Not famous, not backpacking

It's a good thing I'm not famous because apparently I don't do well with bodyguards. I was trailed by security the other day and within no time at all was plotting how I might sneak away unnoticed if it ever happened again.

Our promoters here in Manila are doing an excellent job taking care of us and they have local road managers and bodyguards available all day and night at the hotel. On day one in the Philippines we had a safety meeting wherein the Idols were lectured on common sense when traveling in a different country and one of the points made was that it's safe to walk around during the day but not so at night, at least where we're staying.

I've been so jet lagged that the last thing I want to do at night is walk around: I hit the wall around 8 pm. The other day, though, I had two hours before I needed to be anywhere in the afternoon so I thought I'd do one of my favorite things and wander for awhile. In the lobby, I encountered one of the ubiquitous bodyguards as I headed towards the door.

"Miss, you want to go outside?"

"Yes, I'm just going for a walk..."

"Wait, I get someone for you."

No, no I protested. I'm fine. It's daytime. But it didn't matter and a burly young man followed me. Again I tried to dissuade him. I'm just getting coffee down the street, I said.

"There's many bad people," he told me. "I walk a distance behind you."

I grimaced and froze for a moment, frowning. My reaction to having someone along during my alone time was so negative I came this close to saying sorry I can't do this and going back inside. Thankfully I resisted and started walking but anxiety set in and increased with each step.

Knowing that someone was walking behind me and watching every move made me UNCOMFORTABLE. I got so self conscious that I felt incompetent and began second-guessing everything: how fast I was walking, how I was holding my bag, crossing the street, stepping off the curb. I actually hesitated so severely while crossing one road that he hurried to join me, held out his palm and said, "Let's go," to indicate that it was safe.

I have been crossing streets by myself for 30 years now and in several countries just as crazy if not crazier than the Philippines. Didn't matter. When we got to the other side, he dropped behind and I felt horrible. Not only do I suck at life and can't cross a street, I have someone following me because I'm too much of a jerk to walk with him. Oh, shame. Over the next block I slowed and asked him a question. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that he was doing something for me, not against me. I tried smiling. It worked! He introduced himself, "My name is Nino."

Nino and I ended up getting coffee and makeup remover wipes. We walked in step and he held his hand out to make sure cars didn't run me over. He asked me if I like history and told me about Intramuros, the walled city near our hotel leftover from WWII. I remembered Matthew and his Filipino co-worker's requests for traditional balisong knives. Nino and I walked into the walled city and I found balisongs with wooden and horse bone handles. We parted friends and he asked me if I was happy, I'm guessing because I seemed so different than the straight bitch I started out as.

So I guess I had to learn some lessons: just because I've traveled and done lots of stupid things in less developed countries over the years does not mean I know a lot, if I expect other people in my group to listen to safety lectures I probably should too, traveling with American Idol is not the same as backpacking anonymously.

No comments: