That’s When I Knew I was in First Class

Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  

Over the summer, along with checking Cuba off of my “I Will DO IT” list, I was able to check off Flying First Class, x2.  The first experience was with American Airlines.  Darryl had already booked our flights home from Miami so I figured I’d see how much it would cost to upgrade.  The upgrade costs us less than $300, so why not.  Before we boarded, we went to the admirals club.  American Airlines had sent me two free passes to the admirals club in the past and I hadn’t used them until now.  Admirals Club is a membership program and lounge operated by American Airlines.  In the lounge, there was free food, drinks for purchase, free wifi, showers, television and comfortable seating.

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Of course, First Class boards first and we were seated in the second row.  The television screens were bigger than in economy class and we were served drinks right away.  We had the constant attention of attendants and received free snacks and a tasteful meal. There was more leg room and the seats were comfortable.

I may have been acting a little bougie, because I kept wondering when they were going to close the curtain.  And when they did- that’s when I knew I was in first class.  You know that E*Trade Commercial, yeah I was the women with the champagne…

There were lots of kids on our flight, but I didn’t hear any.  You don’t know how good it felt, to be the first ones off the plane either.  No waiting, no pushing, just strolling. Like A Boss!

Well something like that anyway.

I sent the following IM to my girlfriends:

“Yo, I just upgraded to first class American Airlines. I’m chillen in the Admirals club waiting for my 4:30 flight with free food and Wi-Fi and showers.  Why not, it’s my birthday month.”

This was my girlfriend Jennifer’s response:

“Let me know when you are riding first class on the way to Doha! That’s when you’re fancy.”

So, what did I do when I got to JFK airport when my summer had concluded and it was time to head back to Doha?  I asked how much it was to upgrade my Qatar Airways tickets to Doha, and that was on some other level!  Now let me clarify something: I am by no means rich, but I have learned how to work the system a little and get cheap flights.  I found a super cheap, one way flight back to Doha from JFK so I was willing to splurge a little if the price to upgrade would put me around the same price of a regular ticket. Sometimes you just have to live a little and at that very moment at that first-class counter a quote I refer to often came to mind…

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So I bought ‘the shoes’, well the tickets.  I was some what salty because we didn’t get to try out the Qatar Airways lounge.  After fighting through New York traffic and walking that big airport it was almost time to board.  Qatar Airways is already top shelf, so I could not wait to ‘eat the cake’, especially after the ticket handler said that I wouldn’t be able to get my pre-ordered vegan meal.  She said because that was for economy.  She said my meals would be better.  I was willing to have my pre-ordered meal but she said not in first class; they could not bring me economy meals.

We boarded first, of course, and found our seats or reclining beds.  Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  Don’t mind if I do.  She handed me a toiletry purse and directed me to the bathroom.  This bathroom was better than some homes.  After I changed into my pjs, she took my clothes and hung them up in a closet and then made up my bed.  Did you hear me?  She made up my bed.

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My husband asked if we could order a drink but was told that they can only offer champagne until after the take off.  Don’t mind if I do.  We were given menus to choose what we wanted to eat and were told me could order how much and how often we’d like. Did you hear what I said? Order how much and how often we’d like.  It was like having our very own butler, because the attendants attended to our every need.

Seven hours into the flight, Darryl woke me up and reminded me that I had slept half our first-class experience away.  It was the best sleep I had ever had on a flight.

So we watched some movies on our big screen monitor together and ate and drank for the duration of the flight.  First class makes a long flight enjoyable and if I could fly this way everywhere I would spend the money and do it.

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The only thing I didn’t like about both of my first class experiences was the big console in between the seats.  Darryl and I couldn’t cuddle.  In economy you can lift the armrest and lay in each other’s arms but the big consoles between us made this impossible. Should that deter you from flying first-class?  HELL NO!  It is an experience worth having at least once, if you can afford it.

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Apartment Hunting in Qatar

Everything in Qatar is different than home and the process of finding and securing a new place is no exception.  A few months ago, the company that I work for gave everyone the option of taking a housing allowance or be moved to a different accommodation.  Since we arrived we have been living in a very nice compound that is approximately a 15 minute drive to work.  This is very good for Qatar, since traffic can get extremely hectic.  I was a little nervous about being moved too far away and having a long commute to work.  So I considered taking the housing allowance.  I also took this as an opportunity to save some money, since the housing allowance is a nice amount and I was optimistic that I’d be able to find a place below that amount.  On the other hand, I didn’t really want to bother with renting and all that comes with that, that I know about, and all that I don’t know about in a foreign country.  In the end, money won, as well as other reasons, and I took the allowance. (without knowing everything first)

