staging (or, real goodbye)

So I just finished staging a few hours ago, and found that the hotel gives us free basic internet access, but that long distance phone calls are costly. So I decided to give a quick blog update.

I got up at 3:45 this morning to drive to Des Moines with my mother and the GF, got to the airport just after 4:30, and got checked in without a problem. The flight from Des Moines to Milwaukee was only 40 minutes and went by without a hitch, followed by a slightly longer flight to Philadelphia. This flight was fine too, but there were serious winds when we landed, which was a little frightening. Apparently there were some other flights that had it even worse, where there were people vomiting and screaming and so on. I didn’t have any of that.

It turns out that my 40 lbs of checked luggage is one of the lightest that there is. Many of my fellow Trainees packed right up (and sometimes over) the limit of 80 lbs. So I feel better about that, though I was one-upped by a few of the more serious travellers.

I got to the hotel around noon and checked in. It’s a Sheradon, so the rooms are nice. I met my roommate shortly after, and we then went to lunch with a married couple who are serving together.

After some tasty pizza, we went to check in for staging. I got roped into helping with getting pictures of everyone taken (not that it was difficult), and after they verified that our new passports and the names on our plane tickets were correct, we did some ice breaker activities and then had the official staging event from 3-7pm. This mostly consisted of information that we had already been given in written form, but it was nice to actually hear it and be able to ask questions. We did a lot of group activities and discussions about anxieties and whatnot.

Afterward I went out with seven other Trainees and we got some food and drinks at Casi, took our first malaria pills together, and now I’m back in the room getting ready to pass out after a LONG day. I’m on the weekly malaria pill, which apparently gives some people bad reactions, including crazy dreams. So we’ll see how tonight goes.

My fellow trainees are absolutely fascinating people. There is a girl who just defended her PhD dissertation in biochem (but doesn’t official get the degree until spring), two older guys who have done Peace Corps before, about 4 more older people (meaning 50+ years old) people who are retired and wanted something to do, a bunch of people with BAs and MAs, people who have traveled to all kinds of foreign lands, etc. I feel a little naive compared to a lot of these seasoned travellers, but not nearly as much as I had thought that I would. Everyone seems generally interested to hear about everyone else’s life stories and, though level of sociableness varies, everyone is extremely nice. It’s a fantastic bunch of people.

I still feel pretty vague about what’s going to happen in the next few weeks, but I finally am able to be excited about it after meeting everyone and being officially decreed a Trainee (I was a pre-trainee before 1:30pm). We were told that, at best, we would find Internet access twice during training, so don’t dount on any updates for a while!

My deepest, sincerest thinks to my friends and (especially) family who have made the past few months at home really excellent, and who have supported me in this (admittedly) somewhat insane endeavor. I hope that you’ll forgive my leaving you all, but in the end I think we will all get way more out of it than we had to sacrifice. Love, and best wishes!