Dublin Days

Beggars can’t be choosers I guess, but they can weezle their way around it.

My flight switch was approved and I was lucky to get a two day layover in Dublin, Ireland at the beginning of June. One of my all time favourite cities.
First thing I did was order a stand-by ticket to surprise mom with.
I couldn’t wait for her to get home from work. I know everyone’s parents work hard, but my mom REALLY works hard, and it breaks my heart daily to see her struggles. Right now this is a way for me to give her something she would normally not even think about let alone consider. A little break.

She’s so excited! And I’m thrilled. She asks a million questions as if it was her first time going away.

Then I realize I’m going to spend an entire two days with my mother… Alone.

I mean, we’ve spent a couple hours together before, going for walks, ice cream, shopping and such. But there were always distractions and room to cut the time short.
I don’t share private and intimate details of my life with her, I never have. What on earth are we going to talk about? How do I even entertain her? Can she keep up?

A hop, skip and a quick ride to the hotel with an even quicker check in, we finally open the door to our little retreat. She loved the room, spacious she said, cozy and comfortable. When she sat on the bed and her tired body melted into the heavenly plush sheets she uttered “maybe we could just stay right here for the next two days”.

Colliding with the fresh and crisp air we made our way to where adventure waited.
Her head turning aimlessly as we walked through busy streets among curious tourist and locals hurrying off to work. The fashion alone was an endless conversation.
Getting lost is the best way to finding yourself right where you want to. And that’s just what we did. After several attempts to follow a map, we finally put it away and let our feet lead the way.
Turning down what felt like a hundred corners we circled cute little Dublin until the sun set and our legs began to ache.

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Dublin Castle, worth seeing and tours are free on Wednesday’s. The tour guides knowledge of the history was great, feeding our imagination with short stories as we climbed down stairs into the grotto of original castle walls and standing river water that used to surround the structure years ago.
After 15 minutes, we were ready to take off on our own little tour.

St. Stephens Green park is a little gem within the city. Doesn’t look like much from the outside until you enter through the huge heavenly gates. Greenest greens you’ve ever seen. Birds chirping, swans strolling and my mama in love. Her eyes were seeing the freshest oil paintings, colours blending perfectly, sunbeams resting beautifully on every branch, leaf and puddle of water.

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Rain is more than common in Dublin, and that sent us straight into the welcoming arms of the ever friendly pubs. We chatted as we relaxed over a glass of wine.

Our first day was productive, besides the castle and park, we walked through the National Art Gallery, which didn’t do much for me. The Museum of Natural History was overwhelmingly filled with every insect and creature that ever walked or swam on our planet and the National Gallery of Ireland. We walked up and down Temple Bar, Dame and O’Connell Streets stopping in a cute corner Cafe overlooking the River Liffey for a delicious coffee as we watched the rain come down once more. Continuing our adventure admiring the vivid colours attached to every piece of architecture, before stumbling into the world famous Temple Bar.

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When in Ireland, you do as the Irish do and drink beer. Neither my mom nor I are big beer drinkers, but in Dublin I will always make sure to have at least one pint of Guinness. It’s nothing like you’ve ever tasted before, and I actually enjoy it. The foam wraps around your lips like whipped cream and each sip goes down smoother than the last. That bitter taste all beers have? It’s almost unnoticeable and it has a deep, rich coffee, hazelnuttly taste. It takes about a minute and a half for it to reach your hand and each is a perfect pour. It’s an art really, and the bartenders make it look so effortless. I order a half pint for her, along with a couple mayo filled chicken and turkey sandwiches that come with a side of bite size chocolate desserts, which naturally we start with.
The look on her face says it all and I can’t help but laugh. Her first and last Guinness.

Six hours of our evening we spent sitting among a sea of people. Live Irish cover bands filled the bar with sweet sounds.
Every body swaying, smiling faces, hands clapping and people singing along. Be careful though, as the moon rises, so do the drink prices.

