These last twelve days have been an absolute whirlwind. New York was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Spending time with Ian and Kelsey was comfortable and easy but still QUITE eventful. Since there aren't words enough to fully describe the trip, I'll summarize our activities in no particular order: we stayed in a hostel in Harlem, visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Frick Collection, took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, went on a boat tour with views of Manhattan and Lady Liberty, participated in an actor-guided city tour/adventure, went to the top of the Empire State Building, cheered and booed at Amateur Night at the Apollo theatre, watched (and even danced at) the Broadway show FELA, lounged at Central Park, rocked out at a Ratatat concert, and ate at some of the best restaurants I've ever been to (Italian, French, Chinese, Cuban... and Bubby's!), and visited the sights of the city (Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's, St. Paul's, WTC site, the UN, Chrysler Building, etc.) And we walked. For miles. And took the subway. A LOT.
Needless to say, after that kind of itinerary I slept for probably 20 out of the first 24 hours in Philadelphia. After my near-coma, I worked on getting my bags reorganized. Yesterday I finally ventured out of Morgan's apartment on my own (bless Morgan for her hospitality) and saw the sights of Old City Philadelphia. It was actually very calming to see all of the historic places where the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and Constitution were drafted and signed, and where people like Franklin and Washington lived. The old buildings seemed like old friends, and it felt like I was getting a nod of approval from my home country. I don't consider myself zealously patriotic, but I have respect for the philosophies of liberty and equality that informed the inception of our country. However, I do recognize that these noble values aren't always what our country's policies reflect, and my reverence doesn't take into account the collateral damage associated with the birth of our nation. But my optimistic side is hopeful that most people strive to reflect the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that guided the founding of Philadelphia (and eventually the United States) despite our human shortcomings. I think it's a good model to reflect upon as I start this chapter of my life. I'm attempting to participate in something designed to promote understanding and peace, despite my own shortcomings and inadequacies. I won't do things right the first time (or, in all likelihood, the first few times), but I'm not going to let my mistakes define my experience. I'll just keep trying to do my job correctly, rooted in love.
This morning, after a lovely evening out on the town in South Philly with Morgan and her friends from Temple, I re-packed (once again) and took a cab this morning to... STAGING!! I have been anticipating this day ever since I began applying for the Peace Corps. I finally got to meet all of the other Kenya volunteers, which was very exciting. Everyone is so warm and approachable, and we're all enthusiastic about getting to know one another. I guess that's a good approach, since we'll be each others support system for the next 27 months or so. Staging itself was a 6-hour basic orientation to the Peace Corps, complete with information on what's expected of the volunteers and what we can expect from the experience. I think we'll go into more detail on all of those points during Pre-Service Training (PST), but for now I'm more than content with the information we have. My head is still spinning after all the final phone calls to family and friends (and my credit card company), so I'm ready to just get on the plane. We'll take a bus in the morning to JFK, fly to Amsterdam in the afternoon where we'll spend about four hours, and then fly on to Nairobi. Each flight is about eight hours, which is relatively manageable. I do anticipate that landing in Nairobi will be one of the best feelings ever, though.
I'm officially done with phone communication for a while now, so if you feel like getting in touch, feel free to send something to the address on the right side of this blog. I have no idea when I'll have internet again, but I'll post again when I do. And so this is goodbye for now... I'll see you in December 2012, America!