Monday, July 9, 2007

From Applicant to Trainee

So, I guess I will begin at 12:30 this morning. I was deep in sleep when I heard a whole bunch of noise outside my hotel door. At first, I thought someone was trying to break in because the door was open, banging against the inside lock. But when I came back to my senses, I realized that my roommate, Brianna, had arrived! Brianna is from San Francisco and is doing Municipal Development. It turns out she played #1 on her tennis team in college, too! We stayed up a while just chatting and then finally I passed out.

The next morning, we got dressed in our most professional attire because all volunteers that came early to staging had a unique opportunity . . . to meet the first lady! Yup, I'm talking about Laura Bush! We were told that Laura was giving a talk on volunteering and wanted to recognize all the Peace Corps volunteers in D.C. getting ready to leave. So, we registered (got all our paperwork in, got our passports back, and got debit cards with spending money for the next few days) and then headed out.

There was a group of about 15 of us that got to go and all of us were so excited to meet her. However, when we got to the Hyatt (not the White House, unfortunately), we were all a little let down. It turns out that when we were told that we were going to be recognized by Laura Bush at the conference, they really meant that she was going to talk about us while we waited in the room next door. And then when we were told that after the conference we were going to get to talk with her, they really meant that we got to stand in formation for about half an hour and then Laura would come in and get a photo with us, ask a few broad questions, and then we were escorted off stage. So, after standing around for two hours just to see her for about 2 minutes, we were a little bit disappointed. . . but at least we got to ride in government official cars!

Back at our hotel, staging had begun. All the other volunteers had registered and were doing some icebreaker activities. It turns out there are three programs in which volunteers are categorized: Youth Development (the biggest group), Municipal Development, and Protected Areas Management (my group, the smallest). There are about 10 of us PAM volunteers. Most of the volunteers that I met today were from the west coast and there were some locals from Virginia or the D.C. area.

To give the stats on the volunteers: our group is about 60% women 40% men, most volunteers are between the age range of 22-26, there are five married couples, and one man over 60 years old that I met today who is also a PAM volunteer.

The agenda for today was to talk about the mission of the Peace Corps, the definition of development and success, and safety and support for when we are in-country. My favorite activity was when we openly talked about our anxieties and our aspirations. It was comforting to hear what others were afraid of and excited about because I realized that we really are all in the same boat. Even if someone has more Spanish background or volunteer experience, we all still shared the same fears. I said my biggest fear is not living up to the expectations of the program or not having the knowledge or skills to contribute as much as I would like. Other fears were similar to this, such as failure, loneliness, safety, leaving the comfort of home, and even going home early. But at the same time, a lot of our fears were also what excited us most about doing the Peace Corps such as not knowing what our experience is going to be like, breaking out of our comfort zone, or living in the unfamiliar. While we had many fears to share, they didn't even come close to outweighing our aspirations. When we talked about what we were most excited about, everyone livened up and had an immediate answer to what they looked forward to in these next two years. Their eagerness to succeed was energizing, and after today I can honestly say I have no doubts that the Peace Corps is my calling and I am prepared to face whatever challenges come my way.


Butch :o) said...

Hi Courtney. Guess I could not send you anything without registering. Glad to hear that you are enjoying your stay. I admire you for joining the peace corps...our country needs more people like you!!!! Enjoy your time and the people you meet there. Hot and humid here in the DC area...headed to Bermuda this Sunday on the cruise. Talk at you later!! Ciao!! Butch :o)

Photo Jesus said...

OHH That beautiful woman on the right is the one I love. I was so surprised to see a photo of her I actually shouted in astonishment. I hope she wasn't one of the girls complaining about their boyfriends in the next newer post :)

If you talk to her tell her, amas a Andrew. (Yes, tell her she loves me.)