While I would have hoped to post this sooner, I have been extremely sick and bed ridden for the last couple of days. And between NyQuil and jet lag, I have slept a record of 45ish hours of the last 3 days. But, per the
demands requests of some important readers, I have brewed some coffee and will share my first installment of my trip (that’s all I can muster up right now people.)
While I was aware of how long our flights were, there is no way for a novice world traveler to truly grasp the length of a trip around the globe. I had no idea how long 35 hours of continuous vacillation between airport gift shop browsing and transit above the clouds would feel. With my most lengthy flight (previous to this experience) weighing in at around 5 measly hours, I had never experienced the world of in-flight meals or the importance of saying a silent prayer that you might be graced with an aisle seat to steer clear of painfully avoiding waking the person beside you in the middle of the night to relieve yourself of the gratis diet cokes.
Our first flight was to LA with a lengthy layover that allowed for a nap curled up in one of the cold leather waiting chairs. Then it was on to South Korea which had the nicest airport I had ever seen. Upon arrival, I quickly realized that I had made a wardrobe mistake. I stuck out like the poor, unfortunate American tourist I am. I was in athletic shorts and a tshirt amongst a sea of Asians in puffy parkas and Ugg boots (fitting, since it was 10 degrees outside) and this was leaving me with plenty of odd stares and goosebumps. Clint and I shared a meal of pork over rice- my third meal of this fashion over the last 12 hours. My first being on the plane ride where an Asian flight attendant (looking identical to her fellow air mates- down to the tight low bun, winged eyeliner and turtleneck dresses, which is apparently standard for Asian airlines) offered me two choices of meals. I didn’t understand either option she said (them both sounding like Ah-Ah-Oh-Po), and asked her to repeat them. After a side glance to Clint that confirmed he was equally as confused, I simply smiled and said, “Yes, I’ll take the first.” This rice roulette landed me with a meal tidily divided into small red square dishes that fit together perfectly on the tray. Each contained small portions of various foods- some of which I didn’t recognize. After spying on the Asian man at the end of the row for guidance, I followed his lead of throwing the contents of all the red squares into a bowl of white rice and adding a red spicy paste that was squeezed out of a white tube. The next meal was served after Clint and I switched off sleeping through the night- the other one standing guard in fear of missing the breakfast cart. With the dramatic time change, we had no idea when the free meal would wheel its way over and we weren’t going to let sleep jeopardize our consumption of it. So after a fairly sleepless night, we were served rice. Again. Where are the pancakes? Muffins? No… just rice? Okay. So by the 3rd airport and meal of white rice and mystery meat, I am feeling real cultured.
We are now in Manila, Philippines with one flight to go. Immediately off the plane, I am struck by the huge difference in culture. I am one of very few fair skinned people around, and I am noticing a lot of stares. The airport is hot and run down. When we walk outside, I see palm trees and lots of old taxis. It is painfully humid (and this is from a Houstonian!) as we wait for the shuttle that will take us to the next airport. After being asked for a “Christmas tip” from a cop, we boarded an old airconditioned shuttle that closely resembled the ambiance of a hookah lounge. It had purple seats and curtains made of patterned cloth that had moons and dolphins with orange tassels. The characters of this ride included: 1. Another young American couple (which I gauged to be honeymooners)with the woman in tears looking around and saying “I didn’t know it was going to be like this!”. The two removed themselves from the shuttle prior to departing. 2. A family of Filipinos with handfuls of fake designer merchandise who kept staring at me and Clint and talking in a different language. 3. A large Canadian man who told us that he was coming to meet his girlfriend (whom he had met online) and her family for the first time to have a wedding reception in her home country. The ride was 20 pesos (about 50 cents in American dollars). With each pot hole we hit, the tassels swung back and forth over the top of my head. It was quite charming to me that someone decided to spice up this old bus with these specific decorations. They believed these dolphins and tassels to be a homey touch for travelers, and worked hard to make this interior exactly what it was. Clint gave me a look that asked me if he had done a good job explaining what I was in for by traveling here. And I smiled back, assuring him that I was loving every minute of it.
We boarded our last flight and arrived in Davao, Philippines late the night of the 22nd after two days of globe-trotting. We were greeted outside of the airport by Clint’s entire immediate family who were full of hugs and “how was the trip”s. We rode in a taxi van to the house that Clint’s parents and younger sister (Christy, age 17) currently live in. The house is bright pink with cement walls all the way around it with shards of broken glass and barbwire surrounding the top. This is very standard for all homes in the Philippines. “To keep honest people honest” was a phrase that I heard several times. The front yard is beautiful with many colorful flowers and an outdoor porch with bamboo furniture. We shared a late dinner, stories of travel, and we were off to bed. Tomorrow was going to be an early morning of service in the community. An experience that would genuinely alter my view of the world.
One of our meals in South Korea.
It came with a noodle/seaweed soup.
Each seat had it’s own screen and remote control for movies, games or news.
Clint on his sleeping shift (sorry babe!)
The view from the Hanna’s back yard (looking out). I naturally look over the gate with how much taller I am than most Filipinos.
This is the street view of where I was staying.