Archive | November, 2012

Fly by Night. . . and Day

27 Nov

At about 9:00pm I head on over to the airport. As is the norm, the hotel has arranged a complimentary car for me. The airport is very well-organized and I have no trouble finding my way around. I check-in for my flight without anyone even suggesting that I should check my completely allowable carry-on (oh, I’m not bitter). I have quite a bit of time before my flight so I wander through the shops.

I look for a Duty Free store to price some alcohol before realizing, well duh. I might as well be searching for a pork chop. I’ve already picked up some Turkish Delight and Apple Tea while at the mall. These are Turkish Delightthings I used to enjoy when I worked in Turkey. Actually, I only enjoyed the Apple Tea. I never acquired a tasted for Turkish Delight. To me, it tastes similar to the only other candy in this world that I dislike, Candy Corn. Dislike is too mild of a word. I truly hate the stuff (and can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s called corn). Anyway, the Turkish Delight is for friends, as I’m hoping they enjoy it more than me. It turns out they don’t and, when we look at the ingredients, we like it even less (what the hell is soapwood and why, of why, would it be in candy?).

For lack of anything else to do I wander over to my gate. Going through security I note the subtle differences between U.S. airport security and Kuwaiti security (and German as a matter of fact). In the U.S. you take off your shoes and leave your iPad and Kindle in your bag. In Kuwait and Germany your shoes stay on but the iPad and Kindle come out. Strange.

As I continue my people watching I note that there seem to be very few women traveling on their own. I am not judging at all, just noticing. In Kuwait (as well as many European airports) you wait outside in the main hallway until about 45 minutes before your flight when you are allowed to enter the boarding area. I strike up a nice conversation with the flight crew who think my 49 hours in Kuwait is ridiculous. Yeh, that’s right, I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home (uh, I guess that would be impossible).

Before long we board our flight to Frankfurt. I have a window seat with the two seats next to me vacant. Yes, my plan has worked. I reserved this seat online noting that, at least at that moment, those seats were not assigned. Yes, seat strategy is my specialty. I catch a little nap and awake 45 minutes before landing in Frankfurt.

I grab an incredible breakfast of fruit and yogurt (why does breakfast in Europe always Breakfasttaste so good?) and take a look around the duty-free store. I really want to by that bottle of fine Scotch but I’ve come carry-on and the U.S. airports will not appreciate my excess liquid (I consider whether I might be able to drink it before arriving in the U.S. but that would be a terrible waste of perfectly good scotch).

I head on over to my gate and board my flight. As I walk back to my seat I look ahead and see what appears to be a family taking up all of the seats in my assigned row. When I approach to claim my seat the man stands and says that the airline has seated him separate from his family and he would like my seat. Okay, here’s the deal – I try really hard to be a nice person. I really do. I tell him I would be happy to switch seats with him if one of his assigned seats includes a window (I’m a leaner and sleeper and, with 15 more hours of flying ahead of me, I have my Ambien at the ready). He looks at me and, quite rudely says, “Of course I do!” Then he turns his back on me. Hhhmmmmm, not sure what to make of this. With great attitude I sneer at him and respond, “Hey, I’m trying to help you.” Sorry sir, you have been voted out of my seat. I give him my best flared nostril, evil eye look, take my seat and start to nest. His wife and son remain seated in the middle and aisle seats. He remains standing for a while seemingly undecided about what to do next. He eventually takes his seat in a middle seat in the middle section (seriously, this is the seat he wanted to trade me for? I’m nice, just not that nice).

Kids on AirplanesThe rest of the flight is – how shall I put it – HELL! It’s like his 3-year-old son works as a hit man for his father and decided that I will pay for the injustice I delivered upon his father. Each time I get near a peaceful sleep the kid throws pretzels and matchbox cars at me. He then proceeds to kick me or simply puts his hand on my shoulder, enough to imply, “Hey lady, wake up.” At one point he is laying with his head across his mother’s lap and his feet across my lap. Fully stretched out. Please understand that I work with children and understand the difficulty of traveling with them. I am very understanding as long as I see or hear the parent making an effort to teach them good behavior. There was no effort. And oh, mom doesn’t speak English. There was no apparent effort in any language.

At some point I notice a smell that I often smell in the nursery at work. Ah, the unmistakable smell of poop. I wait for the smell to waft on over to mom. She must have an idea this would be coming as we’ve been on the plane for 5 hours and she has not checked him once. I wiggle my nose and sniff, hoping she’ll take the hint. Nothing. Are you kidding me? After a good half hour I speak up and, through sign language, I tell her she might want to check his diaper. She checks and, what do you know, Poop Central! At this point I wait for her to ask me to take him and change him as she has seemingly done nothing to take care of him the entire flight.

