Yesterday I completed my two weeks of Safety and Emergency Procedures training, minus one test I'll sit Saturday for my Boeing 777 Aircraft Type Rating. It will be hard, but the worst of it is behind me.
Don't think I'm not having a good time! I hardly recognize my own life. Last week I was sitting in an Irish pub on a lunch break, with dear new friends Shady, Samuele, Megan, Tariq, and Nissrine. Six people - and seven nationalities. We carried passports from Egypt, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Morocco, and the U.S.A. (In an Irish pub in Dubai.)
This resembles my everyday, non-school portion of my life. Dubai attracts the adventurous, and Emirates recruits the charming, open, and friendly. (I'd like to include myself in that category ;-) The skyscraper next door to mine has a cafe/bakery, a Japanese restaurant, and a Lebanese shisha patio on the ground floor (Saj Express). You'll find me at the last one nearly every evening, taking shisha and za'tar on the sidewalk, with Nissrine, Shady, and other young and beautiful flowers.
Samuele made pasta last night, around one o'clock in the morning. One of our SEP instructors showed up, and so did a large Singaporean contingency. We played Truth or Dare... I felt 13 again. After sunrise, a few of us hit the pool on the roof, and then Shady showed me his favorite breakfast place. Tonight, there's a party with my batchmates (fellow ab initio and other same-time hires). It's sure to be a wild scene, and while I prefer last night's format for a good time, I'm going so as not to miss anything.
I hardly recognise my own life. I said that before, American-style. My hair is auburn now, not blond. I wear the uniform. Some of you are familiar with it. I wear loads of makeup, iron my clothes, and even moisturize my cuticles. I shower every day. Don't worry - it hasn't changed me. I've become very used to carrying a suitcase at all times. I know a lot of things about different kinds of aircraft. Which brings me to SEP training, which I've been putting off (for the last hour) attempting to describe.
For one week, I experienced every kind of emergency, as many as twenty times per day. Crash landings, water landings, returns to field, severe turbulence, rapid decompression, toilet fires, seat fires... Emirates has got a great simulator, and it's impossible not to feel rattled, when you're demonstrating your competency as four instructors scribble notes and then tear you apart while a large part of the fuselage is being ripped apart (or so your five senses are telling you). I think I now feel comfortable evacuating a smoke-filled aircraft with a burned engine, leading hundreds to survival at sea or in the desert.
The second week was largely paper-study. You know, there's a lot of stuff on planes. Show me an Airbus 330 or 340, or a 777-200 or -300, and I'll show you in which hatrack, doghouse, or floor or galley stowage you'll find a specified number of SRAKs, Halons, PBE's, EMKs, FAPs and FAKs, ELTs or R406s, and O2 bottles. If that doesn't make sense to you, you know how I felt two weeks ago. And if it does, you know how I feel now.
I've put out a few large fires, learned how to restrain passengers who endanger the flight, workshopped a few fatal flights, and familiarized myself with procedures concerned with hijacking or discovering explosives while in flight.
Every day, we have two or three tests. A lot of them are practical - physical work done on simulators. The shuttle bus drops me at home around midnight or later, and I do homework. When I get tired of that, I study Arabic. (Yeah, that's right - no internet at home!) When I wake up I study with two or more groups, migrating from one to the other. We're picked up for training at 3:00 pm. Sometimes I forget to eat. After training, I always unwind at Saj Express, on the patio, snaring homeward-bound 21st Centuryites when they walk past. And just as often, I'm ensnared. I don't hit the books as hard as anyone else I know, but my marks have been among the best in the class. (I'm not brilliant, but I listen well and take a lot of notes.) If I dedicated myself to the training as well as my classmates, I think I'd have kittens.
I've had a hectic three weeks, and three more to follow. And then... look for me in the sky! I can't wait. A friend-of-a-friend just graduated, and her first operating flight turned out to be Athens, with a lengthy stopover.
If you are reading this, then I probably know you and miss you a lot. Sorry I haven't been too good about keeping in touch. I'll get started on those postcards! And by the way, sorry to anybody I didn't get to say goodbye to. I'm really grateful to all the support you guys gave me when I decided to pick up and leave in a hurry.
Next week, I study basic medicine. It will be hard, but I'm quite looking forward to it. Besides that, in the next three weeks they'll give us intensive courses in Arabic, gourmet and bartending, and of course, serving meals! Chicken or fish?