The Journey to Foreign Lands

By: Amy Santos

I find travelling both educational and rejuvenating, whether it is within the country or in foreign lands. The learning experience and the pleasure that may be derived from a trip may vary and depend on the traveler’s purpose, his destination and the kind of people living there, and the means of transportation that he prefers.

Travelling by plane is, of course, more limited than in a ship or train in terms of movement for comfort or socializing and enjoyment of the beauty of the view along the way to the end of the trip. But I am afraid of the sea and drowning so I avoid cruising in a ship or taking a boat even for short trips. I am also reluctant to take the train because of its compact CR. However, in New York City where my sister lives and works, she and I prefer the train ride because of scarcity of parking space and besides, the mall or restaurant we want to go to is only a walking distance from the train station where we alight. Very eager to go on shopping sprees, my niece and I also take the train instead of waiting for my aunt to drive for us in San Francisco. In Vancouver, my friend and I also take the train whenever her husband who usually drives for us is in his office. For long trips, I book for myself a seat in an airplane. Nonetheless, once on board an airplane, I silently pray hard and tightly finger every bead of the rosary inside my pocket. I feel relaxed only when the aircraft has already reached an altitude above the clouds, when the turbulence is gone, and the flight runs smoothly.

My First Foreign Travel

As the airplane touches down the runway of the Hongkong airport, my excitement increases. This is my very first trip outside the country. My officemates and I are on a three-day vacation in Hongkong. We enjoy bargaining at the night flea market, and the visit to the big stores of jewelry and perfumes where we are hypnotized by the brilliance of the synthetic stones and the fragrance of the imported concoctions that we are enticed to buy some of them. In Mongkuk, we savor the delicious Chinese noodles soup and the best yang chow that we ever tasted. We also try the cable car ride to Ocean Park, which thrills first-time riders as the cable car glides from one mountain top to another, passing the vast space with depth and width which we ourselves cannot fathom. The panoramic view is fantastic. Afterall, Hongkong is not as congested as we think but rather has its share in Mother Nature.

The Journeys to Other Asian Countries and Cities

Taipeh. I am one of the lady members of the Junior Chamber International ( JCI or Jaycees), Marikina Chapter, attending the anniversary of our counterpart Jaycees in Taipeh. The anniversary is celebrated in the merry month of May with a conference attended by representatives from the Philippines, Japan, and Korea. It has become a customary practice of including in the conference program the greetings to the May birthday celebrants present. Up the stage, the president of each Jaycee chapter from the four countries represented therein shall one by one offer bouquet of flowers to each lady Jaycee celebrant and then waltz with her . Not aware of this tradition, I am surprised when the emcee requests me to go upstage as the only birthday honoree this May. I feel uncomfortable and am reluctant to oblige. However, my two Jaycee companions from Manila gently pick me up from my seat while the other two jokingly cross upward a fork and spoon and ask me to pass through it as two Taipeh Jaycee friends offer their arms for me to hold as they accompany me in going up the stage. The presidents gently take my hand from my two escorts and guide me towards the center of the stage, where a coffee table stands with a big decorated birthday cake , candle lit for me to blow out. The beautiful sweet smelling fresh flowers in bouquets seem to deluge and intoxicate me. The cheering of my fellow Jaycees that drowns the music that has just begun, is prompting me to enjoy this moment, my moment. As the music continues to play, it astonishes me when my feet just automatically follow the steps of my partner. One by one they waltz with me gracefully until the music finally fades out. The presidents thank me and I reply with a curtsy. Then I curtsy before the audience, all fellow Jaycees who give me a standing ovation. Gallantly, the four presidents accompany me in stepping down the stage. Curtains fall behind us, signifying the end of this dreamlike experience of having a unique second debut.

Another memorable event is the wedding of a fellow Jaycee, a Japanese, one afternoon in the spacious hall of an hotel. Our conference is suspended that afternoon so that the participants can witness the wedding. The hall is lavishly but artistically bedecked with pastel colored and red and white fresh flowers. Like the Chinese, the Japanese has a prenuptial ceremony wherein the bride changes gowns, here three times. The gowns are in pastel colors and with intricate embroidery and delicate laces. Her beautiful white wedding gown is also embroidered elaborately. The couple look like the Prince and Princess of Japan as they gracefully enter the hall for the wedding ceremonies. The celebration starts and later ends with resounding cheers and a toast to the newlyweds for their successful and blissful married life. The happy and grateful couple send each guest off with a big pretty bag full of gifts.

Jaycees all over the world who are professionals and business executives are like brothers and sisters to each other. When they are in the Philippines, we also treat them with the hospitality that the Filipinos are famous for, in the same manner befitting visiting family and special friends.

