Comebacks and Second Chances

Would you like to know what is The Number One Question I get asked all the time? It is not “What’s this- water ?” (ok this was a crew joke and unless you’ve ever done a round of drinks you are not likely to understand it.) And strangely it is not “Where are you from?” (oh – how much has my life changed in just two years!). The one thing people always seem to want to know is how long am I “in it for and what’s next?”. How long am I gonna stay in Dubai and have I considered what I wanna do next? As if it is quite impossible to believe that I would want to stay in Dubai forever and fly until I can’t lift my cabin bag no more. 

Dubai is so conveniently located which is one of the reasons why the Airline I work for became so successful. It connects the East and the West, it makes travelling to and from Down Under so much more bearable and brings Asia to everybody’s doorstep. You can now take a flight that’s shorter than 6 hours from pretty much anywhere in Europe, spend a layover in the glorified Sandpit and travel on refreshed a couple of days later. Which is what everyone seems to be doing. The popular opinion is that none in Dubai is here for the long run. All of us expats have come for a more or less a layover that can sometimes last years – to have our fun, earn some tax-free cash, travel as much as we can whilst we have the rest of the world within our reach… and then eventually return back and start living the responsible life. Nobody moves to Dubai to establish themselves. Or do they? Having read back my latest post it occurred to me I could have left you feeling like I don’t particularly like living over here. Which would have been a very wrong impression. I love Dubai and my life here. I don’t love it all day every day. But I love it enough every day to consider it my home and staying here for as long as they would have me.  Not to mention the fact that -unlike many others- I don’t really have anywhere to go back to. See – I don’t do comebacks. When I left Czech all those years ago I always knew that was it. I was never to come back and live there. I do adore my country and I would proudly ramble on about its wonders to everyone who is or isn’t willing to listen. But it’s just not for me. Ever since I could remember I never saw myself actually spending my life in Czech – it was never even an option to consider. So I lived there for as long as I could take it or for as long as it was necessary to come up with a plan and then took off. I never looked back. I never doubted the decision to leave a respectable job in a respectable company where I was earning twice as much as anyone else my age that I knew (I was 22 then). My heart just wasn’t in it. My heart was in the hands of a guy I thought I loved then. So much I would have followed him anywhere in the world. Oh wait – I actually did that! Many years later this romantic affair has ended in a disaster but despite that or maybe just because of that I decided not to run back “home” and heal my wounds but to stay right where I was and make this new life work for me. And so somehow I found myself living in the UK and liking it. But me and the English don’t seem to agree with one another. My relationship with the country has followed the same pattern as the relationship with the guy – after being initially smitten with each other we started to see each other’s flaws in the everyday life’s light and slowly but surely we have come to a point where none of us could take it anymore. I was allergic to pretty much anything the country has laid my way and in return it seemed to have rejected me. I was ready to move on. The only issue was – I was much older than when I so carelessly thrown a great job opportunity away and followed my heart. I was worried. My life wasn’t going the direction I had wanted it to but I felt I was too scared to change it completely. And so I waited. And waited. And waited, For what I did not know. I think I was waiting for the brave 22 yo old girl to wake up in me and take charge of our live again. And as the time passed me by I started to realise that wasn’t going to happen. I was going to have to (wo)man up. And so I did and moved to the Middle East. When I told my family I didn’t get a single “Oh but..” not a single eyebrow was raised not even a little bit. They all knew just like myself that that’s the kinda person I am. The kinda person that takes “moving on” literally. And then up a notch. How was I feeling leaving the UK for Dubai? Relieved most of all. I have come to the end of the road and for all I knew I could never see myself coming back to live there. Because as I told you – I do not do comebacks. Ever. To anywhere. Or anyone.

And that’s where my job comes in. After more than 18 months of flying – it turns out not only do I do comebacks. I also give second chances. Who knew? I most certainly did not. August 2014 saw me give a lot of second chances. It had me coming back to many places I have visited and left behind before too. August 2014 has been one big learning curve, one big journey into the depth of my own self and mind you – it is still not over yet..

 

Exploring new places and flying to new destinations can be exciting… as much as it is tiring. Sometimes all I want from my roster is for it to be easy, short and familiar. And as Asian as possible. And my late summer roster has turned me into the Queen of Asia. Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai, Hong Kong on top of Rome and Frankfurt. I could not have been happier or more familiar with any of them having visited all of these places at least 3 times before. Sometimes it is just so nice to know what to pack, where to go, what to eat and how to behave. It’s also nice to give another chance to a place I wasn’t too sure about. Like Singapore. It’s a great place no doubts about that. It’s just not the kinda place I thought I would ever want to visit again once I’ve seen it. Singapore is quite spectacular with its clean green and luscious streets, friendly people, big expensive cars and delicious food. It’s also a little too high maintenance for my liking. I feel like I should try hard and harder… like I can’t really let go and be myself in a place that has literally made it to the top of world’s capitols. I always feel a little lost when in Singapore. And as I was wondering and wandering in the SinCity I suddenly found the one spot I needed to calm my slightly agitated senses. I little beach bar on the Sentosa Island. A piece of heaven. A sanctuary. The Bikini Bar. Where they played good music, served mean frozen Margaritas and I could read my book undisturbed. And just like that Singapore and I became friends for life. Because as it turns out I don’t need that much to be friendly. Just a little time and space to be myself…

 

The Bikini Bar

                       The Bikini Bar

 

As for the other comebacks I have mentioned – well not much new has gone down in Bangkok and even less so in Shanghai. And I’m not about to bore you to death talking about my massages . I guess one very successful return I should tell you about was to the Friday Brunch at the Atlantis hotel – the crime scene of my mad birthday bash back in January which I have still not been able to blog about… Some stories should remain untold. There was no particular occasion to celebrate this time apart from Salma coming back to Dubai and with the pressure off we simply let go and enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. And Saffron has not disappointed us.

