It was the day I had been looking forward to since I applied to be a VSO volunteer in February. I was leaving home in London to spend 3 months living with a host family in Cebu, in the Philippines.
Of course, I had all those doubts. What if I can't communicate with them? What if I don't like it? What if I miss home? But I love a challenge.
7th of September, we were flying to Dubai. There were 10 of us British volunteers, and all of us had very mixed emotions. Saying goodbye to my family was difficult, of course I'm going to miss them all but I had the opportunity of a lifetime.
Our flight was at 8:40pm from Heathrow to Dubai, and it was the first time I've ever flew out of Europe, or even been on a plane for more than 4 hours. We boarded the biggest plane in the world, the airbus A380, and I was amazed. Literally, it would take 5 minutes to walk from one end to the other. I struggled with this long plane journey, but the TV with games and films kept me amused!
We finally arrived in Dubai at 6am (their local time) and it was 37 degrees. I was really tempted to go out and explore but we weren't allowed, and we only had 3 hours until our next flight to Manila, the capital of the Philippines. This next flight was a longer one, and I was dreading it! We went through security (a lot less strict than I expected) and Joe left his belt behind.. I couldn't stop laughing! Anyway, I spent the journey sleeping, talking to the other volunteers and before I knew it, we were landing.
"How can it be 10pm already?!" Of course, I was so confused with the time difference and wasn't tired at all. When I stepped out of the plane, it really hit me, I was going to be in this country for 3 whole months. The airport was filled with Filipinos, there wasn't a single foreigner in sight apart from us volunteers. I was happy. I liked a place that wasn't packed with tourists, so it meant that I was able to fully indulge in the Filipino culture without any other cultural influences.
Our interpreter, Kam, met us at the airport and took us to our driver who offered to stop by at McDonalds and get some food.
Before making our way there, us, being typical British, asked where the seatbelts were. The driver looked at us all confused, and laughed. He made us get out of the car and went under all the seats to get the seatbelts out. Clearly they didn't use them!
Ordering food was a pain, they apparently didn't have lemonade and gave me ice tea instead, but when I went past, I saw some sprite but never mind! We basically didn't get what we asked for but we were too tired to care.
We drove through the city of Manila, and I was amazed at the traffic system. There wasn't one. Cars were beeping, and I swear we could have crashed 10000 times. But I guess that's how Filipinos roll.
We arrived at our hostel, and we 7 girls had to share a tiny room. I slept on a mattress on the floor with just a pillow. It was SO hot and humid, I really struggled in the heat and then Kam tells me, "just you wait, Cebu is worse." I thought what?!
Anyway, I didn't really sleep much, but we prepared ourselves for the next morning, when we had to go to the British embassy for a meeting, and then to the airport to catch a flight to Cebu.