Jun 302014

Today, Monday, June 30th, I needed to go to the Immigration Office (I.O) in Manila to extend my visa. Eden & Leighton assured me that the process would be painless but essential since I would not have another opportunity once we arrive in Romblon. Several of the other volunteers had already extended theirs in their respective countries–I wish I had: LESSON LEARNED!!!  (Take note–DO this BEFORE you come to the Philippines!!) Anyway, armed with my passport, my confirmation of my return flight, enough pesos for a taxi and the required fee for extending the visa, and the resolve that I had, after all, come to the Philippines for new adventures, I headed out the door to hail a taxi–also a first for me!!!

The heaviness of the 11AM air smacked me in the face the minute I stepped out onto the street, but, I was already accustomed to it. I made a pact with myself that I would NOT EVER utter the sentence:”It is soooo hot.” I found the busy Commonwealth Ave. main street and held up my arm–a white van marked TAXI immediately pulled over. I opened the door and said to the smiling driver,”I need to go to the immigration office, by meter, please.” He understood, started the meter, and off we went. Whew–what a ride, and what a tremendously kind driver. He chatted in good enough English that I could catch every fourth word about him being a sailor and how he had traveled to almost every port city in the world. He said the ports in the USA were his favorites because of all the “sparkly lights and beautiful girls.”  Haha!!!

Of course traffic was horrendous–horns blaring, constant jockeying & pushing & shoving with cars & jeepneys & small trucks & bicylcles–even the pedestrians boldly pushed onto the streets. It seems that if you are brave enough to venture onto the road, you absolutely must keep moving at all costs–and use your horn strategically. At one point, we came to a complete stop for several minutes, which frustrated the driver–in a calm, easy-going way, though. He told me we would take a side road–I told him I trusted him completely and that he was in charge. Haha–he chuckled. We discovered that the reason for the traffic congestion was because there was a protest going on–hundreds, maybe thousands of Filipino farmers & supporters were protesting misappropriation of land and, of course, monies, away from local ownership to a  select (and corrupt) few–namely government officials. (I wanted to jump out and join them!!)

We managed, after two full hours, to reach the I.O. which was set within the confines of walled University community and other government buildings. (I NEVER would have found it myself, oh, dear…) I paid the driver–P 500–who thanked me profusely for the tip–and I walked in to have an adventure with Philippine bureaucracy. I tried to remember the steps told me by Eden & Leighton–at first I froze in the wake of all the people milling around–then I saw the Information Desk! Hooray. A kindly uniformed gentleman looked at my papers, listened to my request, and instructed me what to do–the Short Version is I followed all the helpful, concise instructions–given to me on the application and by several extremely helpful officials–and I completed my mission in about 3 hours. I waited in a few lines, something not unfamiliar to me, after all, and I had brought a book to read while I waited for my “approval.” I admit I started to feel a bit nervous contemplating the taxi ride home–or, at least, the attempt to try to hail a taxi–when a very tall and very non-Filinio young woman called my name: “Lori–are you the volunteer from CERV?” I said I was, and she said, “I am Eleanor, and was told by Eden to find you. I am going back to the dorm, too. We can go together.”

Joy, joy, joy!!! For the next few hours, we were best friends–we walked back to her hotel, deep in the city midsts to collect her bag. This walk took over an hour–and was an absolute delight, with Ellie as Perfect Tour Guide. She has been here for over a month, is from Australia, is 18, and knows enough Tagolog to impress all the street vendors we met along the way. As we wove in, around and through the city, I soaked up all the sights & sounds & smells. No camera with me, but I still tried hard to capture the rainbow of colors and tantalizing food odors and orchestra sounds that permeated the air. This was not Maine!!!

By the time we reached her hotel, it was 5:30PM–we found a taxi to take us the very long trek back to the dorm, and finally reached the dorm at 7:30PM, extremely hungry but invigorated once we met up with the rest of the volunteers to share our story of our day and to listen to their stories of their day.

That is what this trip is all about: sharing stories and experiencing new adventures, being flexible, being bold & brave, maintaining a sense of humor, listening to & appreciating others’ way of adapting to change–or not.

Yes, I am so happy to be here, and am eager to head to Romblon tomorrow–by bus, then boat.



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