Friday, December 31, 2004

I am Brian's Acute Boredom

It's almost New Year's Eve, one of the three times of the year I can't stand spending the evening doing nothing. It seems like a special time, set apart from all the other 364 days of the year as being substantially important. It also strikes me as a day/evening during which it is important (for me, at least) to be around other people, especially the people who are an integral part of my life. (In case you're wondering two times are Halloween and, to a lesser extent, Independence Day. Halloween is my favorite holiday, because for one day out of the year, everyone is just as focused on ghosts and terror and the supernatural and haunted houses and blah blah as I am all the rest of the year. I can't explain the Independence Day thing, since I'm not a big patriot, but as a celebration it just demands large get-togethers at the park or beach with volleyball and music or something.)

Anyway, here it is almost New Year's Day and there's absolutely nothing to do, and nobody to do it with. Over the last few years, even though I've lived in Tallahassee during this time, I've met almost nobody local -- even to this day 90% of the people I know and am friends with live on the West Coast! So I'm looking forward to a very boring, very lonely New Year's Eve. Last year I spent with M. in Miami. I stayed with her cool family and her and I went down to Bayside park there along Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami where they were holding a huuuuge outdoor festival. I mean, it was warm, there were palm trees with lights in them, thousands of people, a carnival, a great fireworks display over the harbor, and a huge Florida Orange dropping to ring in the new year. Plus my lovely girlfriend to share it all with. It was, hands-down, the best New Year's Eve of my entire life. No question.

This year I'm thinking of going back to Miami. I love that city. Not as much as Honolulu, but it is certainly my favorite in the continental United States. I'd have to stay by myself, and hotels are expensive. But last night I had a stroke of genius inspiration: stay in a youth hostel! They're inexpensive, and even though there is little to no privacy, every room comes with several young, energetic, youthful and interesting people from around the world who, like you, are on a budget but want to go out and see the town and have bonding experiences. Perfect strangers who become instant (if temporary) friends. I stayed in one in Waikiki in the summer of 2001 and had a great time. I made friends with a fella from Israel, and we split the cost of renting a car to drive around O`ahu one afternoon. On this inspiration, I decided to get a hostel room for New Year's... only to find they were all sold out! I guess I should have expected this, seeing as how Miami is a popular destination this time of year for its clement weather, but it really disheartened me nonetheless, because my brilliant idea was made far less brilliant by the mere fact that it should have popped into my head weeks earlier. Nevertheless, I might still go tomorrow -- stay in a hotel for like $70 for one night, then do the hostel thing for a couple more. I need to get out of here for a few days, meet some people, have some fun. My life is very static and sheltered. I've become a shut-in because I hate Tallahassee and have no friends or interests here and at this point I'm just counting the days until I'm outta here!

I'll let you know how it goes, if I decide to do this spontaneous and expensive thing.


p.s. Oh yeah, and as for Peace Corps-related information... I have no new updates. Still no word from my P.O. I can't stand the suspense... It's like a scene in a horror movie when the protagonist is slowly moving toward the darkened door to see what the odd sound was on the other side, and we know the killer is probably back there hiding in the closet, but the protagonist doesn't know so they creep closer and closer and the camera shot grows tighter and tighter and the music pauses with just one B-flat note sustained until our nerves are stretched to the breaking point and...... well, that's what waiting for your Invitation is like. Except hopefully there isn't a monster waiting on the other side.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Memories of Dominica

The last time I talked to my ex-wife (I think it was October), I mentioned I was reapplying for the Peace Corps. She was supportive, but then asked me, "Incidentally, why do you want to do it again?" I told her some line about curiosity and having no attachments now, but all along I knew she suspected the real reason: because I regret my decision to ET.

In case I failed to mention it in my first lengthy first post, my relationship with my ex-wife was less than stellar. I won't air my dirty laundry here, as much as I would love to, but this is an essentially public forum and it wouldn't be fair. And maybe not legal. Anyway, suffice to say hindsight has shown me I was foolish to make the choice I made... although deeper hindsight has shown me lately I might have only used her as a convenient excuse to get out of something that was scary and hard, to take the easy way out. The fact of the matter was, I wasn't happy with my assignment being switched on me, didn't feel I was qualified to do what they wanted me to do, and was immaturely jealous that the others on my island were going to be living in better conditions than me. In some cases, really better conditions.

I mean, I knew I had gone into the Peace Corps and that it wasn't going to be easy. I knew this. But having all kinds of unexpected luxuries during training, with a homestay family that had cable, a new car, and a washing machine, I kinda got seduced. When I first applied, I was fully expecting a mud hut in the savannah, eating rice, pumping well water -- the whole nine yards. Then to have all these familiar amenities available made me soft. And then to be given an assignment where those amenities wouldn't be available -- not in general, but just to me... well, I admit I got a little petty about it. During my most honest moments, I believe I really left the Peace Corps in '98 because of those things, not because of my ex-wife.

So anyway, I got to thinking about my previous Peace Corps service the other day, and spent a good long time staring at pictures. I used to languish under crushing feelings of regret and remorse at having ETed so early into my service for such a horrible reason. But going through the application process and having an assignment pending has started the process of erasing the regret. Unlike most situations in life, I am getting a chance to try this one again. It won't be the same; I realize that. It couldn't possibly be the same, because it wouldn't have the same wonderful people, homestay, or assignment... hell, even if I beat the odds and get lucky enough to get a second Caribbean assignment, the chances that it would be on Dominica are nearly astronomical.

And, really, would I want that anyway? If my new assignment was too close to my old one, it would just be weird and creepy. Because, first of all, I should let the past be the past, and to resurrect it by retracing my steps would be like... animating a dead body, or something. The past is done, over, gone. Let it stay that way. Second of all, it would just plain creep me out.

On the other hand, I do sometimes yearn for the chance to literally do it over again. Go back in time and occupy my old body and make new choices. See it through. Let my marriage vanish into the dusty reliquary of unrealized alternative pasts, instead of the Peace Corps.

Oh, man -- and to make things worse: when I went up to Washington DC during Thanksgiving, M. and I went to the Smithsonian's new Museum of the American Indian. It was really crowded that day, like spectacularly crowded, but we saw about half the place. On the third floor there was a section devoted to the native Caribs who live on Dominica. The Caribbean got its name from them, and a few hundred years ago they were the most wide-spread and feared of all the regional tribes. There's a spot on the Northeast side of Dominica, essentially a "reservation" for them, and that's where the last remaining 800 or so Carib people live. THAT WAS WHERE I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ASSIGNED! Yes, my assignment was to be in Salybia, working with the disenfranchised Caribs, in one of the poorest sections in all the Caribbean.

I spent a long time in that display area in the Smithsonian, watching all three videos, examining the artifacts, looking very closely at the people. If I had been a God-damn man and stayed, I probably would have personally known all the people on the video, since it had been shot recently and was put together with the help of tribal leaders. Interviews and scenes were shot all around the Carib Territory, and in the background one could see the thick palms and undergrowth, the wood-frame houses on stilts, the dirt yards with tubs and clotheslines and chickens, and sometimes in the distance you could see the ocean. I was overwhelmed with excitement, sadness, remorse, fondness... I called M. over and eagerly pointed out all the stuff and told her this is where I would have been. She's originally from the Caribbean as well (Jamaica) so it "looked" familiar to her and made her smile. It was a bittersweet moment for both of us, feeling disconnection and loss.

I'll never totally be over my decision to ET. It was the wrong decision, plain and simple. I've known some people who like to approach life with a "No Regrets" attitude (my ex-wife included), but I feel regret has a useful function: it puts into focus your bad decisions. It's part of the process of learning from the past and avoiding making the same mistakes in the future. Small or trifling mistakes may not be worth the effort to regret, but major bungled life events? Sure. My hope is to lay rest the spirits of regret that have haunted me for years, to redeem myself through this new attempt. Or at least make peace with the past.


p.s. I forgot to include this site in my list of light reading. It's a fascinating read about a woman named Meagan who was assigned to Dominica just two years after me. If I had stayed, I might have met her just before COS as she was beginning her training. She ended up ETing, too, but for vastly different reasons. Her journal is a compelling and fascinating read, but it's a little long -- leave yourself an hour or two. I strongly recommend it to anyone planning to join the PC and wondering what a bad experience is like.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Much Hair Pulling

Another day, another d(el)ay.

I heard from my PO this evening, via e-mail. He said he'd address the issue of my placement after he returns from Christmas break, which he anticipates to be January 28th. This means basically two more weeks where I'll be sitting here, nuttin' to do, just waiting to hear. I'm not doing anything interesting this year. In fact, this will be the first holiday break I've ever spent by myself. Maybe it's good practice for the Peace Corps years to come. I'm trying to arrange plans to go to Miami to hang out with my ex and her cool family for a few days, but things aren't looking good. The problem lies in where to stay because there are already family coming to visit. I can't afford a hotel room, not really. I mean, technically I can, but not if I want to stay comfortable until my next paycheck in late January!

I'll probably spend this break trying to get through some more of my novel. Yes, I'm working on one. I'm actually about two-thirds of the way through it, just beginning "Book Three." I would be remiss if I brought it up and didn't explain the project, I guess, but I'll only do so just a little -- one of the maxims writers live by is not to divulge too much about one's work until it is written, because that robs one of momentum.

