The Barangay Captain, The District Hospital, and Zooming Through The Night

Okay, the Barangay Captain doesn’t actually have anything to do with our story, although we did see him while we were in the Barangay Hall. I just think it helped make for a good title.

Sometime last week we were in SM City shopping, and noticed a banner advertising a summer sports program for kids in Iloilo City. Inday wants to sign Edrian up for this, and one of the requirements is a Barangay Clearance to prove residence.

For my Western friends, a barangay is the smallest political division in the Philippines. A city or town is made up of multiple barangays. Iloilo City, for instance, has 180 barangays. You can think of it as a neighborhood. Each barangay has an elected captain and elected council members.

So, on Tuesday morning Inday and I walked over to the Barangay Hall for the barangay that includes our condo, in order to ask for a Clearance for Edrian. Since we never registered with the barangay when we moved here, we had to do that first. The clerk came out and sat down with us to interview us, and fill out our information in a surprisingly large, multi-page booklet. He recorded information about each of us including name, birth date, religion, educational attainment, where we lived prior to moving to Barangay San Rafael, and our reason for moving here. For the household, he asked what our source for drinking water is, what fuel we primarily use to cook, and how we dispose of our kitchen waste. And at the end of all this, they printed up Edrian’s Barangay Clearance, stating his full name, that he is a resident of Barangay San Rafael, he is of good character, and the barangay officials know of no complaints or actions against him.

Meanwhile, back on Monday morning Edrian had woken up and the little guy’s face was all swollen in an obvious allergic reaction to something, although he wasn’t complaining about anything. Inday had been planning to bring him to Barotac Viejo to stay with his grandmother, and she decided to carry on with that plan, but with the addition that when they got to Barotac Viejo she first took Edrian to the babaylan, and then to the doctor. The doctor ordered some tests, and prescribed medication. Inday spent the day there with her family, and in the evening Edrian was feeling good and wanted to stay with Grandma, so Inday came home alone.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, and about 8:30 or so Inday got a call from her mom telling us that Edrian had been complaining it was hard to breathe so they were taking him to the hospital. The fastest way for us to get up there is by car, so I booked a Grab Car and off we went. We got to the hospital a few minutes after 10:00, and Inday’s mom and two of her sisters were there with Edrian. He was doing okay, sitting on the bed with one of his titas (aunts). The doctor wanted a chest x-ray and some blood tests, so we paid for those, and were told we would have to wait 3 to 4 hours for the results. Fortunately it only took a couple of hours, so a bit after midnight they told us all the tests were negative, and they did one last check of his vitals before telling us he could leave about 12:30.

So now we’re sitting outside the hospital in the middle of the night with a 5-year-old, and we need to find a way back to Iloilo City. The obvious choice is to book another Grab Car, but after multiple attempts we always got the “No Drivers Available” response. The buses don’t run overnight, and the first bus in the morning is at 4:00AM. Fortunately, Inday is a resourceful woman. She had the phone number for a Grab driver who had told her previously that he was available as a hired driver for day trips and such, so she called him and he agreed to drive up to Barotac Viejo and pick us up. It’s a bit over an hour drive, so we settled down to wait and he showed up about a quarter to two. Finally, we were on our way, and after a stop at Inday’s parents’ place to pick up Edrian’s medications from the day before, we were off and got home a couple of minutes after 3:00AM.

This morning Edrian was still very itchy, still had hives all over his body, and was complaining that his tummy hurt, so Inday called his pediatrician. She doesn’t have office hours here today, but told us to bring him to the ER at the hospital down the street, where her office is. We did that; they checked him over, reviewed all the tests that had been done up in the province, called his pediatrician and filled her in, and she said he should be fine, we just need to allow time for his medications to work, and made an appointment to see him on Monday. The ER didn’t even charge us for the visit. Can you imagine that happening in the States? I can’t.