A good nights sleep and we were off again. It doesn’t take long for one to fall perfectly in place. The city welcomes you with open arms, pulls you in and never lets go. Dublin has a very special place in my heart. It may be a hub for tourists, backpackers and passer-by’s but it is filled with kindness, warmth and energy.

As our final day came to an end, we spent the last few hours of it planted in front of the makeshift stage back at the Temple Bar where we were serenaded once more by live music. Leaving was hard, it took us over an hour to finally step outside onto the cobbled streets and make our way back to the hotel.

It’s been several weeks since I took my mom to Dublin, and to this day she still talks about it. My job gives me wonderful opportunities, and moments like these I am beyond thankful especially when I get to share them with people who matter most to me. I’m happy those that travel with me get to see a little glimpse of what my chaotic life is all about.

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She was a wild one: Barcelona 2/2

This is what flight attendants wait for. The pairings. And this one was one I was extra excited about, especially because I was flying with familiar faces. I knew I was in for a good few days. First from Toronto to Montreal, we outlined our plans for the destinations. After a quick stop in Montreal, we operated a night flight to Barcelona. Pretty uneventful.

Stepping off the aircraft I felt the immediate heat, the warm feeling, skin tingling, the rush to get to the hotel and get the day started.
Our limited hours on the ground turned out to be ones I will never forget. The plans were to see the ‘non touristy’ spots, take in some of the local adventures. And boy what an adventure it was.

Not a clue in our minds, we boarded a local train headed for a beautiful town called Sitges, to meet a colleague that arrived earlier with some friends.

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A delicious lunch in the fresh air among new friends. Sometimes I feel like those first few words exchanged belong behind closed doors at an interview. I’m almost a pro at remembering the appropriate things to say and conveying all the important parts of my life that are worth sharing. Remembering the information conveyed to me, is a whole different story. My memory is not only selective, but almost non existent. After a filling lunch, with beach towels wrapped around our shoulders we headed in the direction of the ocean. Looking up and around, beautiful miniature apartments linked wall to wall bursting with colours. Red, greed, blue, yellow. The fragrance of flowers circled the air. I was already in love.

Approaching the beach, with eyes wide open. A disbelief. Were we really here? Is this really what I’m looking at?

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A cozy cove, hugged by sail boats and intricate architecture. We scoped out the perfect spot. A misguided rainbow of towels. Six in total. Stripped to our bathing suits and headed for the water. It was cold at initial contact. Shivers shot through my body. And I instantly froze. That immediate eagerness to rush in quickly vanished. I took my time. A really long time. And before I knew it I was being splashed from all sides. Well, so much for wanting to keep my hair dry!

Silence came over me as I dunked myself under water. A moment of freeness. As I poked my head out from under the water I was looking toward the horizon. One of the most magical moments. Around me, people, voices and laughter slightly muted by the splashes, and faint crashing waves. Sail boats in the distance floating peacefully toward the sun. The sun. How incredible that this ball of fire can make a girl so happy.

Emerging from the water, we headed for a quick refreshment. Devouring the few bags of chips, washing them down with now room temperature water. This combination never tasted so good. After a few shared stories, giggles and laughs; our bathing suits nearly dry and bodies heated we head for the water once more. This time full force.

I pushed myself to go further, as far as my toes could still touch the bottom. Only until the water reached the top of my chin.
My phobia; deep dark waters. I can swim, but there needs to be a bottom. I know, it’s all in my head.
I climb on a friends back and he takes me further, where the water gets deeper and cooler. I cling on for dear life. I’m sure he can feel my body tensing up and my immediate hesitation. He attempts to show me it’s ok, that nothing is going to happen. His attempt fails. I prefer the safer way; his back.

Where the ocean greets the shore, we sit. Enjoying these last few moments before the sun begins to set.
I don’t want this feeling to end. These few short hours flew by too quickly, these people that were once strangers are now part of my memory. I am so blessed.

