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Wednesday, 26 June - Monday, 1 July, 2002

The trip, by day:

Day 1 - The Flight to Lands Foreign (Wednesday, 26 June into Friday, 28 June)

The trip to Manila started as many trips do... we left home.  Like many trips, I wasn't invited, per se.  Rather, the bald one stuffed me into my cramped little duffel, and we were on our way to the airport (in this case).  I've been known to set webbed-foot into airplanes in the past, but never in a terminal of this size.  Not just a municipal airport was that, nor a county or regional airport.  Oh no, it was an international airport.  Well, isn't that nice and fancy-pants like?

The lobby itself was quite large, and it was just one of several in the place.  We figured out where we needed to be, and checked in a little after 7pm (Pacific Time).  Despite the "One Bag Per Passenger" policy, tubby squeaked two through -- something about one being a laptop computer, thus, my soft little self become the one bag.  (While I resented being referred to as carry-on luggage, I opted not to raise it as a complaint.  Yet.)  Of course, we were then told our 10:40pm flight was now departing at 12:15am... super.  

We went through the security check-point, and while the boy had to have his laptop and shoes checked for residue from explosive materials, I scooted through as free as a bird.  We headed off to the lounge (where folks in business class like us get to, well, lounge), and perhaps the four hours we had to kill weren't going to be so awful after all.  They didn't even seem overly concerned that I ended up with an adorable bottle of wine, and I hardly think I look 21.  The lounge was one of those places -- even in an airport -- you felt okay leaving your bags on the seat and going for a stroll (or for more wine in my case, if you must know).

Around midnight, the lounge lady (or attendant, but I think my way sounds funnier) announced that it was time for us to board.  (Translation:  those in economy class have already been herded onto the plane like cattle, and we could now board the Boeing 747 and ascend the stairs to our upstairs seating area.)  It was nice, of course.  But then, when you consider the flight is going to span nearly 15 hours, it would want to be.  There was no movie, but two meals were offered (neither was accepted, because tubby is picky -- not that you could tell looking at him, of course.)  And yes, I got the placement nearest the window, as is my custom.

The flight itself was very smooth.  You'd hardly known you'd left the ground, or when you reconnected with it, and very little turbulence at all.  Which probably has a lot to do with why the boy managed to somehow sleep through 75% or more of the flight.  We'd departed around 12:20am, and touched down in Honolulu, Hawaii for fuel a (and passengers?  couldn't tell) before heading down the path of the 10 or so hours in the air before Manila.  The lad filled out the mandated custom forms, and I was relieved that I wasn't a drug dealer as I read the form.  Sunrise eventually caught up with us from behind as well.

We handed in Manila at 6:11am. On the morning of Friday, 28 June.  Yup, it's as though I'll never see Thursday (stupid international date line).  We managed to get down to the passport station, which was (literally) a rubber-stamp kind of approval for letting foreign ducks into the Philippines.  We grabbed our luggage (6:32am), and cleared customs (handed the man the form, he rubber-stamped it, no questions, conversation, or inspection of luggage), and we were on our way.  It's only 6:45am, and already 81F (27C).  Humid, too.  I felt my feathers getting matted down almost instantly.

We were met by a group of Mercedes to take us and the rest of the folks we're traveling with to the hotel, which was an eye-opening 15 minute drive.  I've somewhat taken for granted the lines on the road were intended to separate cars.  On numerous occasions, we could reach out and touch the car in the next lane (that's assuming we weren't already in the same lane).  Even as I write this, I can look out the window of the room, and see six columns of cars on a street that is clearly marked as having only five lanes.  The sharing of the road with bicycles, pedestrians, scooters and even dogs was quite astounding.  More so, one of the guys the boy was talking to was saying how low the rate of traffic collisions were in Manila.  Astounding, I tell ya.

We checked into the Makati Shangri-La hotel (the boy and I assigned to room 923) around 7:30am, and headed upstairs.  Wacky contraption number one - in order to turn on the lights, you need to insert your room key.  None of this leaving the lights on when no one's home.  The room itself was massive - king size bed, ottoman sofa thing, desk (and not some cheap Ikea particle board thing, either), mini-bar and refrigerator, in-room safe, and an impressive bathroomDecent view from the room, though.

