Thursday, December 30, 2010

Encouraging Words

I NEED to finish my resume and aspiration statement... basically tonight. and I'm frustrated and tired of it, as it is a lot to think about and so much information to put into two documents... how much to edit? How much do they really wanna read from me? How much do I have to make exactly clear?? MY BRAIN!! AHHH MY BRAIN!!!

Otherwise, not too long after I found out I emailed all of my favorite professors from college that I am still in touch with, and they sent me back some really nice and encouraging words that are getting me thru this process (yes, I'm still being processed- have to get NEW passport photos and go to the dentist for one last time next week). I will be relieved when I am only panicking about packing.

Here are some of their kind words below that touch my heart so much and mean so much to me. I have the utmost respect for these people and I know I wouldn't be here, a peace corps invitee, without them!

"I'm really pleased that you're going to Malawi. Considering how much you enjoyed The Gambia experience, I imagine you will find the Peace Corps even more rewarding. You are so fortunate to have these kinds of experiences. They will enrich your entire life, and you will draw upon them for strength and inspiration, come what may."
"I am happy you are joining the Peace Corps. I think you will do a lot of good for everyone you come in contact with. They are lucky to have you. I am so proud of you and your commitment. You are a true citizen of the world and I am pleased to have a small part in your success."
"Congratulations Renee! Malawi has been called the Switzerland of Africa - beautiful landscape, but it will certainly be a challenging country to work in. I'm sure it will be a tremendous experience for you, and congratulations on your position there!"

During the holidays while I was seeing my family I kept hearing such kind words from them as well, that it actually warms my heart so much that mayyyybe I teared up leaving Christmas Eve celebrations. It means the world to me that all these people I love and respect are so happy for me- especially after a hard year including getting laid off. I feel like I'm finally being put back into my place in the world with Peace Corps and I couldn't be more excited.

But I could be more prepared... and so I'm off to go flip out some more!! :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Haunt of Dental History's Past

It looks like my dental paperwork is coming back to haunt me. Literally. In that I was just informed that they are sending it back to me, as I could not be cleared by the dentist at that time. I have no idea what is wrong with it, and my request for information about my not passing was fruitless.

I am not excited about this. I'm worried. I am hoping it will be a simple fix- it just seems weird to me that they are sending back the whole packet and not just telling me what to fix... oh well. I guess the bad news will be in the mail soon enough.

I've already got my invitation- just have to get this all sorted out by January 24th, one month before my departure!! Oy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Zikuyenda bwanji??

That means WHAT UP in Chichewa, the local Malawian language that I will be learning during my service. On the invitee toolkit there is downloadable lessons to listen to and a complementary PDF. I already love the language, it looks pretty awesome, and the vowel sounds seem similar to the ones I learned when I learned Wolof in The Gambia. From my experience in The Gambia I know how important it is to learn the local language, so I am planning on being a mega Chichewa nerd throughout my Peace Corps experience.

Not too much is going on since I accepted my invitation. I am working on updating my resume and writing my aspiration statement- I feel a lot of pressure about this aspiration statement... writing out all my aspirations for my experience? It is proving to be a little difficult... but I'll get thru it soonly. Otherwise, my application for my Peace Corps passport is filled out and I will hopefully be FedEx-ing it away later this afternoon- which will feel like a big relief. Don't want any lingering paperwork getting in my way :-)

Otherwise, I have been able to connect with a few Malawi invitees via facebook! I am excited to be in touch with them and get to know them! There is also a facebook group of some of the invitees and current Malawi PCVs, and the current PCVs have been extremely helpful in giving us tips on what to bring. It looks like packing is going to be even scarier than I imagined... so much pressure! And it looks like I'm going to be spending some money on things I will need to bring, so it is a good thing that Christmas is literally around the corner. After Christmas I will feel more clearheaded about getting the perfect packing list together and shopping the crap out of it!

I also said my first "goodbye". My good friend Ben came to visit this past weekend, and unfortunately it was the last time I would see him before I left, as he is leaving for Florida for work just after the holidays. It was sad! But honestly, it is something that is going to be happening with a lot more frequency in the coming weeks. I can deal with it- I signed up for it! It is all part of the learning experience. Ben was nice enough to give him his old multitool- and buy me a small wind up/solar lantern to bring with me- so it will be cool to have those things in my little mudhut in Malawi to remind me of my friend.

Anyway. I hope you guys are ready for the upcoming holiday (I should really finish that shopping...) and that it is a wonderful one. For the applicants still out there reading, good luck!! For those of us preparing to go, I wish us some good luck too!! Any Malawi volunteers or invitees out there, please identify yourselves :) Happy Holidays!

Tiwonana!! (See you later!)