Vietnam. This country attempts to depart from its war-torn status and seems successful in becoming a fast developing nation. I notice the many ongoing infrastructures in various places. Tourists come in flocks, hence, visitors have to book early for hotel accommodations which are surprisingly low for clean hotels with commendable services and sumptuous meals. Other come-ons to tourists are the low priced quality merchandises. I purchase a new medium-sized Samsonite luggage in half the price of one in Manila.

I enjoy the boat ride in the Mekong River despite my fear of drowning and the puppet show where puppets are not stringed puppets but real persons in colorful costumes only acting without talking, with legs soaked in knee-high real water on the stage, as the play is being narrated. The music and dancing of the characters on the river-like water on the stage further amuse the spectators.

Japan. Truly remarkable in my visit in the Land of the Golden Sun are not only the cherry blossoms and what modern technology has brought in homes and public places, but the amazing self discipline and cleanliness of the Japanese, as exemplified by a Japanese driver who stops at the sight of the red light signal , and the strict observance of the segregation of garbage by the Japanese people.

The Trips to Europe

Italy. I receive late the notice for my participation in the five-day international conference to be held in Sicily, Italy. Hence, the late booking that gives me a circuitous flight from Manila to Amsterdam, to Rome and finally to Sicily. Cita Mare, the venue of the said conference, is like the much bigger version of Davao Insular Hotel. Overlooking the sea, this newly constructed Sicilian hotel accommodates the 250 participants in its comfortable rooms and spacious modern conference hall. Cita Mare seems to be isolated from the rest of Sicily so telephone booths are installed right in front of the hotel for personal calls of the participants and guests. My room which is shared with a fellow lady participant from Manila has a sliding glass door that leads to a narrow porch where I can view in the morning the deep blue sea and feel the gentle breeze wafting over my face.

Of the 250 conferees, 50 are Italians, five Filipinos, and the rest are nationals of the different countries in the world. During our first evening in Cita Mare, we have a formal get-together dinner by the pool in its aesthetically landscaped garden. The lively tempo of the music and the blinking colored lights amuse the conferees while waiting for the start of the affair We enjoy the splendor of the night, the camaraderie of fellow participants, and the food served with the best Italian red wine and hard liquor. Nevertheless, the cold wind of late September, a sign of the advent of autumn, slightly dampens the spirit of the night. Breakfast is served buffet style in the hotel’s dining hall, with fresh milk in big glass pitchers, delicious fresh brown pears, freshly baked bread in rattan baskets covered with clean white linens, mashed potatoes and sausages, among other foods. Lunch and dinner are often tendered by the Sicilian dignitaries in their residences or in private restaurants. We are heavily guarded by young handsome local police officers whenever we go on tours, or dining outside the hotel.

Earphones enable participants to listen and understand in English the speeches and discussions by Italian rapporteurs, eliminating interruptions by interpreters. The conference turns out to be great in all aspects.

The Vatican City. Here we see this October 2000, the opening of the four doors of the cathedral to the public. The Holy Pope, standing by the front window of the cathedral, waves his hand and blesses thousands of Catholics below. Joy and excitement overwhelm me as we enter the cathedral and go around viewing the Biblical figures and events on its walls and ceilings, in slow motion, because of the multitude of people who come before us.

Rome. A man dressed like an ancient Roman soldier obliges to a picture taking with me in front of the Colosseum. He charges me ten dollars for that pose. Ha ha, next time I will be careful.

Spain. In Madrid, I feel so proud that I am a Filipino upon seeing the tall monument of Dr. Jose Rizal along the wide avenue named Islas Filipinas. On each side of the monument is a six-feet tall stone tablet containing Dr. Jose Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios, with the Filipino translation, Huling Paalam. Recognizing Rizal’s greatness after 400 years, the Spanish president himself becomes a grand knight of the Knights of Rizal, an international brotherhood that upholds and propagates the ideals of Rizal.

Germany. In Munich, my kind German host treats us with dinner at the tavern during the German October fest. The tavern is old but well-kept. The waiters wear clean old looking uniforms while the waitresses don white Argentina blouses and knee-length wide printed skirts. The music, the group dancing, and the mugs of beer complete the ambiance of the old taverna. Patrons are mostly German families with their small children dancing on their tables. Together with our host, my companion and I enjoy the music and the meal consisting of savory steak, mashed potatoes, corn cob, and beer. My host says that the water of the Germans is beer, so no soda for me this time but beer.

Vienna. The panoramic view of a few houses and mooing cows on the vast side covered with green grass along the way to Salzburg fascinates tourists like me. But the most picturesque that I ever see in my travels is in Salzburg, the delightful pristine blue green lake and the lush bushes and plants with beautiful leaves and flowers in monochromatic hues. The beauty and serenity of the place make us wish that we can stay here longer.

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