Saturday, July 8, 2017

July 5 – Departure

The airport shuttle arrived at my in-laws house shortly after six pm, right on time. The Henrique family was on board, although John dragged Tony inside the house to give him a quick tour and grab us a couple of Mooseheads for the road. I helped our driver Gary load our gear into the back of the airport shuttle and then we did a big round of hugs with the folks. Tony asked Gary if we could bring the beers along. He said no. John looked the driver in the eye and said, “They are non-alcoholic.” I’m not sure if he was referring to Tony and I or the beers, but in any case Gary let us pass with our full strength moose lagers.  John can be very persuasive.

The ride to the airport was great – light traffic and all passengers in unsurprisingly great moods. But how could you not be, embarking on such an epic adventure? We’ve known Tony and Angela Henrique for about five years, and met them through Ana’s job at the Glenhyrst Art Gallery, as Angela has been a long time board member. They Henriques have become close friends of ours, and we’ve spent a lot of time with them over the years. Their children are Mackenzie, who is 18 and starting his first year of university in the fall, and Maddy who is 16 and in grade 11. We don’t know them as well as their folks, but that will certainly change during this trip. We visited the Henriques at their cabin last weekend and I felt compelled to give Mackenzie the heads up about a little issue I know is going to come up during the trip.

“Mackenzie,” I began. “Stella’s been taking puberty class this year so has been asking some awkward questions at home lately, usually around the dinner table.”

“Uh, ok,” he answered hesitantly.

“So if she starts asking you about periods, vaginas, sperm, sex, or anything like that, just play it cool and try to answer as truthfully as possible. If you don’t know the answer, just make something up that sounds believable – that’s what I do.”

Mackenzie gave me the reluctant thumbs up, but I don’t think he had previously considered the implications of spending significant amounts of time with a ten year old, inquisitive girl. Then again, neither had I, so a lot of this was new to me too, especially the questions about girl physiology. I grew up in a household with two brothers so the only talk of vaginas that ever happened around our place was….actually, I don’t think we ever talked about vaginas at home. Period. No pun intended.

Ana and I are quite looking forward to spending time with Mac and Maddy and learning what it’s like to be a teenager these days – especially with our kids rapidly approaching that stage of their lives. From all accounts, it’s a lot different than when we were teenagers in high school. These days we hear a lot about how so many high school kids are on anti-anxiety medication, surrounded by drugs, pressured to get good marks, but most importantly, how they haven’t ever learned how to throw empty beer bottles out of their car windows at speed limit signs, while exceeding said limit. Maybe I could give them a few pointers in exchange for the inside scoop on high school life in Brantford.

Traffic was light and we arrived at Pearson a full three and a half hours before our flight, but there was already a massive queue at the Philippines Air check-in counter.  We jumped in line and immediately asked somebody to take the first photo of the trip with all of us wearing our backpacks, looking fresh and, as yet, unaffected by the Asian heat onslaught and the ever constant butt sweats. While waiting in line Tony told me that ever since I mentioned the Asian butt sweats to Angela a few weeks previous, she’s been fairly consumed with the idea, and a little fearful.  I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t have spoiled the surprise for her.

We checked in for the flight, made it through the security line, and got settled at our gate with nearly two hours to spare. Tony and I dropped $22 on two beers, enough to buy a whole cantina full of hippie backpackers a round in Phuket, but never mind. It would be unconscionable to not have a final beer before we left. Ana went to find a Timmy’s to grab us a snack and the kids mainly spent time on their phones, lapping up all the abundant wifi they could, no doubt anticipating that they would soon be stuck on a giant, luxury catamaran without internet. The horror.

Before boarding I announced to my gang that I had surprises for each of them. Now Stella already knew what her surprise was. Back in November she had asked me to write her a horror story. Although I wanted to finish it in time for Christmas, that didn’t happen and I finally completed the story just a few days ago. For Magnus, I had purchased him the latest Rick Riordan book, one of his favourite authors. And for my dear sweet wife, I bought her a giant, flashy diamond ring.

Yeah, not quite. But what I had done is nominate her for a Canada 150 award for her contributions to the community in the area of Arts, Culture and Heritage. Ana has done a ton of community work in connection with her job at the art gallery, and much besides this. So I had asked a number of people who have worked with her (including Angela) to write reference letters in support of her nomination, and they said a lot of wonderful things about Ana. So I handed her the package which contained all of the letters, and she was very surprised; somehow I had managed to keep the whole operation a secret. I’m pretty sure this move gained me significant family karma, which is going to come in very handy later in the trip if I have any immature transgressions (no doubt, with Tony).

We departed right on time and were soon flying through the air on a giant Boeing 777. The air hostesses brought a full meal around immediately after we hit cruising altitude and it was delicious. I settled in for a nice snooze and just over four hours later we landed in Vancouver for a refueling stop and to pick up some new passengers before the next leg to Manila, Philippines.

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