I was about to write another "still waiting for my Invitation packet" entry... I was thinking of titling it "28 Days Later," "Never Gonna Get It," or my favorite, "Waiting in Vain." But then my Invitation came! Yes, it arrived in the mail today! Maybe it was my impatience and excitement, but it just seemed like it took a really really long time to make its way down the East coast to me, here in Tallahassee. I picture it wandering from small town to small town, hitching a ride on the back of a farmer's hay-filled truck, walking through pastures and prairies and forests, whistling as it saunters down far-flung country roads, eventually falling in with a band of escaped prisoners on the run from the law and having to spend a few nights holed up in a backwoods cabin for warmth on a cold night, falling in love with the desperate widow who lives there, then making a hasty escape when her redneck brothers come by and find them in bed together, forcing my invitation packet to quickly pull on its thermal underwear and climb out the window and run off into the dark, foggy forest, the rednecks shouting and chasing it with their shotguns -- "I'ma git you, boy! Ain't nobody bangs ma sister but me!"...
Anyway, it arrived today around noon. My roommate knocked on the door, and just as I roused out of slumber he tossed it onto me very unceremoniously and closed the door (he didn't mean to be a dick; he just doesn't know much about etiquette sometimes). It felt thicker and much more... boxy than I remembered my 1998 invitation feeling. Turns out, that's because there's a box in there. It's a thin little paperboard container of sorts that holds four folders:
• one labeled "Passport and Visa." It contains information for acquiring the no-fee passport I'll need.
• a second labeled "Resumé and Personal Papers." It asks for an updated version of my standard resume, but I think I'll send my curriculum vita instead, because it is a little more complete about my teaching abilities. Also in this folder will go a "Statement of Goals and Expectations," which asks me to "reflect on my motivation to commit to a two-year Volunteer assignment." This statement, unlike the ones I wrote for the initial application, will be forwarded to the Country Desk and then off to the CD and other trainers so they'll know a little about me before I get there.
• a third labeled "Finance and Insurance" with instructions on acquiring Peace Corps personal possession insurance and getting student loan deferements.
• a fourth folder, empty, labeled "Staging Materials." It is empty, the folder says, because these materials will come later as I approach the date of my Staging. If I remember correctly, this stuff comes just a couple weeks before departure, so that would be mid-May for me.
The box/container also included my actual VAD, which was identical to the one e-mailed to me by my PO a few weeks ago. It's a little easier to read in the printed format, but has no new information. (Note to self: try to put up some more particulars in the next post).
Also in the box was the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. It is a bound, blue trade-paperback-sized manual with lots of information about Peace Corps service in general, including legal issues and what to expect. It is not program-specific. Examples of what it includes are further definitions of what consititues Early Termination, how to appeal a Separation, what Trainers look for when determining if you are to be sworn in, volunteer conduct and cultural sensitivity, how leave accumulates and under what circumstances you can take it, etc. I couldn't help but compare it to my old one. I still have it lying around amongst my old Peace Corps materials. Back then, it was a simpler, brown, staple-bound booklet with no illustrations and less information. All the basics were covered, but in less detail it seems. Nowadays the binding is better and it has all these cute little illustrations accompanying sidebars and has nice b&w photographs. Volunteers have to bring the Handbook with them and keep it all throughout their service; which makes sense... it is very valuable.
The last thing in the box was a little slip of blue paper which read, "The Welcome Book referred to in your VAD is in production. As soon as it is available, it will be sent to you. Thank you." Too bad -- I was looking forward to that most of all. But it will come, in due time. I still have a few months to wait anyway. No rush. If I'm thinking of the same thing, my Welcome Book was a nice, spiral-bound notebook containing TONS of information on the country of assignment, including politics, environment, points of interest, customs, a sprinkle of local language, letters from current PCVs, and -most importantly- a packing list. My old Eastern Caribbean book had different chapters for the various islands comprising the "Eastern Caribbean country"... several countries, technically, but taken together as one for purposes of Peace Corps governance. It was probably the single most valuable piece of information to come out of the Peace Corps before departure, and maybe even afterward.
As soon as I get it I'll let you know.
Until then: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!