Day One: Arrival (14 August 2005)
I couldn't sleep the night preceding the flight, whether that is due to my excitement at air travel, or the jitters filling my stomach with acid on a warm night. Studying physics hasn't been a sufficient relief: I don't really get comforted at the idea of a piece of aluminium floating in the air purely on Bernoulli's effect alone, and the fact remains that August is open season for typhoons. But I get over it... almost.
The icing on it all was when I was tasked to fuss over twenty people due to board the same plane, ensuring their punctuality on board the plane and taking care of all the mudane administrative stuff before the flight. So I laid on my bed, simultaneous thinking about nothing, while fiddling with the cell phone by my bedside every few minutes to check the time. There went most of the late evening of August 13, and a little of the morning of August 14.
At the airport, my mind was unusually numb and switched off, as I went through the task of passing out the boarding passes and immigration cards to the people under my charge (that's an egoistic way to put it, but you get the idea). Also thrown into the bundle are t-shirts, which we would wear to the battalion's activities during our stay in the-country-that-must-not-be-named. I took a lesson in FAQs when I had to field multiple repeat queries from 20 people: it pays to get everybody together before commencing upon one major verbose brief.
Anyway, the flight took off as planned, and we touched down in a city in the-country-that-must-not-be-named smack in the throes of the afternoon heat. Clearing the immigration building, I immediately reeled as memories of the same place ran head-on with this new experience, and went immediately for the air-conditioned coaches that would make the trip down south.
While I alternated between snoozing and watching the scenery, I took pictures of the destruction that the previous storm had laid upon the island. (I don't have them now, details will be revealed in later posts...) As the bus purred down the main road, I could see the roiling seas mixing around, framing a perfect picture of a veiled threat to the coast. I wish I could show you the pictures, but... never mind. (It still breaks my heart now just to think about it...)
We reached camp around 2 in the afternoon, upon which I left the bus with my luggage, and leaving my precious disembarkation card (for use when departing the country-that-must-not-be-named), and a copy of The Sunday Times in an envelope snugged into the netting on the seat in front of me. It was only the bus drove off that I realised my mistake. The matter reached S1, who boiled over and demanded my head served up on a chopping board. I can't say what happened to me, for it would breach confidentiality agreement, but I must say that it is a huge lesson I have learnt. For some time, I was paranoid that I would be a permanent resident here. I fretted that my parents would disagree with that arrangement.
Anyway, unpacking took up most of the day, and I hit the sack early, as the spring inside unwound. I had some driving to do the next day. On the wrong side of the road.