After maybe 2 hours of sleep, I flew from Minneapolis to DC for my “staging.” When I asked at this cute old man at the information desk at the airport the best way to get to our hotel, he asked me if I liked adventures. I told him that yes, I do, I’m actually joining the Peace Corps tomorrow. He replied with, oh yeah, you’ve got to love adventures if you’re joining the Peace Corps. So he told me directions to the metro and told me which train to take, and I grabbed my luggage for 2 years (which weighed probably around 120 pounds [PC limit for checked bags is 80 pounds, but I was a bit over that…plus had carry-on items…]) and took off for the first of many adventures. The trek wasn’t so bad, until I got off the train and had to walk outside. I was already tired from having to walk from the airport to the metro station, and then I had to walk about 10 more blocks (seemed like way more than that) to get to the hotel. And it was incredibly hot and humid. One man sitting outside at a restaurant even said: “Be careful there sista. It’s hot outside. Make sure to drink plenty of water.” I did that once I got to the hotel, literally dripping in sweat. Luckily most of the other volunteers were the same way, though some took taxis. I think that would have been a smarter idea considering the amount of luggage I had…but then it wouldn’t have been quite so adventuresome, right?
During our staging, we learned a bit about each other as well as the standard Peace Corps policies, like you have to take your malaria meds, let your CD (Country Director) and other Peace Corps Senegal staff know when and where you’re going on a vacation, and don’t date other American government workers (since they could be involved in intelligence work, and the Peace Corps doesn’t like such associations, as has already been mentioned). Nothing terribly ground breaking, but interesting for the most part.
After 6 hours of that, we were free for the night. My friend Katie, who lives near DC, met me at the airport and we had a wonderful dinner together. When we got back to the hotel, we met Kate, another PCT (Peace Corps Trainee), who is also from St. Olaf, so we talked about our beloved college on a hill for a while. This Ole connection is only one of several that I have with PCTs/PCVs in Senegal. A current PCV in Senegal who is helping with training went to my high school and graduated one year before me. (Another PCT also knows him – they went to college together.) Another PCV’s twin sister went to St. Olaf and also graduated a year before me. Another PCT is from Maple Grove, which is a city right near my own hometown. And 2 other PCTs went to Cornell for undergrad and know some of the same professors and grad students I do. Small, small world.
Anyway, the next morning we got our yellow fever shots and then spent several hours (our last few hours in the States) chilling in the Dulles airport. Everyone had typical American food: hamburgers, pizza, Bud Light, ice cream, etc. My last meal of choice: pizza and ice cream. Delicious. :)
The flight was relatively uneventful. Watched a couple movies, read a little, and slept a little. Oh, and one of the male flight attendants asked me to go with him to South Africa (we were flying on South African Airways so most of the flight staff was South African) to play basketball with his cousin. I told him I didn’t think it would be feasible for me to do that for the next few years, but maybe I’d look him up later.
Here are my first views of Senegal: