So I didn’t end up updating when I said I would, but I was simply way too exhausted. Staging is no joke!!
We had registration on Saturday—signed some forms and got our fancy government debit card. We were actually given $120 to reimburse our travel to the hotel as well as to cover food and other needs until our arrival in Tbilisi. The broke college student in me thought it was a lot of money.
We were then able to go out for dinner (I went to a place called Big Buns I think) and had a delicious juicy burger. After heading to a corner store for breakfast incidentals and getting caught in a random rainstorm, we sampled some Georgian wines that some of my generous fellow G14s provided.
Sleep was non-existent that night as I had to wake up very early to get everything airplane-ready the next day. We were in sessions from 8am until 5pm. It was our first time in the same room with the 55 other volunteers with whom we’ll be spending the rest of our 27 months, and it didn’t disappoint. It was actually much more interactive than I expected, and thank goodness! Our trainer, Emily, and country desk officer Bina were both available and great to meet. We even had the unique opportunity—apparently it only happens once or twice a year—to meet our Country Director, Maura, in DC. She happened to be in DC for a conference and came in early to say hi, give a speech, and answer some questions for us.
We were then shipped off to Dulles by ourselves and the help of our volunteer team leaders. It seemed that everyone made it past the weight limits just fine. Then we said goodbye to the US!
After an 8 hour plane ride to Munich, we had an >8 hour layover. Peace Corps staff had told us not to leave the airport, which is really unfortunate because I would have loved to explore Munich. Ah well. We were able to entertain ourselves by the free internet, German food (bratwurst, pancakes, and beer), and of course…napping.
Above pictured: myself and Rachel bunk bedding in the airport. Photo courtesy of Alex Savelli
We finally were able to board our flight to Tbilisi, also on Air Lufthansa. Most of us made it—three in our group didn’t make the plane and will be here within a few days. Here’s to hoping we have a full group soon enough. After a ~4 hour flight, we made it to Tbilisi’s airport!
Photo courtesy of Kate Schwenk
After grabbing all our luggage, we were greeted by a screaming group of G12s and 13s! I was even able to meet a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Danny, who is also an APO alumni. It seems like a small world, but it actually isn’t that surprising that members of the largest co-ed service fraternity would end up joining the Peace Corps. Danny was super great and even brought me nail polish remover! It’s too bad that he leaves Georgia soon after we officially swear in, but I look forward to seeing him again then.
Danny and someone disheveled who’d been traveling for over a day
Some of the Peace Corps staff talked to us for a bit about what to expect, and we then loaded up into two buses on our way to a training compound in Bazaleti, about an hour north of Tbilisi.
G14s listening in at the airport! Photo courtesy of Danny Burns
Anyway, now we’re in Bazaleti and finishing up our first full day here. It also happens to be my birthday, which I’m stoked to spend with all these people. We’ll be here until Saturday afternoon, at which point we’re driving to Khashuri in central Georgia to meet our PST (pre-service training) host families. I’ll update more about this “Orientation” period then!
I’ll leave you with a sign welcoming us that the G12s/13s made and signed:
TL;DR: I feel really welcomed to Georgia and the G14s are a great, fun group of people. More to come!