I've just spent a week in Philippines, a country at the other side of the world from my Peru, where this wonderful community known as Global Voices held its most recent summit.
Travelling from Lima to Cebu, place of the event, is quite an experience. From the moment I knew my name was on the list of attendees, inquiries about requirements for the trip started to pop up, as well as the steps to be taken at the different airports, documents I should have with me.
My first visit to Asia included a great dose of nervousness. Not every day I'm told that I'm supposed to go be in a plane for six hours, then go through a three hour layover at an airport I visited once, then travel during fourteen hours, another three hour layover at a huge airport only to travel five more hours to (finally!) arrive to my destination.
I left Lima on a Sunday night. Long lines at the counter of the airline that will take me to Houston, Texas. It went much faster than I thought, and two hours later, I was flying to the United States An assortment of movies allowed me to spend calmly the next six hours.
First stop in the lone star state, migration check, Customs check, security check. Checks and more checks is the only thing you hear during the first half hour upon arrival. After this stage, I met Romina, we were going to travel together all the way to Cebu. She had landed from Buenos Aires an hour earlier.
Fourteen hours later, and after watching ten movies and many other videos, we landed at Narita airport, in Tokyo. I had been told not to be intimidated by the huge size of this terminal as “everybody there is so nice.” I must confess that nothing would have ever prepared me for the kindness of the staff working there. Everybody welcomed us with smiling faces, but the most surprising thing was the lady that met the group of passengers I was on who asked, “Cebú?” After a positive answer, we were told to follow her.
She walked us to the place where we had to take the bus that would take us from on terminal to the other of the airport. The whole thing takes about ten minutes. Impossible to walk all along.
Already at the gate previous to our last flight, I saw more faces only seen at tiny profile pictures before. We were a middle-sized group.
Five hours later, on a Tuesday around midnight, at the other side of the world, a Filipino migrations officer greeted me as he stamped my passport and welcomed me to his country.
There was a reception committee waiting for us. From there to the hotel, to catch some sleep before the real adventure that means a GV summit.
Few, very few hours later, I was having mangoes for breakfast at the Cebu Diamonds hotel dining room, surrounded by people from so many parts of the world that you have to experience it to believe it.
Thanks GV for an incredible journey!