Hurry Up And Wait

A Great Motto to Have

We travel a lot. I’ve said that before, and if you’ve followed this crazy adventure of ours for very long, you realize how much travel tribal missionary life entails!

Traveling always involves potential delays, interruptions, unexpected layovers, etc. But when you fly around in little private planes through tropical weather systems with the intent of landing on a short grass airstrip, well, let’s just say flexibility is a good thing to have!
This morning was no exception. I thought maybe it would be interesting to give you a blow-by-blow recount of how it often works for us.
Please don’t take this as whining and complaining. We do that in private! This is rather a mature, thoughtful exposition on “The Adventurous and Permutable Nature of Missionary Travel” written to help you understand what life is like over here. Actually, years ago, our family decided to term all these travel nightmares as “adventures.” It made it sound so much nicer!

But still, as a famous Hobbit once said,

“Adventures? Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things,
make you late for dinner.
I can’t think what anyone sees in them!”

But we thought, hey… since these experiences are unavoidable, let’s call ’em “adventures” and have some fun along the way.

Okay, so we’re out in town, running errands, buying supplies, seeing doctors, phoning our kids (well, leaving voice mails, mostly!) and getting our dog fixed. (No, kids, she wasn’t broken…) And now we want to fly home to our “Little House in the Jungle.” Maybe your kids read those books about us. You know, Little House in the Jungle, Little House on the Airstrip, By the Shores of Flooded River… ??
Anyway, the short version of this would be:

  • pack up luggage
  • pack up things we leave in town
  • clean up our room
  • go to the hangar
  • get on the plane
  • fly for over an hour
  • land in our front yard (i.e. the airstrip)
  • unpack and resume life
Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Life is never as simple as it sounds.

“Luggage” here includes frozen food and fresh grocery items (meat, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.) that we have to pack up in styrofoam ice chests. Another “luggage” item is many boxes (some as heavy as 45 lbs!) of canned goods, reams of printer paper, supplies for the Palawano clinic, etc. So anyway, you get the idea. “Pack up luggage” doesn’t just mean “toss two carry-ons in the trunk.” Most of the boxes and luggage can be packed ahead, but of course, the ice chests have to be packed in the morning before we fly, so that means:

  • getting up extra early, and…
  • making the coffee extra strong, please.
Not only that, but this time, we brought our dog to town to have her fixed. (No more puppies, thank you very much.) So whether you think of her as “luggage” or as a “passenger,” it certainly made travel more interesting. I didn’t really catch quite everything she said, but I gathered she didn’t really enjoy her trip in the Cessna plane’s cargo pod. At least that’s what she seemed to be saying as it took us about 5 minutes to get her into the cargo pod when we left the tribe, and judging from the look on her face when she got out of the pod. And now, once we’re in town, she was blissfully unaware that there is a return trip, as well.

Items we leave in town… we leave our nicer clothes in town. For one thing, we already out-dress the Palawanos by wearing the cheapest, oldest clothes we have. And it’s just a bit too hot and muggy (90 degrees, 90% in the house most of last month) to wear long pants, shoes, socks in the tribe. Plus, if we take our nice stuff to the tribe, the hand-washing process destroys them pretty quickly. Not to mention the indelible yellow stains from carpenter bees whose uh… bathroom habits for some reason include events that occur just as they fly over the clothesline. We also leave some sundries here in town to save on weight when we fly in the plane. There’s a weight limit… something about not being too heavy to fly, I don’t know. These pilots are so fussy. Plus, if we take it out, we have to bring it back in, which means less room for cargo we when fly home. So we missionaries live that extravagant lifestyle of having “tribal shampoo” and “city shampoo,” and so on. We also leave some salt, pepper, etc., in town, since we use so little each time we pass through, but we don’t want to be buying new ones every time.