But, anyway, it is (in a nutshell) about the secession of Hawai`i from the United States of America. It follows several characters, from a young local girl to the governor himself, as the ball gets rolling from a heinous terrorist act. The plot involves the remnants of the royal family, who work with the compliant governor to set up a political situation that could bring about such a thing, from securing Chinese support, to declaring a plebescite vote. And lest you think it is all politics, most of it deals with some other characters who are only peripherally related, and tells the story of their lives in those troubled times.

It's far different from the other books I've written (and not published, I might add, because they were written in my early 20s and aren't all that... good), in that it is much more ambitious and mainstream. When I started it last February, I announced my goal to have it done in one year. I could have done it in less than that, if I had a little more discipline. I'm a fast writer. I hope now I can have it done before I depart for the Peace Corps, at the very least, so I can start landing an agent and publisher. We'll see.

In other news, I seem to have irrevocably lost the journal I wrote when I was in the Peace Corps in '98. I wrote several entries over those four weeks, and I thought it would be fun to dig around in there and refresh my memory. But it seems to have completely and totally vanished, and I can't imagine what might have happened to it. I went through a period of "purging" a couple times over the last few years, trying to trim down my great volume of personal possessions, and I know I donated a handful of empty journal books I never used, and so I seriously hope it wasn't mistakenly put in with those things. If it really is gone, this marks a tragic loss to me -- I don't remember all those details off the top of my head. Some of the intimate events and thoughts will forever vanish. As Henry Jones, Indiana Jones' dad, said, "I wrote it down so I wouldn'y have to remember." Bah.

Nevertheless, I mean to write a blog entry about that experience, in a little more detail than my first one. Maybe I'll do that over the holiday break, since I'll have two weeks more of anticipation. If any of my readers is curious about something, too, I'd love to hear questions.

It'd be like a writing assignment! Surprise me!


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Anticip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ation

Hooray! According to the Peace Corps web site, I have now passed the entire application process.The "legal" part went through on Tuesday, so there are now no more holds on my application and I'm open for the invitation. I have an email out to my Placement Officer that explains that A) my nut allergy is not as big an issue as the Medical Office believed it to be, B) the real concern should be my cold-induced asthma, and C) in my opinion the best use of my skills would be in the Caribbean or Pacific. He wrote back only to ask my Social Security number, and I haven't heard since. That was last Thursday. Par for the course, I guess. I need now to just be patient.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, I went up to see my ex-girlfriend in Washington DC. We had a lot of fun, driving to Baltimore to see the aquarium, going to the new Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and such. On Monday, when she had to return to work, I had a day to myself so I hopped the Metro downtown. I sorta "invited" myself to the Peace Corps Headquarters. I figured I was in town, and it would be nice to actually meet my Placement Officer in person. Plus I wanted to see what it was like in PCHQ.

Well, right off the bat I knew it wasn't going to happen. Right in the door I had to pass through a metal detector like I was at an airport. (Aside: This whole security thing is getting a little out of hand. Why they would need security for the Peace Corps seems an indication, to me, that something is seriously wrong with the way we are conducting ourselves internationally.) Guards kept people from approaching the elevators. So I went up to the Information Desk -- which was not very accurately named, by the way -- and spoke with the woman there. I told her I was recently Medically Cleared and was in town so I thought I'd speak to my Placement Officer in person. Her demeanor ranged from suspicious to dismissive. It took me several tries to explain to her that, no, I was not wishing to apply to the Peace Corps, that I had already done that, and I had no ulterior motives other than just being in town. Meanwhile a guard strolled casually over to study newspapers nearby. After wrangling like this for a few minutes, she finally called the Placement Office upstairs and had me sit down in a waiting area nearby.

A minute later, the courtesy phone rang. It was someone from Placement, and happily they understood where I was in the application process and why I wanted to visit. I said I was rapidly coming to the conclusion this type of visit was unorthodox. "Yeah," he said. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way." He then answered my questions pretty closely, telling me a January departure was unlikely anymore, and that I should look more for a May departure, and he also told me the e-mail address of my Placement Officer. Finally, some direct information.

I left feeling a little strange -- I was worried for a while that my unannounced visit would circulate the PC and would somehow stain my chances of an Invitation. But then, I thought, certainly I can't be the first person who has ever dropped by like that.

One of the things many applicants complain about is the way the Peace Corps can be very bureaucratic and faceless, even cold, when one is dealing with them. I have some ideas about how they could rectify that. And I think they should. Sometimes I fantasize about doing my service, maybe extending it another couple years, then going to work in the Peace Corps. I think I have some excellent ideas that would help personalize it and make sure it survives another 40 years. But that's for another post.

Hopefully very soon now I'll get an invitation...

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Those Are the Rules, Man

The following was created by members of the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean as a way to put on paper, to get some finality, to the issue of online writing. Blogs are catching on quickly as a good way for Peace Corps volunteers to share their experience, or just record it electronically for themselves. It's a great medium because it is easy to use and instantaneous. But that's where a lot of the trouble comes in. I think most of the rules listed below are sensible; I don't really agree, though, with the "urging" to not mention exactly where you live. The odds are so incredibly long that terrorists might see your web site and decide to kidnap you, if that is the basis for the Peace Corps' concern. Far more likely they'll spot you going about your daily business, because they stick out like a sore thumb in-country! But it's only listed as an "urging," so it doesn't seem mandatory. I have every intention of discussing where I live on this blog in the future. To protect others, though, I'll be more discreet about where friends and colleagues live and work.

So, via the Peace Corps Yahoo Group, The Rules (please forgive the length):

Peace Corps-Eastern Caribbean Website Policy
As in the Volunteer Handbook

Electronic Communication and Volunteer Websites: Volunteers must use discretion and judgment when using Peace Corps and non-Peace Corps-owned computer equipment. This is of particular importance when communicating via e-mail and the Internet, which has potential for mass distribution. Volunteers are free to discuss their role in the Peace Corps with any individual or group, but they should recognize that ill-considered statements could be used to embarrass themselves, the host country in which they serve, the Peace Corps, or the United States. Material that might be viewed as disparaging to the host country or as politically sensitive by the host government could create significant problems for the Peace Corps program in that country. The care taken in private communication should be no less than the care taken in public utterances; messages to friends and family or the contents of web pages may be passed to the press or others and become a public issue. Volunteers should take into account the Peace Corps policies regarding publication of materials, political expression, and other related issues in this section above when they use IT systems and services, such as e-mail and posting material to the Web. A violation of such policies could result in administrative separation or other disciplinary action.

In addition, Volunteers should be aware of the potential for violation of U.S. privacy, host country, or other applicable laws if they include in any electronic communication (via e-mail or a web page) detailed personal information about others, such as full names or addresses, without the specific prior permission of those individuals. In addition, Volunteers could potentially violate such laws if they transmit information that could be defamatory in nature regarding another individual. Similar restrictions may apply to the unauthorized transmission or posting of a person's photograph or likeness. Social security numbers should never be posted on a Web site or transmitted via e-mail, under any circumstances.

Volunteers who create their own Web sites, or post information to Web sites that have been created and maintained by others, should be reminded that (unless password-protected) any information posted on the Internet can probably be accessed by the general public, even if that is not intended. Because search engines regularly index most sites on the Internet, it is possible that members of the public could locate a Volunteer Web site by searching for information about the Peace Corps or a certain country. This is possible even if the Volunteer does not actively promote his/her Web site. Given these realities, Volunteers are responsible for ensuring that their IT use is consistent with the following guidelines:

• Notification: Volunteers who create their own Web sites or post material to Web sites created by others are responsible for discussing the content in advance with the Country Director to ensure that the material is suitable and complies with this general guidance as well as any country-specific guidance.

• Disclaimer: Any web site maintained by a Volunteer during his or her Peace Corps service must reflect the fact that it is not an official publication of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government. The site, therefore, must be labeled clearly and prominently with an appropriate disclaimer such as: "The contents of this Web site are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps."

• Use of the Peace Corps Logo: Because use of the Peace Corps logo is reserved for official activities authorized by the Peace Corps Act, the logo cannot be used on Volunteer Web sites.

• Cultural Sensitivity: The thoughtful and accurate insights that Volunteers convey in their communications with others can contribute substantially to bringing to the United States a better understanding of other countries. However, given the broad access to Volunteer-posted material on the Web, both in their country of service and elsewhere, Volunteers should remain culturally sensitive with respect to the material they post to any Web site. Volunteers should be reminded that people in their host countries and members of the U.S. public may make inferences about the Peace Corps or the Volunteer's country of service based on the material a Volunteer posts to a Web site. Volunteer-posted material on the Web should not embarrass or reflect poorly on the Peace Corps or the countries where Volunteers serve.

• Safety and Security: As a safety precaution, Volunteers are urged to omit from their Web sites information about their precise living location or those of other Volunteers, as well as information about events to be attended by a large number of Volunteers. For example, Volunteers who live in remote areas should use care before placing the name of their towns or villages on their Web site and, instead, should refer to the general area of the country where they live. For their own protection, it is also advisable not to provide information about Volunteers' personal possessions. Volunteers should be aware of the risk of identity fraud and other security concerns connected with the posting of any personal information about themselves, family members and others on Web sites.

• Publication Policies: Consistent with Peace Corps' policy regarding publications, Volunteers may not accept payment for anything they write or photograph that appears on the Web. Articles, manuals, teaching materials, and other work-related products developed in connection with Peace Corps service and/or financed by Peace Corps funds are considered part of the public domain and may not be copyrighted or used for personal gain. Volunteers should be advised that posting materials to the Web that they have not authored or created may violate U.S., host country, or other applicable copyright laws.

