me, tasting life.

Leaving the office to travel for a while. To taste my life and for me to get a better idea of what it is that ticks my boxes.

The Storm in Frankfurt.

Overhead a flock of birds track along a flyway, headed south.

The icy northern winds help, pushing them onwards towards more food.

The dark grey and black cumulonimbus blankets move on too.

As if burdened with guilt, they create an oppressive feeling for those below.

 

Tiny tears make their journey to the landscape below.

Individually they fall, collectively a flood of emotion cascades downwards.

Naked deciduous trees with thin, intricate outstretched limbs try to catch them.

The overbearing, forceful emotions are too great. Trees limbs are dismembered.

 

The same fate lies ahead in the distance for the unbeknown.

A soul predicts this, shrieking a cry of desperation

that is silenced as the storm destroys it,

Unforgivingly like it has its predecessors.

 

In the sky static energy synthesises lightning, electrocuting the atmosphere.

The blankets of clouds unite, forming this unstoppable dictatorship.

They rub together, creating more static and more lightning.

Like a superforce they create more weaponary.

 

Cities die in the destruction.

Ear splitting prayers pierce the soul of God.

Houses that once offered sanctuary are obliterated.

Glass shatters, sending splintered fragments to shred those not protected.

 

Streets flood powerlessly as the fight to survive intensifies.

The guilt of the dictator infects the body of the individual.

Who pitifully weeps with self-loathing.

At a point, silence.

 

Then teams unite, fighting back.

Lost energy is repossessed and harnessed for the betterment.

An epic battle begins and those below use a central force

To prosecute.

 

The tears cease.

White street lights flicker, igniting hope.

A euphoric feeling escapes from below and

The birds push forward as a joint entity toward the next day. 

The Storm dies and the Sun shines.

Lying on my bed and sinking

Into my self,

Feeling my heart beat and

My lungs fill with air.

 

The time that has passed,

The experiences I have

Tasted.

And the memories that I have made.

 

The knowledge that:

Everything will be ok.

That time will bless and

Things will move on & I will dance a new dance.

 

The assurance that:

What has happened has brought me here

And the belief:

That bright cosmic stars guide me forward.

 

Its like when you’re at:

A point that seems too hard.

A place where you have become:

Overwhelmed in the current moment.

 

In a storm that doesn’t end.

When the wind whips deathly and unforgiving

Strength &:

Seemingly bitter, void pain.

 

It’s dark.

It’s lonely.

It’s cold.

And I’m tired, hungry and thirsty. Lost.

 

Then the storm dies.

The wind stops.

The clouds part and:

The sun shines.

 

Perspective presents a difference.

And internally a flower of hope grows.

Within my heart, wetting my soul.

With this passion, this unstoppable energy.

 

I open the door to life

That I had previously closed.

And you are there for me,

Waiting, smiling.

 

Level 4.

Before I left the building I live in last night to bid farewell to what has been a truly spectacular year, I shared a quick conversation with the girl standing opposite me. She had come from level 53, the highest level in the building we share, from which I live on level 4.

“You must have a lovely view,” I complemented her.

“I hate lifts,” she replied. “If you want, lets swap rooms,” she joked as she carefully finished applying her New Years Eve eye shadow.

The lift reached ground floor and we parted ways, wishing the best for each other for the year to come, both exuberating youthful optimism about what lies ahead. A couple quickly entered and I left the building, eagerly making my way to my friends house a few blocks away in the city I have learned to love over the past year.

Two people, two different apartments in the same building and two different lives. One of the best lessons I have learned this year is that it is naïve to compare ourselves to other people, wishing what they have, not being satisfied with our own blessings. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting the girl in the lift was dissatisfied with what she has, it’s not the point I’m trying to make. The point I’m trying to make is that as individuals it is easy to look over our shoulders at the person standing next to us, wishing we have what they have, failing to realize we know nothing about what their lives entail.

In my life I only know what I have done, what sacrifices I have made and what efforts I have made to afford me the things I have. I have memories that shape my experiences, I have a set of morals that ground my set of principles and determine my actions and I have health that permits my lifestyle. I have a job that blesses me with income and allows me to travel extensively as part of that work yet there are things that I too miss as part of my the decisions I have acted upon at this point in my life.

In the year just gone perspective has blessed with the realization that things happen at times in our lives when we most need those lessons. At certain times we become complacent and need to take risks to change what we have to better ourselves. At other times we need to take a step back to acknowledge to ourselves what we have achieved. The important lesson I need to remind myself is that at these times it makes no sense to compare my life to another persons, not understanding that person’s life and only knowing what is happening in mine.

