Staging, Part 2: AKA I’m a legit PC Trainee!!

So this afternoon we had our first taste of PC info sessions in the form of staging.  Staging is the stateside orientation, and we got a few crash courses in safety, security, and what to expect when we arrive in SA.  We talked a loooot about our anxieties (spiders, food, distance, sketchyness in general) and our aspirations (teaching, inspiring children, integrating into the community, good food) just to get us in the mental state to head to SA.

It was really awesome to meet all my fellow volunteers-and let me tell you, we seem to be a pretty great group!  There are 57 of us, which is pretty big for PC groups.  The group headed to Honduras is also here for staging, and there are only 15 of them!  We were just talking about how we hadn’t noticed any Honduras volunteers when one walked up and told us that.  So we feel like a nice big group, ready to take on the 18 hours of flying tomorrow.  We have a 2 hour flight to Atlanta, then a 16 hour flight from there to Johannesburg-oy!  I’ve never flown more than about 3 hours, so that will be a looooong flight.  But by 7pm (SA time…so noonish Iowa time?)  Friday I will finally be there.

The best part of the day-finding out we have NO shots tomorrow.  The worst part-finding out we have a LOT to get in SA.  Eh…at least we don’t have to head to the airplane with sore arms.

I’m feeling completely ready to go, and am very happy to have met so many amazing people today.  SA24 is going to be a great group of friends for the next 2 years.  🙂  It’ll make life so much easier!

This may well be my last post, so remember-no news is good news.  Adios for awhile, and look for updates from my Mom after I get there.  Adios!

-Jen

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Staging, Part 1

I arrived in DC for staging last night around 7pm, met up with my friend Jen for dinner, and found my way to the hotel in Georgetown.  So I am officially at staging, and I can finally say my PC journey has begun!

I had two flights yesterday, and they both went smoothly and rather fast-yay!  I tried to change dollars into Rand at the Chicago airport, but the line was too long and I had to find my gate.  So if I can’t change it tomorrow in Reagan or Atlanta, then I guess I’m just going to have to deal with not having any Rand in advance.  It’s not a huge deal, but I’d rather have a bit to take with me.  Oh well!

I’m headed off to breakfast with some fellow PC people soon-COFFEE!!  Then actual staging begins at noon.  We have staging aka orientation this afternoon, shots tomorrow morning, and fly out in the evening.  It’ll be a quick stay in DC and I wish I had more time to see people.

-Jen

On My Way

In about 12 hours I will be heading into the Des Moines airport to begin my Peace Corps journey.  I fly to DC for 2 days of staging, and then leave on the 7th for South Africa.  Wow!  It still seems surreal, but I thinks it’s actually going to happen! 🙂

Of course I am nervous and excite, second guessing all my packing decisions.   Seems about normal.  It’s odd to be in my bedroom because all of my possessions are pretty much either in totes in my closet, or in a bag to take with me.  I realized today how much stuff I have given away in the past several months-almost all of my possessions are stowed away in an old toybox, 5 totes, and a few boxes.  I feel great to have gotten rid of so much stuff that I don’t really need-hopefully I’ll still feel this way when I come back in two years.  At any rate-it’ll be fun to unpack it all!

I was able to watch our town’s fireworks display tonight-so beautiful and reminded me of how great life is in a free country.  It’s fitting that Independence Day is my last holiday here-a last hurrah as this American heads into the unknown.  And it was great to watch the fireworks with my sister-a good tradition.

I’m not sure how much internet access I’ll have during staging and training, so it could be awhile before you hear from me again.  I’ve set my Mom up as an author though, so she’ll be able to post when I can’t.  So long for now, and I’ll be back!

-Jen

Down to the Wire

Time is running out fast!  I leave in less than 5 days, and I’m feeling pretty good about things.  I’ve gotten to do about 95% of the things I wanted to do before I left, and I feel pretty prepared to leave.  My stuff is just about completely packed, although I did reshuffle things yesterday after an email from PC.  And my room is nearly all packed up, though still a little messy.

Anyways, yesterday the SA24 group got an email from the SA Country Desk detailing answers to all those little questions I had.  I know have a rough outline for PST, know exactly what we’ll be doing when we get to SA, and the logistics of life during PST.  Ahhh it feels nice to know about bit more about training.  We did get a packing list and some guidelines about what we should pack.  Oy.  This made me rethink my packing scheme and change things around.  During PST we’ll apparently have tiny rooms, and PC recommends packing essentials in one bag and non-essentials in another.  However, my essentials bag must be fairly large because I’ll be living out of it for two months, and all my warm clothes need to be in there because it will be winter when we arrive.  Thus I am going through a slight packing panic, but it will all work out.

We have been given some more guidance on what languages we can expect to study.  We have been told to study some introductory phrases in Setswana because we’ll be settled near Pretoria for training, and Setswana is the prevalent language there.  We’ve also been told we may learn: Setswana, Sepedi, TshiVenda, and XiTsonga.  A bit of a change from what the PC toolkit website listed.  Good thing I attempted to study some isuZulu, right (as in, I listened to the first few lessons and gave up after being told to by current PCVs).  I will spend some time studying things like “Hello” and “how are you” in Setswana in the next few days.

I shall share some more info later.  I need to prepare for family pictures.  We haven’t done them since I was 12 or so, thus I must make myself look nice for the next 10 years. 🙂

-Jen

Staging Update!

This morning started out by me receiving my staging email-YAY!  Now, I leave in just over 3 weeks (woah) and it’s kind of getting down to the wire for travel arrangements in my opinion.  However, with the invitation packet from PC I was told that we would hear about staging 3-4 weeks in advance.  Thus I wasn’t too worried, yet.  I was fiddling around on Facebook this morning, when an update to the PC SA group told me that staging emails had arrived.  So, officially staging is in DC (which I unofficially knew) starting July 6th.  I made a call to SATO travel, PC’s travel agency, and scheduled my flight.  I’ll be flying out of DSM on the 5th, arriving in the evening in DC. I know some other SA24-ers will be getting there that evening too.  Can you say “dinner out”?  🙂

I am soooooo excited to go to DC again!  After spending last semester there, and getting inspired to apply to PC while there, it seems fitting that I should go there for staging.  Makes me less nervous because DC already feels home-y to me.

Anyways, I also found out flight info for my flight to SA.  I will fly out on the 7th, after getting pricked in the arm who knows how many times for vaccinations, and arrive in Jo-burg on the 8th.  It feels “more real” having my arrangements made now.  After finding this all out I went on a shopping spree to Walmart and Target to get some things-particularly luggage.  I have a nice JEEP brand rolling duffel-not too big, not too small.  I chose this over a suitcase because it is easier to move around and I can sling it over my shoulder if I need too.  I will have my regular backpack for my carry-on, and a smaller carry-on size suitcase.  Ahhh….I feel much more prepared now.

I had my graduation/going-away party over the weekend.  It was a sunny day-the only one recently.  And it wasn’t too hot or cold, which is a miracle for Iowa right now.  In other words, the weather behaved and I got to see lots of family and friends.  A nice start to all the goodbye-ing that’s coming.  And Dad got a Sno Cone machine for the party, which was fun.  I think he ate about 10 of them. 🙂

-Jen