Friday, December 17, 2010


I actually found out yesterday. My package arrived at my mom's house but I was stuck at my sister's by the SNOW!! It wasn't too much snow but all I kept hearing was that the roads were treacherous, so I avoid driving in messes like that around me at all costs. My mom called me and opened it over the phone with me and let me know that I am going to MALAWI!!!

I really couldn't believe it- I could NOT believe that I am going back to Africa!! Even though they always let you know that your area could change from your nomination [by a pretty good percentage], I had pretty much conceded to my nomination area of the world. and I assumed that Africa just wasn't going to be in the cards, and I accepted it- as much as I would have loved to go back... except... NOW I AM GOING BACK!!

So I'm going to Malawi, as part of the Community Health and HIV/AIDS program, to be a Community Health Advisor!! It looks like my volunteer history since October has really influenced my placement, which I am more than happy about!! I know my youth development experience and current volunteer experience are going to play together into making me a useful volunteer for Malawi- which suffers from one of the highest country AIDS rates in the world.

They advise you read the Welcome Book before officially accepting your invitation (which you do via email) so I just finished reading the 100 page online welcome book. It was extremely informative about what my life and work might be like in Malawi. And I must say that I am definitely up for the adventure, while being aware of the highs and lows. So I just sent in my email of invitation acceptance, and now have plenty of paperwork to take care of to keep the process moving. I must say that I am SO SO excited!

One thing I can already say after reading the Welcome Book- is that I am pretty much going to be living in the bush (that mudhut I have always dreamed of having all on my own!). This means that myself and friends and family will have to bring back the art of letter writing for sure!! But I look forward to it, I wrote a lot of letters in The Gambia and it was fun. Let's get to it family!!

I'm happy to share my news with those of you out there in the blogosphere and my friends and family, and am looking forward to sharing everything over the holidays. Thanks everyone for your support!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I opened my email today to an application status update. I open my toolkit and it looked a little different... in that it said the following:

"Congratulations! You have been invited to become a Peace Corps Volunteer."

HOLY AWESOME!!!!!!!! I can't believe this happened without someone physically talking to me again. But maybe this is what she had meant- because I did ask whether it would be phone or email and she said she wasn't sure. Either way I do not filppin' care. MY INVITATION IS COMING!! Now I feel like I can really move on with my life and get ready to go!!

Thanks for all of your bloggers' out there support via this website, and of course the support of my friends and family. Looks like it's going to be a pretty awesome Christmas, and a busy one (involving me throwing away tons of crap). Woohoo!! Can't wait to share it with you all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

GOODBYE DENTAL. (hopefully)

I got my tooth pulled today. I have to say, the whole process of the actual extraction part took like... 30 seconds. (after being numbed and waiting for that stuff to sink in). Pretty crazy. And I don't feel that crappy. I went to my piano lesson 2 hours after I was finished.

Anyhoo. I made copies of all my papers, wrote a little note explaining the whole situation, and put it in the mail. WOOHOO! I also just emailed the Dental-Liason I had been corresponding with letting her know that I mailed off my papers today and if she doesn't getting them in a timely fashion to holla at me (in more appropriate words). I am hoping she just writes back "10-4" and I get my dental clearance without a hitch. Please please please. I am ready to be done with that shiz, sooooo much.

So for now, I am eating soft foods, drinking ginger ale, just popped a percocet and am watching all of my Office DVDs until... forever. Haha. The little info packet on "How To Take Care Of Yourself After Your Surgery" says that the better your take care of yourself (eating, hydration, being gentle around the surgery area, etc) the quicker you heal.

And I need to heal because tomorrow is my last day of volunteering for the year! It is also volunteer appreciation night and there is no way I'm missing it. The program will start back up in January and I will be there every Wednesday until my eventual Peace Corps service departure! :-)

Cheers to dental forms no longer being in my hands, a speedy oral surgery recovery, and hearing from Placement within a week!


I talked to my Placement Specialist yesterday! She asked me a few questions that were similar to ones in my interview- I don't think I was surprised by any of them really, it was just interesting to answer them all over again. A little tedious. Anyway, my specialist said she would be looking over my application in the afternoon and either she or someone else from Placement would be in touch with me within a week about a potential spot!!

Then, I just logged into my email- and my toolkit had been updated! And under "Place" under "Evaluations needed to become an Invitee" it says "Complete. Peace Corps has completed your placement review. There are no holds on your account at this time." WHAT!! Does this mean that I'm going to get an invitation?? I am hoping I hear from Placement to see what all of this really means!! Either way, it seems like something great!

I'm getting my tooth pulled today and then immediately making copies of all my dental crap, and mailing it away! Praying there will be absolutely no glitches there. Gotta keep this process moving!!

I am super happy where things are at right now, and I feel an invitation coming on soon!! Must have been the fortune cookie...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good Fortune.

Tonight I was sharing Chinese food with my family and my mother ordered that we all open fortune cookies. I don't even eat them, but I do like reading the fortune because you really never know what it's going to say. So I opened my cookie, and my fortune read:

"Good news will be coming to you by mail."

