Best Laid Plans

Remember how I was just going on about accepting another cultures differences, particularly in reference to punctuality? Well there’s a big caveat to that generous and worldly statement: airport taxis.

When we arrange a ride to the airport through our hotel it means we have a flight to catch. Everyone else may be on “no worries” time but the airline is not. So when the hotel’s driver doesn’t show, I get nervous. I’m a hotel professional, so I can recognize that the front desk attendant’s response to our question of “where is the taxi” was substandard. She ran away and hid in another building, peeking out at us, hoping we would go away. Not the best customer service.

Fortunately we were able to find a guy working construction on the hotel who had a car and could take us. So with a bit of rushing we made the flight to Cebu…or was it Brooklyn? More on that in a minute.

Cebu has a reputation as a city that’s not worth visiting. Most travelers we met suggested we move through fast. Not many sights. Big pollution problem. Huge economic divide. But it’s a gateway to better places, so there we were.

As a conciliation prize we decided to book ourselves into an art hotel. The theory was that if the foreground was pleasant, we wouldn’t notice the background. And so it was that we were inside Brooklyn, with a view of Cebu from the window.

The Brooklynization of the world is real. Our hotel had concrete floors and Edison bulbs, molded plastic furniture and pop art. Was the entire staff nearsighted or were the Buddy Holly glasses part of the uniform? Was there really a comedy club on the second floor or were we missing an ironic joke? Speaking of floors, why was there no fourth floor? The elevator just went from three to five. I don’t think that’s a Brooklyn thing.

As we pleasantly cocooned in our alternate reality and detoxed from the beach, a storm was brewing. A potential typhoon threatened to cancel ferries and nix the remainder of our trip. Now it’s one thing to hide in fake Brooklyn for a day or two, but were we really going to spend the rest of our time in The Philippines in this hologram?

What would we miss seeing across the channel on that beautiful close yet so far island? Tarsiers, other worldly hills, beaches? OK, we could skip the beaches. But tarsiers? No! The disappointment was palpable.

To come to terms with this inclement and untimely wrench in our plans, we did the only thing you can do in Cebu: wade through the muddy sidewalks and go to the mall. We sifted through bold polyester fashions and piles of Christmas decorations. We admired row after row of dried fruits and sweets at the grocery store. All interesting, but not enough to keep even the most curious traveler on the hook for six straight days. Oh well, at least the hotel has HBO and an espresso machine.

We stood at the front desk, lorded over by a massive homage to BeyoncĂ© and Lady Gaga’s epic collaboration, “Telephone,” and were resigned to our extended Brooklyn quarantine. But as we were handing over the credit card to pay for the extra nights, fate stepped in and calmed the seas. We were informed that the storm had taken an unexpected turn away from us and the Coast Guard had cleared the afternoon ferries to depart.

It was a mad dash to the port! Everyone was learning the news at once. Please get us out of this city! Each minute that passed meant that ticket lines were getting longer and ferries were selling out. Scalpers scooped up the last spots. Backpackers started whispering about secret ticket offices in other locations.

Fulfilling Radek’s lifelong dream of seeing tarsiers hung in the balance. Would we make it?

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