As we sit among each other intertwined by our damp towels, sharing what is left of our snacks, we plan our evening. Even though I knew the right thing to do was to hit the sheets, I wasn’t going to miss this. I mean, when was the next time I would be here. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

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The plans were tentative, so many things we could do. But first, a shower. We arrived back at our hotel in the late evening; exhausted. As tired as I was, and as amazing as the bed looked I was filled with excitement and an overwhelming urge to push myself. I think I can officially diagnose myself a FOMO ( Fear of Missing Out) This world is such a beautiful place, such a big yet ironically small town. And I want to see every inch.
I’m only here for such a short period of time, so I might as well see and do as much as I can handle.

We meet in the lobby. More people arrive. We head for the streets. Already reminiscing about our earlier beach day we begin to hear music and as we turn a corner our bodies are immediately engulfed by a faint fog. As we step through, the music only gets louder, the voices scatter from side to side. All I hear is loud everything! Drums, guitars, bongos, you name it, it was there. A street party!

These small corridor type streets were almost impossible to get through. Bumping into every body, damp skins brush against me. No hard feelings though, apologetic smiles pass us by, not a care in the world. I have never seen so many smiles in one place. The smell of cigarets cling to my hair and clothing for dear life. I look up, incredible mascots hang from balcony to balcony. Lights, a rainbow of colours flicker almost in sync with the mish-mash of music. Clinking of bottles and glasses; a joyful salut! I snap pictures, as many as I could before my arms are torn apart in different directions. The pushing, the shoving, it was like a walking mosh pit. As we find a small spot to gather for a moment I look around and realize I’m standing in the middle of the world. These people gathered here from all corners. I meet Australians, South Africans, Italians just to name a few. All with their own stories. All here for one purpose; a good time. As we exchange a few words, managing to overcome the language barriers, our bodies move to the beats and music that fills the air around us and I can’t seem to believe that this is all happening. I’m overwhelmed. Every inch of my body inside and out screams happy. The faster my head snaps from left to right, the slower the world seems to go by. Some movies portray this image quite well. I wish I had the words to tell. Instead, I pray this never ends. That I never wake up from this dream of mine.

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She was a wild one: Barcelona 1/2

I found this short note in my phone, written on June 29th, 2012

In Barcelona for the third and final time this month. What a way to end June!
After what seemed like a never ending day filled with a couple hundred passengers eager to be on their way, returning home or beginning a new experience. Followed by a quiet bus ride to the hotel, a quick change and a calling hunger; we strolled unknowingly in the direction of the beach. I’ve visited Barcelona leisurely the year before, so some of the surroundings looked familiar. And an overwhelming feeling came over me. How did I get so lucky? To have the chance to visit such amazing cities on numerous occasions. I still don’t believe it.
Sitting at one of my favourite beach bars; Las Vegas on the Barceloneta boardwalk, munching on a fresh pizza and quenching our thirst with Mojitos and cold beer, sharing stories and connecting. Overlooking sand and sea.

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Lying on the beach at 8pm, sun slowly setting behind me. What a view!
Listening to the waves crash against the shore, quietly; no wind to spring them wild.
Sand crunching as I wiggle my toes in what’s known to be the best foot scrub ever. The scent of the sea, the constant waves of cigarette smoke. Laughter and conversation heard from a short distance.
I lay here facing it all, battling my tired eyes, refusing to let them win.
I don’t want to blink, let alone let them snooze. I just don’t want it to end.
I lay here, next to me my coworker. Her eyes have won the battle. She sleeps. Oblivious to the glorious life that surrounds her.
My battle continues as I snap a few keepsakes.

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I’m torn, my head like a bobble head doll. So much is going on, I can’t keep up. I type feverously trying to capture every passing minute. I now know the meaning of ‘words can’t even describe this sight’. I still can’t find appropriate ways to tell you what I’m looking at. In my eyes it’s no longer about what I write, what words I use and how I organize them to form a story. Even if I was a master of the universal dictionary, this would still be as difficult. It is now about capturing the feeling.