• Volunteer Contributions to Peace Corps' official Web Sites: The Office of Communications, which oversees the Peace Corps' official external web site (, welcomes the submission of essays, stories, and photographs from Volunteers that will assist in highlighting Peace Corps activities to prospective applicants and the general public. All submissions should be reviewed by the Country Director and forwarded to the Office of Communications for consideration.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Southern Cross

This song by Crosby, Stills and Nash has been haunting me lately. The lyrics really capture my increasing wanderlust, my need to get the hell out of dodge. My disconnect and lack of belonging to the country of my birth has been getting more and more obvious over the years, certainly one aspect of my interest in joining the Peace Corps. This song has a sort of troubled, unfulfilled drifter quality to the "persona" of the songwriter that speaks to something in my soul. Read, and enjoy (and if you can, get a copy of the song and listen to it).

Got out of town on a boat going to southern islands,
Sailing a reach before a following sea.
She was making for the trades on the outside,
And the downhill run to Pape`ete

Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas.
We got eighty feet of waterline, nicely making way.
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you,
But on the midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away.

Think about how many times I have fallen.
Spirits are using me; larger voices callin'.
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.
I have been around the world, lookin' for that woman, girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time,
You understand now why you came this way.
'Cause the truth you might be running from is so small,
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of the coming day.

So I'm sailing for tomorrow; my dreams are a-dying.
And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain.
I have my ship, and all her flags are a-flying.
She is all that I have left, and music is her name.

Think about how many times I have fallen.
Spirits are using me; larger voices callin'.
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.
I have been around the world, lookin' for that woman, girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.
And you know it will.

So we cheated and we lied and we tested,
And we never failed to fail. It was the easiest thing to do.
You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine will come along make me forget about loving you
In the Southern Cross.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Conditional Love

Just as the woman from the Office of Medical Services suggested, a letter did indeed arrive Saturday. I have now been officially medically cleared; I have the letter to prove it! At long last, this part of my Peace Corps experience has come to an end and I can start on the next part, which is the Invitation/Departure. There are some... exceptions, however, clauses to my acceptance that I'm not sure how to feel about. Well, here is a transcription of the most pertinent parts of the letter, provided for the benefit of people who might be curious about such things (emphasis mine):

Thank you for submitting all the requested medical and dental information to the Office of Medical Services. You have been medically and dentally qualified for Peace Corps service in a country where psychological support services are available should they be required and where nuts are not a dietary staple.


You are required to bring a three (3) month supply of all your current medication/s to country with you. You are required to obtain and carry an anaphylaxis kit with you at all times. For your allergies, please wear a Med-alert bracelet at all times while you are in Peace Corps service.

Now, I find myself a little torn about this conditional acceptance. On one hand, I'm just glad they've accepted me and we can all move forward now. On the other hand, I can't help but sigh a little at the overcautious zeal to which they've approached my health status in these two areas. First of all, readers of this blog will remember that they treated my past counseling with kid gloves. When I voluntarily admitted I'd sought out counseling for various quite normal reasons, they nevertheless treated me as though I was mentally unhinged and might crack at any time. I'll come clean with my readers here. In high school I was -- how to say? -- very troubled. I don't know what my problem was, but I know I often had dark thoughts and turned inward with my feelings. One day in school I cut at my wrists with a piece of broken mirror I had found in the hallway during class. Yes, that's right, I did this during class. It was during art, my favorite subject and the class where I just happened to be seated at the same table as two asshole skaters who always gave me hell and never took me seriously. I didn't really mean it as a final gesture, not really. I just wanted to shock the hell of them and to relish in the looks on their faces as I cut my own flesh. Well, they took me seriously after that! I wasn't some lame geek; I had a troubled streak and it served to earn some respect from them. Problem was, my friends immediately went to my mother and ratted me out (well, combined with some of the morbid and disturbing drawings I had a penchant for drawing at the time), and next thing I knew I was in weekly therapy sessions and was put on Prozac.

Fast forward ten years. I am married, starting graduate school, I have just pathetically ditched the Peace Corps, and I have many more problems than just adolescent malaise and low self-esteem. Buckling under the pressures of a dying marriage and college courses that were not going as well as I'd hoped (to put it mildly; I actually got an F in one of my classes in my first semester at grad school, my first F since high school), I get a little despondent and feel not quite myself. "Easy," I think, "I'm depressed again, like in high school. I'll just get onto some Prozac and I'll soon be right as rain." No -- this time it wasn't working, which should have been my first sign that my problems weren't biological. I also sought out counseling as my marriage collapsed like a black hole. Who wouldn't? Or, more accurately, shouldn't I have? A couple years later I feel better. Moving on.

But the Peace Corps was concerned about it, and now they've taken steps to limit where I might be assigned to those places that have psychological support services available. I don't know what this means -- actually, I thought there were no psychological support services available in the Peace Corps. It might work in my favor; it might lean me toward the Caribbean or Pacific, areas that are more Westernized and are coincidentally the areas I'd prefer to serve. It might also put me in more urban environments. But what the actual ramifications will be are unclear and they make me very nervous.

As for the nuts thing: (sigh) yes, I am allergic to nuts, but I've been perfectly aware of this allergy for over twenty years and know how to avoid foods with them. I suppose enough nuts could put me into anaphylactic shock, sure, but long before I consumed that much I'd be aware of the changes happening in my body and I could stop eating. The reaction I get is a pulsating feeling in my mouth, along with throat tightness, a swollen tongue, sinus activity and chest constrictions. Classic allergic reaction stuff. I've never needed an epinephrine shot because it would be almost impossible for me to eat that many nuts without noticing the onset in time to minimize it. I'd have to willfully shovel mouthfuls of almonds down my gullet to activate a serious medical emergency. So again the OMS took a simple minor molehill and made a mountain out of it. I'm not going to carry around a bloody kit, nor am I going to get a wristband. It just isn't that serious of a problem.

The thing that gets me is, both of these problems were part of my life when I volunteered in 1998. Nothing's changed.

All this serves to once again enforce the rule of thumb: when in doubt, leave it out. If you don't think something is that big of a deal, don't mark it on your medical questionnaire.

Thanks for listening. Now let me say this, on a positive note:


Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Just a follow-up to my previous post:

I broke down and called the Peace Corps to talk to someone in Medical. I just wanted to know if they were waiting for me to do something... I was afraid I was waiting for them, and they were waiting for me, and so it would go with nothing being done forever.

Of course, I had to leave a message, but this time they were back to me in like 30 minutes. "It says here," the nurse said, "you were MEDICALLY CLEARED on Tuesday."

Me: "Oh."

Wouldn't you know it -- the two days I don't go online obsessively to check my status are exactly the two days when changes occur. Anyway, the good news I'm medically cleared, and right now my application is finishing its arduous journey over at Legal. I already talked to them a while back and they expressed optimism that it should rush through there, since even though I have a divorce on my record, I owe nothing to my ex-wife (in fact, it's the other way around!), I have no children, and I have only student loan debt to contend with.

Here's hoping I'll be hearing from the Placement Officers in a few days! Of course, you'll be the first to know.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Peace Corps Headquarters

Originally uploaded by hawaiianbrian.
This photo was taken when I was in Washington DC a couple months ago. I went down to see all the sights on the National Mall and HAD to take a side journey to check out the Peace Corps Headquarters. So this is it -- the humble building that serves as the "brain" for the operation. I was surprised; I was expecting something bigger, I guess. :)

I'll be back there for Thanksgiving to visit my ex-girlfriend (see The Way We Were). If I still haven't resolved this medical issue, I'll be dropping by to see them in person!


p.s. If posting this image is deemed to compromise Peace Corps security or confidentiality, I'll gladly remove it. In this day and age of paranoia and hyper-vigilance, I hope I haven't crossed some kind of line. :(

The Sound of Silence

I know, I know. I'm supposed to be exercising patience right now. But the fact that I haven't heard diddly from the PC in many weeks is starting to make me a little nervous. Actually, I wouldn't be nervous at all -- that's just the nature of the application, and that the PC is understaffed and overworked. But I got to wondering a little while ago if there was a miscommunication. You might remember I was requested to go seek out a psych evaluation, and that apparently got sorted out when the Medical Desk person finally got to speak one-on-one with my ex-counselor. OR at least that's what he said in an e-mail. What if he was mistaken and the Medical Desk is sitting there, waiting for me to do something I didn't think I needed to do?

So my paranoia go the better of me and I called on Monday, getting the infamous voice mail box, and of course I still haven't heard back from them. If I don't get a call by about 2 pm tomorrow I'll call again. I hear the PC actually wants people who are dogged and do not flag in the face of obstacles. I'm not about to give up my goal/dream/destiny of the Peace Corps over something like this. It would just be nice to get it resolved!

Anyway, you may be wondering why on earth I haven't posted in nearly three weeks. What happened was, my grandfather died (actually on the very night of my last TheToughestJob entry) and I had to go to the funeral right after that. Most of my family is from Texas, specifically west Texas, and so I had to spend a few days over there for the funeral. It was... surreal. I had been to a funeral only once before, for someone I didn't know, and I was about ten at the time so my mother didn't permit me to approach the casket. Up until a couple weeks ago, I had never seen a dead body in my life. Then the dead body just happened to be my own grandfather, which was very, very disturbing. I've read about such feelings before and never really connected with the sense of disconnection and disgust people have described feeling at seeing a relative or loved one in a casket. Now I know.

