Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Long Trip Home (Namibia-Germany-Bahrain-Manila-Cebu)

19 hours and 30 minutes lay over time in 5 airports and 32 hours and 20 minutes flying time in 5 airplanes. Whoah!

The feeling you experience on the morning of the crew change day surmounts the feeling you have when you get your paycheck. I have spent 28 days in the rig and the thought of going home is exhilarating. I left the rig at around 10 am and reached Walvis Bay port, Namibia 15 minutes after. The agent then brought me to the Immigration office and then to the airport for my local flight to Windhoek. The flight was only 40 minutes long in a small airplane which I really don’t mind taking.

Walvis Bay, Namibia

Once in Windhoek airport, I immediately went to my boarding gate.  The lay over is 7 hours and 30 minutes, quite a long one. Much to my surprise, I discovered that the airport lounge - Oshoto Lounge, is not that expensive, the fee was only 800 pesos/30 USD. There was food, wifi connection and no time limit plus unlimited alcohol drinks! So, I stayed there, had some time to write my medical blog and had a chat with my loved ones. I was able to taste the local popular draft beer!  RH (red horse) is better.

After the satisfying long lay over, I boarded my 10-hour flight via Air Namibia. The aircraft is quite new and I was lucky enough to have all the three seats for myself. There were nice movies on the monitor but the movie selection of Emirates airlines is still the best. The food served was delicious. The sleep-wake-sleep cycle then began and lasted for 10 hours. Back and neck pain surfaced after a couple of hours but it didn’t bother me because I am going home.

At long last, we landed in Frankfurt, Germany where the temperature was 2 deg Celsius. Thank God, the aircraft parked near the terminal so we went straight inside. The last time I was in Frankfurt, we had to take a bus from the plane to the terminal, so I was exposed to the cold temperature, creating smoke when I breathe. Just like a child, I would keep on blowing air to see the water vapor from my mouth, a rare site if you’re from the tropical areas like the Philippines.

Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt airport is very huge and classy but for me Dubai International Airport is still the best. Surprisingly, there were many discounted perfumes there, the cheapest prices I have ever seen. Unlike in Namibia airport, I was able to see familiar restaurants like Starbucks and Burger King. The duty-free was also nice and as usual, many kinds of chocolates with discounted prices. I was laughing at the price of the 500 ml mineral water – 1 Euro which is equivalent to 48 pesos. Designer clothes, shoes and other stuff are also present and good to look at during window shopping.

My lay over in Germany was only 5 hours, so I was not able to sleep. The last time I was there I stayed for 14 hours! There are hotels outside but I need a visa to get out, so, I just stayed inside. The lounge is very expensive and with time limit. I just spent my time reading and roaming around. The situation got worse when I found out that the internet was not working! Urghhh! Gladly, I was able to find a shower room and paid 6 USD (255 pesos) to refresh myself.

Next stop is Bahrain, the flight was only 5 hours, not so bad. Plus, I also had the 3 seats for myself, yehey! This time the airline was Gulf Air. Airplane food was good, same style with Emirates, South African Airways and Air Namibia. Movie choices were as limited as Air Namibia, but hey I can’t complain. The leg space is quite roomy than Air Namibia, so that is an added comfort. I was kinda stressed because the lay over in Bahrain is only one hour and 30 minutes. When I arrived in the airport, I immediately ran to my boarding gate. Luckily, all my flights were on time.


While waiting for my Manila flight (2nd to the last stop), I was able to check out the Bahrain Duty Free section. There was a very nice car on display and I was taking pictures (which I usually do). After a couple of minutes, I was approached by a sales attendant and was told not to take pictures, I just said okay. This is the first airport I’ve been to where picture-taking is prohibited. (Shoulder shrug with lower lip pout).

The flight to Manila was full packed with ‘Kabayans’! It was so refreshing to hear the familiar Tagalog language. I also heard my native Bisaya/Cebuano language, made me feel closer to home even though I still have 8 ½ hours to go. 

I felt almost every hour of the entire flight because I had a slightly stressful situation. My seatmate was suffering from severe back pain to the point that we were almost going to have an emergency landing. Apparently, she had the symptoms for a month with no consultation done and no medications taken. I had to tell the cabin crew that I am a doctor and I asked them what pain medicines they have on board. The patient was practically moaning loudly because of the pain. To cut the story short, we did not have an emergency landing, the pain eventually subsided but recurred after several minutes, she was able to tolerate it but every now and then she would moan. I was frustrated because there is very little we can do in the air.

At last we landed in Manila and everyone’s face lit up, especially those who have been working overseas for more than three years. As for me, I still had one more flight to take, huhuhuhu. I can do this! From terminal 1, I then took the transfer bus to terminal 2. I’m thankful with our Manila logistics for providing me with my Cebu ticket. I changed my flight to an earlier schedule and was happy to find out that there is no rebooking fee. Manila lay over was only 4 hours, not bad, I had my lunch at Jolibee! Manila to Cebu flight was approximately one hour and the excitement was pounding in my chest.

I arrived in Cebu on a sunny and hot afternoon. I was practically sweating inside my sweat shirt. Now, I know im almost home. All the waiting, neck and back pains are all worth it. Can’t wait to hug my kids and my wife, can’t wait to see them smile not only because of the chocolates that I brought but because I am home. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would say “There is no place like home”.

Ayala, Cebu, Philippines

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