The day I went to the San Francisco airport to head to Philadelphia began like any other day for a member of the Schatz household who is moving to a foreign country begins…with teary goodbyes and excessive luggage. My flight was scheduled early out of SFO to Philly, and like the diligent, responsible human being I am, I arrived early and prepared. I would be moving to Ghana for 2 years, a country I knew little about beyond the meager research I had done before going, and from what I could tell, Ghana was poorer than the United States, and had less available hand sanitizers. I knew I couldn’t bring the United States with me to Ghana, but gosh darn, I was going to try. And try I did. With the help of my overzealous, caring parents, I packed much; much much. Clothes, books (lots of books), electronic accessories, survival gear, and hand sanitizer. Equipped with 2 monstrous bags, a mid-size travel bag, and a backpack, I trundled into the airport and went smoothly (if bulkily) through check in and security arriving at the gate with little stress, except for the overwhelming sensation of complete change and teary goodbyes, early mornings, and vast unknowns.
Little did I know, but the already tiring, draining trip to the gate would be the least of my worries that day. First, my flight was delayed, then delayed more, then delayed yet again, then cancelled. Because of the repeated delays, almost all of the other flights to Philly that day had already left or were fully booked. I grabbed my checked in luggage and began running (sprinting) around (ALL bags in tote) the airport and waiting in ridiculously long line after ridiculously long line trying desperately to get to Philiadelphia so that I could actually go to Ghana. Fortunately for myself and for the two other PCVs I met in SFO, Richard and Chelsea, we somehow managed to get on a flight and arrived late, late in the night in Philadelphia where we had already missed some of Orientation and were forced to tip-toe into our respective rooms without unduly disturbing our snoring roommates. Despite my skill at carrying excessive luggage, David heard me come in and woke up. It was 4:30 A.M. when I went to bed.
I arose at 6:30 to begin Orientation began. I could quickly see that the fuss over arriving late to Orientation lacked reason…Orientation was boring. I spent a lot of time, sitting in rooms, waiting in lines, and trying (futilely) to get to know the other 71 volunteers who would be shipping over with me to Ghana. The setting was not conducive to conversations of any depth, and we were really just being shepherded through administrative necessity after administrative necessity—the Peace Corps trying to do what they had to make sure we all went to Ghana legally. Orientation also was short. We spent two days in Philadelphia before driving up to New York and JFK airport, from which we would ultimately fly to Ghana. The highlights of Orientation undoubtedly were the overpriced Philly Cheesteak I consumed (my last non-kosher meal—more on this later), and the night we all went to Karaoke for Kevin with the superb mustache’s birthday. I sang Crocodile Rock. I am a ham.
When we all went to JFK on busses, it became very clear to me just how much I had over-packed. The roommate whom I had disturbed, David, had brought little more than a hiking backpack with him. I, with my 4 bags, 3 of them rolling, was the Zsa Zsa Gabor of Peace Corps. Channeling Zsa Zsa, and all the socialites that came before me, I strutted my way through JFK and into Ghana.