It’s been a long four days since leaving Bellingham on Sunday. I caught a 5 am flight out and then flew Seattle to Philadelphia where we had our staging event. I made it just in time for icebreakers and immediately noticed how small our group was – just 14 people! Everyone in group 45 is a Community Economic Development (CED) volunteer and flew in from all over the US, from Sacremento to Dallas to Madison. We initially had Health volunteers joining us, but those volunteers were relocated due to a revamping of the program.
Our first night in Philly was basically everyone trying to learn as much as possible about our fellow volunteers and of course, trying to remember names (I’m a lost cause when it comes to that). Luckily, with such a small group it wasn’t too bad. After a quick 1 hour intro to staging we all went out to dinner at a Thai restaurant and enjoyed some food that we definitely wouldn’t be able to eat in Nam. Post-pad thai, I went back to the hotel and slept like a rock. Only a little sleep deprived.
The second day we spent 7 hours covering core expectations, basic safety information, talking about common challenges of the Peace Corps commitment, getting to know each other better, and doing some internal reflecting. One exercise was using self-identifiers to determine what defines you as a person and will be used throughout service and especially after service to determine what remains at our core and in what ways we’ve changed. The most interesting discovery for me, personally, was realizing that having lived in the Pacific Northwest for my whole life was at the core of a lot of my interests, education, and personality.
After our long day of training, we strategized for our final meal in the states (apparently this is a big deal that you’ll always remember). A group of us opted for Mexican and made it for happy hour at the most eclectic little Mexican restaurant in midtown. Spicy margs and tacos FTW!
Afterwards, everyone went back and tried to reconfigure their bags in an attempt to avoid all the extra baggage fee. I was successful, which is surprising, but a few people in the group just accepted that they would be paying extra. To be fair, a few people managed to fit everything they need for two years in one carry-on. I applaud you.
I probably slept about an hour that night, tossing and turning until I decided to get up and walk around the hotel. Could have been the late afternoon coffee but was more likely the fact that I was beginning a two-year adventure in Africa the next day. Probably the latter. At 2am, we all met in the lobby and loaded onto a bus that would take us to JFK.
We arrived at the airport at 4:30am which was fun considering our flight out was at 11:15am. To pass the time we ate snacks, people watched, played the uke (three people in our group brought ukuleles!) and laid around on the ground looking like a devastatingly tired church group of some sort. At 7:30 our check-in counter opened and the moment of truth came where everyone had to weigh their bags. Then security was a bit of a nightmare and made me realize that I refuse to ever bring my future children on an international flight because OMG they have so much stuff and cry a lot. I empathized.
I opted for Steak & Shake for breakfast because why not and also I had never had it before so it was basically mandatory. Before taking off we bought our fellow volunteer (and my roommate during staging), Laura, a peanut butter cup cupcake and sang happy birthday to her at the gate. A 15-hour flight to South Africa – what a way to spend your birthday!
And now, after a very long and sleepy flight, we’ve arrived in Johannesburg where were soaking up our last little bit of wifi for what could be a couple of days. In 30 minutes we’re catching a plane to Windhoek where we’ll be greeted by PC Namibia Staff and then head over to our training facility in Okahandja! Tonight, finally, we sleep.
Pre-Service Training (PST, as they call it) is an intensive two-month crash course to prepare us for the next two years in Namibia. From language to safety to job assignments, we’ll be covering it all. Here’s my tentative schedule from now through June 16th:
Week 0 & 1
April 10 – 14 Orientation
April 17-21 Move in at host families
Week 2 & 3
April 24 – May 05 Intensive training (all components)
Week 4 & 5
May 08-12 CED: Business Skills Training
May 21 CED: Market Day
May 18 Site announcements
Week 6 & 7
May 23 & 24 Mid-Language Proficiency Interview/MID PST Feedback
May 25-29 Travel to PCV site for Shadowing
May 23- June 4 Intensive training (all components)
Week 8 & 9
June 06 – 17 Intensive training (all components)
June 09 Final Language Proficiency Interview (LPI)
June 10 Tour PC office
June 11 Trainee/ Host family Cross-Culture Exchange
June 13 PCT feedback and final evaluation of PCTs
June 14 -15 Meet your Supervisor & attend Supervisor workshop
June 16 Swearing-in ceremony, depart to permanent sites
Know that during the next few weeks my contact may be limited due to internet access and staying busy, but I’ll update when I can! Wish me luck 🙂