As much as I wish I had taken photos during our time in Philly or at the airports, I didn’t. So this is going to be a long, word-filled post. If you don’t really want to hear about our staging in Philly or our flight, feel free to skip this and go to the next post, which will be published momentarily!
On May 29th, I flew from Binghamton, New York (such a small airport!!) to Philadelphia for the first stage of Peace Corps service- what is know in PC (Peace Corps) as “Staging”. Staging is essentially a 3-day orientation that includes a number of different training sessions that are designed to introduce new Peace Corps trainees to the basics of the Peace Corps, as well as go over basic safety and security information and other such things.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon or night. We had registration for an hour that evening, where we took a pre-staging online survey and got to know some of our fellow trainees. Our group of trainees/volunteers is called M31, as we are the 31st group in Moldova. There are currently 59 of us, spread between four sectors: EE (English Education), HE (Health Education), COD (Community and Organizational Development), and SED (Small Enterprise Development). My sector/program has 17 volunteers.
We then had the rest of the night free. I went to dinner with several other girls- even on the very first night, I had already made new friends.
On Monday, we had training from 9 AM to 12:30 PM. We had lunch free, so I went with a group of other trainees to a Mexican restaurant. The food was very good, and the restaurant was very cool- Day of the Dead inspired, with dark purple walls, lots of gold, and skulls. We then returned to our hotel in the Society Hill area of Philly and had training from 2:00 to 6:00. The training was long and there was a lot of sitting, but it was mostly very useful information. After training was over, we were free for the night. I went to a bar/restaurant somewhere in Philly- the food was very good and I made a few new Peace Corps friends. After, we hung out in the hotel.
Tuesday’s schedule was pretty much the same as Monday, but we got done a bit earlier in order to get our Peace Corps t-shirts and take our group photo. For dinner, I walked with a group of 10 or so other trainees to a restaurant a couple of miles away from our hotel. The restaurant, Saloon, was pretty pricey, but it was our last night in the United States, so we were all okay with that. The food was excellent, and we got the entire upstairs room to ourselves. The atmosphere was very cool as well- exposed brick wall, old wooden beams and trim- the space was clearly old and beautiful. After dinner, we all went to bed pretty early.
On Wednesday, we boarded onto buses with ALL of our luggage (which was a LOT), and headed to New York City to get our flight out of Philly. The trip to JFK took a very long time, but we made to the airport before they had even opened up the check-in lines for our flight. With 59 of us and approximately 240 bags of luggage (2 checked and 2 carry-on per person), we took up a lot of room near the check-in counter. We did have a bit of a hassle checking in. The Peace Corps allows each volunteer two free checked bags, but that fact somehow didn’t make it to the airport as it should have. It took us almost two hours to get the confusion sorted out, and then some of us were still left off the list, which took some more time to remedy. In the end though, it was all fine, and we were incredibly grateful to the volunteers (Sarah, Ingrid, and Andrea) who really stepped up to the plate and took care of things! Thankfully, getting through the security line was a breeze.
The first leg of our flight (from JFK to Munich) was about 9 hours long. We had a VERY short layover in Munich. Munich isn’t a very busy airport, so it was just the perfect amount of time to get changed into nicer clothes and get cleaned up a bit before the last leg of our flight to Chisinau, Moldova.