Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Free Doesn't Mean Easy

Good morning sunshine! ...Well at least for me. It's sleeping time in Manila right now but hey I'm not there. I'm far behind and my July 23rd is just starting. 08:43am as I write. I'm finally on my vacay that I've been calculating and planning and planning and planning for at least a couple of months now. But hey, it didn't come easy.

July 20th. I went home on the morning flight. Arrived at NAIA at around lunchtime. Off to get a 3G phone that will work in Korea. Luckily mommy dearest has two new phones: one from Smart that she gets every two years, and another from an upgrade of her company phone. Tatay, Nanay and I all talk into switching phones to save me from a possible PhP12,000 spend and kuya from PhP5,000 (coz he was gonna buy my phone when I get a new one). So yea you guessed it, I got the Nokia 6500 classic by using my "communication skills". Finished off businesses I needed to take care of in Manila.

July 21st. Woke up at 9am. Packed my bags, called up Expedia, booked for an inn, talked to the work manager who called me about some "irresponsibility" (like I care), and by 9pm I'm at NAIA once again. Went to the check in counter and found it odd that they're still putting me on standby eventhough it isn't a full flight. (Free tickets are standby tickets.) I dig up Joseph's number (my UST batchmate who now works ground for Asiana) and ask him stuff. The power of texting prevails and in a matter of minutes I have my boarding pass.

Who knew that on the leg that I'm not worried about is where I'd have more difficulties? I was in at the immigration booth and this officer tells me I need my OEC(?) which was the OFW card. I told him I'm not one, yet. He's like, "You've been working overseas for two years blahblahblah." He orders me to go to the OWWA center, where they tell me I don't need it coz I'm flying for sightseeing and not for work. That makes sense. Just because I wrote "cabin crew" on the Occupation field I get in trouble?

I went back to the officer and thoroughly explained that I don't need it since I'm traveling not to work. Leisure. Sightseeing. Every possible word. And he was like, "You're flying to your home base to tour?" And I'm like, "I have standby tickets to the U.S." Then he goes, "Even so. Blahblahblah..."

I dunno what the hell is wrong with that bading pero he just doesn't listen. Finally I go back to the Asiana counter and Sir Sandy confirms that I don't need whatever the bading was asking of me and takes matters in his hands. I stand back a good 50meters away while Sir Sandy talks to the immigration officer and then gives me a go signal. Approaching the officer for the third time, he was like smiling and saying, "Oh magttour ka pala?" Tanginang yan. Which part of 'leisure,' 'travel,' 'tour,' and 'sightseeing' did he not understand? Tanginang yan. I smile with a sarcastic tangina-alam-mo-naman look. Hell, he asked me that I was going to Seoul to TOUR then he's gonna tell me, "Oh magttour ka pala?" The guy next to him was coughing "Bias" out loud and they were just laughing. Tanginang yan. He was like telling me to go to POEA earlier to do this and that and I'm telling him this flight is not for work. Heck I'm not even in uniform! Well maybe I should've just worn my uniform then pass through unharmed then changed into casual clothes just so I wouldn't have dealt with that horse. (I say horse because he's like one, you know, he sees only one direction and that direction only.)
July 22nd. I get to Incheon at a very early morning: 04:45am. The flight to San Francisco isn't for twelve hours. Hell yea you read that right. Half a day at the airport. I felt so Tom Hanks in The Terminal. The transfer desk I can't be issued a boarding pass yet as the SF flight is overbooked and I'd just have to pray and wish someone gets stuck in traffic and/or decides to go on another day. I'm instructed to go back to the desk ten minutes prior boarding. With that, I pull my luggage and find a dark spot in the airport where I put on my eyemask and sleep. After a couple of hours, I peek through my eyemask and see that the sun is up and the human density is increasing. I get up and freshen up before I choose McCafe as the place to have breakfast. I dig in the hotcakes while sighing, "Ten more hours."

Hella bored, I try my laptop at the wifi hotspot. Doesn't work; guy says something's wrong with the IP address. Good thing they have their own VAIOs so I use it and people are still asleep so it's no use. My phone works though. Good. By 10am I have walked past gates 30 to 50 and prolly have memorized the flights on those particular gates. I check out gate 40 where the SF flight would be at and notice there aren't many Filipinos. I settle for a seat and made a friend with an equally bored person and equally on the twelve-hour wait. Brian (from Vallejo) and I play Sudoku, play music on my laptop, get up, freshen up, he smokes, we eat, he sleeps, I shop... We've prolly done everything we could imagine but there's still more hours to pass.

By 3-ish I meet up with Cielo who's on the way to Singapore to get my money that she withdrew from my account. (Thanks Ciel!) 3:30 I wait around for Mi-Jin, who will go as add crew on the SF flight and hand her an English workbook that I bought from CostCo. She wishes me good luck in getting a seat as it's really full as per Ms Gandy and Ms Mariane (who would also be in the flight as duty crew and add crew, respectively). 3:40 I proceed to the counter and the manager tells me to return after ten minutes.

It was probably the longest ten minutes I could ever think of. I was literally staring at the clock until it struck 3:50. Ten minutes prior boarding. I hand over my passport, ticket, ID (for confirmation that I'm an Asiana employee) and cross my fingers. She still doesn't look up from the computer and it was making me nervous. Finally she says, "I'm sorry... You don't have a choice of seat, we only have one available." And I'm like, "OMG I don't really care which seat, as long as I get on the flight!" So lucky. Very lucky. I get an exit row so she briefs me: "Your seat is on the exit row so..." I just smile and confirm and she smiles back as she's saved from muttering more English words. On the plane, the cabin crew do the briefing. I memorized that by heart.

She hands me back my documents plus a boarding pass with one last sentence. "Go to the gate now." To which I wide-smiledly obey after saying endless kamsahamnidas.

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