Monday, 24 March 2008

First Class Schmoozing

After doing a year in economy and graduating to business class last February, it was time to go back to training college for another painful week that preceded my graduation to first class.

Last year I'd hoped that there would be unlimited cheese board access and dessert eating and was sorely disappointed when I realised that the only food I'd be eating would be quickly inhaled when no-one was looking! This year, I didn't get too excited and expected to spend another week starving with non-existent breaks due to classes going over their time limits. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not only would we be heating and serving all the food on the menu, but that we were allowed to EAT it! There were yummy little hot canapes, yoghurt with muesli, delicious cheese and a fairly ordinary hot breakfast selection. On the sly, it's the same stuff as business, but in a different bowl.

There was even more emphasis on the wanky open hand gestures than last year and some outrageous necessity to memorise not one, but THREE separate wine lists (18 in total) in 2 days.

How does "not happening" sound to you?!

We had a few rejoining crew, two of which were pursers. I felt sorry for them, as they'd just gone through all their initial training, business class and first class training and THEN had to go on to do their senior training. All up, they'll have been at college for about 10 weeks - not ideal in my opinion! Training college still smells like a nasty old institution and but the food at the cafeteria in the new building is much better. I developed a rather odd addiction to pre-packaged chicken caeser salad and yoghurt. Clearly I'm a girl who loves her food! Good news though, I have lost a few kgs since starting the protein shakes - I definitely recommend them.

Graduation this year was packed. One of the largest graduations in history apparently. There were almost as many business class crew as there were ab-initios (new crew) and there were almost 20 pursers. Our little first class group looked rather puny, with only 6 graduating.

Getting up on stage was a little scary again - falling over my large feet in front of hundreds of people would have been rather embarrassing. The MC at our graduation made a show of saying "congratulations" in the language of each person who was presented with a certificate. I was the last of us to get up and when he introduced me, he called me LAURA. He managed to correctly pronounce a super long Thai name that contained just about all the letters of the alphabet, but I guess Lauren is a pretty difficult name to pronounce......

After sitting through more painful speeches that are the same every week and are trotted out with different hand gestures, we scooted upstairs for some graduation cake and tasty little sandwiches. We finally drove home and later that night we went out for dinner and drinks to Ginseng, a lovely dark and cosy place that serves great Asian tapas. After Ginseng we were off to Barasti and after a drink or two I was ready for bed! All those late nights and early mornings studying were catching up with me!

So now that I'm officially qualified to serve the Pope, a President or a celeb like Angelina Jolie, my expectations for first class are as follows: even less people, even less baggage and an even smaller desperation for water. I hope to see some mega bling and meet a few famous people!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Ladies who Brunch

It's that time of year again - VISITOR TIME!!!

Each year, we get 60 days where we can have friends or family come and stay with our in our apartments. As we're a three bedroom place without a fold-out couch, having more than one person usually means sharing a bed. This time Ash had her friends Mij and Troy stay with us for just over a week and it was heaps of fun! The boys have been living in Finland and are on their way back to Australia and incorporated us into their trip home.

As well as the usual touristy things like abra trips on the creek, Lebanese food feasts, desert safaris with terrifying dune bashing, shopping at Emirates Mall, drinks at chic rooftop bars, buffet dinners, outings to the beach and the requisite trip to the tailor & gold souk & spice souk........A BOOZY BRUNCH!!!

We put on our Sunday best and headed back to Yalumba for what was a very enjoyable booze fest. I've always been a woos with my food, so I gave in to peer pressure and Ash's assurances that eggs benedict are "the best thing your taste buds will ever taste" I ordered some from the menu and was more than pleasantly surprised! I wished my salmon topped eggs would magically multiply so I could stay in this taste bud sensation all afternoon!

We sampled the buffet and our table was quickly covered with all sorts of yummies - salads, sushi, more eggs benedict, papadams, roast lamb, roast veggies, lobster, prawns and desserts from the desert stand. The ever-attentive waiters who hover at your shoulder and refill champagne glasses without the owner even knowing were so attentive that they foiled my attempt at a hat trick. If anyone manages to finish a glass before the waiters can get to it there is much cheering and celebration. I hold the record at two glasses, one at each of the last two brunches we've attended and I was hoping for a third. It just wasn't my time.

After brunch we danced and danced and clacked the clickety-clack clackers and noise makers that our table was littered with when we arrived. We draped ourselves with streamers and Troy popped so many balloons I nearly had to go to the happy place in my head - the sound of balloons popping FREAKS me out.

Weeks earlier I'd bought tickets to the much anticipated David Gray concert that was part of the annual Jazz Fest and was superly fantastically excited to be going. When Ash organised brunch for the boys on the same day I was curious as to the condition I'd be in after attending said boozy brunch. I claimed I'd forsake dancing, come home after brunch and have a nap to recover. Turns out the staying and dancing didn't help my cause and in the end I only had 1.5 hours to change and be ready and presentable and kind of sober after getting home.....I wasn't in the best state and that short amount of time felt like 10 minutes. Following quite a few false starts as to who I was taking and last minute pull-outs, I was left scrambling that morning to find someone to take my other ticket. Jess luckily accepted and with a SPLITTING headache like nothing else I've ever experienced after a session of drinking, we set off to find the Jazz Fest. We had no idea where it was and I only had the name of the place. The taxi driver of course was no better and had to stop a few times to ask directions. Isn't there supposed to be some kind of driving and directional testing required for taxi drivers? Oh wait......this is Dubai, not the rest of the civilised world.

We finally got there and were fairly early. Online when I booked my tickets I was kindly informed that there were two other acts preceding the fabulous Mr Gray and we plonked oursleves in some seats and waited. And waited. And waited. AND WAITED. Apparently the online advertisers had made up those other two acts and didn't inform the event organisers. We sat in the freezing cold sub-arctic winds of Dubai in later winter/approaching summer and chattered and watched the seats slowly fill up. Jess, who was a year below me at school moved to Dubai late last year and came to our last boozy brunch when Jono was here.

When David Gray finally came on it was a sight to behold that made me SWEAR to attend as many live shows in the future as I possibly can! The stage was transformed from drab to gorgeous, with a heavy black backdrop. When backlit, it was filled with holes that looked like thousands of tiny stars - very fitting for our outdoor location.

He belted out great tunes, wobbling his head the way he's famous for and wowed the crowd of thousands. We sat in awe of his gorgeous voice, tapping our feet and singing along. He sang some old stuff and some stuff I've never heard and when he came back for an encore he sang Please Forgive Me and nearly lifted us out of our chairs with the performance. I called Jono so he could listen and sang along to the music and swayed with the crowd. I didn't want it to end, but when he finally left the stage there was a silence that hung over the crowd for a little while.

Along with the thousands of other concert goers, we attempted to find a taxi. Not possible. With people cutting in all over the place we were quickly reminded that we were in Dubai where rules of social conscience and manners don't exist. We finally hailed one and asked to be taken to a nearby club only to be met with an odd stare - we were a 5 minute walk from where we wanted to go! Off we went and fought the bar crowd to get drinks, had a little dance and ended up getting back at 4am!

To combat my ferocious headache I took some ponstan forte and ate a handful of tim tams - I swear this is the most swift remedy I've ever expereinced - the pain was gone in 20 minutes!!!

All in all a wonderful day/night that I was wishing would go on forever.