A First Time: An overly anxious out-of-the-country experience

March, 2012—

Hesitation. Anticipation. Fear.

It all hit me. First, the hesitation. When I was told that a plane ticket was already booked for me, it didn’t immediately sink in. I couldn’t believe it. A number of times, that vacation had been postponed and I wasn’t really expecting anymore that I would ever still get it. But there it was—the booking confirmation in my e-mail!

For a few days, I was still absorbing the news. I haven’t jumped for joy and giggled as I normally would. I just kept looking at the itinerary, reading the details again and again. Then as I felt the time came that I already needed to find myself a suitcase, to decide which clothes to pack, and to leap into the supermarket to grab all the other things I need, I started to get more and more excited.

I was excited. But I was anxious too. I was getting nervous and scared. I have a fear of heights, and it was going to be my first time to ride an airplane. Every time I thought about it—being so high up there without any cable attached to any pole to secure the lift like in cable cars—my knees trembled and my chest tightened.

Airplanes have always amazed me: how they could fly up so confidently, challenging birds that fly in the same air.

Then, there was the unease about going through the airport stuff. Since it was my first time, I was so scared that I might screw up and get stuck in Manila. What if they won’t let me in for lack of ID? Or what if the machines won’t recognize my passport? I tend to get a little paranoid sometimes.

The days I counted turned to hours, then to minutes, until I was just a few steps away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 Entrance. It was very early in the morning, 6 o’clock, which was 4 hours before my scheduled departure. I was planning to just stand outside the entrance nervously for a long while. If the security guard hadn’t offered to assist me, I wouldn’t have immediately walked in.

I felt gorgeous! I was assisted very well. When the security guard had to leave, he asked one of the staff to continue assisting me. There were two others checking on us from time to time. Maybe I am gorgeous, or maybe they’re really just doing their jobs! Whatever. Anyway, it all went smoothly from the baggage check-in to the payment of fees up to the immigration.

And then, I was already there—the boarding area. A lot of shops and some cafes too. I wanted a frappe but I was afraid to get my tummy upset. Still three hours early, I just sat there waiting anxiously with a bottle of water. My chest was already thumping loudly. The boarding time was late.

My seat was next to the window. I didn’t initially like it because I’d be able to see the height above the ground and I thought it would make me even more terrified. At first, I was avoiding the sight of the window and I did not want to look outside but I realized I couldn’t miss a lovely view just because I was scared. I let go of my fear and looked out the window. It was so pretty. The clouds, like I could reach out and touch them (I really wish I could). The cities, the trees, the fields—all so cute and tiny, I felt like a tempted playful child. The sea was a splash of blue with tiny white clouds scattered so low like cotton balls bouncing on the surface of the water.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) was good for a first time plane ride. Generous seats, enough for me to move and slouch. It was nice to have a pillow that I could use to relax my neck or cuddle when it got cold. The music from the headset helped me ease my anxiousness. They also played a movie and the audio could be heard on a specific channel on the headset. And then, there’s the food! Yum, yum, yummy. Fish fillet with side veggies and rice… Bread and butter… Caramel custard with coconut sport… And some vegetable salad that I didn’t eat (I’m just not a fan). But the drink, urgh! Well, they had a variety to choose from but I guess I made a very unlucky choice. I don’t know what kind of orange juice that was but it was disgusting. It was bitter and hard to swallow. It didn’t taste orange at all. I had to ask for water. Next time, I’ll just go for the best and the safest choice—Coke! Lesson learned.

My first flying experience was fine for somebody panicky like me. I slept tight with the pillow.

When we were almost there, the land below was a beautiful view. I wasn’t sure, though, if it was already Singapore. I could see a lot of green. I don’t know, but it was actually quite colorful. There were fields of green and then, there were brown and orange. I’m not sure what they were. Nonetheless, it was pretty.

My anxiety came back as we landed. Again, I tend to be a little too paranoid sometimes. I was afraid that I might get lost and I wouldn’t find where I should retrieve my suitcase. I was told to just follow the other people going out. So, I did. But there were only two people ahead of me whom I was following and we’d been walking for quite a long while so I started to panic. I wondered if I was on the right track. I thought, what if they got no baggage to claim and they’re already on their way out to the exit? What if I’d already walked past the area where I was supposed to get my suitcase? I was getting so tense that I felt like I badly needed to pee. I was on the verge of crying when at the end of the hallway I saw the Information desk. Whew!

Pardon me for being so ignorant. It was a first time, after all!

Next to the Information desk was an escalator. Down there’s the Immigration and past that was the baggage carousel. I was going to get my suitcase! Hurray!

But wait, my paranoia didn’t end there. It was taking so long for my baggage to appear, I was scared that it didn’t make it to Singapore or that somebody else had taken it. Some baggage had already made a few rounds on the carousel and I still hadn’t seen mine make the grand entrance. A few more spin and there appeared the suitcase with a red ribbon. Ah, what a nicely wrapped gift!

Next read: What I love about Singapore

Hello, Singapore!!!

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