Moving forward I should focus on myself and the goals that I have made for me. Comparing ourselves to each other is natural & something that is hard not to do. Competition promotes growth and encourages us to be the best we can but it is important that we strive to be the best version of ourselves for our own needs and for the people we love. In the year to come I have set many goals for myself, one of which is to centre my energy on my own doings. I promise not to look over my shoulder, wishing I had what another person has, not knowing what sacrifices they have made to get those things I want. When the timing is right I will get those things too & at that time I will be better able to appreciate the fruits of my own successes.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza & Gelato: gluttony, best served twice.

I had two goals in Milano & they both related to food: gelato & pizza. I had considered adding coffee to the list though in Vienna six months ago I tasted what was perhaps the best in my life. To try and top that would have been unrealistic, even for the Italians. As it is pizza and gelato are perhaps two staple foods for the well fed. Forget red wine and dark chocolate. You can eat pizza a day later in the fridge, severely hungover, knowing its probably going to taste better than it did when it was warm. Red wine will send you back to the toilet bowl the morning after & chocolate will drive you to the treadmill.

To get these two little efforts achieved I think Ill have pizza for the first night & back it up the morning after with gelato for breakfast. It’ll be like my own little sexed up evening in Milan with home cooked pizza and the morning after a frozen method of contraception in a small cup, eaten from a spoon & melting in my mouth. When I’m in Italy I can’t help but relate food to sex. I don’t where the correlation lies but I’m feeling it, somehow. Sex is on my mind & so is food. Two treats in my life. Kurt, focus on your writing.

 

Pizza:

I have just got my jacket on and have hit the pavement, striding purposefully to the pizza shop down the road from the hotel I’m staying in. The cool night kisses my warm face with sweet Italian passion. I feel so much sexier here than I do in Dubai. I feel classy as I wear my Boss skivvy, perfect for the winters night. I feel like the cool kid at school that everyone wanted to be mates with in fifth grade. I’m in Italia: finally! And in a few short street blocks I’ll have an Italian in my mouth.

The door swings open & I get a menu, sitting on a chair that appears to be older than my great grandfather. It’s wooden legs creak & find their place in the floor, promising not to give in. The faded crème Brule colored walls and the dim amber lights hanging overhead create an ambience that moves me to eat. I sink into the furniture, not being noticed by the local patrons. It’s like I have just walked into this intimate place were mafia men discuss mafia men things in darky and heavy leather jackets with furred necklines and their nonas cook them their favorite childhood dishes. Italy has just become a favorite place to visit & this is Milan, imagine Rome, Venice or the Amalfi Coast.

Soon enough my pizza comes out. I have opted for a simple Margherita: a basic crowd pleaser. I cut the thin slice and while I do, the waft of the pizza enters me. I began to get wet, salivating at what culinary orgasm I’m about to bite into. It’s fleshy, aromatic, sweet & well made. The dough breaks easily, folding with my hands and the cheese stretches from the slice to my open mouth as if it’s teasing me. It’s very sexual. Cherry bombs explode in my mouth and I savor this home cooked Italian masterpiece as I struggle to control myself. It’s very intimate and I notice in the mirror that I am sweating. I am about to come: my mouth has never experienced this food sensation before. I reach a climax with the cherry tomatoes, the thin base, the cheese, herbs and myself. I pay the bill, leaving the mafia men, blushing at what I have just experienced.

The second of my goals will come tomorrow morning: gelato for breakfast, the prefect way to begin the day.

Gelato:

It’s the morning after. The pizza was perhaps the best I have eaten. It was like rough, raw sex with passion that was slow and then fast, hard and then soft. It was as if I had been thrown across the bed and fought for more, eating all eight slices with ease. Now I need contraception: I’m not about to have a bastard child to an Italian. As fanciful as that could be me, it’s not my style.

Feeling sexed up and ready for seconds, I prepare myself for another culinary delight as I ride in the metro to the city centre of Milan. In the distance I see a huge palace and in the forefront I see a shop that sells my second goal. The palace can wait. Like last night I need to prepare myself for this. Two Italians in two days is a lot to take. I’m going to need an escape plan for this, failing that I’m going to have to pace myself. This method of contraception is going to be perhaps as hard as night before. “Ok,” I remind myself, “focus on your breathing and enjoy it while it lasts.”

I try different flavors: lemon, chocolate, coffee, pineapple, cream ‘something’ and after much deliberation settle on a mix. Ill take lemon and strawberry I tell the shop assistant as my knees go weak. He hands me the cup and its game on. “Oh God,” I think, not entirely sure if I am ready for this. Look, lets be honest. I have been waiting 26 years for this moment. Italian Gelato! Hello… This is not an ordinary day. My knees are buckling so I put one hand on my left leg for support. The guy that has just served me notices. He probably sees this often. My face flushes red and I take my first and second and third spoon. Worlds fail to encapsulate what I am experiencing.

