Monday, 21 January 2008

Jono Returns to the Sand Pit

Late last year it was decided that Jono would return to the pit because he had such a great time here in September. After scrambling for flights the that returned before the school term began at the end of January, he managed to book a seat with my little airline and flew in on the 10th. I of course had no luck with swapping my roster to be here to collect him from the airport, but Jena was here to let him in and welcome him back.

I returned from Accra the following morning to a lovely sight - he'd decorated my room with all sorts of goodies from home!! Think packets of strawberry & cream lollies, Allen's snakes, jars of perinaise, sprinkles for my cupcakes, a cupcake book and A CUPCAKE STAND!!!! There were tim tams and all sorts of yummies.

We set about welcoming Jono back in the best way we know - a boozy brunch!!!

Jono celebrated his 25th birthday the day he flew back to Brissie, so it was a perfect early birthday celebration.

Off we went to Yalumba, the scene of many a boozy brunch - think back to Easter last year! A gorgeous Australian restaurant at one of the airport hotels, it serves unlimited Bollinger champagne and a fantastic a la carte menu and buffet. When I made the booking, I told them it was for Jon's birthday and when we arrived, our table was strewn with streamers, party hats and balloons. What a promising day! We started off very civilised and then smashed the champagne. The food was fantastic, as always, and we found it hard to eat as much as we wanted! The major challenge of a boozy brunch is to FINISH (completely drain) a glass of bubbly. The super attentive staff at Yalumba make it near impossible to do so, as they're always at your shoulder with a massive bottle, ready to slosh it into your glass. Jono and I managed to sneakily finish a glass and much cheering was heard.

I discovered THE BEST sheppard's pie and potato bake and that's all I wanted to munch on. The lobster wasn't bad (I've had better on board) and the surprise chocolate birthday cake was out-of-this-world good! We demolished it in every sense of the word. Initially we were going to have a little sample and bring it home, but then temptation (and being pissed) got the better of us and we literally destroyed it.

Once it hit 3.30 and brunch was over, we hit the dance floor along with about 100 other very drunk (mostly Aussie) patrons and danced until we had to take off our shoes. Well I had to take mine off. Very classy indeed!

We dragged ourselves out of bed the next morning and set off for lunch before heading out to do a spot of shopping. Jono was interested in getting a suit and as the Dubai Shopping Festival was on, we thought it was the perfect time to go bargain hunting! And bargains we found! We weren't so successful with suits, but found Jono a gorgeous Cashmere coat, jumper and a lovely scarf.

Still in suit-hunting mode, we scooted over to the other side of town to visit Babu - my tailor. We say Babu has "the vision" because when we go and describe what we want to him, he whips his pen out, draws it freehand and makes remarkably good clothes. When we're a little unsure, he always knows what we want. By the time we battled with traffic and our slight hangovers, we were both feeling the need for a nap. Jono was a bit bamboozled by the dazzling array of fabrics at Babu's and we quickly selected one, got him measured up and after some discussions on what type of suit we wanted we were out of there! Spending too much time in that part of town can send a perfectly normal person pretty crazy - the symphony of car horns is deafening, the screeching traffic at a standstill and incredibly short light changes all make for a good dose of road rage. This was the general area of my traffic fine (which I'm still silently fuming about) and many an afternoon spent sitting for hours in the car, while the trip inside only takes 20 minutes.

After spending much of the year overseas and working in far north Queensland and fishing on the weekends, Jono was in need of a private-school-appropriate-teacher-haircut. On advice of fellow Aussie cabin crew, we wandered down the road to visit Charles. There are two gay stylists at the salon and we've heard that one of them puts on a mighty good show - think checking himself out in the mirror WHILE he's cutting hair, pouting and prancing and generally being as camp as a row of tents. We were hopeful, but got stuck with the older, more sedate of the two - who still managed a good haircut.

Dubai's yearly rainfall is usually 4 days of very light showers. In the last two years, we've been seeing at least a week of consistent drizzle and moderate rain and this year we witnessed FLASH FLOODING for most of the time Jono was here. We sat inside in the safety of Yo! Sushi and watched the rain fall and nibbled on delicious freshly prepared sushi from the sushi train. I demolished platefuls of steamed beans, while Jono made it his mission to try EVERY dish with fish on it.

