Canal of Amsterdam

Instructor Blog: My First Layover Pt 2 – By Christina Ling

Traveling. It makes you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

When people learn of my Flight Attendant background, the most frequent question that I am asked is, “Of all the cities you’ve travelled to, which one is your favourite?” I have been abundantly blessed to have visited many cities across the globe. My usual response is that every city I’ve visited is my favourite, because no two can ever be compared. I have taken away something from every city that I’ve been to and every person I have met. I maintain that travel is the best education and my career as a Flight Attendant cultivated an insatiable desire, a need, to learn more and see more of this wondrous world we live in.

Canal in Amsterdam

“Ladies and Gentlemen…. Welcome to Amsterdam, the local time here is 9:00 am. Please remain seated until the aircraft has come to a complete stop and the seatbelt sign has been switched off.”

“On behalf of your Captain and In-flight Crew, thank you for flying Canadian Airlines International. It has been a pleasure having you onboard with us today. We hope you enjoyed your flight with us and we look forward to serving you again in the near future.”

That was the first announcement after we touched down in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.   Despite working all night and crossing 9 time zones, I was extremely tired but so excited. It was probably written all over my face. But I had to maintain my calm, cool and collected Flight Attendant self, so I did my best to hold it in. I had arrived.

Amsterdam…the land of wooden shoes, windmills, tulips, canals, bicycles, cheese, museums.   That is the textbook version of the Amsterdam I studied in school (I majored in geography, go figure).  But the textbook lesson and the real-life lessons are not comparable.  There is nothing like the immersion of all the faculties of one’s senses. Being present in everything you do.

Once we disembarked the last remaining passengers, said our thank you’s, farewells and cleared the aircraft, our flight duties were complete. We disembark as a crew, clear customs and immigration and make our way to the awaiting crew bus to transport us to our hotel. Not going to sugar coat it, I was very tired. This being my first overseas flight, I wasn’t accustomed to staying awake and working all night. It was a crazy mixture of exhaustion and adrenaline fighting each other at the same time. I boarded the crew bus, took my seat and waited for the rest of the crew. It was such a great feeling knowing that you worked hard at a job that you love and that you have earned this rest. I love that feeling of accomplishment and sense of purpose.   As we left the airport and started the journey to the Marriott hotel, part of me was fighting to stay awake but the other part of me was riveted by the incredible sights outside the window. Amsterdam in one word is… breathtaking.  The little bit that I saw from the airport to the hotel was absolutely stunning.  The architecture, the streets, the fashion, the shops, the canals! It was love at first sight.

We arrived at the Marriott hotel, which would be my home away from home for the next 36 hours. We disembarked the crew bus and checked in as a crew. Because our arrival into Amsterdam was early in the morning, our rooms would not be ready for a couple of hours. So while the crew waits, they traditionally go for breakfast. With much anticipation and excitement, I followed my senior crew members to a nearby restaurant to experience the very famous Dutch breakfast that I have heard so much about…the uitsmijter. What is this famous uitsmijter all about?

Before I continue with breakfast I must sidetrack and speak to the relationship between senior and junior crew members. In one sentiment; lean on them, include them as part of your learning experience. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned from my mentors. They have guided me, taught me, taken me under their wing and helped make me into the Flight Attendant that I am and always will be. That will be another blog post, all those senior Flight Attendants that have made a difference in my life.

Bike on a bridge in Amsterdam

Back to this breakfast. Legend has the uitsmijter was served to nightclub/bar patrons late at night just before closing time. Which explains that word “Uitsmijter” means “forcibly throw out” or “bouncer” and/or “doorman”. I must say, it was pretty simple….open face ham, cheese and eggs on toast right? Wrong! This is a serious meal, eaten with a knife and fork. When I cut into the egg, the yolk ran all over the toast like a sea of yellow gravy. The first bite was exactly what the Dutch people described it to be, pure comfort. Seconds later, it was gone. It was yummy and exactly what was needed after a long Transatlantic flight. A full tummy, I was feeling pretty relaxed and ready for a little nap. And perfect timing, the hotel notified us that our rooms were ready. But could I really sleep? I was too excited and wanted to explore.

Amsterdam is 9 hours or 9 time zones ahead of Vancouver. Let’s do a little math shall we? Okay, everyone who knows me is very familiar of how challenged I am with mathematics! I barely made it through high school math and don’t even get me started when I went to College and University. What was I thinking taking Economics 101? Against all odds, I managed to learn how to calculate time zones. I had to, recruits were tested in initial Flight Attendant training. I was so proud of myself. It is truly amazing what you can do when you put your mind to something.   Passion and drive can produce incredible results.  We are ALL good at something. We all have strengths. Drive deep and find your strength and passion. For me, it was aviation and being of service. These days, I am blessed to have my darling Rob to calculate math problems for me (cue cheeky giggle), he is incredibly skilled at math and calculations.

It is now about 3:00 am Vancouver time, I needed sleep. I set my alarm for 2 hours, never sleep more than that. The key to overcoming jet lag is to immediately adjust to the current local time, depending of course on the time you arrive into your destination city. If I was to sleep too long, I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep that evening.  A little confused? I teach this here at CTC. Perhaps I will give away my secrets to the discussion of “Jet Lag 101”. Come on down to an open house and ask me!

I was so tired I think I fell asleep before I hit the sheets. Two hours seemed like 2 minutes, it was a solid, deep REM sleep. I had to literally force myself to wake up when my body was fighting to stay asleep. It was quite a strange feeling and can only be described as confusion or disconnect between my brain and my body. Your body has a circadian rhythm, my rhythm was synced to Vancouver. My body knows what time to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleep, be awake and even the time I workout!  But when it is disrupted, it can really confuse the body and your brain. Jet lag is one of those disruptions, another one can be shift work.   Flight Attendants have the dual challenge of being shift workers and experiencing jet lag on a weekly basis. We are travelling to different cities and time zones all the time. That equals major confusion! But it is not a huge deal….the human brain and body is incredibly adaptable and it adjusts. Besides, enduring a little brain fog to see this incredible world we live in is a worthwhile trade-off!

I get myself up and throw a little cold water on my face. I am ready to do some serious exploring. Amsterdam are you ready for me? Stay tuned for more ……….

(Missed part 1 of this blog? Click here to read “My First Layover Pt 1 – By Christina Ling”)

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