Hey friends and family! I have arrived!
Right now I'm writing from Quezon city which is just outside of Manila, where we flew in late last night.
Its been a whirlwind 10 days to say the least. All last week I was in Stony Point, New York with all of my fellow YAVs for (dis)orientation. It was an intense week that covered many topics but mostly focused on racism and white supremacy. While these are difficult topics to discuss, they need to be addressed and I was grateful to dive into such serious issues with my YAV community. The week was long, draining, and sometimes heartbreaking spending so much time addressing the corruptness of our world, but it brought all of us together, and I am grateful for the many tight friendships I developed over such a short period of time. I will miss my fellow YAVs while across the world in the Philippines, but I trust that we are all walking alongside each other through individual journeys and our one journey as a greater community.
All in all, it took about 30 exhausting and draining hours to get the Philippines. Our journey started at 4:30 AM when we left Stony Point and got on the train to get to Newark Airport. The train journey went smoothly, and for that I was very grateful. Riding on trains while carrying a years worth of luggage with you is no easy task. We got to the airport and caught our connecting flight to Detroit, and landed in Detroit around 11. Our flight, which was from Detroit to Tokyo, was supposed to leave at 12:30, but it kept getting delayed and delayed for mechanical issues. We didn't leave Detroit until 4 PM. While it was a very frustrating situation, we did run into the Korea YAVS right before boarding, so it was very comforting having them see us off.
The flight from Detroit to Japan was 12 LONG LONG LONG hours. I watched a couple of movies, tried to sleep a bit, every once in a while freak out that I wasn't going back home for year, but we got through it! Although right before we landed in Japan we were informed that a typhoon had just moved north of us so it was safe to land. At this point, Im thinking WHAT?! A typhoon sounds dangerous!! I was then told typhoons are the norm here so I’ll have to get used to that.
We then flew from Japan to Manila, which is about 4 hours. Arriving in Manila and going through customs went smooth and quickly, which was a huge blessing. From there it took about an hour to where we are staying right now. Although it was late at night when I arrived, the culture shock was very real. One: the humidity!! I’m told it’s winter here so it will get worse. But at 11 PM it was at least 85 degrees, and more humidity than I’ve ever felt, and yet people were walking around with long jeans on and jackets like it was cold! Two: the traffic. We were driving at 11 at night and it was still bumper to bumper. I cant even image what driving today will be like at rush hour. We were told never to drive during our year here and I will happily comply. I could definitely already notice the crazy traffic norms that I’ve been told about.
All in all, I’ve got a huge mix of emotions jumbled up in my head. It didn't feel real in orientation. It did feel like I was about to move halfway across the world, but man it feels real now. I would be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. Probably the most terrified I have ever been. But I also would be lying if I said this wasn’t the most excited I’ve ever been. This year is going to be one incredible rollercoaster, and I’m doing my best to keep my heart and mind open to what that means. I’m so incredibly grateful for Flanny and Akilah. They are quickly turning into family and I know we can be the support systems for each other needed to get through this year.
Well, the adventure has begun!!! Sending my love to everyone back home, know I am grateful to have you all walking with me on this journey.