I looooove the sound of that! Putting my faith in believing this fortune found in a cookie to be alluding to my future Peace Corps invitation, totally okay by me.

p.s. My Placement Specialist emailed me and she is gonna call me on Monday!
p.p.s. Getting my tooth pulled on Tuesday and then dental will be OVER. Whew.

Friday, December 10, 2010


3 days ago, while I was enjoying my Disney vacation, my "Placement and Assesment Specialist" contacted me via email and my home phone about chatting about my application!! I don't know why they called my house when I had just changed my info to my cell phone recently. But still. I just sent her an email back and left a message on her machine. I hope I hear back soon.

I'm being so calm right now!! YEAY... but seriously I hope I hear back from her hella hella soon. SOON!!!!!!!!! YELLING!!!!! AHHH!!

Friday, December 3, 2010


Seriously, I am. On Sunday! With my fam. This is a very welcome vacation from the usuals: cold weather, work, a cold (Florida cures colds- truth), and of course, Restless Applicant Syndrome (RAS). It is kind of the perfect time to take a vacation, and I appreciate my parents planning this months ago and the fates aligning that it would end up landing on this exact time of my life. Sometimes life just works out like that and I loooooove that.

I love reading all my fellow blogger's journeys in the application process (and those already serving), it is keeping me optimistic rather than adding more stress right now. I like the community :) By chance I caught my PCV friend Mike on facebook chat the other day and talking with him gave me some relief from my RAS.

So, I'm in a good place- a good place in the process and a good place to go on flippin vacation!! So goodbye all, I'll be back soon :)

(and not long after I get back I'll be getting my tooth pulled and sending my dental forms in!! WOO!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today is World AIDS Day

Well it is literally raining on my parade- there is a severe thunderstorm warning, a coastal flood warning, tornado watch, flash flood watch and wind advisory near me, so getting into DC for the conference is not going to happen. Boo. This does not make me happy. I guess I will live my World AIDS Day experience by reading articles about World AIDS Day all day. And to top it all off, my dog just threw up on the carpet, and is now in my lap whimpering as I type this. So now I'll keep an eye on him all day. What a change of plans.

Hopefully on World AIDS Day next year, I will be at my Peace Corps site, doing an event for it with the kids in my community. What an exciting thought!

Here is a link to the conference I was going to attend today, that is still happening in DC if you happen to be in the area, it is free and open to the public: Howard University Hosts International Conference on HIV Stigma

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a pretty awesome holiday. There is delicious food. You always get to see your family. It's awesome. And one of the first things you think about when joining the Peace Corps is the holidays you will miss and how hard that will be (because holidays are awesome).

I actually have already spent a Thanksgiving away from my family when I studied abroad in The Gambia for the second time (fall 2008). It was hard! Luckily, we were actually invited to the Peace Corps Thanksgiving celebration that was near the country's Peace Corps Headquarters, which we lived really close to. So on Thanksgiving we snazzied up as much as we could and headed to a huge buffet dinner reminiscent of Thanksgiving goodies- there was even a turkey! I only saw one turkey during my two experiences in The Gambia, so I have no idea how they got it. But it was really special and it was easy to see how special it was for everyone. And it WAS delicious. I mean, I love Gambian food- but its the traditional food of Thanksgiving is so awesome! Food you just expect on that day makes people happy.

However, towards the end of the night, I started to get kinda bummed out. I only really knew the kids in my group and chatted with some volunteers- who knew each other more than they knew my group. Everyone in my group was making plans to go out afterwards, and my main concern was getting home and utilizing the wondrous tool that is Skype to talk with my family. So when the time came for us to leave, I booked it home to hope that our internet would actually work and hold out for a conversation!

I logged onto Skype and started the video chat with my family, for probably close to an hour. I was able to see my whole family, aunt, uncle and cousins that we always spend Thanksgiving with in one frame! It was awesome. We chatted for more than a half hour and it brought me a lot of joy to talk with everyone and see everyone. Even my parents' dogs made an appearance (I'M GONNA MISS MY DOG SO MUCH WAHHH). It was wonderful. Skype is amazing people!!! Download it TODAY if you haven't already! My Skype username is reneealicia.

And even with the Thanksgiving food I was able to eat that day, we know that the holidays are mostly about family. And it is hard to feel a holiday when you aren't with them. I was lucky that day that I was able to utilize Skype to talk with my family. That might not be the case when I join Peace Corps- depending on where I am or what the situation is. But it is a sacrifice all volunteers make when they make the decision to join the Peace Corps. In perspective- its only a few holidays out of a lifetime of holidays- and Peace Corps will be an experience we will remember for a lifetime. That will have to satisfy me those times of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

!!!!!!!!!!! Update.