We held a "viewing" the night before, which for those of you who may be blissfully ignorant (as I was) is a sort of awkward ceremony where the family of the deceased stand around in a side room of the funeral home (another first for me) and other friends, family, and acquaintances drop by to chat and view the body. Hence the name. If you have ever heard the term, "elephant in the room," you will come to understand its full meaning at such an event. Everyone stands around and discusses who just got into college, who just had babies, who is on kidney dialysis, what to do about the Iraq war, etc. etc. etc., all while a dead body is sitting a few feet away. And the thing in the casket didn't even remotely look like my grandfather. It was like a Madame Toussaud's wax museum version of him, this plastic effigy of a man I once knew and loved. I am now of the firm conviction that I simply do not belong to the "culture" of America -- its consumerism, capitalism, religions, and lots more. And now I can firmly say this macabre ceremony runs so counter to my own beliefs that it has really driven home how out of place I am here.

Oddly, my mother asked me later how I would have felt about it, had I been in another culture. Say, in Africa in the Peace Corps or something, and a local bigwig from the village had died. Honestly, I probably wouldn't feel as dismayed, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I wouldn't be related to that bigwig. But nevertheless I think staring at a dead body and sobbing uncontrollably only serves to prolong the agony. I, personally, would rather never see them again and deal with the grief alone. And I desperately hope my own passing isn't marked by such a morbid and maudlin display.

Well, now that I got that off my mind, I can apologize for the long space between postings. As I've said before, though, this part of the application process is coming along at a snail's pace, and I have very little to report outside various personal issues, like the one above. I'm not sure how interested most readers of this blog are to read entries unrelated to Peace Corps matters. But you may find a few more from time to time as the application process crawls along. Hope you don't mind.


p.s. The purpose of the above entry was to rant, not to solicit condolences on my grandfather's death. I'm okay, I really am. Thanks, though. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Some Light Reading

For those of us who are also in the application process, information can be rare and tantalizing when we receive it. It's like finding a puddle of pure water while crossing the desert. Blogs or online journals written by other Peace Corps volunteers are extremely useful for this reason, letting applicants satisfy their thirst for knowledge. And, in some cases, can serve to allay fears or warn against problems. One of the most important things soon-to-be volunteers need to know, for example, is that they will never be able to predict what their experience will be like, but that they can expect certain things to happen. Look out for homesickness, alienation, feelings of disenchantment, culture shock. Look out for the self-defeating tendencies to crumple under pressure and want to return to comfort and safety. But also look out for instant friendships from the tight-knit volunteer group, experiences so exciting and new that you feel more alive than ever, some of the best sleep of your life, wonderful stories, etc. etc.

Here are some of the blogs and journals I've been reading over the last few months (and some new ones). Every one of them is different, and not just in location and assignment, but in attitude and outcome. Some are from people who have ETed, some are from volunteers who have just arrived, some are from others still waiting for an assignment, some are from RPVCs. All of them tell just a little bit of what all PCVs need to know about the Peace Corps and what your experience will be like. The more you read, the better.

So It Goes. A recently-departed volunteer in Senegal.
Jason Pearce/COS. A site that chronicles the experience of a volunteer given his walking papers for being too truthful in his blog! Important to read for anyone planning to electronically record their PC experience!
Erika in Kyrgyztan. A volunteer who is serving in a place that is radically different from my Pacific/Caribbean experience.
Wanderlustress. A volunteer in Uzbekistan.
Caroline's Peace Corps Site. Caroline just finished her assignment in St. Lucia, where I did my training back in 1998.
Caribbean Blue... a St. Lucia Journal. This was made by David Waters, fellow volunteer from EC 65, back in 1998. If you look through his journal, you'll see a picture of a heavily-illustrated plastic drinking cup... that was my cup from training! (It was very exciting to find that randomly on the internet!)
American Idle. Someone who ETed from an assignment in Samoa.
Kris Rush/Peace Corps Samoa. Another volunteer who ETed from Samoa... (What is it with Samoa?)
Lindsey Wolf's Peace Corps Site. A volunteer currently serving in St. Lucia.
The Palangi Files. Another volunteer from the Pacific.
Paul W. Neville's Tonga Experience. A volunteer from Tonga, obviously.
Mijal's Blog. This one hasn't been updated in a really long time, so I'm curious how she is. Any Tongan readers in the house?
AdventureDivas. Peace Corps. Hard Core. Not a blog, but has good information resources.
Justin and Rebecca in Tonga. A cute couple serving together in Tonga. They should be entering COS soon.
Travels in Bananaland. An RPCV who served in St. Lucia.
Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean. A site by Greg Carlson, who I assume is still in St. Lucia (he hasn't updated in a while either).
Patrick's Blog. Someone who just began the application process.
Following My Heart. Also someone who just began the application process.
The Quiet American. A volunteer who is close to finishing PST in Senegal.
The Peace Corps Site RIng. Many more sites can be found here. I tried not to duplicate, but I think one or two favorites fell through the cracks.
Peace Corps Online Blog List. An extensive list of blogs that I won't try to copy here. Lots of goodies!
Websites About Our Countries. Yet MORE links to scores of pages, these sorted by country. If you haven't found what you're looking for yet, here's your solution.
So You Wanna Join the Peace Corps? Not a blog or online diary, but very useful for people poised on the verge of applying and in need of a final nudge.
Peace Corps Online Information Network. A site chock full of links to stories about service.

I'll add to this list as new stuff comes in. If you are a reader who has a site, or knows of one not listed here, please drop me a line in the comments box or send an e-mail (I love getting e-mail!)


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Ruminations Late at Night

As of last week, the hurdle in front of me from the mental health specialists is over. Finally. I got my ex-counselor to give the Medical Desk a call and I guess talking to him eased their nervous minds. Strangely, I'm still not clear yet. When I check online, I keep seeing my progress held up in the "Legal" section. It says I have a legal hold. Nobody's contacted me. If that hasn't been cleared by midweek, by God, I'm going to call and see what's up.

So that means still no word on an assignment. I know my faithful readership out there are dying to know. Trust me -- nobody is dying to know more than me. As soon as I know, you'll know. I'm going to try and finesse an assignment in either the Caribbean or Pacific, though. I really want to go to one of those two places. I know, I know: PC volunteers should be selfless and willing to anywhere the PC needs them. I must say, in my defense, that I do have an aversion to snow and cold weather that would keep me from serving in most of Asia and all of eastern Europe. I think I mentioned this in an earlier post. That leaves Africa, of course, and I have nothing against Africa but -- two years there?

Anyway, I'd go if they asked me to, but I think it would be a criminal waste of my knowledge. See, I have more exposure to the cultures and languages of the Pacific and Caribbean than any other place in the world. I lived in Hawai`i for a time, and have self-taught myself a lot about the culture and language since then (my friends would say I'm obsessed). The language of both Tonga and Samoa are very close to Hawaiian, giving me a leg up there. Heck, the modernized culture in both those places is recognizably very similar to Hawaiian modern culture. Shaka signs, floral prints, the works.

As for the Caribbean, my recent ex-girlfriend was from Jamaica and I spent a lot of time with her family in Miami. They liked me a lot because I was already way more informed on their way of life than most stupid white men, and I think this impressed them. I'd eaten breadfruit, salt fish, ganips. I didn't lose track of the conversation when they spoke in patois. I could talk about Caribbean politics.

Please, Placement Desk people -- if you want to maximize my value as a volunteer, send me to one of those places. I don't claim to know everything about life there, but I am familiar enough at least to be able to adjust faster and more thoroughly than most. Don't think my choices are based on some kind of American idiot notions of "paradise" or visions of white sand beaches; life in the post-colonial tropics is more complex and exciting than a beach can ever be. And, besides, you could say I have "unfinished business" in the Caribbean.

Sigh. More to come...


Monday, October 04, 2004

A Little Whine with that Cheese?

Well, I haven't posted on here in a while, partially because I'm still waiting for the results of this latest fiasco. Hopefully I can figure out a way to get this cleared up that doesn't involve spending hundreds of dollars.

Here's the gist of what's new: after my last post, I talked to my ex-counselor, the fella I went to when I was having trouble with writer's block. This guy is also a licensed psychologist in his spare time, and he was quick to denounce what this Peace Corps Medical person was demanding of me. He said he'd call her at my behest and talk to her. However, he wanted me to call her again and lean on her. I did so, but of course she wasn't in the office, so I ended up leaving a detailed message. Point is, there's no use in applying pressure to her because she doesn't trust my word to begin with. The time I did talk to her on the phone she had this suspicious tone to her voice, as if searching for clues among my protestations that would prove I was more of a nutter than she thought. It was like when convicts go before the parole board to review their incarceration -- the parole board is looking for anything, any small clue, that might betray the convict as a fraud, a lying scoundrel hoping to get out of his sentence, rather than someone who legitimately has been rehabilitiated.

Anyway, so almost three weeks on and still no word from my ex-counselor about whether he ever got around to making that call. He's a good guy (obviously) -- I believe he'll do it. I mean, he told me that, if he can't talk Ms. Suspicious into relenting, he'll just fill out the damnable paperwork himself and be done with the mess. He feels very strongly that I should, under no circumstances, have to go consult a $200-per-hour psychiatrist for three sessions just so the Peace Corps, and this woman in particular, can feel a little better about me.

