Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Positives

How much do you pay for your rock n' roll lifestyle? Because I get paid for mine.

I've been doing this job for just about three months now and have learned a lot and had some good times. There is also a lot of negatives, but that's for the next post. Let's face it, the positives are pretty obvious. I am getting paid to travel internationally, I can fly stand by for free, I get to meet awesome people and my life is entirely spontaneous. I had my most awesome layover yet this last week, let me tell you about it.

I had my first trip to Hamburg on Monday. I'd been there before but this would be my first time working the trip. It didn't look to be too exciting though, the weather was supposed to be cold and rainy and all the flight attendants seemed to have different plans so it was looking like I was on my own, which when you read the negatives post you will understand how sucky that would be. Another flight attendant told me that there was an awesome spa and pool in the hotel so I made plans in my head to sleep all day, venture out for dinner, and then relax by the pool and sauna until bed time. I have never been happier that a night of quiet relaxation was ruined.

I headed out for dinner and happened to hear the very loud voice of the other German speaker, Kirsten,from her hotel room. I knocked on the door to see what was going on and to joke about how noisy she is and was invited in to join two flight attendants( Kirsten and Kelli) one friend( Sang, Kelli's hair stylist) and two pilots (Mark and Kyle) for drinks. They were getting ready to go see Evanescence with back stage passes provided by Sang who is a very cool hair dresser and also friend of the guitarist in the band. Turns out they had one extra ticket and after lending me an awesome outfit, I was going with. Awesome.We drank, we talked, we made it to the subway and then to Döner, the delicious Turkish fast food place, and then to the concert. It was a small venue called Grosse Freiheit.

I found out later that night that the basement stage area is one of the first places the Beatles ever performed.


The concert was amazing. The venue wasn't very big but I kind of like small places better. The performance feels more intimate and involved. We were right up close to the stage. The music was great and everyone was having an awesome time. Here's Kelli and I covered in sweat but still looking pretty good.

Kirsten, me, Kelli and Sang...and Mark's hand in the back.
And then it got even better. In addition to free tickets we also had back stage passes. After the concert was over we headed to the basement area and waited for the band. We mingled with the opener band for awhile and then Will the guitarist/friend of Sang showed up


and shortly after the rest of Evanescence was there. We got to talk and hang out and even got a group shot with Amy Lee, who was super nice.

This was such an incredibly awesome night and the fact that I had know Idea it was gonna happen until it was made it even better. This is why everyone thinks this job is glamorous and fantastic. Because you never know what's gonna happen, you could end up drinking beer with Evanescence in Hamburg next to the stage where the Beatles first started. Maybe next time I'll actually do some site seeing in Hamburg or get that relaxing spa night....or maybe something else crazy and unexpected will come up. Who knows? I do know that I will have concert clothes packed in my suit case from now on, just in case.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Silver Rain was Falling Down

Upon the dirty ground of London Town

Sitting Airport Alert is a very stressful experience. You and quite a few other people are sitting in the crew room around tables or in lounge chairs just waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. RING. Everyone's heart stops. Someone gets up and answers and then yells out a name. The chosen person goes to the phone and finds out where in the world they are being sent. The shift lasts four hours and you can either get a flight or go home with just four hours of pay. Generally, at the beginning, you are prepared to fly. Then time ticks on and you begin to think of all the things you could do later if you don't a flight and slowly you find yourself dreading the phone and not wanting them to call your name. The possibility to get a flight exists until the last second of your shift.

Last week, I was sitting airport alert and one of my classmates and possible roommate, Randi, happened to be there as well. We were talking, looking at apartments, reading, anything to pass the time. Randi did not want to get a trip, it was her boyfriend's birthday and he was planning to come visit her to celebrate. I however wanted to get a flight. If I wanted my weekend days off to be left alone, I needed a flight to depart that day and get back on Friday. The phone is ringing steadily and slowly everyone around us is getting assigned trips. Only about an hour left to go and Randi gets the call. She's going on a three day trip to London. She disappears to go check in and call her boyfriend and I continue to wait. Ten minutes later, I get the call and I'm going to London too! I know Randi was upset about missing her plans with her boyfriend, but I also know that we are gonna have an awesome time in London. Traveling the world is great and all, but doing it with a friend is a million times better.