This creamy substance wets my tongue, very coldly. But it’s lovely and I can’t settle for three spoons. Inside my stomach this schoolgirl is doing back flips and cartwheels in a short skirt & I have just fallen in love with Italia again for the second time in two days. Does that make me easy? The pizza from last night and now Gelato. God, Imagine if I did have their chocolate and red wine. I would be a mess. I continue with the cup that is almost empty. My lips cherish this Italian love I am experiencing. My eyes are wide shut as I have a moment in silence. I smile, in love and permit the Gelato to melt in my mouth: I underestimated how prolific this moment would be. Hastily I finish the last few spoons, pay and leave feeling a little bit naughty. Gluttony is a dish best served twice I say.

Italia: you equaled the other parts of Europe through my stomach. From one food lover to another, visit the country and taste it for yourself. Bring some tissues to clean your mouth and be prepared to leave your partner.

 

 

 

 

The Three Knights of Malta.

Located a stones throw from southern Italy, Malta is one of the worlds smallest states with a population less than 400,000 (Wikipedia.org, 2011). Comprising of two islands, a smaller southern one and a larger northern one, the two predominant languages spoken include Maltese & English (again, Wikipedia.org, 2011). The island has a rich history, dating back 5200BC and over the centuries has been inhabited by and influenced by many different social structures in addition to the original Maltese inhabitants including the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs & the English.

Most notably in the countries aged history, the Knights of Malta, led by Frenchman Jean Parisot de la Valette, withstood a siege by the Ottomans in 1565, signaling to area their strength and resilience as an island state: a noteworthy feat from an island population, subject to invasion from grander scale. After the siege the country increased its fortification & built the current capital, Valetta, in honor of Valette.

Now admittedly, I didn’t know exactly where this little gem was before I flew there. My best mate Vlad had warned me that it is one place I would need to make sure my Cannon was ready to go as there are countless photo opportunities. Another mate, Darren who is Maltese had named a few places I should go to visit during my sadly short stop there.

 

The Flight.

With both pieces of advice in mind and still a splash of ignorance about the place I was to visit, with a sense of adventure I left my home a few days ago, eager to explore this little island nation I heard about. On this particular flight I was touched with perhaps one of the most blessed things I have witnessed all year. Sitting directly in front of me were two separate families, both of whom had adopted two Cambodian children & were taking them to their new homes.

Throughout the duration of the flight I made a conscious effort not to disrupt the new mothers, both drunk in love with their new sons. From a distance you could see this aura cascading from the women to the delicate, sweet babies they had just taken in as their own. Fathers sitting at their side, it was impossible to ignore the complete love that both families had adopted along with their children.  On descent, looking at the women, their babies, their new fathers and feeling the awe that transcribed between the entities, a few tears silently washed my emotionally charged cheeks as I too wished that would be me at some point.

 

The Evening.

Cut a few hours later and I find myself walking through the claustrophobic streets of San Giljan, one of the hilly cities of Malta to the ocean, close to the hotel we are staying at. Like Vlad predicted, I am taking more photos than a Japanese tourist on a three day holiday to Cairns. It’s hectic. I’m drowning in history, feeling myself becoming lost in those amber lit streets where Maltese Knights may have once walked. At some point I stop to take it all in and my first Maltese Knight approaches.

She is at least 70 years old, short, brown, wears this thick Maltese accent that compliments her brown cardigan and invites me for a coffee in her house, hidden in one of those backstreets. As if I’m going to say no. So I leave the poorly lit street and continue my history lesson with a local, well educated in the anecdotes that the streets have told her. At some point she senses that I am hungry & I ask where I should go for dinner, specifically to eat rabbit. “Mucc,” she answers, “they have wonderful rabbit with this sweet garlic & wine sauce.” Instantly my mouth salivates.

I thank my first Knight and head toward this restaurant she has just described as my stomach has begun to digest itself. Thirty minutes later and I find myself within the homely confines of the restaurant described to me earlier. This is where I meet my second Maltese Knight. Walking down the steep staircase to the restaurant from the street above, a man standing behind an empty bar greets me in Maltese. Embarrassingly I reply in English and the language changes.

