I hope everyone is doing well. I just wanted to recap a bit my staging experience up in Washington, D.C. and then my first couple days here near Panama City.
On Sunday I woke up early and said goodbye to my parents very early in the morning and flew down to Orlando with Sarah. After waiting for some late luggage to arrive, we got to take some engagement pictures by the beach and with the animals at the barn. We had a very nice family get together with her family and friends Sunday night and then got to spend some time together on Monday before I left Tuesday morning for Washington, D.C. for staging.
Staging is a one day event where you turn in all your medical forms, receive your passport, get to know all the other Panama volunteers, and learn more about who the Peace Corps is, what their mission is, and how the volunteers fit into that mission. I choose my last meal to be an all-you-can-eat salad and meat restaurant downtown--delicious!
There are about 36 volunteers in our group, mostly from environmental health and business backgrounds. We have two married couples in our group, a few older adults, but the vast majority are students who just graduated from college.
Wednesday morning we left Washington, D.C. for Miami and then on to Panama City. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Marcus, a five year-old who loved to look outside at all the big planes and then look down as we took off to see all the houses getting smaller as we flew higher. Two Peace Corps volunteers who were sitting behind me commented on how we both had the same childish wonder as we were looking down at the buildings and cars below. Sadly they didn't serve any food on the flight, so I had to wait until we arrived at our lodging before we had dinner. I was quite hungry!
We are currently lodging at the City of Knowledge in Panama City, an old army base that is now the home of many NGOs and university offices. We will be here through Sunday as we learn more about the Peace Corps, take some initial spanish language tests, and get all of our health and banking needs in order. We have a tv, wireless internet, and air conditioning, but that will be about to change as we head to our training site on Sunday. Last night we had a bit of free time so we played our first game of Settlers of Catan. I also got to talk to Sarah for a bit as she prepares to start her last year of school.
The food has been very good so far. They serve everything buffet style, which means that I can go back for seconds! Breakfasts have been pancakes, hashbrowns, cooked banana, and juice. The other meals consist of rice, beans, cooked banana, and some type of meat. They say this will be the best food we'll get in quite a while!
I also learned that a few of the volunteers have played some ultimate frisbee in the past. I'm hoping to get a game started at some point when we have free time. There are also a couple guys who are wanting to get a bible study started, so I look forward to meeting together with them.
On Sunday we will head about an hour outside of Panama City, where we will spend ten weeks of health, culture, language, and technical training. We will spend our evenings and nights with a host family, where we have the opportunity to learn more of the language and get to know the people better.
I hope you are all doing well and wish you a blessed weekend!