I’m sitting at a conference center just south of Atlanta, where all the Volunteers congregated yesterday for Staging, and I’m still rearranging my bags. Instead of using the hotel’s shower goodies this morning, I opted to dig in my luggage and use the toiletries I’m taking so that my bag will get even the eentsiest lighter. I think I’m doing alright though – we can check two bags, 50 pounds each, and I’m totaling in at about 80 pounds (one is a careful 46 and one is 35). My carry-on, of course, is ridiculously heavy but as long as I can manage to get on that plane today, not much else matters.
Packing was not as bad as I thought. I started laying stuff out about a week ago and then assembled it into bags starting two days ago…and haven’t stopped. It’s been interesting to balance ‘first-world problems’ with what amenities I’d semi-guiltily like to have while abroad (examples: a new Netbook, a new Nook, a working iPod, prescription sunglasses, daily contacts). Other items I’ve packed include a frying pan, teaching supplies, York patties, barbeque sauce, cinnamon, long skirts, short-sleeve tops, past knee-length dresses, sandals, button-downs, and an assortment of thongs (it ain’t skanky; I’ve learned from current PCV blogs that it’s actually the recommended lady undergarment due to much “bum sweating”). I think I was able to cram in a hair brush? Even as I write this, I’m taking breaks to get up and shift things around in our designated luggage holding area.
Yesterday was a full, interesting day. I loved finally meeting my crew – we’ve been posting various questions and discussions on our Facebook group, but it was wonderful to finally put faces to profiles. I got my last (glorious, unfathomably delicious, healthy) Chick-fil-A meal with my parents and was dropped off at our conference center, before immediately diving into seven hours of registration (I’ve now moved from being an Invitee to an official Trainee), logistics, and Staging (information, reflection activities, group skits, etc.). It seemed like summer camp mixed with RA Training, filled with a combination of first day jitters and adrenalized excitement. It was really great to re-learn the three Peace Corps goals: address and serve the country’s specified needs, respect and integrate into new cultures, and impart American culture.
This is beautifully embodied in an excerpt from the Peace Corps Act: “The Congress of the United States declares that it is the policy of the United States and the purpose of this Act to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the people of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower, particularly in meeting the basic needs of those living in the poorest areas of such countries, and to help promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the peoples served and a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the American people.”
We leave for the airport in about an hour and fly this evening. My emotions have seemed to cease their ups-and-downs of saying goodbye and leaving, and have evened out to just plain excitement. The flight is 16 hours (which I’m looking forward to; I love flying) and I am so pumped to get there and just dig in. Training starts the next day (Friday), and will be about eight weeks long. It consists of staying with a host family, language classes, cultural integration, learning how to teach, and targeting issues while making realistic goals that balance my skills with the goals of the people.
I’m not sure when I’ll next get Internet, and even if it’s available I may opt to not take part. I really want to treat these two years as such: two short years in which I want to fully live in my place. I will try to at least update when I get a chance and I’m excited to hear about everyone else’s experiences of living their beautiful stories! Please contact me at: Laura.A.Bramblett@gmail.com or write to my short-term training address at:
PO Box 9536
Love, hugs, and peace from my new home to my previous one. Take care of it and yourselves, and we’ll be in touch :).