The trip here was long. No big revelation there. The Philippines are very far away from Santa Barbara, holy cow! Woke up at 5:30am on Jan 21 and got to the airbus (thank you, dear housemate) by 6:15. I rode on that until 8:30am, enjoying a lovely sunrise all along Highway 1 to Malibu. In the crazy world that we now live in, there was wireless on the bus, so I was able to finish up all theemail I didn't get to before I left. That was strangely enjoyable. It allowed me to feel "done" as I left, free to go on this adventure.
For the first time in recent memory, my entire airport experience was problem-free. From walking up the counter at Delta to get my boarding passes to security and boarding, it all went as it theoretically was supposed to go. What a relief.
My first leg was to Narita airport in Tokyo. It was a bear of a flight, frankly -- 10.5 hours. I just don't like sitting that long. I got to read to my heart's desire, and the food was manageable, even for gluten-free me. I watched bits and parts of 4 different movies, an episode of Glee, but mostly ignored it and read my books and magazines.
The layover in Tokyo was hectic -- I actually just went from one gate to another, since the timing was so close. I do hope for a little more exploration time of the airport on the return flight, though I don't get my hopes up. So I have now been "in" Japan, but not really.
The next flight was 4.5 hours, and by then I was pretty fried. I just wanted to be there and be done traveling. I arrived on time, was picked up by new friend Paul Tuxworth, chaplain (with his delightful wife Ruth) for the high school students at Faith Academy. I fell into bed at 12:30am Philippines time. I slept for 9 hours straight and woke up relatively functional.
From there I had some "brekkie," as Ruth calls it, then unpacked a bit and actually got to go into Manila. What a hoot! Ruth and I took a "tricycle" (see photo up top), which did my scooter-loving heart good. The photo doesn't do justice to our own little machine -- it was not much more than a regular scooter with a tiny sidecar. The two of us just barely fit into the seat, and then she told me that upwards of 8 people sometimes board on these things! I tried not to panic.
From there we then took a "jeepney" (see below) which totally reminded me of the chicken buses in Guatemala, but even smaller and just as crowded. We were the only light-skinned people on the bus, so of course there were plenty of stares, but that was fine. We strolled around a mall, which is full of funny food and lots of Western-looking shops. So glad that American consumer culture is spreading its fragrance everywhere (she says, sarcastically.....)
But that brings me to Faith Academy, which is why I'm here. This is "Spiritual Enrichment Week (aka "SEW"), and I am the speaker. Many people told me they had been praying for me, which I found very touching. I met some amazing girls in the dorm I'm staying in on Sunday night, and quickly realized that this would be fun. On Monday morning much of the school convened at the flagpole at 7:15am and prayed for me. My goodness.
I spoke for the first time yesterday at 1:15. What a blast! These 280 students sang their hearts out -- how I wished my Providence Hall kids could sing with such passion and volume. My first message talked about wrestling with God, and spent some time in Genesis 32. I invited students to introduce themselves to me -- and I brought Swedish Fish candy to sweeten the deal :) They are fun and warm and engaging. It's really cool.
I'm learning so much already. The majority of these students have either US or Korean passports, but I've discovered you cannot ask the simple question "Where are you from?" with this group. "Third Culture Kids" have often been born in their passport country, but spent the bulk of their lives living abroad, sometimes in remote tribal areas, collecting several languages along the way. One young woman in my dorm knows Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines, but also two tribal languages AND of course English. And yet she looks and sounds like one of my students from Santa Barbara. Fascinating! And it's so intriguing to see how South Korea is changing the landscape of world missions, as their numbers increase dramatically.
One sidenote: the weather. This is apparently it's the "cool, dry season" here in January, but I don't know whether I'm just a soft Californian or La Niña is doing her thing, but it's neither cool nor dry! The average temp is around 80-90 degrees, and the humidity flutters between 90-100%. I am sweaty and my face is shiny all the time. And yeah, my hair is a fluffball.
All in all, this is a grand time. I'm so thankful for the chance to do it, and even more, for the opportunity to get to know these students and talk about Jesus with them. Stay tuned.