I think it’s safe to say that I lead a life completely askew of the way most of the normal world does. Not only is the life of a flight attendant different than your average day job, but throw in relocating halfway around the world from the USA to the Middle East (“OMG! You’re going to die out there!” as was the general reaction to those I told the news to), mix in nothing but global destinations to 6 continents and making friends from different cultures, it boils down to being just about the most unusual and abnormal job you could possibly imagine (that doesn’t involve cleaning toilets… oh wait, why yes it does.)
Back home, I see my friends and family updating Facebook with normal, everyday statuses about work, family, etc. But mine are usually something like: “Catching up with old friends in London!” or “Just hugged a giraffe in Kenya!” Not that I’m bragging (okay, I am, just a bit) but sometimes I have to step back and look at my life and remember that I am really alive and not dreaming.
People who don’t work as crew always ask me almost this exact question very time: How many flights do you do a week? And there’s no specific answer; rosters are put out a month at a time and are prepared based on flying hours and includes things like legal rest times and required days off. So I always explain to them that I average about 80 to 90 hours a month, and that could be made up of several short flights or a few long ones. The funny thing is that I never ask them, How many days a week do YOU work? Because everyone already knows the answer to that question. Surprisingly, though, I find many people here in Dubai that work more than what’s considered normal in most western countries (5 days a week, about 40 hours a week). So I can totally understand when I ask them, what do you like the do in your free time, to get answers like, Go to Friday brunch or Go to bars/clubs. Often times I find myself in dire need to just let go and will admit that on many of my days/nights off in Dubai I will spend partying it up with friends. Lots of people back home may criticize or admire that fact, but hey, it is what it is and it’s how I choose to live my current lifestyle.
Although, I will admit, that even I get tired of all the partying in my off hours. I’ve actually discovered things I now enjoy doing that I didn’t before when my life was, well, mundane. I’ve noticed I’ve become somewhat domestic, and if any of you know me you’ll find it to be a complete shock. But being domestic actually helps me feel semi-normal in my absolutely abnormal world. So what is it in the last year that I’ve developed as new “hobbies”?
- Doing the dishes. Strange, I know. I used to avoid doing dishes like the plague back home. If the dishwasher broke, all hell broke loose too! I share my apartment with 2 other lovely girls, so you can imagine with all of us coming and going, having people over and using the kitchen that dishes can pile up quite quickly. I’m sure they can back me up in that I find doing dishes almost daily puts my brain back on earth. My flatmates even ask me (without argue mind you) why I do them, and always try to volunteer. But I don’t know why I like doing them so much; except for the fact that seeing them accumulate in our tiny kitchen stresses me out a bit. And it is a good time to spend thinking things over- too many distractions.
- Ironing. I used to get in the habit of hanging every single article of clothing up (t-shirts and jeans included) as soon as the dryer was done to avoid ironing. And while I only iron my uniforms (and a few pieces of clothing if need be) it’s again that time spent doing a task that allows me to think. Also, having a job as extreme as taxing as being an international flight attendant is, many a time I spend doing absolutely nothing, usually with my bum implanted into the couch. But household jobs are so productive and have such a positive outcome. Yeah, I probably took about 20 years too long to discover this.
- Cooking. In my previous post, You Are What You Eat.. Hi, I’m Chicken Shawarma, I mentioned that I don’t cook. But lately I’ve been having a real urge to cook. I think it stems from me dealing with my ma’s death, which I’ve been trying to find new ways of coping. The only thing I really knew how to cook (other than little things, like pancakes and spaghetti out of a jar) was her chicken adobo. I’d kept a recipe and had only ever done it in her presence, so doing it alone was a bit nerve wrecking. But my first attempt, made for myself and my flatmate, seemed fairly successful, with room for improvement. Since then, I’ve also tried Filipino beef steak, or bistek, which is easy enough to do. I’d wanted to do it in her style, but lacking her recipe, I searched for various recipes online, namely from Feast Asia, and changed things from what I remembered watching my ma do growing up. The result came out pretty great to the delight of my friends (guinea pigs), and I am hoping to continue learning to cook more Filipino dishes (as it’s what I’m most comfortable with) and then branch out to other cuisine. I’ve discovered that cooking for people is so rewarding, and gives you such a feel good atmosphere. I always remembered how great my ma felt when we ate her food.
As far as having as normal a life as possible, there are things I admit I am still very lazy about, don’t know how to do or too lazy to figure out. And when I think about it, I feel a bit embarrassed (but then again, I don’t really care) that I still don’t know, especially when new people ask me for help and I am completely useless. Sometimes, it’s my weird job and lifestyle that fuels this laziness.
- Using the post. I have never mailed anything out of Dubai, and would have no idea how to do it if someone asked me. I’m sure there is an easy solution, but I just haven’t found it out. If I do need to mail out letters, I usually drop them off at the reception desk of the hotel I’m staying at on layovers, as I do when I mail postcards to my family. Unfortunately, I will have to figure it out quite soon as I’m preparing to send off my absentee voter registration in time for this year’s U.S. elections. This also goes for mail-order and internet shopping. I’ve had friends send me letters and postcards from home, and sadly some have gotten lost on the way. I’m so paranoid about losing something or it taking forever that if I ever want something, I time it with trips home, and have it delivered home. Plus, it does save on the shipping.
- Home delivery from shops/restaurants. Even though there’s a shop literally 2 steps away from my building, the fact that I have to get off the couch, put something decent on, and ride the elevator down 44 floors is definitely unmotivating. And another sad fact is that a lot of nearby restaurants (within decent walking distance) that I order from offer crew discounts, but only if you eat in.
- Directions/knowing the city. Even though I do have a bit of an affinity for maps, I’m so lazy to learn my own way around the city, since my main mode of transportation is taxis (they are ridiculously cheap here in Dubai). Once in a while I will use a metro if it’s convenient, but taxi is usually the way to go. Sadly, Dubai doesn’t believe in addresses, so everything is by area, road, landmark, building name, etc. And if you have no idea where it is and the taxi driver doesn’t either, you are screwed. I still don’t know how to tell people how to get to my building if it’s a friend who’s driving.
As I’m going to be in Dubai for another couple of years at least, I’m sure things will change, but as it stands now, this is my life (other than the flying and traveling). It may seem weird and strange and definitely abnormal, but right now, I’m pretty content.