It is beginning

I arrived in Philadelphia today around 11:30 a.m. for my pre-service orientation. It was great! I got to know a lot of my fellow volunteers who all seem pretty open, friendly, and just plain cool. In total, there are 23 of us, with 13 serving in Community Health and Aids Prevention and the other 10 in the Small Enterprise Development program.

 Today was quite an eye-opening experience because I realized how many of them have the same fears, aspirations, and goals that I do.

After we finished orientation around 7 p.m., we went out for a group dinner at TGI Fridays, a wonderful way to get to know everyone even better. Although I was always been excited to leave, after today I am even more excited about going to Togo. I believe the volunteers are people I can trust, and develop great relationships with.

It also makes me realize how fast this year... well, the past four years have gone by. Though there were plenty of days I thought to myself is this ever going to end? I am still in a little bit of shock to know that I am finally done with school and that I will be leaving for Africa tomorrow.

However, I could not have gotten this far without so many of you! Special thanks go to everyone that has given me fabulous going away gifts for my time in Togo, including (in no particular order): Dr. Linda Bean,The Chamber Staff, Dr. Hanna Norton, Bethany Lacy, Tiffany Henry, Julia Bernard, Danette Veazey, Jenn Terrell, Cass Capen-Housely, Yousra Zerhouni, my sister Lorraine and aunt Pennie! 

As most of you know, my last few weeks were filled with so many tears. Luckily, they were happy, thankful, appreciative tears. Thank you!

Oh and if you are wondering about my packing situation, I ended up arriving with only 67 lbs. of checked luggage. I took some advice from Dr. Norton and unpacked all my bags to sort through my stuff. Then I tried to only take half of what I had. I did not reduce that much but I did lose about 25% of the items in my bags the night before I left.

Well, that is enough for today. I will post again once I get to Togo (about 1:05 p.m. "Arkansas Time"). In case you're curious, my basic itnerary is will be (in local times):

9:15 a.m. - Get Yellow Fever Shot (I'll get about 6-7 more in Togo)
12 p.m. - Check out of Hotel
3 p.m. - Shuttle to the JFK airport in New York (about a 2.5 hour drive)
11:20 p.m. - Flight Departs for Paris (7 hour flight)

1: 50 p.m. - Arive in Paris
6:05 p.m. - Arrive in Togo (6 hour flight)

Keep in mind, Togo is 5 hours ahead of CST.