Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Staging - Philly 6/23-6/25

So I'm currently in Philadelphia, where I've been since Monday afternoon. First things first, my bags weighed in at 4 pounds UNDER the limit--a huge accomplishment for me and I think a first in my saga of international travel.

But more importantly, our staging was fantastic! We had sessions Monday afternoon/evening, and then all day today (Tuesday) where we got to know one another in the Swaziland training class, learned about the policies of Peace Corps and ate cookies and made fun of each other. The group consists of 36 people of which 12 are guys and 8 are married (so 4 couples). Everyone seems to have bonded pretty quickly, united by the fact that we're all going through the same weird life transition that nobody else in our lives has really been able to understand fully. We bonded over such activities as "change 5 things" and trying to lower a tent pole to the ground with only one finger each...don't ask.

This evening, fifteen of us went out to Thai food for our last meal (scary!!) and I had some delicious green curry shrimp that had about 20 jumbo shrimp in it. A GREAT last meal. I've also packed and re-packed about a million times and I'm fully prepared for at least one of my perfectly packed bags to get stolen/lost/picked over in the Jo'burg airport...last year, 20 people out of the 25 in the training class had AT LEAST one bag "delayed." The joke is that they're delayed by a few days so that the security people in Jo'burg have time to x-ray them and pick out all the valuables. We'll see...I'm prepared to live out of my carry-on for at least 5 days. (Tip: If you're going on a long trip like this, the backpack I got for a carry-on is perfect! It's a North Face Backtrack 50 and it's amazing in every way).

Also, I volunteered to be a Group Leader (GL) for the trip which essentially means I'm in charge of everyone's passports, plane tickets and general well-being for the duration of travel tomorrow/Thursday. We're leaving tomorrow early in the morning and heading by bus to JFK to fly to Johannsburg via Dakar, Senegal. Woo! It's a 19-hour flight with some re-fueling time and HOPEFULLY no complications.

I'm feeling really good about my decision to join Peace Corps thus far. I know there will be ups and downs ahead of me and I'm prepared for that, but I really think I'm in good company as far as the training class is concerned. I'm optimistic about my language abilities (which is kind of cheating since I'm really just relying on what I remember from Zulu class) and I have a much better idea of what to expect culturally, physically and emotionally than most of the other people in my training class. But mostly I just realize that I'm to the point that I'm getting on the plane in the morning and I have no an ounce of nervousness or second thoughts or ANYTHING but excitement. I'm beginning to believe in fate...I'm not exactly sure how I ended up headed for Swaziland, but exactly where I'm supposed to be.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to update again, but definitely check back periodically! I've also taught my mother how to update so if there's anything REALLY important going on I'll have her update it if I don't have internet access (I SHOULD have a cell phone...we'll see if I'm allowed to use it). In the meantime, I'll try to send some letters (but I don't know how practical that is) but you can send me letters too! It's only 94 cents...I'm worth that, right?

Love to you all and I'll be thinking of you!

Sala kahle,
Justine.

PS Happy 16th birthday Zak and Happy 5 1/2 birthday Damian!

1 comment:

"your" Mom :o) said...

Hey Teener,
I just want you to know I'm so proud of you and I know the people of Swaziland will have a better future because of you. I love you so much! Be safe....MUAH!