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Name: Melissa

About Me

Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City

My Perfect Day in -
London | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne

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Kangaroo with a Sweet Tooth
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Tray Table
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Straight Guy in the Queer Skies

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Skin by Falter

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011
It is the bane of every flyer here on earth. The frequent flyer, the flight attendant, the pilot, the family on their bi-annual holiday – no one is immune from Jet lag. It can ruin your stay by chewing up many hours of sleep in daylight that should be spent working or sightseeing. It is such an issue in aviation that there are legalities that govern our rest to counteract it's effects.

Even though our rosters are anything but normal, I try to keep a normal routine here in Dubai. Wake up at 6-7am, bed by 9-10pm. Run in the morning, catch ups and blogging during the day, chillaxing at night. With the majority of trips I do, regardless of where they are and how long they are and whatever horrendous timezone they are, after 5 years of flying I have it pretty much sorted as to when to sleep so I'm not totally wrecked for the operating flights, and when I'm back in Dubai after such a trip it usually only costs me at the most 18 hrs to get back into the swing of things.

At the moment though I'm really struggling to get back into my preferred pattern. Up at midday. In bed by 4am. If I was a member of the numerous party crowd here in the airline, things would be perfect, but alas, I am a morning person through and through and this is not sitting with me very well.

I think the worst case I went through was when I did my first Nagoya layover. After arriving back in Dubai I was going to bed at 5pm and waking up at 2.30am. And Dubai being Dubai, nothing is open at 2.30am, except for the KFC on Sheikh Zayed Road. It was horrible, frustrating and it took me a good 2 weeks to finally adapt to a more human body clock. I think that when things get that bad there isn't a whole lot you can do, just let the body work itself out and try to avoid really harsh sunlight so it doesn't translate into headaches later on.I think every crew member has their own way to deal with jet lag. I guess my best advice would be to never change your watch to the local time, so you always know what time it is back in your home city, and behave accordingly. Some crew wear these dual-time watches, since most of the timings we use on board (to know when service begins, top of decent etc.) are all in Dubai time (GMT +4.00), unless you step foot into the flight deck, where everything is expressed in GMT+0.00, otherwise known as "Zulu time". I find dual-time watches very confusing, especially when you're on a multi sector trip such as BKK/SYD/CHC, so I'm not about to buy one any time soon.

Being a 'Thai Blond', it also took me a few years to work out that there is such a thing as GMT + 13.00. The conversations were hilarious for everyone else, especially the flight deck...
"How can Christchurch be +13.00? Wouldn't that make it GMT -1.00???"
"Well no..."
"If the world is divided into 24 time zones, and from GMT +/- 0.00 are either plus or minus GMT, then how can you have GMT +13.00???"
Oh goodness I confused myself and everyone else around me. I avoided doing the English PA into New Zealand. I am much wiser now I can assure you :-)

The general rule seems to be that for every time zone that you're out of whack, it's going to take one day to recover from. So if I fly from Dubai (GMT +4.00) to Perth (GMT +8.00) then it will take me 4 days to adjust to the new time zone. I know what happens in reality - my flight arrives into Perth at 1am - I get to my family home at 2.30 am. I don't get to sleep until 4am. I wake up at 11am and try to do stuff - then experience a crash at 6pm - where I tend to completely pass out on the couch with my brother watching TV loudly, then I have to be woken for dinner at 7pm. After which I cannot sleep again until 3am. This happens to me on every Perth leave I take, without fail. It really sucks, especially since there are many things I plan to do at home, like for example see the dentist, or visit uni/school friends, and I tend to be either groggy or cranky with both, which isn't me in the slightest.

In theory our rosters can be a lot more harsh on our bodies than people want to believe. If I do a 5 day trip in January, I could be in Auckland (daylight saving GMT +13.00) on the 3rd of January, Melbourne (daylight saving GMT +11.00) on the 4th, Dubai (GMT +4.00) on the 6th, have 2 legal days off then fly to London (GMT +/- 0.00) on the 9th of January. So within the space of 6 days I will have travelled 13 time zones, which is insane. The majority of passengers on our Kangaroo Routes do this trip in 24 hrs, which in itself is quite scary.
The worst case I heard was when a friend of my cousin Katherine wanted to travel from Los Angeles to Perth for a triathlon meet. She went direct from LA to Dubai, a 16 hr flight, then from Dubai to Perth, which is 10.5 hrs. I think the travel agent just wanted to screw with her, because it would have been better for her (and cheaper!) to have the stop over in Sydney, or Melbourne, then catch a domestic flight. It's just as well she was an athlete and not someone who was elderly or a prime target for developing Deep Vein Thrombosis. It's also on these crazy long trips that most people start to get sick, then instead of serving food and booze I'm administering Oxygen and cleaning up vomit. Fun times.

During our medical training we do get taught about sleep deprivation and how to best handle jet lag. They teach us about how a power nap of 45min-1.30hrs is best for the daytime. Try to sleep with light-blocking curtains and an eye mask. Drink plenty of water, and no caffiene.