Having waited outside for fifteen minutes for the place to open, I place my order efficiently, not wasting anymore time, keen to stop my stomach from grumbling. Over the course of the next two hours the Knight and I talk, discussing our lives, his country, my work. We talk about the state of the economy in Europe and Malta and then Australia. I change the topic. So we start talking about Malta again and he offers me a free glass of wine. I smile, like I did in Hamburg and savor the taste of my pioneering year into the depths of myself and the discovery of Kurt.

I finish my tantalizing rabbit, pay the bill and leave, satisfied with the meal I have just eaten. To those who haven’t tried it, do. Whilst the meat is tough, it’s extremely sweet. I would liken it to chicken, only it feels healthier: like the feeling you get when you drink pomegranate juice, like you have just done your body a favor. After dinner I head back to the hotel to snooze for a while and pass my colleagues on the way. Realizing that they don’t know where to go, I suggest the restaurant I have come from, understanding that it’s winter and the owner would appreciate a few more people to cook for and entertain on the lonely winter’s night.

 

The Night & The Day After.

 After a short and much needed sleep I walk back through the streets, navigating my way to a good night and a chance to meet a few more locals. At this point I meet my third Maltese Knight. Under Darren’s guidance I find Hugos, one of the in places to go in the clubbing precinct. The place is three levels and looks like it’s the place to be. The music is commercial and Western, the crowd is young, good looking and fun and the alcohol is very cheap: all these independent factors amount to it being a great night.

 As I stand alone at the bar enjoying my drink a Maltese guy approaches with a girl, aware that I am alone. “Hi, I’m George and this is Denise,” he confidently introduces. “Hey, I’m Kurt,” I coyly reply, distracted by his beautiful, long eyelashes. The ladies at Maybelline New York would be incessantly jealous. Somewhere inside me my inner school girl does a back flip as this guy starts to flirt with me as I playfully flirt back, understanding that this is as far as it will go. I have another person to consider in another city and this year I have learned the painful way about how these things work if you aren’t honest.

 George and Denise are wonderful and make a genuine effort to make me feel welcome. It’s lovely to meet them. As the night passes on I tell them that I would love to see more of the island tomorrow morning before I leave the following afternoon. Listening intently, George offers to drive me around. Like my first Knight’s offer, it would be stupid & rude for that matter not to accept. With that in mind, the night comes to an end earlier than I had planned as I excitedly walk back to the hotel ahead of the following day’s adventures.

With only a slight hangover I accept my alarm clocks invitation to wake up, ignoring gym for the day. Showering quickly, glad that I bought my trainers and casual walking clothes, looking like the tourist, I get my camera, message the third Knight and brush my teeth as I walk out the front door. Foolishly I skip breaky, budgeting to eat somewhere out under that glorious blue Maltese sky that I have been admiring from my bed. Soon enough George arrives at the hotel lobby and day two begins.

We go to Mdina first to walk through the historic fortified city, painted on the hill in the middle of the tiny island nation. It’s breathtaking beauty tricks me into me believing I have just stepped back 500 years in a time machine. The town is built around this massive, central Church that stands at top the hill. Around it lie these intricately woven interconnected houses and shops, all sandstone multistoried buildings with colorful green, red and blue Mediterranean style window and door shutters. Even more so than San Giljan, the paths that map out Mdina are thin. Thin enough in fact that a car could not travel those streets, built hundreds of years ago when horse and cart or foot where the way to travel.

We leave Mdina and drive on through the rural countryside. As the winding roads takes us from north to south, George explains how the country differs in only an hours drive. He outlines that the Northerners perceive themselves to be more educated and of a greater social structure, being able to speak English as well as Maltese whereas the Southerners are thought to be less educated, harder,  rurally ingrained people. The winding road continues, we pass the native prickly pear trees and the rubble roads and I continue to click my Cannon.

Next we head to on to Furjana, Msida and Sliema where the third Knight of my adventure explains that we are now in the main shopping area. I see Moschino, Gucci & Prada and agree. Quickly we dart through the streets, pick up Denise, drop her off at work and head back to my hotel, knowing that I will have to leave this little darling of an island nation & my three Knights in the back of my fond memory bank. Soon enough I get back to the hotel, shower, shave and change. I go downstairs to check out of the hotel, meet my colleagues for the flight back to my home and joke with one particular first class lovely lady, explaining to her about how I have just had perhaps my best layover yet.

Like all good trips, the people of Malta have touched another part of my soul. The newly adoptive families, the three Knights and the greater feel of the island nation that hides innocently and beautifully south of Italia. Again I have had a wonderful layover.

The Undeniable Feeling I Yearn For.

Love.

 

The undeniable feeling that makes me

Want to reach out and touch your hand.

Feel your touch & only

Your soul.

 

The feeling of ecstasy

That runs through my body

Like an illicit drug,

But better. So much better.

