Please note that the contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.
Fifty-eight volunteers gathered in Washington, D.C.. Most of us were fresh out of college or nearly so. Some were much older. It was a bit strange to be in the older half, but I am certainly not the oldest.
Orientation, as we learned, was longer than normal, effectively a day and a half. This is because Georgia is one of the pilot programs for the Let Girls Learn initiative. Thus our training including several seminars on gender issues as well as an overview of the initiative itself. This is in addition to the usual team building exercises and safety rundowns. It was still something of a whirlwind, and we'll see just how much sunk in over the coming months where our training will reinforce those lessons and crash us through the Georgian language.
A special thanks to Megan and Emily of the Peace Corps for organizing staging. There were several other Peace Corps staff present, but, I must apologize, I do not remember all your names.
Speaking of names, I have to admit, even after all that time I can only name maaaaaaybe half my new family; though, by the time of this writing they all sure know mine O_o.
The adventure truly began as we shipped out. We were assigned groups for organization, and each group had to choose a leader, except mine. It turns out that since my last name was alphabetically first out of all 58, my name was the one used for the airline reservation for all of us. So I was my group's leader by default. The group leaders turned out to be Bronwen, Kyle, Brandon, David, Alex, Rachel, and P.K (I now know their names!). Oh, and me.
Of the group leaders, four of us got to choose additional responsibilities, well, three of us did. David volunteered to make sure everything was good on the hotel end as we checked out. Alex made sure we got everything on and off the buses. Rachel took custody of all our passports to hand them out once we got to the airport and were ready to check in. Me? I was in charge of getting us checked in and all the luggage taken care of because of my last name. Turns out that role became more of a defacto guy in charge.
A few issues came up. Turns out there was a hard limit of 70lbs on baggage (we only knew about the 50lbs soft limit that incurred a fee) and we had to shuffle some stuff to get everyone checked through. I also wound up smuggling someone's sleeping bag though security for them as my "personal item". Oh, and we all had to list our contact information if the plane got destroyed with all of us on it, which got a range of reactions, but they weren't clear about communicating that (or even handing out the forms) at first. Yes, we got everyone taken care of. Overall, most of the job was cat herding, and I am quite glad that the other seven group leaders worked with me so easily.
By the end of it, and end in this case is the 8 hour lay over in Munich, a couple were tired of me organizing / directing, but several gave compliments for getting them through this. It was a bit weird, but as I told one, "we're all family now, and family looks out for one another."
Addendum: The plane ride was super cramped. I boarded towards the end to make sure the other 57 got on and was stuck in the middle of the middle. It was uncomfortable enough that when the stewardess was walking through offering wine, I said yes (the white was pretty good) and then how much. Beaming with pride she declared, "Nothing. This is Lufthansa."