The other day, I got an email from the woman who runs the exchange program on the UP end. She tells me that, indeed, despite the late hour of our arrival in Manila, a man named Norberto (who goes by BoBot) will meet us with a sign. We should wait for him in the airport lobby if we don't find him right away. He'll take us to our apartment, where they will be alerted to our arrival.
Phew. It's nice to know that they are prepared for our arrival. The next day, she writes me, I should try to show up in their offices, where they will get the paperwork going for our visas. In order to get those visas, we need 10 passport sized photos each (10? what are they going to do with that many? I picture a strange trading game, like Pokemon cards), Lizzie's birth certificate, and 9,000 pesos, which I figured out is about 180 dollars.
I better make a master list of all the things we'll need while we're there. We'll need all those photographs, and the birth certificate, and Lizzie's baptismal certificate (for the Catholic girls' school), and all kinds of cash for those fees, and towels, and comfy shoes, and Deet anti-mosquito spray, and tampons (I read somewhere that they're not the rage in the PI), and light clothing that's not shorts (because shorts are off the acceptable list; when I lived in Mexico City, a clueless tourist always stood out in his or her shorts, and I don't want to look like the clueless tourist that of course I am), and little gifts for the support staff...
Whenever I try to wrap my mind around this list I get dizzy. And disgruntled. (Are there people who are gruntled? Where can I find them?)
"You'll do okay in the Philippines," Cynch said on Monday, as we left dinner at Little Tokyo and headed out into the cool, clear evening. "You've got the right attitude. Take it as it comes. Go with the flow."
Inside, I'm a roiling mess of anxiety. My hamsters are running at 100 mph on their creaky wheels, spinning my eyeballs in their sockets. On the outside, I pretend to be a go with the flow cool customer, ready for action, hot for adventure.
"So," I asked Lizzie, driving back from her pre-trip visit to the orthdontist (looks like braces when we get back), "how do you feel about going to the Philippines today?" I thought I'd caught a look of momentary and complete panic on her face when the orthodontist said something about the fun of the long trip to the Philippines.
"Excited?" she said, after a beat.
We know the right answers. It's living them that may be a challenge.