4 Days! Holy crap is right. I am officially beginning my life as a Peace Corps Trainee in 4 days. These last few months have really flown by…it’s hard to believe I’m REALLY going this time. After my training group bound for Guinea was cancelled, I felt like the Peace Corps was this mythical organization that enjoyed making innocent U.S. citizens fill out paperwork and wait for long periods of time while the PC toyed with their futures. Flaunting invitations to exotic countries only to snatch them away weeks before the departure date. Now that I am 4 days away from meeting my fellow trainees/trainers, having heard nothing but encouraging words and paperwork advice from my PC country desk, my faith in the organization has been restored. So….what happens in 4 days, you ask? This Sunday my 40 fellow PC trainees and I congregate in Philadelphia for a brief orientation (introductions, expectations, travel safety, etc. ), followed by a morning of shots. I am very excited for the shots. I hear the doctor pinches a bit of fat on your belly and sticks a 5-inch needle into it for yellow fever. I may be just a tad more excited for the malaria prophylaxis though. Vivid nightmares? Daytime hallucinations? Sign me up. The PC better not snatch away my dreams of vivid nightmares and daytime hallucinations (is it possible to have dreams of nightmares?). After a day of orientation/shots (Monday), we take a nap, check out of the hotel at 2am on Tuesday, drive to JFK airport, and get on a flight to Johannesburg. After this 15hr flight to South Africa we catch a puddle jumper to Madagascar! Ah!!!
In preparation for these upcoming events I decided to take a trip to the Bronx Zoo with some very special people. Believe it or not, this particular zoo is currently host to a Madagascar exhibit. The exhibit is titled, “Madagascar!”. Now I feel like I can’t possibly write the word Madagascar(!) without an exclamation point following it. The lemurs were pretty freaking awesome. By staring at the sifakas for a few hours I trained myself to control my urges to touch every lemur I see. I told myself that just because they are so cute and cuddly, eating leaves off of the same branches, playfully leaping onto each other’s perches and canoodling, does not mean that they all love me, and want to sit on my shoulder picking bugs off of my scalp. I felt I made some serious progress, and am fully prepared to see lemurs in the wild.
The cockroaches were ok….but I was a little disappointed when I did not hear a single one hiss.
The collared and ring tails shared an exhibit simulating the spiny forest...
Lastly, here is some information about sending packages/letters to me (if any of you are so inclined): Sending packages. Family members and Volunteers like to send and receive care packages through the mail. Please be advised that packages can take at a minimum 1-2 months, but sometimes as long as 4-6 months. Unfortunately, sending packages can be a frustrating experience for all involved due to the high incidence of theft and heavy customs taxes. You may want to try sending inexpensive items through the mail, though there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. We do not recommend sending costly items through the mail. It is recommended that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed more heavily. Even though many Volunteers choose to get local post office boxes, you may always use the following address to send letters and/or packages to your family member:
Elizabeth Toomey , PCV
Bureau du Corps de la Paix
Poste Zoom Ankorondrano
(Keep in mind that I will only be at this location until the beginning of May, and that it will take a considerable amount of time for mail to reach me. I'll update my address once I find out where I'll eventually be placed for my service.)
Even with the departure date breathing down my neck, the fact that I’m actually leaving is still so surreal to me. The packing anxiety has become a reality, but the fact that next week I’ll be on the other side of the planet blows my mind. I wish I could take you all with me! I will do my best to keep you all posted with this blog. Feel free to comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get a hold of me. During my first week of pre-service training I will most likely purchase some type of cell phone, and will post the # once I am in possession of it (texting is relatively cheap). I may be able to squeeze one more post in before I leave the country, but if not, I'll be in contact as soon as I can!
Mandrapihaona! (see you later!)