Friday, August 20, 2010

Medically Cleared?

I sent in my Medical Review packet on Monday the 9th. So I assumed that they would receive my packet sometime later in the week and send me a confirmation email when they did. Well the week came and went and I started to get a little nervous. I don't live that far from Washington, so it really shouldn't take it that long to make it to Peace Corps...However I decided that since it is a government entity it should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to taking forever to process things. I waited and waited. Monday of the next week, Tuesday of the next week, Wednesday of the next week....Hallelujah I got an application update. So I'm not sure whether it took a week and two days for my packet to make the 70 mile journey or whether it was the Peace Corps simply not updating my status until a few days after receiving it. Either way I didn't care. It made it and now it was out of my hands. Before I had gotten the email I had had one too many dreams, or nightmares I guess, of me receiving a phone call informing me that they never got my packet and that I would have to restart the entire Medical Packet all over again. NOOO!!!!!!!

But bad dreams aside it did make it and now I could breathe a whole lot easier. In the status update it also informed me that even though they had received the packet they probably wouldn't start to review it until my departure date was about 4 months away so that they can worry about reviewing the packets of people who would be leaving a lot sooner then me. That was fine with me, I was just glad to be rid of the packet. So depending on how they counted they would start reviewing my packet in about February.

However...I received an email a week later on Thursday the 19th that my application status had been updated and when I went to check it (at 6:30 in the morning) it said I had been medically cleared and would be receiving my confirmation letter in the mail. Wait? Is it February already?

Either way I dont really care. I only have one last approval before I am officially invited and that is from the education placement officer who must review my entire file and decide if I am an appropriate fit for the placement I have been nominated for.

Well I guess there is one other hurdle still left to struggle senior year of college. But now that I have absolutely nothing to worry about with my Peace Corps application I can fully devote all of my worrying to papers and my Education Portfolio. Wish me luck.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The complicated (and expensive) medical review

Getting my medical review packet in the mail was such a relief that I promised myself I would take my time and do it right since I still have about 10 months or so until my departure date and all summer with no college classes to distract me. However, taking my time is becoming a little ridiculous. I had to wait about a week before I could get an appointment with a doctor who charged a reasonable price for a routine physical exam, and then ended up having to wait another week because I would be on vacation for that whole week. After visiting the doctor I came to realize that just one visit was not going to be enough. I was sent to have blood drawn and tested and to find two vaccines that the doctors office I went to didn't carry and didn't really know where to find elsewhere. My blood test were done a week after the blood was drawn and so I had to go back to the doctors office to collect the results and my updated medical review packet, still only partly completed. At this point I was getting a little run down and tired of working on the packet, especially when I am supposed to be enjoying my summer vacation.

The dentist portion of the packet was comparatively easy and entirely free for me, I just brought the folder with me to my routine dental cleaning and had it completed in no time. Same goes for the optometrist who needed to sign off on my eyeglass prescription, which had a lot more information attached to it then simply my lens strength, but he seemed to understand it all perfectly.

I went on another week long trip postponing my two mysterious vaccines for after my return just in case I proved to have a reaction to one of them I'd rather not be far from home. When I was able to receive the vaccines I found it difficult to find a place that carried both of them, hoping to get them both done at once. I was able to find a travel doctor who I scheduled an appointment with, but after I arrived at the office the doctor informed me that he only had one of the vaccines I needed and has never carried the other one. GRRRRR...

So now we flash forward to today...I am currently about to scout down the last vaccine and if the office I called actually carries the vaccine like they promised this time, then I should have my entire packet finished by the end of the day. Wish me luck.

UPDATE! I got my last vaccine shot! All I have to do now is get the first doctor to initial a few spots and since his office is closed on Friday, I'll have to do it on Monday, at which time my paperwork will be completely finished and I will mail it using the first mailbox I see.

PS. MY ARM IS ON FIRE!!!! Shots with a live virus injected in to the subcutaneous tissue are not pleasant at all.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hurry up and wait...

"It's not every year you get a goat for Valentine's Day[,]... [a]nd it's not every day that someone stops you on the road and asks if, by the way, you happen to have any of your hair for sale." But life as a Peace Corps volunteer is anything but ordinary.

Back in my Sophomore year of college my communications class assigned a persuasive speech and required that we use at least one quote. I gave my speech on persuading others to join the Peace Corps and I ended up using this quote from April Simun, who served in Moldova coincidentally. I recently remembered having given this speech and went desperately searching throughout my room for the Peace Corps brochure from which I had found this quote originally, so I could read the whole article again.

