Monthly Archives: June 2012

Tunisia

And the answer I and everyone else I have talked to about the Peace Corps have been waiting for since I filled out my application in October 2011 has finally arrived, courtesy of the UPS truck and a very thick blue folder. I have been invited to  Рand accepted Рan invitation from the Peace Corps to serve as a primary/secondary English education volunteer in Tunisia!

Tuesday at lunch I walked home as I usually do and saw the mailman driving his truck away from my apartment. I managed to resist the urge to sprint the rest of the way down the street, and it’s a good thing I did, because my mailbox was empty. Disappointedly resigning myself to wait yet another 24 hours for the invitation I knew was coming, I sat down to eat lunch.

Then I heard another large-sounding vehicle pull up to the front of my building. Someone came in, walked through the hallway and then left again. I snuck a look out the window and saw the UPS truck backed up to the front door. Trying hard to not hope for too much, I peeked out of the peep hole in my door and saw something sitting on the ground outside. I wrenched to door open and found a thick white shipping envelope sitting at my feet with the Peace Corps logo staring back up at me.

I had an inkling that would be my country after my placement specialist asked if I would be interested in a new program, and as soon as she said it, I knew that was the country I wanted. Knowing she could still change her mind and place me in another country – Morocco and Jordan are also in the North Africa/Middle East region – I tried to not rush off and do a bunch of research on the one I was hoping for. No expectations are the best kind to have. My group of volunteers will be the first since the Tunisia program was closed in the mid-1990s. It was originally started in the 1960s if I remember correctly. Although the information I got said the volunteers serving in Tunisia will be focusing on Youth Development and the teaching of English in a variety of settings, it also said because we will be helping to establish a new program and that will take a lot of creating relationships and building good will with our host country.

I think that’s one thing that really interested me in Tunisia. Of course I want to give back and help share a skill (speaking English) that I have kind of by default because of where I was born, but I also like the idea that what I do and the work I put in will make it easier for the volunteers that come after me.

My orientation/departure date is tentatively set for October 29, 2012, so in the meantime I have to apply for a special Peace Corps passport and get together an updated resume and aspiration statement for the staff in country to match me with a school or organization. Those are all due pronto, which means this weekend I’ll be scrambling around trying to get all the required forms filled out and submitted. I put a good hour into the process last night, but I didn’t manage to finish.

So for the moment, I’m working on:

  • Passport application
  • Updated resume
  • Aspiration statement
  • Reading, reading and more reading through the paperwork that accompanied my invitation, the volunteer handbook and the cultural adjustment handbook

It was a long nine months worth of waiting and I’m so happy I stuck with it!

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Categories: Application process, Invitation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Invitation is in the mail

Since Tuesday I’ve had the worst case of butterflies in my stomach that I have yet to encounter. And up until this point, I hadn’t felt safe posting any real updates in this blog because it felt like until I knew the invitation was coming, they could still just decide they didn’t need me.

But my placement specialist called Tuesday, pretty much out of the blue. I was about to leave for my piano lesson and my phone rang. Hmm, 202 area code. That’s weird. It didn’t even hit me who it could be until the voice on the other end introduced herself as someone I had only ever communicated with via email.

And she asked me some questions – mostly regarding what challenges I anticipated, particularly with the idea that I might end up in North Africa or the Middle East, which was the region I was nominated to back in January. By then my heart rate was going about a million miles a minute and I hope it didn’t show too much in my voice. We talked about what kind of research I had done into what life was like as a Peace Corps volunteer and I did my best to share the insights I gained from reading PeaceCorpsJournals.com. But really, until you’ve been a volunteer, can you really ever know what it will be like? I don’t think so. I did my best to not sound too much like a starry-eyed idealist though. It’s not like I’m signing up for something that’s easy here.

And then she started asking whether I’d be interested in being in an inaugural class of volunteers – a group of volunteers who are the first ones serving in a particular country. We talked through the various challenges of that particular endeavor – that volunteers have to work extra hard to make connections and build the program while they work on their various projects. From my almost ad nauseum perusal of the Peace Corps website, I only knew of one country in the North Africa/Middle East region that was opening up this year, but she wasn’t able to confirm exactly which one.

So the next day I found in my inbox an email containing information about being an early generation volunteer, pretty much summing up our phone conversation and asking me to say if I was interested or not in the new program she mentioned. Short answer – heck. yes. Formal answer that I sent in – something more along the lines of, yes I am interested, please consider me for that program. I look forward to hearing from you.

And then Thursday:

Only the happiest email of my entire life.

My invitation is in the mail.

And that is so much more official than your placement specialist just telling you over the phone that she’s going to pick a program for you.

Soon I’ll know where it is I am going. When it is I am going. What it is, officially, I’ll be doing. I’ll be able to start making plans regarding work and my apartment. I’ll be able to finally give an answer to all the people who have been curious about what this whole Peace Corps thing is going to be for me.

I’ve never been more excited. For anything.

Categories: Application process | 1 Comment

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