The whole entourage landed downstairs for breakfast, which was nice enough.  It's now 8am Friday (5pm Thursday Pacific Time).  Breakfast was a vast array of local, seasonal fruits, along with the usual breakfast foods along the lines of American tastes, as well an assortment of local and other regions' foods (none of which the stubborn twit would try, of course... but if nothing else, he's consistent).  The period of 10am until 5pm was down time for napping (while others forced their ducks to slave over writing their own web pages). 

Come 6pm, the business at hand of a recruiting and hiring trip began.  Of course, the boy being all old and sleepy, woke up (by accident, I'm sure) at 5:55pm.  Needless to say, the trip to the function room was in haste.  They all did their presentations... or so I'm told.  The bald one left me in the room, which worked out well enough, as the bed had a down comforter on it, and hypocrisy aside, it was darn comfy.

After the fact, we dined in the Island Cafe on the ground floor, and then wandered up to Conway's, a little club place they had on the second floor.  I found that here, providing you have money, and can reach the bar (or, have someone place you on it), you'll be taken care of.  (Note: the place looked a LOT different with the lights off, at night.)  The band, Human Race (Philippines variety, not the Sweden name equivalent) was actually pretty good, which I guess surprised me because that's not always easily found in small bars (or so I'm told).  The drummer also did a very good version of Five for Fighting's Superman, by the by.  The night rolled on past 1:30am, which was universally established as the sleepy time.  Thus, we retired for the evening.


Day 2 - The Mission of the Trip (Saturday, 29 June)

The alarm sounded right at 6am (local / 3pm Friday Pacific Time), and after the boy managed to find clothes that didn't look horrible on him, we headed down to breakfast, and then the interviews.  As you'd probably expect, it was a long day -- the interviewing ran from 8am until after 6pm.  Hard to believe, but even by sitting in the "hot seat", I still can't get an interview with this company -- they just got up and left the room.  This, of course, was not unlike my unsuccessful bid to get hired there back in May 2001.  

After lingering in the lounge for a bit, we headed off to an evening meal.  Dinner was a brief affair at the Cheval Blanc (some sort of French restaurant within the hotel), and for some quacky reason, most everyone headed off to sleep by 10pm.  Party poopers.

(And yes, that stuff that looks like marble in all the hotel photos is marble.  Tons of it - literally - are throughout the hotel.  The lobby itself is wall-to-wall in marbe, and it's no small lobby.)


Day 3 - The Mission of the Trip Continued (Sunday, 30 June)

Again, the alarm sounded at 6am, except today we waddled down to the Business Center before breakfast to see what's up with the internet connection in the room (and to connect up just to check all of my duck fan mail, of which there is often volumes).  Not surprisingly, the explanation offered had nothing to do with the plug-in thingy having a bent pin... oh no... it's because there's no service on our floor.  Despite the fact that if we wiggled the plug or unbent the plug a bit, we were able to get a signal indicator on the connector.  Whatever.  We used 15 minutes of internet connectivity at a fee of 300 pesos, to be charged to the room.

Breakfast is now much of the norm.  The boy had his usual of steamed white rice, eggs, bacon, toast and apple juice.  I had crumbs... leading me to suspect I'm getting the short end of the stick on this one.  They started their interview things again around 8am, and plowed through until about 5:30pm, when I got to bear witness to a spirited discussion about who would best fit with which team.  (The conversation around who was and wasn't still in the running was hashed out promptly after each interview ended.)  By 6pm, we emerged with a plan, a team, and an expectation that we'd be meeting with their 15 new hires at 6pm tomorrow. 

And with a little help -- not from the bald guy, of course -- I got to have my photo taken next to the hotel's bomb-sniffing dog.  Cool, huh?  This little pup is brought to the luggage of guests checking in to make sure all is well.