But when you're online, in the hostie uniform, you're stuck in between a rock and a hard place. You cannot just nip off for a 45 minute power nap when customers *need* you to serve them. You can try to avoid caffiene, but when your wake up call is 9pm and your pick up is 11pm, departure is 2am, then yes, you are going to head straight for the nearest coffee machine. Even when you're on a long haul, and you're in the super comfy PJ's and have been assigned 4 hrs rest, drinking plenty of water before the rest will just lead to many toilet breaks during your rest, and after the bunk time is over you find that you haven't rested well at all. It's pretty frustrating.

So what solutions are out there?

Jet Lag Pills -
There's such a huge market for Jet Lag pills, I'm surprised we're not handed a packet in our welcome gift basket when we land into Dubai. I'm not really keen to try this after my Melatonin episode...

MelatoninMelatonin, which you can find all over Dubai in any vitamin and supplement shop, is supposed to help with sleep, but the only time I've taken this (On my leave mind you, I'm not about to risk taking a sleeping pill and completely miss my work pickup) I had some of the worst nightmares I've ever had in my life. I did a bit more research and read that if the bottle doesn't say 100% natural then these nightmares can happen, but the bottle said 100% natural, so after seeing that it promptly went into the bin.

Aromatherapy (Scented Sleep Spray/Roll On)These tend to be Chamomile and Lavender based. I find they don't really work for me. I do carry around with me on flights this Ginger Flight Therapy roll on stick from Aesop, since this is the one shop where they are guarenteed to sell me everything they promote. I save the roll on stick for the bunks on U.S. and Australian flights, and whilst it doesn't work it does smell nice. Much better than the stinky socks of the crew member in the bunk behind you.

Light box therapy
The only method that looks promising for combatting a muddled Circadian rhythm is Light therapy. Until I'm prepared to fork out USD $200.00 online for a box I don't even know will work then I guess sleeping in at home is the only method that will work for me.

The best thing I did when I first moved to Dubai was to buy the best sheets, duvet and pillows money could buy. It put a dent into my then-woeful salary, but it really makes a difference when you've just come from a Bombay turn at 2pm and all you want to do is fall flat on your duck down duvet wrapped in 1000 thread count sheets. If you're super tired it's almost like you are falling on clouds. Just remember to take the make up off first ;-)

Images from here, here, and here.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011
So when I received my March roster last month I saw something I have rarely seen since I became a First Class crew member - 4 consecutive days off. Not only were they 4 days off, they were both buffered by rest days, and the first thing I did was check Trip Advisor for cheap hotels to stay in - I just wanted to get out of Dubai and do something different. A place I had never been before, that I was certain my airline were not going to start flights to anytime soon. The destination was clear - Riga.

I fell in love with Baltic Europe back in 2002 after seeing footage from this documentary being filmed in Tallinn, Estonia. After spending half of my leave there in 2009 I knew that I couldn't give up this job and these benefits without seeing Latvia and Lithuania as well. Hotels in Lithuania were for some reason more expensive (probably some convention happening there) and the weather was colder, so that will have to wait until my next impulse ticket purchase.

Of course I travelled Standby, which for me is a horrible experience, and wish that I had the earning capacity to purchase the firm tickets instead. Business Standby was the best I could do with a month's notice, and the day of departure I checked the loads - they weren't looking good. I then decided to go to the official Lufthansa site and attempt to purchase full fare tickets - First and Business were blocked, but Economy tickets were still for sale - I still had a chance! After a good 2 hours of freaking out, and seeing the ground staff weigh hand luggage in addition to everyone’s checked luggage, I finally caved and volunteered to travel in Economy.

After being reassured that I was definitely reaching Riga, and after a very interesting conversation with the taxi driver, I arrived at my hotel. First time I booked myself a studio apartment, and I was very impressed... They had a dual stove top, which would have been really handy to boil up some Pelmeni for dinner, but they provided everything except some saucepans and fry pans. Nice. So when I got settled I decided to wander around the Old Town to familiarise myself.

House of Blackheads

Statue outside House of Blackheads

Riga Dome/City Hall

Museum of Occupations

Statue outside Museum of Occupations

St Peters Church

Riga Dom/Cathedral

Legend of Riga

Swedbank Building, location of the Skybar

Vansu Bridge

The next day I decided to take a free walking tour around Riga, which I really enjoyed as it was spent as little in the Old town as possible. You got to see a lot of the suburbs, the different districts and especially the gorgeous Art Nouveau the city is notorious for.

Engelis, my tour guide. Very cool, very funny guy.

Old Central Market. home to 5 of the world's 9 Zeppelin hangars Awesome Place.

Haul from the central market. Honey Roulade cake, Laima strawberry cream chocolates, wooden teaspoon, sheepskin foot inserts, sheep's wool foot inserts (the only things that would stop my toes getting frozen in my Wellies) and 4 slices of bread. I saw this and kept wondering why more bakeries don't sell in single portion slices, would stop all my lovely bread from going mouldy when I fly on trips and stop wastage.

Academy of Arts and Sciences

Night market. You can apparently go in here at 3am and buy a sack of potatoes and no one will ask questions.

Random wooden house. It had some significance, but I totally forgot what it was. I think it got burned down 2-3 times and re-built. Because Latvians, being Pagans, love to burn things down.

