Friday, 28 December 2007

Beijing #2

Back in Beijing sooner than I thought, on the 15th this month. It was getting colder, already in its minus celcius degrees. Having done the Great Wall, Forbidden City and famous Peking Duck in the past, I decided to venture out and about the hotel on my own.

I'll just leave you with some photos I took during this trip:

Walked down this street from across the hotel and there is a well-stocked DVD shop. Further up as I was looking for brunch I found a restaurant called Hong Zhuang Yuan which specialises in a large variety of congees and many other Beijing dishes.

Ordered a congee with preserved duck egg, a tofu/mushroom stirfry and a pancake. Choice of pancake stuffed with chives and garlic. They're all yummy but I couldn't finish and wasted half of everything.

It was weekend and the streets were crowded. Lotsa people gathered to buy candied fruits, which is also known as Bing Tang Hu Lu.

Chicken and Cashew Salad? Singapore? Better not be led by curiosity. I ordered a plate of dozen steamed dumplings and fruit platter instead.

On the way back to Dubai I went to the cockpit with the Captain's interphone invitation to witness the grand view of the Himalayas. Though 28,000ft above the area the mountains looked really close up. Nice one.

Will be doing Beijing #3 tomorrow, it will be colder. I hope to discover more little things in my surroundings and definitely do some shopping in the giant Carrefour.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Early December

Earlier this month, having finished my 'reserve' duties I headed back home and enjoyed the remaining ten days of my annual leave. There was rain, mom's cuisine, late night suppers, rain, niece/nephew's usual squabbles, the cats, hi-tea with family, more rain, and a half-boiled hot pot in place of the yearly Christmas gathering.

Thanks for showing up even if it was just for a beer or a fishball; for all your gifts - including those on Facebook; and for hanging out regardless of agenda (mostly the lack of it).

Temporary Genius

Thanks to Dave's suggestion my typing agony was short-lived. I promptly went out to buy an external keyboard. Was tempted to get the sexy Logitech's Ultra Slim but then decided on the cheaper option anyway I'll make sure my Vaio gets fixed. Problem solved with 49dhs Genius.

Monday, 24 December 2007


M keboad is scewed. Some lettes and nmbes won't appea. Some needs holding on fo mintes befoe it would. It's psetting and frstrating. I don't have time to tpe anymoe, geddit?

Has this happened to yo befoe? Have ou eve get stck? It's like thee's so mch to sa bt you've no voice (in this case I still have one bt I croak like hell. Oh geat, I can't even close backet!

I have no mood to go online but I hide so I can see who ae online, can't help being nosy despite m disability. I want to wite abot m ecent trips and thoght abot othe stff too. I don't know when I will be back in Singapoe so I can bing this vaio to the Sony.

It's the wordless time of m life.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Happy Birthday, Saffi

To celebrate Saffi's birthday today I have put up a 30-picture album complete with captions.

Above: The first time we met.

Dear Saffi

You turn 4 today and you deserve a poem
From across the seas for all to admire
Let me make yummy virtual cakes
May you have the sweetest dreams in between takes

(And so it is...)
You came to my life when things look tired
And left that snobbish Garfield who resembles a lion
A tad skinny and way too quiet
You purred and greeted like a grand live-wire

You liked my bag and lay down on it
As if to say "if I could fit take me with it"
And you came along in a cab
To have everyone fall in love with a brand new cat

Your quiet blue eyes they speak to me
A kitty who stares and not afraid to be
I learned so much from your demeanor
For I was new to you as you were to me

Dear Saffi

You turn 4 today and you deserve the best
For time after time you've given no less
I am a convert smittened by you
A perfect company when I was confused

You're big now no bad weather scares you
But you can nudge me like you used to
Then snuggle close and warm
In our bed shelter till the sky is new

It's your day and a shame I'm not there
But I swear to every star how much I care
I wish to hear your loveliest voice now that you share
And sing a song for you though you'd not care!

Of all found and lost I love you most
You're a gift to me, my biggest prize
Be a good girl so 'Stepmom,' can boast
Of such precious light you cast in my life

Friday, 30 November 2007

Bargaining Beijing

This is my second time in Beijing. Last time was on vacation, in 2005. Both times winter. Beijing's winter is very dry and windy. It's also known for its sand and dust in the air. I nearly caught a cold but remedied with some sleep and taking cod liver oil and vitamin C supplements religiously.

