For the second night this week, I’m running on three hours of sleep. Despite my bleary eyes, I am so excited to have reached my first Peace Crops milestone: completing the three days of Staging. Staging is the quick-and-dirty rundown of what it means to be a Peace Corps volunteer: trying to learn the names of your 47 diverse colleagues and fellow volunteers, testing your fear thresholds in the safety and security modules and repacking your bag to narrowly meet the 50 lb weight limit. In Miami, 60% of the population speaks Spanish. This has made Miami the perfect transitional city – beginning to be exposed to Spanish by ordering meals or coordinating with Uber drivers in the language provides a glimpse into the full immersion I’ll experience in Quito. I took four years of Spanish in high school, but I’m confident that I’ve forgotten it all. Regardless, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my last days in the United States than with watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean for the first time and alongside the talented, kind people who will become some of my closest friends over the upcoming months.
I’ve just boarded our flight bound for Quito, lucky enough to have found my five foot ten inch frame in an extra legroom window seat. The flight was delayed about two hours – an inconceivable wait after the eight months it’s been since we first committed to the Peace Corps application – but we’ve been cleared for departure. When we arrive in Quito, the entire Peace Corps Ecuador staff will be awaiting our arrival on the other side of customs (Hi Mr. Donald! Long time no see!). We’re anxious and excited to meet our host families in a few days, two words that describe much of our feelings towards our impending arrival in Ecuador.
With my stomach full of the best Cuban food I’ve ever tasted – thanks for the recommendation of Versailles, Matt! Since I just visited Paris, the French decor made me want to slip into my very limited French instead of my relatively limited Spanish, but in any language the food was delicious – and my heart full with words of encouragement from friends and family back home, as well as my new Peace Corps family surrounding me, I’ll turn my phone into airplane mode. Adiós!