“Are you ok?”
“Why are you on your own?”
“Where are your parents?”
Did I really look that helpless arriving into Manila two weeks ago? I thought I was doing pretty well on my first time solo trip. No missed flights, everything on time, I even managed to navigate through four different airports without getting hopelessly lost (a big feat for me, being navigationally challenged). There was the minor issue of my luggage with all of my belongings being nowhere to be found… But I was being uncharacteristically calm about the situation – and the lovely Filipino woman who demanded the airport offered me a free night in a hotel made me smile, even if they laughed and refused.
When you arrive here you learn very quickly that not much works as you would expect it to. I had mentally prepared myself for culture shock so I found it was actually the small things that surprised me. I still haven’t gotten the hang of queuing in public bathrooms… But the saga of the missing bag was what really hammered the lesson home. After five long days of wearing the same sweaty clothes, I made a 2-hour journey by habal-habal, bus and tricycle from our base at MCP in Zamboanguita back to Dumaguete airport. The sheer relief when I could see my bag stored in a cargo building was short lived when the security told me they were closed and I was to return at 6am the next morning.
“But it’s right therrrrrreeee!”
“But I’ve been waiting for daysssss!”
No luck. It’s not often you stop to consider an airport closes down when the sun goes down, but that’s Dumaguete for you.
All the traveling had turned my many bites ugly and I was getting eaten alive arguing with the guards. I swear, if I get Dengue Fever from this whole ordeal Aer Lingus will be hearing from me. Feeling defeated and sweaty I retreated back to a hostel for the night. At least I’d get a good nights sleep from the adventure… Wrong again. Having found myself in a last-minute room basically placed on the busy main road of Dumaguete coupled with being covered head to toe in heat rash left me missing my bed in MCP. I eventually reunited with my bag the following morning, and even made it back in time to MCP for our first day snorkelling. I will be forever grateful to the habal-habal driver who managed to fit my 25kg bag on his handlebars, myself on the back and manoeuvre through the massive puddles of mud left from the rain on the rough road back to base. Thanks Gerry, you’re the real MVP!
It’s funny to think back to those first few days now on to my third week here, sitting on the balcony of our mansion in Panglao (not technically a mansion – but it at least feels like a mansion after living in one room with six people for two weeks). In hindsight, I may have overreacted on day one when my taxi driver took a wrong turn and my immediate thought was “I’m being kidnapped”. I also still cringe at myself for accepting the drivers’ word at the airport when he assured me that 2,000 pesos was a set price for a transfer from terminal 1 to terminal 3. But, despite some initial newbie falters, I’m pleased to say I’m alive. I’ve managed to improve my haggling skills and have yet to collapse from dehydration or sun burn. We’ve probably squeezed a year worth of lectures, experience and training into two weeks and it’s only the beginning. But what’s the main lesson learned from weeks 1 & 2?….
I’ve packed way too much!