Brunch in Jan

           Brunch in Jan

Brunch in Aug.. same same

Brunch in Aug.. same same

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OK- this post could go on for hours. Yes I indeed have so much on my chest about second chances and comebacks. But I’m gonna spare you this time since I also want to tell you about a few first times I have gone thru in the past month or so… Y’all just wait :)!

Lots of love 

G. 

Seoul Searching …

My Airline has not been sending me to the Far East very much of late. Ok – I have had more Manila flights than I could possibly ever care for (more on that later) but the Philippines are not the right kind of “asian”. By that I mean not the kind that I love. Like China or Viet Nam for example.

That’s why I was very excited when I found out I was about to go to Korea in December. Everybody was telling me that since I like China I’ll ADDORE Korea. And all of them were right. I totally did!

Seoul was a very special layover. In the same way that Shanghai has been back in March. Somehow I just know I will never forget about it. Thankfully it’s one of those longer and “social” layovers when crew feel the need to come down and mingle. Possibly also because there is nothing quite like going out in Asia. I’m telling you guys the nightlife is just INSANE! And addictive… You will try it once and will never want to give it up.

We started the night off typically Korean – gorging on some amazing BBQ. Never heard of it? No neither have I till I tried it. The BBQ restaurants are absolutely genius – conveniently placed on every corner in Seoul. All you need to do is walk in and wait to be seated. You get a “table” within minutes, sometimes you gotta wait a little before it gets prepared for its new occupants. What do I mean by “getting prepared”. See – the Korean BBQ is not a restaurant per se… You get to cook your own food yourself. There is a massive hot place placed in the middle of each “table” ( looking a little like the swiss raclette) which you get to use to your own liking. You get to pick your own meat and/or veggies to grill just as you like it. Plus you get an unlimited supply of sauces, rice and spices. As I said – genius! It’s quick, delicious and costs absolutely nothing…IMG_6768

Later that night -after a few drinks in the hotel lobby- some of us decided to head out and party. As we were leaving the hotel Korea gave me yet another reason to love it – it has started to snow! I don’t need to fill you on the details of our night out in the Gangnam District do I? Did you know Koreans love hip-hop? Did you know they were snapbacks AND suits? Did you know guys dance more than girls? All I need to say is that Asia and its club scene has not let me down once again! I had a great time and so so so much fun with my colleagues. We were quite the distraction being the only non-Koreans in the clubs and I can assure you that many pictures of us have been taken… But I guess it wouldn’t be the real Asia if that didn’t happen:). IMG_6759 IMG_6769

The next morning I beat my hangover to it and left to Seoul-search before it managed to fully start. I wanted to walk and see as much as I physically could and I did. I returned to the Gangnam district and explored it from left to right and bottom to top.It is a truly amazing place -not solely for its fantastic shops but I have to admit that the Underground Market is very impressive. I resisted to spend ALL of my money and only spent some – and that was mostly on gifts for others rather than for myself. Korea is famous for its skin product-well I fear I still wouldn’t know the difference between a hydrating and a firming face cream if my life depended on it- and gadgets. And you should already know how I feel about gadgets. IJUSTLOVETHEM! So I couldn’t leave empty-handed… However I believe my purchase was very justified since I have used it every single layover since ICN. I bought a polaroid camera. I sure still use my IPhone a lot but there is a certain charm to the instant photo you get to hold immediately and stick up on your wall as soon as you get back home…

the beauty of polaroid snaps

the beauty of polaroid snaps

the beauty of polaroid snaps

the beauty of polaroid snaps

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South Korea has definitely lived up to my expectations. I would love to go back if only for that great BBQ 🙂

Love

x

G.

Lost But Not Forgotten Vol II. -German F-Laying

So it’s official. I must be on the top of my Airline’s list of German speakers. At least one would think so by looking at my summer flying diary. Frankfurt. Zurich. Dusseldorf. Hamburg. And Frankfurt again… I know all of my German announcements backwards by now. As reserved and unimpressed as I was by frequent visits to Pretzel& Beerland to start with I have learned to really like them. I have started seeing them as my monthly grocery shopping trips. Honestly – living in the middle of a desert really teaches you to appreciate the beauty and taste of fresh produce and quality meat. Not to mention anything organic.

I don’t believe I have mentioned my first visit to Frankfurt yet – probably because there wasn’t much to talk about. The highlight of my layover there was (beside a 20-odd-hour sleep) making a friend behind the lobby bar in our crew hotel. I impressed him with my language skills and he impressed me with his knowledge of a good beer. And also with his cutting of my final bills to a ridiculous 10 %. We bid our farewells after an evening well spent chatting about life and love and I promised to look him up next time I was visiting. Little did I know that would happen in less than a month.

My second time around in FRA was much more exciting. Flight-wise, crew-wise, layover-wise. I was assigned a much better-timed flight which brought me to Germany fresh and ready to have some FUN. Yes- with a capital F and U and N. I happened to have flown with a few of the people in my crew before and knew them to NOT be the ones to skip on a party and even the rest has turned out to be just the right kind of people you wanna have around when you feel like a couple of bruskies. To my surprise my friend behind the lobby bar was working that night too! What a great reunion ! I decided on the spot to leave my sensible self locked in the heavy duty suitcase and let my party self loose. To cut a long story short – I ended up closing the bar that night. And boy what a night that was ! It wouldn’t be far from the truth saying that the only people flying to Dubai without a hangover the next day were the passengers.

Couple of weeks later I found myself Germany-bound once again. This time to Hamburg. I was just in the middle of my no-drinking no-junk-food-eating working-out-a-lot phase and Hamburg has turned out to be just the place! The hotel was situated right next to a beautiful lake surrounded by a park that just invites you for a run. And I never turn down an invitation this tempting. It was a brisk late summer morning and I and half of the Hamburg population decided to go jogging. Honestly I must have met about 200 people running my usual 5k. But I didn’t mind. The lake park (as I like to call it) was obviously designed with sport enthusiasts in mind. Or by one. Or both. It even had little workout stops where one could stretch and do work on the rock-hard (hahaha) abs:

Don't Twerk- Work out !