I’ve been thinking about buying a car so we can easily take trips around Panay, but have been put off by the cost of parking here at the condo. A parking spot in the garage costs about 5500 – 6000 pesos per month. In a typical month we don’t spend anywhere near that amount for transportation. A Grab ride across town is a couple hundred pesos. But last night’s experience is, in my mind, a pretty strong argument for having our own car. So now we’re re-evaluating.

Some Random Observations

As the title says, this will just be some random vignettes of my life here in Iloilo City.

Inday and I went to SM Supermarket, which is in SM City, the large mall. We came out with a cart full of shopping bags, ordered a Grab car to bring us home, and when the car arrived the driver jumped out and opened the back of his car to load our bundles. One of the mall security guards, with his long gun strapped across his chest, came up and started helping the driver load everything in the back of the car. It was all done so fast, we didn’t even have a chance to help. Then the guard smiled, waved, and walked off.

Once the Grab driver dropped us off at home, as we approached the lobby door one of the building staff opened the door and greeted us as we entered, then he pushed the elevator call button for us, and when the door opened and we got in, he reached in to push Floor 3 for us so we wouldn’t need to do that with our hands full. I have no idea how they manage to remember that we live on the 3rd floor. There are 7 floors of condos in this building.

Does anybody remember the arcade game Frogger, from back in the 80’s? Crossing the road here is like a game of live-action Frogger. If the road has two lanes in each direction, then there could be three lanes of traffic in each direction, plus motorbikes filtering by on either side and in between. There are signs directing drivers to Yield To Pedestrians In Crosswalk. They are a total waste of time and materials. Nobody stops. When I first got here my strategy was simple: I’d stand on the curb and wait until some locals ventured forth to cross the road, and I’d shadow them. I’ve become marginally competent at crossing the road now, although Inday still thinks I’m not to be trusted on my own and always takes my hand so she can steer me across the road. To be fair, I did nearly get run down by a motorbike right in front of her once. But only once!

Filipinos typically eat using a fork and a spoon. I’ve actually adopted this method at home, although I use the spoon to help load food onto my fork, while Inday uses her fork to push food onto her spoon. In restaurants the staff will sometimes give Inday a fork and spoon, and will give me a fork and a knife. I get a chuckle from that every time!

Back in the States people lament the rise of cellphone addiction. It is nothing like what it is here. Nothing! People seem to be glued to their phones every waking moment. More than once I’ve had Filipinos walk right into me while staring at their phone screen.

When we moved to this condo, there was no toaster. I need to have my toast in the morning, so we headed off to the SM Store to buy a toaster. When you buy something in the Philippines, the store staff will unpack whatever it is and make sure it works before you pay for it and leave. So the sales clerk took the toaster out of the box, plugged it in, made sure it heated up, then packed it back into the box and sent us on our way to the checkout.

Similarly, Inday bought a toy train for her son Edrian, and the store staff unpacked the little train, put the batteries in it, and made sure it ran on the track. Then they packed it all back up, checked us out, and sent us on our way.

Okay, that’s it. Nothing important and profound. Just a few snippets about adjusting to life here. I hope it was worth the few minutes to read.

A Short One

I don’t know what to title this blog post. But it is a short one, so I’ll just go with that.

There are a number of common comorbidities to autism, and I am in the process of being evaluated for some of these. It will be a number of months before I get an actual diagnosis, because that’s just how backed up the system is, but I’ve taken the screening tests and I know my scores. That being so, I have a good idea what the results are going to be.

I scored very low on the ADHD test, I scored right on the line between mild and moderate on the OCD screening test, and I scored off the charts for alexithymia.

The only one of these that surprised me at all was the OCD test, but on reflection I’d say that’s just me being unaware. Apparently, not everybody has the unending internal dialogue that I thought was normal. Fortunately, my level of OCD doesn’t really interfere in my daily life. At least, I don’t think it does.

As for alexithymia, when I first read the definition, I knew that fit me to the nth degree. Basically, alexithymia is a difficulty in discerning emotions, either my own or other people’s. I’ve seen it described as emotional illiteracy. I remember once telling someone that if they gave me three days, I could figure out what I was feeling. I’m sure that sounded crazy at the time.