The following day was spent marveling at the fact that Sheikh Zayed road was CLOSED. A few friends went downstairs and were taking pictures of themselves standing in the middle of the road and lying down on it. A truly once in a lifetime opportunity to be alone on a 12 lane super-highway. The roads were all closed and it took so long to drive out to Festival City for lunch that we honestly thought we could have walked there faster! We kept our eyes peeled puma and peacocks and all sorts of exotic wildlife as we drove past the Sheikh's palace and tried to busy ourselves with singing along to the radio to pass the time. Didn't work so well. After a few wrong turns down roads I'm not familiar with due to the closures of the roads I DID know, we were rather amused to find ourselves on a road that was meant to be closed. It was just us. And a lone police cruiser that drove past - I was terrified that I wasn't meant to have driven over that flattened rope barrier and I'd be shot on site by over-enthusiastic coppers looking for target practice. You can imagine our frustration when we finally arrived at our destination to be told by security that nothing was open due to the "public holiday". When pushed for a further explanation about this holiday we'd never heard about, we were told it was in honour of His Excellency George Bush. What a bloody joke! Not only was it not a real public holiday (of which this country has oodles), it was pointless, as His Highness wasn't likely to be visiting Ikea that day. It was really just an excuse for everyone to come in late for work or have the day off. For a country with the majority of the world's crane population and the enormous amount of work going on here, there sure are a lot of lazy people!

After huffing and puffing, we settled on a delicious Lebanese feast close to home. Jono had a turn driving my little car home and announced that he thought she was great. We drive left hand drive cars in Dubai, so adjusting to a manual on the other side of the road was a big deal for me. Subsequently, I very rarely sit in the passenger seat of my car, so having him driving it was a bit scary, as I kept thinking he was going to side-swipe everything on my side of the road!

Much drinking and eating was done during Jono's visit and much fun and adventures were had. Having him back in Dubai as another great opportunity to try out some new restaurants and a gorgeous rooftop bar that has a stunning view of Dubai's coast line at night. Babu did a fantastic job on Jon's suit and he can't wait to wear it to a wedding he's going to in Finland in July. On his second last day here, Jono treated himself to an old-fashioned face shave with a razor and lather and came out baby smooth and smelling delicious!!

While it's fantastic to have visitors from home, I'm heading home in April on leave and can't wait to catch up with everyone. I've got 2 weeks of blissful ham sandwiches and fish & chips and cuddles with my cats to look forward to and I just can't wait!!!

I've got my CRANKY PANTS on ... again

I swear to the good Baby Jesus, one of these days I'm going to go absolutely mental in town and murder someone. Or break something. Or run someone over for the sheer pleasure of it. Having had Jono here for 9 days and being here for most of that time, I've had a rather unpleasant refresher course in "all things Dubai".

Translation: this country's complete inability to be competant in anything.

Whether it be:

  • the spelling on road signs
  • the ability to drive in a straight line in ONE lane
  • being able to print a bill for a meal at a restaurant and deliver it to the right table - there's a novel idea!
  • putting headlights on in BLINDING RAIN
  • desiging roads to withstant more than a 1mm rainfall
  • declaring a public holiday and closing all major roads because a foreign figurehead came to town

and my personal favourite:

replacing a pair of broken shoes at the uniform store

You'd think it was goddam rocket science.

Within a week of each other, both pairs of my crappy Clarks work shoes have broken. The heels were teetering on collapse, as they came unglued from the sole of the shoe (very safe for prancing through airports) and my cabin shoes (super ugly flat brown shoes that even Ugly Betty wouldn't be seen DEAD in) busted up in-flight on I don't know what. One minute I looked down and my shoes were talking!

After lugging the heels into the uniform store on New Years Eve morning to get them replaced, I was informed that this was my 6 month entitlement replacement. I argued that they were broken and shoudn't be "replaced" as my entitlement but replaced because they were broken, leaving me able to replace my other shoes when they might need it. We get to change one pair of stinky shoes over every 6 months, which ever we think are in the worst condition. He said tough luck. So, am I surprised the next week then the flat ones broke? Not really, just miffed I'd have to waste more time going in there again.

Expecting an arguement, as this outside the 6 month time frame, I had a grooming report written and swanned in there today and asked for them to be changed. It was like a rude slap in the face with the bum-wiping hand of a homeless person from any one of the many third-world sub-continent countries we fly to when I was told that I'd have to pay for them. Now, let's not get deluded into thinking that I wear fabulous Manolos to work - they're crappy brown flat shoes that reek to high heaven of plane carpet. I purchased a new pair of heels last year because I was told to change over to the new uniform quick smart (we don't even want to THINK about how terrible your old uniform shoes look, even though they're in perfect condtion), so I thought I'll be damned if I going to fork out for new shoes AGAIN. This girl's got better things to spend her money on! Whether it be David Gray tickets or endless dinners when sexy boys called Jon come to town, work shoes are NOT a purchasable priority for me.

