Saturday, September 03, 2005

In Washington

August 28, 2005
Wyndham City Center
1143 New Hampshire Ave
Washington DC
2:30 a.m.

It’s a long way to America: Left early morning Saturday in Manila, arrived in Nagoya, Japan, before lunch, stayed there for more than six hours, left early evening for an almost ten-hour flight to Detroit, stayed in the airport for almost six hours then flew to Washington for an hour. Nobody was there to fetch me so I had to look for my hotel. I paid the taxi $20.

It’s still early Sunday morning here. It’s still a long way to America.

I’m booked in a hotel suite where a bottle of water costs $3.50. There’s nothing in the refrigerator. I’m famished but I’m also tired. I ironed some clothes and tried to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi. It costs $19. Forget about free access to information.

I saw the Capitol on my way to the hotel. I also crossed the Potomac River, which I only saw on films and television and read in Ludlum and Clancy novels. There’s nothing much to it in real life. The movies and novels are more exciting.

It’s great to be in America and encounter people I only heard or read about.

On my way to Detroit I sat beside a big American whose breath smells like rotten mango. He was friendly though and tried not to be a bother. He knows he’s big so he tried to squeeze himself real tight not to disturb me while I slept.

From Detroit to Washington I sat beside two friendly couples in their late forties. We exchanged jokes about how the airline crews lie about flight delays. They were happy to learn that I’m visiting Washington. They said they heard Filipinos are really nice people despite stories about the Abu Sayyaf.

Contrary to stories about strict immigration and customs officials, the people I encountered were friendly. The immigration officer asked me if I’m a Philippine government official. When I said no with a raised eyebrow, the man made a loud guffaw. The customs officer thought I’m an intelligence official. When I joked that I don’t know why the State Department invited me for a visit, the man smiled and said: “It’s hush-hush, isn’t it?”

I saw a lot of Filipinos in all the airports I passed. Many of them were arrogant and pretentious. The Americans are friendly. The cab driver was from India. He asked me if I need a fare receipt and gave me one that is blank. He was so thankful and helped me with my bag when I gave him a dollar. I planned to give him five for all the help and hospitality but when I dig into my pocket there was only a dollar bill and some peso bills.

I’ll try to go around the city later today after breakfast, maybe meet with my host who did not fetch me at the airport and visit some museums and bookstores.

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