Alright. I'm relaxed again. When I initially got cleared and did the math about possible times that I might find out where I'm going, I figured that I might not even hear in 2010. And that would be fine. I would survive. I would honestly, be a little bummed, but I would be fine.

My recruiter wrote back to me and told me that if I don't hear from Placement by the first week in January, that I should contact her. Okay. Breathing.

Here's to hearing by the first week of 2011! Eep.

(Inner monologue right now: "What if I never EVER hear!??! Relax Renee's unreasonable brain!!.... AHHH!!")

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I emailed my recruiter about my new part time job and passing that info to Placement and she said that I should just wait until I get assigned a Placement Officer, who should "contact you once you've been medically cleared".

SAY WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been medically cleared! I just wrote back letting her know that and asked if there would be any reason that I haven't been assigned a P.O. yet. Oy! I kind of feel silly now because everyone else I have been reading- as soon as they got clearance they heard from Placement, and I hadnt... I guess my atttempt at being the most patient Peace Corps applicant ever, I decided it was fine.

Either way, I am HOPING that I get some enlightenment on this- and that that enlightenment will bring me my long awaited Placement Officer's friendship :) Haha. but seriously. I am still going to try to not flip out about this (!!!!!) since I know that my flexibility is appreciated in this process (to quote everything about waiting for Peace Corps ever).

Ah, patience, I shall lay in your warm arms yet again...

World AIDS Conference

I just heard from my volunteering coordinator, and found out that my organization is co-hosting the World AIDS Conference on Stigma on December 1st (World AIDS Day) in DC and that I get to help out!! I am going to be volunteering for more than half the day (going to try to get there as early as possible while also avoiding rush hour traffic) and really can't wait!

I am so excited about this opportunity. Just to be there will be a huge learning experience! Any perspective I can get on HIV/AIDS will help my Peace Corps experience, I know it! It is exciting to be apart of this new world and will only take my youth development skills to another level. Maybe this where I'm supposed to help in the world!

I am so thankful to be helping out with the organization I volunteer for and the conference on World AIDS Day. This kind of stuff is keeping me excited about my Peace Corps experience and PATIENT while I wait to hear from Placement. YEAY!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Putting the V in Volunteer.

When I was nominated at the end of my interview, my recruiter asked me if I would be willing to do some HIV/AIDS related volunteering to keep me competitive for the program (since it would probably include that). I said "Of course! Whatever it takes! No doubt!" without a pause. Of course I didn't REALLY have any ideas of any organizations or anything like that... but I knew I would do it cuz I wanna be a PCV danggit!

I didn't really know how to go about looking for the kind of organizations I could get the appropriate experience from. So of course, it came down to Googling. Kind of felt a little awkward to Google "HIV/AIDS" and "youth" but hey, whatever it takes. I sent out volunteer applications to several organizations I came across through my research, and played the waiting game. (So much waiting throughout the whole PC process, eh?)

Eventually I heard back from an organization that has an after school program for youth affected by HIV/AIDS related losses. It did seem like a perfect match up- with my resume, I am the basically the queen of after school programming. Of course, it threw something into the mix that I have no experience with- HIV/AIDS. It was sure to be an appropriate learning situation that would hopefully give me tools that I can use during my service.

I volunteer every Wednesday and I really love it. I love the kids and the staff is wonderful of course and I am happy to be apart of it all. I am definitely thankful to be having this experience- it is a great thing to be exposed to and I would definitely feel less prepared without it. When I told my recruiter about my volunteering after I finally started she was really excited for me! Hooray!

I have to say that I feel more ready than ever. I know Placement knows about my volunteering and it is just a waiting game to finally hear from them. Patience is a virtue that no PCV can live with out!

(Dental Update: That December 7th tooth extraction I scheduled is right in the middle of my family Disney vacation. Therefore, I rescheduled it to December 14th. I still wish it was sooner, but the dental people at PC are assuring me that I'm fine and the process is still in motion. MOTION!!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Ugh. As I previously mentioned, I had 3 cavities that should have been filled last Friday. But when I got to my appointment Friday, I discovered that they would be spread out over two appointments- Friday and this past Monday.

Alright alright, not so bad... except Monday, I discovered that one of my cavities is too deep in the tooth so they are going to pull it. It is in a wisdom tooth so the tooth has no purpose anyway. I won't go into detail about why I have exposed wisdom teeth and why I don't need to get the rest pulled- it is all a part of my very complicated dental history.

ANYWAY... so I have been referred to an oral surgeon. I just called and I can't get my tooth pulled until December 7th! BLAH. But I made the appointment. I am hoping it won't be a problem. December 7th is still 2 months before my earliest possible departure date, so it doesn't SEEM like it would be a problem... and that's what I'm hoping. But I emailed Peace Corps anyway to double check. And I want to make sure that the paperwork is totally valid (since my original exam was now almost 2 months ago) and blah. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

I usually hear back via email pretty quickly, but if I don't hear by the end of the week I will probably call on the phone next week so someone can make sense of my whole dental journey. I just don't want anymore hiccups since I am hoping to hear from my Placement Officer this month! I really wanna stay on track!