I haven’t had to look for a place to live in over 16 years.  I own my house in Philadelphia and I had forgotten how stressful it could be.  I haven’t had to look for a place alone in over 21 years.  At least I wasn’t the only one looking.  On top of this, the compound that we lived in, that we loved so much, had been sold and the new management turned off our wifi and our company knew nothing about this until I brought it to their attention.  I won’t bore you with the particulars, besides I just want to forget about that whole ordeal. It was very stressful in the beginning but like everything you learn to cope.  In the midst of searching for a new place, I actually got to navigate thru Doha and see some interesting accommodations.  The way they build some of these buildings makes no sense.  I saw one apartment where there were on-suites to both guest bedrooms but no connecting bathroom for the master bedroom.  I’ve seen shower heads with no bathtub or shower wall or door and kitchens so small that the refrigerator and stove were located some place else.  I’ve seen apartments with high floors, a kitchen as soon as you walk in with the bedrooms in the rear and no other way out if there was a fire in the kitchen except plunge to your death or be burned alive.  I’ve seen structural cracks being caulked over.  I’ve also seen huge houses with a kitchen outside and multiple rooms with no purpose, beautiful apartments across the street from slums, and places a stone’s toss away from a beach.  I think you get the point.

It came down to two places for me.  A beautiful newly built apartment with a 5 minute drive to work or a not so brand new beautiful apartment with a 30 minute ride to work. Would it surprise you to know that I didn’t pick the obvious choice?

Both apartments had pros and cons.  The first one was newly built with all new furniture and appliances and it included twice a week maid service.  It was literally 5 minutes away from work and much less expensive with all utilities included.  I could save over $1,000 a month in housing allowance alone, if I chose to.  But it had no frills.  Five minutes away from work meant at least 30 minutes away from everything else, like malls, restaurants, Ed City, etc… It did not have a gym or pool.  All the neighboring fitness centers were for men only and hubby and I love to work out together. The kitchen was a closet with tin drawers and no dish washer.  The bathrooms were even smaller closets, and well, here is a picture of what was supposed to be the shower.

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Yeah I couldn’t get passed the showers.  And new in a Doha does not always mean better; there is nothing to go on so you never know what you will get.  The other apartment is more expensive and electricity and water is not included.  This cuts my savings from my housing allowance more than half.  But the apartment is bigger and more modern with an open kitchen concept and a dishwasher.  It includes a bathtub, actual shower and washer and dryer.  The complex has a pool, steam room, gym and club house. Everything that I enjoy about Doha is literally within a 15 minute drive.  Parking is underground and I like the furniture.  I guess it came down to preference and to me, me and my husband’s comfort in a foreign country is very important.  When I come home from work, my home is my solace and refuge.  Also, I know quite a few people who currently reside there, so I had something to go on.

Accommodations in Doha are expensive.  I will be paying about $2400.00 a month in rent for a 2 bedroom, approximately 120sqm apartment, compared to about $800 in rent that I would have to pay in Philadelphia and the $750 I paid in mortgage monthly.  Crazy, right.  Our housing allowance is about $3,000.00 a month.

Most rental companies require the first month rent and one month security deposit due upon signing the lease.   Some even require a commission fee which is usually an additional half month.  This is because a lot of companies use realtors to show their place and the commission goes to them.  Also you will be required to give post dated checks for each month until the end of the contract.  Basically, I gave the rental company 13 checks, two current months and 11 future months.  Here’s the kicker, I don’t begin to get my housing allowance until I have completely vacated my current property.   So I had to pay the first month and security out of my pocket because I can’t move without having a place to stay. (I didn’t know that before I decided to go with the housing allowance). Lesson learned: find out all the info before accepting anything.

Anyway, I signed my lease starting June 1.  The landlord is nice enough to allow me to move in one week sooner.  This way I am sure to vacate before June 5th and hand over my keys, therefore meeting the deadline to receive my first housing allowance in my June pay.  This is what is supposed to happen, but this is Qatar and things usually don’t go like you plan, so fingers crossed.

Update 28/5/17:

I’ve moved.  You won’t believe how much I’ve accumulated in one year.  It’s definitely a downgrade from that big ole villa I had but home is what you make it, right?  Here are some pictures of my new apartment before I decorated it.

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SOON

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I received this email yesterday:

“Dear All,

I am in the process of booking your one way ticket to Doha. However, in order to book your ticket(s), I will need the following information from you in the next 36 hours.

What is the closest airport where you will be flying from in August?

What is the full name of the airport?

What is the three letter airport code?”

This is very exciting news.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Soon I will know exactly when my family and I are leaving. Soon we will start our new life.  Soon I will be leaving the life I know behind.  Soon I will be nervous as hell to take that flight.  Soon I will miss the rest of my family terribly.  Soon I will meet and make new friends and connections.  Soon I will be in another part of the world. Soon!