Don’t Twerk- Work out !
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Hamburg in general strikes me as a very health-concious place. They have massive stores with organic products, organic cafes on every corner and plenty of fair trade shops. I have enjoyed my time there so much that upon leaving I couldn’t remember for the hell of it – WHY exactly did I NOT want to come ? I’m definitely gonna try and go back – this time to have a proper browse in all the cool little boutiques I have only managed to see from the outside so far…

The Tale of Two Girls (and many Cities) continues…

Chapter Four – Island Living…

… is yet another thing (after drinking wine) that I have learned to love in Croatia. What does ” island living” mean? As told by many Croatian islanders it’s basically taking things slow and as they come. Not fussing about the time or being on time. Get up whenever it suits you and start a day off with a glass of pear liquor… To put it simply island living is a bliss. Dolly and I have visited three of the many islands along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia and each one of them was somehow unique and different yet they all had something in common – they were all absolutely beautiful.

First on our itinerary was the island of Korcula – the birth place of Marco Polo (yes I know- we thought he was Italian too). I don’t usually play favourites but if I did I’d have to say that Korcula was mine. We stayed for three days and during those we saw as much as we could on foot, on bikes and even on a kayak. We embraced the island living pretty much the moment we arrived. A glass -sorry a bottle of wine with an early lunch? I don’t mind if I do! Seafood for dinner every night – well that’s just what we do! Going to sleep at 9pm ? So what ?!

Island living

Island living

I have become a professional at taking selfies

I have become a professional at taking selfies

morning markets again

morning markets again

Korcula

Korcula

Life is a Beach

Life is a Beach

Kayaking

Kayaking

sunset on our own private mini island

sunset on our own private mini island

dinner timeeeee

dinner timeeeee

The next stop was the Sipan island– a place that marked the highest point we have cycled up to during our entire trip. It also marked the earliest we have started drinking during a day. I believe it was hardly midday when we order our usual bile vino accompanied by a glass of Kruskovac. The island was so tiny we managed to zig zag out way through it all in just a couple of hours before heading back to Dubrovnik. Even so I will always remember it for its peaceful atmosphere and friendly people. We have scored free drinks at the local restaurant and didn’t even have to join the table (and that is something one gets to appreciate after having lived in Dubai for some time:).IMG_5138

where we stopped for a cheeky dip

where we stopped for a cheeky dip

yes.. it's happening

yes.. it’s happening

i loved that dog

i loved that dog

ok.. i forgot.. it was red not white

ok.. i forgot.. it was red not white

on the way back catching up with the "real" world

on the way back catching up with the “real” world

And last but not least – The Island of Mljet, which is known to the rest of the world as a national park and a place of extreme beauty. To us it will always be the Half-Island. For some reason our tour-operator didn’t think it would be necessary to give us the full map of the island. Maybe he didn’t think we were hard-core cyclist enough to take on the full length of the place or maybe he just forgot. Who knows… All I know is that we figured that out after having cycled for about 30 km (mostly uphill) and finding ourself facing even more hills and having no idea what we were cycling towards or to. We have quite literally came to end of the map. We considered our options and then decided to do what we did best. Yes – indeed- we had some wine and then turned back.  And a couple of hours later that has turned out to be the best of decisions because the hell has opened and massive storm came upon us. But by then we were already all cosy and comfy on our balcony watching the storm happening above the Adriatic Sea.  With a bottle of wine of course. The next day we got up nice an early and went for a run (yes believe or not it wasn’t all just drinking and eating!). We have just gone far enough to make it worthless to go back when another storm has started. And honestly it was a Storm with a capital S. The road we were running on has turned into a river and my T-shirt into a full length dress. We got so soaked no car even bothered to stop and offer us a lift. The drivers must have thought we were crazy which we probably were since we ran 8k in total. My longest outdoor run yet. I wish I had taken a picture but my Iphone was safely stored in my undergarments to prevent it from drowning. You just have to take my word for it!

Kruskovac ... the best of Croatia in a glass

Kruskovac … the best of Croatia in a glass

ever wondered what is at the end of a map?... this is

ever wondered what is at the end of a map?… this is

IMG_5239

But the time we got back and dried off the weather has cleared in a matter of minutes. We have decided to try and explore the unmapped (well at least to us) part of the island once again – but this time with a little engine help and rented a scooter. If there was something I felt was missing (which I didn’t) this has definitely covered it. I was in heaven cruising around and repeating “yes- this happening! Croatia baby!” in my head and possibly also aloud a couple of times!… IMG_5391 IMG_5429 IMG_5399 IMG_5351

Oh damn.. I got so distracted by that storm and scooter story I forgot to talk about the national park thing! Ok so basically- Mljet is a very famous island, apparently even Homer was there (as in the Greek one) and mentioned the island in his Odyssey and stuff. The park is mostly all about these two salty lakes and their surroundings and it is pretty spectacular ! You can’t really cycle or walk the whole way around them because as our half-map said “the roads turn to dirt and then disappear”. And they actually do! But since it was just a half – map we decided to not believe it and see for ourself. It did turned to dirt. And it did end. But what the map didn’t say was that the view at the end was totally worth having to cycle all the way back. It also didn’t mention that you don’t HAVE to necessarily go back since there is Charon – well that’s what I decided to call him anyway. It’s this friendly guy manning an ancient little boat pending between the narrowest point of the Big Lake and taking you over to the other side. That’s him:

Our Croatian Charon

Our Croatian Charon

At first we were gonna cycle just for the sport part of it. But then – just look at the guy! Could you resist him? 🙂 Anyway here are some pics of the national park :IMG_5263IMG_5273Chapter Five – Domestic food.. and domestic wine

