Note: This is the first of my catch-up posts for the month that I haven’t been updating the blog with my experiences. I wrote most of these a while ago but am just now able to post them and the accompanying photos.
I headed off to San Francisco the day before Staging so that I could see some of the sites. A group of 4 of us early arrivals shared a hotel room at Hotel Bijou. We got some lunch near the hotel then walked over to the pier where the ferry would take us to Alcatraz. This sounded like a great idea at first, but I guess I never realized just how hilly San Francisco is! I don’t even know how the cars can get up some of those hills!
Anyway, the Alcatraz tour was a lot of fun and very interesting. We even ran into some other Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) while waiting to get on the ferry. And although I didn’t have time to go to the Golden Gate Bridge, we were able to see it from the ferry.
Totally counts, right?
And after Alcatraz, we went to Pier 39 to see the sea lions! Yay!
And finally, we had dinner at Bubba Gump. Overall, a very nice day!
The next day was Staging. But first, a couple of us tried to navigate the public transportation system to get to a coffee shop that was highly recommended. We finally got on the correct MUNI train (which is different from a BART train as we found out) and got our yummy breakfast. Staging was at the swanky Parc 55 hotel, which is conveniently right across the street from Hotel Bijou, so we didn’t have to drag all of our luggage too far. Staging was basically a 5-hour orientation on general Peace Corps stuff. Nothing too exciting. And with 91 of us Mongolia PCTs, it was (and still is) impossible to learn everyone’s names.
When the Peace Corps says you won’t get your staging information until one month before staging, they literally mean one month. Our group’s staging is May 29th, but we weren’t given any information about where staging would be until–sure enough–yesterday, April 29th. That email just made this whole thing seem really real!
We got information about our long flight to Mongolia (with a layover in Seoul!), which leaves in the wee hours of the morning on May 30th. And we found out our staging city: San Francisco! Yay! We’d already been told by some of the volunteers currently in country that staging for Mongolia trainees is usually in either San Francisco or Washington, D.C., and I was really hoping we would get SF! I’ve never been to either city, and I’m sure D.C. has some stuff that would be nice to see, but honestly, if I could only visit one of those two cities at some point in my life, I’d much rather it be SF.
Insert obligatory Golden Gate Bridge photo
Obviously all of us M25s are scattered around the U.S., and luckily the Peace Corps pays for our flights from wherever we live to the staging city. We just call up the Peace Corps’ travel agency and they book us on a flight for whatever date and time we want. But because I don’t feel like getting to the Atlanta airport at 3am to fly across the whole country to make it to SF in time for 12pm registration for staging (but mostly because I want time to explore the city!), I decided to fly in the day before staging. The only bad thing is, we have to pay for our hotel stay for any extra nights, but they do give us a nice discount!
Anyway, a bunch of us are getting to SF a day early to do as much touristy stuff as we can cram into our short time there. Some of us have already booked tickets for a tour of Alcatraz! And although I’m super excited about visiting California for the first time, all of this also means that I’m into my final month here before I’m off to Mongolia!