It was a very easy flight and the crew fantastic. Despite our fatique we put down our baggages and headed out immediately. The taxi driver was a good chat we talked about the country and its people, its immigrants, even learned how China's capital punishments were carried out! It seems everywhere I go people regard Singapore as a beautiful city. When passengers ask where I'm from they say "Aahhh... Singapore! Beautiful and clean!". Thank you, thank you. Glad you like it. I like it, too.

We went to Wang Fu Jing for a walk and had numerous kinds of snacks along the food street. My favourite was the meat ball soup and sour noodles. Advertisements and mascots of the 2008 Olympics are everywhere.

Next day while some went for their great walk on the Great Wall we went to Silk Market to test our bargaining skills. Good if you speak Mandarin you can avoid having the shop people shouting broken English at you. I bought a dress meant for export for Forever 21 at 120 yuan, two tops (140 yuan) and a bag (100 yuan). I guess I'm not that great a haggler. Stuff there are mostly fakes so it's a hunt to avoid tacky items. Some China-made shoes like metallic flats and colourful wedges are cute but didn't get the chance to try them on. Maybe next time. In fact, it'll be next month!

I spent all my allowance on DVDs later. I am pleased with my purchase of Grey's Anatomy box set Seasons 1-3 (for personal collection). Also Ugly Betty box set, and Hairspray the musical. Can't wait to watch them all.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

I Have Been Reserved

The month-long duty reserve is coming to an end. Not the most exciting month, there has been long waiting and too many tiring turnaround flights. Good for those who likes waiting around and don't care much about where they're going.

But the month has given me and some friends here in Dubai lots of time to be absolute sloths. We drank, ate, slouch - repeatedly - in front of my TV. We had a good time doing a re-run of Sex And The City Seasons 1-6. Oh man! Oh, men. I never got to finish SATC and I must say I really like the final season!

After a few weeks like these, in between surprise trips - Hyderabad, London, Riyahd, Beijing - I finally got my roster for December. More Beijings and a Perth. Plus I'm on leave until the 14th. Not too bad.

One more reserve duty and I'll be on my way home.

I miss Saffi!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Prelude to the Russian Winter

It was a call at 0645hr in Dubai that got me out of bed (hey this sounds like my last posting). 5 hours later I am in Moscow on the 7th November, Day of Accord and Conciliation, a national holiday in Russia. It was -7 degrees celsius and bits of snow were on the ground. I understood why the passengers were asking for drinks. With such need to keep warm who can blame them for alcohol binging.

The quiet bus ride to the hotel took over 2 hours and half the crew were sleeping. I actually enjoyed the ride with my travel-companion-iPod Shuffle. We met at the lobby 30 minutes after we arrived at the hotel and went out for some tasty comfort food at McDonald's just outside. A bunch of us never been to Moscow was determined to visit the Red Square, at least. Also I hear it's beautiful at night.

We took the metro and along the way stopped to take photos - the Moscow Metro stations are a tourist attraction with elaborate paintings and achitecture, even the trains were adorned with antique warm lights. When we arrived at the Red Square it was freezing and I had no sense of my fingers or toes but it was definitely worth the while. It was a breath-taking, surreal experience like everything around you popped up from a picture book. The Saint Basil Cathedral at the end of the square (we entered via the Ressurection Gate in the North) standing right in front of me!

There's no English or other languages there, no translation of signages, road names, billboards, etc. The result is a true authentic culture and I appreciate that. For some nostalgic reasons I begin to recall classical music thinking that musical notes must be the common language of the world.

I wrote this in the bus, now only 40 minutes into the drive to Domodedovo Airport. I am inspired and I remember what motivated me into this job for otherwise I may never have travelled to witness the sights of the world.

It's not even winter yet but to re-visit Moscow then I know it will be teeth-clenching, limbs-numbing and very painful... but it will be lovely to see Red Square all covered in snow. I will try and get into the cathedrals, the GUM, the Lenin's tomb and the museum.

Oh did I mention Russian girls are real hotties? Maybe that explains the infamous hooker population. Something went very wrong with its male counterparts though.

Go to my Picassa album to see the pictures.

Friday, 9 November 2007

The Red in Cairo

First flight in my reserve month I got pulled out to, Cairo. "Oh no", I thought to myself... the Crew Scheduling guy who woke me up sounded suspiciously cheerful, and rumours of this being one of the horrendous flights didn't exactly make everything ideal.

Oh well, as with many experiences there are individual opinions. I didn't think it was bad at all - one or two rude passengers as usual, but as long as the team work together, people using their common sense and always wearing a smile, it can conquer the curse.