We meet up on the plane and are both really excited about this trip. During the flight we figure out our plans for the day and get suggestions and advice from the other flight attendants. We decided to take a "hop on hop off" bus tour. You buy a 30 pound bus ticket and tour the whole city, getting off at the sites you want a closer look at and getting back on 10 minutes later when the next bus comes by. I am generally not a fan of bus tours because I feel like you see everything but you don't really see anything. However, when you only have 24 hours, and a good 12 of those are dedicated to sleep, standards are lowered a bit. Plus we decided that this will at least give us an idea of what we really want to see next time we come back. So here are my pictures from the bus tour. No hugely detailed information, because we didn't get to go inside any of the attractions and learn anything. Instead, we took pictures and made personal "to see" lists.

Big Ben(which is not its correct name) and the London Eye
Buckingham Palace
Houses of Parliament
Westminster Abbey
The Tower Bridge

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's all happening

After five weeks of intense flight attendant training, one week at home, and my first week of work, I have reached my first day off and am sitting in the tiny sitting area in my crash pad in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Wait what? I have a job? I have a freaking awesome job? During my first week, I went to Frankfurt, Germany and Bogotá Colombia? After job-searching for so long and just about giving up hope, this is just about unbelievable. But enough about me, lets get to the good stuff.

Unfortunately, it was Sunday when I made it to Frankfurt. This means absolutely nothing was open. We managed to find a restaurant open and I had an amazing piece of turkey schnitzel and potatoes, but that was about it. 

Even though it wasn't Sunday in Bogotá, some things were still closed. The other female flight attendant on my Bogotá flight and I were interested in touring the city a little bit and doing some site seeing. Another flight attendant told us about this awesome place called Mount Monserrate. It is an old cathedral on top of a mountain. This screams Jillian come see me and I was super excited about it. Unfortunately, the cable car type thing that takes you up and down the mountain closed at 12:30pm. Now, I was up and ready by 9:30, so it would not have been an issue for me, but the girl I was with was not ready to go until 1:30. Oh well, its on the list for next time and I will not wait around for anybody haha. 

We did make it to one of the city's big attractions, The Museo del Oro (Gold Museum). The museum takes you on a journey beginning with the first South American native tribes to use metallurgy up to the conquering of the region by Spain. The processes of making the gold pieces were all illustrated and explained and actual gold pieces were displayed for each tribe and method. It was really interesting to read and see the examples of different methods of forming the gold and the meanings behind the shapes and figures. It was also pointed out that although some tribes used more technologically advanced methods, it was not necessarily because they were smarter than the others. Each tribe had a specific way of forming the gold that they used to define themselves, not because they didn't know how to use the other methods but because they preferred their own way. This was proven when archaeologists found pieces from different tribes that mixed the gold making methods.

Hammered Method

The stuff of nightmares

I want one of these

Ancient Aliens, Galaga was real

Sunday, February 12, 2012

98% excited, 2% could be 98% scared, 2% excited but that's what makes it so intense

No matter how many times I do this, I still get nervous. I’m leaving again, off on an entirely new adventure and hopefully the beginning of a very exciting career. On Sunday, I am flying to Houston, Texas to begin my 5 week training to become a flight attendant. This is a dream career for me. I will get to travel all the time. I will constantly be meeting new people and seeing new places.  Other bonuses are traveling to visit all the friends I made in Morocco at their various locations in the US and my family which is also pretty spread out. Free air fare is a pretty sweet thing for an avid traveler to get her hands on.

As excited as I am, that sick-to-your-stomach am-I-making-the right-choice feeling has finally presented itself. Luckily for me, the feeling only shows up a few days before checking in at the airport, after it is too late to back down and change my mind. But I know that for the next three days I will have trouble with general human functions such as eating, sleeping, thinking and talking. Even though I know this is not forever, that I will be back in Cleveland right after training for about a week, that as far as length of time goes this is pretty short compared to my other ventures, I still feel the need to see everybody one last time and to say my goodbyes, to go out and do fun things and to stay in and spend time with my family.

