4 hours by bus from Philadelphia to JFK, 14 hours from JFK to Johannesburg, 4 hours from Johannesburg to Kampala, 5 minutes in the bathroom to change into business casual attire, 30 minutes to clear customs, and 40 minutes to collect baggage before clearing customs to be greeted by Peace Corps staff. First impressions and dressing to Ugandan standards was on all of our minds, but traveling in business casual wasn’t much of an option. In these 5 critical minutes in addition to washing my face and brushing my teeth I was able to fully change from vans, beyond faded but extremely comfortable black jeans, a t-shirt, and hoodie required during the frozen flights, to a shined pair of black dress shoes, pressed and cuffed slacks, and a crisp short sleeve button up with the tags still requiring removal. Once our 52-person cohort was dressed, through customs, and in possession of all we could bring in two checked bags for a 2 year move to Uganda, our Peace Corps staff happily greeted us and loaded us onto a couple buses for another 3-hour journey to our training site in a neighboring city.
Upon strategically acquiring the shot gun seat of the bus and chatting with the driver, I gave a few looks back at the tired faces to see all the excitement penetrating through the sleepy, glossy eyes. First impressions were slowly starting to sink in.
Our 52-person cohort consists of 28 Agribusiness and 24 Health trainees. For some, this is the second country visited whereas for others this is over their 20th. The best part about this new family hailing from Alabama to Oregon is the communal nature. Although in the United States our various backgrounds and interests would lead us on diverging journeys, the overriding collective goal to serve in the Peace Corps for 27 months has set us on the same path and has bonded us together.