Posted in entrepenuer, Flight attendant life, flight attendants, Life as a flight attendant, Stewardess, Uncategorized

Flight Attendant Living

This is a short excerpt of the book that I am writing about my life and adventures. My book will include using my skills as a flight attendant to open an Ecolodge in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. I have never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I worked for Delta since I was 20 years old until I retired in August of 2008. I was given the best training to  open and own a business in the tourist industry. I will expand on the stories and memories I have shared with many more tales in my upcoming book which I am actively working on. I  am still working on a title of my book. However, I often think of calling it “Two Empty Seats” because I have been to hell and back since my daughter was murdered in 2010.

DC 8 chairs
Original DC-8 Chairs from Delta Air Lines

At no time would I think I would find pieces of my past in Colombia. They are in a Museo Aereo Fenix . I visited this museum and saw silverware, cards, uniforms and more from Delta Air Lines. This museum left such a lasting impression on me, along with my 30 plus years as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, I decided on a name for my book after visiting and spending hours checking out the museum. I realized I have had a very interesting life, which will include my time as a flight attendant for the best airline in the world, Delta. I grew up with Delta. I am sharing a blog that I wrote as a guest writer for another blogger below. I hope you will enjoy. It will only be one chapter in a book that will include more than just my time as a flight attendant.

Flight Attendant Living

As a retired flight attendant I look back on memories of my life as a hostess in the sky with fondness. I was hired at the age of 19, by Delta Air Lines, then I started training when I was 20 years old. The year was 1978, and air travel was still elegant and the job was considered glamorous. I had always wanted to be a flight attendant since I read the book, “Coffee, Tea, or Me,”when I was quite young. I took a trip to Europe with my elementary school and I was quite fascinated with the stewardesses who were all so pretty and elegant. I remember the plane ride like it was yesterday. I really wanted to travel the world like they did.

In 1978, the interviews were held at the corporate offices of Delta in Atlanta, Georgia. I was sent a ticket to Atlanta and really had no idea what the dress code was nor what was expected of me. I was very fortunate to get an interview and it is still very difficult to get hired by Delta Air Lines. I arrived at the interview with a dress I found to be quite pretty. It was brown, with a Chinese style jacket, and a delicate embroidery. I had on 5 inch heels that matched my dress. I walked into the waiting area and 40 other people (mostly women in those days) turned and looked at me with surprise. They all had on the same clothing style: a plain navy suit, including the men. I was a little intimidated by that. I have always been my own person, so I felt I could do well by standing out as a unique individual. I met with the first interviewer and she immediately brought up my outfit! I explained I was a disco dancer and this is how we dressed when dancing. That was the only style I knew. I was hired and my nickname in training was “Disco.”

After graduation from training, a group of  us were put in the Atlanta base, although we did have a base in Miami. We all rented in the same place that was close to the airport and we waited to be called for work since we were on reserve.

Roxanne and I
Seriously, look at the place we graduated at. An RV in the background.  A Gas Station, times have changed since this photo was taken!

We carried a “beeper” when we were not near a phone. We had to always have a bag packed for trips and be ready at all times for our job. It definitely took getting use to. I remember my first flights as hectic, but I have always been a quick learner. I worked very hard to do my best.

I became proficient quickly, and even was made flight leader rapidly. I received a base transfer to Miami and was again living with a group of flight attendants who rented at the same apartment complex in Kendall, Florida. One of those flight attendants was in the famous crash of the Air Florida Flight 90 that hit a bridge during a snow storm leaving Washington National Airport. Her name is Kelly Duncan and we were friends, her father was a captain at Delta. Kelly survived, and I will always remember watching her on television being lifted out of that icy water still in her flight service smock. We were all so young and didn’t look at our job as scary. This changed all of us at our apartment complex. We realized we were not just in this job for fun and travel, we were there for safety more than anything else.