In more fun, unrelated Peace Corps news, I got a part time job! I am working in the childcare area of a gym I used to work at a few summers ago. I have orientation tomorrow. And I started piano lessons again! I really like my teacher. And I joined a group fitness studio and have been getting my fitness on at least 3 times a week. So it's not all crying over dental paperwork over here.

Hope all my fellow applicants are feeling better about their application!! :-)

EDIT: Got word from the lovely dental people at Peace Corps- here is the word:
"No, you are fine. I encourage all of my applicants to get the dental portion in at least 30 days before the staging date. The medical and the dental are looked at on a separate basis, the process will still be in motion."
Yeay. Reassuring.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who LIKES the dentist!?

Seriously. I pose this question to you. Is it just people with perfect teeth who like the dentist? Like the dentist is just another place to go to get praised, people with perfect teeth?! IS THAT WHAT IT IS?!?!

(cough) Ahem. For those of you readers who know me, I am not one of those people with perfect teeth (and it seems to be clear that I have a vendetta with those people). Yeah. I had teeth pulled (11 to be exact). I had braces (for what felt like 11 years). My orthodontist said he was going to retire when all his patients had their braces off- and I was the last one and was taking too long so he retired before I was done with them. TRUE STORY. Anyway. The point is. I don't like the dentist.

And my dental forms aren't sent in yet- and not due to my own negligence. I believe I have been quite on top of my game with this whole medical clearance business (got it right the first time!). But due to my own dental woes, my forms are not yet turned in.

Peace Corps provides us with a list of doctors who will do the very thorough exam and xrays for free- and I am all about the free! I found a local doctor and made an appointment. He was an extremely nice and friendly dentist- and I actually thoroughly enjoyed the experience (except when he was poking my gums with sharps tools and they were bleeding and hurting and he was being critical of it) but I was happy I sought him out. However, he also discovered that I had 2 cavities. BOOOOOOO.

So, I have to get those cavities filled before I can turn in the paperwork. And because I have incredibly lame dental insurance, the awesome doctor who poked my gums was not covered and since I'm on a budget, I had to seek a dentist in my plan. After a month of going back and forth with a list of every dentist in my plan in my county, I was FINALLY able to get a "new patient" appointment at a dentist, and that happened yesterday.

Ugh. It was not a pleasant experience. I was not too fond of the dentist or the hygienist or whoever it was that took my xrays. BUT. They were able to schedule me for what is now 3 fillings for Friday morning. The dentist will sign off that the work is done on my forms, and I will head right to the post office to send that stuff away. WHEW. I can't wait.

I know I can get my invitation without having my dental sent in- but since I'm ahead of my timeline for my invite, it wasn't so bad that I've held onto it for so long. But I will be happy when it is out of my hands and I get my dental clearance. Then it will be just me wait wait waiting for my invitation.


(I hate this post. But I thought I should write it since it directly relates to the applicant process, and I know I gotta represent with all my other applicant bloggers out there!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Elusive "PO"

PO is yet another Peace Corps abbreviation which stands for "Placement Officer". The Placement Officer is the person who handles your file at the Office of Placement and places you in a country's program. And that country is where I will receive my invitation to! So this PO is a very important person- and a person I have been reading about in a lot of other applicant's blogs.

But... right now, I don't have a PO. And this began to concern me as I continued to read about it- albeit, many of the blogs I read are about people in slightly different stages of the application process. I knew my application is at the Office of Placement (I was informed of that when I got my medical clearance), but where is my PO???!! So since I was already in an email convo with my recruiter, I asked her if I should have already been contacted by my PO or what (since I knew she had sent my updated volunteer experience to the Placement Team). My lovely lovely recruiter whom I would be lost without said...

"You will be assigned a Placement Officer, who will, about 3 months or possibly prior, be in touch with you before your nominated departure month."

Alrighty. Whew. My anticipated departure date (heavy on the ANTICIPATION) is still potentially 4months away [if I leave in February] or 5 months if I leave in March! So that still puts me a time away from this 3 months PO assignment... alright. At least this gives me something to look forward to and hear from before my long anticipated invitation. I will definitely feel reassured when I hear from them.

By the end of all this, I will have mastered the waiting game to the highest degree! Bring it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Being Sick Here, There, Anywhere = LAME.

I'm sick. And so is my pup (Bernard, aka the Nard Dog). So it is a double whammy. We are both not feeling well and not moving around very much and generally being miserable together. It is nice that he is not judging me for laying around all day and I am not judging him for puking all over the carpet and pooping in my shoe [seriously... HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?!].