Well, my quick trip to the uniform store quickly escalated into an almost brawl with the uniform dispenser, the purchasing of the Cabin Crew Grooming Manual (yes, it exists and MUST be carried on all flights) and arguing the rules. I lost.

So I involved the higher up Grooming Gods, also known as the fierce and feared Grooming Nazis. Sometimes they lie in wait for us when we return from flights at 4am and pick on us for having stray strands of hair or not enough lipstick on. Needless to say, they've got plenty of time to do 'proper' work. The leader of the pack was out to lunch, so after waiting for her return, she marhced me back down to the uniform-basement-with-no-windows quicker than you could say "my shoes are broken and I need new ones but the man downstairs said I have to pay for them and I don't want to". So, with a terse look and a few sharp words exchanged between her and the dispensers, I'm now the proud new owner of a pair of brown cabin shoes. Oh, where will I wear them first?

I've seen some corker road signs during my two years here, my favourite being "sorry for the convenience-incon" in a really badly congested traffic area. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me that day. At work last week, I saw a sign that said "Dead Slow" - no doubt written by someone somewhere in the UK with a dreadful accent who says everything is "dead pissed", "dead busy" and "dead ugly". Clearly traffic on a tarmac is "dead slow". I can honestly say I've heard all three come out of the mouth of one of my Irish friends.

Last week, Dubai had it's yearly rainfall and as it does every year, it caused CHAOS. The roads are so poorly built that its not a question of if the roads will cope when the skies open, but a derivative snicker of how crap they are and what a pathetic job the Roads and Transport Authority are doing. Are they doing ANYTHING? There are no drains, so water just floods the streets, cars float away, people probably play in it and drown and traffic grinds to a slippery screeching halt.

Our beloved (and more often detested for its traffic) Sheikh Zayed road is a 10 lane highway - it's rare to actually see traffic flowing on it the way cars on a highway should. Well, during the rain, there was no flow, but I witnessed gushing flood-water and the disappearance of approximately 2/3 of the road on each side. The morons who live in this country (expats with valid drivers licences excluded) don't know what to do - so they all do wanky stuff like put their hazard lights on and leave their headlights off, switch lanes without indicating but at a greater speed than normal and tailgate and not increase stopping distances. Is it no wonder there is such chaos and I want to run people over?

Our expeditions out and about during the rainfall did yeild one very interesting road sign sighting: "Beware floods: watch for water ponds".

Right......just how likely is it to find a 'water pond' in the middle of a 10 lane highway? Evidently it's very possible in Dubai.


Another interesting incident last week: Little Georgie Porgie from downtown Texas graced the Middle East with a presidential visit and caused even more chaos than the flash flooding. We'd heard his highness was visiting at some stage but didn't realise that while none of us would meet him, it would affect us all far more than we expected.

Late on Sunday evening, the bright sparks that run this government announced that Monday would be a public holiday and that ALL major roads would be CLOSED. Right. were all of us plebs supposed to get anywhere? We weren't. Or we were supposed to use back roads and leave our homes 5 hours before we were actually wanting to arrive at our destinations. I pity any tourists unlucky enough to encounter both the rain and the traffic gridlock. Dubai is not the glittering, fabulous, well designed and super-deluxe place it's advertised to be. Our building has a bird's eye view of the main road and waking up on Tuesday morning was like looking down at a ghost town. There was NO traffic on the road. Every now and then a lone police crusier would drive along looking very out of place. Now, the need for all of these road closures were not explained, but the reason announced was the piss-poor "because Mr Bush is in town".

So what? Does this mean the beacause he's squirreled away in the Sheikh's palace with all the roaming puma and peacocks that we have to shut down our ENTIRE CITY? Rumour has it that he didn't even use the closed roads to enter Dubai - he FLEW IN on Air Force One from Abu Dhabi airport and then flew out of our airport bound for Saudi. So I hear you asking, why close all the roads if he wasn't even using them? And why announce a public holiday? Good questions.....clearly it's just another excuse for these people to have a holiday. Like they don't have enough already.

Don't even get me started on all the other ridiculous holidays this country honours - yet ex-pat children from Christian countries aren't allowed to have a Nativity Scene in their schools at Christmas because it might "offend" the Muslim kids? Bah humbug.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Sneaky sneaky....surprise surprise!!

After bemoaning the fact that I was on reserve in my last entry, but maintaining that I'd have a GREAT month, I'm more than pleased to confirm that I was right. Which I knew I would be all along.

After a shitty local flight, a London, a Newcastle and a few days off, I was BRISBANE bound!!!