 

The feeling of being scared.

Of wanting to reach out

And connect with you

When I have been hurt before.

 

The feeling that lives in the fresh,

Cool winters nights.

In the darkness of eternity that breathes silently.

Below the blanket of stars that we share.

 

The feeling when my palms sweat, nervously.

When my body aches for you.

When my heart skips a beat.

And another.

 

The feeling when my heart and soul

Tell me to wait.

When they beat together

In a dance that is natural.

 

The feeling that makes

Me want to overcome the differences

We share to

Be one.

 

The feeling that is undeniable.

The feeling is pure.

The feeling is something that I cannot ignore.

The feeling is sweet, cherished love.

 

Black hair & black briefcases.

Never having had a real interest to visit China, prior to flying there I didn’t have any predisposed ideas of Shanghai as a city. Whilst most places elicit some sort of emotion in me, some feel in my developing self, I wasn’t able to encapsulate that arousal from the idea of going to China.

The flight was long and the passengers were largely demanding. I think it was a cultural thing. On most flights where passengers demand service, most but not all, use manners to match their needs. I found that the Chinese did not. If they wanted noodles they would tell you “noodles, noodles” as many times as it took for you to serve them. Yet they wouldn’t ask, they would tell you.

On the way over a Westerner living in Shanghai explained that for the Chinaman, life is tough, competition is fierce and time is money. He explained that in that sort of environment, it’s less likely that you will observe the same manners you would from other parts of the world. He went further to highlight the Chinese are more guarded and reserved people and, moreover, harder to read. The longer the flight went on, the more I picked up on this explanation about the way the passenger demanded, not asked, for things.

After settling into hotel after the tiring ten hour flight, the more obvious manners of the rest of the world a few time zones back, it became clearer to me what this man meant. Deciding to get out of the hotel in the land where no facebook exists, camera in hand, I was keen to do a bit of sightseeing in the city that hadn’t sparked any real pazzaz in me.

Walking through crowded streets of black hair and black briefcases, all running this way and that, remembering the words of the passenger it became very apparent just how busy these people and how, unlike the country I come from, life is very competitive. It was as if the people in the streets barked at each other in some competitive language, foreign to me. Seldom people would smile at each other under the grey, cumbersome early afternoon sky of Shanghai.

Leaving the city centre going to the underground markets to buy cheap and nasty clothes, the competitiveness of the city became more obvious still. Darting from shop to shop, keen to get the best price for the jumper for my mate back in Dubai this wave of, well, desperation I feel like saying swept over me too, as I began to fight for a good price. Not needing the jumper, I almost felt guilty bargaining for a lower price. Though at some point when it became clear to me that for these Chinamen and woman I was just a walking dollar symbol, I bit.

Remembering my bargaining times in India a few years back, the competitive streak in me surfaced quickly and I found the jovial part of the sport with stool assistant. One hour later in that confined space full of rip offs, I left a contented but very tired man, my mates jumpers now in my rucksuck at a cheaper price than I had envisaged paying.

Whilst in the taxi as we drove back to the hotel I couldn’t help but notice the buildings outside. They were tall and encroaching and further imposed that game-like survival of the fittest wins feeling on the me. Those huge multi rise apartments rose from the roots of the soil, like factories, squashing as many little ants into their space as they could. A part of me saddened for those people in them. Back home we have space, we have smiles and we have facebook.

I think that Shanghai was one of the few places I didn’t enjoy. Perhaps it was me. Perhaps I needed more sleep before the flight and a better game plan about where to go and what cultural keys to look and learn from. I’m sure other parts of China are more welcoming. Well, I hope so.

 

An Indian Christmas in Hamburg.

So far this year I have been to Munich, Franfurt & Dusseldorf. This will be my first flight to Hamburg & get this, I’m deadheading. This is perhaps is the best way to get there as a flight attendant. Essentially this means I won’t be doing any work on the way over, travelling as a passenger in business class. Ill be eating smoked salmon and caviar and Ill be enjoying oodles of legroom. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

Whilst I haven’t travelled to all of Europe, I have been to quite a few different places. I’ve walked the streets of Paris and fallen in love with the French language and the love that permeates from every street corner, been saturated when I foolishly forgot an umbrella, twice, in London, partied in Ibiza for my birthday with two very special people, fallen in love with Switzerland, particularly Zurich and the lake that the town swims with, the awe inspiring snow capped Alps in the picturesque background and drank coffee at a couple of hundred year old café in Vienna. I’m boasting, I know.