But as I said, no word. No word from Peace Corps Medical either. And no change to my status on the website. I've called all the parties involved and have received no callbacks. PLUS! I called the Peace Corps Placement Desk and they confirmed the info I'd heard from my Recruiter that the PC needs at least six weeks between invitation and departure date. THAT MEANS I'VE PASSED MY WINDOW AND I WON'T BE GOING IN NOVEMBER. Yes, you heard right: this fiasco has ruined my chances of going to the South Pacific in November. The Placement Desk woman said instead I'd have to work with them, once I received Med clearance, to find me a new assignment. If things are as grim as they seemed when I was talking with my recruiter last summer, that probably means I won't be going ANYWHERE for a while.

A side note: If I want to make lemonade out of this lemon, I could say I hope this means I get a Caribbean assignment. Jamaica or Eastern Caribbean, where I was before, to leave in June 2005. When I talk it out with the Placement people, I'll try to push the angle that I have "unfinished business" in the Eastern Caribbean, and that my pre-exposure to life there would make me an ideal candidate, one who would minimize the "culture shock" that cripples so many volunteers. We'll see.



Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

*Sigh.* Just when I thought this was going to be easy.

I got notice on Saturday (why can't it ever be Tuesday or something, when I can do something about it?) that the Medical Office of the Peace Corps needed more information on my counseling. Back when I was doing the medical part of the initial Peace Corps application, I clicked a radial button indicating that, yes, I had at some point received "psychiatric, psychological, or mental health counseling." yes, I have received counseling. I had two really rough patches in 1999 and 2001, both having to do with a previous relationship, and I saw a school counselor both times. I won't get into the details here, but Peace Corps wanted all my documentation with my medical packet and they wanted me to write a detailed (!) account of my mental health history.

SO. Then on Saturday they write to me saying they now need me to go get a psych assessment, with a board-certified psychiatrist, no less, and of course they cannot reimburse me for this. You know how much these people charge per hour? And Peace Corps wants about three of these assessment sessions so the doc can see if I'm sane? We're talking about over $500 dollars here. I don't have that kind of money. I know, people always complain about spending $500 dollars, but I really don't have that money. As I said before, I live pretty poor.

I called the Peace Corps to try and talk them out of this huge requirement. I mean, after all, with that one question they lump everything together -- if you ever had marriage counseling, you have to follow the same procedure for having multiple personality disorder. Everything -- disassociative disorders, OCD, manic-depression, panic attacks -- everything gets lumped into the same category: "I once had some kind of counseling or therapy." No matter if you visited the school counselor for a few weeks over lack of school motivation or you were hospitalized in a loony bin for twenty years for having some kind of psychotic break where you thought you were Napoleon. It's ALL THE SAME THING!

When I talked to the representative of the Medical Office, she pointed out that "conditions in the field" are stressful, yadda yadda. I know this. She said the Eastern Caribbean doesn't pose the same kinds of stress and challenges as other posts around the world. I know that, too. Hell, I'm probably better suited to Peace Corps life than a lot of other volunteers, mainly because, A) I already live a pretty modest lifestyle, at least by American standards, and B) I'm very used to being isolated and alone. I actually like it. Ask my friends and family members... I go weeks and months without talking to them. I know ONE person in Tallahassee. That's it. I'm used to being poor and lonely. I'll be fine. But her fear, and I know they're just covering their asses, is that these environements are stressful and she noted I tend to get counseling when I'm stressed.

Yes, true true. But wouldn't it be worse if I didn't get counseling? What about those who just bottle it all up?

I'm being punished for getting professional advice on a painful divorce. Silly me.

Anyway, I'm getting the counselor I saw to give them a call. Still waiting on the results of that, but I figure if the same guy who did the counseling in the first place can call them and talk some sense into them, maybe I can avoid this snag. Because I don't have the money, nor do I have the time -- it would take weeks to get this accomplished, and by then I'd be missing my "early November" departure date. So hold on, dear readers, because if they won't listen to my former counselor (they damn sure don't trust my word for it!) then I won't be leaving in November after all. And if I don't leave in November, I may not be going until -- who knows? -- next spring or summer or fall, and I won't be going to the Pacific probably.

So major changes... Stay tuned for the stunning conclusion to this week's The Toughest Job!


p.s.: think carefully as you fill out the medical questionnaire!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Time Keeps on Slippin'

I'm really starting to get jumpy about my invitation. If you've read earlier posts on this blog, you should remember that my departure date is supposed to be "early November," which I assume could mean anything from the 1st through the 15th. You may also have read that the Peace Corps supposedly cannot send an invitation without at least 6 weeks advance notice. Which makes sense, when you think about it, because would-be-volunteers need a little while to get their lives in order before they go. Well, do the math -- 6 weeks is either NOW or coming up in a very short while. Every day I log onto the Peace Corps web site and it tells me the same thing: my paperwork is still on hold in the legal and medical departments for consideration.

It's really getting scary. I hope I make it in time.


Forgive Me

Forgive me reader, for I have sinned. It has been 20 days since my last confession.

Seriously, I apologize for the huge gap. I ended up helping my ex-girlfriend Melonie move to D.C. Yes, she's an "ex" now, sadly. Those of you who have read earlier posts on this blog will probably recall the overly-sentimental post from a few weeks back where I consider the end of our relationship. I guess it has to be, otherwise the possibility of wanting to ET might rear its ugly head again -- especially for such a good relationship like the one we had. Man, it was great. But time to move on I suppose.

So what the heck kept me from posting? Well, we spent a good week packing and cleaning her apartment, then we had the spontaneous notion that I should go to DC with her to help her move and unpack. We checked flights, and it turned out we could get a great price on a return trip, so up with her I went. Turned out to be a really good idea, because it allowed that really sentimental part of my brain to get more of a sense of closure than I would have otherwise had by just watching her drive out of my life. I got to see her situated in a new life, got to attach her with a physical location. Anyone who knows me, as I always say, knows how centered on "place" I can be. While I was in DC I got to go down and see our nation's capitol and the Smithsonians as she was at work during the day. I could write a whole lot about that -- I hadn't been there since I was 13, in 1985, and the place is on lock-down. It's scary, really. Security fencing, police everywhere, guards with machine guns, anti-aircraft missiles on buildings... The whole time I was down there I felt very unsafe. I'm sure with every fiber of my being that something horrible is going to happen that will make 9/11 look like a house fire, and DC may not survive. One truck nuke is all it would take. I fear for Melonie, so close to all those hard targets (she lives in Maryland, just over the border). I also felt quite pissed off, I have to say, because security was out of control down there. Bag searches, bomb-sniffing dogs... They won't let you into the Capitol building anymore with *bottled water* or even an EMPTY bottle of water. No sprays, no fluids of any kind. Is this the right solution? Is this what we want? Paranoia? A lock-down? Especially because it was our foreign policy that made us the targets we are in the first place!

But anyway, the good news is I got to see all the big sights down there: the White House, the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Lincoln Monument, the whole shebang. Hell, I saw were the Forest Service is based! I spent Tuesday the 7th WALKING all over downtown DC and the Mall, and I saw dang near everything that day. My feet were killing me. Damn, but my dogs was barkin'. Then the next day I did it all again, this time taking in the Smithsonians (American History, what parts of Natural History I didn't get to see with Melonie a few days earlier, and then especially the Air and Space museum). Two days spent walking. I must have logged about 15 miles all told -- no joke.

So I came back the 9th. My 33rd birthday was the 8th, by the way... happy birthday to me. Yipee. My birthday gift was the last night of my relationship with Melonie. It was surreal, laying there with her and realizing when we wake up we won't be together anymore. I got pretty choked up, both then and the week before while we were packing, but I'm okay now. I think I'll be okay.

And for those of you following the hurricane season, no, I wasn't in Tallahassee during Frances, and yesterday Ivan only grazed us with some stiff wind and rain and lots of blowing leaves. Nothing major. I'm safe, fine, and comfortable. Maybe I'll get out of Florida yet without experiencing another hurricane (I was in Andrew, out of a strange coincidence, back in 1992).


Thursday, August 26, 2004

Second Thoughts

... No, not about the Peace Corps. I'm having second thoughts about agreeing to teach this fall. I'm an adjunct English instructor at Tallahassee Community College, a job which pays me about $1600 dollars per class. Normal course load is two or three classes. Keep in mind that these semesters run approximately four months long, so that works out to about $800 a month, or $200 a week, for two classes. There aren't many places in America where two hundred a week will get you by. Thank goodness I live under cheap (read: "poverty") conditions, where my share of rent is only $250 a month. (Wow -- I never thought I'd utter the words "thank goodness I live in poverty!)

Last spring I had the fortune to teach two classes at a local private high school; I say fortune because the kids who go there are really good students and very disciplined, bright, and eager, so teaching them is a pleasure. It's a Christian school, and anyone who knows me might think that would cause some antagonism, but I'm actually fine there and I don't make waves. I was told at the outset that there are "certain things" not to discuss, such as anything too sexual in content or -- especially -- anything that might cast doubt or dispersion on Christianity. The sex stuff I understand, because these are still high school kids (I teach a college composition course so they are technically dual-enrolled and get both high school and college credit for the class) and they are all between about 16 and 18, so getting too explicit about racy stuff isn't something I'd do anyway. Now, about Christianity, I taught a composition class last spring that focused on Argumentation so I made it clear at the beginning that arguments that rely on religion or the Bible have built-in credibility issues -- mainly, that they place the burden of their arguments on evidence that itself can't be proven. They seemed to take that okay.

