One would think it would be easy to get MiMi up for our flight home. But it wasn't. And trying to rouse a grumpy 8 year old at 1AM is not pleasant.
But somehow, we managed and made it downstairs for Manny and the van at 1:30. We were supposed to assemble around 2AM but we hit the road at 1:45 and headed for the Manila airport.
It was a quiet ride. The greatest thing was NO TRAFFIC. We made it to the airport around 4:15 and just like that, the goodbyes were said and we were inside.
Manila Airport was interesting, to say the least. There was someone for every action that needed to occur. Did it make it more efficient? Possibly. But there certainly are a lot of employment opportunities here vs. airports that I've been through in the U.S.
We went through ten checkpoints before we actually made it on the plane.
#1: There was a baggage conveyor belt before we could enter the airport.
Once we entered, we headed to the images of Delta and as we stood to wonder where the line began, we found ourselves in the line by person #2, who asked us if we were Delta...we said yes and then boom, we discovered we were in the Delta line...as oppose to the Cathay Pacific, since that's what it looked like we were in.
We actually did move rather quick, considering how long the line was.
Once close to entering the actual line within the cordoned off areas near the counters, we were greeted by checkpoint #2: a portable kiosk where our passports were reviewed by a Delta rep. I thought this was check-in but it wasn't. I don't quite know what this was for...
Next was checkpoint #3, where a Delta rep did the self-service kiosk 'check-in' for us. Then she lead us to a line to hit checkpoint #4, which was checking in at the counter.
took the ticket stub for departure fee
Once we got through that, we headed to pay our departure taxes, which is 750 pesos per person. There is no notice of this fee, which is approximately $17 per person, prior to this anywhere. Fortunately, Jhun had mentioned this to Tim so we were prepared...but imagine if you were on your last few dollars to get you through to your final destination and BAM! you have to pay to leave the Philippines. This is checkpoint #5.
Checkpoint #6 is now going through immigration. Then checkpoint #7 was going through the security screening.
We finally headed to the gate, hoping to find a variety of restaurants awaiting our pesos for any kind of food. Nothing.
Well, not exactly nothing but a couple of places where you can pick up a sandwich, or a bun with something in it or on it, that started with a K. Something I never heard of and I wasn't prepared to try something new for a 3 hour flight to Nagoya, Japan at 5:30AM.
We got a few snacks; I got puto from the little sandwich shop, which sufficed.
We then tried to get to the gate to find out from yet another person that we couldn't bring our water in. We threw the water out and then same lady checked our boarding passes (checkpoint #8) then sent us to another guard who slid paper all over us (checkpoint #9).
There was another security screening to go through (same as #7), then we had our boarding passes scanned (checkpoint #10). Once we were through, we were greeted with one last checkpoint, #11, where a man tore off a ticket stub off our departure ticket.
Wow. That's a lot of checkpoints and more people than I even outlined.
The flight to Nagoya was long but we knew we had to gear ourselves up for the flight from Nagoya to Detroit.
I left empty-handed.
Once back on the plane, we were happily surprised to hear that our flight would only be 11 1/2 hours, vs. the 13 we thought it would be.
For the record, it felt much much longer than the trip TO the Philippines. It was horrible. None of us could get comfortable. Delta doesn't know how to upgrade their planes so we had a big screen for all to see, vs. the individual screens we were blessed with on our flight to London and the U.S. on our last (and only) international trip. Even complimentary wine and beer wasn't enough to make this flight home satisfying.
But even worse than the flight to Detroit, was the flight from Detroit to Raleigh. A 1 1/2 hour flight on a smaller jet, in which the seats would NOT go back. So we sat upright the entire time, with rolling heads, left-to-right, as we tried to snooze. We were beyond tired. We were zombies and there was zero comfort on this piece of shit plane.
I managed to somehow snooze and when I woke, I was deaf. I was trying very hard to get my ears to pop as I started feeling very claustrophobic. "Were we going to die? Was there oxygen deprivation happening? The kid behind me is also having problems..." I managed to keep my anxiety down (thank you yoga) and eventually, the miserable ride landed and we headed out.
It is great to be back but I still tear up thinking about who I left behind. I have no idea when we will have the opportunity to go back. I know it will be sooner than the 25 years it took me. I feel re-connected and want to share everything and anything with them. I even answered the phone call from my Auntie Cora -- remember, I really do not like talking on the phone -- but I actually WANTED to take the call and talk to them.
It was my Auntie Neng's birthday and I was missing it. I gave Auntie Neng my birthday greetings and my love, talked to my mom a bit and then said farewell. It's a new beginning for me...