My mates have told me that Hamburg is a European paradise. Loving Germany, I have no doubt they are correct. I guess, after this flight, the last place I want to go in Germany is Berlin: to walk along and touch the wall that historically separated East from West. So, what do I have planned for this flight, post business class travel? I have heard that they drink warm red wine at the Christmas markets so that is on the list. I also want to touch up on some basic German too, more specifically to impress my Oma back home. What else? I guess there is the German sausages to try, which name escapes me. And like most European destinations, marvel at the buildings, soaked in the rich history that this part of the world affords the observant tourist.

Ok the flight has now landed, I have checked into the hotel, showered, put one of my warm, embracing winter jackets on, left the lobby and made for outside. Already I’m enjoying the cooler winter air of the city I have longed to visit. Step one to a good night in Hamburg: get some of that warm, sweet red wine into me, treating my pallet to an oral orgasm. I’m walking down the recently rained streets, wishing that I had bought some leather conditioner for my boots. I can see the water soak into the leather, and whilst I’m a little annoyed at myself for ignoring the shoe sales person’s attempts at making an extra sale out of me, I walk on. I’m going to get that wine.

Cut fifteen minutes later and, with the people I’m with, I hold the warm glass in my cold hand. Opposites work well together, like people in relationships. Sip one: delicious. Sip two: divine. Sip three and four: my glass is quickly emptying and I need to order another. My mates were right; this stuff is better than sex. Well it’s not, but it’s pretty close. Soon enough my internal body temperature starts to increase and the winter chill subsides. I’m loving what I’m feeling right now. I smile to Binny, a friend I have quickly made and we get another. Already wer’e at glass three. I remind myself to drink slower so that I am able to enjoy the night ahead, still young.

We leave the warm wine, as we too are warmer than we were an hour and half ago. I still have plenty of my allowance left. It’s time to eat. Close by German hotdogs are sold. If they are as good as the wine, I’ll take two. Purchase well made: they are. The thick spicy yellow coloured mustard compliments the caramelised onion and German sausage nicely. For good measure, I get my third, filling my stomach full of delectable indulgences. I’m liking where this night is heading. Wine: check. German hotdog: check. I’m going to have to buy some small German novelty to remind me of this night. Binny and I walk on, now alone as the other people we are travelling with have now left.

We press through the busy Christmas markets, trying to weave through the Germans, careful not to loose each other. In the distance I see what appears to be mistletoe. Yes, it is in fact. In 26 years I have never seen this: a novelty for the night. We get a stranger to take a photo & we playfully flirt with each other. I try to kiss her but she pushes me back. I have to compete with the food in her hand. “It’s ok,” I reason, one day Ill get a proper kiss under this mistletoe with a person I want to kiss.

Further into the crowd of Germans in Hamburg we dive. A smile forms across my face, common to me in such adventurous situations.  I still need to get my German gift. “Hang on,” I recall. At home I need some soap and we are metres from a soap bar. “I’ll take this one,” I tell the shop assistant. “Where are you from?” she asks, curious at my native English speaking accent. “Australia,” I reply, patriotically. “I thought so,” she replies. “I lived in Australia for two years,” she tells me. A similarity I recognise, “nice, we can work with this,” says the curious part of my travelling self, eager to learn from this girl about her country.

We talk for a few minutes about Germany, the city we are in and at some point I mention that I am of Dutch heritage. I explain to her how we share the same title for grandmother, ‘Oma’. She is impressed. She teaches me a more affectionate term to use next time I see my grandmother. “Omee,” she explains. “It’s like Oma, but a more loving and sincere way of addressing her.” I nod, pleased to have picked up another word that I hadn’t previously known. Now I have achieved another small goal while in Germany on this trip.

Binny and I leave, me with my soap in my hand. Overhead a sleigh with Santa Claus rides behind the reindeer, accompanied by a larger dwarf. Sparks fly from the back of the sleigh as it heads toward the giant Christmas tree at the end of its elevated path and the crowd of festive Christmas below folk applaud. Warm with the wine and my winter jacket I continue to smile, happy to have been given the opportunity to travel to this cooler, Northern Germany city. It’s been a good night, like I thought it would be.

At some point we order one more wine, eagerly finishing it, our stained red teeth illustrating the Christmas spirit that we have enjoyed. We get our deposit back from the glasses we have just drank from and head back to the hotel. We pass the dark lake that lead us to the market with the floating Christmas tree, laugh about the nights event’s and soon enough, sometime after midnight find the hotel we are staying in tonight.

To my Omee: you are a pillar of strength, a woman whose love surpasses that of the greater good, I love you.

 

The fake taxi driver and the ice cube counter.

