Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

The Peace Corps is serious about making sure volunteers are in good health before being sent off to a third world country. To prove it, in true government style, they sent a large package of forms to be filled out by my doctor, dentist and optometrist.

This week I started the process of getting poked and prodded. It's only Wednesday and so far this week I've been to the doctor twice, the lab twice and the dentist once. I still have four more appointments with the doctor, dentist, lab and optometrist.

The good news: I have a new doctor and she was fabulous and tossed in a free TB test and Tetanus booster. Normally I prefer gifts of flowers and chocolates but what the heck.

Also, met a nice guy from Colombia at the lab. He told me about a beautiful beach town called Santa Marta in Colombia. I Googled it and now have a new destination I want to visit.

Another plus was that I was able to get in to see the dentist so quickly.

The bad news: I'll be back at the dentist's office tomorrow for a few hours. Handing him almost $4,000 will likely be the most painful part of the visit. Who knew that you could outlive your crowns? I keep telling myself that it's better to get everything taken care of now, by a dentist I know, rather than by a dentist in a third world country.

Once I send all the completed paperwork to Washington, doctors and dentists there will review everything and decide if they want more information/tests. Fingers crossed that my contributions of blood and money to the local medical community are almost over.

On another front...I was notified this morning that my application is on hold for legal reasons. Made me nervous until I read the fine print, which explained that it just means that they're reviewing my file to make sure I have no legal issues, such as student loans, divorce/separation, dependents, etc. Phew. Nice to know that my file isn't buried in a dusty cabinet and that it's actively being reviewed.

If all goes well, I'll be medically, dentally and legally cleared by the time I get back from Vietnam in March. The next step, then is further review of placement options. That could mean confirmation of the September departure to the South Pacific, or placement in a different job somewhere else in the world. Who wants to visit me in a yurt?

I'm joining the Peace Corps because it's an adventure and challenge to give up control and trust that wherever the PC sends me will be exactly the right place.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rocks or Bridges?

There are rock people and there are bridge people. Bridge people take the paved road across the river. They can see the other side and the route is direct and safe. The bridge gets them where they want to go.

Rock people prefer the adventure of jumping from rock to rock, hoping they're close enough together and not too slippery. Rock people are willing to trust that there will be rocks all the way across the river, even though they aren't visible. They're willing to get wet if they miss a rock. They're willing to risk getting swept away. The payoff is the thrill of the crossing. The confidence that comes with making it across the hard way. The unexpected view. The bond formed with other rock people.

Based on their reactions to my announcement that I applied to the Peace Corps, my friends think I'm a rock person. I've always seen myself as a bridge person.

I'm joining the Peace Corps because I want to be a rock person. I have faith there are rocks in my river and while I may get soaking wet, I won't drown. If my dad was still here, he'd say I had rocks in my head. But he'd really be proud. He taught me to be a rock person.


I love George Carlin. I saw him live at the Fox in Detroit once and was sore the next day from laughing so hard. I really relate to the bit he did on "stuff". Here it is on YouTube.

Contemplating leaving the country for 27 months raises a number of issues about my stuff. Actually, most people ask what I'm going to do with my stuff before they ask why I applied to the Peace Corps. I admire people who can just sell or give away all their stuff and take off to the Peace Corps with only a backpack. My stuff may not be great, but it's all mine and I'm way too attached to it to let it go.

So to answer the question I've been asked most often - No, I'm not selling or renting out my house or car. I may have a house sitter part of the time I'm gone, but mostly it will be used as a vacation spot by friends from up north and closely watched over by neighbors and friends.

I'm joining the Peace Corps because I need a reminder that most people are very happy without a lot of stuff. And, because there might be some cool new stuff where I'm going that I can bring back for the memories.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Application Process So Far

Like a lot of other people, I woke up very early on Black Friday in 2009 (Nov. 27). I drove past the lines of cars trying to get into the Walmart and Best Buy parking lots and hit a small clothing store where I scored 2 sweaters for $10. In five minutes. A great start to the day.

Back home, I finished my Peace Corps on-line application and essays. Then, after a deep breath, I hit send. I was hopeful, but didn't really expect to get a response any time soon.

So, I was a bit surprised when I got an email from Leslie, my recruiter and new best friend in the Peace Corps, the following week.