Eventually (and it’s a long eventually) we land in Houston. I go to take a sip of my bottled water which, due to the change in air pressure, promptly explodes in my face (again, don’t try this at home. I am a professional traveler). I never thought I’d be happy to be in Houston (sorry Texas, I’m not a Houston fan). Dad thanks me for my understanding during the flight. Uh, sorry? I believe I was trapped on an airplane and had no choice. I deplane and grab some good old American barbecue. One more flight and it’s home to my presumably dead battery and potentially flooded kitchen.

I board the plane and take my aisle seat (couldn’t snag a window for this one but, after 26 hours of travel I’ll survive 2 hours in an aisle seat). I stow my bags and before long the lady sitting at the window seat is approached by the man whose seat it really is (yup, she tried the whole seat stealing thing like the guy on the last flight). She moves over to the middle seat next to me and places one bag under the seat in front of her and puts her other (very large) bag next to that in front of her feet. This is not a purse, but a full size carry-on. I take note hoping she’ll be moving this. That’s when I notice something strange. This woman is drunk, on drugs, crazy or all three. She is talking loudly to everybody about completely random stuff. She takes out a rubber band and begins to play, what looks like a game with it. She is not simply playing with the rubber band, but seems to be putting a lot of thought into it.

Excess Baggage

Sure this will fit under the seat

As the flight attendant announces that we are ready for take-off, crazy lady makes no effort to move her bag. Being someone who travels for a living, this kind of thing bugs me. For God’s sake people, stop acting like rebellious teenagers and turn off your electronics, put your seat-backs in an upright position, store your tray table and your luggage! I politely ask her to put her bag in the overhead compartment. Her response, “Don’t mess with me!” Crap! Crazy lady, party of one! She continues, “What’s it to you?” “Nothing,” I respond, “but it may be to the man sitting in the window seat should there be an emergency and he can’t get out.” Luckily, the flight attendant passes by, overhears the conversation and insists the lady put her bag in the  overhead. Yeh, Fly Girl has my back. After 26 hours traveling I am in no mood and I turn to the lady and say simply, “Don’t mess with me.”

Two hours later I arrive in Phoenix happy to be there. Even better, I get to my car and, lo and behold, I did shut off that stupid light and my car starts up fine. Yay!!!

After sending out thank you E-mails to all who spent time with me this trip I receive word from the Operations Manager that I was apparently too impressive. The company feels that the job in question may be below my current level. He mentions that the VP of Leisure and Entertainment would like to know if I might be interested in their Moscow location which is due to open next year. My response is a resounding, “Da!” So, I will head on back to my ship soon and wait to discuss Russia. They have vodka there!!! Just saying. . .

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Interviews, Presentations and Tours – Oh My!

11 Nov

Today I wake up ready for a day of more interviews, a presentation and a city tour. Due to various changes in schedules of the people I’m supposed to meet with, the timing for today has changed and my driver is due to pick me up a half-hour later than originally scheduled (I hope it’s Abu!). I get dressed (more daring today in a red top), grab my iPad and head down to the amazing, international breakfast buffet. Eggs, fish, pastries and a bunch of stuff that, although they have cards identifying them, I still have no idea what they are. Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, I go for the mystery foods. I ignore my iPad and pick-up a copy of the Kuwait Times. After a few minutes I look up from the newspaper at the twenty-three other people in the dining room and take note that I am the only woman in  there. It’s clearly a business hotel and, working on cruise ships, I’m accustomed to being the only woman in a meeting. Still, it’s funny how I still notice this. I wonder if men notice these things.

I’m enjoying a relaxing breakfast when the Dining Room Manager approaches me and tells me my car is waiting downstairs for me. What? Uh, perhaps he didn’t get the memo about the time change. And then

Chauffeur

Not Abu

paranoia sets in and I think, perhaps I got the time wrong. Crap. I ask the Manager to let my driver know that I will be downstairs in ten minutes. Acting very calm with a Madonna like ‘they will have to wait for me’ attitude, I high-tail it to my room to collect my bag and thumb drive with my presentation on it. On the way up to my room I am secretly excited (and a little troubled) that the powers that be seem to know where I am even when I’m not in my hotel room. I grab my stuff, touch-up my lipstick and am off

In the lobby I see a familiar face – it’s Abu! He seems to know he’s early. We make pleasant conversation on the twenty-minute ride to the office. He asks me about my mall experience (seriously, the mall is where it all happens) and we say goodbye as I won’t be seeing him again. As I’ve arrived early and my contact isn’t available yet, I walk over to Starbucks – yes, the one on the grounds of the office complex. Ten minutes later I’m back in the waiting room drinking my latte and watching the eclectic mix of people applying for jobs, waiting for meetings or, perhaps waiting for passengers to drive around (Abu would never cheat on me). Before long Cheryl, my contact, steps out the magic door to call me in.

