The anticipation, the frantic planning, the checking and double checking to make sure that I have everything that I will probably find out I don't need, but right now feels essential: it's all coming to an end. Well, maybe the anticipation isn't ending, and I'm pretty sure “frantic” won't be over anytime soon. But I'm stuck with what I packed, all 67 pounds of it, so at least I can check one thing off my list. I've arrived in DC and survived the first (and only) day of pre-service staging before climbing onto a plane tomorrow and heading off to Kazakhstan. I've met a small portion of the 68 people that will be going to Kazakhstan with me. I've sat through multiple hours of information and discussion about the Peace Corps' mission, safety, and the logistics of getting 68 people onto one plane, and then off of it and onto another, all without losing anyone along the way. But at least it's all been in English.
We spent a good amount of time at staging talking about people's “anxieties and anticipations.” Speaking Russian seems to be high on the list of worries. So is eating horse. And, of course, the weather. How will we survive somewhere where it's over 40 Celsius in the summer and 40 below in the winter? I'm not as worried about that, however, as I am about fitting into my village, making friends, developing deep relationships with those that I'll be living with the next two years. I'll have to wait a little longer to find out the answer to that question, though, because I'll be doing pre-service training for the next 10 ½ weeks. Our big group will be split into six or so smaller ones and we'll be sent to different villages around the Almaty area. There we'll spend the next two months learning Russian, how to teach English, and how to fit in to the local culture. We'll be living with host families during that time, too, and I'm really looking forward to meeting mine.
The staging event feels like this strange netherworld between the America we're leaving behind, and the foreign world we're entering. We're standing on the banks of the river Styx, waiting for Charon the Boatman to come pick us up. (Ok, maybe not the best metaphor; I don't feel like Kazakhstan is going to be Hades or anything, though probably certain points will feel like it.) And Charon is taking a long time to come back across after dropping off his last passengers, so we're waiting here, awkwardly crossing and uncrossing our arms and trying to make light conversation, not willing to go back but unable to go forward. So tonight, I'm sitting in my hotel room, writing this and trying to keep the butterflies at bay. Despite then nervous flutters, though, I'm so excited to finally be off!