I experience emotions as physical things. My stomach hurts. My chest is tight. I can’t quite take a full breath. Usually, all I know is that I’m feeling negative emotions or I’m feeling positive emotions.

When Anju and I were out for dinner last week* I was explaining these test results and what alexithymia is, and her response was “Oh yeah Dad!’ So it seems this is much more apparent than I ever thought it was. I hope it didn’t make me a bad dad.

As for discerning other people’s emotions, I have these internal dialogs when I’m interacting with other people that might go “oh, his voice is going up and he’s making bigger and bigger gestures. I think he’s angry.” Often I’ve no idea why, so I just assume I did or said something in a way to make the person angry, usually unintentionally.

Okay, that’s it. Short and sweet!

* This was written last month soon after I got back to Tennessee after my trip to New England

Week One Is In The Books

I’ve been here in Iloilo City for a week now. It feels like I’ve been busy, but at the same time not busy at all.

When my flight landed at the crack of dawn in Iloilo last Friday, I was met at the airport by two other expats living here who I had connected with on Facebook. Chris and Mary were so kind to pick me up and drive me to the condo I had rented on Airbnb. It made a wonderful start to my time here.

Since then I’ve figured out my neighborhood a bit. I’ve shopped for groceries a couple of times. I either run or walk on the Esplanade most every morning.

There are some things I need to do to settle in here. One of those is to get a Philippine phone number. My US number is with Google Fi, which works in most countries in the world. Here in the Philippines, Fi uses Globe’s network. Since Globe and Smart are the two big players here, I chose Smart for my local SIM. This way, I should have coverage most anywhere I go.

I tried to buy an eSIM from Smart via their website, but in order to complete the checkout, they require a Philippine phone number. So I went to the Smart store in the mall to take care of it. It cost me P40 for a SIM, which included unlimited calls, texts, and 5G data for 3 days. Since my phone is dual SIM capable, I have both my US service and my Philippines service active at all times, and I have it set so the phone automatically switches to whichever data service is better at the moment. Very convenient.

The system for funding a prepaid phone plan, and for choosing what calling, texting, and data options you want, is completely different than in the States, and very confusing to me, but I think I’ve figured it out enough to have a working phone. There are so many little details of daily life to learn anew!

When I landed in Cebu and went through Immigration, they stamped my passport with a 30 day tourist visa. I’ve since gone online and applied for a visa waiver, which gives me another 29 days. It was very easy to do online. I logged into the Bureau of Immigration website on Sunday night, filled out the form and submitted the payment, and on Monday morning I got an email from BI with the waiver attached. So now I’m good until Christmas Day, December 25.

I believe in December, when I apply for a visa extension (I don’t know why the first extension is called a waiver, and then you subsequently apply for extensions) I can also apply for my ACR card. ACR is Alien Certificate of Registration and is a government issued ID card for non-citizens living in the Philippines.

The other significant thing I’ve been working on is finding a long-term rental. This Airbnb is okay, but it’s relatively expensive, it’s very tiny, and I don’t love the location as much as I thought I would. I looked at a one-bedroom unit that’s currently available at a condo complex called Avida Storey. It had a reasonable amount of space, but the way it’s laid out makes no sense and results in a tiny living room with a significant amount of wasted space by the kitchen. The plus side to Avida is that I really like the complex. There are a lot of conveniences on-site, including a 7-Eleven, a water refill station, and a laundry service, as well as some coffee shops and restaurants. The pool area is really nice, and shaded in the afternoon, and there seems to be more air there. It’s also not right on a main road, which I am here.

So I didn’t like the unit I looked at, but there’s a different one-bedroom unit coming available in early December, and that one has a much better layout with a decent sized living room. Right now I am waiting to hear if they will discount the rent if I sign a one-year lease.

This was meant to go out on Friday, and it is now Sunday morning. So I should properly rename this entry “Week One Plus Two Days Is In The Books,” but I’m not going to. Such a rebel!

Fill ‘Er up! No, wait! Don’t!