This Brisbane trip did not come easily. After spotting a vacancy on the crew list a full two weeks before the flight, I set about trying to land myself in that vacancy. Not as easy as it sounds. After many many calls to crew scheduling, mostly getting their answering machine, my grand plan was shot down in flames every time someone actually picked up. Not surprising really. I tried to sound not too interested, I tried sounding VERY interested and I tried to sound like I was doing them a favour by volunteering to go on a 9 day flight to the bottom of the world at CHRISTMAS.
They still weren't having a bar of me.

In the end, my persistent pestering paid off. I won that spot and was so excited that I estimate I only got 2 hours sleep the night before. I'd lugged all my presents home on my previous trip but still managed to pack so much into that suitcase I could hardly pull it behind me on its pitiful handle.

This was not good, as I'd put my back out (or pinched a nerve or done serious damage to my spinal cord) that morning while attempting to shimmy into my ridiculous way-too-tight-but-suggested-for-flight-attendants-so-we-don't-get-ugly-veins-on-our-legs stockings in my dimly lit bedroom at 5am. Once the struggle was over I packed all my fruit and yoghurt from the fridge into my cabin bag and dragged my suitcase to the lifts, downstairs and onto the bus. I realised on the journey downstairs that each time I took a deep breath in or put my weight on my left foot that I'd done serious damage to my back. It also reaffirmed my hatred for stockings - especially BEIGE ones.

We had 7 Aussies on the flight, which made for a lovely atmosphere. On our first day in Singapore, Dean took me wake boarding at a cable ski park - Ski 360. Dean's been on a few of my trips before, namely my birthday Sydney trip and also the Brissie last year where we nibbled on the gingerbread house at 3am. We set off at midday and while I had NO experience in wake boarding or any other water sport you could name besides swimming, I was unaware that Dean was something of a pro - he's been doing it for 10 years! We got sorted with equipment - me with a knee board and Dean with a wake board - and after a short safety demonstration we were ready to go. He made me go first and afterwards I realised why. He had the biggest belly laugh when I got wrenched into the water toppled right off my knee board.

Determined not to fall off quite so soon the next time, I managed to cling on to the cable until about halfway and then fell off when I couldn't make the turn. After an hour and managing to to a full trip around the ski park, I was worried my arms were going to fall off. We ate some chips, watched the others fall into the water and made our way back to the hotel. It occurred to me that I'd forgotten to apply sunscreen and I realised I'd be radiating heat by the time we got on the plane that night. I wasn't wrong. Within a few days my forehead was peeling beautifully.

Arriving bright and early on Christmas Eve morning, Jon whisked me to his place where I stayed in hiding until the following morning. After present swapping with Jon's family, I called Mum to find out where she was. I told her a MEGA lie - that I was in Frankfurt on a trip. I'd done the groundwork a few days before by telling her I'd be on standby on Christmas Eve, so she wasn't surprised when I told her where I was. She told me she was heading off to her parents place for lunch. The plan was to show up on Gran's doorstep and surprise everyone.

No surprises there, everyone was gobsmacked! I knocked on the door and could see Gran sitting in her chair at the end of the hall. She couldn't believe it was me, then I could hear Dad saying my name and then he and Mum appeared and all Mum could get out was "you're not in Frankfurt are you???" It was great to surprise them, but unfortunately my brother had to work, so I wouldn't see him until later that night.

Marita & Tony bought the kids over, so it was her family, my family, Jon, Gran and Pop and Mum's younger brother Danny all celebrating Christmas lunch together. It was lovely to see everyone and find out what the kids have been up to lately. The highlight of the day had to be Mum's brandy sauce. Unearthed from the back of the pantry after winning it in Secret Santa at work, Mum thought it would go nicely with the Christmas pudding. She would have been right if it wasn't expired. By eight years!!!!!

Now Mum's done some vague and hilarious things in the past, this just takes the cake. I'm convinced that she CAN'T have had that sauce in the pantry for 8 years and that whoever gave it as a gift did so after it expired. I think 4 years is more accurate. Good on you Mum! Needless to say, it didn't taste very nice......

A few days later Jon and I went to Michelle's place for a gorgeous brekky and were joined by Madonna, Luke, Anton and Jocelyn. Lots of laughs and a few champagne bottles later we were all ready for a good snooze! Back to the hotel for a beautiful buffet dinner with Mum, Dad and Patrick and more wine and drinks. The hotel does a gorgeous buffet, with lots of prawns, sushi, roast turkey, curries and very YUMMY desserts.

The end of the trip came too quickly and before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Jon. He's coming back to Dubai on the 10th for a 9 day visit and I've got all sorts of things planned for him. He turns 25 on the 20th and we're certainly going to celebrate in style!