This last week has become a rush of activity. But it didn’t full hit me until last night while watching a movie with my boyfriend. I’m not leaving until Sunday but that was the last night of quality boyfriend time until I get back because of work and social schedules.  So then the list starts going down, tonight will be the last night of hanging out with one of my best friends just drinking and relaxing. Friday night will be the last dinner with my parents (I get to pick the restaurant; I’m thinking Outback, I’d do anything for a Bloomin’ Onion). Saturday is my last AFS meeting and my last party. And there are still so many people and things that have slipped through and will just have to wait until I get back because my days are now as full as they can get if I still want to be able to pack.

 I had a murder mystery party planned for Saturday night thinking I had until Feb. 19 before leaving, only to find out about a week ago that they wanted me to arrive early. Of course I said yes to the earlier training spot, but there was also no way I was canceling this party. I’ve wanted to do this for ages and I get to dress up as a 1920’s socialite/flapper. I would not miss this for anything. Needless to say, it is going to be a late night with very little sleep before my 8:30am flight the next day. But that’s fine, as I said earlier; I won’t be sleeping much anyways.

This trip is also different from others in one big way. I may not be coming back. At least not long term anyways. After training, I get about one week to go home and get ready to relocate to my base. Cleveland is one of three options and the least likely place that I will be based. So this 5 week trip for training is most likely going to be my moving out trip too. I have boxed up most of my things, thrown out and donated everything I possibly can (watching a couple episodes of hoarders makes that process a whole lot easier by the way) and I’m about as ready as I can be. I still have a few things left to pack up, but at this point they can wait until after training because I have other “lasts” to get done.

PS if you know what movie the title is from then kudos to you, its one of my favorites

Monday, May 16, 2011

Clothing in Morocco

Are you gonna have to wear a burka? Are you gonna have to wear a head scarf? Do they wear normal clothes there like jeans? What are you gonna do when it gets hot?

These are all questions I received before coming to Morocco along with questions about the actual location of Morocco and general safety. Just to clear the air once and for all, the answer to the first two questions is no and no. There are only a very few Middle Eastern countries that require the wearing of the hijab or the burka. The two main examples are Saudi Arabia(burka/abaya) and Iran(hijab).

I know I was entirely ignorant of the many different styles of veiling before I came to Morocco. I thought there were two kinds; a full head to toe burka with a mesh screen over the eyes and just the head scarf. I was wrong, way wrong.

First, there is the khimar. A khimar is a long head scarf that wraps around the head, covers the neck, shoulders, and chest to just above the waist, but leaves the face uncovered. Khimar is also one of the two words used in the Quran to describe the practice of veiling by the Prophet Mohammed's wives, the word literally means to cover something, there is much debate about what the Quran is referring to when this word is used. Some say it is the literal covering or veiling of women, others say it is a metaphor.

The chador is a large semi circle piece of fabric that is thrown over top a woman's clothing. It is worn over the head and it drops down to her feet. There are no ties, buttons, or arm holes so the woman must hold it closed the entire time while wearing it. Traditionally, this would be accompanied by a long white face veil that was tied over the nose and mouth and would go down to the waist. This style, without the face veil, is most popular in Iran.

Two Meknessi women wearing the Hijab

The al-amira style is a two piece set. The first piece is a very tight fitting under scarf.The second is a scarf that already has the head hole sewn in and it is slipped over the under scarf. Because the under scarf is tight fitting and the over scarf is sewn together, this model is the easiest to slip on and keep on. It requires very little adjusting through out the day.

The shayla is your basic Hollywood style head scarf. The ends are either left loose down the back or if it is a shorter scarf they are tied. In the US, this would be called the Grace Kelly style. Some people do not believe this counts as veiling because the hair is still visible and they refer to this as the non-Muslim hijab. I can somewhat attest to this, as this is my favorite style and I have worn it many times and plan to continue this in the United States. It makes me feel all "old Hollywood glamour." But I have also seen many Muslim women wear this style, because the verses in the Quran are very vague, they have been interpreted many ways and it comes down to each woman's (or husband's, father's, brother's) interpretation of the text.