… ok – Dolly and I have come up with many theories about the origins of the expression “domestic food” that the Croatians just LOVE to use. Many of them – ok all of them- we came up with after at least of bottle of wine and they are therefore not to be published. Ever. Thankfully we have also made some Croatian friends during our time there and they have kindly explained the whole thing. “Domestic” in croatian means “home-made” and also “local” and “traditional”. So why use three expressions when you can just use one, right? It’s shorter, to the point and very very VERY catchy. I can assure you that at the end of our holidays both of us REQUIRED at least one serving of domestic food a day otherwise we weren’t fully satisfied. “Home-made” just wouldn’t do. It would have to be “domestic”.  “Domestic” food is to be found everywhere in Croatia – you can get domestic bread in bakeries, domestic cakes in restaurants, domestic tea at the airport if you wish. And then there is the domestic wine of course since every lucky Croatian seems to be in possession of their own little vineyard and a small winery located near-by. I was never much of a wine drinker. Well – people change and so did I.  And I only have Croatia to blame for that. It’s the sun, the sea, the air, the simply everything beautiful that one can taste in every sip of every wine we tried. And we tried a lot trust me. And none – N O N E – tasted bad.

domestic fish

domestic fish

domestic wine on the beach ... as you do

domestic wine on the beach … as you do

domestic fish soup

domestic fish soup

more domestic fish

more domestic fish

domestic "hot" wine... who says that's a xmas thing? tasted good in september too

domestic “hot” wine… who says that’s a xmas thing? tasted good in september too

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domestic octopus salad and mussels

domestic octopus salad and mussels

domestic wine

domestic wine

The Tale of Two Girls (and many Cities)

15 days, 4 countries, 3 airlines and many MANY many bottles of wine later and I’m finally back from my summer vacation.

There is so much – perhaps even too much- two young girls travelling around Europe can jampack into two weeks of holidays- but fortunately for you my dear readers I have just ordered a large soya cappuccino and have all the time in the world to describe everything Dolly and I got up to during our girly trip to Croatia. So why don’t just sit back, relax and enjoy the read ?:)

Chapter One – The Most Wonderful and Horrible Thing…

… that can happen to you when travelling stand-by is to miss or not get on the connecting flight you were hoping for. Like it did to us. We happily boarded the A380 bound for Munich and spent the few hours it takes to fly from Dubai to Europe watching films, drinking miniatures ( or as we liked to call it “sampling for future reference”) and chatting to our former batchmate who happened to be the operating crew on our flight.
We (still happily) disembarked and made our way to the check-in counter of our connection. And that’s when the fun started. I’m not gonna bother with the details and wonders of stand-by travelling. The important thing was that some 40-minutes later we found ourselves mentally exhausted and without a flight to board that day. The miniatures we haven’t managed to finish on board came in handy at that moment. We were stranded in Munich for 24-hours. It was horrible because thanks to the Octoberfest all the hotels were fully booked and there was no way we could find a last-minute accommodation. And it was wonderful because out of all places I’d have wanted to be stranded in Europe- Munich during the Octoberfest was the best of them all! We put our heads together and figured there was no harm in asking our batchmate if she would mind terribly letting us crash in her crew-hotel room for the night. Which she didn’t. The holiday had started right there and then. IMG_4253

Chapter Two – Octoberfest…

… is not your typical festival as you would imagine. I have always wanted to go. Just like everybody else I guess. I expected it to be crowded, chaotic and commercial. To my surprise it was none of the above. For such a massive event the whole place felt very intimate and so so soooOOO super friendly! It had everything – massive pretzels, foot-long sausages, roasted sugar coated almonds, music, drindls and leder hosen, amusement rides and THE BEER of course! And we tried all of it. If you ever considered going then DO IT ! It’s an unforgettable experience !IMG_4268 IMG_4279 IMG_4317 IMG_4327

Chapter Three – Dubrovnik …

… has very nearly taken over the Number One City spot in my heart that has been so far occupied by Prague. Well- when I say nearly I mean I still haven’t decided. It is a true germ – so stunning it makes you wanna weep. I scored a window seat on the way there and got the chance to enjoy the most beautiful approach and landing in my life (yes -and I have landed into Maledives before).

We checked into our approx. 100yo little stone-cottage B&B overlooking the Old City of Dubrovnik, downed a shot of something very strong offered to us by our friendly landlord and ventured out to savour the moment of our first Adriatic sunset. There is so much I would like to say about this amazing city starting by describing its white streets full of jewellery shops and ice-creams parlours and beautiful architecture and its morning markets with all kinds of fresh fruit and home-made products and the most fantastic wine bars on the city walls and all the painters and musicians on every corner and all the different smells from local restaurants  and… and… and are you still with me? We have fallen head over heels for this hidden paradise – so hard we decided to extend our stay from the originally planned two nights to full 5 days sacrificing the Venetian part of our trip. Yes- that’s how very awesome Dubrovnik is!

After having spent our first night gorging on seafood and wine we left Dubrovnik for a couple of days and returned for another overnight stay a few days later. This time around we have learned a lot about the history of the settlement and the importance it has had throughout the history of the Medditerranean trading. We have walked on the City walls and visited even more jewellery shops in preparation of making some very hefty purchases. And because we felt like that still wasn’t enough we returned yet another time right at the end of our tour of Croatia and stayed until we really HAD to go in order to return to work on time. But not before we treated ourself to some bling bling shopping and -you know it’s coming – yes even more wine!IMG_4403 IMG_4420

I will never get sick of taking pics of palms... never

I will never get sick of taking pics of palms… never

Morning fruit markets... fresh figs, dried figs, fig salamis, fig jams, fig liquers, fig brandy... but they also had some grapes...:)

Morning fruit markets… fresh figs, dried figs, fig salamis, fig jams, fig liquers, fig brandy… but they also had some grapes…:)

ahhhhhh...

ahhhhhh…

first evening in Dubrovnik - the City Of Stunning

first evening in Dubrovnik – the City Of Stunning

The view from our room

The view from our room

Dubrovnik from above ..and my Croatian ring

Dubrovnik from above ..and my Croatian ring

Just chillin' on the last day of our epic trip

Just chillin’ on the last day of our epic trip

One of many mouth watering dinners we have treated ourself to.. this one featured a lobster...