Wooden Church. Also was burnt down several times. Made of wood so that the Latvians could burn it down in the event of a Napoleonithic invasion so it wouldn’t be used as a fort.

A Snowman! We never get these back home, and definitely not in Dubai.

Holocaust Memorial

Freedom Monument

On my final day I wanted to backtrack a bit from Engelis’ tour and see some things in more depth, plus see what I thought was worth looking at that the tour didn’t cover and what had been recommended to be by others.

A nice use of mosaics

Pilsetas canal, near the Opera House, all iced up. The Daugava was pretty iced up as well, and you could see snow prints on the ice, but considering the temperature was hovering between 2-8 degrees in the middle of the day it looked a little risky to be walking on that ice.

Cool Street Sculptures

Small bridge over the Pilsetas canal. I found it quite cute that they were covered in all sorts of padlocks.

Opera House

Laima Clock. The meeting point for many a bus tour.

Nativity Russian Orthodox Cathedral

My attempt of a creative shot of the Freedom Monument.

Powder Tower

And for the food! Double Coffee goods –

Coffee. That’s strawberry on the bottom BTW. Very tasty, but if you need a caffeine hit this isn’t the place.

Potato cakes with Pork. If there was pork on the menu I’d eat it. I guess being a bit restricted with pork choice in Dubai has given me a craving for it over the past 4 days. The quality of it in Latvia is just amazing. The potato cakes were super-oily though, typical winter food.

Pelmeni XL. Ever since I started operating Moscow layovers I’ve been in love with Pelmeni. I made an attempt at making them a few months but failed spectacularly, particularly with the rolling of the dough, and getting it even (I’ve since discovered that they use a water glass to cut the circles, which is far too easy for a smart girl like me to think of!) and now I just buy them at Spunneys. I also bought 2 packets with me to take back to Dubai, but by the time I reached my apartment one packet had amalgamated into one big meat-dough mass and was totally unusable. The other survivied though, and I've since managed to cook it on board with the Double Beef Consomme and some sour cream from the soup garnish in First Class.

One place that doesn’t have a photo here that I have to write about is the Latgalite Flea Market, which is open every day until 3. It’s the Russian market, and notorious for having a lot of soviet-era nostalgia for sale. It’s also the known place in Riga for selling counterfeit items, (I guess the most notable I saw was an iPhone 3) so if I did take pictures I’d probably get beaten up. The items they have for sale is just unbelievable – Soviet medals, pins, paraphernalia from 1980 Moscow Olympics, Army outfits, including stripes and genuine hats, old passports, pre-WW2 documents, even gas masks! I think it would have to rank as the single most awesome shop I’ve ever been to in my life! But as it’s a flea market it was outdoors, and subject to the elements, so the ground is quite muddy, and I had on my trusty pink wellies on. The most random moment for me what when some very nice men were trying to flog me some gun parts in Russian for 5 Lats. I think if I went through with the purchase it would be a little difficult to explain to airport security what Soviet-made gun parts are doing in my luggage.

It’s not unknown to some of the most passionate readers of this here blog that I dabble in a bit of Lo-Fi photography once in a while, so whilst in this dingy-but-cool market you can understand my elation when I scored one of these...

A rusty Smena 8M. I checked all the functions and it still appears to be in working order, but I think I’ll take it with me to Houston with a soon-to-expire roll of film and just take some test shots. If it does work it’ll be the biggest score, because I paid all of 2 Lats for it, which is only $4.00 USD! On they’re flogging these for £80 refurbished! If I get the film developed and it doesn’t work, or taping it up won’t stop the light leaks, then at least it’ll look cool on the shelf at home in Dubai. Visitors will start asking questions for sure!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Well considering that I've had a request I thought I would post the rest of the photos I took in New York during the Thanksgiving holidays.

If you wanted to see photos of New York landmarks, you won't really find them here - they were all taken back in 2007, so I wanted to mix it up a bit...

I am warning all of you, this post is very photo-heavy... hope your index finger is set on 'scroll' mode in preparation...

I never thought you could make Domo-kun any cuter, then this guy puts glasses on him!

Shots of the High Line Park in Lower Manhattan

Osman with his invisable photog hat on.

Mr Moneybags on the turntables

Shots from the Thanksgiving Parade...


It's Spiderman!!!

Shot of Buzz Lightyear's arse from Broadway

Trying to enjoy ourselves

The crowds were pretty insane, but you could still walk around okay.

I think we missed the best of the floats...

Central Park in Autumn - Beautiful!

Oz getting his pose on

Times Square on Thanksgiving night. Believe it or not people were queueing up outside stores in time for Black Friday sales the next day...

And I had to pay MoMA another visit!

Frida Kahlo

Distinctly Jackson Pollock

I want one of these in my apartment...

Celebration of good design, and airport related too!

So coming up I'm off to Latvia for a few days, work gave me 4 days off on my roster and it's too short to go home, so I checked through cheap hotels and Riga it is. Temperature is looking at being an average of -1 degrees Celcius, so I'll be packing a lot of woolens. And of course I'll be blogging about it ;-)