First Days in the Peace Corps

Let the adventures begin! My last night in the US was spent at dinner with family in Minneapolis and with my girlfriend Amanda saying goodbye. Not much sleep that night before getting up at 5 to go to the airport for my flight to Washington DC, but the less time I had, the more precious every second was. Waiting for that first flight, groggy and emotionally drained, I could already taste some of the excitement mixed with loneliness that I imagine Peace Corps volunteers get to know very well. I really am leaving all the people that I rely on daily for social support and interaction, though of course I know that they’re all still there for me. The first announcement that came over the intercom about our flight went like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, for all those passengers on flight Delta 1464 for Washington DC, the crew have informed me that there is a problem… It seems that they’re having issues with the coffee machine, so if anyone really needs coffee this morning, we suggest that they get it before boarding. 🙂 If that was the worst mechanical problems my flight was going to have, I was feeling pretty good. Starbucks latte in hand, I boarded the plane.

Orientation that day consisted of signing various release and informational forms, getting pre-loaded debit cards to cover incidental and food costs, and attending two 2.5 hour sessions about what the PC is about, what service means to us, and about safety and security. Although it felt a bit like being back in our first week of college and doing teambuilding exercises, it was remarkably well executed and never felt patronizing. It was exciting to get to know the other volunteers through various poster-making and skit-performing activities, and I even found time during the 20 minute break to make a Brueggers Bagel shop run with a new friend, Sam.

After training a group of us went out to dinner and walked quite a ways before splitting up into smaller, more manageable groups. My group went to an italian place, and we had one of the best meals of my entire life (and splurged on it). Steak curry pizza was the highlight, with fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, basil, curried tender steak bits, and a sweet pear sauce sprinkled over light, crunchy flatbread. Sorry to those beginning to drool on the keyboards, but I will remember that pizza for the rest of my life. Knowing that it was our last American meal made it especially poignant and I was glad to share it with interesting and excited like-minded people.

We had about three hours to sleep, between 11 and 2, before we were supposed to meet in the lobby to board the buses at 2:30 AM. When I woke up without the alarm that I had set and stretched, thinking that I had woken up a few minutes before it went off (which I often do) I struggled to understand the meaning of the numbers on the hotel clock glaring 2:48 at me. When the connection between the numbers and the time was made, I swept out of bed and got my roommate up just in time for the phone to ring. The voice of our group leader (and the bagel-run friend) came through my ear like laundry liquid poured onto my brain, slow and thick: “Andyyyyyyyy…” (Said with a deep voice to have the same emphasis and sound of ‘Candyyyyyyyy’). Justin and I have never packed up and gotten our butts downstairs so fast in our lives. Everything worked out just fine and one of the buses was late anyway.

Took about three hours to get to the airport, wait until the check-in window opened to check our bags, get through security and get to the gate. We had about 1.5 hours until boarding, so we got food (oatmeal is so tasty on low sleep…) and chatted, napped, read. The flight from DC to Miami was spent in and out of consciousness, and our connection went smoothly there to our flight to Managua.

Arriving in Managua went well and we were greeted by current PC volunteers at the airport. After a 50 minute bus ride, we were in Granada and unloading our luggage from a huge van. Granada is a beautiful city of colorful colonial-style buildings and elegant churches. We settled in for a few minutes, then had lunch and met in a conference room to meet our country-specific staff and talk about what the next 11 weeks will look like. More on that later.

The rest of the day was spent unpacking a bit, looking over forms, a group of us walked around Granada a little bit, then a wonderful dinner at the hotel. I went down to the incredible outdoor pool by myself for about 10 minutes and floated, looked at the stars, swam some laps, and started making sense of where I was and what I’d been learning these past couple of days. A few more people joined me, and we swam and played for about 25 min until the pool closed at 8. It has been an exhausting, exciting, and fascinating two days. I’ve never known two days to feel like two weeks before, but that is exactly what it feels like. If I had to compare this experience so far to something that I’ve experienced in the past, it’s like being on my first day of a study abroad trip, a new job, and my first day of college all wrapped up in one. I’ll be posting some more pictures soon, but for now it’s time to collapse in bed. Up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to run along Lake Nicaragua in sight of Masaya volcano, rising up out of the ground and crowned with perpetual thick clouds. Thinking of my loved ones!

This is right in front of our hotel!

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Eddie Bearnot on September 1, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Andrew

    It’s so exciting to hear about the beginnings of your adventure, and I look forward to staying updated as your projects get underway. Please keep writing!

    Best,
    Eddie

    Reply

  2. Posted by Allie on September 1, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Andrew! You’re there!! I’m so sorry we didn’t get to talk before you left – the last couple of weeks have been a blur for me but it’s still no excuse for not connecting with you before the start of your big adventure. Glad you got the card though. Thinking of you and excited to read all of your updates!! I miss you…

    Reply

  3. Posted by Courtney on September 2, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Hey Andrew! Good to know that you made it safely. It sounds like you have met a lot of people, and are eating some fantastic dishes!!!! I hope that you are getting enough sleep, with everything being such a whirlwind. Haha! I just sounded like my mom there! Anywho, I plan to live vicariously through your blog, so keep the wonderful posts coming. 🙂

    Reply

  4. Posted by Debra Lawsing on September 2, 2010 at 6:47 am

    You’re off to a great start Andrew. Can’t wait to read more. You have a great writing style and and interesting topic to write about. I can see publishing a book in the future. Enjoy your adventure and, again, I’m very proud of you.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Amanda on September 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Oh my Lord…it’s all happening. 🙂

    SO glad to hear that your first few days have been so smooth (aside from the waking up fiasco – ironically, I slept through my alarm on Wednesday morning also – ! crazy), and that you’ve arrived in Managua safe and sound. It sounds like you’re having an amazing time exploring and getting to know everyone – I’m so excited for you!

    Stay safe, eat enough (that piece of advice is for your Mom), and take some photos of the volcano for me!

    I love you. 🙂

    Reply

  6. Posted by Deb on September 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Hey Andrew…..very cool. I am so glad we got to see you and hug you before your big adventure….It sounds fabulous so far. Keep us posted and know that every night when I run through the cast of characters I love so much, in my brain, you are there……Be safe, be happy. Love you Deb

    Reply

  7. Posted by Shane Harvey on September 8, 2010 at 11:19 am

    ANDREW!! I thought that it was time to read your blog. I had to wait until you had some juicy content online! I especially liked the part about getting up before your alarm went off 🙂 It sounds like you have a whole lot on your mind and even more to process. I really hope that you’re having the time-of-your-life, it sounds like you’ve at least had a little fun :-P.

    On my side of things, I just was hired as a Geek Squad member of Best Buy 🙂 And school has started with a bang! I have Español, American Sign Language, Español on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays only in the mornings! It´s great! Then of course I’ll be saving for my study abroad to Spain this spring during my ‘down time’.

    Love you!!

    ~Shamer

    Reply

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