The woman in the middle is wearing a Moroccan Djellaba
The niqab and the burka are the most controversial of the styles and are wrongly assumed to be the most common style by people in Europe and the United States. There is some debate about what style a niqab actually is, but from what I have seen it most often refers to a style very similar to the khimar. The difference is in the length and in the face. The niqab goes all the way to the thigh or even to the knees and a long voluminous skirt or dress is worn underneath. The niqab also has a face veil that is tied, or has an elastic band, underneath and covers the nose and mouth. "Half-niqab" is a term used to describe just the face veil which can be worn separately with a regular head scarf.

The burka is the full lentgh cloak that covers the body from head to toe and has a mesh screen over the eyes. The term burka is sometimes used to refer to just the eye screen and face scarf, as this can be worn separately with a niqab or other covering. The full cloak with the eye covering is also referred to as an abaya. Abayas are the dress code in Saudi Arabia.

The hijab is the most common style. It wraps around the head and tucks up under the chin, covering the head, neck, and chest. Girls wear this style with everything; sweatshirts, sweaters, traditional garments, modern styles, everything.

Two girls wearing hijabs that match their modern outfits
Women in Morocco wear a mixture of modern and traditional clothing. Most do not wear the full burka, niqab, or chador. Some do, but its mostly older, rural, underprivileged or uneducated women. There is no legal mandate for women in Morocco to veil or to not veil, but there are many social implications. A woman who veils is seen as traditional, modest, marriage material, and religious. She is also old-fashioned and less likely to get a job. Women who do not veil are modern, empowered, and more likely to get hired for a job. They are also considered to be sexually promiscuous, not suitable for marriage, and have no morals. All these things impact a girl's decision to veil or to not veil, as well as her family and her own religious views. While there is no legal enforcement of veiling, often women still do not have a choice because of social and familial pressures.

Tiffany and Alyssa in takshitas for the Amerocco fashion show
The traditional Moroccan clothing is beautiful. The two main styles for women are djellabas and caftans. The djellaba is a long cloak with a hood. It usually has decorative buttons down the front, but doesn't have to. A caftan is similar to a djellaba, the main difference being that it does not have a hood. Caftans and djellabas come in every possible color and pattern combinations you could think of. Most women have two djellabas that they wear over their regular clothes. It acts as a quick modesty fix when you need to run out to the grocery store or anywhere else. Caftans come in many styles and there is a recent trend in designers to make modern versions of the caftan. One version of the caftan, called a takshita, is what women wear to weddings and other big celebrations. A takshita usually has two layers, a wide belt, and maybe a pair of pants, all very ornate and beautiful.

Hannah, in her takshita for her host-brother's wedding
Clothing styles for men also vary from traditional to modern, but from my experience, the differences seem to come with age. The trend for young guys seems to be jeans, a t-shirt, and a fake leather jacket. Middle aged men wear nice suits, or slacks with a button down. Older men wear the traditional men's djellaba which is long and white or cream with vertical stripes.

P.S. my apologies, the original post was much better, blogger has some issues and somehow the post got deleted. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Moroccan Wedding

A few weeks ago on a Saturday night, Tiffany, Alaina, and I attempted to go see Harry Potter at the French movie theater. When we got there, we discovered that the posted times were not correct and that we were over an hour late. We returned to the apartment, resigned to spending the night in. Tiffany and I were just surfing the internet when, an hour later, we got a phone call. "you have been invited to a Moroccan wedding, you have 10 minutes to get ready, tell your roommates." We stared at each other for about a second and then it was like a gun when off at the beginning of a race; we were running around, deciding what to wear, putting on make up and getting dressed. I ran into Alaina's room and informed her of the evening's event. She was engrossed in a Jane Austen novel and wasn't sure if she wanted to come. All I had to say was this may never happen again in her lifetime and she was off the bed and ready to go.

Alaina and I are wearing Djellabas, Tiffany hadn't bought one yet so she's in an American dress.
We met up with the group outside our apartment less than 10 minutes later. We were a site to see; around 15 white people all dressed up in our interpretations of Moroccan traditional clothing walking down the street in one big group. We were all very excited and we all had no idea what was going to happen.

Bride and Groom
The marriage was in the host family of two of our group members. They had been preparing for it pretty much since we arrived. Both of them actually went and bought takshitas, the formal caftan worn to celebrations. They are absolutely beautiful. Somewhere along the line, probably the day of, the host parents decided that the whole group could attend. So we all wore the nicest things we had in Morocco, although we didn't come close to the finery of these Moroccan women, for only having 10 minutes to get ready we looked pretty good.

Hannah, in her takshita
A Moroccan wedding lasts all day and is usually held in a rented riad. The bride has any where from 4 to 7 outfits changes, this bride only had 4. The entire time the bride and groom sit above the guests on a white throne. The entire family and all their friends sit around tables in the main courtyard of the riad. We missed part when the couple was actually proclaimed to be married, but I was told that they left the throne, went to a corner table, and quietly signed the paper work. Then an announcement was made to the whole room that they were married. We got there at about 10pm and dinner had not yet been served. There is normally 3 to 5 courses so you learn quickly to not eat everything put in front of you.

Bride in outfit 4, we missed 1 and 2

 The whole event lasted until about 3:30am. My roommates and I left around 2am. There was live musics, some of the women danced, everyone talked and ate, and the happy couple looked on from their thrown. In my opinion, the outfits and the venue might be different, but in the grand scheme of things it was very similar to a wedding anywhere else in the world.

The throne

Jazz singer
The big differences between a typical American wedding and a Moroccan wedding are the outfit changes, alcohol(there is none in an Islamic wedding) and the tea man.

I still do not have an explanation for this man. Whenever anyone asked the only response they got was "Oh, that's the tea man." He was dressed similarly to a traditional St. Nickolaus and he sat on this big plush red cushion in the corner in front of a tea set. He was smiling the entire time and in the 4 hours that I was there, he did not get up from his seat. This might just be one of the many mysteries of Morocco that I cannot figure out.

These two were very entertaining
They ran around the whole time. Her caftan was just a little too big so she tripped on it quite a bit

Monday, May 9, 2011

This little bungalow with some strange new friends

I have met many people since coming to Meknes and I will never forget them. Many of the fantastic people I have met are the other ISA students, there were 22 of us and I have fond memories of everyone. There are also the people who are from here who have become almost my support system. The little things they do, that I can depend on and they really brighten my day. I don't even know all their names.

Fatima is one the most amazing cooks I have ever met, and I come from a family of pretty amazing cooks. She comes to our apartment everyday, cooks our lunch, which is usually on the table and waiting for us when we get back from class. She also leaves us something small to heat up for dinner. She orders all our groceries and once a week she cleans up the apartment. She is super nice and friendly. I love coming home at lunch and having our language limited conversation everyday.

 Iman is one of the ISA Morocco directors. She is from Meknes and is a great help when we have questions about where to go or who to talk to. She is also a very good listener. She has this amazing quality, all she has to do is walk in the room and I feel comforted. She is like the mother of the group, she cares about us, she checks up on us, and genuinely wants to know how we are doing. I love getting a hug from Iman.

I call him "my Coca Cola guy." He runs this little news stand and at least once a week, I buy a coke from him. At some point, he started saving them for me in his special fridge behind the counter. Our conversations generally go like this:

Coca Cola guy: Coka? (derija for Coca Cola)
Me: Nam, shukran! (yes, thank you!)
Coca Cola guy: ala wajib (short form of no thanks necessary)
me: b'slama! (see you later!)

The simple fact that he already knows what I want when I walk up and has one waiting for me in the fridge makes me happy beyond belief.

Professor Bouzekri is one of the most powerful and inspiring women I have ever met. She is currently fighting in the beginning of Morocco's women's lib movement. She teaches my Three Religions, Three Peoples class about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She helped organized the women's poetry slam( Moroccan Feminist Poetry Slam) and the Amerocco event that I recently stage-managed. I would love to have the opportunity to get to know her on a more personal level. I want to know her life story, how she became this woman in a society that represses anything that doesn't conform.