I haven't been sick in quite awhile, but it reminds me of what a miserable sick person I used to be. When I was in college and got sick I would just be THE worst person to be around. Being sick just made me sooooooo sad and feel lonely cuz my mom wasn't there to tell me what exactly how to take care of myself and etc. It sucked! and it probably didn't help that I was particularly pathetic. Being despondent is generally not the best way to get better- a lesson I definitely needed to learn during my study abroad experiences in The Gambia.

The first semester that I was in The Gambia, we lived in a very healthy house. Nobody was ever sick. And nobody got bitten by mosquitoes either- except me of course :) But eventually, it was I who broke the pattern of health a few months in when my throat started really hurting. One of the first things I did was- ignore it. I didn't want to go to the doctor. I had stuff to do! I was living a very full life with a internship and a full course load and new Gambian friends and good times to be had! No time for despondence! Also, I didn't even KNOW where the doctor was... or how to get there! Or what it might cost me!

Eventually my best Peace Corps friend Dan (a Health volunteer) came to town and I had him feel my throat because there was swelling, and he said"You probably have an infection. Maybe strep throat." Boo. This definitely sounded like I needed some medical attention. All of the Gambians that worked for my school and were there to take care of us eventually pushed me in that direction- and eventually our house manager Mohammad took me (and I dragged Mike along) to a local health clinic that had a good reputation with our study abroad program. It didn't take long for the doctor to diagnose me with tonsillitis! I was prescribed penicillin and the doctor said that he would give me a shot of penicillin to get my recovery started.

While me and Mike sat in the waiting room-the doctor prepared the shot, and the power went out. Power outages are extremely common in The Gambia, so it wasn't so startling. I just assumed for whatever reason I made in my brain that this meant I wouldn't get my shot and I would have to come back. Instead, candles were lit and the doctor called me [and I dragged Mike!] back to the patient room to get my shot. So there I am, in one of the tiniest countries on the coast of West Africa, getting a shot in my bum by candlelight [with Mike holding my hand and cracking up at the same time]. There are just some things in life you can't imagine yourself experiencing until they happen. And that was surely one of those experiences. Mike told the story over and over again to all of our friends explaining how romantic the whole scene was with the candles and the shot in my bum. In retrospect- it is a pretty hilarious notion to think about, but what I remember was how surprisingly bad that shot hurt and the soreness lasted. Um, oww!! Way to go Gambia!! But I wasn't gonna let my sore butt ruin my fun, and I got back to my full Gambian lifestyle as soon as possible.

On my second trip to The Gambia I decided as soon as we touched ground that I was going to do my very best to take care of myself and never get sick. And exactly one week later I had tonsillitis. Awesome. Luckily this time it wasn't so bad that I needed a shot in the bum- and I had a good enough attitude not let it put a damper on the beginning of my trip. Hey, sickness happens. It's just a matter of dealing with it!

For my family members or friends that don't know very much about Peace Corps, me being sick while I am abroad is not something to worry about. Safety and health is a priority that Peace Corps has for their volunteers, and I have seen it firsthand! While in The Gambia the first time my friend Dan needed more medical attention than The Gambia could offer and he was sent to Dakar (the capital of Senegal) to get the attention he needed. I heard from Mike a few weeks ago and he was sent into South Africa (from Lesotho) for needed medical attention as well. With an organization as strong as the Peace Corps behind me, I am not afraid about getting sick abroad- and I hope you guys can get some comfort from that as well.

I actually was able to visit the Peace Corps nurse of The Gambia during my second visit. Our language teacher, Awa Job, was also a language teacher for the Peace Corps, and she took us to see the Nurse when we first arrived to get a briefing on sicknesses we should be worried about and how to take care of ourselves. Later in the semester I was getting a rash- which I was pretty sure was due to the heat (which was a little strange because I didn't recall getting it the first time) but it was pretty uncomfortable. I asked Awa what she thought and she said she would take me to the nurse. Awa took me to the PC nurse and it was confirmed that I had a pretty good heat rash- which Awa told the nurse was probably because I walked everywhere when I should be paying to take a taxi (its true- I was incredibly cheap the second time around in The Gambia) and I was advised to wear baby powder under my clothes and eventually I felt better.

So, while being sick is incredibly lame- no matter where you are, it's all about perspective. When I felt lonely and sick during college, I probably wasn't really considering how bad it could have been- I mean, I always got better, I would always eventually see my mom again to make me feel better, etc. I was being a baby. And now, even though I am truly loathing feeling how I'm feeling, I know I'll probably be better in a few days (and hopefully pup will be too!). And should I get sick while I'm abroad (which is bound to happen, but wouldn't it be way cool if it never did??), and I'm feeling lonely because my family is even further, I will surely find comfort in the healthcare possibilities Peace Corps will have in place in my host country to take care of me, and I will take care of myself too! I'm not worried, and I hope you aren't either.