Leslie sent me some paperwork, which I completed and returned. I also had a copy of my graduate school transcript sent to her. She didn't ask for an undergrad transcript. I assume she was concerned that since I'd gotten my BS in Educ. so many years ago, the transcript would be hieroglyphics, carved in stone. Challenging to file.

The only issue that I had to figure out was how to explain my financial situation. It seems the Peace Corps doesn't want to advertise itself as a great escape from bill collectors. Understandable. So, I had to figure out a way to demonstrate that all my financial obligations would be covered while I'm overseas. I got a couple of notarized letters, one from my property manager for my rentals and another from my financial advisor. Apparently, they did the trick, since Leslie told me the next step was an interview.

On December 28, I spent about an hour on the phone with Leslie, doing a structured interview. I was as nervous as a fourteen year old trying to get that plum job at the Dairy Queen. Leslie was friendly and casual, though, and the interview seemed to go well. I didn't expect to get a "yes or no" then, but Leslie said that my education, work and travel experience all seemed to fit what the Peace Corps was looking for.

The only downside was that there were currently no openings for the NGO/Government Development programs that I was most qualified for. She encouraged me to be patient and said she'd be in touch as soon as something opened up, probably in February or March.

What a surprise when she called on January 8, 2010 to see if I was interested in some openings that just came through. Because I have an Elementary Ed. degree and taught school for a few years I qualified for the Primary Education/Teach Training program. After some discussion and me secretly tossing a coin as we talked, I agreed to be nominated to the program in the Pacific Islands.

Leslie did tell me that during the placement process everything could change and I might be reassigned to a different part of the world and possibly a different kind of work. That's fine with me. I figure if the choice is out of my hands, on a bad day in "insert final destination here", I can blame a nameless person in Washington for sending me there, rather than taking responsibility myself.

Next comes the medical, legal and dental clearance. According to the Peace Corps website that lets me track my application status, I've got no legal holds. Helpful that I've never changed my name due to marriage/divorce, I think. Of course, not ever getting busted probably helped too.

My doctor and dentist appointments are set for January 27 and I'm just waiting for the forms to arrive from Washington. I was thrilled to find out that the Peace Corps will comp at least part of the cost of the check-ups. Nowhere near what it will actually cost, but what the heck, I didn't expect anything.

I was dreading the visit to the dentist then realized that perhaps it will be better to have any necessary dental work done here, rather than in a third-world country. Luckily, my dentist uses gas. And yes, I inhale.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's in a Name?

On October 30, 1950, Beans (aka Fred) and Evelyn were enjoying dinner in a Chinese restaurant in San Luis, Mexico. Beans was probably enjoying dinner more, since Evelyn was in the process of going into labor. They headed back to Yuma, Arizona, where Beans dropped Evelyn off at the hospital. According to Evelyn, Beans headed home to get some sleep and then went to work as usual on October 31, while she was working on giving birth. Yes, she held a grudge.

Anyway, a baby girl was born on Halloween morning. She was known as Baby Girl for several days, since apparently Beans and Evelyn hadn't thought about a name during the previous nine months. Yes, Baby Girl held a grudge.

Since Baby Girl was almost born in a Chinese restaurant in Mexico, some in the family thought it would be amusing to name Baby Girl "Maria Wong". You'd think a guy known only as "Beans" since he was seven would have been a bit more sensitive about the whole name thing.

Thankfully (from Baby Girl's perspective) Maria Wong was voted down. After three days, the neighbors suggested the name Nancy and it stuck. There was a disagreement on the middle name. Evelyn wanted Ruth and Beans wanted Wong, so they compromised and didn't list any middle name on the birth certificate. Legally, Baby Girl's name is "Nancy N.M.I." but to this day, all family correspondence is sent to Nancy Wong.

In retrospect, I guess it makes sense that a German-American girl, raised on the Mexican border, who was almost born in a Chinese restaurant in Mexico would have some interest in travel and learning about other cultures. That's the excuse I'm using, anyway.

I'm joining the Peace Corps because my mom was very pregnant and had a craving for Chinese food and the best Chinese food in the area was in a tiny town in Mexico.

Why a Blog?

This blog is a way to keep folks updated as I move forward in trying to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Seems like a less intrusive option than the mass emails I've sent to announce key moments in the process so far.

If you're looking for brilliant insights and deep thoughts, I suggest you keep Googleing (Googling?) On the other hand, if you're interested in the process of becoming a PCV, and perhaps a chuckle along the way, keep reading.

I'll be updating the blog as events happen, which may be somewhat random.