I'm rambling a bit, but my point was to illustrate what my job environment is like. Now, knowing I'll be leaving in November for the Pacific (*knock on wood*), it doesn't make much sense for me to dive into a four-month teaching gig. That is so much more true when you consider the money I make at it, which is barely enough to keep my head above water. My mom offered to let me stay with her until I go, rent-free, but she lives in West Texas, a place I despise with every fiber of my being. Why? Because it is so deep-country, cattle and stetsons, pickup trucks and Garth Brooks out there. I simply have nothing in common with the people who live out there; in fact, I have diametrically opposed viewpoints. I'm a socialist, they're capitalists. I'm progressive, they're conservative. I opposed the war, and they beat up people who don't like Bush.

But I wouldn't have to consort with the natives, per se. I would live in my family's ultra-isolated ranch house and have the place to myself 5 days a week (my mom works in San Angelo and commutes on the weekends). RENT-FREE. At first I dismissed the idea because I couldn't bear the thought of living in Texas any more than I had to, but lately the reality of it has hit me. I'm destined to head that way anyway, because that's the most economically feasible place to store my stuff while I'm in the PC, and since Melonie is leaving there is nothing for me here in Tallahassee. If I had the money, I'd go on "walkabout," perhaps going down to Miami and living on South Beach until I go, but I don't have that money so I'm fooked. Besides, I'm about a third the way through a new novel and find it very hard to write here, and that would give me ample time to write. There wouldn't be anything else to do -- cable t.v. doesn't extend out that far.

This leaves me with the problem of my teaching gig. I shouldn't have agreed to do it, because they're going to have to replace me anyway come November. Why not find someone now while the semester is new and the students haven't had time to get accustomed to me being their teacher? It's last-minute -- I should have seriously considered this a couple of weeks ago! -- but I talked to my boss today and she seemed okay with it. Maybe that's because they will have a couple months or so to find a replacement... there's no urgent rush.

But -- hey -- my medical/dental packet went out yesterday!!! So now, assuming I don't hit any unforseen snags, it's now all out of my hands. Now begins the waiting. More waiting, that is. I'm encouraged by a timeline I found on someone else's blog, and she had a quick turnaround with her medical, being cleared in like 2 - 3 weeks and getting an invitation soon after that. So maybe it can still happen, even this close to the bone.

Of course I'll keep you all posted. Thanks for reading!


Monday, August 23, 2004

The Way We Were

This blog entry is, in a way, a message to myself a few months from now. I guess they all are, when you really think about it, but this one particularly. I'm at a juncture in my life that is very painful and difficult. As I write this, I am sitting on the couch at my girlfriend's apartment (because she is very private, I won't use her hame in my posts, referring to her instead as M). M is beside me, sleeping on the couch, her feet on my right leg. She looks very serene and beautiful. And in one week she'll be gone.

I've been dating M for a year now, almost exactly, and it has been a fabulous time. One of the best years of my life, I suspect -- that's the kind of thing one usually realizes in hindsight, but I have this suspicion I'll look back on this year very fondly for the rest of my life. M is from Jamaica and has taught me so much about the Caribbean way of life. She is also incredibly smart and capable and rational and low-maintenence. She's everything a guy could hope for in a woman. The problem with our relationship, though, has been that she is a Christian and I'm an atheist, and M has pretty much concluded we aren't compatible on the long term for that reason. Forget the fact that I want to move to and live in Hawai`i for the rest of my life, and she wants to move to and live in Washington D.C., or that I can't have children and she would like one or two. Those problems could theoretically be overcome, especially since we both love (and like!) each other very much. But when it comes to religious issues, it ain't a match.

A month ago or so she got a job offer she couldn't refuse in Washington D.C. to work for the CDC. It's where she's wanted to live, and it's a job she's wanted to do for a long time, now. Before that she was planning to remain in Tallahassee and work with a local non-profit that studies demography (her field). But even if she did, we knew it was going to end soon and she had offered "until the end of the summer" to see if there was a way we could reach a compromise. I had agreed to this knowing even at the time that it only postponed the inevitable. We were doomed. It broke my heart. I wanted to stay together just to have as much time with her as I could possibly wring out of this relationship. That's how wonderful she is.

But now she's moving to D.C. in a few days (Sunday the 31st or so) and this will all come to an end. I hate feeling the clock ticking down like this -- it's funny, but when there's some kind of major end or transition looming on the short-term horizon, those hours start to become palpable. It's like I can sense some kind of cosmic hourglass draining all around me. Even that metaphor doesn't quite capture what I feel right now... maybe it's more like how movie heroes must feel watching the last few seconds on a time bomb ticking off as they frantically look for the green wire. Except with me there's no green wire. I'm watching a countdown and there's nothing I can do to stop it.

There are many reasons why this is for the best, and I try to remind myself of them. For one, we were going to break up anyway, so if she stayed in town this fall the end would arrive but she'd be right here to remind me of what I once had. The temptation on both of our parts to let it continue on would be very strong. Also, and this is the best reason of all, if we didn't break up, I'd head off to the Peace Corps in November or whenever and I'd miss her so much I'd be right back where I was last time and that would not be good. It's hard enough for Volunteers to adjust to life in-country without pining for a girlfriend back home. That very thing screwed me up before. I know the danger of it, and I know it's not something I want to go into service hanging over my head. Nevertheless, it's hard to handle the end of an era -- especially a really good one.

Once she's gone, the ghosts will begin. You know -- the ghosts of people and events that one ties with locations. After she moves, I'll never be able to come to this side of town again because I'll feel haunted by the past. It will be too painful to drive past this apartment, because the memories are just too strong. I'm sure I'm not the only person to feel this way; it's the feeling songwriters refer to when they sing about feeling someone's presence in the park where they used to walk, etc. If I drove past her apartment two weeks from now, I would be able to feel her in it, as if all I had to do was park the car, walk in, and things would be the same as they ever were. But they're not; so, driving by would be like picking open a healing wound.

I think this is a common experience, although I think I'm unusual in my proclivity for it: for example, when I was simply driving past a rest stop on my way back from Orlando a while back, I realized it was the place where my mother and I bought some souvenirs this spring when she came to visit me. Suddenly it was as if I could sense her down there -- like all I had to to was take that off-ramp and I'd find my mom still there, browsing the knick-knack isles. This struck me as very odd -- my mom's not dead, and we only spent like 20 minutes there, so why should I feel so strongly and sentimentally about that place?!?

So anyway, this blog post is really a message for my future self. Somewhere down the road, a few months from now, I'll be at my site, growing more disconnected from this stage of my life and more drawn into life in wherever-it-is, and I'll stumble upon this message in my archives. So, hello, future self. I hope life in the Peace Corps is great and everything we want it to be. I'm jealous of you, by the way -- even though the medical packet it almost done, it's sheer drudgery. You remember, don't you? M is here, beside me, and I'm trying to live in this moment. I love this woman, and she's leaving in just a few days. You have probably dealt with the pain and moved on, but I'm still here trying to deal with it. It's hard. I almost wish I didn't know how much time was left. I'm trying to memorize some of these sights, smells, and these moments, so you'll be able to remember them better. The apartment is a little messy, like always, but it has come to feel like home. The cats are sleeping in the dining room chairs and everything is very quiet. I don't know if you miss this from where you are. It sure feels like I will.

Just remember the good times, I guess. I'll try to make a few more good memories for you in the hours I have left.


Sunday, August 15, 2004


Okay, I've been getting a little nervous lately about whether or not I'll make my "Sometime-in-Early-November" departure date or not. As I mentioned before, I was nominated on the 3rd but, in typical bureaucracy fashion, I didn't receive my medical packet until last Friday (the 13th). That's like 10 days, and they Fed-Exed it! Anyway, so Friday I made some phone calls and discovered that A) all the dentists in Tallahassee have Friday off (except one), and B) the one who was open wouldn't have a spot open until September. Fortunately, I talked to the receptionist and told her my situation, and she thought I was so cool for doing something like the Peace Corps that she told me she can put me at the top of the list for people to call if there's a cancellation. That was nice of her, but come Monday morning I'm still going to make some phone calls and see if I can get anything more reliable.

As for the doctor, I actually jumped the gun a couple weeks ago and got a physical before I received my packet, so I'll have to now go back there and hope they won't charge me to fill out some paperwork. I hope there's nothing in there that wasn't already covered in the physical, because that might mean I'll get charged twice for a physical exam. Also, the damn walk-in clinic I went to hasn't called me back on my thyroid blood test, which means that's two things I have to bug them about on Monday.

Anyway, I'm getting nervous because time is running low. Sure, I still have until "Sometime-in-Early-November," but consider the amount of time it takes to get medical clearance and how long it takes the Placement desk to secure you a spot, I'm pushing the border if not beyond. Hopefully I'll be able to get the medical packet complete and Fed-Exed back to the PC by the end of this week.