The sun has set, the nights chill is approaching. She wakes, and we stroll back to our hotel.

I remember landing in a pile of fluffy white pillows and a comforter that devoured me whole. This time it took me minutes to fall into dreamland instead of the usual tossing and turning.

Viva Roma!

Nervous beyond belief, I stumble into my tiny hotel room. My mini suitcase hits every corner of the room. As I kick off my shoes and strip off my uniform, I connect to wifi; and send the message. I’m here, I finally made it! Rome!

He’s on his way. In just a few short moments, we’ll reunite. 11 years later. A childhood between cousins broken and separated by the depths of the ocean. And a question that haunts; will this reunion bring us closer together or tear us further apart?

I quickly change, and freshen up after a long overnight flight. I look tired, my skin is flushed. No time to dwell on mediocre observations. I hurry downstairs, and wait patiently with my phone in hand. Who are we kidding, I don’t know what patience is!
Pacing back and forth at the hotels front entrance, sun beaming, the heat is magnificent. I missed it.

I had planned this moment in my head for weeks now, exactly how to act, react and what to do and say when I’d first see him.
And when I finally did, I forgot what I was suppose to remember.

He looks identical to his father; my uncle. Spitting image. When I had left Poland, we were still kids oblivious to what this separation meant. Now, he sure didn’t resemble the little annoying ragrat I used to play with.
In each others embrace, I sensed a sigh of relief. Not only from me, but from him too. For a few moments, silence filled the air. What do you say? How do we begin, after so many years?

And for ten hours straight, we couldn’t stop talking. So many questions, so many answers.
We circled the city maybe 5 times, I really wish I could tell you where exactly we walked but my mind was not paying attention to my surroundings but focused entirely on his stories.
Glossy eyed, reminiscing about our childhoods back home in Poland. That family void I’ve been feeling for years now is beginning to patch up slowly.

He’s everything I was hoping for, our personalities are nearly identical. We talked like we’ve never been apart. I was the happiest at that moment. We’re blood, practically brother and sister. We’re family. Living worlds apart, united by our native tongue.

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My Essentials: Hair & Skin

Flight Attendant, Stewardess, Air Hostess.
noun – an airline employee who serves meals, attends to passengers’ comfort, etc., during a flight. – dictionary.com

I’m pretty sure you’ve guessed what it is that I do for a living.

People always ask me, “What do you have in your suitcase?” Or, “How do you pack for all the different destinations, you must be very organized.”

In my world it’s more like, “organized chaos”.

What I’ve learned in the last few months of flying is how to manage my time. What are the things I can do that will save me that extra trip to the bathroom or closet and will maximize my time in between the sheets.

So here are my essential that don’t cram my suitcase with unnecessary things. Things that save me and make my layovers that much easier – all on 4 wheels.

Starting from the top.
Head:
Round brush/ 2 medium sized rollers – for that extra oomph
Time saving tip: for those of us with long hair, side bangs or full bangs – separate the first 2-3inches of your hair. Tie the back. Shampoo and condition the front part of hair, rinse and blow dry. Set on rollers over night. And voila, as I prance downstairs for call time, I look like I’ve spent hours on my do.
Sock bun: who wants Prom Queen hair every time. This is a fantastic alternative and probably one of the greatest inventions out there. I thank YouTube for the tutorials.
This should not take more than 10 minutes.
Hair ties and bobby pins – I go through them more often than I blink.
Money saving tip: When I’m in the UK, which happens more often than desired, I stock up on essentials at Primark. Especially hair ties and bobby pins. Large quantities per package for next to nothing. No 5* quality but they get the job done.

