Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgment of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you're going to do about it.” - Kathleen Casey Theisen
These are old entries I wrote during my trip late last year going to China… to get away from the reality that I might be HIV positive.
February 27, 2008
I got to NAIA all safe and excited. I loaded my luggage, paid the travel fee and did all the necessary things. I got to the immigration counter and that’s when things became more exciting. After queuing for a while and chatting to a lady on her way to business trip to Boston, I approached the counter and handed the guy my passport and ticket. For some strange reason immigration, I noticed that immigration officers try their best to look placid. They do not speak unless they need to ask a question. This guy did not ask me any question but flashes a piece of paper. I told him it’s not mine and he said I need to fill out one of it. So I left his window and went to fill out a form.
When I am done with the form, I queued for the second time and this instance; I was confronted by a female immigration officer. This one is very inquisitive. She asked me where I am going, I said China. She returned the question “why is your ticket booked to Hong Kong?” I responded saying it’s the quickest way; I will be taking a train to Beijing from Hong Kong. She asked how long I will be staying, I said about a month. Then she asked for my work, where it is and other more personal stuff. Then she inquired if I am staying for business or pleasure, I said pleasure. She asked where I am staying in Hong Kong. I said I will take a train directly to Beijing when I get to Hon Kong. She asked me the question again... I said I am not staying in Hong Kong. After that she said I need to present her a hotel reservation in Hong Kong. I told her I won’t need that since I am just passing through Hong Kong. She’s very stern and required me to present a reservation arrangement. I got frustrated but did my best not to show it. I told her that my plane is leaving in 30 minutes... She just stared at me. I left her counter.
I decided to line up again and this time I was directed to a newly opened window. The officer is also a female. She looked nicer, having that motherly appeal. I know that my impression didn’t really matter so I approached her window. I composed myself and smiled at here while I slip my passport and ticket. Unlike my last transaction, this one is faster. This third immigration officer asked the practically the same question the second officer asked me. She asked what does BPO means (I wrote that on the form) and I said it means Business Process outsourcing and that I am an Operation Supervisor in my company. She asked if I am having a business or a pleasure trip. I answered I am taking a vacation. She commented “employment opportunity?” I said just to visit a friend. Them I left here window and headed to the last security counter. While I was moving away from her counter, she said, well, you can work as a manager in Beijing. I smiled and went my way.
It’s amazing how subjective immigration officers are. I wish they’d have more love and logic in their hearts. I almost wasn’t able to leave because of that second officer. She must have been on the middle of her shift or even at the end of it. I can imagine how exhausted she must be processing passports and talking to keyed up passengers. I got lucky that the third officer I encountered was just starting her shift and was still energetic.
This was my first time to go out of the country and I did not realize that it would be this so much trouble. Oh, well... that’s life. The immigration officers in Hong Kong are much more pleasant than those I met in the Philippines.
February 27, 2008
We made a good take off. This is my first time on a plane going abroad. Two things I liked about plane rides, the G-force you fell when taking off and the casual conversation I get from other passengers. Talking about passengers, the girl beside me cried the moment the plane took off. It was an interesting demeanour as she was cookie and cheerful when she settled on her seat. I wanted to ask why she was crying but I thought that that needed thinking and the last thing, I suppose, this girl need is someone prying on her personal moment. So I decided to ask her if she already misses her family. She nodded in response. Through insinuations and smart inquiries, I eventually learned that she’ll be staying and working in Hong Kong for two years. I comforted her saying that two years isn’t that long. Next thing she knows, she’d be flying back home.
Although my attention was drawn by this girl, half of it is trying to focus on the view from the window. I asked to be seated on the middle of the plane, on the isle. I’ve always wanted to take the isle seat because it lessens the feeling of enclosure. I am not claustrophobic; I just don’t like restricted space. Moving on... I saw a really good view of Fort Bonifacio. It looked so different when viewed from the top. The main avenue from McKinley road going to Market seemed longer from above as compared when I am driving along it. A little more height and the metropolis revealed its entirety. It is indeed a wonderful sight to behold. Then I realized I was smiling. This is because I feel happy. I realized how beautiful the world is when viewed differently. I also felt a burst of joy knowing there’s a lot of opportunity to better my self and my life. I was so confined by the life I’ve gotten used to that I forgot there’s a big world out there waiting to be explored. One thing I am sure right now... This experience will make me a better person. Life, after this trip, will never be the same.