I'm also getting nervous because I know what's coming. Sure, I don't know all of what's coming -- I only made it 2/3rds of the way through Training last time -- but I remember the cultural and language and diet and climate struggles and there's a little part of me that is afraid of that. It's like a tiny little voice that tries to argue against the Peace Corps because it's going to be difficult. Obviously not the best of voices to listen to... otherwise I would never take risks and never accomplish anything. Not like I do that enough anyway. But I was thinking: I don't remember this voice last time, and I think that's because A) I was so very, very excited that I didn't have time to get nervous, and B) I had no earthly idea what the Peace Corps would be like so I didn't know what to dread. I kinda miss that old naïvete, I have to admit. In some weird way, it was nice stumbling into an adventure the details of which I couldn't conceive. It was quite a rush, being young and energetic and standing on the edge of an unguessable cliff. Now I know the dimensions of the cliff, or at least some of those dimensions, so it's not as scary and it doesn't hold the same gripping thrill. Some people might read into this to say my heart isn't in this, but I think they'd be wrong. My heart is in this. It's just that it's more familiar, which brings its own set of fears (fear of the known instead of fear of the unknown -- and we all know which is worse).

Want one more metaphor? It's like the second time you ride a roller coaster. The first time was terrifying and mind-blowing. And no part of it was more frightening than that build-up as you stood in line, inching ever closer, and then the fear got ratcheted up a little more as you got strapped into the car, and then it reached a fever pitch as you clanked up the reeeeeally long hill. In this metaphor, I left the Peace Corps 2/3rds of the way up that first hill. So the line and the strapping and the clanking are no longer the unknowns they once were -- I have quantified them. The only remaining unknown is the actual roller coaster ride itself.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Margaritaville, October 2002

At Margaritaville
Originally uploaded by hawaiianbrian.
Here is a pretty good picture of me. It was taken in front of the Margaritaville restaurant at Orlando's Universal Studios Citywalk when I was there for Halloween Horror Nights, October 2002. Enjoy!

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

So sang Tom Petty, about twenty years ago or so. Man, was he right. It has only been a few days since my last blog entry, and I can report that absolutely NOTHING has happened in the meantime. Sadly, this is once instance when something was supposed to be happening: I am supposed to get my medical/dental packet in the mail *any day now* so I can dash over to the various and sundry specialists I need to see. But... nothing. That's the Peace Corps for you. They're a government bureaucracy, so everything moves at a snail's pace. I believe I made quite clear in my last blog why getting this packet ASAP is so crucial, so I won't belabor the point here.

I've been thinking lately about the Peace Corps' attrition rate. I got to thinking about it when I was driving and doing some preliminary plans in my head. Very preliminary -- at this stage in the game, everyone who is destined for an assignment later in the year has a ton of things to figure out, like what to do with their car or many boxes of books for two years. But at this stage of the game, all that planning is just filler, something to occupy your mind while you wait for some information to trickle down from Washington, not anything you can actually act upon. Like I couldn't just go out and sell my car next week because I still have 3 months to go -- and that's assuming everything goes as planned. Like everyone else who is entering the Peace Corps or, I daresay, people who are still muddling their way through Training, information is rare and vague when it exists at all, and you spend a good deal of time with nothing but your fertile imagination running off possibilities and fantasy scenarios. So between fantasizing and planning and waiting, this period is very slow and *very* internal.

Where was I? I was doing some planning while I was driving, and part of me hesitated to sell my car. What if I get there and hate it and decide to leave early? Or my position is dropped and they can't find a replacement so I have to return early (it happens)? Or I get sick and have to return early? I would certainly want my car when I got back to the States. That line of thinking suddenly seemed very dangerous to me... I realized that, unless I was careful, I would be building the possibility of bailing on my assignment into my plans. And to do so, it seemed, would be like allowing a very quiet but very dangerous part of my psyche an easy avenue of escape. I know already from experience that volunteering for the PC involves several different mental stages. Once you actually arrive at your host country for training, the excitement switches from anticipatory to sensory -- you are immersed in a sensual and envigorating (and terrifying at times) experience that keeps your mind occupied day and night. But then, after a few weeks of training (anywhere from, I dunno, two to eight?) the newness starts to wear off a little and you start realizing that soon, very soon, you and these wonderful friends you made in training will be sent off in different directions to carve out lives of your own in remote corners of wherever-you-are. That means you'll be alone. Not "alone" as in nobody around, but "alone" as in nobody you can easily relate to around. The only American for dozens of miles, perhaps. This realization is paralyzing, and that's when I suspect most people who ET first get the germ of a thought that they could leave. A germ, yes -- just a little thought that begins in the back of your mind, so small you don't notice it at first as anything but a little discomfort and maybe homesickness. But soon it jumps the gap from subconscious notion to conscious one, and you find yourself entertaining the notion. At first you reject it and call yourself a wimp or that it's just homesickness talking or something, but soon that tiny single voice becomes a chorus in your head that sings anew every moment you are hot or busy or dirty or annoyed or exhausted, and that's nearly all the time at this point in Training, and all that shame you felt at first seems to melt away. How nice it would be to get away from these people you have to spend every damn waking hour with, to drive on the right side of the road, to eat something that isn't starch and starch and more starch, or to wash your clothes in a machine instead of a river. And then, next thing you know, you are wandering away from the others one night during what should be a fun time of celebration and you are staring at the moon and thinking, Yeah, maybe I should go.

So I was driving and planning and I realized that, unless I was careful, I would be building the tiny little voice of doubt into my plans from the start. Leaving myself the option of returning if things get too bad could very well lead to me doing just that. By saying "I can leave if things get too bad," I leave open for interpretation what constitutes "bad" and that negative, pessimistic, lazy, pampered part of me will grab hold of that loophole like a lawyer and begin the work of getting back to America and my comfort zone before I've even had a chance to really get to know the place I'm sent. However, I also realize that not allowing myself the option to leave "if things get really bad" isn't a good thing either -- if things really do get bad I need to give myself permission to leave. It's all about striking a balance.

So I wonder, then, how many people applying for the Peace Corps do exactly what I've described and build into their plans the germ of doubt that will one day grow into a full-fledged desire to ET?

I hate to sound this do-or-die about it, but I honestly think of this "second chance" as a pretty important litmus test, if you will, of my maturity. Last time I was there, I bailed because I missed my girlfriend, a relationship that wasn't even healthy to begin with, and if I hadn't been so quick to jump out of there the distance might have really helped me realign my priorities and help me see that relationship for what it was. And as I drove, this got me to wondering if I might have gotten my reasons for leaving the Peace Corps backwards last time. At the time, I told myself that 90% of why I wanted to go home was because I realized I could either have the Peace Corps or my marriage, but not both. Part of that statement was true. I told myself that the remaining 10% was from fear that I wouldn't be able to do the job they switched me into (elementary education, when I had NO experience in teaching or with children at that point in my life), displeasure at my post (I was going to be living in one of the poorest areas of all the Eastern Caribbean, with no water and spotty power, while others on Dominica would be living in town with air conditioners and cable t.v.), and the dread of having to do two more weeks of a homestay (I always feel like I'm imposing). I wonder, though, if it might be that those other reasons were what was behind my desire to ET, and I allowed my heartbreak at missing Michelle to become the convenient excuse I needed.

Well, whatever might have been the case, that part of my life is over. I want to use that experience as a way of armoring myself against all the difficulties I know I can expect this time. I know that at some point I'll feel homesick, tired, hot, hungry, etc. and I don't want to allow the nagging doubt to even enter my mind. I want to be strong this time.

I'll sell my car.


Friday, August 06, 2004


It has been a long time since my last blog entry -- that does not bode all that well for the future. Of course, during the application process things don't change all that fast, so for a good long while there has been nothing to report. Now, however, I can officially say I am a Peace Corps nominee. I was nominated on August 3rd. My Recruiter, from the Atlanta office, got hold of me last week with some bad news. She cleared all my secondary application information and went into the system to nominate me for the teacher-trainer position in the Pacific, only to discover the position was filled. Awe! So she called me up and told me the good-slash-bad news. Together we went over what positions were left -- a whole lot of them were in "Asia." I don't think I could do Asia, for the same reasons I couldn't do Eastern Europe: because anything too far north would mess me up (I have Seasonal Affective Disorder). After spending a few minutes going through a bunch of dead leads, or live leads that didn't leave until next year, she got an idea: she would call the Pacific Desk (the department that is in charge of Peace Corps positions in the Pacific) and ask them to open up a new, identical assignment for me.

A few days went by. Then, she called me to say they had AGREED and that I was now officially nominated into the job we were originally looking at: teacher-trainer in the Pacific. I still don't know where in the Pacific, exactly, but that knowledge would't do my much good right now anyway, because A) they might switch it on me at any time, and B) because if I don't get the medical/dental/eye package back to them soon, I'll miss it anyway.

A little explanation on how that works: After you get officially nominated, the Peace Corps medical desk in Washington, DC, sends you a thick-ass packet that contains forms to be filled out by a doctor, who must perform a physical on you. It also contains similar forms for a dentist and an opthomologist. This packet comes via snail-mail (the U.S. Post), and once you get it you need to arrange doctor visits, etc., fill out the forms, then send them back. In my case, my departure date is "early November," which is about 3 months from now (!). According to Peace Corps literature, it can take the Medical desk up to eight weeks to clear you, and they cannot send an invitation less than six weeks before the departure date. Do the math: that means about a week to receive the packet, six weeks for them to review my medical information, then receive and accept an invitation more than six weeks before the departure date. I have 3 months until "early November," so considering two of those stages take a month and a half each, I will have ONE OR TWO DAYS to get all the medical/dental/eye information finished and sent back. That's cutting it damn close. If the medical people want to follow up on anything in my physical, that will basically mean I miss my departure date.

