Thursday, 31 May 2007

13 Days in Dubai

When I started my reserve month, which comes around once every seven months, I had the idea that I'd get worked to the bone and spend only my eight legal days off in Dubai. Not so. Counting today, this is my 13th consecutive day spent in Dubai - doing nothing.

Well that's not strictly true. I've spent 5 of those days on standby - sleeping through most of it and watching more episodes of Six Feet Under than I can remember and fighting off what I thought was malaria. We've also done a few buffets, and gone clubbing a few times. The rest of the days have been spent stalking the rosters, trying to find flights to get myself on in order to escape the boredom that exists in my apartment.

Airport standby the other night was an interesting experience. We have to get all frocked up in uniform, complete with tarty red lipstick, pack a suitcase for any weather possibility and any length of flight, catch a school bus and hope that it delivers you to the airport on time. My airport standby started at 7.45pm and after waiting for 20 minutes for a bus, I was told that there was no bus coming. See, when there's a flight, a bus arrives to pick up the crew - but when there's no flight, there's NO BUS. I was told to catch a taxi (which if we catch to work, we're not covered for lateness) and discovered that the taxi driver had NO IDEA how to get me to the crew airport. I usually sit with my eyes closed on the bus with my ipod on, so I also had no idea how to get there. With my blood pressure quickly rising and only 40 minutes to get through peak hour traffic to work, I started to panic.

I was smack in the middle of Sheikh Zayed Road, in the middle of all the beeping, swerving, jolting action and I was FREAKING OUT. The driver could obviously sense my levels of extreme nervousness, had a chuckle and asked what time I needed to get there. He then scoffed at my reply and informed me I had no chance. Lateness for a duty usually results in being marked absent, or worst case scenario - a month of can use, which is reserve.

With horrid thoughts of yet another month of no flying hours and an endless summer not filled with surfing, but with standby, I was completely on edge and hooned into work 15 minutes late. And you know what? No one even cared! I guess if there's no bus, they can't blame us for being late. So I did the rounds of work, visited the mail room, the staff shop, bought a juice, finished a book, kicked off my shoes and listened to my ipod and lounged on the couch. NOTHING. No one was called at all. We all sat there like shags on rocks for three hours and then got driven home in the audi's that are usually reserved for the pilots. All in a day's work!

While I've had ample time to work on my ever-deepening tan, I do feel a need to be productive and actually do some work. Which probably explains why I turned into a domestic goddess yesterday and baked a batch of banana muffins with lemon icing and a batch of vege muffins as well. For any of you who are languishing in Dubai on endless reserve days or are just bored, here's the recipe for banana cake/muffins:

* 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
* 3/4 cup of milk
* 2 1/4 cups of self raising flour
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
* pinch of salt
* 2 tablespoons of soft margarine or butter
* 2 eggs - beaten
* 3 large mashed bananas

* Optional: 1/2 cup of chopped macadamia nuts & 1/2 a cup of sultanas

Thicken milk with lemon juice, sift flour into large bowl. Add sugar, soda and salt. Add butter, milk & mashed bananas and mix well. Add eggs & optional nuts / sultanas.

Bake in a moderate oven (140 degrees) for about 30-35 minutes.

My roster stalking has paid off - I've managed to claw my way onto a Brissie trip that leaves Dubai on the 2nd, and then another trip home that leaves here on the 17th. Two trips home in one month is absolutely unheard of, so I'm counting my lucky stars and planning all the Aussie things I'm going to buy when I get there. Bed sheets, perinaise sauce, hair bands - all the boring stuff you can't get in Dubai. Then I've got cuddles with the cats, cool winter mornings and walks with Rusty my dog. I can't wait!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Team Ghana

My eagerness to start my 6am standby in the hope of the Brisbane that I was so legal for didn't go quite as planned. Let me set the scene:

Having packed nothing in preparation for whatever trip I didn't yet know that I was going on, I went to sleep at 11pm and ring ring ring, was woken up at 6.15 the following morning. Truly delighted by the time I was woken, I grabbed the phone and greeted crew scheduling with a very eager 'hello, am I going to Brisbane?' I was met with silence, then a not so apologetic 'no my dear, you're going to Accra'.

My first thoughts? THIS is the trip that everyone tries to avoid on standby and reserve and I got landed with it at the fantastically early time of 6.15am. I managed to get a few details out of scheduling, including my return date and to my further delight was told I'd be coming back in FIVE days.

My next thoughts? MALARIA. Need to pack. I have no hairspray. Are my uniforms clean? Where are my togs/swimmers? Pretty much in that order.

So, I ran around like a headless chook, managed to miss my bus and was on the next one 10 minutes later. I waltzed into briefing having comforted myself somewhat on the way to work with the thought that least it wasn't Lagos (think armed escorts on the crew bus & no leaving the hotel) and discovered that the briefing room was buzzing with that rare atmosphere that comes with an awesome crew.

Although our flight was delayed and we had to do not only a flight to Accra, but Accra VIA Abidjan because someone's captain had called sick down route (thanks captain), we all laughed and joked and before we knew it we were all aboard and I was queen of the galley.

The 8.5 hours to Abidjan flew by (literally!) and before we knew it, we were there. A short stop and refuel later and we were Accra bound and due to the 40 minutes flight time, there was nothing to do. We hit a big mamma of a storm just out of Accra and it was serious enough for the captain and those with window views to be saying their prayers. I was luckily sitting in the back galley with only a view of my feet and the bars that could potentially pose a danger to my life if they weren't secured properly and wasn't privy to the huge bolts of lightening, pouring rain and dangerous dips from side to side that our little old scare-bus airbus was doing. There were squeals and gasps from the cabin as we lurched and dropped, lurched and dropped. I get motion sickness, so was more concerned with my stomach contents.

