Invite Aftermath

As I said in the last post, there is a lot to say at this point.

We’ll start with the tasks I had to complete upon receiving the invite.

The first thing I had to do was accept the invite. They give you 10 days to accept. However, since my invitation basically came 5 weeks ahead of my departure, they requested I expedite my acceptance. Haha, no problem guys.

The next task was to send in my passport and visa applications IMMEDIATELY. They couldn’t stress immediately enough. Apparently it takes up to 6 weeks to process passport applications. My departure date is May 26th, so you do the math. There is definitely a chance it won’t get done in time. To complete the passport you have to have 2×2″ pictures, so I had to go to Walgreen’s to partake in a little extortion. Unfortunately, I was the extortee, paying $17 for the 4 little photos. I sent my passport application in, which included my current passport. You have to get No-Fee Official Use passport, so your regular one is not sufficient. The visa form was some homemade looking form with Armenian and a bit of English. I accidentally wrote my name in the wrong order, but I just left it because crossing things out on the form can void it in certain countries. So I am crossing my fingers the passport and visa both get done in time and are accurate enough to fly.

What now? Okay, now you need to update your resume and do an aspiration statement within 10 days too. That took a few hours. It was very collegey to find myself writing a reflection paper on a Sunday afternoon again.

At this point I had received an email about staging, as I was 4 weeks from departure. I needed to call SATO Travel immediately to book my flight to staging in Washington D.C. on the 26th. On my 7th or 8th attempt of SATO travel, I finally got a real person and booked the flight. The staging starts at noon on the 26th in D.C. My flight leaves STL at 6 a.m, connects in Chicago at 8, and arrives in D.C. at 11. That will be a nice stressful way to start my biggest travel adventure ever 🙂 You can always sleep on the plane though, right?

After that, I got an email from my Country Desk guy, who coordinates the Caucasus region. I completed a trainee form which asked about learning styles, expectations, and some host-family related questions. I was disappointed to read that many of the Armenians they may place you with are smokers. No offense to any smokers reading this site, but I hate cigarette smoke. I’m really hoping I don’t have to live in a haze for 2 years.

There was an email list of current volunteers in the Country Desk guy’s email. I sent emails to the business volunteers yesterday and am starting to hear back, which is very helpful and exciting. From these responses I am building my packing list, which I will tackle next week.

Somewhere in there I also got an H1N1 vaccine, which you have to get before staging. I’ve also been filling in any other free time with reading all the booklets they sent. I am not yet through the volunteer handbook, but have read everything else.

Yesterday I started using the language training materials they provide, which is pretty exciting. My first reaction to hearing Armenian is that it kind of sounds like a fusion of German, French, and Russian. It was also less intimidating to hear it than seeing it in written form. When you hear it you think, “I might be able to learn that.” When you see it you think, “WTF?!”

There has been a lot of other stuff going on in the same time period…having my apartment constantly being shown, quitting work, saying goodbyes, getting 2 pairs of glasses, and other events.

Quite a bit remains unsaid, but at least I got all the activity documented. Next I’ll write about the other thoughts and experiences of this period of swift transition.

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