I was the youngest in my class and at my base in Miami; however, I acquired seniority quickly. Many hired after me would stay on reserve for years, but I held a “line”as it was called back then in my 6th month of flying. I held really awful routes, but I knew my schedule. I always ended up with New York City layovers, and I was the A line quite often, which id what the flight leader was called in 1978. One time I was on the DC ‘stretch 8’ as the A line flying home to Miami from La Guardia airport and the engines caught fire as we started taking off. The was aborted immediately. I was only 21 years old. I did as I had been taught for emergencies and spoke with the Captain immediately. He said have everyone remain seated. I walked back through the cabin and looked out the windows and saw we were surrounded by fire trucks. Then we were towed back to the airport. The passengers were taking photos, and they didn’t panic. However, they did complain a lot about the delay. We changed airplanes and made it back to Miami that night. I think when this happened, I really grew up and into my job. To this day, I don’t panic when there is a situation that requires attention or there is an emergency.

Many people think of flight attendants as waitresses in the skies, but nothing could be further from the truth. As I continued on with my life as a flight attendant, I remained based in Miami and Delta had opened a base in Ft. Lauderdale. I moved to Ft. Lauderdale because this where I grew up and I had many friends. We often buddy bid together, and swapped trips to fly with each other, or to change our schedules. Then the unthinkable happened. Flight 191 from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas, crashed with all of my friends working that flight. This crash resulted in the longest aviation trial in history and many movies, documentaries, news articles were written about this horrific crash. To this day, I am friends with many of the same people and we always recognize this anniversary on social media. The friends we lost impacted all of us greatly. We were all changed forever by the loss of our friends. Three of our co-workers survived. I am friends with one of them. A lovely courageous soul who wasn’t injured, but had to watch fireballs flying by and see others dying. She was one of the last to leave the tail section that had broken away from the other part of the Lockheed L-1011 aircraft. She had to get help to get another survivor from he plane. We all had done this trip before. They should have ended up in Los Angeles International Airport, a favorite layover spot for all of us at the time. I was in Dallas on a layover when this crash happened. I remember taking off and flying over the debris of the crash. It was there for a long time. When I arrived home I had a voice message on my voice recorder from Diane Johnson, a flight attendant killed in the crash. It haunts me to this day.

Many wonder what life is like for a flight attendant. What we do on layovers, how hard is the job, do we mind going away from our families, what is it like for boarding and deplaning, our work rules and more. As I continued with my career, times changed and so did my job. I was able to hold nice layovers, and as usual, I flew with my fiends. The job is not easy. We have to board and set up the plane before the passengers enter and wait until the last passenger leaves before we either go on to another flight or a layover. I flew domestic for most of my career and LAX layovers were always the best to have. We would always have celebrities on our flights back in those days. I had so many bands, singers, politicians, sports-players announcers, actors, a prince and even a President. Richard Nixon flew on my plane, and I have an autographed personal card from him. Prince Albert of Monaco was another guest in first class. He did like to flirt and he did with me when I served him. Most celebrities are really nice, but I had Coretta Scott King on my flight and she would not even speak with me or order her own food or beverages, but her bodyguard gave me an autographed pamphlet. Huey Lewis is one of my favorites and he spent most of his flight in the galley chatting with us flight attendants. I had Bill Gates and he was super humble and nice also. You just never knew who would be showing up on any flight, but as progress took over , we would get manifests that would show who the first class passengers were and we would know beforehand sometimes. Joan Rivers was a hoot, and she was so tiny. I remember her eyes watered the entire flight like she had just had surgery on them. Sometimes a famous person would give us tickets to shows or invite us out.Retirement photo 2