Thankfully we landed in one piece and opened the doors to more rain. I was happy to stand at the doorway and farewell passengers, getting rained on in the process.

We soon found ourselves at the Golden Tulip, our home for the next 5 days. An instant millionaire, I was in possession of 1 595 000 Ghanian shillings or something as ridiculous and wearily headed to my room for a quick shower and change before dinner, drinks and obligatory clubbing.

I was dismayed to find I had no towels, and waited for 40 minutes before falling asleep on my bed in full uniform - minus hat, jacket and shoes. I woke at 1am, clearly having missed dinner and drinks. It turned out to be the biggest night of the trip and I was disgruntled with housekeeping for not giving me my towels in the first place. As we find that some things are 'only in Dubai', clearly some other things are 'only in Africa'.

The next day was spent baking by the pool, followed by a ripper of a pool party that involved not only our crew, but the crew who's shuttle we'd just done. I was delighted to find the lovely Katja, flatmate of my friend Angela, who's birthday we'd just celebrated at the Shangrila. Our party organisers were Lebanese guys who live in Ghana and are apparently so bored they throw parties for the crew. Think pool party in hot Accra sun, with unlimited booze, food and great company. Well, needless to say we rocked it till about midnight. There was dancing, swimming and dirty drunken pashes galore. I'd gotten rather scorched that morning and decided not to take my togs. Well, who needs swimmers anyway??? I was thrown into the pool fully clothed. Charming.

The rest of our days were spent lounging by the pool, consuming litres of water and vanilla milkshakes lovingly prepared by Gladys our waitress, and going to some great restaurants for dinners. Hot tip of the week: for those of you heading to Ghana in the near future, check out Mamma Mia's for pizza - the Quattro Formagio is a MUST TRY and the Ostrich at Monsoon is equally as wonderful. Just ask for it to be medium-well done, as medium is still moving a little too much for this girl!

Sad to leave, but all sporting fantastic tans, we all piled into the little inadequately air-conditioned bus and headed a whole 5 minutes to the airport, where we waited in an oven-like terminal before being let loose on the aircraft.

Back to Dubai we went, sad that our adventure was over. So sad in fact, that we planned a catch up for that night at the Shangrila to taste the Peking Duck in the upstairs restaurant and then drinks at Barasti and onwards to Zinc for end of the night dodgy dancing and drinks.

A fantastic evening was had, which prompted us to plan for a trip to the beach today. I tell you, Team Ghana is just never-ending! And after such a great trip with a great crew, why would we want it to?

With bags bulging with Lebanese food, we hit Jumeirah public beach and settled in with a million dollar view of the Burj al Arab and swam the afternoon away. There were waves, lots of laughs and very very full bellies. An post-sunset evening dip was essential and then we packed our bags and went home. But not before planning more clubbing for tonight!

Sadly I have airport standby tomorrow from 6am and can't go. But something tells me that Team Ghana wont be retiring any time soon!

Monday, 7 May 2007

Another night..........another buffet

Yes, it's true. We've hit another buffet.

The occasion? My lovely friend Angela's 26th birthday. This called for a fantabulous celebration, and after a strenuous day, those caprioscas tasted wonderful!

The day started with a trip to the mall, to organise our driver's licenses. As Aussies, the process of getting a license in Dubai is pretty easy. You simply go in, take some money, take some passport sized photos, take your passport, take your original license, sit an eye test, pose for another photo and BINGO, you're legal to drive!!!

We'd heard some nasty rumours that this process was coming to an end and that it would be a matter of sitting through twenty, yes TWENTY lessons before you'd be the proud owner of a sparkly gold, holographic license. In order to avoid such a rip off, we bounced in there, toting our bits and pieces and within a short time had the cards in our hot little hands.

There was then a trip to Krispy Kremes, who've recently opened a store (hello diabetes as Ash says) and we were treated to a hot-off-the-belt doughnut soaked in sugar. I swear NOTHING has ever tasted soooooo goooood! We bought a couple to go, scooted to the tailor with a few things to be altered and then headed home for a cup of tea with our sweets!

We got ready, popped over the road to the buffet in the Shangrila and proceeded to chatter and gossip and eat (of course!) for the next 3.5 hours. Ange and I met on a Singapore/Brisbane trip last December and retold the story of drunken soccer with Xmas decorations up and down the street in Singapore at about 2 in the morning. There was a short detour into a garden that night and a few rather unflattering photos that sadly won't be posted today as Ange would have my guts for garters if I dared do so!

It seems that each time we've done this buffet there are different drinks on offer. They are of course included in the price of the buffet, as is the red and white wine and so far we've tried strawberry mojitos, appletinis and last night, the capriosca.

While we were looking forward to the chocolate fountain and all the damage we could do to chocolate covered strawberries, we were sad to see it wasn't there. However, there were delicious little sweets on mini dishes and in shot glasses - my favourite tasted just like a lamington!

All in all, it was fabulous night. Happy Birthday Ange!!!

On a more dapper note, reserve month has started for me - this means a month of being on call, at the mercy of crew scheduling and so far today, after a quick trip to the gym to rid myself of tuckshop arms, I've spent the past four hours sitting on the couch waiting for the phone to ring. Our other flatmate has the same ringtone on her home phone, so when hers goes off, I jump and imagine a horrid trip to Cairo!

I've been given two days off after this, which means that I'll be very legal for a Brisbane trip (or any other Aussie trip for that matter) on the 10th!!!

Fingers crossed - it's time I got home for more cuddles with the kitties and more bbq shapes and Arnott's creams.......mmmm x

Wednesday, 2 May 2007


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Stories and people mentioned here are real. Some names, places and dates may have been changed.