October 16th, 2012…simultaneously one of the best and worst days of my life. I left home for my grand adventure on October 3rd, and, as difficult and bittersweet as that was, the really tough part was the day that I left for the Philippines – October 16th. Up until then, yes, I was missing my friends and family back home, but I was visiting other friends and family in the States. One of the superwomen in my life, Dannie, in Austin, TX. An aunt and uncle of mine – Madeleine and Chuck – in Northern California after that. My boyfriend, Evan, came during the second half of my California visit and to see me off on my last night. (I will note here, so that you all know how amazing he is: my flight left for the Philippines at 1:50am and his flight back home left at 7 something in the morning. With security and all that, I left his side around 11:30pm and, poor, wonderful, amazing Evan slept in the airport that night. Just so he could watch me walk away. Ah, love.)
So far, October had been a month of sadness, goodbyes and a little bit of anxiety, mixed with excitement. But October 16th…oh, October 16th. That day was filled with the breathless feeling that this was it, I was leaving my comfort zone, for real. Evan and I went to dinner alone and could barely eat. I tried to keep it light because it wasn’t quite time to say goodbye yet, but the impending trip to the airport hung in the air as dense as the smog in L.A. (Have you seen that shit? Good god!) After dinner, we drove back to my aunt and uncle’s house to start packing. And THAT’S when panic struck. Oh my god, the Philippines. Dengue fever, malaria, political tension, flooding, earthquakes, crime…I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The fear of the unknown combined with my imagination can be a disastrous mixture. I had never been to an Asian country before and, although I would be meeting a friend there, I was essentially going alone and I had no visual image to rely on. Of course, my mind was focused on all of the things that could possibly go wrong.
I expressed my fear to everyone I talked to that night. And I would like to thank here all of those who reassured me. Evan, Madeleine and Chuck all got to see me in full panic mode – not pretty. I even bought a calling card so that I could try to get a hold of my friend in the Philippines to make sure, one more time, that it was safe for me to go. I was unable to reach her. So, I gathered my things and off we went to San Francisco International Airport. Once I made it through security and waved goodbye to Evan one last time, my mind found the sort of quiet calmness that I am hoping comes in the moments before death. (DRAMA!) Acceptance of your fate. I was getting on that plane and there was nothing I could do about it. I just let myself be led like a lamb through the boarding process.
All things considered, the 14 hour flight to Taipei was not all that bad. I had requested an aisle seat, but was moved to a center seat. Thankfully, the old lady next to me and I had the same size bladders and every time I thought I needed the restroom, or just to stretch, she was already up. I was also able to sleep through most of it. I landed in Taipei and then in the Philippines without any problems. And once I sighted my friend through the customs window, my fears started to melt away.
As I am writing this, I have only a few days left here in the Philippines. I am so glad that I came and would once again like to thank all of those people who reassured me – this really has been a wonderful experience. I now have a visual to connect with unknown places, so next time I will hopefully be less apprehensive. Then there are all of the things that I have done here so far that I will no longer be fearful of – pulling apart and eating a whole (head still on, bones still in) fish, riding a 600 meter zip line, no toilet paper. (Ok…I can’t say that I have conquered that fear…I have merely learned to pocket paper towels and tissues everywhere I go…) I will say goodbye to the Philippines in a few short days, but will forever carry this trip in my mind as a fresh start and a place that I remain curious about.
And now for some photos: