10 days and counting till staging! It still doesn't fully feel like reality yet, but I'm sure once I step onto the plane to DC it will hit me. March 8th, 6am, Traverse City-Chicago-Washington DC. Then...March 9th- fly to Dakar for training with my future group of Peace Corps friends!
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure, fun, and enjoying every last royalty that I will miss in Senegal (that includes taking 20 minute hot showers each and every day, drinking way too much alcohol with friends, and eating excessive amounts of my favorite foods...and snowboarding as much as possible!).
My first stop after Phoenix was Pittsburgh for my birthday weekend, which turned into my birthday week as a result of the insane snowstorms that hit the east coast (I swear I bring insane weather with me wherever I go...historically huge waves in Hawaii, a years worth of rainfall in 2 days in Phoenix, record blizzards in Pittsburgh....what's next?!). It turned out to be one of my best birthdays ever, with a weekend full of drinking, dancing, playing in the snow, and eating great food all over the South Side of the burgh with some of my favorite people (thanks for the awesome party Anthony, Kim and Katie!). The 5 extra days were a bonus, as the entire city practically shut down and I was able to spend some quality relaxing time with some awesome people...I didn't exactly mind being forced to spend a few extra days with one of my best friends :)
Once Amtrak was finally up and running, I had to say a sad goodbye and continue on my pre-departure rounds of family and friends. Leaving Pittsburgh was probably the hardest part so far...my first really tough goodbye. Leaving the drama of the week behind was easy, but leaving Anthony and the friends I've made there behind was the saddest part of my journey.
The week that followed was a blur, seeing friends in Toledo, my brother in Canton, more friends in Jackson, a stop in Albion to visit old college friends (and meet up with Brett/discuss the awesomeness of Peace Corps....we're all crossing our fingers for his invite to come soon!), and finally the drive home to Traverse City, the last stop. I've been in Traverse for about a week now, and it's been nice to be back in a familiar place where I can relax and breathe for a few days before starting up the next adventure!
It always takes a few days to settle into a new place and get to the point where I can finally relax and stop going-going-going...I've managed to pretty much get everything I need in terms of packing, but I still have lots of other logistical things to take care of. Finishing up my taxes, going over student loan deferment info, making sure I have all the right paper work to bring to staging- it all adds up!
I'm getting anxious excited too, ready to meet my training group and start my first "real" job! More recently I've started to think of it more like a job than just volunteering, because it really is- my first "professional" job position. I'm a little nervous that others will be way more experienced or knowledgeable than me, but I'm positive that I will learn quickly what I need to know in training and be prepared to use whatever skills I do have to my full advantage.
I've been warned against exceedingly high expectations, like being overly optimistic about all the amazing things I'll be doing or the huge difference I am going to make while there...so I actually feel well prepared to handle whatever happens or whatever I end up doing. I don't really even know what to expect, so I'm just flexible (haha, TSS flashback here) and open to the possibility of anything! I feel like I should possibly have more defined expectations or goals for what I hope to accomplish during service, but at this point I'm just excited and ready to learn a new language, meet some great people, and really get involved in some sort of positive development projects regardless of the visible or tangible results.
So the plan for the rest of the week seems to be just finishing up packing (ahh scary) and spending as much time enjoying the company of family/friends and the comfort of home (meaning the USA...I'm technically homeless in the sense of having a house to call home, but Traverse will always be home as will anywhere in the US where I have people I love). I feel prepared with all my gadgets- my netbook, ipod, solar charger, familiar clothes, daily necessities etc, but I'm constantly trying to grasp the reality of when I get to Senegal and when these things will be relatively obsolete. From previous travel experience I know the feeling of getting to a place and realizing that I don't need half of what I brought with me, but trying to know that beforehand is the challenge. I feel like I'm doing a decent job with scaling down and bringing only what I really think I'll need, but it's not an easy task at all. So wish me luck!
If anyone feels the urge to write me letters, please do! (I LOVE MAIL...I absolutely love hand written letters at any time, even if I'm not in Africa). It does take several weeks/perhaps months for things to travel by snail mail though, so start writing NOW and I might get it during training :) I also have Skype and have heard rumors that I will have decent internet access during training at least, so lets chat!
That's all for now,