I now sit in Philadelphia, where I am going through the staging process for the Peace Corps. Over three days, all the volunteers get a chance to meet, receive some basic overview information (safety, policies, logistics) and finalize information (fill out forms). On the last morning (tomorrow), we will all receive shots and be bussed up to JFK for the flight to Frankfurt. Just yesterday I learned that we will be given day rooms in Frankfurt, so we can relax and sleep a little for our twelve hour layover. They strongly encourage not exploring, as it could easily result in missing the second flight.
The people here at staging are quite impressive. There is a wide range of ages and a number of couples. Everyone is warm, friendly and interesting. The experience has been quite reassuring and it provides a nice sense of safety and companionship to meet such cool people.
In addition to impressive people, the organization and logistics of the whole staging event impress me. Currently, 240 volunteers are being trained in Philadelphia (93 for South Africa in my hotel, the rest for other African countries all at a different hotel). The whole experience, though, has gone extremely smoothly - it feels as if we are in good hands. Yesterday, we turned in all the forms and got settled. In addition, we did some discussion of larger strategies for success and safety. The Peace Corps answer to both is the same: "integrating into the community." Although not always ground breaking, the information they provide has been interesting and provides a great opportunity to get a feel for the experience and the other volunteers.
And before all my staging began, I had a chance to meet up with Travis and enjoy one last dinner with family. He and I went to a very nice dinner at a restaurant called Bliss and then wandered downtown a little. It was a nice way to arrive into Philadelphia.