STRANGERS ON THE TRAIN,
February 27, 208
Taking the train from Hong Kong to China.
I walked the plank and was amazed how long the train was. I was on the third coach, room #2. When I reached the coach entrance, I handed the lady, wearing a smart dark blue uniform of coat and skirt, my ticket and she gave me back a card the size and quality similar to an ATM. She must have sensed my uncertainty because her sweet smile turned into a concerned look. She asked me why and I said I am not sure how to get to my room because I don’t understand Chinese writing. She was very kind to lead me to where I will be staying during the trip.
I waited until everyone sharing the unit with me gets settled. But before everyone got comfortable, a guy approached me and was talking to me in Chinese. I apologized and told him I do not speak Chinese. When I told him to hold on a moment while I get someone to translate for me, I nice man approached me and said he can speak English and he can help me. The first man explained himself to the second guy. Then the second guy explained to me that the first guy was asking me if I can switch cabins with him since he is travelling with his daughter who was sharing the room with me. I smiled and said yes, that’s alright with me.
The entire cabin looked the same. It’s small, about 2x3 meters. It has three bunk beds arranged top, middle, bottom on both sides. Located at the end of the room is a small coffee table and a fairly big window. I transferred my luggage to the new room. It’s a cabin away from my original room. It was a good idea that I exchanged rooms because this new room only have 3 occupants including myself. I was supposed to stay on the top most bunk bed, which honestly seemed inconvenient because I would be facing the ceiling and it’s about three feet high from the bed. But since there were only three of us, I thought of taking the right, middle bunk bed since it will give me a good view from the window.
My roommates were a man in his 40s and a young man in his 20s. I spoke to the older guy asking him if he speaks English and to my luck, he does. His name is Kong Guangsheng (in China, family name comes first). He is an Engineer from Hong Kong. He is very kind. When I wanted to buy water and did not have Renminbi (Chinese money), he said he’ll take care of it. I exchanged my Hong Kong dollars for his Renminbi. We were talking about names and I showed him my Chinese name I downloaded from the internet. He explained to me what the character composing my name means. He even suggested a better character to use for my name.
The younger guys name is Zhu Kai. He does not speak English but did his best to communicate his ideas to me. He is a shy young lad. I noticed that when I first came to the room because he was staring at me and had that curious look on his face. He was surprised to learn that I am Filipino. He said I looked like Chinese; Guangsheng agreed but asked if I have Spanish decent. I said yes. I knew Zuh Kai was talking about me because he would point to me and glance at me once in a while and he used the word Filipino. I felt he was getting comfortable with me as he started opening conversations. Unfortunately, they did not last long as we bout could not understand each other’s English and I do not speak his language. I just give him smile whenever I see him giving me that curious look. I wanted to remember them so I made sure to take their pictures. I also asked for their email addresses and promised to send them their pictures. It’s amazing how much we’d learn from strangers if we give ourselves the chance to open up to them.
Being on the economy class, the train accommodation is comfortable. The communal toilet and lavatory is located on one end of the coach. They have a small restaurant on coach # 11 and they have an efficient, centralized sound system. They use it for announcement, play music and news. It is unfortunate thought because I can’t understand what they are playing but I would know if the person talking on the radio would say a joke or something funny as my roommates would laugh. I was a fantastic coincidence as they played Pachelbel’s “Cannon in D”. I think it’s really amazing because I am travelling by train in a foreign land and I hear my favourite composition... the only music that brings me overwhelming comfort.
I am on the train while I write this blog but I won’t be able to post this until I get home to my friend's house. The view outside the window is picturesque. The vista panorama of misty mountains standing behind a freshly dewed field is breath taking. The sunrise is a magnificent sight to behold. I don’t know where exactly I am but Guangsheng said we are already in China…
But my reality is still inside me. My name is JP. Welcome to my world.