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!