First day as a Peace Corps Trainee in country

Note to readers: This is a review of my personal journal from my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer more than a decade ago. I have done my best not to edit or censor what I wrote then. Time moves on, I learn things, and I no longer feel the same. Part of the joy of reading old journals is seeing a story arc where I’ve learned new things.

Hotel Naco
18 September 2001
I woke up at 5:30AM. I got up, showered, and put on overalls. As my roommate was asleep, I walked into the hall to stretch.

First, I put my right leg up on the banister. I leaned forward and stretched for twenty seconds, which I measured by counting my outbreaths. I then did the same for my other leg.

Having stretched, I went back into the room and set my alarm for 6:40A. I then sat down on my black meditation cushion for forty minutes doing zazen. When I arose, I woke my roommate and proceeded to put on dress clothes. I was a bit put out that the dress clothes were wrinkled.

I wandered down to the breakfast area. I thought that the meeting I was supposed to attend started at 7Am, but actually, it was for 7:30. I asked the front desk when the restaurant would be open, as that’s where I understood the meeting would happen, but the front desk merely insisted, at 7:02, that the restaurant would open “at 7:00 on the dot.” At 7:03, the restaurant was still closed, so I went back up to my room where my roommate provided me with better information.

I proceeded to pack my bags. Since by now, I’m tired of all this packing and repacking, and since I’m no longer constrained by the checked-baggage allowance of the airlines, I packed sloppily, putting the excess in a fourth pack.

I went downstairs again and the restaurant was open. The other people from my group were patiently waiting outside another room, a banquet room, and I waited there, also. When the room was opened, everyone sat down at the tables. Soon, two of the hotel staff were serving a buffet line of hungry people eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, and fruit. The only noticeable things was that there wasn’t a lot of food, and the bread was a sorry use of leavening and flour.

Thus began my first day as a Peace Corps Trainee inside the Dominican Republic. Originally, we were to be on an airplane on 11 September out of Miami. However, when we were sitting at the gate at the airport that Tuesday, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center.

I was just sitting there, and someone walked by, saying “An airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center. ” I said “Sounds like a waste of an expensive plane.”

The Peace Corps group I was in ended up getting stuck in a posh Miami hotel for a full week. We tried to leave three times before we succeeded Monday. Each time, the flights were canceled.

Finally, last night, I saw Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic, and ended up at the hotel Naco. After a breakfast with shitty bread and the very hot day at the training center that followed, I was sent home with this guy Papito. Now I have a nice room in a well-appointed, if poor, house in the suburbs of Santo Domingo.

You can see the journal entries as I post them here. The next entry in this series is We watch you lonely and loquacious people while you eat!