NYC/Why Rolling Duffels Should Be Banned in all 50 States and Guam

I'm at orientation camp now... I was literally the last one there, and so I am stuck with the XXL bright yellow AFS shirt that I am forced to wear all of tomorrow. I found my group (late, of course) - Czech Republic (3), Hungary (4 or 5 maybe?), and Latvia. The other American in Latvia will be Jordan - he's from Poway, CA (I still can't pronounce it, it's near San Diego) and will be living 3 km outside of Riga. 

None of those going to Hungary actually selected Hungary as their first choice - they all applied late, and Hungary was pretty much the only place left. I kind of felt bad for Hungary. It was my third choice country... I don't know what that has to do with anything... Anyway, we did cheesy orientation games like Fellow-AFSer-Bingo (I think my name satisfied almost half of the categories...) and then we did a Jeopardy-like-thing with our group. The best part? For the first time, I wasn't the only one with the answers. Then we had dinner, a basic salad-rice-potatoes-chicken ensemble, fifteen minutes of down time, which was considerably shortened given that the elevator takes about four minutes to arrive, and then country-specific Q&A/info sessions. Russia had too many to count. Finland had twelve. Latvia and Iceland had two each. 

We met with Marilyn, who went to Latvia about 10 years ago, in the restaurant/bar of the DoubleTree. Classy, no? She went to a tiny village on the Estonian border - Valmiera was the nearest city - and apparently everyone considered staring normal. She did a wonderful demonstration of a placid Latvian staring face.

Then we were freed; I met my roommate for the first time (she's going to Finland - her dad is Finnish and she's been going to Concordia in the summer), Jordan came over and borrowed my uke (he has expressed interest in picking up the ukulele in addition to the bass, and has quite an interesting improv style of playing the uke like... well, a bass), I took a shower, I arranged my clothes for tomorrow and ultimately decided to wear the same jeans over again because the only other non-Space Bagged pair is brown, and I refuse to travel in a yellow and brown ensemble. And then I went down to Jordan's room and hung out with him and his roommate, an American from Guam who is going to Iceland. His grandparents were doing medical research there and so his father was raised in Iceland and went to work on farms in the summer (which is apparently what Icelandic youth do), and now he's been going there in the summers as well. We saw some awesome pictures from an Icelandic farm (though I could have done without the dead duck pile) and of his life in Guam. I have never met a Guamite before. Guamanian? Spellcheck is telling me Guamanian is correct. And it turns out that the Joseph Smith song from South Park's Mormon episode was extremely accurate in its portrayal of the religion. How do I know? Because a real life Mormon (aka Jordan) said so. We also found out that Latin American Catholics are the easiest to convert.

So, that was my day. I excluded the miserable travel details because I would rather not remember them. Us Latvians don't have a printed schedule because it's only Jordan and I (even the Icelanders have a schedule!) but I know that we have "safety training" at nine after breakfast and at noon we get on the shuttle and drive to Newark with the Finns and probably some others, and our flight to Copenhagen leaves at five. The Finns will also be with us to Copenhagen, but I have no idea about the layover. 8 hours... goodness.

By the way... overweight baggage is not a hassle because of the baggage fee. It's a hassle because of just how painful it is to carry. The rolling duffle I have has no handle,  just an awkward strap, so it bumps into my legs and twists my arm and now I have three new bruises on my shins and I think I sprained my good wrist. Other than that, life is good. 

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