Sunday, 30 August 2009

A slice of his life

I've just got back from a trip with my husband to the USA. It's the first time I've been able to go along with him since we got here. His previous airline often had him working away from base, but he generally flew short-haul so he never stayed anywhere for me to go along with him - and even if I did want to, staff travel was a nightmare!

This, however, was a completely different matter. When I fly on staff travel with this airline I realise the gulf there is between his current employer and his previous one - it's like they're from completely different worlds! First and foremost, this airline actually has a proper ID90 system with inter-airline agreements, and a route-network across the world - so we can go almost anywhere so cheaply. Amazing. Secondly, the airline takes customer service REALLY SERIOUSLY. Every passenger I've spoken to raves about his airline. Contrast this to his previous airline where we had standbys that were worthless because we could never get on, limited destinations and the passenger reviews online could make you cry. Anyhow, I digress...

The trip was fantastic. Getting on was a close run thing - there are weight restrictions on long-haul flights from here in the summer because it's so hot (over 45c most days). Luckily, though, the Captain was determined to get me on and lo and behold I was seated in Business Class! Three other staff passengers didn't get on, so I felt extremely lucky.

When I'd taken my seat on board my husband came into the cabin to check on me, and I was so proud to be seen with him. All the other passengers were peering at us, wondering how on earth I knew the pilot! I know that other pilot's wives will have had this feeling and will know exactly what I'm talking about!

When we arrived in the US I went through the normal security channels, but when I came out I discovered that all four pilots were waiting for me, bless them! They then took me to the crew shuttle and I travelled with the crew to their hotel, which was in a lovely town, right in the middle of things.

We packed a lot in while we were there. We met one of my husband's friends for dinner and then met one of my friends in town the next day, and she gave us a guided tour. It was so surreal to actually be there, but so fantastic. We were knackered and slightly sunburned after a day walking around in the sun, but it was brilliant.

That night we got a couple of hours kip before we had to head to the airport for the return flight.

This time the staff travel situation was a little easier; the man behind the desk confirmed me in economy on an exit row, and said that they might upgrade me at the gate if they had space. Pleased I was at least going to get on the flight, I sat down and waited for my husband, who was about 30 minutes behind me in the crew bus.

When he arrived he took me over with him to the crew baggage screening area, and we waited there until the crew were ready to go through security. It was at this point that I felt I should probably leave them and go through the normal passenger channel, not wanting to take advantage too much of my relationship with my husband. So, I left the crew and began to make my way through the crowds, when the airline's representative who was escorting the crew called out "you can come with us!".

So it was that I walked through the airport with four pilots and 16 perfect looking cabin crew, and was taken with them through the crew security channel ("she's with us!") and on the bus to the gate. When I reached the gate my husband boarded the aircraft while I went to see the gate agent to see if they were able to upgrade me.

They told me that it was still too early to tell, so I left my boarding pass with them and went off for a wander in the terminal. I bought a book at Borders and was just buying a bottle of water in a cafe when the gate agent came up to me and said "here is your business boarding pass"!) Bless him, he'd actually come to find me to give me my pass! It was a brilliant bit of customer service. I was so surprised and impressed.

On the flight back I was in the very front row of the aircraft, and had a seat free next to me. I managed to get quite a lot of sleep in the lovely lie-flat bed (a revolution for me in air travel! I can never normally sleep on planes!) I also managed to see my husband a couple of times when he came down from the rest area. By this point all the crew knew who I was, and I truly did feel extremely spoilt.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. It did feel totally surreal flying half-way across the world for the weekend, but it was a fantastic experience I'll never forget. I'm just itching to do it again...

Friday, 21 August 2009

Local life unveiled

This week, a root canal I'd had done earlier this year started to play up. Those of you who've had one too will know that not only are they tremendously painful, they're also tremendously expensive. And although we have good health insurance provided out here, it only covers emergency dental care, unfortunately.

So with this in mind, I set about seeing a dentist on the state healthcare system here, which is free. Despite this, it's not a very popular choice with expats here. This has nothing to do with the quality of the care provided (great dentists, excellent equipment and hygiene) but more to do with the slightly chaotic way you get appointments. For example, our local dentist will only give you an appointment if you turn up at either 7am or 3pm. Then you have to wait an hour until they open with lots of abaya-clad women (the services are segregated by sex here) and then race to the desk to get in line so that you can be allocated one of the 30 appointments they have going! Then, once you get an appointment, if might be for several hours hence - therefore you have to go home and come back again. Joy!

Anyhow, I managed to achieve all of this (always an experience), and make a new friend in the process. One of the loveliest things about exploring the state system here is the opportunity to meet local women, something you don't generally get to do in normal everyday life here. It's not that we don't see them about, of course we do, but we just don't get to talk to them usually. There's a huge social divide betwen expats and locals here, sadly.

