit to us. I also managed to contract a nasty dose of dermatitis on my eyelids and my hand about 6 months ago. No doubt I touched a skanky manky serviette somewhere in my travels. Ewww....

So, after a nanna nap before the shopping expedition to Crawley shopping centre where I managed to find a pair of size 42 aqua sparkly flats (a must have!) and some other cool bargains, we tottered back to the hotel where I had the best intentions of watching the entire third season of Desperate Housewives. Sadly, my recently purchased bootleg copies weren't compatible with my laptop. This should have been a sign that the evening wasn't going to go well.

I settled for watching Cate Blanchett and a rather wrinkly but still drool-worthy Brad Pitt tough it out in a dinky little mountain village in Morocco in Babel and reading a newly purhchased book. Owing to my having had no sleep before the flight, I was ready for bed by about 7pm London time.

Thrilled that I'd be able to frolick in dreamland for 12 hours, I put my pjs on and got under the massive doona. Then it happened - I couldn't sleep. My head, which had been slowly filling up with nasty sinus goop reached its maximum capactity and I honestly thought it was going to explode. I spent the next 12 hours writhing in pain, trying to figure out when was an appropriate time to announce that I needed a doctor and would not be returning to Dubai the next day. Turns out there is no such appropriate time, and as my brother was scheduled to fly in from Brisbane the next morning and I was the only one able to collect him, I braved the flight home.

I was a walking advertisement for infection, blowing my nose so often I now look like Rudolph, thanks to my red raw nose. I sneezed and sanitised my hands so often my palms feel like bark. I suffered through the flight and I'm sure the passengers thought I had the runs, I was in the toilets blowing my nose so much! We finally began to descend and that's when the real party started.

It was like bed time all over again. The shooting teeth pains were back, as well as blocked ears and a groggy head. Lucky I wasn't in charge of a door - I could hardly hear the PAs being made telling us to disarm when we landed.

So, I have learnt a few valuable things on this last trip: calling in sick is a great idea when your ears and sinuses are blocked - flying for 6 hours and 20 minutes is not. Also, I clearly need to pack some gloves and a balaclava into my bag to add to my outfit for sub-zero European climates......woe woe woe!

Friday, 12 January 2007

Out of Africa - take 2

Having left my knee high beige suede boots behind this time, I set off for Johannesburg with a plane full of booze hounds. 7.5 hours later, we landed and made our way to the hotel, changed in record time and set out for dinner. The Bull Run is the local restaurant frequented by crew and in my opinion serves the BEST steak in the world.

Barely looking at the menu, I ordered the 320 gram fillet, mash potato and black pepper sauce. The place was packed and it seemed as though my stomach was going to start eating itself before the meal arrived. When it finally did, we all tucked in and there wasn't much talking! Words cannot describe the fantabulousness of a Bull Run steak, so I wont even try.

We all tottered back to the hotel after several bottles of red wine and sank into bed. Up bright and early, we headed out to the Lion Park, a fantastic zoo that has .... you guessed it LIONS.

The Lion Park is also home to giraffes, hyenas, zebras, springbok, jackals, cheetas and all sorts of fantastic African creatures. We embarked on a drive through the lion enclosures, where we saw normal lions and the rarer white lions. White lions are often mistaken for being albino, but this is not the case. Apparently the gene that causes the white fur is similar to the gene responsible for red hair in humans.

Sitting majestically in our path was the biggest male lion in the park, and he watched us approach and then moseyed out of the way as though he hadn't a care in the world. The lions are fed once a week, and we were there about 3 days after the feeding. Apparently they just gorge themselves and then lie around for the better part of the week and then get ready for feeding again. What a life!

It was a balmy day, with a nice breeze and the big cats were just lying in the sun and shade, climbing trees and generally just snoozing.

We drove through the rest of the park, spotting the above mentioned animals grazing and sparing and headed to the cub enclosure. I was thrilled to find the cubs were all awake and waiting to play with us. Not really, they'd probably just as soon nibble on my arm if they were hungry!

Last time I was there, they were sleeping, so we didn't have any interaction. They were very curious about us, meeting us at the gate and tripping up the guide. Some were camped out at the fence, panting and the others were pacing up and down, making the cutest growling noises ever!

We had about 10 minutes in there and snapped away, patted them and cooed over their course hair and spotty legs.

From there we hit the souvenir shop where I bought another magnet to add to my collection.

I don't go to Joburg very often, as the flight can be lethal but I do endeavour to go again soon, to stock up on wine and get another good feed......