I’m standing in the gutter in St Petersburg, Russia. It is the most northern part of Europe I have travelled too and it’s the first month of winter. In Dubai it’s also winter and sometimes I have to wear a jumper when I leave the house. Tonight its below zero and, whilst wearing an under shirt, shirt, jumper and jacket, I’m still freezing, literally. Snow has started to fall: something I haven’t seen for over three years. As an Aussie, this moment will probably always be a novelty.

“Lets cross,” I explain to the two people I’m with, eager to start clubbing in Russia as we stand outside our hotel, still in the gutter. There are real taxis on this side of the road. On the other side, however, there are fake ones. Not fake in the sense that the cars they drive don’t work, fake in the sense that they are unlicenced, much cheaper and much more exciting to get in. So I guess, they are real taxis for real clubbers when you look at it like this.

Who knows, in this country I feel the risk that when we step into this taxi we could either get shot or offered a free line. No, neither. I push the front seat forward, catch a last breath of frozen Russian air with the snow that I have missed for what seems like an eternity, close the door and our little St Petersburg clubbing night begins. Outside people walk the streets wearing furs and I understand why, in this temperature, people start smoking in Russia when they are children. Who would have thought, clubbing in Russia? Its Friday night & I’m up for it.

So we’re driving through the city, well more like weaving through these hazy red lights with underground Russian club music in the background, hoping not to die a flying-through-the-window-of-an-unlicenced-taxi death and as quickly as our drive begins, it stops. My white knuckles are now pink again as I let go of the cars handbrake. Something is mumbled in this thick, undistinguishable Russian accent and we loose the fee of the fare in a translation fail. So the drives laughs, writes it on paper, we pay and he speeds off to get his next customer.

We’re now standing outside the club we just googled on my mac half an hour go, after dinner at the place they serve traditional Russian chow and do that folk dance. The club is hidden very, very well. It looks decrepit: the exterior is grimy and dark, somewhat like the corrupt underground world of the country we are in. “Are you sure you know what this place is?” asks the bouncer with this stoic face, hardened with the sub zero winter temperatures. I’m not sure if he can afford to smile or he thinks it doesn’t suit the typical Russian male personality. Either or, he doesn’t smile.

At this point I truly believe Ill be shot if we enter the club. “Bring it on. I want to live these nights,” I say to myself as we pass the smile-less bouncer. We push through the heavy, cold wrought iron club door and enter the club, shaking the early winters snow off our backs. The night begins here. The three of us smile to each other, glad we decided to go out. We head to the bar & get some vodka, as you do in Russia. It’s nice & warms my stomach. Usually I don’t drink that stuff though tonight I’m glad I do. We ask for ice. I think the barman just asks me how many cubes of ice I want. “Odd,” I think to myself. “It’s freezing cold outside and you’re asking me how much ice I want… God, is the economy that bad here?”

He counts the ice cubes, hands me the drink, I look my new mates in the eye as we say cheers, well, no we actually say “Salut” as they are Spanish and I curl my toes at the strength of the stuff. It’s strong. I like it and get another one, stipulating how much ice I want this time. Cut three hours later and, in the presence of our friends the trashy Russian whores, the night really has taken a form of its own. God, imagine: I’m in Russia. “Really, as if I would have stayed at home,” I think to myself. My allowance is almost all gone but still I drink.

Ok, so that was last night. Somehow we got home, again in another fake taxi. I would have passed out, well no, I did pass out. But now its 930am and I’m awake at the sound of my alarm that I set the night before. There still isn’t daylight: perhaps the sun is hiding with a shocking hangover too, “but it’s time to get on with the day,” I tell myself as I get out of bed to shower. I’m not going to waste the opportunity to go take some photos in this very Northern European city. I leave my hotel room, walk down the corridor to outside, pass the place the night began the night before &, despite freezing again, smile.

I love Russia. I knew I would.

 

 

Dubai itself.

“Would you like chicken or beef, sir?”

“Would you like ice with your coke, ma’am?”

Let’s be honest. When I took my job to work as a flight attendant I was arrogant. I thought that it would be a dead-beat, easy, no-brainer of a job. How wrong I was. I really thought that the chick who tells you to fasten your seat belt when your’e about to go through turbulence doesn’t have a great deal going on upstairs. If you were like me, and I challenge you to be honest to yourself at least, edit that little thought process like I have learned to in the last year.

Every month we get rosters given to us that outline where we will fly, who will be on those flights, how long we will stay there and what time of the day or night this will happen. Now on paper and without much thought this doesn’t sound that hard. When I decided to quit finance to travel for a year, I completely underestimated how this job would affect my life in a positive light and what impact that monthly roster would have over me.

