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.