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Daily Prompt: Come Fly with Me

November 15, 2013

Twenty-four hours is the most time I’ve ever spent in the air to reach a destination. Imagined as the trip of a lifetime, I’d saved up my meager wages to afford the fare, received the myriad inoculations, and convinced my worried mother I’d return in one piece.

Truthfully, I had no idea what awaited me. My wellbeing was in the hands of my companion. He and I (and the majority of his family) travelled to his native land to visit nine cities in 14 days. We rose early and boarded small planes, boats, jeepneys, rickshaws, and even a motorbike to make our way around this fascinating archipelago.

It was literally the most beautiful, serene, and exciting place I’d ever experienced, and the most heartbreaking as well.

Pristine beaches, crystal clear water, and luxurious resorts were on one end of the spectrum and corrugated shack communities, no plumbing, and profound poverty was on the other.

The first night in Manila, when I stepped out of the airport, humid air hit me like a brick to the chest. Varied voices chattered around me that I couldn’t understand. Panic. I was way beyond my comfort zone.

That trip, and all that I encountered in the Philippines – the people, the sites, and the food – made quite an impression. Forever memories made, like devouring a roast chicken, among eight people, with my bare hands; climbing the stone steps at Maria Christina Falls; walking gingerly into the clear sea to avoid stepping on thousands of starfish; and sleeping in the homes of welcoming strangers.

I did my best to adjust to the absence of toilet seats (and in some instances, toilets). I swam near stalactites and stalagmites inside Hinagdanan Cave, something my companion had never even done. I drank from a fresh coconut he sliced off a tree in rural Mindanao, discovered hanging rice and chicken on a stick in Cebu, and enjoyed his serenade amidst live volcanoes in breathtaking Camigiun. I even attended a traditional Philippino wedding – quite spectacular.

People commented on my nose, kids approached me asking for money, and it was really tough to go unnoticed (I was, for once in my life, the minority). But it was the toilet seats that got me. If I went more than three days without one, my will would begin to wane.

And even though this place was the most beautiful I’d ever seen I couldn’t imagine living here my whole life knowing I could never leave. When I returned to Pennsylvania, I dropped to my knees and actually kissed the ground.

Until then I had no idea how much I, as an American, took for granted: freedom, toilets, running water, decent coffee.  I knew I was far from being rich, as some of the people I met assumed, but some of the very basics that I had here were for them nonexistent. I began to understand their perception.

That adventure happened more than a dozen years ago, and since then I’ve married that amazing travelling companion, who by the way proposed during our trip. Now, I’m part of an extended family that traverses the globe.

As you might imagine, it’s been very tense recently not knowing if our clan is safe. Communication is spotty and we still await more details. We do know, as has been reported, the survivors need food and water and materials to rebuild. And they need them quickly.

So, if you would like to help, please contact the Red Cross or Oxfam (or your reputable charity of choice). From my family to yours, I thank you.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    December 16, 2013 8:24 pm

    You are a wonderful writer and I’m so proud of this piece.

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