Monday, October 18, 2010

When to Expect What I'm Expecting

And what am I expecting of course? My invitation!!

I joined the blogscene after reading lots of travel journals (writing my own when I was in The Gambia) and Peace Corps blogs over the years and felt that I was affiliated enough with Peace Corps and my upcoming experience to really be able to contribute. And already I am reading several blogs of other applicants who are about as far along in the process as me, waiting for an invitation to leave around the same time, etc. And I am happy to report that they are reading mine as well :-) It is nice to have a little support system via blog (and now Skype!). So I know they (along with you family and friends of mine out there reading) are going to be interested in what I heard from my recruiter this morning...

Reading and sharing the anticipation for invitations with my fellow PC bloggers has been two sided- it is nice to know that I am not alone, but also just gives me more opportunities to think about my invitation! And since I have already read the Peace Corps website approximately 575 million times about the possible timelines for the application to invitation process, I thought I would ask my recruiter in the same email that I was going to inform her about my volunteering [which will I will write about in an upcoming post!].

I asked: "I know that my application has been moved to the Office of Placement- and that you nominated me to depart to programs leaving in February or March. I was just wondering when I might be hearing about an invitation to those programs- or if I do not get into those programs, is there a date when I would know that? I feel like a competitive applicant but I know flexibility is needed during this process."

She answered: "You should hear about an Invitation no sooner than 8 weeks prior to your departure and no later than 6 weeks, meaning 6-8 weeks prior to your nomination month and Placement's anticipated departure date. It's a little ambiguous, I know. You have qualified medically, so you are on the right path... it's just a matter of waiting for your Invitation at this point."

Okay. This makes me feel a few different ways. One part of me says "BOOO!! I WANNA FIND OUT SO MUCH SOONER. LIKE TOMORROW." Another part of me is a bit relieved that I shouldn't necessarily be concerned about not having already received my invitation- I mean, it is still quite a few months before I was invited to leave- there are more than 3 whole months until February 1st! Right now would be a bit early. And now that I think about it, my previously mentioned PCV friend Mike got his invitation exactly 2.5 months before he left.

So for now, I'm not worried. I can actually take a breather. My dream of finding out by Thanksgiving was probably far fetched and now I can have my new dream of finding out by Christmas (because it would obviously be the best Christmas present EVAHH!!). And then after that I can have my backup dream of finding out by the New Year. And after that, my dream will just be to get my invitation. Haha. I mean, if I am slated to really leave in March, I might not even hear until January! And at the time of nomination, my recruiter told me that there is always a 40% chance that your nomination site could change. And it could!

And that would be fine. The one thing you read over and over is to "Be flexible, and patient." and I know these are traits that they need in Peace Corps Volunteers, and traits that I actually have- it is just easy to get caught up in the excitement of going (and I am REALLY REALLY excited). But when the opportunity comes, I know I will be ready for it. And when my invitation comes, I hope you all are ready for a blog post written in large, bold font, in all CAPS. It will be obnoxiously wonderful.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


It's not quite the 50th birthday- that is to be celebrated in [what I hope is my departure year], 2011. But 50 years ago JFK made the speech that started it all. Click the link to learn more.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PCV Mike & K.I.T.

My dear friend Mike is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho. For those of you who don't know the story of Mike- I met Mike during my first study abroad experience in The Gambia in spring 2007. We became very close friends during our time there as we interned, took sociology classes , and made Gambian friends [and memories!] together. We became very good friends with a Peace CorpsVolunteer named Dan and we were a little trio of awesome. Dan really inspired both of us to be volunteers, and we both felt that it was going to be something we pursued post graduation.

I supported Mike throughout his application process and he says that he wouldn't have made it to Lesotho without me- and I know that I wouldn't have made it all the way to nomination without him! Mike has been in Lesotho since June 2010, and having him be there has given me some perspective on what it might be like for everyone at home to keep in touch (K.I.T.) with me when I am a volunteer!

Although it may surprise some of you, a majority of Peace Corps volunteers use mobile phones during their service. Cell phone usage is everywhere, all over the world these days- when I was in The Gambia (the smallest country in continental Africa) having a cell phone or calling anyone anywhere was no big thing! Then you may think that sending me a text or calling me on the phone internationally is gonna be $$$$$, and this is where the joy of SKYPE comes in. I can send Mike a text from Skype for $.097. I have it set up so when and if he chooses to reply, it gets sent to my cell (you can't reply a text back to Skype unfortunately) and it is always cheaper to receive an international text than send one. I'm not saying I'll be texting as much as I text in the good ol' unlimited-text-messaging US of A, but you will be able to basically send me an instant message for cheaper (and less time!) then a post letter. And sometimes that's all I'll need or you will need to feel close! I am always happy to have even a 2 message texting exchange with Mike when I can.

