I WHAT


“I gave it to you”

“No you didn’t!!

My ears bled with disbelief. My passport hasn’t been taken out of the bank vault where it was kept and I badly needed this to travel to Hongkong and to take the NCLEX-RN (Licensure Exam for US nurses).

The solution would have been to simply go to the bank the next day and get it. However, the next day, November 1, was All saints day- a holiday and my day to supposedly leave.

“The bank’s manger is my best friend and she can try to override the time lock so we can get your passport.” My father said confidently.

I watched intently as sweat formed on his brow while he was on the phone and I knew the conversation’s outcome- I’m doomed!!

My connecting international flight was moved to a day later and I had to stay one full day in Manila while waiting for my dad to arrive at the hotel’s lobby to give my documents before making a run for the airport. I was waiting and praying like I never had before – The noon flight, which my father was taking, is usually known to be delayed and my international flight was within 3 hours the same day.

I finally got a message from my dad that his flight was only 30 minutes delayed and that he is on his way to the hotel, and I’d take the cab he took directly to the airport. When I saw him, all I heard was a command
“Here’s your passport, take the cab and go.” I was that pressed for time and I ran. Next thing I knew, I was on my way to the airport traveling alone for the first time.

The cold greeted me as I arrived in Hongkong and chills literally ran down my spine. The first thing I noticed were the coats, jackets and closed shoes that people were clad in. It was a wake up slap in my face that it's autumn and I didn’t have anything suitable! There I was in my tank top, jeans and sandals. I was too pre-occupied with the trip that I didn’t bother with silly things—like the weather!

After claiming my luggage, 2 uniformed men approached and asked “where you from?” in a distinct sharp oriental accent. “Philippines”. “Please come with us” came a second command. They took me to an X-ray room and re-inspected all my things, asked me personal questions like with criminals. I was detained for a while and I shook in fear.

Finally, I was released and another news hit – My bus will be 3 hours late!

I was hungry, frozen, exhausted, dazed as I finally arrived at the hotel. My friend, Julie, then called that we had to leave early the next day.

“Do you have another jacket Sarah? It’s very cold in Central during November ”. Julie gaped after seeing me in a light sweater next morning.

I rushed back to the 18th floor and pulled out the only jacket I brought only for inspiration and never wanted to use in public but had to now if I didn’t want to die frozen. It was my boyfriend’s military theme jacket with his perfume, which he gave before his deployment. I knew I smelled and looked funny.

There I was anxious, in a foreign land, exhausted, starving, unprepared for the weather and on my way to an exam. I started seeing dancing Chinese characters before my eyes.

We arrived at Central Station and Julie’s words made me feel sunken.
“I forgot the way to the test center”.

Walking briskly while dragging my body, I battled to keep up with her long strides, while simultaneously praying that a kind English-speaking local would give directions.

We gave up walking and asking around so we took a cab and made it to the center in 15 minutes. We realized after from where we rode, it was only a 4-minute walk.

I frantically searched for something to eat since I had 12 minutes left and I dare not take the test while starving.

Luckily a small, but sadly very expensive, café was open.

The cashier asked about my nearly pea-sized vegetable pie “Mei ki ha?”

Mei ki ha!!?” she asked repeatedly and I was getting impatient.

Julie then translated ” she’s asking…MAKE IT HOT?” 8 minutes wasted before the nerve-wrecking test.

2 weeks later back home - a letter came that concluded my chapter of misadventures-

“YOU PASSED.”

S Tungpalan

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