From the window of my fuselage door I took in the magnificent view of sand dunes and the Red Sea. 5 minutes of this bird's eye view could justify getting out of bed for a Cairo flight.

Time Off in Dubai

When Mattar folks have days off together we try to do something. We cook, watch DVD, go out shopping or, as on the 3rd this month, we rented a car.

This is the second time we have a Daihatsu Syrion and this time it's pink. We drove to showrooms so we can ogle at new cars we're planning to get. We went Spring Bamboo for our favourite Chinese dishes, did grocery shopping and went to IKEA the next day. Coming back from IKEA was a tiny Syrion packed with 4 adults, 2 huge plants and many paper bags of household stuff. It must be quite a bushy sight.

Like Holiday Makers We Are

I thank the crew who agreed to take 3 of my flights giving me another flight back home on the 25th October. Between stopovers in Singapore, this trip also entails a 5-day Brisbane with an Auckland turn.

It was a very good trip - nice passengers, good food, most of all great crew. It is not everyday we get a whole bunch together for dinner and drinks even the pilots came along. I guess it's a really good mix of people, all very cheerful and helpful throughout the 6 sectors. I made some friends and met more Singaporean crew who gave this trip some warm fuzzy feel of home-away-from-home. We played games, sang carols and learn French lyrics onboard.

I have to acknowledge the hotel's F&B in Brisbane for serving up really fab food. The seafood+wine buffet was d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. also the in-room dining was great. All these with 50% dscount entitlement!

Coming back to the second layover in Singapore we kinda had a mini Halloween celebration in the galley. We're just suckers for cheap fun!

Photos are here.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

UK, Back to Back

First was Gatwick on 16th, then Heathrow on the 20th. In Gatwick I squandered all my allowance on shopping and food but got a lot more sensible on the Heathrow trip, saving half my pocket money.

I've been lucky too, haven't had a rainy day so far on London trips. In fact, weather has been good, sunny in the day too. But it's not gonna last and we all know it. The next time I go, I bet it's the same old wet and cold London, hardly a few hours of daylight. Depressing.

Gatwick - the hotel is a mere 5 minutes' walk to temptation - town called Crawley. There are shops and malls enough to easily spend your British pounds in. I rested early the night before when we arrived thus was out early for breakfast at Costa Coffee (pic taken here from my half-eaten muffin) and returned in the afternoon with some lousy Fish & Chips for lunch.

Heathrow - when in Hounslow I had KFC. Seeing it's Saturday and high human traffic in the outlet I decided to give UK KFC another chance since I had a bad experience with it many years back. I ordered Wrapstar with 3 bite-sized wings. The fries that came with my meal was good, overall the food is very decent! I went to town with Sharon (Mauritius) - she's quite a shopaholic! :)

See updated photo album here.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Back Home For Jesslyn's 4th Birthday!

It's such a happy coincidence that I could be home for my neice's birthday celebration. Now at 4, she's totally into birthdays, wondering why all her classmates are having birthdays but her (not realising it comes once a year).

So it's one day in Singapore then off to Melbourne. Melbourne's still cold, at about 10 degrees when we arrived. Didn't go out except to grab a bite near the hotel. Rest of the time spent catching up on sleep to prepare for another day in Singapore.

5 days, 4 sectors. Great bunch of crew. Hope to see them again!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Manchester in September

Last month I went on a Manchester trip. It was good flight and crew, good shopping. In fact, I look forward to visit Manchester again.

Back in Dubai we had some time on the tarmac waiting for the bus so despite the fatique and too much sunshine we whipped out our cameras for a quick photo session.

All pictures here.


This is home surely, as my senses tell me:

Was back in Singapore for 15 days, my leave extended (so has my waist line). Had a great time with family, friends and cats. Satisfied gastronomically - even went across the causeway, ate like there's no tomorrow.

I curled my hair, done my nails, bought a watch, played mahjong, drank kopi-o, had supper in the wee hours, shopped in the heartlander's, visited friends' residences, celebrated Mid-Autumn/Moon Cake Festival, even fetch my niece from the kindergarten.

Felt so good to be home, care-free and content... in the end there's always a little reluctance for all these to end. I told myself on the way to the airport, be grateful: long breaks and worldwide destinations aren't what many employers can offer.

Anyhoo I'll be back two days later - I love the guys at crew scheduling! *muaks*

Disclaimer: the apparent similarity in attire (Wendy and me) was purely coincidence, not intended. She changed into something else before we went out.

