He was actually very nice and pleasant in person. Maybe his e-mails seemed cold because they were terse. He explained that my interest in a particular geographic area was not a problem and he'd work to accomodate that wish, if possible. As for his previous sketchy-sounding e-mail, he explained it was a formality; he was required to get an expressed not implied statement about my being ready to commit, a requirement for anyone who reapplies after an ET. So my saying, "by all means I am ready to commit to a Peace Corps assignment" was exactly what he needed. Evidently it had to go in my file. Legal stuff, I guess. But the good thing was my very limited geographical availability meant I would take precedence over other volunteers and he could "bump" some nominees so they could accomodate me. One of his biggest priorities was using my Master's Degree, since so very few volunteers have advanced degrees.
There was a program he thought would be "perfect for me" in the Caribbean; problem was, it was already full. I assume that means all the invitations had been sent out and accepted. It departs in May of this year... not sure where to. He said he really wanted to put me in there but couldn't. And then he presented me with a quandary: he said there was a position he thinks I'd be good for in "South America," teaching English. This assignment combined formal English teaching with more informal, "community-based" teaching. "You mean tutoring, right?" I asked. He said that might be part of it, but it meant a lot of things including literacy and remedial instruction. He asked if I'd like to be sent that official invitation. I waffled a little, not sure if I wanted to just jump on the first thing out of the pipe. Sensing this, he said "Hmm. How about if I send you the VAD to your e-mail address and you can look it over. It wouldn't be an official invitation, just a chance for you to look at the assignment and get a feel for it." So I said sure, and he forwarded it.
Here's the gist of the assignment, and after that I'll explain my predicament a little more clearly. The assignment turns out to be in Guyana, which is along the northeastern coast of South America, just a little southeast of Trinidad. It's an English-speaking country, but most people speak "Creolese" which is pretty cool -- another creole for me to study. Slightly over half the population, though, are from India. I guess that means vegetarian food would be easier to come by than in other assignments. My job, according to the VAD:
The primary task of Education Volunteers will be to teach life skills, language, literacy or remedial reading, math and science in the public school system. Therefore, for the entire duration of your service, you will be working primarily as a teacher in the school system. This will help you gain an understanding of the public education system of Guyana. However, since your general role is that of a community educator you may also be called upon to work with groups in the community.
It goes on to mention several specific projects, principally creating education programs and doing Teacher Training. Excellent. I would also be called upon to act as an educator to K-12 students and do various functions within a school like organize events and activites and programs. This sounds peachy to me -- exactly what I hoped to be doing in the Caribbean or Pacific, and Guyana is very close to being in the Caribbean. In fact, it's a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). In short, it sounds like a really good assignment.
Here are the drawbacks. For one, this is the country from which the now infamous Jason Pearce was unceremoniously sent packing. His offense was blogging his experience and being a little too free with the information. Already I'm paranoid about this blog; I write a lot of material and a time and I appreciate honesty in writing (that what I teach in college). I don't want to ironically suffer the same fate as Jason in the same country!
Another thing that makes me squirm a little is the VAD's description of volunteer housing: "Due to the scarcity of housing in Guyana, there is a possibility that you will be living with a Guyanese family during your entire term of service with Peace Corps/Guyana."
For the first three months after swearing-in as a volunteer, you will be living with a family. This means that the volunteer will occupy a separate and secure room within the family living quarters. This will allow the Volunteer to have a period of familiarization with the community as part of and identified with a family before selecting a more permanent housing arrangement. At the end of three months, living with a Guyanese family is still our most desirable housing option for volunteers.
Priority #1. Volunteer lives with a Guyanese family living quarters: i.e. a room within the family living space; this is the first and most desirable situation.
Priority #2. Volunteer live in a family house in an upper or bottom flat on a long-term basis. This option will be considered only if the option above cannot be found.
Priority #3. Volunteer lives with another Volunteer, following Peace Corps/Guyana guidelines regarding rent and appropriate safety and security measures. This situation will only be considered if none of the above two exists.
Unlike any other PC assignment I've ever read about, we would be living for two years in the home of a local family. Two years, spare bedroom, perfect strangers. I mean, I feel like I'm imposing when I stay at my own mother's house! More than anything, I hate feeling like a burden or a bother or the houseguest that wouldn't leave. I already know I can look forward to a couple months staying with strangers during training, but I don't know how I'd bear two years!
Ultimately, I'm faced with a decision: do I accept this assignment which is damn good, or do I see what others my PO can wrangle? I wrote to him saying I'm seriously considering this, but I want to know what the "perfect" assignment he found was, where it was, and if it would be worth it, in his professional opinion, for me to wait for it if need be. I've been toying with the idea of moving to either Miami or back to Hawai`i, and a search around the Net revealed an lecturer/adjunct job at the University of Hawai`i or their community college system which pays basically twice what I'm paid here (which is peanuts -- seriously, I make less than $10,000 a year) and I could try to find some dump studio apartment in Waipahu to tide me over. I don't need a nice apartment, not if it meant I could live in Hawai`i again, my life's biggest dream.
I would love some input from my readers, regulars or strangers alike. I'm capable of figuring this out on my own, but as with all huge, life-altering decisions, it's a good idea to get a few outsider viewpoints before deciding which path to take.