Homebuilding, take 2

After a short flight on China Airlines (< 2 hours, during which we were served a lovely small snack – a definite difference from Delta where we got nothing but peanuts on a nearly 4-hour cross country trip) we arrived at MIA (Manila International). After standing in line to exit the plane, we stood in line for immigration with a whole SEA of people. (photos coming soon)

After about 30 minutes (LAX could learn something from this method of processing people, we got our luggage (by now it had arrived and the super friendly airport staff stood by to help grab it off the belt) and stood again in line for customs. Oddly, there was a well-dressed gentleman (who apparently had made it through immigration) who did not have his official immigration card all foreigners entering the Philippines must fill out in-flight. He had a bag labeled “Bahrain Duty-Free” and looked middle eastern so I asked, are you from Bahrain? Yes, he said but then seemed concerned about speaking openly with a woman. I could see his bright red passport, stamped with a fancy gold seal and gold (arabic?) characters. I’ll bet it was real gold!

I could see the airport exit but we still had one more hurdle: money exchange. We had heard that it was best to have USD and that the airport had a better exchange rate. 80 USD netted ~3600 pesos.

Our company had arranged a driver for us, so we went in search of him. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many people milling around. And man was it HOT and HUMID! A bottle of water (don’t drink anything not bottled we were told) cost 40 pesos. And we were off to our Manila hotel, well sort of. Think of LA drive time traffic and add to that motorcycles zipping about, “Pulis” with guns literally walking onto the road, and Jeepney’s (former military vehicles pressed into service as public transport) plowing through the mass of vehicles, and you’ll begin to get the picture.

At the hotel, we schlepped our bags (most of us had a large suitcase just full of donations for the refugee children) to our rooms and went in search of dinner. What an adventure!

The hotel concierge gave me a map and I managed not to get us lost as we walked down an unlit main road, across street without traffic lights. (If you know how directionally-challenged I am, you’ll understand what sort of miracle that was!) We decided on an Indian restaurant on the 5th floor of the Podium mall since there were a fair number of Indian people also eating there. The food was surprisingly good (although they didn’t have the masala dosa listed on the menu). Our little group consisted of: 2 Japanese, 3 Taiwanese, and me, having vegetable biryani, green curry, naan, and raita in the Philippines! The cost? 435 peso each (~10.00)

My asian co-workers had a ball taking photos of practically everything! Tired but satisfied, we found our way back to the hotel. Tomorrow we get up early to get our first look at the build site.

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…

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