Our flight to Seattle passed quickly. Then onto Tokyo. Mace and I kept ourselves entertained with talking, laughing, and our invention of Airplane Yoga. Which is what we termed our attempt at stretching on these long, scrunched flights.
Aside from the bit of sleep we were able to get bent over the airplane food trays, we built a little nest in the Tokyo airport, from several red Delta blankets we kindly borrowed, and slept for a couple hours through our layover. Though, we rest next to a soda machine that sounds like an explosion every time someone wanted a drink.
Finally someone purchases another atomic drink, and I've had enough. I get up to prepare for our next flight, and I notice Mace across the way, talking to a medical team, likely seeking our same destination. I note they are all speaking in Tagalog, and when Mace sees me awake, he comes back to tell me that he's found another emergency relief group headed for the Philippines.
Our flight calls for boarding, and we wait for everyone to board before we get in line, simply so we can keep our legs stretched as long as possible. As we're walking up the ramp, we're oddly instructed to separate from the group ahead and proceed down the ramp for "Business Class." I look over at Mace, and we shrug at each other, trying to keep from grinning. Not a problem, flight steward.
Mace and I settle into two empty business class seats, snickering to each other and high-fiving across the aisle. However, just after the plane takes off, a stewardess asks to see our boarding passes, and we are instructed to take our assigned seats back in the cabin. I whisper to Mace as we take our walk of shame, "because since the plane is already in the air, I suspect those two absent businessmen will likely be dropping in soon."
We scrunch into our seats and sleep until Manila, arriving at midnight their time. By this point, I have no idea what time my body is synced to. Mace and I strap our backpacks on tightly and push through our heavy exhaustion, through the crowded airport, and grab our one checked bag with all the medical supplies.
Mace hoists our bright green bag over his shoulder and leads the way to the money exchange counter. We convert all our money into Filippino currency and then head outside to catch a bus to a different terminal where we will meet-up with Walter.
We walk outside and are welcomed to the Philippines with a dark sky and humid air. We are the first to climb onto a tiny bus, and we sit down next to each other on one of the benches. As others file on, quickly filling every space with luggage and people, another American jumps in at the last moment. He sits down on the other side of Mace.
"What brings you out here?" Mace asks.
The guy tells us that he is hired by a private security group to accompany some of the emergency relief groups that are gearing up to head into the island of Leyte. "And you?" he asks us.
"We are one of those relief groups," Mace says.
"Just the two of you?"
"We're meeting up with two more."
"Only four of you? With no security?" the guy gasps. "Do you do this often?"
Mace and I glance at each other, and then Mace replies, "This would be our first trip of the sort. And somewhat spontaneous, as we just planned to come here several days ago, and since bought our tickets, gathered donations, and jumped on the plane."
"Dang," the guy answers, "I begrudgingly came here because of an emergency call, and I'm being paid a lot of money. And you willingly cleaned out your bank accounts and flew out here by yourselves."
Just then the bus driver comes down the aisle, struggling to get through all the mountains of luggage, and requests our fare of "twenty." Josh pulls out a $20 bill from his wallet, and Mace pushes his hand away from the bus driver's. "I'll cover you bro," Mace says. Mace hands the bus driver 40 pesos, which is only about $.50 in America.
The guy laughs, "Thanks. Need to learn my currency. I'm Josh by the way."
Mace introduces us, and he and Josh continue to chat for the remainder of the bus ride. We arrive at the next terminal, and once unloaded, a man calls out Mace's name and races towards him. I see Mace's face light up, as he throws his arms around the man, "Walter, I have missed you so much. It's great to see you." Then he introduces Walter to Josh and I, and we proceed into the airport.
Mace had told me that Walter was blessed with a spirit of incredible premonition. Then he shared some stories of Walter's intuition predicting some uncanny events. Mace tells me that because of Walter's gift, his soul is incredibly deep, and he is extremely kind and aware towards others needs. Maces tells me that I should make a special effort to get to know Walter while I'm here, because coming to know a person like him is a very rare occurrence.
I follow Mace and Walter into the airport with this in mind. Since it is around one am in the Philippines, the airport is closed until five am, so we only have access to the large lobby. Many people are already camped on all the benches and chairs, waiting for the airport check-in to open. We find a spot at the far edge of the room, against a large glass wall. We throw all our bags on the tile and use them as pillows while we chat. Eventually Mace and Walter fall asleep, evident by their deep breathing. However, a man somewhere in the lobby is duct taping a package, which echos throughout the entire room. I'm certain he was pulling duct tape for two hours. Sir, seriously, how big could your package possibly be?
Finally, I fall asleep too.
Mace's alarm jolts us awake at 5 am. The lobby is already noisy with people gathering in line, ready to check-in. Mace and I quickly head to another building to secure our plane tickets to Cebu. As we are rushing back, I approach the exit doors. I note there is no handle, so I wait for the doors to open for me as I approach, though I'd like to just add what very little sleep I was running on. A man standing behind finally says, "just push." Mace catches up to me and whispers, "Don't worry. Doors are hard."
Mace, Walter, Josh, and I get checked in and boarded. As soon as we sit down on the plane, I fall back asleep on Mace's shoulder and don't wake up until we've landed in Cebu.
Walter and Mace greet me as I groggily come back to life. Snacks have been left on all the trays around us, so Mace and I wait until everyone has exited the plane, and then snag all the snacks we can and throw them in our rescue bag. Certainly those will be needed for the people on the island.
We retrieve our bags, say goodbye to Josh, and head out into early the morning sun.
Here. Finally arrived. I look over at Mace, and he is smiling ear-to-ear. He immediately begins pointing out the jeepneys, the palm trees, and the roadside stands, sharing memories of his time in this country. I'm soaking it all in, feeling extremely excited. Here begins our mental recording of funny quotes, starting with when a trike drives down the road and I yel, "That's cool thing!" Later saying, after driving passed a field of cows, "My gosh, do you guys see that horrible smell??" We just decide that our brains have turned off for this trip.
After being lost in our own world for a moment, Mace and I peer over at Walter who is standing silently next to us. Walter is staring off into the distance, a terribly concerned look spread across his face. The three of us lock eyes - no matter what is to come, we're ready for it.
Some are led by blind, confident bravery. And others are led by knowing, sensitive intuition. But whatever leads you, be ready to respond to the call.
Upward and onward,
Sleeping in our blanket nest in Tokyo. The nest looks rather pitiful here, but it was something to be proud of.