But again, it’s not so simple. We leave those “nice clothes” in a closet here which has a light bulb on 24/7 to help keep everything from mildewing. But… with no clothes dryer here, it’s hard to accomplish both of the following tasks with equal facility:

  • have your clothes washed, dry and put in the closet
  • wear clothes during your last day in town
Plus, since it’s rainy season, there are probably clothes from several days ago that aren’t dry yet. So we have to leave some things behind for others to graciously put away for us.
Oh, and that extra-strong coffee? After we drink it, we have to wash up the cups (this is a mission guest house, not a hotel), and we have to wash up the coffee pot to be stored in our closet, and pack up the coffee grounds, creamer, salt, pepper, etc., that we leave for in-town use. So… get up another half hour earlier.
And we also strip the sheets from the beds, and put those, along with the towels, in a basket to be washed. (Call it “burning your bridges behind you,” or call it “faith” that your trip will go through… it’s up to you.)

Astute readers will have noticed that I mentioned “rainy season.” That is where the need for flexibility comes in. This week there is a typhoon in the western Pacific to the N.E. of the Philippines. “Typhoon” comes from the Chinese tai foon which means (or so I’m told) “big wind.” That’s true. It should also should be called tai sploosh, which means “big rain.” And many times, it means, “big factor in changes in your schedule.”
We experienced a few typhoons while living in Manila years ago. Three or four days of no electricity, school closed, water flowing into the house, strong winds, trees falling over, etc. Donna and the girls once saw a 3×5′ piece of corrugated galvanized roofing floating 30′ above the street like a magic carpet. If that swooped down and hit someone, it would cut them in half! Another typhoon hit, and when school was closed and the kids were all sent home, the high schoolers had to form two lines to make a path and wind break for the first graders to walk to their bus! Otherwise the little kids would have just blown away (I’m serious!)
Ah, but you globally-aware readers may be thinking, “Yeah, but N.E. Luzon is like 600 miles from Palawan.” True. So we rarely get typhoons here, and thus we escape the full fury of the storms. But we get “the hem of the skirt” of the typhoon, so to speak, and it also pulls a lot of weather up from the south and south west. Check out the satellite images sometimes… those storms cover a wide area.


Hurry Up and Wait
So back to this morning… we did the get up extra early thing. Even did the get up extra extra early thing (to wash the coffee pot, remember?) But it was raining. Had been raining a lot during the night.
We hurried up…
At 6:45 the pilot texted me that we needed to wait until 9 a.m. It was pouring rain down south (our destination) and the “satellite didn’t look good” (that’s pilotspeak for “the weather sucks.”) He was going to check for weather again at 9 a.m.
Now… we waited. “All packed up with no place to go,” as the saying doesn’t go. Pulled out our laptops and did a few more emails.
At 9 a.m. it wasn’t quite good enough, but seemed to be improving. “Hold on,” said the pilot. (that means “keep waiting,” ya know.) So we waited some more.
Then at nearly 10 a.m., the weather was good! Even down south the rain had let up.
So we hurried up… no, make that, we waited some more. Now, you see, one of the commercial airliners was on the ground here at our little airport and so our pilot had to wait. While we think the world of our pilot, apparently flight control in Puerto Princesa gives priority to some other guy just because he flies a big jet!
About 10:30 we headed over to the hangar and unloaded all our “luggage” (you remember, the boxes, bags, ice chests, carry-ons, dog, etc.) Weighed them. Loaded them on the plane.
We hurried up…
At last the airline jet left and we were free to take off… no, sorry. Now it’s starting to pour rain again down south.
So we waited. Again.
This time we talked it over with the pilot and decided to quit trying for today and wait until the next morning to see how the weather was. That way we could all get on with our day and find something more productive to do (nothing against sitting in airplane hangars, mind you.)
So now (you guessed it), this meant:
  • unload our last-minute luggage from the plane
  • unpack the frozen stuff and put it back in the freezer
  • put the fresh groceries in the fridge
  • get the coffee pot and sundries back out of the closet
  • move back into our room
So we will hurry up….

…and wait.

Maybe tomorrow the weather will be good and we’ll make it all the way home. Or…
Hey well, at least we got fresh sheets on our bed.
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About billdavisthoughts

From San Diego, CA. I've been a missionary and Bible translator in the Philippines for over 30 years and have travelled as a language learning consultant to 15 countries. I play piano and guitar. I write, read voraciously and love to work on word puzzles. Married for 35 years, we have two daughters and two grandchildren.
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