It’s not even the first 24 hours, but I’m not drunk, I have a keyboard in front of me, and I don’t have a pressing engagement. Not that I have any pressing engagements the next few days, weeks, or the rest of my stay back in the Philippines. I’m here (1) to visit family, (2) to attend a nephew’s wedding, the only son of our eldest brother, the first of the next generation, and (3) to spend vacation leave like a real vacation leave.
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PREP FOR THE TRIP BACK HOME
As usual, we left a lot of odds and ends unsorted and loose strings unattached. Ideally I think, after nearly a decade of going home and travelling 24+ hours at a time, the best time to prepare for a trip back home is around a week before. But hey, who knows what’s best for each person right?
If you prepare too soon, the preparations you make will lapse or will need new preparations. if you prepare too late, well, you’ll be late.
things like, someone watch the car please so batteries won’t go dead and won’t get shat on by birds? (we don’t have a covered carport.) Anyone please watch the flat so the personal property inside doesn’t get stolen and unnoticed till we return? (our backdoor neighbor and daughter Ganda and boyfriend have graciously indulged.) Anyone please bring us to the airport and pick us up when we arrive? (bless their soul, somebody has raised their hand.)
Milk going bad, too bad, frozen goods stay frozen, what? no pets to feed? and Noel, don’t forget to turn off the automatic water heater to avoid needlessly wasting energy. Check, check, check? That’s it.
THE TRIP BACK HOME
Because you don’t plan for these things, and it’s nearly beyond your control, it’s almost a given, that : (1) there will be a baby or babies either next to your seat, behind you, or in front of you. The chances of this happening are directly proportional to the length of your trip. Please let me explain. WELLINGTON to AUCKLAND, 45 mins. = very little chance of a baby in the vicinity. Remote, if you ask me. AUCKLAND TO WELLINGTON, approximately 3 hours. = chances go up moderately. If you’re lucky, you will hear cooing and gurgling sounds, in the 3 meter radius. If you’re unlucky, they’re distressed, needing a good breastfeed or needing a major diaper change. AUCKLAND to MANILA, 7-8 hours = chances go up dramatically, exponentially in fact.
It goes up even higher if you’ve been stress-free (meaning baby-free) the first two legs of the trip, probably 75% to 90% A few Hail Marys would be useful now. But looking at the baby carriers, eyebagged parents and feeding bottles around you at Sydney International, you know it will be a long trip.
As soon as you settle in your seat and fasten the seat belt, baby #1 starts crying. This of course stresses out baby #2, and starts crying too. They are both within 3 rows of yours.
[Sorry for the extra detail. Raw notes, after all.]
(Eight hours later.) It’s not as bad as we dreaded it to be. The babies actually kept quiet, would you believe a one-year old had his iPad keeping him occupied? the unmistakable Aussie twang of the Qantas pilot cheerfully informed us that the flight was 20 (twenty!) minutes ahead of schedule, no traffic! he joked.
Alas, traffic welcomed us outside NAIA Terminal 1 to render the time saved totally meaningless. The trip between the airport and the temporary hotel (we booked a day late, promo was negated by a non-discounted first night), around 15 kms away, took as a little over an hour, shocking in New Zealand terms but actually shorter than average for rush hour travel.
I can’t name the hotel because we didn’t choose in advance, the price was reasonable and they were quite friendly, but the carpet was threadbare, sheets smelled strongly of cheap fabric conditioner and cheap disinfectant (I’m sure the price difference between the next higher brand/s is centavos per kilogram), and the toilet flushed veeeerrrry slowly, a constant worry for me. Of all the whines, moans and groans this paragraph, only the last one was enough for me to never recommend it to anyone; it is a famous, iconic brand that has seen better days, and is right next to the favorite mall of the snake-daughter.
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Backpedalling a bit to the airport: I made the basic steps: looked for my brother’s driver, booked a week in advance (he was exactly where Eldest Brother said he would be, dressed in the polo barong that he was supposed to wear and crew-cut hair), bought a SIM card and replaced the New Zealand one in my phone, SMS texted the most important people first: Mother, Eldest Brother, Second Brother and Fifth Brother (I am the Third). Only Fourth Brother remains overseas.
As soon as we stepped outside the air-conditioned NAIA airport complex, the hot muggy air hit us: not as bad as we anticipated, as there was a low-pressure area that just left Metro Manila. Maybe 19-20 Celsius. The carbon monoxide definitely flavored the air, and as I mentioned earlier, what should’ve been a 20-25 minute ride tops in Wellington took us around an hour and a half.
Welcome home Noel.