This morning I hiked out to Laurel Falls, and on the drive out to the trailhead I stopped for gas. As usual, I was going to fill the truck up, but as I was pumping gas I thought “No, wait. You’re not going to use a whole tank of gas before you leave here!” So heck, I’m less than a tank of gas away from leaving. I’ve got about half a tank of gas in the truck. No sense selling it with $50 worth of gas in it.

BTW, when I sold the AdventureMobile last year, it had a nearly full gas tank. At 80 gallons to a full tank, that was a couple of hundred dollars. And it’s not like I got more money from the sale because of it.

Anyway… Two weeks to go. Two weeks until I fly out of here, bound for the other side of the world. I’ve just about go the last few details lined up.

I leave early in the morning on Wednesday, October 25. On Monday, the 23rd, some folks will be coming to get all of the furniture and kitchen stuff in the apartment. I decided to just give everything away, rather than deal with the logistics of trying to sell everything, while also needing it all since I’m living here until the last minute. So it is all going to end up going to an international student at ETSU who apparently is living in a mostly empty apartment.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading over to the local Ford dealer to hopefully come to an agreement for them to buy the truck on Tuesday, the 24th.

The only other final detail left is to sell the washer and dryer. I’m going to try to make that happen on the 23rd as well, so I can leave here with all my laundry clean.

So on the 23rd all the furniture goes and the apartment will be empty. I have a hotel room reserved for two nights starting then.

On the morning of the 24th I do the walk-thru of the apartment with the management company, and they give me all the bullshit reasons why they won’t be returning the full security deposit.

That afternoon, I drop the truck off at the Ford dealer, and take an Uber back to my hotel.

And finally on the 25th, I get an Uber to the airport, and I’m off for the next insane adventure.

50 Days

50 days from today, at 7:45 in the morning, I will be flying out of the Tr-Cities Airport, bound for Dallas, then Seoul, then Cebu, and finally on to Iloilo.

50 Days.

I bought the tickets for my flights almost 3 months ago, so at the time it felt like I had forever to get ready. But now, all of a sudden, I find myself only 50 days out. That’s next month. Next month, I’m leaving the country.

I have got a lot done. I’ve been steadily busy selling things. I’ve sold the motorcycle. I’ve sold my beautiful Cannondale bicycle. That one hurt, but there is no practical and cost-effective way to ship an e-bike overseas. It can’t go by air because of the battery.

I sold the RV. That was a big one. The RV market has flipped since I bought it last year, and it is now a buyer’s market. But I sold it last week to a guy who drove down from Connecticut to get it. That’s a big source of anxiety off my plate, and a very big check mark on my to-do list.

And, of course, I’ve sold dozens of other, smaller things. I’m mostly down to things which, if I don’t find buyers and it’s close to time to leave, I can just give them away and feel fine about it.

The next logistical headache is how to empty out the apartment before I leave, but also have it livable until then. I’ve got some furniture, and all the kitchen stuff, which I’ll need until the end. I’ve got to cook and eat and sleep and sit down somewhere. I think I am going to try to find someone in need of setting up an apartment, and if they have a way to come get everything a couple of days before my flight out, I’ll just give it all to them.

And I’ve got to sell the truck, but I think I am going to sell it to the local Ford dealer, and arrange the date for the day before I leave.

That will leave me with a couple of nights in a hotel, and some Uber rides around town and finally to the airport.

BTW while I’m finishing up writing this, I’m listening to Peter, Paul and Mary sing Leaving On A Jet Plane. Fitting!

It’s All About The Pizza

Have I complained on this blog about the sorry state of pizza in most of the United States? Maybe not. But it is a sorry mess. Having grown up in Connecticut, halfway between New York and Boston, and 20 minutes from Wooster Street in New Haven, I thought everybody had access to great pizza.

Boy, was I wrong! After spending 5 years wandering all over the country, I can report that most Americans have absolutely no idea what good pizza is. And having lived here in Johnson City for over a year now, I can attest that that holds true here as well. There is a local place that claims they have “New York style pizza,” but judging by the product they turn out, nobody who works there has ever been to New York.

