Bajan in Dubai
There’s a saying that “no matter where you are in the world you will find a Bajan”. That’s true even when you’re as far as the United Arab Emirates.
If you happen to take a flight on an Emirates aircraft, or travel to the city of Dubai, you may just catch 23-year-old Melissa Brathwaite, a flight attendant on the prestigious carrier.
Now in her ninth month on the job, Brathwaite said she is having the time of her life and enjoying the new experiences.
“Moving out of my comfort zone and being able to live in the Middle East is actually a very good and new experience . . . It took a long time. As for the job itself, it is very rewarding; you get to travel all over the world,” she said.
Some would say she is brave, but for the soft-spoken young woman, it was just a case of following her dreams. Brathwaite admitted that she never really imagined a career as an airline crew member, but she was certain she wanted to travel the world.
“Studying Geography was also a way of getting to see the world, but actually having this opportunity to travel and see the different places is something very different that I wanted to do – not this career, per se, I just wanted an avenue where I could travel and see the world,” the former UWI Mona student said.
In a Skype interview with Barbados TODAY, Brathwaite admitted she was not sure about the job in the initial stages, since she knew it would have taken her away from home.
“I had seen the advert for it. I didn’t initially take up the offer when I saw it. Then I realized . . . it was a different experience for me and I like different. It’s something I decided could really help me in getting to where I want to be – being able to see different places and so on,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. Home will always be home. I love Barbados. I talk about it so much here, especially since people always ask me about it. But I’ve gotten accustomed to [Dubai]. I’m very grateful to be here as well.”
And of course it helps that she is fulfilling her dream of travelling the world.
“I’ve been to a lot of great places. I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Paris, United Kingdom so far. My favourite place to date would have to be Singapore because I love the culture, and Paris because of all the historical stuff,” Brathwaite said with a giggle.
But the life of an air hostess on one of the largest aircraft in the world isn’t just about hopping on a plane and going somewhere new. Brathwaite says her job requires a lot of time management and focus.
“Because you fly at different times, it’s all about time management and how long I can sleep, what time I need to get up and prepare myself to leave home. It’s a lot of thinking, planning; it’s not like if I was working a nine to five and I know I have to be up at seven or so on . . . It’s a lot of planning, a lot of setting alarms. My day comprises time management for almost everything, to see how much I can get done in the day,” she explained.
In her down time Brathwaite explores, although she has not been doing a lot of that recently because of the heat.
“On my off days, as of recently, I have been doing a lot of resting. Flying is tiring so it’s good to get good rest. There are lots of things to do in Dubai so I try to get out of the house often. It’s very difficult now. It’s summer here in Dubai, so it’s very, very hot. We complain about the heat in Barbados but dealing with 43 degrees here is another story,” she said.
Definitely in an exciting career, Brathwaite said she could see herself doing it for a long time to come.
“I don’t have a time frame for it. I don’t see myself leaving or not doing it anytime soon,” she said.
The young Barbadian advises anyone desirous of becoming a flight attendant to pursue it, and should the opportunity present itself grab it with both hands.
“It’s a risk in the sense that you will be far away from the culture that you know and are familiar with, but I believe that any opportunity like this that comes your way is an opportunity you should take. For me at 23, it is very rewarding that I have been able to see so many different places. I know so many people who have never even left Barbados. I believe that any opportunity that you see that you can spread your wings and get to see somewhere different, is an opportunity worth taking. It would be difficult in the initial stages but it’s something you would get accustomed to eventually,” she advised.
And Brathwaite also cautioned others not to judge a place before experiencing it for themselves.
“When you try to read too much into things, it makes you anticipate things that aren’t necessarily true. For me, I did a lot of reading and listening to people before I came to Dubai. But when I got to Dubai I realized it’s so normal, it’s nothing like you would read in books or read online,” she said.
“It’s nothing hard to get accustomed to. It would be hard for you if you don’t know how to respect the culture. That part is fine for me. They aren’t that many boundaries or restrictions once you respect the culture.
“Here is so diverse, they cater to everyone. They are so many people here from all over, so the cuisine here represents that as well,” Brathwaite added.