I did end up finding the brochure, because I horde anything I think is of value...which is usually a lot, and after rereading it I was struck by just how great the article was written and how April was able to make you understand not only why Peace Corps was great but also why "you" should take the opportunity to try Peace Corps as well. Because I am still waiting on my medical review packet to arrive in the mail I figured I would share the whole article so that while I "hurry up and wait" with the application process, and have nothing else to post at the moment this will keep my blog alive at least for another week. Inevitably in the future I doubt I will be uploading many more posts on the blog for a while until I get closer to my departure date which is still about a year away. So without further ado I give you April Simun...

It's not every year you get a goat for Valentine's Day. My 73 year-old host mom misunderstood a radio broadcast that meant to relay that Americans often give gifts to their animals to show their love.

And it's not every day that someone stops you on the road and asks if, by the way, you happen to have any of your hair for sale. I chose to take it as a compliment. And I wondered if she
would really want some of my hair if I washed it more often.

But then, this isn't every day. Gifted goats and hair hustlers are the kinds of things that make life in my 2,000-person Moldovan village zany, crazy, and altogether interesting. (And that's not even to mention the fact that I think the majority of people back home don't really know exactly where I am living these two years. They know I'm in the Peace Corps. And most of them know the name of the country begins with an "M"-Morocco? Malaysia? Mongolia, anyone? But the correct name of Moldova, the little former Soviet state tucked in between Ukraine and Romania, may or may not make their Top 10.)

Honestly, I can't say that I grew up my whole life dreaming of someday becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer, andin Moldova, no less. The Peace Corps made me think of places like West Africa or South America. Exotic places with grass huts and sand and excessive heat-even way more humid than in my native South Carolina. But not Moldova. Not a place with unheated, concrete block buildings in the midst of snowy

Still, here I am. And am I glad I came? You bet. Because the truth of it is that I can't really imagine any other experience that could teach me the lessons that Peace Corps/Moldova has.

There are the countless buses that never show up-lessons in patience.

There are the many times I make Romanian mistakes in front of classes of laughing children-lessons in humility.

And there are the scrawny bodies of hungry children who don't have mittens to wear in winter-perhaps the hardest lessons, the ones in gratitude and compassion, that still leave me unable to
answer the question, “why?”

In all these lessons, I'm the student. Yet, according to my job description, I'm supposed to be the teacher. The lines get blurry sometimes. My official job here is to teach English at my village school of 400 students. I teach lessons there five or six days a week to grades 5 to 12. My students are mostly native romanian speakers, who also speak Russian. But they see English as a key to finding better jobs and better futures.

My unofficial job spans far beyond just teaching English. It
in-volves teaching health-giving information about AIDS, and why patients should demand clean needles at hospitals. It involves teaching about the environment-why littering is bad, why clean water is good, and why Moldovans need to protect their large forests. It involves teaching job skills-how to
interview, how to give presentations, and even how to type on our school's old computers on days when the school has electricity.

Yes, the working conditions are tough. The school is old and concrete and not heated. Water is
drawn from wells. Electricity may or may not work on any given day. But with time, you can almost forget all of that. The children are children, after all. And the people are people. Their stories, for the most part, aren't the kind of stories that make headlines, or that make Moldova known back home. Their
stories aren't the stories of revolutions or of loud-mouthed, sign-carrying protests. On the contrary, Moldovans often
laugh at their own hardworking acceptance of tough conditions.

But their stories are the stories of another type of heroism. Stories of quiet, unrelenting battles for survival, testimony to man's ability to keep on keeping on-through wars, famines, deportations, and economic collapses. And from time to time, these people with their hardworking, persistent histories stop me on the road as I walk from home to school and from school to home. They stop me to tell me thanks.

They thank me for being here and for teaching their children.
And I thank them for the lessons they have taught me in return.

April Simun served as a Volunteer in Moldova from 2003–2005, teaching English as a foreign language. Prior to the Peace Corps, April worked as a newspaper reporter. April says among her interests in joining the Peace Corps was the opportunity to learn about another culture by experiencing it firsthand, which in turn would expand her worldview and enhance her reporting skills.

The article can also be found on the Peace Corps website at this URL...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I am officially 21 and I am also OFFICIALLY nominated now that I have received my Peace Corps email nomination from my recruiter. Next step waiting for my medical review packet to arrive in the mail.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Finally got the phone call I have been waiting for from my Peace Corps recruiter and he gave me great news. He is going to nominate me for EASTERN EUROPE where I would be teaching English and my estimated leave date is June 2011. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and couldn't stop smiling for nearly an hour. Being nominated is not the end of the process by a long shot so before I go any further I'll review the application process for those that may not be familiar with it, or if you like you can skip the application process and proceed to the bolded paragraph at the end.

