Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Here we go!

 I have officially booked my flight (thanks to SATO Travel) to staging!

Greetings future Trainee:

The Staging Unit is looking forward to your arrival in Philadelphia, PA for the Mali staging event.  Please read this email and the attachments carefully, as the information here will answer many of the questions you have regarding your final steps prior to departing for Mali.

Your staging event will be a brief, yet intense orientation to the Peace Corps and the general demands of being an effective and safe Volunteer.  The attached Reporting Instructions provide the hotel information and schedule for your staging.  Your attendance at all sessions is mandatory.
Staging is a 1-2 day orientation stateside, normally held somewhere on the East Coast. It seems often to be held in Washington DC, but my group and I will be meeting in the Keystone State. At Staging I will, among other things, meet my fellow volunteers in person for the first time and do some more paperwork. The first part, thrilling - the second part, not so much. My flight for Philly is on the morning of the 27th. Based on the timing, it looks like I may even have a few spare hours to check out the city! And before you finish that thought, no, staging isn't just one big party for departing volunteers:
Please note that as a Trainee and Volunteer overseas, you will be expected to act and dress in keeping with your status as a professional and guest.  At staging, business casual attire is required.
However, having never spent much time on the East Coast, spending the night in Philadelphia is still an exciting prospect. Leave a shout-out in the comments if you have suggestions for what to see in Philadelphia if one only has a few hours to kill.

A fun tidbit -  I won't be meeting all my fellow volunteers for the first time at staging. One of them, Jill, went to went to kindergarten and elementary school with me! It seems unlikely that we first of all decided to apply at the same time and then that out of all the countries and departure dates we would end leaving in the same group to Mali. In looking through the Facebook profiles of the other volunteers, it is clear that Peace Corps does attract a diverse group of people. We're clearly not all recent college graduates who were born in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are people from many different states as well as different ages and with a wide variety of work experience.

So despite all of this excitement I still had a cunning plan to trick you into feeling very sympathetic toward me and the inevitable difficulties of my upcoming journey. The plan was to post a picture of Philadelphia and then right below it another one of Bamako in the hopes of inspiring some sort of appreciations for my crazed desire to travel to the farthest corners of the globe (by the way, ever heard of Timbuktu? That's right, it's in Mali) to help some of the poorest people in the world. That is, I was going to post them until I couldn't find a decent one of Bamako that would seem like a remotely fair comparison to Philadelphia. So in the end, here is a very nice photo of Philadelphia, my future home for a day and a half:

I'll leave Bamako to your imagination.

Oh and rest easy, faithful taxpayers, your money isn't going to waste on my luxurious airline ticket to the land of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Phillies, the Eagles and the Philly Cheesesteak - I'm flying coach on Southwest.

Bambara Word of the Day
Misiri = Mosque

The world's largest mud brick building in the world is the famous Djenné Mosque, definitely worth checking out.