I’ve arrived safe and sound here in Jamaica! Staging took place on Monday, in Miami. Everyone in PC Group 84 straggled in from the far reaches of the country (I was actually one of three Peace Corps Trainees (PCT) on the 6AM flight from Nashville to Miami). We didn’t realize it until we started introductions. Also, there’s another Kentuckian in the group! Brittany is from Louisville and is a fellow Environment sector volunteer. There is already a UK grad on island, Sarah Marshall. She’s also an Environment volunteer.
Staging was basically a chance for everyone to get initially acquainted and for the facilitators to introduce us to the Peace Corps. I think most of us were a giant ball of anxiety (I know I was), but Staging taught us that everyone is having the same problems, doubts, and fears. That was very calming. Several of us went to a Cuban restaurant afterwards.
We started out eeeeeeeeearly on Tuesday. We had to check out of our hotel at 4:30 AM. Our flight didn’t leave until 10, so I’m mystified as to why we had to get out that early. All of my luggage was underweight, thankfully! We arrived at the Kingston airport to much fanfare. The PC staff was there to greet us and some current PCVs and staff were there to help us load our luggage and head to PC HQ. The bus ride over provided some beautiful views, and I think a lot of us forgot our nerves and anxiety for a while and let the adventure set in. We arrived at PC HQ to lunch, which was jerk chicken (spicy! I’m going to have to build my tolerance), some kind of fish, and rice with peas.
After lunch, we had a big arrival ceremony that included the American Ambassador to Jamaica, Pamela Bridgewater. There was also a really neat cultural display, with a small award-winning choir called Nexus. They taught us a few Patois phrases, including “wagwan,” which is a greeting and roughly translates to “what’s going on?” We took a group photo with the Ambassador, and it’s probably floating around the internet somewhere. We THEN had what they called an “information buffet,” where we turned in a bunch of paperwork, received our cell phones, and got our information binders. Finally they took us to a hotel for dinner after which most of us checked our email and crashed. Long day!
Yesterday was our first day of training. More information was thrown at as, but we had frequent breaks. We were issued our medical kits and mosquito nets, so I feel like a real PCV now! I still haven’t taken any pictures, because it would mostly be of a bunch of slightly shell-shocked people trying to take in as much information as possible.
After training yesterday, several of us walked to the Mega Mart which is close to the hotel. Basically like Walmart, they have lots of American brands of food. These aren’t going to be very common in the rural areas where I’ll be, but it was interesting nonetheless. We then had dinner and checked email and hung out by the pool until we got tired. Today is our last day of training in Kingston, but we’ll get some vaccines and open a bank account today. Tomorrow we’ll had to Hellshire and meet our host families for the next two weeks. Exciting!