Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Manila and beyond! - Day one and a half of the adventure

So much... oh so much to share.... but I'll start with this, the ADVENTURE HAS BEGUN! Yesterday morning I was shuttled off to the airport where I caught the early flight to Manila. My partner in crime and trusty side-kick is a travel savvy MK from Africa,named Janelle. Together we had it all figured out. We'd drop our bags at the bus depot and then explore the city on foot. We were excited. Once we landed, we powerhoused our hiking bags on and off carts, around the masses and made it to the concierge desk for information.

We figured it couldn't hurt to ask for directions for the bus depot. When in doubt, ask! Right? We made it to the concierge desk and were thrilled to learn we could get to the station using public transportation. So off we went, with a skip in our step to the bus depot. We boarded a transit bus and rolled on and on... and on. We were told where to get off by the conductor and then asked a few people who helped us find the place. We were so proud that we made it there by bus... all on our ingenious own! (plus the help of about 25 locals- of course). But soon after arriving, we discovered there was just one problem... it was the WRONG TERMINAL!

We then had to brave the taxi system (not a good reputation in manila) and cross town to the northern terminal!.... Amid the honking and exhaust fumes... we had to laugh. We had tried to avoid the taxi and here we were begging one to get us to our next stop. Three hours after landing in Manila... we made it there at last. We purchased our tickets and stored our bags. We were exhausted... hot... hungry and a bit defeated. The noise and the dirt, the heat and the hassle, had conspired to zap the adventurous spirit out of our steps. We had grand plans to see Rizal Park (a 58 hectare oasis in down town Manila) and then roam around museums to while-away the time. But instead we opted for the nearest mall and settled in for a 7 hour lay-over.

We ate, played and laughed our way around the mall. We got lost in the book stores and even more lost looking for the loo! (Apparently only the locals now where they are... and restroom signs cannot be trusted!) We didn't want to stay any longer than we had to at the bus station so we tried to time our connection to the last possible moment. We had to be there at 7pm so, optimistic us, we gave ourselves 15 minutes. We were naive to think that a 7 minute ride could take us longer than 15 minutes or that traffic might play a part in our downfall. But most of all, we assumed that like in everything else in the Philippines, that time didn't matter and they'd hold the bus for us! Oh... we were WRONG! Oh so very WRONG! Not only was our bus gone at 7:05 when we arrived but it had left exactly at 7pm!!! Timeliness is a concept that is largely unknown... or possibly unappreciated by this culture- EXCEPT AT THE BUS STATION!

Happily, my story does not end with my trusty-side-kick and I standing sullen and dejected, holding our bags amid the masses of travelers. We were able to catch the next bus (which thankfully left only 45 minutes later) and bunker down for the 12 hour commute to Tabuk. Yes, you heard that right... 12hrs! Now, I've taken international flights across the Atlantic that didn't take that long! But we were happy... because the Victory Liner bus was taking us further and further away from the BIG-BAD-CITY with every minute. And we were both craving a little country-side time. The ride was uneventful... if you don't count the cheesy-B-class horror movie they subjected us to, or the lack of sleep and leg room. This morning, we arrived safe and sound to our destination... a lovely birthing clinic surrounded by rice fields on three sides and a main street on the last. As I sit on the balcony and type out this message, I get excited about what the next few weeks will entail. I'm sure it will have something to do with catching babies... but i'm hoping for much, much more. But as each adventure leads me to new places... I'll make sure and bring you along. Until then, thank you for lifting us up in prayer!