Peace Corps Staging

Trip Start Apr 14, 2006
Trip End Jul 2008

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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Sunday, April 16, 2006

So the Peace Corps experience has officially begun for me, altho i'm still here in the States. We had 2 days of meetings at a hotel in Arlington, just outside DC. I took a highspeed train down from Philly, then checked into the hotel and soon after met my roommate for staging. her name's Krissi, she's from Minnesota, and she's an elementary english teacher just like me. it turns out that everyone here at the staging is either elementary or secondary TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language.) Bulgaria also has business and youth development volunteers, but they leave every year in August. The Bulgaria TEFL group leaves at this time every year, so there is a steady flow of volunteers going into the country. There are 41 volunteers in the group, about half and half men and women. kind of surprising, since teaching usually seems to be dominated by women. most of us are in our 20s, but there are 5 people who are retired, including 2 couples. one of the couples all ready served in China from 99-01.

So far all the people seem really amazing, the great majority have lived abroad before, and many have taught english in places like China, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Buenos Aires. It'll be cool to see how we all bond over time. It's so different from my past experiences; both times I lived in Spain i really avoided americans and brits, basically so I could learn Spanish and learn more about Spain. i didnt want to exist in an american bubble in the middle of sevilla. i have to admit tho, i was sort of a snob about it. i think this experience is going to be so different tho. First of all, I will be there for so long (27 months!!) that i dont have to worry about leaving without getting to know the language and culture. plus once at our sites 3 months down the road we will all be serving miles away from eachother, so it will be impossible to find myself in a Peace Corps bubble. and also i think i'll face a lot more challenges in Bulgaria so I will need a few core people to reach out to in my TEFL class. Unlike Sevilla, which was pretty much make friends, go out for coffees and drinking, and practice Spanish. and the biggest thing is there's no one here who's not interested in integrating themselves in their communities. so i won't be tempted to feel superior to other americans who spend all their time drinking at irish bars together (you know you feel the same way don't lie.)

Considering how many hours we spent in meetings it actually went by pretty quickly. We talked about things like Peace Corps policies (a lot about safety,) expectations, definitions of success, anxieties, coping strategies, 'living in a fishbowl', stuff like that. We'll learn a lot more that's specific to Bulgaria during PST, or Pre Service Training, which lasts 11 weeks in Bulgaria. oh yeah, Peace Corps is the land of acronyms, just like all federal gov't organizations, so over time i'll have to be careful not to slip into acronymese here on the blog.

A nice treat was having dinner with Georgina and Shira, 2 good friends from college who are living together and working in DC. they seem to really like it here and are doing well, both have great jobs (DOJ and a news magazine, i forget the name.) so that was special, plus we had a really hot waitor.

We fly out tomorrow at 6 pm, connection in Frankfurt, then it's on to Sofia, Bulgaria. The last couple weeks have been pretty strange, i haven't felt like anything was changing. especially saying goodbye to my family didn't seem real in some way. but talking about some specifics has made it seem a bit more real, and now that i'm getting on the plane tomorrow i gotta accept it at some point.
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