We flew out on Thanksgiving Day, to Tokyo and then Manila and then, the next morning, to El Nido, Palawan. The flight to El Nido passed over blue, blue water, with green islands scattered about, and we descended among craggy rocks rising out of the sea.
We approached the runway over that kind of blue-green that makes up dreams of tropical islands, and all of a sudden there was a jolt to the side and we were going up, up, up over the island instead of landing.
I mean, I try to be all cool about flying. Mostly I am. Mostly I can handle turbulence and engine sound changes and rising and falling and the occasional armrest-clinging landing. I know that flying is safer than driving. But there's still a tiny part of me that has read too much about plane crashes and doesn't quite trust the science of being in the air in a metal tube.
The pilot came on and said, in his American accent ("Was that an American voice?" I asked J. when the pilot started talking in Manila) that there was a strong cross-wind and we would make a second attempt at landing. J. continued playing sudoku. I pressed my face to the window.
We made a high circle over a ridge and a bay and a few islands, and then back down toward the bay that contained the airport. This time everything was smooth, and we landed with barely a bump.
Among the many things that I did not know about the Philippines is that it would be the first place since Liberia where I did not need so much as a thin extra layer at night. We walked out of the plane into tropical humidity, and it was glorious.
There are no taxis or buses at El Nido airport. (This is what happens when you do little to no research before getting on a plane.)
It was fine, though, because there were tricycles, the little 100cc motorbikes with a car built over them so they have a wheel and a seat on the side. We stuffed our big scuba gear bags onto the back and J. and I squeezed into the little seat, taking turns leaning forward and back so that our broad American shoulders would fit.
We rode through the jungle - I smiled widely the whole way, because it reminded me of Liberia - and then, after dropping our stuff off at the hotel too early to check in - we walked along the sand of the bay, looking out at the perfect ocean with the rocky islands jutting up.