But… there is hope! I have found a place outside of the Northeast where there is genuinely good pizza. And you’ll never guess where it is. In Iloilo City, in the Province of Iloilo, on the island of Panay, in the Western Visayas Region of the Philippines, is Giuseppe Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast. And they have phenomenal pizza!

So I’m moving to Iloilo City.

Am I really moving? Yes. Am I really moving just for the pizza? No, of course not. But it’s a nice bonus!

Do you remember why I call this blog Monkeywrench Your Life? If not, you can read the reason why here. And I’m going to do it again. I’m selling the RV. I’m selling the motorcycle. I’m selling the bicycle, the truck, all the camping and hiking gear. I’m selling everything but what I can fit into my two suitcases, and I’m getting on an airplane and moving to the other side of the world. Because, why not?

Change is scary. It scares the bejeezus out of me. It makes me uncomfortable. And I mitigate that as best I can by researching and planning meticulously. But ultimately it makes life exciting. It keeps me engaged. I know there are going to be times when I will wish I had never done this. But Iloilo is a beautiful city, and the people are amazingly friendly. People talk to me when I walk down the street, and those who know me know that I don’t really have a warm and welcoming face by default. A Filipina told me “yes, they all look at you because to them you are an alien.” Well heck, I’ve felt like an alien my entire life! I’m made for this role.

So yeah, there will be lots to write about and share as this latest adventure unfolds. For now, I’ve got another 3 months to dispossess myself of all my things and get ready to fly out of here at the end of October.

This is where I will be living my first month in Iloilo City

What? I’m Different?!

Yeah, this is not news. I’ve always known I’m different. Sometimes to the point of feeling like an alien from another planet. And I suspect many of you have thought there’s something different, or odd, or whatever, about me.

He’s shy. Awkward. Quiet. Clumsy. He’s a loner. Doesn’t like people. He’s weird!

I’ve heard these things said about me. I’ve thought these things about myself. And more. So much more.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. Of all the people in my life; two parents, two brothers, two ex-wives, several girlfriends, a daughter, a passel of in-laws and nieces and nephews, friends, co-workers, etc., etc. Out of all those people, I can’t tell you what color eyes any one of you has. I never look at people’s eyes. I pretend to look at people’s eyes. I look at that general area of your face, and I sort of un-focus my eyes so I don’t have to actually look at your eyes.

I’m 64 years old now (brief aside: holy crap! How did that happen so fast?), so I’ve had a pretty long time to try to figure myself out. I’ve thought I’m shy, I’m an introvert. But I knew it was more than that. Then I researched Social Anxiety, but that still didn’t fit right.

About 5 years ago my doctor asked me if I’d ever been assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Actually, whether he said Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Autism, or ASD, is completely lost to memory. His question rather took me by surprise. I told him I hadn’t, and he said I might want to do so. I told him I didn’t see the point. Even if I were autistic, what would be the point of getting tested? I’m not in school and didn’t need any kind of special accommodation. What difference would having a diagnosis make? And, of course, it’s an expense I didn’t need.

But that did set me off on a course of research and self-education. I read a lot about Autism. Then I discovered that various screening tests are available on-line, and of course I took all of them. Then I went to the source, and read the DSM-5 criteria for ASD. And the more I read and thought, the more it all fit. It just made sense. It explained so much of my life experience.

But thinking I’m autistic and knowing I’m autistic aren’t the same thing. I know there are many people who have never been officially diagnosed and feel confident saying they are autistic, and considering the difficulty and expense of getting an assessment, especially as an adult, I would never question them. But for myself, I came to think that I needed that official affirmation, that what I had come to believe about myself is indeed the truth. So I limbered up my credit card and paid for an assessment with a psychologist who specializes in adult Autism. And to my great relief, but not surprise, he confirmed that I am Autistic.

Up to this point I’ve only told a few people. And I’ve gotten a surprising range of reactions. I remember one person replying, “Oh no, you’re not autistic!”