Face:
Simple is key. Non harsh soap and warm water. I use Dove White Deep Moisture soap. I’m the last person you will find at the sink with toners and scrubs. Skin ages, grows and develops naturally, the more chemicals you use the more skin becomes irritated and sensitive.
A great rich moisturizer is a must. I grew up on Nivea, and I won’t use anything else. And if I look anything like my mom at her age, I’ll be happy. Tried a few other more expensive products with ingredience I can’t even pronounce. Just because the price is in the double or triple digits doesn’t mean we will all look like Cindy Crawford. Use what works best with your skin.
Under eye cream – unfortunately I’ve been blessed with those great dark circles under my eyes. I recently started using Elizabeth Arden Prevage Eye Moisture Cream. On the pricy side, so when my sample container runs out I will have to seriously contemplate the splurge.

Makeup removers – I find liquid makeup removers don’t always survive the trip. A few times I’ve wasted precious minutes rinsing, drying and repacking because my bottle had spilt. Not to mention cursing that my $15, 100ml bottle product evaporated into thin air. My alternative; face wipes. I use Equate Exfoliating Cleansing Towelettes. Gentle on the skin and wallet. They go with me everywhere and are always at my bed side at home and abroad. One thing I will never do is fall asleep with a full face on, especially one that has gone through two or more continents. So when exhaustion hits hard and I can’t bare to stand on my feet any longer I reach over and my wipes save me. Under 2 minutes and you can do it with your eyes closed.
Did you know? Aloe Vera isn’t only used for sunburns. I use it as a makeup remover. Works just as good if not better than all other products AND it’s made up of natural ingredients. Bonus for your skin.

Makeup – I repeat, simple is key. Too often flight attendants resemble Robin Williams’ character in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ as he slaps on a last minute dripping “face mask” when Mrs. Sellner pops in for her appointment. Except at 40 000ft, I’m sure it would be far from tasty.
Primer – I use Smashbox Photo Finish Oil Free Foundation Primer. I find my makeup application is smoother and even. It reduces the cake look and creates a base so makeup does not sink into the creases, fine lines and wrinkles.
Followed by a little bit of concealor, mineralized powder, mascara, a bit of bronzer or blush and I’m ready for outfit …

Here are a few of my favourite things

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Drafted

Tears were bottling up in my eyes. I was furious. I could feel my ears getting hot and tingly. Surely I was beat red.

This was my first taste of “Anything can happen at any given time”

After my Reserve schedule, or in human terms, on-call, where I sacrificed my life for two months and practically lived in the UK part time… I was finally able to bid on my most desired flights. And so I bid. AVOID UK!

To my surprise, my first real flight schedule was pretty incredible for someone who just started on the line. Three layovers in Barcelona and a Rome! Rome was the one I was looking forward to the most. Main reason being, there lives a young lad who I haven’t seen in 11 years. And we’re suppose to be family. After arranging our mini reunion, all we were waiting for was the day to come.

And so it came.
Here’s the play-by-play.

Suitcase zipped, lunch ready, snacks packed, uniform on, shoes patiently waiting at the door. A quick last minute schedule check; happy to see familiar names on the crew. Twenty minutes later and I’m scanning my airport security pass and pushing past the heavy doors. My suitcase trails behind me.

Post briefing, we pick positions on the aircraft. I of course, due to my seniority (or lack there of) am last to pick. At this point I was ready to shut the aircraft doors and take off. This was a big step for me. I needed this moment, to once again unite our family. Nothing mattered, not even that I was left with a position I only knew about from what I read in my manual. Never actually having worked the Club Section, I was petrified. Word got around pretty quick and I had help within minutes. I relaxed. My destination was about to change and all within those same minutes. I hear the faint calls of my name. My supervisor rushes on board and by the time I had a chance to process the information I was no longer going to Rome, but to Manchester! For 48 hours!

I was being drafted!?!? But I had plans! In Rome, not Manchester! I was finally going to reunite with a cousin who I haven’t seen in over a decade! This was NOT happening.