What do we do on layovers? If it is short, we sleep. If it is long, we go out and have fun. I flew International during my final years and we had to set an alarm when we would arrive because we flew all night. Two hours was the limit we would sleep and then we would meet and do fun things, I have seen a lot of the world. Rome is a favorite, any layover in South America is always fun. I have ended up living in Colombia as an expat because I enjoyed my time spent in Guatemala, Buenos Aires, Chile, and Peru. Because of my training customer service, I have opened an Ecolodge in Colombia for those who enjoy nature and adventure. Paris is a lovely city that I never tire of, so is Dublin, Ireland.  Ireland just opened an embassy in Colombia! Who could get tired of traveling to other countries? I enjoyed many fun layovers in Germany also. My favorite domestic layovers were California, Arizona, NYC, Boston, Seattle,and Savannah, GA. However, there were always fun things to do everywhere, if we had enough time. I loved my San Diego layovers, many times I would go with fellow flight attendants to visit Tijuana, Mexico. One time we rented horses and rode on the beach in California. The only problem was our horses were untrained and went crazy on us. They took off riding in the direction of Mexico. Picture this, people sunbathing and seeing 4 horses out of control running on the beach, all the people were running away, or entering the water! I was holding on with my hands, thinking I am going to fall off! I had ridden horses since I was really young, this was something I have never experienced since. I will never forget the loudspeaker “GO BACK YOU ARE ENTERING MEXICO!” and all of the people running into the ocean just like a real movie scene. I still can’t believe we weren’t arrested. I finally got control of my horse and we all turned back and entered United States soil again. But the horses were sweating and horribly upset. One horse escaped. So we had three horses and 4 of us. We tried to get two of us on the same horse but that didn’t work. Slowly we started back, and all of a sudden an all terrain vehicle came up and took our friend with them. We returned all the horses, the one that escaped was already back and we drove our rental car to the hotel. Just one adventure of many in my 30 years of flying. A memorable one for sure.

Retirement photo 3
My last day of flying

As I grew older, I found my patience was thin for the demanding passengers that seemed to feel that with their tickets they bought the airplane and the crew. Cellphones and computers were always on even when people were told to turn them off. People wouldn’t follow instructions when there was turbulence, and the days became longer. Delta could keep us on duty for over 16 hours if they called irregular operations. This is a part of the job passengers have no idea. There were many times all I had to eat were the snacks offered to the passengers. I did take a bag of food with me all the time, and it isn’t easy to pack an entire food bag for a 3 day trip. When the terror attack of 9/11 happened, everything changed. The fun camaraderie enjoyed by flight crews of all bases ended. We became like soldiers in the sky. We were often told in our yearly training classes for updated security and safety, to look for the danger that now is a part of our job experience. It was still fun to get together with others on layovers, but the job was one of intense briefings before flights, and many flight attendants took it too far. I can say I have lost friends over their actions on the plane towards their co-workers. People who fly often don’t realize we are not paid during boarding. We are paid when the door closes, and the pay stops when the boarding door opens. The boarding process is the most stressful part of our job. They became mini dictators, and I didn’t like it. As flight attendants, we are the boss of ourselves in the air. The flight leader gave the briefings, but many became different. Mini drill sergeants with ridiculous expectations. The fun for me left. I was offered a buyout at the age of 50. I had always been young for my seniority and I retired with 30 years and 4 months. I can never describe what my job as a flight attendant gave me, except to say, I am doing well operating a hotel in another country. I have even learned to speak Spanish. I thin a person who takes on the job as a flight attendant has a special part of their soul seeking adventure. I am certain that describes my outlook on life completely. Adventure is the world for all flight attendants.

Look for more little tidbits of my book written for my blog. Sign up and follow me if you have not already.

Retirement photo
My last day of flying the friendly skies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Alternative Lifestyle, Colombia, Colombian life, Entreprenuer, freedom, happiness, hotel, Uncategorized

The Life I Have Made in Colombia. End of 2017 Reflections

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/proclivity/

In order to be free we have to be willing to think for ourselves, learn for ourselves, and to live our lives as our real true selves. Being free is when you are able to get past others opinions, when you are able to make decisions on what is best for you based on what is happening in your personal life, and not worry about what others may think, say or do. Being free is making choices that might not conform to a standard expected by a majority of people, but following your instincts and persevering no matter how many obstacles you may encounter. This is why some people are successful and others are not. I have found that quitting is not an option for me. The strength I have obtained because of stumbling blocks in my journey is invaluable. I thought the one thing I lost when I moved to Colombia was independence, but in actuality I have gained it. As I progress on this journey, I learn more about myself and what I am capable of. I am able to do what I need to do to secure a life filled with my passion for nature and animals.

Recently I had this lovely couple visit Villa Migelita Ecolodge.