Sunday, 7 January 2007


Well, I've certainly had an interesting few days. I've just returned from Bangkok where I shopped till I literally dropped.

Arriving at about 3pm, we struggled with our tiredness and dragged ourselves to the local massage parlour where I had a traditional 2 hour Thai massage for the bargain basement price of 45 dizzas, or around $20! To look at, the Thai ladies are quite little, but boy are they mean when it comes to massage! My masseuse clearly thought I was far more flexible than I actually am, and poked and prodded me while I squealed and giggled like a ticklish schoolgirl. After requesting her to go easy on me, it was rather enjoyable and I think I even lapsed into unconsciousness for a while.

Returning to the hotel, we ate at a restaurant close to the hotel in the stupefied silence that comes with jetlag.

The next morning, we shuttled to Hong Kong and while I wont admit my navigational error, I will admit that I had a big one! We spent about 5 hours at Hong Kong's airport, shopping at duty free and eating ourselves into oblivion at the crew lounge, complete with massage chairs. We ate spring rolls, sandwiches, chips, salad and the winner in my opinion - malted soy milk in a can. Hmmm....

Back in Bangkok the next day we hit the markets at Mo Chit - I have no doubt these markets are the biggest in the world. Size wise, they leave the Queen Victoria markets in Melbourne for dead. Apparently they cover 8 football pitches or something outrageous. As we arrived on the air train, we had a bird's eye view from above and I can confirm that many a football field would have fit in between all the food, fruit, handbags, pillow cases, bowls, lights, budda statues, jeans, clothes, and little jingly things that hang off phones.

We bargained and purchased lots of goodies including fake watches, strings of bright lights, candle holders, handbags, shirts, pillow cases and much more. Thirsty after all our hard work, we hit a food stand for an ice-cold hacked open coconut. BIG MISTAKE. Heads up: coconuts from anywhere in the world do not taste like Australian coconuts. Rather than tasting like the coconuts I used to crack open as a child with a hammer in the backyard, it tasted very unsavoury.

There were bunches of the biggest, juiciest purple grapes I've ever seen, spiced mango slices in plastic bags and some sort of salted lychee creation. It was a hot, humid day and the condensation was dripping from the fruit. I was dying to try some, but remember my Mum's advice - when in Asia, never eat any fruit you can't peel. So, I opted for the bloody coconut didn't I? Moral of the story...... Mum's are always right when it comes to men, but not with Asian coconuts.

Here's another tip: when in Thailand, never ask for the price of something if you don't want to buy it. This includes if you're just curious about the going rate. No-one ever shared this pearler with me and I wish some travel savvy person had. I politely inquired about the price of a gorgeous green leather Marc Jacobs bag and was gobsmacked by the outrageous price being asked for a fake bag. When I went to leave, she asked how much I'd pay. I was sourcing such a bag for a close friend of mine, and was just curious about what styles there were and how much they were going for. I threw a price at her, and she said no. I said ok, went to leave and was set upon, where she agreed to my original price which was more than half of hers. I said i didn't want it and she put her cranky pants on! I made up a story about having no cash and said I'd come back. When I tried to skulk past later she remembered and called out.
Talk about sheepish....

This poodle lover can never get enough shopping - stay tuned for my return to Bangkok!

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Happy New Year!!!

Well, the new year has passed just as I thought it would - with great fanfare for those silly enough to pay the 700 dizza cover charges some establishments were mental enough to charge and calmly and relatively fuss-free for myself.

Our plans weren't set in stone for three months before, but were hastily made at about 6pm. Jena cooked brownies, which were lavishly coated in caramel and chocolate icing and we popped the champers at about 8.30pm.

We proceeded to drink, eat and chatter and attempt to solve all the world's problems, establishing a mountain of clearly over-zealous new years resolutions along the way until we realised that we'd MISSED the countdown we were chatting so much! Typical of us really.

Our night wrapped at about 2.30am, when I headed home back down the road and could have been mistaken for thinking I'd space-warped it to Antarctica! It's seriously winter here in Dubai and the wind was doing its darndest to blow sand into my lip gloss.

Have spent the past two days sitting around in my new Xmas pjs eating pasta and cold pineapple. I'm thinking its time to get out of the apartment now.

Heading to Bangkok for a shopping and massage spree in a few days, but am somewhat disheartened by going to the newly damaged area, courtesy of bombing efforts of the world's nutcases. Rest assured that nothing gets in between myself and a good shopping opportunity.

Hope everyone had a fantabulous new year and that you all keep all those ridiculous resolutions I know you all made and are now wondering how to weasel out of.

I know I am....!