Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Info on the Peace Corps (PC)

Some of you may not know a whole lot about the Peace Corps, so I thought I would post the welcome letter I received when I found out I was invited to serve. It gives a short explanation, so here ya go..

Congratulations on being invited to serve as a Peace Corps
Volunteer in Peru! We look forward to your arrival and to
working closely with you over the next two years.

Peace Corps is an exciting and rewarding adventure in any
country, and I believe that we have a particularly strong program
awaiting you in Peru. Peace Corps returned to Peru in 2002,
after an absence of 27 years, and since then has grown to 140
Volunteers, established good working relationships with a variety
of counterpart agencies, and built an excellent reputation.
We can promise you a beautiful country, hospitable and
receptive people, a well-thought-out assignment, and many
development challenges. What we can’t promise you is that it is
going to be easy. There are numerous cultural and institutional
obstacles to training and motivating people in a country like
Peru. Some people in your community will be resistant to
change, others suspicious of your motives. But with hard work
and commitment on your part, you will be amazed at what you
can accomplish. Numerous lives will be changed for the better
because of your service as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

In addition, you will have a once-in-a-lifetime cross-cultural
experience. Living with a Peruvian family, you will become
part of your community (which may be anything from an
urban barrio to a rural hamlet), participating in community
activities and sharing special moments with newfound friends.
Both you and the Peruvians you come in contact with will be
enriched from the experience.

You will have 11 weeks of training before you are sworn in
as a Volunteer. The training will strengthen your language
proficiency, technical skills, safety and security awareness, and
community integration. Take full advantage of this opportunity.
Both during training and throughout your service, there is a
highly committed staff to support you. All of us share your
excitement about coming to Peru and making a contribution
to the development of this country. We look forward to
meeting you soon.

Best regards,
Michael Hirsh,
Country Director

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It finally came

I recently received the long-overdue package stating that I was invited to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru. After a year long, arduous application process, it seemed too good to be true. Was I dreaming? I never thought this day would come...
I started to seriously consider joining the Peace Corps when I was in my sophomore year at Western Washington University. I had heard about the Peace Corps and thought it sounded interesting, then one day I was sitting on a bench somewhere on campus (waiting for a bus I think), and just having one of "those days". I was sick of school, sick of my roommate, sick of rainy Bellingham, and couldn't wait to be done with school. Just as it had been when I was in High School, graduation seemed like a myth at that point in my college career. It was at that moment that I overheard a girl on her phone talking about how she was graduating at the end of the semester and she was planning on joining the Peace Corps. I will admit I listened to her conversation intently. She was so excited and did a great job of selling the idea to me, so I decided right then and there that I wanted to join the Peace Corps as well.
I transferred to Charleston Southern University in Charleston SC during my Junior year, where I spent the next three years. This brings me to today, where instead of trying to speed up time, I am slamming my foot on the break in hopes that time will stop flying by so quickly. I have definitely grown a lot during college and many aspects of my life have changed, but the one thing that never changed was my desire to join the Peace Corps.
After attending some information sessions and doing some of my own research about the Peace Corps, I decided to start my application in October of 2008, and submitted it sometime in September. I then waited until I got my interview, which was over the phone. It went very smoothly other than the fact that I felt extremely egotistical, talking about myself and how great I was for 1.5 hours. I finally received my nomination on December 18th, and this is when the real process began. I had to complete an intense medical and dental review, which I think I completed sometime in February. I then waited, very impatiently, which is probably not a good sign because they tell you that you must be very patient to be able to handle the challenges faced in the Peace Corps (something I hope to work on in the next two years). As I waited I realized that I had no back-up plan, so if I didn't get an invitation to join the Peace Corps within the next month, I was looking at a situation in the near future of no job, no home, no money and no idea of what I would do next. I had considered applying for graduate school just in-case, but I thought it would jinx my chances of getting in, so of course I took the easy road and made no 'Plan B'.
So now one can imagine just how relieving and yet surreal it was to see those words, "Congratulations, you are invited to join the Peace Corps...". Hallelujah!
To make the moment even that much more special, I happened to be on the phone with Penny when the Fed-Ex man knocked on my door with that big, beautiful, blue Peace Corps invitation packet. Penny is one of my dearest friends, who had just left to begin Peace Corps service in Nicaragua on January 20th. Right before he knocked we were talking about my application status, Penny was doing her best to reassure me that I would get the invitation, and I was doing my best to be pessimistic. I heard the knock and said to her, "maybe this is it... Does it come Fed-Ex?" She immediately replied, "yes, yes it does come Fed-Ex, that is it!". As I opened the package and read the letter informing me that, yes indeed I was invited, it was as if Penny wasn't so far away after all. I could feel the sigh of relief on both ends of the phone (probably for different reasons though...). I now knew the answer to what I had been waiting for since October! Penny was ecstatic, and wanted to know why I didn't share her excitement. I couldn't really explain it, but the excitement was there, it was just covered by disbelief, and anxiety. It took me about two days until it finally settled in and the excitement really started to build. I received the invitation only two months before the departure date. So needless to say, I have a lot to do before I am ready. Not to mention staying focused on my schoolwork and graduating, but I am really struggling with deciding what I will bring and what I will leave behind. I can't imagine having only half of my wardrobe with me. I guess this is the beginning of my new simple life. Although it sounds scary, I am honestly excited to 'shed' myself of this American lifestyle that I am so accustomed to.