Being a flight attendant on an international airline is hard. Actually you know what? It’s fucking hard. Let me explain why.

Socially:

My mates are very important to me. I rely on them a lot. If I need a chat, Ill call my mate. If I need a shoulder to cry on, my mate will be the one washing his shirt with my tears. If I fall for a person, my mate will hear about it. When I’m flying here or there at odd times of the day or night and my mates are doing the same we rarely see each other. As a flighty I am lucky to see my best mates more than three times in a given month. When that element of my life is removed, it is a hard thing to deal with and often leads to loneliness. So mateships are very hard to manage.

 

Physically:

When I have a flight that leaves at 4am I will realistically need to wake up at 12:30am to get ready. If I am responsible I will go to bed at 430pm the previous day to get a good rest: a hard thing to do. Say I get back from the flight at 2pm. Chances are I’m going to feel pretty bloody tired. Should I sleep when I get home or, like a normal person, do I try to regulate my sleeping pattern and go to bed at 10pm that night, having been awake for almost an entire day? Before I took this job I could manage a full on day after 8 hours sleep. These days I need to clock up a solid 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s a tough gig.

 

Relationships:

We now know managing mateships are hard when you fly. Imagine relationships. Picture this: you come to a foreign country with a suitcase full of dreams. Everything is bright and shiny and they speak a different language which is cool. This euphoric feeling lasts a while but then it wears off. You take a step back and realize your’e lonely. Your life has become this suitcase jet setting lifestyle which is fabulous yet very transient like the wispy white clouds you fly through, miles above the ground. You need something to hold onto, someone to cuddle with at night. Some stability.

When I came here I became bitterly lonely, quickly. To fix this I became very active, like a lot of my colleagues did & much like the greater population of Dubai. I mistakenly thought that through sex I could find emotion, raw to the human heart. I thought sleeping with lots of people could fill the void I had yearned for. Again I was wrong and I learned. I tried a few relationships & met amazing guys that, had I not been a flight attendant checking my dictating roster monthly, I would loved to have gone further with but like mateships, those relationships were difficult to manage largely because of conflicting lifestyles.

 

Emotionally:

When it becomes hard to manage the few friends you have, and particularly difficult to manage your love life, you have this emptiness that you can’t seem to shake off. You keep stepping back to take a breath as life flashes by and you think. You think about where you are, what you are doing and who is in your life. Again, you can’t sleep properly that night as you have another bloody 4am flight and you become this mess. Managing emotions, regulating your life like you had done before taking this job becomes hard and you question what you’re doing with yourself. Emotionally, it’s a very tough gig.

Health:

Lets think about eating & exercise. These two sole things have a huge impact on everything discussed prior. When your’e flying at odd hours and sleeping a lot more than usual it gets very hard to manage a regular eating and exercise regime. However, the two go hand in hand. You wake up at an odd hour with nothing in the fridge. “No problem,” you think. “I’ll eat on the plane,” you reason. Don’t you dare. The amount of preservatives in that shit would make a nutritionist cry. You come home after a flight dog tired and you really can’t be fucked exercising. So don’t. But when you wake up after your 12 hour sleep, please do. You’ll look great and feel so much better.

 

Dubai itself:

So that’s flying. What about where I now live. Dubai: I have learned to love you. Initially I hated you. I found myself comparing you to home, failing to remember that I had come here to learn about a different country, a different culture and a different way of life. When I learned to embrace the differences between you and Australia I fell in love with you: my rapidly changing, progressive home. Living away from home, having to recreate a social structure for myself from nothing and build a life with little my bare hands, I have grown so much as a person and Dubai baby, I wouldn’t have done it back home.

I have learned to ignore the stereotypes that the city I live in throws at us as crew and more generally about the importance of a person’s job title. I have learned to be graceful in my art as a servant, letting go of the arrogant perspective I had for this job earlier. Why? I know that it’s temporary. That sole lesson right there has taught me the sheer beauty of being humble. Thank you God. I have learned to embrace the fact that it really is ok not knowing what exactly I want to do when I come home. Dubai itself, the people I have met, the places I have been and the experiences I have endured and blossomed from have all culminated in wonderful blessed lessons that I wouldn’t have generated, had I stayed at home in 2011.

This year I truly learned, at 40,000 feet above sea level how to love life, to cherish the people in it and taste the sweetness that we sometimes forget to embrace in our own busy lives. I learned this from a job that I truly underestimated. This year I took a risk and it paid off. To the people I have met this year in my wild and fanciful time away from home, thank you. You have challenged my stagnate thoughts. You have challenged my emotions and you have enabled me to grow into this better version of myself. For that I am thankful.