All pictures here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The Dhaka Dialogue

Approaching the 26th Bangladeshi fella down the isle trying to get meal service done as efficiently as possible.

Me: "Hi there how are you would you like Fish or Vegetarian today" (in a falsely cheerful tone)

Man #1: Silence. Stares then looking like he wasn't spoken to

Me: " Fish? OK! Here it is, enjoy your meal!"

Moving on...

Me: "What about you Sir, Fish? Vegetarian?" (looks at him pretending I am getting a reply)

Man #2: (mumbles) "... OK... OK."

Me: "Vegetarian? (pause) Fish?" (hoping at least he'll repeat one of those words

Man #2: nod/shake his head, gesturing for me to put something on his table

Me: "Vegetarian for you, Sir. Enjoy your meal!" (stretches my mouth across so it resembles a smile)

400 men. Like Mustafa on Sunday, except packed in a metal tube, each thirsty and hungry. I'm a 'Sister' to everyone demanding water or beer while desperately ordering them with body language to sit down and fasten their seat belts because of obvious turbulence. I have to remember checking on the lavatories to make sure there's not another smoker lighting up in there. I have to rudely tell them to turn off their mobile phones as they ignorantly use the gadgets to capture random images onboard. 9 hours and 56 minutes flight time back and forth.

On other Dhaka flight we crew get a 24hr layover. I've heard how it's a pain to walk out to the streets and witness poverty. One crew, on her first Dhaka layover was inspired to make a difference. Among her successes, Maria Conceicao has set up a sewing and beauty school for Bangladeshi women, a computer training centre and a school for children. She founded and runs The Dhaka Project.

Friday, 7 September 2007

From the Balcony

Above: Highway to Sharjah and beyond that is the Al Khan Lagoon in Sharjah. Yes, Dubai is a huge construction site!

Slightly to the right from the first pic: Amount of sand in Dubai enough to make Singapore green with envy? The little pointed-top (ala Cirque du Soleil ones) roofs are those of Sahara Centre in Sharjah.

Off Days

Since returning from an annoying Amman turnaround on the 5th afternoon, I've been enjoying my well-deserved off days.

Things I did:
- sleeping substantially
- cook meals
- eat, eat, eat
- TV (was doing a recap of Lost's earlier seasons in preparation for season 3 - I'm giving it another go)
- a bit of alcoholic drinks here and there
- snacking in front of TV (chocolates, ice cream, oranges, apples, keropok, etc)
- sleep more
- some reasonable amount of cleaning and laundry
- set up Facebook profile

I went to bed slightly guilty, and woke this morning still lazing in bed I drew a new layout of my bedroom in my head.

So I:
- got up promptly
- ate cereals with raisins and banana, had milk too
- started tearing apart the plugs and cables and moved the furnitures in my room
- vacuumed the floor
- laid star lights on floor and frame up painting of Goddess Aphrodite I acquired from Athens
- put fleece blanket I've been wallowing in into the washing machine
- changed into running gear, went to the gym dowstairs and did a mediocre 2.8km in 25 minutes haha (I did a few pathetic weight lifts too)

Here in Dubai I'd advise against running outdoors - you'll probably end up less fit given the sand, haze and traffic pollution.

I feel good. I feel my muscles working, very soon my body will look better than Madonna's. I like my new room setup. I will make a healthy vegetable soup for dinner and watch some TV, iron the uniforms, sleep early - yeah right - and be fully ready for Kuwait flight tomorrow afternoon.

Did I mention the Krispy Kreme reward after the run? It was heavenly - crispy on the outside with sugar and chocolate coating, smooth cream inside. The best things a flatmate can bring home from Deira City Centre ;)

p.s. the original ones in the background are my favourite too!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Home Away from Home

Before I retire and call it a day - I cleaned, washed, cooked and watched TV - tough day huh. I decided to put up some photos of my Dubai pad. The company generously provides accommodation for all its crew, all of which looks slightly different from another (ehem, both the apartments and the crew), located in several areas in Dubai.

This is my second home in Dubai. First one was hardly home, it was just a huge room. Friends and family who heard about my grunts on the previous one, knew why I moved (I am still hesitating putting up the nasty photos) but the filthiness of the previous apartment was a blessing in disguise... I wouldn't have moved, it was great location - but glad I did cos I live with really nice people around me now. When I first moved in it was brand new. Having occupied the first room I made a request at the respective department to allocate my Singaporean friend to the other room - haha whether she liked it or not, now I hope she does!

Enjoy the photos. Any suggestions on home decor - not about tidying the room please - will be happily considered!