Manila (No, Not the Envelope)

On Friday, I travelled to meet Andrew in the Philippines. He had gone over a few days before me for training with Samaritan's Purse, and I was going to join him for the SP Eurasia Ministry Conference, which is held yearly for staff working for SP overseas.

Manila graffiti

Normally, crossing the border from Cambodia into Thailand takes about an hour, at the most. First, you must present your passport to the Cambodian immigration office and get a stamp showing you've left the country. Then you walk down a road between casinos, filled with casino vans, motorcycles, and Cambodians pushing carts loaded with goods bound for the markets. Once you reach the next immigration office for Thailand, you wait for a stamp in your passport, allowing you to travel into Thailand.

But Friday had to have been the longest recorded border crossing ever, a Poipet record: 3 1/2 hours of standing in line. There were maybe 200-300 people waiting to cross - European tourists, American families on vacation, Cambodians, Filipino workers. It rained the whole afternoon, always somewhere between mild spitting and downright torrents. The lines were only partially covered with landscaping trellis, which keeps out the sun but none of the rain. People crowded together in line, sharing umbrellas, discussing travel plans, guessing how long it would take to reach the counter, laughing at ridiculous excuses created in order to jump to the front of the line. Everyone realized they were all in this together and that it was absolutely no use in getting impatient or irritated at the wait. I met people from Germany, the Philippines, Russia, New York City, England, and Canada in the line, just in my small area. 

Walking the streets of Manila during the only nearest-thing-we-have-to-dry-day of the trip

I finally reached the counter, was admitted to Thailand, and rushed to find a van on its way to Bangkok. It took the same amount of time to drive to Bangkok as it did to go through immigration! We finally reached Bangkok around 8:30pm, and I grabbed a taxi to the hostel I'd made a reservation at for $12.50 for one night in a female dorm. For those who haven't travelled outside the U.S., youth hostels are one cheap (but sometimes sketchy) way to travel, staying in one room with 8-10 bunk beds, paying a minimal amount of money for a place to lay your head. 

I collapsed into my bunk bed and slept til morning, waking up early enough to blog, eat breakfast, and catch up on emails. Getting to the the airport is so easy in Bangkok - just hop on the Skytrain (similar to the "L" - elevated train - in Chicago) and you're there in about 30 minutes. 

A 3-hour flight later - actually four, because of the delayed departure and delayed landing because of rain - we were in Manila, Philippines. The past few days have been filled with meeting new people from all over the world, worshipping together, and being challenged through speakers and stories of what God is doing through SP. So far, I have met people from countries like Moldova, Mongolia, Lebanon, and many of the" 'stans" of Central Asia. 

Flooding outside our hotel

We are set to depart in a few days, but the weather here has been epic - heavy rain all day and all night, flooding throughout the city, and thousands of people displaced throughout the Philippines. One Filipino woman I met today was unable to travel home last night due to the flooding. Her house was only 6 miles from the hotel. So hopefully we will be able to leave as planned later this week - although, I can't say that I'd complain about having to hang out here, with unlimited hot water, electricity, and a Memory Foam bed!

Watching the rain fall outside our hotel room

In all seriousness, pray for the Philippines, that God would stop the flooding from destroying more homes and livelihoods and that we can help out however possible while we are here!