Monday, June 21, 2010

The envelope, s'il vous plaît...

Greetings to one and all,

Today I received the big blue envelope with the invitation to serve in the Peace Corps, and... I'm going to Morocco!

Scheduled to leave the USA in mid-September... with at least part of the assignment involving teaching English! Yeah!!!

I'm really looking forward to it, and will be writing more soon... I just have a lot to look over here, so if you will please excuse me!

A bientot...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The invitation is in the mail

After being contacted yesterday by the Placement Officer, and responding to her immediately, I was settling in for another wait, perhaps a couple more weeks. Much to my surprise, I logged into my e-mail today and learned that an invitation is being sent to me in the mail this week. Needless to say, I am thrilled that it's on the way! I don't know what departure date or host country the invitation mentions... Stay tuned for another post, coming very soon!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Placement Officer Makes Contact

This morning, upon logging into my e-mail account, I saw that I had a message from the Peace Corps. When I opened it, I saw that it was not from the general e-mail account at the Placement Office, from which I had received previous messages from Placement. No, this was the actual Placement Officer. This is the final person with whom I will be in contact during the application process.

Now, the Placement Officer can say very different things to different people in this initial message, depending on the timeline for which they're considering someone. Some people, initially being contacted by the Placement Officer, receive an e-mail asking them something like, "We're considering you for a position in X country, leaving in six weeks. What do you think?"

In her e-mail message this morning, the Placement Officer asked me a half dozen general questions to help her evaluate me for a placement. That makes me think they're evaluating me in a less rushed fashion. So, it seems unlikely that she's going to contact me tomorrow, saying something like, "We know it's short notice, but would you be interested in departing for Benin (or Madagascar) in the middle of July?"

FYI, I've been regularly (but I honestly don't think obsessively) visiting the site and reviewing departure dates for various countries. That site contains information contributed by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, as well as current applicants. It also has some information obtained from formal FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to the Peace Corps. So, it's a helpful source in terms of trying to look at where and when a potential invitation could invite me to go. That's where I came up with the theoretical invitations to Benin and Madagascar in July. But I digress.

So, the Placement Officer sent me some questions this morning. I felt that some of them were following up on questions I had been previously asked. For example, in my interview last September, I told the recruiter some steps I was going to take to prepare to enter the Peace Corps. In my response to the Placement Officer this morning, I told her the various things I have been doing to continue preparing to enter the Peace Corps: studying French; volunteering; attending Peace Corps information sessions, which, BTW, I have found to be probably my best source of information, since at them, I hear from former Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; reading about the Peace Corps; and figuring out what I'm going to do with my stuff, which will mostly be getting rid of it.

I have to say that it felt good to get that e-mail message this morning. When I posted a cryptic status update on Facebook today about being contacted by the "P.O.," my friends were jokingly writing that perhaps it meant "parole officer." I feel like I am about to embark on a grand, joyous, wonderful, beautiful adventure. By contrast, I also feel like I'm about to leave behind a line of work which I don't think I'm going to miss. Hence, I was happily amused at those jovial comments expressing symbolism of an escape out of something which I want to leave behind, and into an experience which I strongly suspect I am going to find incredibly liberating, empowering and enlightening.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

This is turning out to be harder than I expected it to be...

So, I've been sifting through my belongings and papers for months now, in anticipation of the day when I receive my invitation from the Peace Corps. I've been trying to get prepared, so that when the invitation comes, I'll be ready to go.

In the last couple of weeks, though, I've cut down into depths I haven't touched in over a decade. Both physically and emotionally. I've looked at papers I haven't read in a dozen years. And that has elicited feelings in me I hadn't anticipated. There are reasons why I hadn't looked at these papers in so long: because I've been out enjoying my life; out doing things I've wanted to do for years; out having fun; out enjoying the present; out there looking forward instead of backward.

I've been sifting through these old things, only because I'm forcing myself to do it, to minimize what my parents and sister will store for me until I return, whenever that is. So by making myself sort through these things, I'm placing my choice, to uproot myself, squarely in front of myself. This decision is becoming more real, and less avoidable; thus the effects of it are becoming real, and less avoidable. I'm getting ready to move out of the country for some amount of years. And now that that choice is starting to become concrete, I'm feeling anticipation of the withdrawal that I'm going to feel. A profound sadness. I've told some of you that it's not just because I'm going to be away from my family and friends for so long. Also not just that I'm leaving the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the west coast, of which I am so fond.

I've realized that I'm going to be ripping myself, in a rather jarring way, out of the only culture I've really ever known. The culture which has shaped me since before I was even aware of my own consciousness. So I've realized that I'm going to be leaving behind almost everything which is familiar to me. It's not so much frightening as it is making me realize that I'm going to be leaving behind so many people, places, institutions and things which I find comforting. I had certainly thought before now about how much I would miss people I love. But I hadn't really thought that I would significantly miss the cultural comforts to which I'm accustomed. Foolish of me not to have expected it, but the truth nevertheless.

As I type this blog post, I'm realizing that the end results will be so worth the discomfort, withdrawal, and pain I'm going to feel. I'm going to learn about, and teach, and help, people I've wanted to meet and know and befriend for many years now. I'll be adding cultural richness and exchange to my life. And perhaps, in time, I will come to be comforted, welcomed and warmed by some of the new customs, traditions and practices which I am going to learn through another culture. Maybe come the day, years from now, when I board my transport to leave my village in which I will have served in the Peace Corps for years, I will feel a separation anxiety which will rip at my heart just as painfully as what I feel now. And if that is how I feel upon completing my Peace Corps service, then one of the goals of the Peace Corps, to improve U.S. citizens' understanding of other cultures, will surely have been met.