Professor Zakaryae Arsalane is the best language instructor I have ever had and I have taken alot of language classes. He is an expert in applied linguistics, modern standard Arabic, French, and Derija( Moroccan dialect). He wrote a dictionary in Arabic for Arab medicine students who wish to learn medicine in Arabic instead of French of English. He recently visited the United States to speak at three different universities about his method of teaching Arabic. Two of them offered him jobs after hearing him speak. Qualifications aside, he is also very fatherly and protective of us. He really cares about how much we are learning and answers any question in complete detail until we fully understand. We all leave class with our heads swimming with Arabic knowledge. He's had us to his house for dinner and he frequently drives us home at lunch time. He's gotten to know all of us by asking us about our families, what do our parents do for a living, how many siblings do you have, where in the US do you live.

Zineb is on the left in the light pink shirt, Maroua is on the far right in all black
Along with Zakaryae, I have to talk about Maroua and Zineb. Maroua is Zakaryae's daughter and she is hilarious. She is maybe 13 years old and I met her when Zakaryae had us over to his house for dinner along with her best friend Zineb. They have both, since, friended me on Facebook and we chat frequently. Maroua found out that I had studied abroad in Germany in highschool and is now determined to visit me in the United States (hint hint Mom and Dad). She wants to go to highschool for a semester or a year, but so far we have been unsuccessful in finding an organization that offers programs to Moroccan students so she may just come for a summer vacation.

This is Mohammed, the guy who runs the teacher's cafe on campus. He chats with us all in Derija, French, or Arabic, making sure that we don't resort to English when we order coffee, orange juice, or snacks. He also generally knows what we each want when we walk in. He is also the reason behind my recent hard boiled egg addiction. He makes them every morning and they only cost one dirham each. One day, he made Meredith and I this sandwich that consisted of hard boiled eggs, laughing cow cheese, salt and cumin. It was amazing and I have repeated it at home several times now.

Professor Hamid is our adorable Derija Professor. He can remember exact days and dates when he met people over thirty years ago. He keeps every letter that has ever been sent to him. His wife is Russian, he met her when he was in college studying in the USSR. He has three sons, one of which is currently living in Germany. He recently had us over to his apartment for dinner and his wife made us a fantastic Russian/Moroccan meal. Hamid is also a very big germaphobe. Way back when we first got here, he warned me about drinking the fresh squeezed orange juice because it may not be clean. He also asked us not to sit on the ground because people often spit on the ground. He is constantly giving us compliments and telling us how much we mean to him. I am determined to write him a letter as soon as I get home.

This is our waiter at the Marilyn Cafe. Tiffany and I would go here, whenever our internet was down, to use the free wifi. After we came in every night for three nights, he knew us and what we each ordered. After about two weeks we had a friendly little routine. We don't go in as often now that we have bought wifi sticks, but when we do, he is still happy to see us.

Alaina Schultz is one of my three housemate. She lives on an island in Washington. She has this amazing head of long blond hair and a huge smile. She is fully entertained by nature and animals, especially owls. She writes a fantastically touching blog (Alaina's Blog). We have had a great many wonderful conversations and I look forward to keeping in touch with her. We have already established that we will be invited to each others' weddings in the distant future and gone further to decide what we each will be wearing.

Tiffany is my roommate whom you have all already heard a lot about(check out her blog too! Tiffany's Blog). We were friends almost instantly way back in Granada when we first arrived. She is from a farm in South Dakota, one of the few Midwesterners on the trip. From our long list of conversations, it is clear that we have had very similar upbringings(midwestern values don't ya know) and that our parents would get along smashingly well. She has two brothers, who both want her to bring them monkeys and camels home. We went to Ireland together for Spring break and it was a hilarious time. This summer she has an internship in DC and I hope to see her on her way home to South Dakota at the end. Both Alaina and Tiffany have made this trip. I do not think it would have been the same without them and I do not think I would have enjoyed it as much.