Okay, I'm going to apologize in advance... this entry doesn't have pictures, and I tried to cram a lot into one entry. Bare with me!
So, briefly, here's what's happened since Sunday night...
Monday- My Mom, Taylor and I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Bread & Chocolate in Chevy Chase, where I gorged myself with hot chocolate, latkes and chocolate fondue that I split with Taylor. Then we went back to the hotel and I said my last goodbyes to Mama and Taylor.
After that, I registered for Staging (orientation) and began. The first thing we had to do was turn in a ton of paperwork, and luckily I was one of the first people in line, so I ended up sitting at one of the tables in the conference room just chatting with the other PC kids for roughly 2 hours. It was a great chance to meet the other people that are going through the same thing I am. It sounds fake to say that everyone was really nice, but for the most part.. everyone was really nice. After hours of orientation, we all headed out to Georgetown for a farewell America dinner and beer.
Tuesday- Woke up quite early and took my last, blissful American shower. Checked out of the hotel, and all of us (48 trainees in total) boarded two buses and headed to a clinic to get our yellow fever vaccines. Yayyy! That took forever and then we got back on the bus and went to Dulles.
I was concerned about checking my bags and security at the airport, not just for me but also because I was traveling with a group of 48, and it seemed like something had to go wrong. But, miraculously, we were all fine. The flight was rather uneventful. I watched "Hereafter" with Matt Damon and a documentary about Annie Liebovitz. I tried to sleep but I was in one of the center seats in the middle 4-seat row, so I didn't have much luck.
Wednesday- We touched down in Dakar this morning a little before 6am. We took South African Airways and it was a lovely flight. I'd reccommend South African to anyone who had to make the DC-to-Dakar trip. We had our own tvs, and got whatever drinks we wanted, so all 48 of us were happy. Anyway, we landed in Dakar and we met by our Program Director, Chris. He and some of the other staff helped us pile into two vans for the drive to Thies.
One again, I'd like to reitify that there are 48 of us (so that's 50 when you add 2 drivers) and we went in 2 vans. Welcome to Africa. (Sidenote to my parents or any other concerned adults- everyone had a seatbelt, and there were in fact enough seats for everyone.. just very tight quarters)
The drive to Thies was very interesting. I thought that I'd be able to see the beautiful Dakar that I keep hearing about and seeing in photos, but we definitely took another route. Throughout our ride I kept seeing things that were a lot closer to Slumdog Millionaire than the extravagence that Dakar is synomonous with. But it was really cool. There were horses, cows, goats and dogs kind of all over the place. People crossing the highway wherever and whenever the felt like it. Men hanging out of the back of colorful moving buses and yelling at the people on the street. In the beginning, it looked a lot like desert. Very dry, arid, dusty. Then slowly we began to see more vegitation, and then a lot of vegitation. All in all, the drive was quite interesting.
When we pulled into our training center in Thies, all of the people in the area were clapping and cheering. The buses pulled in and a group of people were playing drums and singing the Shakira "Waka Waka Africa" song, except they substituted Senegal for Africa. It was really cool, and an awesome way to get our first look of the training center.
*A quick note on the weather before I continue- as I said, we landed before 6am and the sun wasn't up yet. It wouldn't really classify it was cold, but it was pretty chilly with the wind. We were all kind of taken aback by that. But since the sun rose, it's been beautiful! Strong sunshine (we're definitely all going to get color fast), and a nice breeze so you're not too hot. So not the African sun I was expecting, but maybe it's just this time of year*
So anyway, after our welcome we were given breakfast, which was greatly appreciated. We had baguettes with an amazing natural peanut butter and jam. All of us were starving and exhausted after the flight, so this was much appreciated. Then we had "down time," and we all tried to organize our stuff a little.
Lunch was a really cool experience. We ate in small groups of 4-5, on the floor, out of a huge communal bowl. It was awesome. The meal was some meat (the consensus was maybe goat?) with spicy rice and veggies. It was realllllly good. And, all of my friends will be shocked to find out, that while I'm here I plan on going with the flow... so I DID eat whatever meat was in the bowl. I know, shocking. Then we had oranges, which were fresh and delicious.
After lunch we had some meetings about our medical meetings (where we get all of our other shots), French exam and technical tests that we'll be taking over these next few days. And THEN, the best part so far.. we had an outrageous African dance party with all the works. Some men were playing the drums, other men were showing us the moves, and the women laughed at us. It was so much fun and all of us looked like total idiots. This dance party lasted for quite a while (maybe an hour) and I feel like we all worked off the baguettes and rice we had today.
So, now we're all just trying to stay awake long enough to eat dinner and pass out. So far, I love it. But it is the first day so who knows what's in store. I'll put up pictures next time!