I Smell Manila

What started out as sleep deprivation has now transitioned into a restlessness that was brought about by my ever so sensitive bladder. I went to bed at 6pm local time; it is now well after midnight.

Hurry up and wait.

Hurry up and wait.

Jet-lag is wrestling with my body and, to tip the scales in my favor, I have just popped a benadryl. Until it kicks in, I might as well write a few lines.

I have arrived. Six airports and over 9000 miles later, I am now in Manila. It couldn’t have come any quicker because I am certain I could not have survived any more crowded airplanes. The flights were long and the fact that I had to wait 8 hours at JFK International for my flight didn’t help matters any.

Huge Plane

Huge Plane

When making trips such as this you naturally brace yourself for the journey but, in the end, it still gets the better of you. It got the better of me and my body is flight-torn to say the least.

I boarded my U.S. Airways flights with both enthusiasm and dread. Enthusiasm because nothing more was in my mind than landing in Manila and dread because, well….because I dread flying (especially on jihad holidays). You must fight the security delays, the crowds, the rude people trying to steal your window seat and all of that while enduring a flight attendant who gives the overhead announcements with a tone in her voice that proudly declares, “Sit down, shut up, hang-on.”

China Airlines was much, much more accommodating and if I have to make a comparison, they would win the trophy for good service (Are you paying attention US Airways?). The attendants were friendly, their service was prompt and lets not even mention how much better their in-flight meals were. China Airlines also stuck to the stereotypical but unspoken motto of airlines: Flight attendants must not be ugly.

Despite their soaring customer service, there were at least a few things that would have made a decent flight so much better. The first among those things was temperature. I’m fully aware of the flight psychology that says a colder plane is easier to manage but really, there has to be a limit. When icicles dangle from the ceiling and you can hear the chattering of teeth all the way up to the cockpit, please, crank the heat on. Thank God I brought a sweater and a beanie hat. The second grievance I fell into comes from the fact that the flight crew seemed compelled to transition us [immediately] into the timezone of our destination. Having departed New York at 11:55, I popped two benadryl and allowed myself to zone-out into a sleep that was as pleasant as it was artificial. Not so says the flight attendant! At 1:30am I was awakened with a hand shaking my shoulder and the thick Chinese accent of the female stewardess asking me, “You wan chicken an rice or pasta noodle for meal?” At first I was in utter disbelief. Did she just wake me up? For this?? I stared at her for a moment (undoubtedly with a bit of contempt) before I managed to utter the words, “Since I’m awake, I’ll have the chicken.” I’m not sure if she got the point or not. Moving on, my final complaint lies with the comfort level of airplanes in general. While I find a great solace in knowing that my seat-cushion can be used as a floatation device, I would really like a seat cushion that could be used for something more practical. Let’s say, oh something like a seat cushion maybe? My coccyx bone has never endured so much.

Our plane to Taipei landed late and we immediately started a mad dash to our connecting flight which was supposed to be boarding five minutes earlier. The bathroom had to wait (there’s my bladder in action again). Fortunately our connecting flight was waiting for us and a few dozen other passengers so we boarded without issues. Manila was just around the corner.

Unlike arriving in the United States, Philippine Customs and Immigration was cleared with smiles and without cavity searches. No fuss, no hassles and no bad attitudes. I find it a great shame that my [former] home country treats people like crap. I won’t rail on that any more, I’ll just go off on a tangent and, frankly speaking, I’m way too tired to vent on U.S. politics at the moment.

The in-laws, with natural Filipino hospitality, are super gracious and I’m going to enjoy my short stay here in Las Pinas. We were quickly whisked away from the hustle

Filipino In-Laws

Filipino In-Laws

of the airport and taken home where we were fed the mandatory mango before a dinner of Adobo and some salmon fish soup. It was delicious of course and were I not so tired, I would have eaten much, much more.

Despite being so tired, my brother, his wife and I all joined in a trek to SM City where my brother purchased a new pair of glasses and I picked up a cell phone. There is no way to describe SM City without actually being there and seeing it for yourself. Think of it like your typical US mall during Christmas time with a Walmart shoved inside of it. After you have that picture in your head, remove all the white people, Mexicans and other ethnic minorities and then replace them with Asians. Toss in a few dozen loudspeakers with each location blaring a different song and then you’ve got SM City. If your looking for a quiet leisurely stroll while trying to do some shopping, avoid the place. The shopping part is awesome, the quiet part is non-existent. None the less, they do have everything under the sun and the prices will leave you flabbergasted.

It’s late. I’m tired. I’m going back to bed. Thank you Benadryl.

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