First step in the process is sending in the application, which might seem fairly easy, however, the document is about 10 web pages full of information that needs to be filled out. Some of it is easy and only requires you to fill in personal information, while some of the questions are more in depth seeking longer answers or more exhaustive lists, such as work history, volunteer experience, and skill experiences. The end of the application is two essays which are relatively tiny by college standards but provide the first and only real chance to put down into your own words why you want to join the Peace Corps and how you feel you are qualified.

After the application has been reviewed and accepted as complete you are scheduled for an interview. During the interview the recruiter tried to get to know me as best he could and made sure to inform me of the application process where I stood in the process and how I ranked as an applicant compared to others. Some of the basic questions that he asked were to name experiences I have had working in an unstructured environment, my experiences working with people who had differences from me and how I handled that situation, my preferences for my assignment, geographically and skill area. Lastly the questions were aimed to establish my suitability as a candidate from my personal life issues, such as relationship status, financial and legal obligations, and any food allergies or preferences.

Nomination is the next step and is usually a general geographic area, such as Eastern Europe in my case, a general field of work, English teaching, and a estimated date of departure, which for me is June 2011. The nomination is not set in stone and even if I pass all of the other steps in the process I could still end up with an assignment which does not match up the one I was first nominated for. This is because of the of the....

Evaluation. After being nominated another Peace Corps worker other than my Peace Corps recruiter reviews my file with my application, my recruiters notes and the assignment I was nominated for. Using this information they establish whether or not I am acceptable for the position I was nominated to and if they decide I am not they can either decide to decline my application or give me another assignment which they believe I am better suited for. All of this occurs while I undergo the next step...

Legal and medical review. The legal review is basically a background check and also a financial check ensuring that I do not have any outstanding warrants or the like, and neither am I trying to evade debt by applying to the Peace Corps. So for me this part of the process is virtually nonexistent. The medical review, however, is not nearly as easy, involving a thorough medical checkup with a large amount of paperwork to be signed and completed by my doctor and dentist insuring my present health before volunteer service. Any medical complications that come to light from the review will not necessarily disqualify me, just limit my options of where I would be placed to accommodate my specific disabilities. Luckily for me I dont expect any surprises so hopefully this step will be soon be just as forgotten as the legal review.

After enduring all of the hardship described above the only thing left is to agonizingly wait for the Peace Corps to send the official invitation. The invitation will be specific to the region within the country I will be serving, the exact date of departure, an in depth description of the job I will be asked to perform and various other necessary information to keep me well informed and to prepare thoroughly for staging, which is the last step before boarding the plane and occurs in an American city with other Peace Corps Volunteers who are assigned to the same country and allows for all of us to get to know each other before leaving our American culture behind to train for three months in the assigned country...but I'll describe all of that (fingers crossed) when I receive a formal invitation.

Ok. Now that that is out of the way, back to what I was saying, nominated for Eastern Europe sets me up for six possible countries: Albania, Moldova, Macedonia, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. Even though there is always a possibility that the assignment I was nominated for might not be the one I am invited to, I am very excited. Mostly because Eastern Europe was my preference, English teaching was my preference and June 2011 was my preference. So basically, at the present moment, I have the best assignment I could have asked for and I am very excited.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Peace Corps Interview!!!

I had my Peace Corps interview today and my recruiter told me that he was going to nominate me! I have been waiting for this point for about four years or more since I first heard about the Peace Corps in my Eleventh grade History class and decided right then that the Peace Corps was something I wanted to do. I have been working toward my Peace Corps goal ever since and today I reached a major milestone. During the interview the recruiter reviewed the process and went into depth on the steps to come, which are still very extensive, and up to that point I was under the impression that the interview was near the end of the process. Boy was I wrong. lol.

My day started early with me donning formal clothes, including a tie which is always an accessory I could live my entire life without, and driving down to the Red Line terminus of the Washington Metro system. Before I made my way to downtown Arlington for my interview I made a quick stop at Arlington National Cemetery and paid my respects to John F. Kennedy, founder by executive order of the Peace Corps almost fifty years ago. I was also surprised to finally see the Iwo Jima Marine memorial and was completely amazed by its size. When I saw pictures of it or saw it in a movie I always imagined it as a life size memorial. But no, the men in the memorial were at least 30 feet and the pedestal was taller than me (which at six foot is sometimes hard to do).

The actual interview went perfectly. My recruiter and I had a great conversation throughout the experience with both of us sharing personal stories and getting to know each other really well. I can also say that after his explanation and guidance that I am completely aware of the steps that I have to undertake to continue the path to my goal and I am even more sure now then ever that I will leaving for a foreign country in a years times. As for the actual interview, I was not surprised by any of his questions because they were almost exactly the same as those listed at this website, which I was lucky to stumble upon yesterday and prepare my thoughts for today.

Next step in the process is formal nomination which I should receive on June first, which coincidentally is my 21st birthday. So that will most definitely be a day to remember for many reasons.