Hi! Our first report from the Philippines:
Day 0: "Thank you for your patience, ladies and gentlemen"
3 hours stuck on the tarmac as we let a storm pass over our heads, and then as we refueled, and then as we waited for a tow-truck to push us, backward, toward the runway. The kids couldn't have been better even if they were granted God-like patience ... simply amazing.
So we landed in Korea with 1/2 an hour to go through Customs and run to the opposite side of the airport to catch the flight to Philippines.
Which we did, only to find that they delayed the flight by 2 hours to accomodate our three hour delay. How fruitlessly thoughtful of them! The kids, again, were champion.
Which brought us here, to Manila hotel, at 2 am. With the kids body clocks saying it was 2 pm. They were up, and on fire, all bloody night, pushing poor Diane over the edge (I, of course, would sleep through the final clarion call without stirring). They couldn't have been more troublesome even if they were imp-troll half-breeds -- impossible!
... I'll leave it to you to figure out which parent was the imp and which was the troll.
Day 1: "The li'l mermaids"
Breakfast, with a return to sanity, then, to the pool, with two kids who were probably the happiest kids in this half of the world (Charlie, with the Golden Ticket MAY have been happier in England, but I doubt it). I think they are half-fish, they way they gambol about in the water. Diane, a mermaid? I wouldn't put it past her.
Diane's parents and Tata Dennis came to meet us for lunch, and, it being Friday, we had seafood kabobs, but dessert was the killer (I /was/ good up to that point): pastachio chocolate mousse wafer something. I think I inhaled it ... but ever-so-slowly over the next half-hour.
Day 2: "I'm gonna make you a STAH!"
Breakfast at 6 am, then we were wisked away to a marriage (so, now we're finally legal, okay? Psyche!). The guy, Marlon, is, um, a manly-man, and quite the happy-go-lucky fella. He was one of the members of our wedding party. The ceremony was the standard Mass with some special exchanges of "Promises" ... what had me nearly on the floor, rolling with laughter (and every other member of the grooms friends and family -- all seventeen of us) was, during the introductory slide show presentation, we were treated with a picture of Marlon as an altar boy.
Oh, three guesses as to who was the MC at the reception. Hint: when I went up to greet her, I was met with the "I'm gonna kill ya" eyes. Teehee! (PCHY was glad to see Isabel, however).
Leaving the reception we thought our day was done, it being 2
Oh, no! You see, the current President, Arroyo, is under much pressure, from her own cabinet, even, to resign from office. So, a large crowd was bussed into Manila, to show their "support" for the her.
Take a guess as to which direction they came. Take a guess who were our constant companions for FIVE HOURS OVER FIVE KM? Guess what streets the police closed going into Manila.
Diane had remarked, on the flight in, her concern that I was coming into the country during "interesting times".
What was interesting to me was probably something different than the thing to which Diane was referring: we were driving alongside vehicles from the provinces, and people would actually do triple-takes. Apparently, I was the first [Ameri]'kano they ever saw. I really felt bad for their necks. Drivers would intentionally slow their vehicle to right alongside ours. They would ogle and wave, and it made their day when I waved back.
On one jeepny, a (college?) school girls glanced at me and then screamed. This caused her companion to look at the source of the excitement. So, when I waved to her, she joined in the scream ... ah, two-part harmony, anyone? I told Diane that all I had to do was to take off my shirt, and I would have been as fameous and adored as Sting.
It was nice that the police waved us through the roadblocks to the hotel. Our driver explained: "It's your cleft chin; no Filipino has that." I guess a cleft chin means that you're bound for the Manila hotel ... after all, where else would a white guy be going? Hmmm, that begs the question: if my only destination is the hotel, then where would I be coming from to get there? But I leave that as an exercise to the reader.
Day 3: "Will you buy me a new head?"
So, Isabel was awake until midnightish (local) and Elena Marie was awake thereafter. *Ugh* So, I spent the night ferrying the kids to the cafe (open all night, THANK YOU, GOD!), and coloring pictures and "writing letters to Anda and Papo" with Elena Marie. Finally, at 5 am, after the last stop to the cafe (Mang Romy, clucking his tongue affectionately, exclaimed he only sees my children around midnight ... I wonder if he suspects we're vampires ... we do ask for the roast beef "still breathing" rare ...), we went back up to the room to prepare ourselves for breakfast. I threw myself onto the bed beside Diane just to compose myself, and Elena Marie threw herself at us to join in the fun.
It being pitch black and all, it was impossible for her to see my extended leg, and consequently, to avoid tripping over my foot.
This darkness did not prevent her forehead from connecting, solidly, with the corner of the hardwood endtable by the bed.
The resulting screams and tears did not wake Diane, but, when I brought Elena Marie to the bathroom to check her, and observed that we were both covered in her blood, and my genteel request that Diane come join us to examine the angry open gash on Elena Marie's forehead ...
All this time I'm thinking, 1/2 an inch from her eye or from shoving her nose up into her brain (if you don't know from combat training (what, you didn't get combat training?) that is a killing blow).
One time, back home, Elena Marie was leaning over the deck, and Diane warned her away, saying that if she should fall, she would break her neck and lose her head. Elena Marie paused, and asked thoughtfully: "Mama, would you have to buy me a new head?" So, when she learnt that no amount of money could replace her head once lost, she agreed with her mama's assessment of the situation: "Your angel caught you in time so you didn't lose your head."
I don't know how Diane can keep her cool in these situations -- wiping away the blood and escorting her, compress in place, to the clinic (also at the hotel, THANK GOD) -- I was paralyzed, completely, in my panic.
So, having been up all night, after being the center of attention in the midst of a political maelstrom, doesn't exactly make me the sharpest, most patient husband and father right now (Isabel's tendency to cry in her frustration (she's almost capable of doing things, and that's a very tight spot to be in) is rubbing me rather raw right now). So, I think I'll call it a "night" and try again tomorrow. Pray for me!
Other than that, it's been a wonderful vacation, so I'll start working on enjoying it, as I'm adjusting nicely to the 12-hour shift.