On March 10th, I woke up at 4am to catch my flight out of Oregon, layover in San Francisco, then fly across the country to Miami for staging. Pictured above are some shots from my plane ride across the USA.
The last couple days of staging have been an incredible learning experience. There are so many amazing people volunteering in this group (Jamaica group 88) and staging has also been a great opportunity to get to know many of the volunteers I’ll be serving with across Jamaica the next couple years.
During staging we’ve done training to equip us with a “toolbox” of skills to enter the country with. I won’t give away the specifics of all the fun activities (since there may be some future PCVs out there reading this post right now), but we’ve participated in various silly and fun ice breakers, safety and security training, cultural exchange training, learning about Let Girls Learn, gender identity training, and some semi-structured improv theater (and a Brittany Spears cover song). We also watched an AWESOME welcome video from the Peace Corps staff and office in Jamaica that filled the room with smiles all around.
The cultural exchange training has reminded me to enter the country with an open mind, to not pass judgement on cultural activities that I see or assume people’s values through their actions, to not believe or perpetuate stereotypes (or Single Stories that I may hear) about places or people, and to never assume that I know how somebody needs help or support – but to ASK how I can best help and support them. A quote mentioned during training that really struck me was:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson
Overall Staging feels like it has set us up for success in our country of service and has helped me to reflect and renew my commitment to serving with the Peace Corps for the next 27 months.
Tomorrow morning we check out of the hotel at 4am and will be arriving in Jamaica in the afternoon. I am BEYOND excited to meet the Peace Corps in-country staff and my host family for the next few months.
Jamaica here we come!