Family Update.

This was an update email we received on Friday once Jessica arrived safely in Niger.

—– Original Message —–
From: AF/Niger
To: AF/Niger
Sent: Friday, July 09, 2010 8:33 AM
Subject: Arrived Safely

All 33 new Peace Corps Volunteer trainees arrived safe and soundly in Niamey, Niger, yesterday afternoon, after their two flights from Philadelphia. Peace Corps Niger training staff met them at the airport and transported them to our wonderful training site in Hamdallaye, about 30 minutes north of the capitol. The logistics flowed smoothly, the trainees are well, and we look forward to preparing them for their Peace Corps service in Niger. You’ll find your loved one in the attached photograph, just taken.

Thank you very much,

Valerie Staats

Country Director

Peace Corp recruits beginning their journey.

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Last update from the USA!!

I’m in Philadelphia airport, waiting to get on the plane. We’re flying to Paris, and then into the Niamey airport from there. It’s about 13 hours total, I’m glad we get a little break in between. And we’ll be in Paris! Only for about two hours, most of which will probably be spent going through security again, but STILL! PARIS! It’s very exciting. My flight leaves in about an hour, and I wanted to update with everything I’ve been doing the last day…

Staging went well – basically we met everyone in our training class, talked about what to expect, and got the yellow fever vaccine, required to go to Niger. It was super long but short at the same time…if that makes sense. Last night I went and got an authentic Philly cheesesteak, then we went to a little bar and sampled some exotic beers. It’s always fun to meet new people, and I liked downtown Philadelphia, it had a lot of history and character. Plus it’s a walking city, I would love to live somewhere like that someday.

Everyone in my training class seems interesting and is very friendly. Though there’s a lot of diversity in our class, I think that essentially we are very similar. We all have a desire to do this and jumped through the hoops required, now we’re here to share the experience. I’m really glad that during this difficult time, when I’m not really sure what’s coming and I just left my home and my family, that I have them to lean on. I’ve already had lots of conversations with them and we are sharing a lot of the same complicated emotions – like excited, scared, happy, nervous, relieved, anxious, etc.

This will be hard, the hardest thing I’ve ever done and maybe will ever do. Living in a place that is completely 100% the opposite of everything I know, leaving my family, and starting a new job will be really tough and overwhelming, but if the pamphlets are to be believed, it will be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, not to mention life-changing. I’ve never been out of the country (I think I’m the only person in my training class who’s never traveled internationally – a couple of people were shocked that Africa for two years will be my first worldly venture) and I’ve never lived “alone”, though in the Peace Corps you’re never really alone.

As a Community Development Agent in the Peace Corps/Niger, I want to really challenge myself to succeed. The trouble, then, is defining what I would call success. I have no illusions about going over there and saving the entire country and changing everyone’s lives. My hope would be to impact people on an individual level, to give them a positive representation of America and Americans, to maybe spark some ideas as to how to better their community, or provide some resources that will be helpful. I feel like it’s difficult to really know what to expect without being so naive, but I really have no idea what will happen. Yet, now that I’ve met my training class, I’m able to draw strength that we’re going to figure it out together.

This will probably be my last entry for a while – I’m going to update whenever I can, but I probably won’t have electricity (my computer doesn’t have a battery) or access to the internet very often, but I’ll update whenever I can. My sister Jamie (who I adore and love and miss very much already) might come on and post for me as well.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll continue to follow me on my adventure!!

Engage!

Done packing. Ta da.

I am very cognizant that my life as I know it is over. College and everything that came with it is gone, my job I’ve had forever is done, I’m leaving my family and it won’t be the same when I come back, and I’m going into something completely new and different than everything I’ve ever done – completely new and different than what almost everybody has ever done. When I come back everything will be different – most of all myself.

Flight leaves at 7:30am for Philadelphia.