One of many mouth watering dinners we have treated ourself to.. this one featured a lobster…

IMG_5518

Croatia has it all... sun, wine, seafood, silver... rain

Croatia has it all… sun, wine, seafood, silver… rain

The City Walls and the two of us

The City Walls and the two of us

Ahhhhh

Ahhhhh

Having a glass of vino and watching the sunset on the City Walls.. my life is complete now

Having a glass of vino and watching the sunset on the City Walls.. my life is complete now

another day another breath taking sunset

another day another breath taking sunset

yes... it's happening

yes… it’s happening

and another one

and another one

Cooking myself to sleep

Ever heard of insomnia? Ever had it? If you answered “yes” to both of those questions then welcome to my world and I hope you are enjoying the flight just as much as I am. Not. I don’t know if it’s the flying over different time zones or the excessive drinking of green tea and black coffee or my brain that has been so switched on lately or the combination of it all but I just cannot go to sleep. I mean I do sleep – but it doesn’t feel like sleeping if you get my gist. It feels more like a hard labour getting my eyes closed and forcing myself to pass out… and then “waking up” 20 mins later and going thru it all again. Most of the times I just give up and get up. The first week was harsh. Going from a light sleeper to no sleeper ain’t an easy ride. The second week felt like a joke I was playing on myself. Then the third week of insomnia slowly approached and I figured that “if you can’t fix it Jack you gotta stand it”. And since my glass is always half full (oh my gosh this post IS full of clichés already and I haven’t even finished the first paragraph!) I decided that rather than thinking about the wasted time I could have spent sleeping I’m gonna utilise it to do something productive. Like cooking. And baking. Because counting grams and spoons of sugar and chocolate is so much more fun that counting stupid imaginary sheep jumping over the fence.

And so after long 9 months of avoiding the one place that used to be my haven of peace and creativity back in the UK I stepped inside my Dubai kitchen and had a proper look for the first time. I’m a self-confessed gadget girl and my kitchens were always the place to show for it. Blenders, whisks, shape cutters, coffee machines, tea sets, pasta makers you name it I had it. I even had a special spoon for scooping out honey for heaven’s sake! And now the most elaborate thing I found inside this “kitchen” (yes I couldn’t help it, it deserved the quotation marks) was a box of matches. A very large and cool box but nonetheless still a box. It was time to upgrade.

It only took one trip to IKEA and a rather long visit to the Dubai Mall and my domestic goddess’ needs felt a little more satisfied… At least until I move to an apartment that offers more than 4 square meters of kitchen space. I was all set and ready to kick my insomnia’s butt Gordon Ramsay’s style ! 

The Peabbage salad”

This is the simplest crowd-pleaser salad I have ever invented.

Red cabbage chopped

Two medium pears either chopped or peeled (leave the skins as it adds a little bit extra bite and crunchy taste)plus a lot of white vinegar.

The combo may sounds strange but wait till you try it out. It’s fantastic !

Pear +Cabbage = Peabbage

Pear +Cabbage = Peabbage

“The Secret Agent Cupcakes”

The expiration date of these is about 10 minutes after being served. I made a couple of batches already and none lasted longer than that. And mind you – these are sugar-free, low carb, almost-fat-free cupcakes. Or as I like to put it – eating those pretty much makes you slimmer. You are welcome !

Can of cooked red kidney beans (I know what are you thinking but just trust me on this one!) -blended into a smooth paste with added vanilla flavouring – or any other flavouring you like… 

Darkest chocolate you can find (I always use at least 70%)- melted 

Peanut butter- I know I said these cupcakes are low-fat and peanut butter may not be on the top of the low-fat list. But peanut butter fat is “good fat” so don’t be too scared. Use crunchy, smooth whatever rocks your boat but mind you it should be organic and with no added sugar

Cocoa powder (optional – skip it if you enjoy sweet rather than bitter)

Baking soda

Stevia (optional)

3-4 large eggs 

I don’t do measures I usually just go with my gut feeling on texture and flavour. Mix it all up and bake on 180-200 for about 25-30 mins. As for the frosting I went with low-fat cream cheese with peanut butter and just a splash of a strong coffee shot for smoothness just because all of my creativity was spent on the bean base. However next time I make those I’m playing with an idea of tofu based soya goodness- I’ll let you know when the time comes:)

Hello there Mr. Bean!

Hello there Mr. Bean!

“The Best-Date-of-Your Life-balls”

I’m obsessed with dates at the moment. And there is no better place to be obsessed with dates than in Dubai where they cost near to nothing and are absolutely to die for. I warm you tho- because of the sugary nature of dates this is not a very diet friendly snack. Limit yourself to about two a day. Don’t eat 10 in one sitting like I did.

Palmful of almonds and walnuts (or any other nuts you love) – roasted on a frying pan (don’t be afraid to let them burn a little it adds a nice toasty flavour to the whole thing) and chopped in a blender or just simply with a knife. 

Dates – my favourite kind is Fard but really any kind will do. From my experience the shinier the better. Chop them roughly  in a blender together with some date syrup (or honey or agave syrup all works well)- if you wanna make those balls a little merrier feel free to add some rum or brandy. I tried that once and it was delish.

Mix  the chopped nuts together with the date paste and add some spices of your liking – I choose cinnamon, cocoa and chilli powder. Not necessarily all together. Scoop out the mixture with a spoon and create little balls. Or squares. Or whatever takes your fancy.  Sprinkle some more cinnamon or other coating spices or on a chopping board and get rolling. When you done, put those babies to the ice for a couple of hours if you can last that long:) Enjoy!

the best date I have had in quite a while ...

“The Mangoconut I-Scream-For-More”

This is a shining example of a great recipe that has gone wrong to create something even greater. I meant to make a mango coconut custard cream with some seasonal fruit salad. But because I rarely follow recipes and NEVER look at measures my cream wouldn’t set. Because I was running out of time and patience I stuck the whole thing in the freezer. At the end of the dinner party I was throwing I went back to it to find not only has it set but it also froze to death and voila – it made for an amazing desert after all !

