15 September 2011

Parles Vous Anglais?

You can imagine being whisked through 5 days of ground school, then returning to KK and packing up to organise your move back to the peninsula, and then before you can do much else, shoot off to France for simulator training on an aircraft you have not so much as sat in yet. It's rather forbidding isn't it? It makes me want to scream merde rather than Sacre bleu.

But here I am now in the middle of the week of simulator training in the ancient city of Marseilles. I am getting better at the EC225, though not as fast as I wish I could. My friends keep telling me that this is the "learning curve", and thus I must suffer as they all did. I am grateful for little satirical consolations such as these which they offer me. The EC225 in simulator mode is a bronco to bust, and I am once again wondering if I am worthy of my wings. But it should come to me before the end of my career, so that should not be so bad. With that in mind, I shall refrain from saying too much about my thorny path towards the left hand seat in the EC225.

Instead, let me speak of the corner of Marseilles I am living in. I am housed in the Adagio aparthotel and I glean from the signboards that this is in the Cote D'Azur, which sounds like 'the blue coast' to me. Fair enough, Marseilles Provence is a sparkling seaside city with an extensive port and marina, with ships the like of which I have never seen before. These vessels are so gargantuan I can imagine the entire population of KK on the deck of even one of them. Then too, the entire population of KK would in fact prefer the ship because the residences don't look all ultra modern and sparkling the way the port impressed me. People here live in little apartments posing as the Gallic equivalent of our own Pekeliling Flats in the middle of dingy Kuala Lumpur. The apartments astride the Adagio look post apocalyptic even, swarming with immigrants and numerous homeless people, lending an overall Book Of Eli feel to the locale.

Down the street, a right turn and 80 yards away is a pizza-kebab-salad canteen, run by an Egyptian named Mohammed. It's the closest point of sustanence for me, and so far I have been shuttling meals between Mohammed's cheeseburgers and kebabs in pita bread on the one hand, and jambon crudite sandwiches from a vending machine at Helisim on the other. I swear, the minute I am on board the mas flight back to KL from Charles De Gaulle on Tuesday, I am going to beg the stewardess for a nasi lemak, be it on the menu or no. I thought myself a true omnivore with Brenda's pastas, breads and pies but my real craving now is for a platter of biriyani rice, chicken varruval and sagh. Yes, sagh, not any other spelling variant of that word. Or maybe...hold that thought...

I have not faced too many problems with language, and the French's reputation for utter disdain towards the English-speaking has not made itself apparent yet. Perhaps it is the Helisim's mixed patronage of Americans, Australians and other international customers. Perhaps it is the presence of the many immigrants. Perhaps Marseilles is far from the fanatical Parisienne hub. My inappropriate bonjour and merci and misplaced sil vous plais are best dispensed with before the locals declare me barbaric. Kevin Kline and Depardieu have been no help whatsoever. On the subject of losses in  translation, while the French can communicate in English and indeed, do so when dealing with international clients, the results of their exercise of the language can be hilariously misinterpreted. I don't  think this notice over the vending machine needs elaboration to those with so much as a mild imagination.

The days have suddenly taken a welcome turn for the colder, nippier feel in the air. I am no closer to feeling prouder of myself than when I first attended ground school in Paka as I can't get a feel for the EC225 in sim. Everyone here is reasuring me that I am just suffering from simulatoritis. Yes, there actually is such as thing, and I can remember doing quite clumsily in the Sea King simulator in Bournemouth and Stavanger for at least the first 4 out of 12 hours. Okay, so there may be hope for me yet.

I am wearied, too, as this has been the third 3 am morning start for me, and my internal clock is really in  a shambles. I sleep at odd times, get hungry at odd times and I feed that hunger at times not of its calling. Anyone can tell you, that this is just so typical of a simulator course!

But then  again, the mid-point has been reached. Thankfully, my instructors are Malaysian, not Gallic. Some of them are former air force veterans. This makes things a bit smoother not merely because of the language or culture but also the date-time-group. They are in as bad shape as I am contending with jet lag, and this makes for better empathy towards this zero-offshore houred pilot.

Eventually, this nightmare in Marseilles will draw to a close. Then will come the type technical exam, followed by the C of T. Man, am I steady inbound for a party or what?