Greetings from Africa!

Staging started pretty crazily.  Leaving extremely early in the morning to go catch a 7am flight.  Of course that had its own issues, namely a mishap of thinking I forgot my WHO card proving my yellow fever vaccination.  Of course, it was in the last pocket I checked!

So a 90-minute flight to Philadelphia ended with meeting up with a few other RAP volunteers and a single LIFE volunteer feeling a bit left out.  I packed a suitcase, hiking backpack, backpack, and a camera bag.  No packing list just yet, but I’ll be having another post about it soon (eventually)!

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Everyone is super awesome.  Getting to know all of my future volunteers was a lot of fun, and staging wasn’t bad either!  We just discussed basic stuff at the time, from security to what we’d be doing while there.  Afterwards involved getting dinner and more getting to know each other, followed by an hour-and-a-half nap before we needed to be shipped off to New York for the flight to South Africa.

And let me tell you, a sixteen-hour flight is rough.  By the end I didn’t know what was even real, and watching the sun rise, set, and rise again really messes with your internal clock!  But after a layover in Johannesberg and a short jump to Zambia, we emerged bleary-eyed onto the tarmac and to a warm Peace Corps welcome!

 

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Will (left), Dylan (right), and I preparing to board the plane to Zambia.

The ride to the motel where we stayed started with us learning the president of Zambia was on his way to the airport.  What prompted this knowledge was a convoy of Zambians driving towards the airport.  They were yelling, honking, waving, and hanging half out of windows to show their support (that’s the kind of politics I can get behind!)

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Proud members of RAP 2016

The last few days have been a mix between rushing to get a ton of things done in just a few hours, to hours of downtime.  We’ve met some current PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers), as well as the PCVLs (Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders) for a majority of the provinces.  They’re all an amazing source of knowledge and have made me more and more excited to finally get started with community building.  I’ve also learned that Peace Corps loves their acronyms!

The first day we were given medical kits and the PC Medical Officers sufficiently scared us into thinking any cut you get that breaks the skin will get infected and cause you to die.  This was quickly followed by cutting my foot while playing ultimate frisbee and a liberal application of antibiotic cream.

I’ve also learned I’m going to be learning Bemba!  Bemba is the most-used language in the country, or at least the one taught to the most PCVs.  Unfortunately though, it doesn’t really narrow down where I’ll end up being placed! The Northwest province is out (the land of pineapples and honey) as the two languages there are Kaonde and Lunda, but most of the rest of the country is still open!

It’s been amazing here (despite the heat and humidity!), and I can’t wait to get started with training this coming Monday, and moving in with my host family tomorrow.  I may be lacking in internet so it may be a bit until my next post, but I hope you stay tuned for my next installment!

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A thunderhead approaching as we hurry to get back to the motel.

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1AM Pre-Staging Ramblings

So in roughly four hours I need to be up for a flight to Philadelphia for staging, followed by the ultimate trip to Africa.  It’s been an awesome last few weeks, and a great last few days.  On Saturday a ton of family friends got together to talk about what I was doing and reminisce.  Yesterday was the one-year anniversary with my girlfriend who’s amazing for more reasons than just putting up with my bull of leaving for the next two years.

The first thing I feel is a sense of loss and regret, stemming mostly from the shaving off of the beard I’ve maintained for the last year-and-a-half.  Secondly is a tiny bit of unease: A combination of little thoughts about heading into the unknown and whether I have too many and too few socks.  But overwhelmingly I’m ridiculously excited.  Every time I’ve ever boarded a plane I’ve come out the other end of the trip to experiences that I’ve cherished and learned from, and I know this will be the culmination of all of the learning and growing I’ve done in my life so far.

Not sure what else to say, all of my obvious jokes have been made and I’m too tired to think of any more, so I’ll leave you with this: You’re all amazing people and I’m going to miss you deeply.  Also send me candy and ramen and I’ll love you forever.

Ten Days

Peace Corps! Zambia! Fish!

I’ve never written a blog post before, figured I’d start it off with a TL;DR for those of you who don’t want to put up with my insane ramblings.

I’m Greg! I graduated from college recently with a BS in Geoscience, and before that attended a high school that focused in aquaculture (we built boats in Tech and went sailing for PE. I’m from Connecticut if you couldn’t tell.) Now I’ve been given the amazing opportunity to be a Rural Aquaculture Promotion volunteer in the Peace Corps!

So what does that mean exactly? Well, I’m going to be teaching the people in my community to farm fish. It’s an amazing resource for production that is not used as often as it could be and I’m super excited about being able to help. I’m hoping that my knowledge of hydrology combined with the teachings from high school aquaculture will be a force to be reckoned with once I get in-country.

So you’re probably thinking “Greg, I don’t care about fish or rocks! Tell me about Africa!” Well, I’ll tell you a chunk of what I’ve learned through the current volunteers who’ve been awesome enough to talk to me, a few of the resources given to me by Peace Corps, and a healthy sprinkling of Wikipedia and Google.

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Zambia is the curly country in green. It’s land area is 1.04x the size of Texas, and the capital of Lusaka is in the south-central part of the country (below the curly bit). Their main export is copper, with agriculture providing a majority of jobs (the largest agriculture company is called Zambeef and I find that hilarious). From what everyone’s told me, it’s home to some if the nicest people they’ve ever met, and I’m ridiculously excited to meet them myself.

So when exactly am I going? Well clearly someone didn’t pay attention to the post title! I’m leaving on February 8th at 7am, where I’ll take a plane to Philadelphia for a day of training and trying my best not to loudly reveal myself as a Cowboys fan. The following morning we will be taking a bus to JFK and boarding a plane to Johannesburg, South Africa followed by another plane to Lusaka, Zambia.

I’m going to try and update this blog relatively often, especially in the next few days with my gear and any other pre-service craziness I get up to (see: sitting in front of my computer ripping every CD I have in a hopeless effort to fill the 2TB hard drive I’m bringing).

See you soon, and thanks for reading!