Start to Finish

I know there's a lot of questions about the timeline for the Peace Corps. In truth, it took me a year (more or less) between application and departure. I don't know when some of my colleagues applied, but I know they received their invitation about six weeks to a month before staging.  So your mileage, experiences and time line may vary based on skill set, time of year applying, placement of nomination, medical/dental clearance, political factors, phases of the moon, etc.

August/September 2008:  Completed online Peace Corps application and follow up materials.  

Early October: Received a call from Peace Corps office, visiting campus and scheduled interview

October 17th: Hour long interview and conversation about aspirations for the Peace Corps, skills, etc. Click here for more information on the interview.

October 21st: Received e-mail saying possible legal issue wasn’t an issue (family member’s employment with government)

October 21st: Received a call a few hours later from recruiter with a nomination to serve in Central/South America in Fall 2009

Mid November-early December: Medical (campus health center), dental (family dentist willing to do the services for the PC reimbursement rate), vision (eye doctor filled out paper work, refused any kind of payment), psychological (school counselor filled out forms) paperwork/forms completed and mailed to PC (note: make sure you have your complete medical records on hand...this held me up with the student wellness center)

Mid-January: Received medical and dental clearance from Peace Corps (also remember the government took a week holiday more or less during December)

March 26th, 2009: Invitation to serve in Perú, staging beginning September 9th, 2009

August 10th, 2009: Received information about staging (changed to September 10th)

September 8th, 2009: Leave for Baltimore, MD to visit friends

September 10th, 2009: Arrive in Arlington, VA/Washington DC

So there's a rough time-line of my application from start to finish. I'll write a little more about the application process later, as well as what the hell I'm packing for two years....

Preppring for Perú

When I began writing this, all of the words had the infamous MS Word red-lines under them. Why? I know I’m not the greatest speller, but I was pretty sure that it isn’t too difficult to spell ‘the’ and ‘peace’. Then I remembered that my spell check has been set to Spanish for the last two months. I spent the last three months at ‘Spanish camp’ at Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT). Classes four hours a day, five days a week for seven weeks entirely in Spanish. Furthermore, meals, meetings, activities, and even when we went into town or on our own adventures: Spanish. So I can stumble through the Spanish language a little more competently than before. It was very good experience and exposure, plus I met some really awesome people (professors and other students), but my main problem was that there was very little critical analysis in my classes. It was all basic, surface level stuff. So for the most part, it wasn’t really challenging beyond the grunt work of the grammar workbook or writing the essays. But definitely solidified my grammar and expanded the ol’ vocabulary.

So hey…I’m leaving the country in a little more than two weeks. Perú or bust. Or Kabul, according to Mike. You know the G-20 is coming to Pittsburgh and they’re worried about all the protests and demonstrations. So this might be a good way to make sure I’m not a part of it (just kidding…seriously). The week since I’ve been home, I’ve been spending time with the family (cousins, the Madre, aunts/uncles…the usual suspects). I’ll be visiting Ohio to see some friends at the end of this week and check in on their lives since I was off the radar during the summer. My family is throwing a picnic for labor day/goodbye party the last weekend I’m around (my mom is even buying beer, so you know it’s negocios serios as they’d say in Spanish camp). I’ll be visiting Baltimore to check in with Jackie and Emily (Jackie is TFA and Emily is a special-ed teacher), and then it’s to DC for staging for a day, then off to Peru (September 11th). I do feel like a bit of a bum these days since I don’t do much, but at the same time I know I’m probably not having this opportunity to do nothing for the rest of my life, so might as well enjoy it, right?

Beyond gathering stuff together, I sent out a call for photos to take with me to Peru to share and just to have. I spend my time being slightly overwhelmed with the idea of Peru, but at the same time compartmentalizing it and realizing it’s pretty similar to my time in Oman. Home stay families (though my Omani family could speak English/I couldn’t speak Arabic, but I can definitely get by with my Spanish without the help of English), kind of feeling like a small child in a entirely new environment, intense language training (3-4 hours of Arabic a day, 3-4 hours of Spanish), miscommunication with the locals/the family, feeling frustrated by not being able to express myself clearly, missing certain comforts of being home/Wooster/America in general, and having to creatively transport my way to school and other places (taxis, mini-buses, hitchhiking, or an intricate combination of all three).

Even though he might not be the best role model, I’ve always liked one particular quote from Mike Tyson:

“Everyone has a game plan, until they get punched in the face”.

And I think that I’m also coming to terms with no matter how much I try to prepare, I just won’t know what it’s like and what I’m dealing with until I’m on the ground. If you overplan, you're more likely to be frazzled when things most certain don't go according to plan. Granted, a little prep work ahead is good but at the same time I’ve realized that you can’t prepare entirely for life (and what fun is it with no surprises?). Life just kinda happens, and you can either go with it or stand aside…