Two large ripe mangoes – they HAVE to be orange NOT yellow, peeled and blended (yes – I blend a lot, it’s the only machine I own at the moment)

Banana – optional, the browner the better. 

1 Can of coconut milk – bring it to boil and add some custard powder. As I said I don’t do measures so … when you taste more custard powder than coconut you have added too much. Wait until it thickens and turn down the heat. 

Let the milk cool down a little and then add the fruit mixture. No need for sugar or any other sweeteners – the mangoes will do all the hard work. Prepare some nice desert bowls or if you don’t have any (like myself) just use wine glasses and espresso cups. Divide the liquid equally, put it in the freezer and forget all about it for a few hours. Garnish with mint leaves and mango cubes

“So-good-So-ya cup of love”

You may have figured I don’t use milk much. As it happens I have been lactose intolerant this whole time without even knowing it. I’m also sugar intolerant but that’s just a life choice more than anything else. Ever since banning milk products out of my life I made it my goal to find suitable replacements for all of my favourite snacks such as yogurt, cheese and above all a nice cup of hot milk with honey before bed.

So here it comes (and this is so good I can’t believe I haven’ tried it earlier) : heat up some soya milk and add a few spoons of date syrup. Wait until the milk turns darker colour and thickens a little bit. Pour into a cup and add some cinnamon. OMG! I may have to have some right now…

… Or get some extra soft tofu. Whisk together with a splash of soya milk and a few scoop of protein powder of your choice. If you need an extra boost in the morning add an espresso shot. Best low-fat, protein-packed , lactose-free yoghurt-like breakfast I have had in a while.

Mmmmmm...

Mmmmmm…

“Panamanian Birds”

“A Spanish bird” is a traditional Czech dish that has despite its name absolutely nothing to do with Spain. Or a bird for that matter. It is usually prepared using beef, bacon, eggs, pickles and sausage (I know -sounds delicious doesn’t it?:) but when you live in a constant soaring heat of 40 degrees and higher none of these ingredients sound very appetising. Still – whenever I cook for my friends I try to introduce a little bit of Czechness into their lives and so I came up with a much lighter and healthier version. And since it has become a popular dish with my dear Panamanian friend I have taken the liberty to not only remake it but also rename it.

Turkey breast

Beef bacon strips

Asparagus

Turnip, swede, beetroot, carrots

Slice the turkey breast into long and thin strips and wrap around a few stalks of asparagus. Season with your favourite spices – I love using cayenne pepper and sea salt, sometimes even a splash of soy sauce (yes- soya again!:). To hold it all nicely together use the bacon strips- would also work with ham or any other kind of cold cut meat. If you would like to make those wraps a little more substantial then add a quarter of a hard-boiled egg next to the asparagus. To give them a bit of shape , fry the “birds” individually in a pan for about a minute on each side .

Peel and roughly chop all the root vegetables and place them into a large baking tray together with a few slices of garlic and some chilli peppers. Add a cup or two of chicken/ vegetable or beef stock. Place the pre-fried birds on the top and cover with a tin foil. Bake on 200 for about 20-30 minutes . Keep on checking and adding the liquid level – the veggies should always be partially submerged. Uncover for the last 5-10 minutes.

pájaros panameñas

pájaros panameñas

“Beef-Me-Up Salad”

I have taken on running. I try to run every day. I started off slowly at 3k-a-day and I’m currently working my way up to 10k. I’m at 6.5k at the moment and it feels pretty damn good ! With so much running one needs to get some proper nutrition too. This salad easy, quick and satisfying – pretty much all you want when in training or in pursuit of eating clean.

1/2 hass avocado

spinach

fennel

chillies

bean sprouts

lean beef steak cutIMG_4108

x

G. 

A Day That Counts

We all have them. The days that seem so pointless it’s like they didn’t even need to happen. The days when the most productive thing you force yourself to do is moving from your bed to the sofa. I call them my “Recharge Days”. I solemnly feel guilty for having one of those every now and then. Because for every Recharge Day there is always a Counter Day. Aka the day that counts as two, as three sometimes even as a whole century of your normal days let along the Recharge Days. I have had many Counter Days in 2013 but I’d like to talk about this one in particular. This is the story of a Counter FriDay 13th September 2013. The day I operated my first ever flight to Prague.

The moment I found out about this duty I decided to make it a surprise and only tell a limited amount of people. One of the hardest decisions I have ever taken because as the date was approaching I found it harder and harder to conceal my excitement when talking to my family and ultimately had to stop talking to them in fear of accidentally dropping a hint.

The night before the flight I hardly slept a wink – I watched the clock slowly move towards my wake up time until I gave up and got ready long before I had to. The 5-hour flight felt like the longest in my life. When we touched down at last I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh- for somebody who has spent the last 7 years globetrotting and trying to move as far away from their homeland as possible feeling so emotional coming back “home” was indeed an experience. Our Captain has observed my pain watching the rest of the crew potter around and taking their sweet time collecting their luggage and what not and has kindly released me to check-in at the hotel well in advance before anybody else. If not for professional image and respect to my uniform I could have kissed him right there.

I was in and out of my hotel room in less than two minutes and rushed to meet one of the most precious people I have ever known- a friend I have met in high school and who has been a huge part of my life ever since, Rudi <3. We talked and talked and talked some more and drunk about 3 litres of coffee -until my jaw hurt from all the talking and heart beat fast from all the coffee. Time flies when you are having fun and especially when you have so much gossip to go thru and next time I looked at my watch I had to go and run  to the train station to pick up my lil step-brother, who had spent the same amount of time on the train to Prague it has taken me to fly over all the way from Dubai. When I spotted him disembarking the train among all the other travellers I realised my plan was coming together exactly as planned and my chest felt really tight and I was out of breath once again. I guess that’s what a complete happiness is all about.

