Wow, I have just 5 days till I will be on a flight leaving Tacloban City. How strange to think 3 months has gone by already. Many relationships made, hearts touched, lessons taught and learned, another culture captured in my heart and mind, another language partially learned, and so much more. Excitement for the coming steps is equally present with the sadness of leaving folks who have touched and changed my life just as much as I hope to have helped them while I was here. Yesterday afternoon (Monday) I went to say goodbye to the women at the shelter for which I spent 2 months working. I had planned to just spend an hour or so, like a pop in and out sort of thing, just to touch base and say official goodbyes. What unfolded while I was there was so much more than I could have imagined. I told them when I arrived I couldn’t stay long as I had come late afternoon and would have to return for dinner in a short time. I went around and spoke to the women and played with the kids, then just as I was thinking I had better start saying goodbye and being on my way they brought me presents wrapped in brown bags. I had not expected to receive any gifts and certainly not more than one. I opened the first bag and it had a pencil/letter holder inside and a very nice cover to hold a pad/tablet for writing with a pocket and place to put a pen, etc., but the next present was the one that will stay in my heart forever. I opened the second bag to find a memory album! It was right up my alley, recycled beautiful cover made from leaves, recycled paper inside, personal notes and photos and absolutely the best gift they could ever have given me. It brought tears to my eyes and completely caught me by surprise. Each lady had a page with photos and a little note from them and each staff member had put their photo and a brief message as well! As if that weren’t enough they ushered me into the dining room and sang some songs to me. One of the girls I was closest to was already starting to cry by this point and could barely sing. I was holding the kids as they sang and just remained in a pleasant state of shock and awe that I had not only made so much of an impact to these ladies, but even the staff! The staff had come to join in the singing as well! How much a proof that indeed the post I had literally just put up before going was true! It was so moving to me that I had affected so many by doing nothing special, but being friendly, kind, and showing some love to them. 🙂 How much an impact they made on me! It was an emotional goodbye at the gate for the many who followed me out to the gate, but I will keep in touch with them! I will post the photo of the cover only, because I am not allowed to share the ladies photos for confidentiality, but let me assure you it is personal and amazing!
Now to catch everyone up on all the travels I have coming up and possible complications. 🙂 Prayers for safe and on time travel will certainly be appreciated, but I know the Lord knows when and where I need to be so I have to trust that I will be exactly where He wants/needs me to be at the right time! As my flights are currently scheduled this is my route and time line:
Sunday, Jan. 18 – 4:30pm Tacloban to Manila (1 hour, 15 min flight)
Sunday, Jan 18 – 10:20pm Manila to Sydney, Australia (8 hour, 10 min flight)
I am supposed to arrive in Sydney, Australia at 9:30am on Monday, Jan 19 if all goes well.
There are some possible complications to all of this going smoothly:
We have the Pope coming to the Philippines. He will arrive in Manila on the Thursday, Jan 15. He travels here to Tacloban on Saturday, Jan 17 for the day. He will be doing 2 masses while he is here. One at the airport and one in Palo, closer to where I worked. Then, he will fly back to Manila and be there until Monday, Jan 19. Because they are being super cautious with everything in preparation for his coming, they have flown in loads of police from different regions to both Manila and here in Tacloban. Many flights have been and are being cancelled both leaving from Tacloban and Manila during the time the Pope is to be in the Philippines. Currently, my flight is still on, but that could change at any time.
They will also limit transportation starting on Friday, Jan 16 and later in the evening all transports to the airport will be closed and no movement will be allowed to or from the airport all day on the 17. They will have a few special transports to move those approved, but the general public will not be able to get around. Hopefully, all will be opened and back to normal on the 18 when I need to be going to the airport.
They have also alerted us that we may lose cell signal as well as internet as early as midnight on the 15 to last indefinitely in order to prevent any possible kind of trouble with attacks on the Pope.
Last, but not least there is a low pressure heading toward the Philippines. There are 2 possible tracks one which turns north and misses us completely. The second coming over our area as early as the 15 or 16. So, I am not worried, but am aware there is alot attempting to work against me getting out of here on the timeline set this weekend.
I had planned to try to change my flight to earlier in the day for 2 reasons. It would allow me to have a little more time to be certain my overnight flight from Manila to Sydney was indeed still going and it would provide me the opportunity to visit one more time with some of my Nanay’s family that lives in Manila, but was visiting when I arrived in Tacloban. You may remember a post I made about a little girl named Danna awhile ago well she, her sister, and her mom all live in Manila and we are hoping to get to spend at least a few hours visiting if at all possible. Today, myself and another volunteer went to the airport to find out how things were progressing for our flights. I also wanted to ask about getting my flight moved earlier. I was informed that the 2 flights leaving before mine are currently booked as full. I think because they were re-booked from the flights that were cancelled on Saturday. At any rate the only real option I have is to arrive at the airport around 4:30 or 5am on Sunday, Jan 18 and get my name on a standby list. That means if there happens to be an available seats they would call me to get on if I happen to get there early enough to have my name at the top of the list. This is a gamble at best and means spending a huge amount of time in the airport that has no amenities, but the current plan is to go early, ready to leave if possible, wait to hear about the flight at 6:40am and then if I am not offered a spot on that flight to head back to Bliss provided transportation is open again. I can rest for a few hours and head back around noon or 1 to find out if I might be offered a spot on the 2:55pm flight. If that doesn’t go my flight would leave an hour and a half later at 4:30pm. Typically there is a late morning flight, but they are saying that day there will not be one. Of course if we find out there is one I would literally need to stay at the airport all day waiting to see if I got on a flight. Definitely not the greatest of options, but if I want to try to get to Manila to visit with the family it’s the only choice I have, so that is the current plan. Rather than praying I get on the earlier flights I want to pray that I am on the flight the Lord wants me on, and go from there. I will do my best to keep everyone updated if possible.
The last thing I want to touch on is I will have about 10 days of a holiday in Australia starting hopefully on Jan. 19. During that time, I have a friend from the US coming to visit with me. We have some activities planned which we are looking forward to experiencing, but I am most excited to get a nice hot shower with decent pressure and have a soft bed for a few days. 😉 I have certainly learned how to live here, but those 2 things will be very nice luxuries! We will spend about 4 days in Sydney and then move on to Cains area. I will be sure to make a blog post around the end of our time there to update everyone on the many travels from Australia to get to Argentina. Thanks in advance for your prayers for travels! 🙂 This may be my last post from the Philippines, but do not fear you will hear from me again before the end of the month!