In case you didn’t know, I arrived safely to Peru. Departure day started bright and early with a 7am check out from the hotel; with our matching Peace Corps t-shirts and mounds of luggage, we definitely overwhelmed the lobby.
When we finally arrived at Reagan Airport in DC to begin our travels, we had a chance encounter with the current director of the Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet. It was definitely a star-struck moment for me, and I think many other of the volunteers.
Finally, around 12:30pm we were off, and after hours of travel, malfunctioning video screens on our Houston-Lima flight, and a final “American” meal of pizza and Panda Express, we finally landed in Peru around 11:30pm Thursday evening (May 7th). After disembarking the plane, we found two Peace Corps Peru staff members with signs who took us through immigration via the Diplomat line (I guess they pulled a few strings) and helped us to locate our luggage. For a few of us, the elite “Grupo 60”, it seems that there was some confusion with processing our immigration papers; while we should have received a stamp for 160 days, we only were given 60. The lucky 25 or so of us that were members of Grupo 60 had to wait about 30 minutes in the baggage area while a PC staff member went to get the forms corrected.
Finally, after lots of waiting and anticipation, we were able to pass through customs and go out to meet the other volunteers. As I cross the threshold of the door to join the other volunteers, I suddenly saw a bunch of people cheering and waving signs, and I think to myself, “Oh wow, I wonder who they are so excited about?”. About half a second later, I realized they were all Peace Corps staff and volunteers who had come to welcome us to the country. I was floored; what an incredible way to be greeted in a country that will be my home for the next 2 years. I hope that I will be able to greet new trainees when I am further along in my Peace Corps experience.
Once everyone had emerged, we began our 1.5 hr bus ride to the retreat center; please note that it was already about 1am by the time we got to the busses. Needless to say, everyone was exhausted after a full day of traveling, and looking forward to a full night’s sleep. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to bed until 3:30am and retreat activities started bright and early at 8am, so a full night’s sleep wasn’t in the cards. At this point, the significance of landing in Peru and arriving at the training center hasn’t set in, but I’m sure the reality of it all will slowly begin to sink in as training begins.