You simply cannot NOT love this person

You simply cannot NOT love this person

And then it was time for the main event of the day – giving my step-sis the shock of her life. She was expecting to see our brother with his fictional Prague (girl)friend and as she has previously shared with me over an email she wasn’t too keen on that being her Friday night plan. What she wasn’t expecting tho was the (girl)friend was to be me. The expression of sheer amazement and disbelief on her face was worth it all- the entire HR process of getting my job, the long and tiring training to get my licence and the endless waiting to get a Prague flight assigned. I would gladly go thru all this a million times over just to see her precious blue eyes filled with tears once again. It was a surprise moment par excellence ! After the initial 10 minutes of talking over each other and laughing and crying we quickly decided what to do with the rest of my layover. And since this was an occasion and we are Czech- we did exactly what all Czechs do on an occasion – we started celebrating. Because “a little party never killed nobody”.

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And boy was that one heck of a celebration! We sang, we drunk, we danced and talked of all the important things people talk about when the bottles are empty the clock shows way past anybody’s bedtime. I think at one point we also slept but I can’t be too sure because the next thing I remember is rushing back to the hotel and pushing the limits of the speed of light putting my make-up and uniform on.  And then… then it was time to check out, kiss everybody good-bye, wipe the tears and the not-so-water-proof mascara of my cheeks and head to the airport with my crew. I landed back in Dubai totally exhausted but happier than ever. My job is a blessing that brings me happiness and fills me with pleasure every time I fly. But I already knew that. What I didn’t know but learned that day was that it can also make people I love the most happy and content. And that my dear readers is a feeling you won’t get from no paycheque.

x

G.

P.S. This post is dedicated to my lil step-bro as a weird way to say “Happy B-day I love you very much”

IMG_4182

Sydney. Sleep. Selling. And one helluva Slumber Party.

Well – this has become a bit awkward…

So at first I thought China was by far my favourite destination and that it had a very special spot in my heart that cannot be replaced. Then I started flying to Africa and fell head over heels for that fantastic place and its people. And now … Now I have discovered Oz at last. And I suddenly find myself in the middle of this strange love triangle (or shall I rather say a love square?). And there is seemingly no way I could ever decide which one I like the best! People say that when you get to know The One you just know it – otherwise it’s not The One. Well I beg to differ. I do believe that sometimes people can be in love with several The Ones at the same time (we are still talking about places I fly to, right?!).

My trip to Sydney was bound to be a great one since the moment I learned about it. Not only was I super excited about flying the A380 again but I was also assigned a position I have been dying for – the Duty free operator. On my last couple of flights I have been observing my colleagues and picking their brains for some good selling techniques. See – if yo do manage to sell quite a bit of merchandise you can score a decent commission on the top of your normal salary – and that for me as an aspiring millionaire is an opportunity that’s too perfect to decline 🙂 No that’s obviously just a joke. I do enjoy the extra money one can make doing this but most of all I love bragging on about watches and perfumes to everybody. Crew don’t usually like taking the Duty free on because it requires quite a bit of paper work and extra effort on the top of our usual duties so I ended up keeping the position all to myself for both the outbound and the return sector. And even tho I was completely useless to start with and it took me ages to find my way around the little helpful machine I managed to double the amount of money I’d have earned for that trip. Beginner’s luck I guess. Nonetheless I’m gonna give it another go next time I fly to Australia because I have had a blast !

Another thing I tried for the first time (last week was full first times for sure!) was the CRC- which is a little cabin on board dedicated to the crew to get their legal rest. You didn’t really think we are super humans that can work a 14-hour flight without a break now, did you? I’m usually a very light sleeper and get woken up by the slightest noise and therefore assumed I was gonna spend my rest break watching films and listening to some music. But it seems that a tiny bunk 36 thousand feet high up and rocking with the turbulence of the Indian Ocean is just the place to get the best sleep of my life. Honestly – I don’t think I have ever slept better and deeper. I woke up all fresh and shiny and ready for pretty much anything.

14-hour on board may seem like a long time – however with a plane full of dehydrated and bored passengers it goes by in a flash. We were landing in Australia before I even managed to look outside of the window to check out the view.

I’m so in love with this country -honestly ! Such a great, chilled out and welcoming place! At times I had to remind myself I’m indeed at work and this is just a layover and not a holiday… that’s how much at ease it made me feel. I decided to spend my layover with some of the crew I felt the closest to throughout the flight (trust me – such a long flight either makes it or breaks it) . To my dismay they wanted to explore the Sydney Taronga Zoo. See – you may not know this about me… but I don’t DO Zoos. When I was a kid every single of my zoo visits would end in tears. Until I made the decision never to go again and spare myself the heartache. However my newly made friends were so excited about seeing koala bears and kangaroos I got a wee bit curious myself. And it turned out to be a great day with no tears at all. Zoos must have changed a lot since I’ve last been. There was nothing or at least a very little sad about it.IMG_3601 IMG_3594 IMG_3589 IMG_3626 IMG_3625 IMG_3596IMG_3624

On the way to Taronga and back took a ferry across the Sydney harbour snapping about a million pictures of the Sydney Opera house and its surrounding and laughing our heads off at the hilarious tour guide comments (if you ever decide to do the same take the Cook Cruiser-honestly you’ll die -she is hysterical!). We disembarked at The Quays in the early hours of a Saturday night and the atmosphere there was just fantastic! Street musician on every corner, artists selling their paintings and pictures, dancers … I was swept away by the carefree feeling in the air! I simply cannot wait to go back again and again and again and… well you get the idea!

Winter? What winter?!

Winter? What winter?!

IMG_3603

IMG_3498The flight back was pretty uneventful apart from – hang on!- a little impromptu Slumber party I threw in our galley for some of the passengers. The cabin wasn’t even half full and vast majority of the customers consisted of students of some British sports school coming back from their Australasian trip. I don’t know how much you know about teenage guys that play sports rather than video games- but the most important thing is that they are hungry. Like all the time. We have served them dinner and supper before I went on my break and hoped they would also go to sleep just like the rest of the people. But when I came back from yet another amazing sleepy time and took over the charge of the galley I have noticed the cabin was getting noisy. I went to check it out and encountered about 10 hunky guys with puppy eyes.