Being introduced to the second crew, combined of 6 young girls, who have been travelling together the last few days, I immediately felt tension and I knew exactly why. They were all French, and I speak none of it. The theme of the flight was “forgetting” to speak to me in English. Most of the 6 hours, I spent alone. Even during our duties the only words exchanged were “Please pass the orange juice” or “Do you have ginger-ale on your side?”

I speak the truth when I say I have nothing against French or French people. I actually love the language and am learning it at the moment, but I managed to gather one nasty impression of the culture within this short time. No details shared, but I’m sure you’ve guessed that this was not my best flight. Actually, it was horrible. What made this whole thing even worse was that I realized Rome and Manchester had two very different climates. My suitcase was prepared for extreme heat not Alaska! All I had were sun dresses and flip flops. I was on the verge of a breakdown, everything was crumbling before my eyes. And this wasn’t even that bad. Would I be able to handle this? These last minute changes. Would I ever be prepared for this? Nope, you can never be prepared for this job. The trick is, and I learned it that day is to stay calm, take it for what it is. I signed up for this job knowing my life would be on the go. The routines were over, it was just an adjustment.

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Manchester wasn’t so bad after all. And the two days gave me time to rest and visit the city. Since I had no proper clothing and I was not going to spend my time sitting in the hotel, I had to go shopping. Primark saved my life and my wallet. While browsing I ran into a colleague of mine from my training class. Smiles and giggles erupted. In moments we were engulfing each other with hugs. She was flying out the next morning, so we decided on dinner that evening. Others who joined us, were also from my training class. All of a sudden I’d forgotten what I had felt just a few short hours ago. This IS what I was meant to do, this is what made feel complete. That at any given moment things could turn upside down, and just when you think the world is against you something amazing happens. This was my lesson. Who would have thought that from my miserable flight where I was sure I would have the worst two days of my life abroad with no familiar face around I ended up with not one, but two crews filled with those who I shared this change with.

So what did I learn? To be patient and calm. To appreciate what I was given, because not every person gets the opportunities I do. And what I thought was the end of the world for me was merely a small stepping stone. It could have been a lot worse.
But more importantly, I learned I needed to reorganize my suitcase!!

Irish for a day

An entry written cozy in my hotel bed a few months back.

Architecturally the city looks to be related to the UK. Old and historic. The only difference, in my opinion, there is no ‘grand’. Everything is just plain cute. The colourful low rise buildings hold hands as they line the cobble stone ways. Each path reveals a new adventure. Which one would you take?

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I often refer to myself as Dora the Explorer, and here I sure felt like her. All I was missing was a purple backpack.

A few wrong turns. A couple snapshots. A short stop in the middle of a little square filled with smiling faces basking in the infrequent rays of sunshine. And then…. we finally found it. The famous Temple Bar. To be perfectly honest, I expected it to be a bit ‘bigger’ or even maybe slightly more visible. But nonetheless we dissolved into its red doors.

I’m not much of a beer drinker, my blood craves the sweet tastes of vodka but as tradition calls in Ireland, one must taste the raw bitterness of a fresh pint of Guinness. (On a side note, to be safe I made sure I ordered a half pint to save myself from the embarrassment of a giant fish bowl being placed in front of my face).

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How was the beer? Like I said, I’m not much of a beer drinker.

An after lunch afternoon stroll triggers deep conversation. It’s moments like this you find yourself making the hardest choices. Whether to reveal yourself to a stranger or hide yourself from a good friend.

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The sun had set and what better way to end a glorious day in Dublin than to experience it under the moonlight. By this time the streets, nooks and walkways were familiar. No troubles or detours trying to find our happy place.  Apparently, this was where the entire town had met that night. So congested with people you could barely pass through from one side to the other. Here we were again at The Temple Bar.

 

The flight back seemed almost too short. So many stories we gathered in our short time together. Stories and memories that made a imprint on my life and the journey that was beginning….