On the other hand, when I was first coming to this conclusion about myself I mentioned it to Aoife, and she said “Oh, I’ve always assumed you were autistic and just didn’t like to talk about it.”

Interestingly, Aoife is the person with whom I have masked the least. She once asked “You don’t mask with me, do you?” And all I could say was that I don’t think so, but masking is such a default state that I couldn’t really say.

Masking is all the myriad things Autistic people do to try to fit in to the world. Things like pretending to make eye contact, and very deliberately trying to have the appropriate expression on my face to indicate that I am listening and interested in what you are saying, rather than my default blank expression. Not rocking back and forth while we talk. And a million other things.

When I was first thinking about writing this blog post, I logged onto a Facebook group for older Autistic adults which I belong to, and asked whether I should. Not one person said yes. In fact, they made very good arguments for not doing so. And I agreed with many of those arguments. I even said I didn’t think I was going to write the blog post after all.

And yet here I am, writing it. I do seem to like to go all in! I’ve decided that I want to unmask as much as possible, and see what life is like when I’m more my genuine self. I probably can’t totally unmask. Human society demands certain conventions in the way we interact. And maybe, just maybe, if you know I’m autistic, you won’t think I’m dumb when I don’t understand your jokes, or when I have to ask what “level up” means, because I process language very literally.

So here it is. I’m all out there. I’m Autistic. I know it, and now you know it. Nothing has changed; I’m still the same person. Yet everything has changed, because now I know. Whatever you do, please don’t feel sorry for me. This is great news! Learning about this is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I am well aware that I haven’t tried to explain what Autism is. What I’ve written here is about me figuring it out and a bit of what that feels like. I spent several years learning about it, but I certainly don’t expect you to do that! But if you are willing to devote 15 minutes and 31 seconds of your life, here’s a YouTube video that gives a pretty good overview.

Manila Airport

I recently returned from a trip to Iloilo City in the Philippines. I know there are people in the world who get to choose their travel itinerary based on convenience while ignoring cost. I’m not one of those people. I chose my travel itinerary based on which tickets were cheapest. That being so, our itinerary consisted of a 10 hour flight from Boston to Istanbul (Boston because a girlfriend from Boston traveled with me), a 10 1/2 hour layover in Istanbul, a 12 hour flight from there to Manila, an 18 hour layover in Manila, then a 1 hour flight to Iloilo City. If you add that all up, that’s 50-something hours.

I had heard horror stories of Manila Airport. Basically, it’s an old, not well organized airport that is operating far above its designed capacity. There are 4 terminals, none of which are connected to any of the others. International flights operate into and out of Terminal 3. Philippine Airlines operates flights between Manila and Iloilo from Terminal 2.

On the way out we had that 18-hour overnight layover. Since we arrived in Terminal 3, it was super easy to collect our bags, head up to level 3 of the terminal, and follow the signs to Runway Manila, which is an enclosed pedestrian walkway over the highway that deposits you in the Newport area, which is a district of hotels, restaurants, and shopping. And right as you exit the elevator on the city side of the pedestrian bridge is the Belmont Hotel, where we had a reservation for the night.

The next day, however, we had to fly out of Terminal 2. That being so, I asked the concierge whether taking a taxi was the best way to get there. He said “Yes, but they will rip you off. I can order a Grab for you.”

Grab is the Philippine version of Uber. You can get rides, have food delivered, etc. If I remember correctly, the 20-minute Grab ride to Terminal 2 cost something like 270 PHP, or less than $5 USD.

The route from Belmont Hotel to Terminal 2

We were at the airport plenty early. The lines were long, and the gates were pretty chaotic, including a last-minute gate change, but we had plenty of time to deal with it all. Our flight to Iloilo was delayed, but that was our final destination so we had no connection issues to worry about.

On the way back, it was quite a different story.

We had booked an early afternoon flight from Iloilo to Manila, then a 5+ hour layover in Manila before our flight to Istanbul. That 5 hours should have been plenty of time to get from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3, check in, go through Immigration, go through security, and get to our gate.