“Miss- we are all so hungry. Any chance of getting something to eat?” said one of them.

I figured bringing food out to their seat would only wake up everybody else around them so I asked them to give me five minutes and follow me to the galley. I quickly scanned the leftovers from the previous service and set up a massive feast of croissants, jams, fruit, chocolates, sandwiches and pies. All was gone within minutes and they all still looked famished. So I took my chances and called business class for some more food. The guys were literally kissing my hands, they swore never to fly a different airline and tried to persuade my to continue on their onward journey to London. Talking about happy customers:) That’s why I love my job – even such little things can totally make somebody’s day!

x

G.

Feeling the Love

So – I’m currently east-bound rushing thru the rural parts of the Czech Republic on the Speed train I was raving about last time I came here. I spent the last two days having the time of my life in Prague with my beloved lil sister and my cousins.

I landed on Monday afternoon after what seemed like a century- I have taken off the night before from Accra,Ghana which has been my last operational flight before my leave, then landed in Dubai after a very busy 8-hour long duty had literally hour and a half to get changed from my uniform, make my way to the Departure Hall, check in my bag and run up to the right gate and catch my flight to Prague. I was so exhausted I fell asleep the moment we took off and only woke up when the seat belt sign came on to announce the start of our descent.

Before I knew it I was sat on my sister’s balcony with a cold beer in my hand enjoying a lovely sunny afternoon. Life was/is a bliss! Some crazy stuff happened that day including a random visit to a tattoo-piercing parlour and meeting some long lost friends. Later in the evening we were joined by my little cousin Babsi who happened to be in Prague too… and things turned blurry at that point. I seem to recall a moment when all of us tried to pronounce the word “otorhinolaryngology” which I somehow did manage to say in English however failed spectaculary trying in Czech (I think it may be because the word is one syllable longer in Czech than in English).

Thanks to the jetlag I woke up nice and early the next morning and went straight to the train station to pick up another cousin of mine- Ondra and his girlfriend- who came to Prague to see me. I took them around the city as I always used do with all my friends when I used to live here. I haven’t actually done the tour of Prague in a couple of years and since it was a very hot summery day I loved every minute of it. We walked all day stopping for the occasional coffee, beer and some traditional Bohemian snacks.

We waited for my sis to finish work and headed straight to the pub for some grub and more beers. When we eventually found our way back home the night was starting to turn into an early morning…  My jetlag kicked in again and I was wide awake at 4 am – just a couple of hours after I went to bed. Looks like all that sleep I was planning for this holiday ain’t gonna happen.

As I mentioned I’m now headed to see the rest of my large family that lives outside of Prague. I have so much to look forward to in the next week or so- as much as I adore my life and job in Dubs it does feel incredibly amazing to be back in Czech surrounded by people I love so dearly and who love me back!

Here is a list of essential to-dos when in Prague for 48-hours or less:

Have a beer and some typical Bohemian food such as pickled cheese

Have a beer and some typical Bohemian food such as pickled cheese

Have some more beer ... c'mon you know you want to
Have some more beer … c’mon you know you want to

Have a coffee - preferably at Cafe Kubista which is one of my favourite places of all times...

Have a coffee – preferably at Cafe Kubista which is one of my favourite places of all times…

Get sweetly lost in the amazing streets of the Old Town

Get sweetly lost in the amazing streets of the Old Town

Fall in love with the castle, the bridge, the Small quater... or even a girl

Fall in love with the castle, the bridge, the Small quater… or even a girl

Find a park. Have a walk

Find a park. Have a walk

Lunch or dine in Cafe Louvre. You will never forget

Lunch or dine in Cafe Louvre. You will never forget

Speak your mind -Czechs love that

Speak your mind -Czechs love that

Have some fun x

Have some fun x

July – the Month of the Holy Ramadan and Happy Reunions

happy - Google SearchWhoop whoop – the day of the new Roster has come early this month and once again has brought so much joy into my life!

This July 2013 is a very special July- it is the very first Ramadan I shall ever experience living in the Arabic world. Or not -since I will actually be spending very little time hiding away from the relentless heat high up in my green apartment . My Roster has decided to be very kind to me and ease me into this Muslim tradition, that can get very long and tedious to non-Muslims or at least that’s what I have heard.

For those of you not so familiar with Islam- the month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is widely known as the month of fasting. The Muslims that observe Ramadan are to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and lots of other stuff between dawn and sunset. The way I understand it Ramadan is supposed to remind people of all the hardships of the less fortunate ones around us and reflect upon those hardships and be thankful for the blessings we have. Non-Muslims living in Dubai are not required to fast it is however expected of us to be culturally aware and respectful of the spiritual meaning of the whole thing. In other words -we shouldn’t be eating, drinking or smoking in any public areas either.

As for myself the Holy month of Ramadan is going to be a Happy month of Reunions. My heart skipped a beat or two when I saw Malta as one of the layover destinations I got. One of my bestest friends in the world lives there! Never in a million years would I have thought I was gonna see her so randomly and in less than 3 weeks! I’m also getting reunited with the intriguing Africa again – this time with the Far Far West – Ghana and the Ivory coast… and then! AND THEN! As soon as I land back from Accra I’m on my way to coolest place of them all. To the home of the best beer in the world and the only country that pickles everything there is to be pickled. To the … Oh what the heck I’m sure you already got the picture anyway- I’m going on holiday back to my roots -to Czech! For a whole of two weeks I will be (hopefully) pampered and spoiled (hint hint) by my family who have undoubtedly missed me beyond belief. I know I certainly did! 

So -my beloved Czech/currently living in Czech friends- this is your heads up! This time there will be no excuses such as “there is not enough time to see everyone” or “next time there will be more time”. No-no. This time I will make sure I see all of you and I CANNOT WAIT!

C’mon June- you have been a great month but now off with you and dear July hurry up !

x

G.