The last few days have completely flown by. I got into Miami for staging on Wednesday night. The flights went well, though it was definitely a long day. I actually met a person on one flight who I enjoyed talking to, which never happens. Usually I’m the person on the plane who makes every possible effort to communicate with body language that I don’t want to chat. Either that or I fall asleep and drool on your shoulder. After wandering around the airport for a bit I was able to catch the shuttle to the hotel and meet a few of the other trainees who got there a day early and drink overpriced beer in the hotel bar. Alcohol is definitely the best icebreaker.
We had roommates in the hotel, which worked out for me because I proved yet again that I’m not a responsible adult. I left both my phone and charger in the room. Luckily my roommate is a responsible adult, so she did a room check before we left and found the phone, though I think the charger is probably sacrificed to the hotel gods. I would have been a sad baby if I lost that phone.
Anyway, staging was on Thursday. We had registration in the morning, where we signed some stuff, checked our new passports, and got some money. Later in the afternoon we got started on the actual staging which included a fair share of icebreakers, drawing on posters, taking about our innermost fears, sketches, and all manner of fun stuff like that. It was a long day, and not overly informative, but I definitely think that it got us in the right mindset. No one is going into this this blind.
We did a big group dinner at the restaurant across the street after staging. Our waiter looked like an adorable Cuban Elvis. Pompadour included. I tried a Cuban pressed sandwich, which was pretty good. Sangria was also involved.
The flight to St. Lucia was the next day, so we got to get up nice and early. I realized that I’m fully incapable of carrying all of my own luggage across the airport. I’m sure I looked like a soup sandwich trying to balance everything. Luckily I got ahold of one of those little carts before I completely broke my spine. We got all checked in and on the plane with minimal incident. We all made it to St. Lucia, past immigration, past customs, and on the bus to the abbey where we spent this weekend. We met some current St. Lucia volunteers on the busses, who answerd a few questions for us as we drove. We seriously did pack into the busses like sardines. That’s a real thing.
The abbey is absolutely gorgeous, with views of the ocean. It’s just outside of Castries, which is the capital. The nuns maintain it and it acts kind of like a bed and breakfast. They feed us about 16 times a day, and its always delicious. So far I think I’ve gained 7 pounds.
We’ve been doing a variety of training, including medical and more talking about expectations and deep anxiety inducing talks about our feelings. The medical training was just the tip of the iceberg, and I already know about 100 ways I may die/suffer. Apparently if its not chikungunya, it may be dengue or rabies. Fun stuff. Really though, I think I’ll be fine. I don’t believe in worrying about things like that, but it’s nice to know what to do if something does happen.
So far all of Peace Corps staff (except a visiting doctor from Nicaragua) have been women, which is very cool. St. Lucia is supposedly a matriarchal society. I don’t know if the staffing has anything to do with that, but its nice to see women in leadership roles. I’m sure we’ll get to know them very well over the next couple years.
I was able to go for a run today with a few other volunteers. We just ran a bit around the neighborhoods near the abbey. So far so good with the interactions with locals. Some guys sitting on their porch offered to sell us beer, “2 for $5”. EC dollars are worth about a third as much as US dollars, so that’s a pretty good deal. I feel like that was a good sign. All the other neighbors waved hello. We saw a goat, some chickens, dogs, kittens, and miscellaneous birds. It was good to get out and exercise a little since we’ve been sitting down/eating constantly for the last 48 hours.
Tomorrow, we do a bit more training, then we pack up to go move in with our homestay families. We’ll be with these families for the next 7 weeks. I know absolutely nothing about mine. I know that I will get my own room and they will make me 3 meals a day, but that’s about it. I’m really excited about it actually. There are definitely some things to be nervous about, but not any thing I don’t think I can handle. They are going to be my bridge into this culture. We’ve been in a bubble up in the abbey, so tomorrow is where the real immersion begins. I couldn’t be more excited.
(The internet here at the abbey is pretty slow, so there aren’t many pictures with this post right now. I’ll add more to it as I am able. I also don’t know what internet will be like at my homestay, but I will try to keep writing entries and post them when I can.)