Staging Recap & Arrival in Tbilisi

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.

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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.

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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!

imagePhoto 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. 

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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.

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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!

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Staging Today!!

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From the countdown timer on my blog. I’m taking a break from re-packing (the first of many adventures in re-packing I’m sure) to blog. The one that really matters will take place tomorrow night/Sunday afternoon, as I try to pack my bags and have them fall within all weight limits. My suitcase was 47 pounds, and my large hiking backpack 43 upon coming to DC—all well within bounds, but my carry-on was definitely more than the 8kg limit that Air Lufthansa enforces, so I’ve been trying to re-shuffle it all.

I’ve really enjoyed my last few days here in DC with my sister, brother-in-law, and dad. We had a bunch of ethnic food I won’t be able to have in Georgia (potentially): Ethiopian, Chinese, French (?), Vietnamese, Mexican (well, Chipotle if that counts), etc. Yay!

I got a bit photo-lazy and decided to just upload a few photos from Instagram. If you follow me on Instagram, sorry ‘bout it.

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Finally trying Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate, albeit in DC, with my sister. That was a ‘regular’ size. Sup diabetes.image

I actually took two separate trips to the zoo: one with my sister and brother-in-law (the same day there was a shooting in front of it) and one with my dad (pictured above). I have to say that I really enjoyed the ‘free park’ atmosphere at the zoo. Much less sterile than the LA Zoo. And I got to see PANDAS!

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I was even able to meet up with Nash and Cody (click through for links to their blogs), who had also gotten here a few days early, to see a bit of the National Mall and for Thai food.

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As it’s now 1am, this afternoon a cab will pick my dad, my 100 lbs of luggage, and me up for the hotel in Arlington. After I check into the hotel, my dad and I will explore Arlington a bit—is there anything to explore..?—and then it’ll be time to say goodbye to my last tie back home. 

I’m not sure that things have quite hit me yet—that I leave the country in less than 48 hours, that I’ll be meeting the people I’m spending the next 27 months with in less than 24—but I’m sure they will soon enough. Or maybe not.

I’ll attempt to write a staging/orientation blog post most likely while we are at the airport waiting for our flight out of DC. Cheers!!

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Angela Wen of Los Angeles Selected for Peace Corps Education Assignment in Republic of Georgia ↘

I was featured on the West Coast PCV blog! So excited to begin this journey in a few days. I’ve been really enjoying my time in DC with family as well as some of the G14s! Post forthcoming.

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All Packed In!..Kind of

Today and yesterday have been pretty hectic, but I have officially gotten all my stuff in. Are the two checked bags within the dimension and weight limits? Questionable!! But I have contingency plans, and a plan to better distribute the weight once I inevitably unpack and repack it all at my sister’s place in DC.

As promised, I have uploaded my final packing list—click through for link to the page. I was going to take a picture of all my clothes and accessories laid out, but it was so haphazard that I began stuffing things into my luggage. Thank goodness for space bags, even if they are the reason I may go overweight.

Anyway, I was able to take a picture of the completed product:

Now for just a tad of sleep before my flight. I’ll miss you, Los Angeles!!

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Last Minute Woes

So, just over 24 hours until I leave Los Angeles for good. When you subtract time for sleep, that doesn’t leave much time at all.

I made my epic Target run earlier today, and my dad’s credit card is still hurting (thanks dad). I am still missing a few things that I’m going to pick up at CVS and Ralph’s tomorrow, and I just found something broken that I’m going to have to exchange at Target. Yikes. I am having ongoing problems with getting my prescriptions filled 3 months in advance. Right now it looks like I’m going to have to pay out of pocket for 2 of the months.

I may have underestimated just how much volume all the toiletries I’d like to bring will take. I’m really hoping for a miracle with these vacuumed space saver bags. I’m not really sure how I’ll get the stuff back in once I don’t have a vacuum at my disposal, but I’m going to try not to think about that right now…

In other news, I turned my language survey in when it was due. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made progress on the podcasts in a while—BUT I firmly attest that my laptop was in the Apple store for repairs for a full week. It’s just so hard to get things done without my baby! Today marked its triumphant return. 

Anyway, dear followers, you can look forward to an extremely comprehensive packing list I’ll have compiled before Sunday (I mean…I hope). It’s been sitting in my Drafts getting edited and re-edited so I’m excited to complete it. 

Onwards and upwards!

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The Peace Corps was the most democratic experience I have had of my country and the people who inhabit it. We crossed economic class, education level, age; we were an intensive kind of motley crew. We all had that feeling of, What are we doing here? I tried to have thoughtful conversations, tried to be a good guest and do what I was supposed to do as a presence. For me it was liberating to not be so aggressively climbing. I learned how to be alone. But it is true: the people who went with the best of intentions about helping the world were the ones who quit in the first six months. They didn’t make it because there was nothing to sustain that.

There were moments, yes, that were rude awakenings to what being American is. However liberal our sensibilities to our politics we seem maybe not to learn. I think maybe when you are Peace Corps or a teacher or writer, you continue to see yourself as an exception, and suddenly you realize others aren’t seeing that exception.
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10 things you might not know about Georgia ↘

Courtesy of the BBC, and my fellow G14 Carmen (blog link here). 

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When your departure date sneaks up on you out of nowhere

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I head out for DC on Sunday. Today is Wednesday. What!?

(Source: whatshouldbetchescallme)

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Every day, Americans carry forward the tradition of service embedded in our character as a people.