Then off to dinner.  Chinese was the preference, despite the boy's reservation about being fussy, and my long-standing objection to any serving portions that involve the death of a duck.  There was no duck.  There was, however, a chicken who didn't fare as well.  (If you are missing it, about an inch (3cm) past my beak is the beak of an ill-fated flightless dinner-served fowl.  Apparently, though, it's a dining treat, so when in Rome...  Much can be said for the century egg, which is just what you'd think -- an egg that is purported to be 100 years old.  The brave members of the boy's travel party (which means everyone but the boy, standing behind the camera) tried this delight, with some interesting looks after popping that little gem into their mouths.

Oddly enough, the gang again parted for sweet slumber after the gathering at the chicken-and-egg feast.  (And if you're wondering, the egg actually came first.  Tonight, anyway.  But by choosing to put the chicken photos first to keep that whole debate going for years to come.) 


Day 4 - The Longest Day (Monday, 1 July)

No alarm today, hurrah!  Today marks the end of the bulk of the work effort, and instead, aside from the 6pm meeting with the new hires before our departure to the airport, we're doing more of the tourist-casual-wandering thing.  We stumbled out of the room a little after 9am, and I made the boy take me back to the Business Center to check my mail.  That done, we met up with the remainder of our group for breakfast around 9:30am (one had departed on a shopping expedition for some miscellaneous watches).   

Naturally, we couldn't sleep.  The boy was up first at 3am, then 6:30am, and finally at 8am.  Something about being hot (sort of a surprise here, of all places, right?), and having a dream about some girl asking him to barbeque hamburgers.  (If there's any psych majors out there, I heard the whole, long, boring dream in detail, and would be happy to provide it for analysis.)  We made the barbaric trek to the Business Center to actually get to use an internet connection (a primitive act in such an urbane hotel, I'd argue), and then to breakfast.  And then, outside!  We haven't stepped foot outside of the hotel since Friday morning.

So, shortly after 12 noon, or venture outside began.  Right after the watches arrived, and I tried to bargain my way into a knock-off Tag or Rolex watch.  No luck.  Apparently they're cheap in the gray market, but $1 isn't going to buy me much more than a 10-10-220 phone call.  Okay, we're on the street.  Hot, muggy, rumors the temperature would approach 90F / 32C.  90% humidity.  A wonderful feeling if you're covered from head to tail in feathers, right?

I have to admit being surprised.  It looks a lot like any major city... most everything is in English, cars illegally parked, nothing overly special.  Sure, there were little signs that this isn't the U.S., but there weren't many.  (This sign was on the front door of the Tower Records store, but there were similar signs outside of the mall and the super store.  The malls had security searching you and your bags, although not as vigorously as I'd expected.  Everything was crowded, like Christmas, but today was just any other day.  The mall was huge, and you could even go there and buy your major appliances, if you so choose.  They even sell air conditioners... quite a shocker there, eh?

We got back around 3:30pm, and sat around and had a late lunch/early dinner thing before heading to the rooms.  At around 6pm, we were to meet with those candidates -- now technically the "new hires" -- that were hired as the purpose of this trip.  By 7pm, we were to be on our way to the airport for our 10:15pm flight back to the U.S.  While I could show you those photos as well, I was told they were proprietary and confidential.  Curious, huh?  A celebration in a dark bar... confidential.  Whatever.  

We got to the airport around 8pm or so (yes, it seems like a short trip, but traffic is actually quite bad), did the whole ticket, customs, immigration thing, and at the end of it all, even got to pay the "terminal fee" of 550 pesos (about $11) for the ability to leave.  I guess that's what it's for... not accustomed to such things.

We boarded up, and took off at 10:44pm on Monday, 1 July.  Now, here's where it gets weird.  Turns out we land at 8pm on Monday, 1 July.  With that whole international date line thing, we actually landed before we took off, or something.  Can you just imagine if the rest of the bird types out there could land before they left?  Migrating south for the winder would actually make you younger.  I wonder if I can capitalize on this... anyway.  If you got bored, plenty of movies, or you could just watch the flight as it progressed on a variety of different monitors and thingy like that, from the comfort of your seat.  And by only napping a few times on the flight, both tubby and I managed to avoid any inwardly indications of jet lag.  Except, of course, some twisted, compelling need to post this page.  At least until the next trip, which departs in just a few days...

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