Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Indulgence Begins

I understand the young kids these days have more sophisticated methods of communicating than an old-school blogspot page. But something about the name “Heba’s adventures in Senegal” makes it hard to let this good old thing go. So you are now witnessing a revival. My last post here was two years ago. Since then, I biked around the Mediterranean, moved back to Canada, worked at the CBC, and am now about to start a new gig at the UN’s humanitarian news and analysis service, IRIN (, based in Dubai and covering the Middle East. (Funny – this blog started with my internship at IRIN in Dakar). Granted, Dubai is no Senegal, and it certainly isn’t Chad or Sudan. But I suspect it will come with a great number of eye-opening experiences of its own kind. Thus warranting said blog.

Now, I promise you, I didn’t want to do this – especially not in my first post. This, of course, being suggesting in any way that I have experienced a superior existence since I left Canada or that you are worse off while reading this at home – but the last 24 hours have just been too good to keep quiet. And it’s a bit fitting that the Dubai chapter of this blog should start in such fashion – so here we go.

First class.
(CORRECTION: Apparently first class and business class are not synonymous. It was business class - not that it makes any difference to me, but just so I don't start hearing all the lectures about the UN throwing money away).

It is not, as I had previously convinced myself, a waste of money on spoiled businessmen and politicians who no longer know how to interact with commoners. It is, my friends, flying made dignified.

It began with the Air Canada Lounge in Ottawa: unlimited food and drink, internet, magazines, etc. But anyone who has flown Porter has tasted a bit of that.

First class on the plane, however, is a whole other matter. The 40-minute flight from Ottawa to Toronto came with a “Welcome Ms. Aly”, refreshments before my butt even touched the seat and a tasty chicken wrap served on elegant dinnerware.

In Toronto, another lounge. More food and drink.

Then, on the Toronto-Heathrow leg: paradise.

There were so many buttons on my bed-seat, I didn’t know what to touch first. I spent at least 15 minutes opening and closing all the gadgets and compartments in my little apartment. I reclined and straightened up my chair – back and forth, back and forth – giggled and closed my eyes, smiling.

There were about five options for dinner and when the steward came by – the old lady in the seat ahead of me said he had a “holy air” to him – I was expecting my roasted chicken with mushroom sauce and wild rice, with butternut squash on the side.

I was wrapped up in a charming documentary about 82-year-old New York Times Style Photographer Bill Cunningham – “doing away with fashion would be like doing away with civilization” – and I looked down to find an appetizer instead: an exquisitely-twirled tower of smoked salmon with capers and a cilantro-mustard sauce.... fresh bread... salad ... etc. It was so beautiful, I wanted to take a picture, but was just too comfortable in my bed to get up for the camera.

By the time the main course came and went, I was so full I needed to lie down – which, of course, I did.

But then I heard those blessed words in the distance: “Would you like a selection of cheeses?”

Need I say more?

And cheese wasn’t dessert. The warm chocolate pecan pie came later.

I imagine those who travel first class all the time have learned how to refuse some these offerings. I have not yet developed this aptitude. And so I sat there, terrified that there was still more to come. (On the Heathrow-Nairobi leg, the steward just rode back and forth down the aisle: “Can I get you anything now?” ... “How about now?”)

Before I left Canada, I spent a lot of time grumbling about the consumerism and overly indulgent society of palm-tree-shaped-islands that I was entering into.

I would like to formally take those grumbles back.


Pemma said...

First class is a major treat - to be experienced at least once in a lifetime! I can just picture you lying back and giggling in delight.

Camille said...

And so the adventures begin again. Enjoy the indulgence Hebs. We're thinking of you all the time! xox

Asif said...

It amazes me that with all the evolutions in comfort in the economy class of passenger trains - comfortable chairs, edible food, wifi - economy class in planes has only devolved over the past 20 years or so.

Why can't we all be treated like humans!

anita said...

I'm so glad you're blogging again. Is that actually a verb now? When you were doing the shiftingears one, I looked forward to checking every day to see if you'd written anything. Hope this adventure goes well for you. The first class experience was definitely over the top!

anita said...

I'm so glad you're blogging again. (Is that really a verb now?) I followed shiftingears regularly. You have a wonderful talent for sharing experiences with us which teach us about new places and make us laugh too. The first class experience was over the top. Hope you got money to cover all that luxury! Best wishes in your new adventures.

Macaca said...

Welcome to the globalized elite! :P