— President Barack Obama (via peacecorps)

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Just got an email from our country desk officer, Bina, with this “Bridge to PST” attached to it! It’s getting more and more real and I keep spending more and more money on things to pack.
Anyway, here are some highlights I thought was interesting from the attachment. They may not be interesting to you, but..ah well. 
We’re arriving in Georgia at ~3am April 29 (coincidentally also my birthday!)…and it’s likely that local media/TV will be there. What?? So we should look nice. Will probably have to change during our layover in Munich, because god knows I don’t want to spend a 24 hour overseas trip in business casual.
Georgia is 8 hours ahead of EDT, so 11 hours ahead of PST (my home time zone). Whoah.
We’ll be having orientation in a hotel not far from Tbilisi (the capitol) from April 29-May 3 focusing on the basics.
After lunch on Saturday, May 3, we depart for our “PST hub site,” Khashuri, and meet our PST host families! Khashuri is a small town right in the center of Georgia.
Many vaccinations are in my imminent future.
We’ll receive our Peace Corps cell phones with 5 lari in them, enough to make a ~5 minute phone call to the US.
Internet: slow but available at our initial hotel, intermittent and limited during PST. 
In Khashuri, we’ll be living in clusters of 5-6 people in small villages and towns surrounding Khashuri proper.
PST daily schedule: language training in the morning -> lunch break -> technical training. This will run Monday-Saturday, and language classes will be 5-6 days a week.
And finally, a general outline of what the whole of PST will look like:
Initial orientation: initial information, cross-cultural and language training, cluster group announcements
Weeks 1-2: Language and technical training. Every two weeks everyone will meet at the hub (Khashuri)—I’m assuming this will last for the duration of PST.
Weeks 3-6: In addition to the above, as an English Education (EE) teacher I’ll be observing local school sessions and team teaching with local English teachers. Self-assessments and staff assessments of skills and knowledge gained. Site assignments (!!!) made and we’ll information on where we’ll be living for the next two years. (Side note: can’t wait to finally be able to tell everyone where I’ll actually be living)
Weeks 7-11: Meet supervisors from our sites at a conference. Supervisors will bring us to our assigned sites to meet our future colleagues and host families. Upon returning to Khashuri, there will be a final qualification interview, a final language interview (eep), and a confirmation of commitment. Formal swearing-in ceremony on July 18! Then officially travel to assigned sites.
Suffice it to say that I’m stoked!! I’m also lagging a bit on my Georgian language podcasts, but I’m determined to have made some progress on them before the questionnaire is due within the week.
Edit to add: also, there are only 11 days until I leave for DC!! I’m torn between amongst nervous and excited and anxious (that I haven’t bought/packed enough) and preemptively nostalgic if that even makes sense. 

Just got an email from our country desk officer, Bina, with this “Bridge to PST” attached to it! It’s getting more and more real and I keep spending more and more money on things to pack.

Anyway, here are some highlights I thought was interesting from the attachment. They may not be interesting to you, but..ah well. 

  • We’re arriving in Georgia at ~3am April 29 (coincidentally also my birthday!)…and it’s likely that local media/TV will be there. What?? So we should look nice. Will probably have to change during our layover in Munich, because god knows I don’t want to spend a 24 hour overseas trip in business casual.
  • Georgia is 8 hours ahead of EDT, so 11 hours ahead of PST (my home time zone). Whoah.
  • We’ll be having orientation in a hotel not far from Tbilisi (the capitol) from April 29-May 3 focusing on the basics.
  • After lunch on Saturday, May 3, we depart for our “PST hub site,” Khashuri, and meet our PST host families! Khashuri is a small town right in the center of Georgia.
  • Many vaccinations are in my imminent future.
  • We’ll receive our Peace Corps cell phones with 5 lari in them, enough to make a ~5 minute phone call to the US.
  • Internet: slow but available at our initial hotel, intermittent and limited during PST. 
  • In Khashuri, we’ll be living in clusters of 5-6 people in small villages and towns surrounding Khashuri proper.
  • PST daily schedule: language training in the morning -> lunch break -> technical training. This will run Monday-Saturday, and language classes will be 5-6 days a week.

And finally, a general outline of what the whole of PST will look like:

  • Initial orientation: initial information, cross-cultural and language training, cluster group announcements
  • Weeks 1-2: Language and technical training. Every two weeks everyone will meet at the hub (Khashuri)—I’m assuming this will last for the duration of PST.
  • Weeks 3-6: In addition to the above, as an English Education (EE) teacher I’ll be observing local school sessions and team teaching with local English teachers. Self-assessments and staff assessments of skills and knowledge gained. Site assignments (!!!) made and we’ll information on where we’ll be living for the next two years. (Side note: can’t wait to finally be able to tell everyone where I’ll actually be living)
  • Weeks 7-11: Meet supervisors from our sites at a conference. Supervisors will bring us to our assigned sites to meet our future colleagues and host families. Upon returning to Khashuri, there will be a final qualification interview, a final language interview (eep), and a confirmation of commitment. Formal swearing-in ceremony on July 18! Then officially travel to assigned sites.

Suffice it to say that I’m stoked!! I’m also lagging a bit on my Georgian language podcasts, but I’m determined to have made some progress on them before the questionnaire is due within the week.

Edit to add: also, there are only 11 days until I leave for DC!! I’m torn between amongst nervous and excited and anxious (that I haven’t bought/packed enough) and preemptively nostalgic if that even makes sense. 

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