Iloilo Airport was so quiet and peaceful

Unfortunately, Philippine Airlines being Philippine Airlines, at the time we were supposed to be taking off from Iloilo, our plane was still in Manila. The end result is that we were over 2 hours late arriving in Manila. Then we had to wait an insanely long time for our checked bags to come out. By now, we knew we were in trouble.

My plan had been to order a Grab to take us to Terminal 3, but now our priority had become finding the fastest possible way to get there. That being so, we asked one of the airport personnel where we could get a taxi. He pointed to the door and said “Bay 11”.

As you approach a taxi stand, you’ll be approached by people offering you rides. We told the woman who approached us that we needed to get to Terminal 3, and we were very late. When asked how much, she answered “1150”. Now, we knew this ride should be about 400 pesos. Her explanation was that it was 700 for the ride, and 450 for the toll for the flyway to Terminal 3.

Okay, we knew we were being taken advantage of. But at the end of the day, 1150PHP is about $20USD. Let’s just get going. And our driver did get us there fast. He used the tollway. As we approached the departure area there was a long line of taxis and people trying to enter the terminal, and he said he would drop us at Arrivals and tell us how to get up to Departures. Sure enough, he pulled up to the curb, pointed out which door we should enter through, and pointed out the escalator inside that would take us up to Departures. Off we went.

Because of the way we entered, we came into the check-in area on the opposite side from most traffic. We spotted the Turkish Airways desks, saw the long check-in line, sighed, and got in line. Ha! Naive us. We were immediately approached by a man from Turkish Airways who pointed to his colleague down the way and told us to go see her to get in line. We did that, and the woman proceeded to point to a long line snaking half the length of the terminal, and told us we had to go to the back of this line. So, basically, there was a line to get to the actual check-in line. Sigh…

The line to get to the check-in line
Finally, the actual check-in line!

We did as we were told, and after an interminable length of time we were finally checked in. Then we had to find the Immigration line, which wasn’t all that easy. Things are not signed well in the Manila Airport. Once you get there, there is a big sign, but there aren’t many signs pointing out the way there. But we got there, and thank goodness we were flying on foreign passports. The line for Philippine passport holders was incredible. We probably only waited 10 or 15 minutes, but it felt like forever, as our plane had started boarding while we were still back checking in.

Finally through Immigration, now we were off to security. Another line. More watching time whizz by at lightning speed. Through security, and off on a dash to our gate. Duck under the rope with the sign saying Final Boarding, present our passports and boarding passes, and finally, we are on the plane!

I hope I never get to repeat that experience.

Adventurous Plans

I’ve been here at Big Bend for a bit over two months now, and have been enjoying my time. I’ve really gotten into some of the human history, and have moseyed around finding some of the sites. I’ve explored Robber’s Roost, some of the ruins and the cemetery at Glenn Springs, the same at La Noria, and I’ve revisited old San Vicente, TX. I’ve also trekked out to the ruins of Camp Neville Spring, which was manned by Black Seminole Buffalo Soldiers back in the 1890’s.

I’ve got a few weeks left here, but my mental attention has turned to what’s next. My last day working is scheduled to be April 29. I’ve got to turn in the park equipment and uniforms I have on the 30th, then I’ll be off on the trip back to Tennessee on May 1, hopefully arriving back in Johnson City on the 4th.

I won’t be there long, though. I have an appointment with my doctor on the 8th, then on the 10th I’ll fly up to Boston and stay at Jihad’s apartment in the Back Bay for a few days. It’ll be fun being back in Boston, and I’m looking forward to some good big city restaurants, which I’ve missed terribly since I left there back in 2017. We’ll also get to see some other folks I know in Boston, so I’m expecting a fun few days. Then come the 13th, we’ll be off to the Philippines via Istanbul, for two weeks exploring Iloilo City and the surrounding area.

And finally, once we’re back in Boston and I’ve flown back down to Tennessee, I’ll have a couple of weeks to get myself, the motorcycle, and my gear all ready to tackle the Mid-Atlantic BDR with my brother Dana in June.

Phew! I’m excited about it all. Stay tuned!

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