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...



Me said...

I have total empathy for your situation. I can only imagine how stressful this has been for you, considering your condensed timeline in the first place. It is amazing to me that PC doesn't develop some sort of dual application process. One process for the new graduates and one process for those who are more mid-career types. It is a very complicated endeavor when one is looking at the prospect of career employment issues and adult homelessness.

Needless to say, I wish you the very best and I hope that you get the assignment you want. I will continue to follow your story.

I can say that these types of blogs were a lifesaver (or, to put a finer point on it, a "big pull your hair out" frustration saver). I have done HEAPS of research throughout this process and the info that is out there helped me side step several potentially big pitfalls!

Keep the faith, and don't forget to blog (even it is just to vent).

Brian Reeves said...

I take it you are also in the application process for the Peace Corps? If so, where in the process are your right now? Where were you Nominated for?

I swear, when I return from my two years I might just write a book... "From Application to Close-of-Service: A Peace Corps Volunteer's Survival and Tips Guide." How to navigate the maze of departments, avoid the pitfalls of the application process (like the other commenter who made the mistake of admitting previous drug use), why not to volunteer while in a long-term relationship (unless she's going also), how to mentally prepare for the reverse culture shock upon returning home, that sort of thing. To my knowledge, nothing like that exists.

About the PC application process: I honestly think they could make it a little more user-friendly. Part of their rationale for its current density is they want to "weed out" those who are easily put off by difficulty. They want to carefully "vet" all applicants. It doesn't work, not really -- not if the estimated ET rate is around 30%. There are a couple things I think the PC could do to make their program a little more universally attractive, and easing up a little on the intense application process is one. (The others are to allow one to join with a friend, similar to the provision for married applicants, and to have one-year assignments that are renewable indefinitely.)

Thanks for reading, by the way. It's nice to know, as a writer, that my words are getting out there. :)

Me said...

I was nominated for Health Extension in Sub-Saharan Africa leaving in January. Due to a medical thing (that went against the recommendation of my docs) all that has changed. My PO has decided to invite me to Public Health in Africa leaving May 23, 2004. I am very happy with the program and the place, but it is the date that tore me up. Such is life I guess. If you are truly bored, you can catch up here:

When I read "So, You Want to Join the Peace Corps...What to Know Before You Go," I thought that had covered all the bases. I actually think the author played it too safe; maybe you could finally blow the lid of this thing (especially since you will have both ET'd and done a full tour).

Blog on!

Brian Reeves said...

I dropped by your website and checked it out. I presume you meant to say you'l be leaving in May of 2005, not 2004? It's too bad you ran into problems with something as simple and COMMON as asthma. Depending on how bad you have it, I suppose, but even I possess an inhaler for those really rare times I need it. Around here, in northern Florida, there is a month during the spring when the allergies get bad enough that I suck off that thing a couple times a day, but it goes away. Mostly I get bad bronchiospasms when I'm in cold weather. All this was noted on my application and never a word was said. Go figure.

Interesting point you made, by the way, that I'll have not only done a full "tour" but also experienced ET. Never thought of it that way.

I bookmarked your site and will watch for new entries. There are a few I repeatedly go back to. Here's one of my favorites:

The writer's name is Dorie and she's currently an IP person in Samoa, in the South Pacific. She's funny and she blogs a lot. Unlike me in both respects. ;)

Thanks for your comments!


p.s. Your blog says you are in the "southeast US?" Georgia? South Carolina?