Elaine and Marshall
My friend of many years and her husband at La Ruiza, Valle del Cauca, Colombia

The gorgeous woman you see has been my friend for almost 40 years. She came to visit Villa Migelita a couple of years ago with our other sidekick from the 1980’s Janet. She wanted her husband to see what I have done after such tremendous loss(the death of my daughter) in my life. Their visit has been another turning point for me. Before they arrived I had a lot of upheaval here in Colombia. I have handled it well, but it hasn’t been easy.

Elaine’s husband Marshall was very impressed that I had started a hotel, could speak Spanish and was accomplishing so much while still learning a new language and culture. He is the kind of person who offers sound advice and has a very kind way of saying things that I found comforting, even when it was constructive criticism. I don’t often speak about the things that have gone wrong while living in a new country, because so much has been right I don’t want to dwell  on the times I have struggled. However, I haven’t really had many people say to me ‘”hey you’re doing a great job!” In fact, hardly anyone says much as I move forward each day with my growing business. I have a proclivity to self talk negatively to myself since my daughter died. I try not to, but to be honest I do. So when someone I didn’t know said he couldn’t believe what I had done here with my life and my business,  I was delighted to have someone validate the strenuous undertaking of creating a hotel in another country. He also said the entire time I should have Netflix come and do a documentary on my life.  I have been featured in Yahoo Finance and International Living, all because I reached out to them. So maybe I will start reaching out to other venues to see if they are interested.

Hummingbirds and Cali at Christmas 046
In Cali, Colombia 2017 at the Festival of Lights in December
Michele 6years ago
6 years ago when I first bought Villa Migelita Ecolodge

 

Colombia has agreed with me. I know many still judge why I left the United States after my daughter was murdered. If you are really interested go back to the beginning of my blogs and read. It was a dreadful time in my life and I just couldn’t make any progress, I felt my personal growth was gone. I made some difficult choices. That is all we can do in troublesome situations. We should be the first priority for our well-being. If we are not, then we can’t show a good example to our children, family or friends.

I keep plugging away with my business. I have had a couple of people work with me, but I have been the one driving the business forward with my social media sites that publicize how Colombia really is. Me alone. I have done this, and I am not really that great with these things, but somehow I have figured out how to do more than I thought I could. I have created a following of people who never knew how wonderful and beautiful Colombia is. The days of old are gone, and Colombia is thriving. The government is really focusing on the tourism industry. So all the hard work I have done over the years I have been living here is starting to pay off. People from all over the world are discovering what a bio-diverse and gorgeous country Colombia is.

So with the lovely words of my friends husband inside my head still, I am feeling pretty good about my life in general. I have learned to deal with unpleasant situations without allowing them to affect my daily life. I know I can handle anything anyone wants to throw at me, I will catch it and throw it back. I will no longer allow others problems to change my way of thinking, I will continue to be the person I am. Yes, I am kind, I am compassionate, and I am strong. Perhaps, the only thing that has happened from my struggles here is that I am less trusting. I am losing that vital part of myself. I have found it is not in my best interest to be trusting, as I have been taken advantage of. Lessons learned and filed away for now.

So I will continue on with my love of Colombia being shown to all. If Colombia has changed it’s image from a turbulent past, so can I. I can become the best person I can be while living a life in Paradise. You see I know Misha is with me in every endeavor I undertake even the ones that are really difficult. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do make goals for myself that I try to follow, this year is to let go of fear. Ever since Misha died I have that fear thing inside of me. I am always waiting for another horrible situation to arise. I have to stop that. I have not allowed her death to stop me from creating what I have. I have to stop the negative talk and start the positive talk inside my head. I need to be proud of what I have accomplished and continue to achieve.

So with that I am going to do my  best to make Colombia a great tourist destination known around the world for nature lovers like myself. I am going to continue my journey of living in the now. I am going to be the free spirit I have always been, but I lost for a little while after my daughter’s death. I am going to try to say I am happy, because I really don’t say that much. I do say I love my life, but I have had trouble with that happiness thing. It seems elusive still, but I am working on it.Michele 2017 in water at Chipichape