I apologize for how long it’s been since my last blog post. Things are constantly changing and transitioning so setting a blog schedule has proven to be ineffective. Anyway, in these next few posts I will attempt to describe my latest adventure to the Philippines.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a Non-Voting delegate of the Texas Conference for the Global Young Peoples Convocation and Legislative Assembly of the United Methodist Church. For all of my non-Methodist friends, I will attempt to describe what this means in my next post.
The convention was being held in the Philippines so I was excited to visit a new country and reunite with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. My journey started last Tuesday night. I left my Korean class at 5:10pm as usual, travelled home, picked up my baggage, and walked down the street to catch a taxi. I live close to a hospital so taxis are always outside waiting for potential passengers. My driver was kind and appreciated my limited Korean skills. The trip was only about $15 for the hour trip. It’s quite a deal, especially when you don’t tip either. I then waited in line for my boarding pass and entered the secure terminal around 7pm. My plane wasn’t supposed to board till 9pm so I was really early. I ate a Dunkin Donuts sandwich, the only real food option, and watched some Korean soap operas with the locals. The flight boarded on time and the flight was overall quite uneventful. Although, I helped the men next to me translate their customs forms because they were only available in English. I felt very accomplished by being able to do this. We arrived on time at midnight and the adventure began.
As soon as I entered the terminal I felt as if the security I’d always felt in Korea was gone. The Philippines felt much different and more dangerous. I can not tell you why but I’ve always learned to trust my instincts. Anyway, I picked up my luggage and moved through customs without any issues. I then proceeded towards arrivals and looked for my group. I ended up walking in a circle three times before I finally saw them through the crowds. It was there that I met two new friends, one from Alaska and another from Florida. We talked for a while and watched as the rain began to slowly gain strength. We finally got into the van and found some other Texans inside. We then waited some more, Filipino time, and finally left the airport around 2:30am. By this time the storm was strong and the van was swaying with the wind as we drove. The van avoided downed trees and debris with every turn. At one point, the driver had to get out of the vehicle to move a huge tree out of the road so we could get by. I’ve been through a lot of crazy things in my life but this was one of the most frightening. I really didn’t know if we’d make the hour drive safely. Fortunately, with God’s provision, we pulled into the retreat center around 3:45am and were quickly ushered into a cafeteria/auditorium like space. It was here, on the floor, that we would spend the rest of our night in our wet clothes. We were told that the other guests had been moved to the basements of their buildings because the windows were breaking and the roofs were being torn off of the buildings. My new friends and I found a small space and took up residence. I took a doormat off the floor and used it to cushion the ground just a bit. We kept a positive attitude by snuggling under our raincoats and turning on the movie Tangled. We couldn’t hear much though because the rain and thunder were so loud. It sounded like bowling balls were hitting the side of the building. I’d never experienced anything like it. Someone graciously set up a wifi hot spot in the corner so, two at a time, we were able to send emails home to our families letting them know we were safe. I finally feel asleep around 5am for about an hour and a half. The storm was loud but I was so tired I couldn’t fight the exhaustion.
The space where we were held:
Exhausted at 4am:
My home away from home:
Trying to get wifi:
My friends sleeping next to me:
I woke up to the sounds of people coming into the cafetorium. We were in the eye of the storm so they were moving the other guests from the basements into the big space with us for safety. It was then that I was reunited with my missionary friends: Sarah, Jay, Danny, and Joy whom I hadn’t seen in a year. I was glad to be with them in the uneasy time. Once the move was complete, the room was full of about 400 people. Yes, 400 people and one toilet. They began a role call which took about an hour and then we were treated to breakfast as the second half of the storm passed over us. The rest of the day was spent sitting together in the space talking, singing, eating, and trying to avoid the smell that 400 unwashed people make. Around 5pm we ate dinner and were told that we were moving to a different retreat center because the one we were at was too damaged to stay.
400 people in one room:
My friend Sarah and I sat together for warmth on the bus and caught a little sleep as the bus traveled an hour to our new retreat center.
On the FREEZING bus:
We arrived around 8pm and stood outside in the courtyard as they verbally read out room assignments. Sarah took some lovely pictures of me sitting on the ground with my feet in the empty fountain. I was so tired, I was falling asleep as I sat there.
Eventually my room was called and I joined 9 others girls in our two bedroom, one bathroom suite. We waited for cots, took showers, and headed to bed around midnight. It was an extremely long day but I was happy to sleep in a real bed. – end of day one –