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...

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