We head over to Sam’s office and run into him on the way. Cheryl hands me off to him and he and I change directions to join Laurent in another meeting room. Laurent is a good-looking Frenchman (I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever met an ugly Frenchman. What is it with that accent?) who is part of the creative team I would be working with. So here in this meeting room in Kuwait sits an Englishman, a Frenchman and an American woman. Suddenly my life seems nearly as glamorous as everybody thinks it is.

Cell Phone ReceptionThis is the meeting in which I am supposed to give the presentation which I had prepared for my Skype  call with Sam a couple of months earlier. As I was still on the ship at the time, and the very expensive internet had typically, gone down, I ended up holding my iPhone up to my porthole in order to use that to tether enough for an internet connection. In the end we had no video but, as I had e-mailed my Power Point presentation, we talked it through. It felt very similar to the 1970’s when you put one hand on the rabbit-ear antennae while standing on one foot and holding up the other hand with a finger pointed to the sky in order to watch a Saturday morning cartoon.

First Sam and Laurent do a presentation for me, which I find incredibly interesting and gets me very excited about the job as it is the perfect combination of business and creativity. Kind of quirky, not unlike myself. Next, I begin my presentation. Within five minutes, I see Cheryl lurking about outside. It turns out that the person who is supposed to do my city tour wasn’t contacted about today’s change in schedule and is, not so patiently, waiting in the lobby. Sam and Laurent let me know that, as they’ve already seen the presentation I had sent, we can conclude this part of the day and I head off to meet my tour guide.

In the lobby of the office complex I meet Karen. I apologize for my tardiness (truly not my fault) and we head off to discover Kuwait City. Karen is from Scotland and is married to the head of one of the divisions of franchises within the company I am interviewing with. Our first stop is an apartment building. If I’m going to live here it’s nice to know what my home life might be like. The newly built apartment is lovely. Very similar to a higher-end apartment in America yet almost all apartments here include housekeeping. Unlike an apartment in Phoenix, this one will run 525 Dinar per month which comes out to about $1800 per month (yup, I’m definitely going to need more money). Karen and I get back into the car and she offers to take me to the grocery store (women understand). The grocery store is impressive. The fresh fish look amazing, the fruits are colorful (although some are unidentifiable) and they seem to have everything Wine that you could possibly need. Everything, that is, unless you need a drink. Yup, alcohol is illegal here (uh, I need a drink). Oh, and pork. There’s also no pork in this country (I’m guessing cooking a meal of pork with wine sauce or beer and bratwurst could get me thrown in jail). Another different part of grocery shopping is that you don’t carry your own bags out. You pull your car up to the entrance and there is someone to load it into your trunk. A girl could get spoiled here.

Next we head to Salmiya, the area of Kuwait where Karen lives and, if I move here, I would want to also. It’s a nice residential area with shopping areas and the ocean close by. I ask if the beaches are public and Karen tells me that they are but, if I were to use a public beach, I must wear clothing that covers my knees and shoulders (hhhmmm, I guess that might save on the sunscreen). We stop at the Beach Club. As the majority of Kuwaiti residents are expats, these are the places where you can find most of them. Here you’ll find a gym (yay, yoga classes!), a spa, tennis, squash, five outdoor pools, one indoor pool, water sports and a beach. Here you can wear a bathing suit that won’t cause you to be sucked down by the weight of ten pounds of clothing. This is a must have if you’re a westerner living in Kuwait and all for the budget price of 650 Dinar, about US $2300 (really, I’m going to need more money). They offer family rates and, if you’re a family or a married couple, you get free access to the club for one nanny! And you can get you second nanny in for only 125 Dinar (seriously, who has two nannies?).

After a lovely lunch where Karen keeps running into people she knows (this feels a lot like New York) we head back to the hotel. I thank Karen for a great afternoon and head up to my room to pack the few belongings I have with me (yet I still manage to forget my toiletry bag) and lay down for a nap. I enjoy a quiet dinner in the hotel dining room ($50 without any wine. Really?), go down to meet my car for my midnight flight.

Next, join me as I Fly By Night . . . and Day on the long journey home and hear the decision. . .

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