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