Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flying Across the Atlantic

Dan and I are currently flying over the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between West Africa and New York City.  The date is September 28, and we are flying to Johannesburg, then Maputo, to begin our Peace Corps Pre-Service Training.  It’s about 2:15PM in Philadelphia, but my computer is still on California time.  Mozambique shares a time zone with Rome and is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.  We checked out of the hotel this morning at around 2:30AM, so we are by no means an active or sociable crowd.  Most trainees are sleeping.  The windows are drawn shut and the cabin lights are darkened.  Some volunteers, like Dan, are watching a movie.  From time to time, someone stands up in the aisle to stretch.  One of our new friends is on his third (free) bottle of wine.  Lunch (beef, chicken, or pasta) was about an hour ago.  We will be in Johannesburg in about 12 hours. 

Our training began in earnest yesterday at noon.  I had spent the morning frantically packing, unpacking, and weighing my suitcase, trying to even the distribution between my “keep at staging” and “send to site” bags.  It was to the point where I was taking individual leaves of scrapbooking paper out of my suitcase to whittle down the weight of the bag. I was pretty sweaty from moving the suitcase on and off the scale and was still dressed in a borrowed nightie while my clothes were in the wash.  Needless to say, I fretting.  Everyone was pretty quiet on the car ride down- Dan’s Mom (Laura) was sad, Dan was excited, and I was reviewing our packing list in a state of high anxiety.  Laura cried when she dropped us of, which made me feel terrible and confused.  It was in this state of mind that Dan and I registered for the conference.  It took everything I had not to break down in tears.

There are 53 volunteers in our training group.  We are all teachers, in some capacity, and we all have something very important in common- we are leaving our homes, our friends, and our families to try to do something bigger than ourselves.   The other volunteers are from all across the United States- one from New Orleans, two from Seattle, five from California, six from Pennsylvania, one from Florida, etc.  There is one other married couple in our group, and we have nobody over the age of 31.  

So here we are, flying 10,000 kilometers above the Atlantic Ocean.  We are traveling in a strange state of limbo.  South African Airlines has made every attempt to make this flight a pleasant one- the wine is free, the dinner comes in cute little packages, and, for the next 12 hours, we have access all the movies and television we could possibly want- but we know that we are headed for a world characterized by depravation. 

Still, we have been waiting for this for a long time.  We are ready for stiff legs and bleary eyes.  We are ready for diarrhea and nausea and vomiting.  We are ready for parasites that have to be surgically removed and for tapeworms the size of a gym-class climbing rope.    We are so prepared to suffer that we feel a little guilty enjoying this flight.

Up Next:  Arrival in Maputo

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