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I know I don’t fit here.

I’m too large, too pink, too blue-eyed and too overheated. The sun bakes me daily and I drip great gobs of sweat in-between air conditioned rooms and lobbies; both of which are not often readily available.

My dear friend Mike is large for this world too, but he’s been here before while courting Maritess’ sister a couple of years ago. I’m where he was then, overwhelmed by the elements, the traffic, the food and the buzz of tropic life all around me.

We get a Tricycle–a 100 cc motorbike hard-welded to a tiny metal side capsule meant for several passengers–typically Filipino–but I fill it completely. I must fold myself in-half, slide sideways and tuck tight my appendages before the driver speeds off leaving my shoe or a hat behind. I’m known for losing items when I travel. Last time I was out of country, it was my beloved camera which cost more than my entire trip to Canada. This time, my well-loved custom leather belt flew from my pack while atop one of these motorized trikes. Some poor Filipino will have found use  for it though–to strap lumber to his Carabao (tagalog name for Water Buffalo), or maybe he’ll cut it into sections to make a belt for each of his five children. No one I’ve seen here yet has matched my girth.

But I’m about to meet Maritess. Her plane is still an hour from touching down and Mike and I must find a flower shop. Our driver takes good care of us, taking us to the bank, then to pick up fresh-cut roses and then finally to the Roxas Airport where I sit outside near the only Gate there is, looking more conspicuous than ever. A giant American with a dozen roses, all 13 of us wilting in the boiling heat at 90% humidity. Thankfully the Cebu Airlines office allows me to store the flowers inside their air-conditioned office; but I get a look that suggests there’s no room for me–just the roses–and so come back for them when the time comes.

It does. She gets off the plane with her carry-on and checked bags brimming with chocolates for her nephews and nieces and not a free hand to take the gift I have for her; so I must continue to carry the roses until our van arrives.

I’ve been in this position before, many, many times. I know what it’s like to write to someone I’ve met on line–spending weeks or months building up the momentum to a first, in-person meet.  Expectations always run higher than reality. After 15 years of on-line dating, I’ve had the gamut of expected and unexpected disasters, sprinkled with only a few better-than-hoped-for experiences. But always there was an escape hatch.  If the initial meet and greet at the open air café didn’t work, I’d forgo the motel dinner date later that evening and simply drive or fly or walk back home. But when you are in a third world country, you’re not going anywhere fast. It has to work or you’ve got to go way off grid and leave the brochure behind.

So we met. It’s now been a week since that first face to face at the airport and we’re now en route to Singapore together for another 12 days. We’ve been to her family’s home in Sigma, to the world-class island of Boracay and have endured hundreds of miles of bus, motor-trike, ferry-boat and finally plane travel as we now sit side by side at the Le Amoretto Cafe’ and Bar at the Manila airport.

They say photos speak a thousand words. I believe that’s a conservative number. Let this mosaic of photos  fill in the blanks for those who care to read between the lines … I’m in love with her country, her family and yes, her sweet self too.

No, I don’t fit in her world. But as she said to me long before we met, “Maybe I am the Yin to your Yang, the balance you’ve been in search of all these years … your perfect opposite on the opposite side of the world.

The adventure continues …

 

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