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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman

Kiribati Bound

By the time Katie and I reached San Francisco, our initial feelings of loss and anxiety had transformed into a contagious sense of anticipation and joy. We spent two exhilarating days in the city for pre-departure staging, where we had the chance to connect with the other 25 volunteers embarking on the same journey to Kiribati. Together, we formed K-27, the 27th group of volunteers destined for the islands.

As our staging drew to a close, we unofficially convened as K-27 at a cozy hole-in-the-wall bar, heightening the already palpable emotions among us. Some of our fellow trainees ventured out to explore the city, while others remained until the bar closed its doors. Before returning to our hotel, I seized the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge with a few companions.

The following day, as we checked out, we received our travel cash and boarding passes from the Peace Corps staff. Each trainee was also given a piece of yarn to tie around their luggage for identification. Once our bags were tagged, we were shuttled to the airport with ample time to spare for check-in. Many of us indulged in one last taste of familiar comfort food before our departure.

Our journey began with a fourteen-hour flight from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, coinciding with the eve of my 21st birthday. However, due to crossing the international dateline mid-flight, I never actually experienced that milestone. Amidst the turbulence and tending to a fellow volunteer dealing with motion sickness, I kept a watchful eye on the flight navigation screen. As the projected clock flipped from November 5th to November 7th, I quietly wished myself a memorable "HAP," acknowledging the moment in my own way.

Upon landing in Sydney, the pilot made a special announcement, informing the passengers that our flight carried a group of twenty-seven volunteers embarking on a service journey. The heartfelt applause and well-wishes from our fellow travelers as we disembarked left a lasting impression. As I stepped off the plane, the co-pilot even took a moment to wish me a happy birthday, marking the start of a new chapter in the most unexpected of ways.

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