Anyway, enough of that. I'm very excited and hope hidden snags do not lie between me and my desired assignment. I love the Pacific, and would be more than happy to be assigned there.

Secretly, I do have a couple of preferences, though: I hope my assignment is in Samoa or Tonga, maybe Fiji, and islands like Yap or Chuk or Palau would be lower down that list. The Phillipines, while having some of the world's hottest women, would be acceptable but not desirable. Frankly, depending on the assignment, I would rather just be sent back to the Eastern Caribbean -- I mean, I would MUCH rather have an urban assignment over a rural one. I've read some blogs out there in cyberspace-land about people assigned to remote, rural settings in the Pacific, and it doesn't sound pleasant. Scratch that -- it sounds pleasant in some ways, but no power, spotty water from a well, and an unbalanced diet would be a killer for me. I mean, I'm going to bring a laptop and digital camera, so I would want power at least a few hours a day. Fortunately, if I get the job I'm gunning for, I'll probably be in an urban setting, because that's where the greatest concentration of teachers to train would be.

This blog entry is now starting to run a wee long, so I'll end it here. Iin the future, I'll try to fill in some of the missing information. One of my goals with this blog is to give prospective Peace Corps applicants an idea of what to expect, step by step -- something that might have helped a lot when I was first applying years ago.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Application Process

I just finished what amounts to "Phase Two" of the application process. I swore this time I would have it done faster than last time, but -- due to no fault of my own -- it took like almost three damn weeks to get it back in! I guess that's faster than my month from last time, but it's hard to feel at east with the passage of time when my recruiter is trying to get me into a position that might fill.

If you're planning on joining the Peace Corps, I can tell you how the application process works in a nutshell: there are approximately four phases, each with different requirements from you than the last. The first phase involves the initial application. This application is much like what one might fill out for any job -- vital statistics, work history, references. It also involves a questionnaire about one's volunteer history. Fortunately, I had a few volunteer positions to draw from, including most recently being a camp counselor in Hawai`i. The initial application also comes with a very detailed questionnaire about one's health, asking yes/no questions about heart conditions, skin conditions, diseases, surgeries, etc. etc. etc. The first time I applied to the Peace Corps this process was all done on paper -- and had to be TYPED. With a TYPEWRITER. Now they've got it all online, and the prospective applicant can easily bang most of it out in just an hour or two. What takes the longest are the two essays you have to write: one is about your reasons for joining the Peace Corps and another is about a time when you had a meaningful interaction with someone from another culture. For some, these essays take a while but I think I was able to write mine in about an hour and a half. What added to my time was that I felt I needed to include a third essay describing by reasons for quitting the PC the first time around.

Anyway, the second phase comes a few weeks later. Your application makes its way to the hands of a local recruiter, and he or she calls to arrange an interview and to start you on the next round of paperwork. This second packet contains a fingerprint chart, a couple pages to further clarify certain bits of information in the first application (like student loans and volunteer work), and most importantly, it contains forms for letters of reference. You need to select three people: A) a current boss, B) a volunteer supervisor, and C) a friend. There is a little leeway here, but you definitely need three. This is down a little from the four I had to do before (the teacher reference has been removed), and my recruiter says the PC used to require SIX! In my case, this packet also included a request for divorce information, primarily concerning alimony and division of property information, but fortunately I owe nothing (in fact, my ex owes ME money) and that won't be a problem. What sucked was waiting for the attorney to send copies of my divorce decree which, for some bizarre reason, I didn't have in my files.

What I can now look forward to is a medical and dental checkup packet, phase three, and then an actual invitation, which is phase four. Of course I'll expound on those as they come up.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Here we go again: An introduction

In 1998, I was at something of a crossroads. I was just about to graduate with my B.A. in English, and had no job or grad school prospects lined up. On top of this, I had just broken up with my girlfriend at the time, Michelle. I needed a change and bad. At the time, I was in my senior year at Western Washington University. Michelle and I had dated for a couple of years, but it was often rocky and we had split several times. After this third time I was fed up.

But something happened. Walking in front of the Student Union building on day, I noticed a little sandwich board sign that said something to the effect of: "Peace Corps Recruiting NOW. Volunteer positions open in Africa, Asia, South Pacific, InterAmerica, and more!" Et cetera. Mostly what I saw was the South Pacific. Anyone who knows me can attest that I've been in love with Polynesian culture for a long time now, starting during my infamous move to Hawai`i in the early 90s. Particularly Hawaiian, but I've taken an interest in all Pacific cultures. I was excited to volunteer there so in no time I visited the recruiter, and began the painstaking application process. First I had to type -- on a typewriter -- my initial application, then came the long process of securing letters of recommendation and secondary application forms, then came the medical and dental clearance forms. After about four months I had slogged through it all and was done just in time for graduation.

Meanwhile, as luck would have it Michelle and I got back together. She wasn't happy with the idea of me spending two years away from her in some distant country, but we convinced ourselves we would make it through. After all, we were in love, right? When the invitation finally came, I discovered I'd be going to the Eastern Caribbean, to a little island called Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), to be a "Youth Development Officer." By this time I had abandoned hope of going to the South Pacific, and had braced myself for Africa, since like 60% of all Peace Corps volunteers get sent there. I was thrilled and stunned to be going to somewhere as amazing as the Caribbean (although I admit I was at first disappointed not to be going to Jamaica, but I soon got over that).

My departure date was mid-July. I went through the final stages of preparing with a mixture of dread, eagerness, sorrow, and anxiety. I was going to miss Michelle terribly, and I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to hack it. What is a Youth Development Officer, and am I qualified?!?

THEN, just a week before I was to depart, I did something that would change my future: I proposed to Michelle. I was feeling as though my departure would be forever damaging and I wanted to maintain the relationship, so we talked it out and decided the best way was to become engaged, and that way our bond would be stronger. I bought an engagement ring just a couple of days before stepping onto the plane. The day of departure was one of the hardest of my life, and I wept like a baby, but Michelle seemed very placid and unmoved -- it was strange, but I didn't think much of it at the time.

We spent two days in Miami at Staging, then flew to St. Lucia to begin the first leg of our training. There were nearly 60 of us, if I remember correctly, and we were split among families in the mountainous Babonneau community for the "homestay" part of our training. Days were spent in a blistering-hot elementary school learning everything from local politics to economics to creole language. We did group-building excercises and took tons of notes from lectures. To be honest, I couldn't tell you what most of it involved, because two weeks of intense lectures under brutal heat ended up becoming a blur. I know I had great fun and made instant friends with the other volunteers (a couple of which I still am in contact with!) and had some amazing times at beaches, parties, and clubs. My homestay family was wonderful, even if I was too shy and not ready for such an experience. After two weeks in St. Lucia, they split the huge group up into smaller ones and we all headed to our individual islands to continue training. There, I stayed with 17 others in a renovated church at Rosalie that served as a retreat, and we ran a short summer school for kids in the rural town of La Plaine.

By this time, though, the stress of the busy days and high expectations was beginning to mix with the painful absence of Michelle. One day, almost exactly 4 weeks into training, I realized I had to make a decision -- I could EITHER have Michelle or the Peace Corps, but not both. It might have been a harder decision under other circumstances, but anyone who has been in the Peace Corps can tell you it is not an easy environment, even in the relative sanctity of training. Throw on top of this my unease about my assignment (they switched me to be an Elementary School teacher, when I had no experience with teaching or with kids), where I was going to live (in the Carib territory, the poorest and most desolate in all of the Eastern Caribbean, and across the island from any of my friends), and the conditions I could look forward to (I would have no running water or phone or sometimes electricity, while the others on my island would have cable t.v. and air conditioners!) and you might see how I made the decision to leave. Within a day I was flying home.

Michelle and I got married the next summer and immediately moved to Tallahassee so I could start grad school. One year later we were separated, and in 2002 officially divorced. It has been six years now since I left for the Peace Corps, and my friends can vouch that I've never shut up about it in the entire time. I've toyed with the idea of going for years, and sometimes wanted to and sometimes didn't want to, but always it was on my mind. Then this year, in about May, it occurred to me that I should do it again. Really do it. I didn't have any job prospects and nothing tying me down. It is time to go.

This is the first entry in my new Peace Corps 'blog. I know, I know -- this is practically becoming a cliche. Everyone who enters the Peace Corps these days, it seems, is starting their own blog. You can see a couple of great ones here:

You'll probably hear bits and pieces of the old story as I tell the new one. As of this writing I have no idea where I'm going to go. My recruiter is trying to get me into a Teacher Trainer position in the South Pacific, which departs in November 2004, and the only reason I really stand a chance is because the requirements are a little more stringent than normal (requires an M.A. and post-secondary teaching experience, but most P.C. volunteers only have a B.A./B.S.). However, I don't know if I'll get it. You'll know as soon as I do.

I hope this blog will follow my "adventure" for the entire 27 months in service, plus however many months this admission process takes. I'll try to post every week at least. Since I already quit the Peace Corps once, and regretted it wholeheartedly, I have even higher hopes that I can make it through the whole assignment (two years) this time. The Peace Corps has an average Early Termination rate of ~30%. I won't be one of them again.