Tomorrow Mike and I have a "Skype to cell" date where I'm going to call Mike's cell from my Skype (for a charge of course) and we will be able to chat voice to voice for the first time since he left! Skype credit is simple and easy to buy and definitely worth getting the chance to talk to my dear friend who is halfway across the world for as long as I feel like $pending! Skype is a godsend people, and if you don't already have it- download it now! I plan on doing plenty of Skype tutorials for all of you loved ones of mine so I know you will be prepared to K.I.T. with me!

Earlier today I got a text from Mike telling me that he FINALLY received the care package I sent! I don't even remember when exactly I sent it- it feels like forever ago. But when I decided to send him a package I sent him a text to ask what he wanted, and I filled it up with as much of his requests as I could. I put in the surprise of M&M's (which were part of a very clutch package that I received while in The Gambia and shared with Mike) and he said he was so excited to see it. And he was enjoying some of the spaghetti I sent him while he was texting! I know how much a care package can feel good when you are far away from home. I received the best packages (to much of my fellow students' jealousy) during my semesters in The Gambia thanks to my amazing family! It was fun to be a part of that for Mike, who is in a mud hut in the rural area of a tiny tiny country halfway across the world, so far away from his friends and family. I wonder what I will be craving and pleading for you guys to send me when I am gone- I am sure there will be an extensive post about it for your viewing pleasure :-)

Having Mike be abroad with Peace Corps has given me the perspective that it will NOT be impossible or sad or too much of a burden for me to keep in touch with my loved ones and for all of my loved ones to keep in touch with me! And so here is my manifesto people- send me your email addresses, read my blog, download SKYPE, and I will put all of your phone numbers into my Skype and address book. And it won't be like we are too far away from each other at all :-)

Monday, October 11, 2010

PC = Peace Corps

PC is an acronym for Peace Corps. Over the course of the time period that I plan to write in this blog, you will see many forms of the acronym:
  • PCT: Peace Corps Trainee
  • PCV: Peace Corps Volunteer
  • RPCV: Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
For now, I am a Peace Corps Nominee- which unfortunately isn't commonly acronym'd, but I like to call my self a Peace Corps Nominee, because that is basically what I am right now. On July 20th, I submitted my online application to the Peace Corps. "Online" might make it sound like its not big thing, but its a very long and tedious application. When I made the decision that I was definitely going to apply on July 19th, I started my online application and put hours into it until I was able to submit it on July 20th. Most people probably take more than one day to do it, but it was a boring summer for me so I had plenty of time to put in.

On August 31st, I had my interview with a Peace Corps recruiter in DC. By that time, I had 5 excellent references, Googled incessantly for possible interview questions, and spent the night in DC before so there was no chance I would be late for my 10am interview (and I was staying 5minutes away, which didn't hurt either). I was extremely nervous during the interview- but I got past it and it went extremely well. The recruiter nominated me on the spot, right there in front me! She was asking where or when I wanted to leave, and I said anywhere, as soon as possible. On that day, I was nominated to leave in February/March 2011, to either Central/South America or The Carribbean, to the Community Services Program (Youth Development). I was ecstatic! It doesn't happen to everyone that they get nominated during their interview- and Youth Development is the smallest number of volunteers in an already competitive process, so I felt proud of myself and sooo ready for everything that was to come.

I was then sent my medical and dental forms. I was poked and prodded all over, had plenty of blood taken from me and peed in a few cups over the course of September. It was exhausting making appointments and talking on the phone so much to what seemed to be inept medical receptionists- but when I turned in all of my medical paperwork I felt incredibly relieved. On October 4th, I received my provisional medical clearance- provisional because although I have been cleared, I haven't been officially invited. (My dental forms are actually still processing but I can be invited without them)

To be "invited" is to receive my Peace Corps assignment- which country I will go to and when I will depart for it. They refer to it as an "invitation" because I do have the option of saying no. But... I won't. I am willing to take my youth development skills to anywhere they offer me to help those that are asking for and need my help. I am extremely excited about getting my invitation because I am extremely excited to go! EXTREME!

I am trying not to be anxious about waiting for my invitation because this process has actually gone unusually fast- many people don't get nominated so quickly, don't get their medical forms processed so quickly, etc. It hasn't even been 3 months since I submitted my online application and for some to get this far in the application process can take upwards of 6months or a year. So I am lucky, and I feel like this is all aligning for the reason that I am a person that is supposed to do this.

I am planning on writing in this blog until I get my invitation, then depart for service, and return from service- so potentially I will be writing in this blog until 2013. Although I don't know what my internet access will be like while I am abroad, I am planning on writing plenty that I will try to transfer onto here when I get the chance. And when I return (and become an RPCV), I will surely muse on the madness that is reverse culture shock. And I hope you will all be along for the journey of my experience with PC!