By six in the morning, our bags are packed and we are ready to go. I take one last look at the house and try to take a mental snapshot of it. It's changed much since the last time I was there, and I'm sure it will change by next time. I pass by our pictures hanging on the wall
as I exit the house. I pass through the gate and don't look back.
Our luggage is loaded onto the truck. I hug one of my aunts goodbye, as well as my cousin. I give my brother a raised eyebrow as he gives my cousin a good handshake and a pat on the back. My cousin disappears quickly afterwards. He doesn't take goodbyes very well.
Traffic is just starting to build, and it only takes an hour to get to the airport. On the way, I see people lining up at the U.S. embassy hours before it opens. It was bombed about five days ago, but people need to get their papers processed, and that won't deter them. They'd love to go where I'm going.
There is a lot of activity at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. We quickly find our airline's terminal and unload our baggage. Hugs to my other aunt and other cousin who came to see us off, and into the terminal. Security is tight as usual. The airport officials are sticker-happy and plaster our baggage and boarding passes with a multitude of adhesives proclaiming to the world that we have passed their security checks. We proceed to pay the airport fee, which comes out to 10 US$.
i'm a terrorist
At immigration, there's a snag. My name matches that of a wanted criminal. For some odd reason, they have no more information on the criminal other than the name, and I need to see the supervisor so he can verify that I'm not the same person. I have no idea how they're supposed to do that since they don't even have a physical description of the guy. My family surmises they wanted some grease money. After much arguing, immigration finally lets me through.
There are two hours before our flight departs so we look around some of the duty-free shops. The taxes are replaced by markups. We proceed onto our gate, and go through another x-ray, a handsearch of our carry-ons, a body search, and a metal detector. Our plane starts boarding and eventually we pack into the flying sardine can. My sister gets the window seat and I sit next to her. The plane takes off, and we eventually reach cruising altitude at 37000 feet. I look out the window and say goodbye to the Philippines as it disappears from view.
The single meal served takes the flight attendants some time to serve. When they finish, they start collecting. Since we were one of the last people served, and it is much quicker to collect than to serve, I had about 3 minutes to finish my meal. Needless to say, I didn't eat very much. Probably for the better, as the eggs were rather nasty.
Approximately four hours later, we land in Osaka/Kansai International Airport. The landing is an experience, since the airport is built practically on water, and the visual effect this creates is simply breathtaking. Our layover is about two hours so I walk around the terminal. The newstands have lots of magazines, a quarter are general interest, another quarter is manga, another is porn, and another is rather odd. They contain pictures of young-looking girls in scant clothing, and as best as I can figure out, the names of the magazines usually involve the word "cute." The other shops have lots of Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and Doreamon merchandise. I buy my sister a tiny stuffed Clefairy. It's hella cute.
a long day
Our 747-400, refueled, is ready to embark on another leg of the trip. We take off and the mountains in the horizon compliment the water everywhere below. I say goodbye and give thanks for not having to go through Narita. About five hours into the flight, we cross the international dateline and it's early morning again, January 4. The airline attempts to entertain us with some movies, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and The Replacements. I am not entertained. After twelve hours in the air, we land at Detroit International Airport.
U.S. immigration is extremely speedy. The officer looks at our passports and confirms our U.S. citizenship, and all five of us pass through in about a minute. Customs is quick as well, as we were waved through and didn't have to go through an x-ray and manual baggage search. We transfer our baggage to the domestic check-in. We have two hours before our last leg, so we try to freshen up in the bathroom as much as possible. We look like shit and can't do much about it. I'm just happy to be back on U.S. soil.
Our plane is delayed by a half hour, but eventually we pack into a 757. We quickly reach cruising altitude, and the projected flight time is only about an hour, a welcome a difference. Approaching northern New Jersey, we can easily tell, since there is a tremendous difference in light pollution. Upon descent, I can make out sections of Newark. Downtown and the Ironbound is on the other side of the plane, but I can make out MacArthur Highway/Route 21, as well as the Parkway and Routes 1 and 9. The Prudential building is easily spotted. I try and find my school but I can't see it from the side I'm on. We make a smooth landing at Newark International.
Arriving home, it is just as we left it, except with over a foot of snow blanketting everything. Two weeks worth of mail sits in a box, collected by our neighbor. I sort it out; bills, catalogs, periodicals, mostly junk mail. Vacation is over.
I still get amazed by how quickly we can get from one side of the world to the other. Not just the physical distance, but the cultures as well. It's an odd feeling.