So, I was standing in the queue for the dentist reading a book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson. All of a sudden a girl standing next to me, who had her face uncovered (usually a sign of an unmarried woman) said "Is that a novel? Wow. Tell me what it's about". So I tried to explain the plot of this complex, violent novel without making it sound like it was either! Tricky, to say the least.

It turned out she was 17, and about to leave school and head to university to train as a doctor. She told me she needed to pass a proficiency test for English before she could start her training, and wanted to chat to me. She asked if I was married, and I showed her the wedding picture I carry around in my wallet, to which she replied "SO cute! Oh, take that away or I'll steal him!" Not what you expect to hear from a local girl here, but so wonderful to hear her sound so normal. I'm not sure what I expected, but I suppose it wasn't that.

I asked her if she had read many English books. It turned out she was a big Harry Potter fan. She asked me if I thought Daniel Radcliffe was attractive. I said I thought he was too thin - and she said "Do you think he would look better if he was fat?!! You're crazy!!" Lost in translation, I think...

Then rather unexpectedly she said "Why is it that men are always in charge in the world? It's not fair". I explained with some pride that the UK had a female monarch, and she looked pleased. Since we were in public we didn't go any further into her views on this, but I can guess what they are.

Then, just before I got called for the dentist, she asked for my phone number. She said she wanted to learn to speak "just like me". I said sure, no problem, and offered to meet her for coffee to teach her some more English. She then looked sad and said she couldn't do that, because of her culture. I understand of course (I expect her father might not be happy with her meeting a western woman in public) but I did find it very sad. Still, perhaps I'll be getting a call from her one of these days.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Fast-track friendships

One of the biggest problems with moving your life half-way across the world is that you can't bring your friends with you. Of course, the internet is brilliant for keeping in touch, but sadly Skype contacts can't take you out to a bar or sunbathe next to you by the pool, much as they'd like to.

Very soon after I arrived I realised I was going to have to do something I've never had to do before; begin building friendships up from scratch in double-quick time. Previously, my friendship circle has grown organically through work etc, with no pressure and long periods of time to get to know each other. Out here, that's not really an option. The problem is made worse by my husband being away so much, and me not working - the pressure to find a human being to talk to when he was away became pretty intense.

Luckily, expats are generally a very friendly lot. All the women I've met out here understand completely what it feels like to be alone in a strange country, and have been very welcoming. Some in particular have been just brilliant; they are fast becoming great friends. Last week, for example, I was ill and needed to go to the doctor, and my husband was away. So I called one of my friends, who'd just finished work, and without me asking she said "shall I come and pick you up?!" Then she looked after me all evening, gawd bless her.

On the other hand, it is I suppose just like Fresher's week at University, in that you get to know a lot of people quickly, some of whom you spend the next few years trying to avoid! Inevitably, you can't get on with everyone. You sometimes agree to meet someone for coffee and gradually realise that that friendship "chemistry" isn't there. I think it's a bit like speed-dating! After one of these "dates" you might find yourself wondering why so-and-so hasn't texted or asked you out again - but there you go, that's life. We can't be best friends with everyone, can we? It would ruin the joy of friendship if we were great mates with everyone!

In general, though, I feel very blessed out here. I now have several close friends who I have a brilliant time with, and I know would look after me in a crisis (very important to know, given my husband is away a lot!)

Naturally nothing will ever replace my friends at home, who I love dearly and miss very much. This new expat life is just a way of adding to my friendship circle, not replacing it. And for that, I feel very blessed.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Clomid side-effects

Honestly, I hate Clomid. I mean, I love what it is capable of doing, but blimey, it makes me NUTS. Here's what it does:

1) Day 2 of the tablets I wake up feeling like I have a cold, all congested and nasty. I wouldn't normally think this was a side-effect, except it's happened all 3 times!
2) Day 3 The hot flashes start - wonderful! Oh, and my stomach blows up like a balloon. I also have problems sleeping.
3)Day 3 into 4 and 5 - I start to get a nasty headache that just won't go away - oh, and I become massively insecure, emotional and short-tempered. In fact, I don't recognise myself...

Sigh. I've now finished the course, but will probably have these side effects for at least another week. Am praying it's worth it.

Sunday, 2 August 2009


Today has been a good day so far, despite a crappy night's sleep (thanks, Clomid!) I've just got back from an appointment with my consultant, and she said that my tests confirm I DEFINITELY ovulated last cycle! It feels amazing to know that my body seems to be working at least a little bit.

She also laid out the plans from now on - if we don't get pregnant this cycle I will have to have a test to check whether my fallopian tubes are blocked, and then if that's ok, we'll move on to IUI (inter-uterine insemination). A lot to think about, and I'm not looking forward to the test, as I hear this can be painful.

The other slightly good news today is that apparently my police clearance to work should be ready in 4 days! Then I think I just have another piece of paper to get (they love bureaucracy here) and I can be a working woman again! Hallelujah!



Relationship Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory