Monday, September 6, 2010

Room 203 (Don't read if you are already worried about my travels)

I woke up with an aching stomach and a severe headache--drinking rum(Tanduay)with Filipinos will leave you like this. As my friend Maggie continued to slumber through my whispers, I decided to venture outside of our hotel room and into the loud streets of Dumaguete, Philippines. Not knowing the time--I don’t have a watch--I figured I could go to a grocery store and pick out some fresh mangoes and healthy yogurts for breakfast.

I made my way down the spiral stair case and approached the lobby. In front of the sliding glass door two police officers stood talking with the hotel’s security man. I thought that was rather strange, but then, police are always roaming the streets and having casual conversations with locals anywhere you go.

After shopping and making some appointments, I came back to the hotel and found that the police officers had quadrupled, and this,of course, resurrected red flags in my head. The desk clerks were busy shuffling papers to avoid my eyes; there was a strange smell wafting in the air. Having a very sensitive nose, I can usually place smells, but this was a smell that I’ve never known. It was a mixture of dead fish, human excrement,and rotting. As I began to make my way closer to the stairs, the smell began to intensify. I wanted to ask questions, but decided it best to go to my room. As I began my ascent up the stairs, a police officer cut off my path and began to climb the stairs with a towel over his face. Curiosity got the best of me. I decided to ask a very non-ostentatious question, “Why do you have a towel over your face?”

The man stared at me for a millisecond, and with his cold dark eyes he replied, “Because there is a dead body.”

At that instant I froze in my tracks. I looked at the man searching for more of an explanation or sympathy for the corpse, but received nothing. The officer proceeded to head up the stairs and turned on the second floor--the same floor that my room was on. As soon as I turned the corner the scene unfolded to me:

An uncountable number of officers now stood in front of the room next to mine. Large camera lenses were pointing at something in the room and one could hear the loud fluttering sound of their flash, the tearing of duct tape, and the clattering of a gurney.

I sprinted to my room, pushing through the officers and attempting to arouse Maggie who had not been awakened by the forensic noise. Maggie had drank a little more than I the night before, and was still in a dream when I woke her up. She was lethargic and confused. She assumed that I was lying about it trying to get her up earlier than she wanted. But slowly she realized that I wasn’t playing my usual games and the sleep cloud began to clear into a small panic, “What if we see the body?” she said.

This hadn’t occurred to me before, but as soon as the words were uttered I decided this was something that I didn’t want to see. Luckily she agreed. Eventually we devised a plan to stay in the room for a little while longer to avoid seeing the police carry the body past our room. We also turned on the TV as loud as we could to muffle the sounds of a crime scene that was becoming more and more grusome as we waited patiently in our room.

Twenty minutes passed and I couldn’t stand to look at the peach walls any longer. I could only imagine that the next room was a mirror of our room, and knowing that what I was seeing could have been someone’s last image was starting to mess with my brain. The phone rang and the front desk informed us to leave as soon as possible. I asked her for some details about situation next door, but she told me it was under investigation, and she didn’t have the liberty to say. She simply said to put a towel over our faces because the smell has gotten much worse.

As we opened the door, we noticed most of the police officers had gone and there were just a couple of men with latex gloves. Maggie began to sprint down the stairs and I followed her. Outside on the streets a mob of Filipinos attempted to look into a black van that was acting as a temporary tomb for the 203 occupant. Once Maggie and I finally pushed our way through the door we began to run. We ran so fast and so far that we eventually made our way to the downtown, where a tricycle picked us up. We told the man to take us to the closest hostel. Once we arrived at the hostel, we didn’t negotiate the price and ended up paying triple the average fare, but we didn’t care: we were away from the mob, the smell, the unknown story.

I took a deep breath and looked at the clock--10:30 a.m. Thus, before 10 a.m. on September 1st, 2010 in Dumaguete, Philippines, Maggie and I slept next to a murdered body, ran from a mob and were screwed by a tricycle.

We could only go up from here.