I found out yesterday this isn’t even Week One. It is Week Zero.
Monday, March 12, 2018 Objective: Fly to Peace Corps Staging in Miami, Florida, from Lander, Wyoming.
5am: Team Cunningham shuttle arrives to pick up myself, #fourbagstwoyears, and mi perro Cabot.
Enjoy the perks of being the first one to Riverton Airport and the attention of three-to five-security personnel:
8am: Fly to Denver. Go through another round of luggage and security. Chat up everyone in the restaurant like I am extroverted and leaving the country for two years. #TravelJess
2pm MST: Board plane to Atlanta.
6pm, 7pm, 8pm EST: Arrive in Atlanta. Turns out the connecting plane to Miami is stuck in customs. Yes, “stuck in customs.” Because even Airbuses get stuck in paperwork.
My luggage and person eventually land in Miami.
Meet new roommate (Erin! She’s awesome!) at 12am in our hotel room.
Total travel time Lander, Wyoming to Miami hotel: 17 hours
March 13, 2018 Objective: Complete registration and Peace Corps Staging, 12-7pm
Stand in line to take a survey on my phone and be read some government stuff aloud and then sign more paperwork. Meet Steve and Marcela, our staging facilitators. Told to return and convene at 2pm.
2pm-7pm: Name tags! Staging workbooks! Keychains! Hotel paper pads! Team building! Ice breakers! Anecdotes! Papelotes! Stuff and things. Example:
What I learned from the first activity:
“Find someone in your training class who…”
2. Speaks more than one language: Tyler / CED
3. Is a vegetarian: Erin / CED
6. Played a varsity sport in college: Paul / CED
8. Has a master’s degree: Jamin / CED
9. Has been a camp counselor: Tim / CED
10. Has volunteered at a health center: Colton / WASH
11. Knows someone from your country of service: Kim / CED
15. Relaxes by doing yoga: Nicholas / CED
16. Has taught or coached a sport: Jeevan / WASH
18: Has tutored students: Vivek / WASH
19. Graduated from college in the last year: Miles / WASH
20. Packed a luggage scale: Simone / WASH
Followed by Who We Are, What We Expect, What You Expect, What to Expect When You’re Expecting What We Expect, What’s Next, What Might Be Next but Changed, Take Another Online Survey, and Group Leader’s Meeting
9pm EST: #TravelJess makes conversation with a Virginia-based pilot from Yugoslavia named Ivan she met in the hotel elevator. (This irrelevant detail is only included because Non-Travel-Jess couldn’t make that up.)
Total hours spent on Staging Agenda with ~50 new friends: 8 hours
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 Objective: Make it to Peru.
Here at 6am breakfast at the Latin Cafe, #TravelJess makes friends with Roberto, who even though he said he was Austrian, happened to be born and spend the first 32 years of his life in Peru. His three dual-citizen hijas are: a doctor, a lawyer, and a firefighter/EMT. He told me about his experience with Shining Path in the 80’s-90’s and almost being kidnapped and having to kill someone to save his own life. Then he fled Peru. He told me to be very careful.
8am: Hurry up and wait
11am: Our group was mantled into eight groups and two buses.
I was captain of Group #6 Bus #2 (Joe, Andrew, Paul, and Jeevan (pronounced Gee-Wan)) and in charge of Brand New Shiny Peace Corps Passports for Bus #2. Passport Santa!
The final ten hopeful trainees to clear check-in and head through Security:
Can you find the volunteers? (Featuring Group Six and friends)
10pm Peru time (currently CST for those of you named Jamie Jordan) aka five hours later we arrived to a cheering team of current volunteers / staff holding signs and being absolutely loud and ridiculous for each one of us clearing the runway through customs.
We then took two more buses to the Huampani Retreat Center walking distance from our training center in Chaclacayo, Lima District, Peru.
Total hours from Miami hotel to Chaclayco Retreat: 14 hours
Thursday, March 15, 2018 Objective: Don’t get lost while being herded like newborn bats
Meet at 7am to walk to training center (al Centro de Entrenamiento). Orientation programming from 8am to 4pm included a welcome breakfast, medical presentation, admin support and policies, a round robin of picking up our stipend and bank card, a Peru cell phone for PC network, a giant medical kit (NOLS readers, your mind would be blown), initial site contact form, measure vitals and weight, interview with a doctor, update medical paperwork, and have our photo taken for a Peru photo ID. Another talk about expectations from our Country Director, followed by lunch, (rice potatoes and chicken with my favorite, Ahí), specific program group meetings (CED = Community Economic Development) and then another session about living with our host families for our training period.
You don’t need to understand a single detail in the above paragraph. I am barely sure I did when I was living it.
Meet our Peace Corps Training service host families. This is where we will call home and be fed for the next three months. At 4pm we lined up by neighborhood groups to wait to meet our host families. It was like waiting to be picked for dodgeball and a scene from (orphan) Annie all wrapped in one.
Then 47/48 of us with our new families + four bags each were whisked away in a whirlwind of host mothers and brisk Spanish in a flurry of chaos to far away lands. I am living with Maria and her family in the Santa Maria neighborhood, about a 20-30 minute combi ride from the training center. It costs one sole each way. (About 33 cents USD.)
A combi is a mini-bus where there is no such thing as personal space or being embarrassed about being a gringo worried about personal space. I’ll get a picture when I am not holding on for dear life with both hands anymore.
Total hours from face plant to face plant: 15.5 hours