Journeying Back to The Philippines
It's a sunny Thursday afternoon + I have just finished teaching my classes for the day.
I sit here with a gorgeous sunflower from my love on my bedside table, writing this post from my quarantine hotel in Manila, + I'm filled with disbelief.
Am I actually here?
In the Philippines?
After over 9 long months of waiting to know when I would ever return?
All I can say is life is crazy.
It feels like I blinked + all of a sudden I am here in the Philippines.
Last month I finally received the magical letter from the government of the Philippines that stated they would allow me back into the country. I had been waiting for this letter since October--4 months of waiting for a letter! Without this letter I would not have been able to get back in because my work visa expired while I was in the U.S.
Many times in the past months I had been told that I was going to be able to come back to the Philippines, only to be disappointed by new travel bans being put in place.
This time my good news was for real.
After receiving the letter, I booked my flights, sent my passport in to the nearest consulate of the Philippines, + it came back to me within the week.
I couldn't believe it--there no longer was any obstacle in my way for me to return!
The next couple of weeks went by in a whirlwind--not only was I busy trying to pack up my "temporary" life in Iowa that I had made for myself over the past 9 months, saying goodbye to my friends + family members that lived nearby, but it also was the end of the 3rd quarter for school.
I took shifts between hanging out with friends + family, packing, + grading. I ended up grading all the way until a couple of hours before my flight.
When I got to the airport + finally approached the check-in counter for my flight, I handed in my letter + felt like Charlie Bucket with his golden ticket, desperately wanting to get in to the legendary chocolate factory he'd dreamt about.
Before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to my family + my best friend (who surprised me to see me off at the airport) at 6:00 am on Sunday in the middle of the Minneapolis airport for a period of time that's longer than we've ever been apart before.
I hugged them all tightly one last time + held back the tears as I walked off to go through security.
Next up came my three flights: Minneapolis to Detroit, Detroit to Korea, Korea to Manila.
Flying back to the Philippines was a mix of deja vu moments + moments of unknown.
I had flown this flight route before, only last time it was with my roommate after we had been in a quarantine lockdown, which consisted of us not leaving our house in the Philippines for over 2 months.
Instead of trying to get out of the Philippines, this time I was desperately trying to get back.
I was so excited, nervous, + anxious that I hardly slept during the 3 flights.
Not only was I going back to the country where I had made a home for myself for the past couple of years, but I was finally going to be able to see my boyfriend in Manila after being apart for a year!
With each stop along my journey to Manila, I was scared that someone would take a look at all of my documentation and say, "Sorry, you're actually not allowed here."
Praise God that that never happened.
When my last flight finally landed in Manila I then went through the COVID test processing, hotel booking confirmation, immigration, baggage claim, hotel driver confirmation, and after 3 exhausting hours of going through all of those steps, I finally stepped out of the airport and into a car that took me to my quarantine hotel.
After checking in and getting to my hotel room sometime around 2:00 a.m. on March 2nd, I laid down on my giant bed with a strong sense of relief flooding over me.
I made it. I'm here.
I went to sleep knowing I would wake up to the busy sound of Manila streets + sunlight streaming through my floor-length windows.
God had answered my prayer.
Yes, I am finally here.