Monday, December 27, 2010


Page 36 of Uganda guidebook, "Should you encounter any other large predator on foot, the most important thing you need to know is that running away will almost certainly trigger it's 'chase' instinct and it will win the race."


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Africa? Africa. AFRICA!!!!

In my last epic (and tipsy) e-mail, I wrote that I finally was invited to the Peace Corps. I think it speaks for itself, spelling errors and all.

I thought a bit of explanation might go a long way, however. On Monday night I received an e-mail from my placement officer finally requesting I fill out a questionnaire about the challenges of teaching in a developing country. And similar to when I get word from anyone or anything Peace Corps related, I had about 6 hernias, and then frantically completed the questionnaire in like an hour, refusing to take any breaks to eat dinner or talk to my parents. All so that I could e-mail the questionnaire back, completed, at like 9 pm at night. I'm a very reasonable human being. They asked some tough questions, like why I wanted to be a teacher in a developing country, how I felt about corporal punishment (something I was bound to encounter), and how I would deal with primarily being around rote memorization teaching methods. Tough questions.

The next day when on a break from making carmel latte macchiatos for angry middle-age women, I received an e-mail from my PO asking when I was available to talk to her, and I of course responded with the soonest time that she given an option for.

The actual phone interview was more difficult than I expected. It was almost as long as my initial interview back in July. We covered everything; why I wanted to join Peace Corps, what I'm doing currently, the different forms that teacher training could take, loneliness, geographic isolation, family support, alcohol, geographic flexibility...

My favorite questions were, "So, how do you feel about biking up to 20 miles a day on rough terrain to get to work?" Haha. Luckily, I feel really good about that.
When the questions were beginning to wind down, she asked me about my geographic flexibility. This was when I started feeling more positive. Earlier on in the interview she had prefaced one of her statements with, "IF and when you are invited..." and I remember thinking to myself, "all is lost," and seeing images of my future life, a hideous montage of me as an aging barista who lived with a pet ferret in my parent's guest room and reads romance novels for the rest of my life.
BUT when she asked me about possible locations, I told her that one of my original promises to myself upon joining the PC was that I would be a flexible applicant and go wherever they need me/wherever fits me best. Then she asked me how soon I could go. I interrupted the stream of silent "ohsweetjesuses" to tell her late January.
After a moment of hesitation, she told me that there looked to be a program that fit me in Africa, leaving in early February, and congratulations you have been invited. Because the only word that made sense to me in this sentence was "invitation", I told her thank you with gigantic eyes and trembling knees.

After we had both hung up, the word "africa" took on new significance. I almost immediately started crying, then laughing, then crying-laughing. Africa. It felt perfect. The next realization was the word "February", once coupled with the modifier "early." The math, like usual, took about 2 minutes longer than usual, but suddenly it became blindingly and terrifyingly evident to me that I would be leaving for Africa in 6 weeks. Holee shit.

Peace Corps is hilarious. I thought I was going to go to C/S America, and probably not for several months (based on my conversation with placement last week), and now I'm going to Africa in exactly 6 weeks. Awesome.

Did I mention how excited I am?

Hang in there if you are waiting to hear from the Peace Corps process. You can always be surprised. And, they really do want to place you as soon as possible. It's so worth it.

Now, I just need to wait for my invitation packet to arrive in the mail, to see where I'm going. I suspect it's Uganda, but I can't be sure ,and I don't want to get all excited about a country again (like Paraguay) only to discover it's somewhere else. I'm a little nervous about the prospect of being a teacher trainer; I think I'm probably one of the only ones who has never formally taught before and I definitely do not have a teaching degree/license, but I am comfortable and experienced in school settings and with mentoring and tutoring so...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Holy shit, I'm going to Africa. Like, really soon. Like in less than 6 weeks.

I have had 1.7 glasses of white wine and .45 glasses of champagne so I m compltely unable to tell you excatly what happened or how this took place. BUT.

The tables have trned. They have turnred mightily, and with force. I am not going to Latin America. I am not going to have to wait for months on end to receive an invitation. I reicieved one today. I am going to Africa (possibly Uganda?) in early February. WtF???

This deserves an explanation later. For now, suffice to say, that I am going to Africa in a far too close future.

Does anyone have any mosqito netting?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Searching for peace.

Damn it.

Today I found out that my program in early February is full. This means many things. Most importantly, it means that I will not be leaving in early February, and probably not in February at all. It means that either I was too slow in being medically cleared, or someone else took my spot. It means that my near future existence just became a lot more boring and over-wrought. It means that I will not be contacted by my placement officer for the next month, and probably will have to leave a lot later than I originally hoped. It also means that I may not be going to Latin America. At this point, I could be going anywhere. This means that now, I will not see my boyfriend for more than 2.5 years. And I thought 2.5 years was bad.

I have never been so fixated upon something in my entire life. The minute I officially applied for the Peace Corps, I knew that I was going to do it. I have wanted to do the Peace Corps since I was a little girl. I went through a period during college when I was both intimidated by the application process and too unwilling to be separated from my significant other (at the time) to go through with it. It's funny how those childhood dreams always come back. I also have always wanted to be an author, and although I am on an extended hiatus from this, I still firmly believe that writing will be a part of my life. Same with Peace Corps. The thing with Peace corps, though, is that I want it to start. Now. Writing will come, or deepen with age and experience. The Peace COrps needs to happen, right now, when I am young and full of adventure, and relatively unattached.

It seems silly because what are a few more months, really, in the grand scheme of things? Why do I want to start on this journey as soon as possible and not instead focus on soaking up being home in the Twin Cities?

I don't really know this, but I do know that the last 3 months have been the most emotionally-wrought that I have ever experienced. Despite being in a very comfortable living=situation in a city that I grew up in with many people around who I love, I feel completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I have never before experienced such a black-hole of inactivity, creative-hiatus, and social isolation as I am now. I need to be taken outside of my comfort zone and quickly. To think of spending the next 6 months here in Saint Paul makes me want to break down. IT also makes me feel incredibly ungrateful to feel this way.

I regret that I am in this itchy-neurotic-overwrought post-grad period, because it causes me to zero in on my pathetic spectrum of anxieties and desires. I want to forget about myself and become involved in something, like I was last year in AmeriCorps. I want Peace Corps to suck me in like a UFO from the sky and spit me out somewhere far-away, I want to be surrounded by people my age who are doing the same thing, I want to be challenged beyond what I could imagine.

Ah. Now it is a waiting game, again. It could be months before I leave. I have no idea how I am going to distract and fulfill myself until then. For the short term, I already purchased the last Stieg Larsson book today, right after I heard the bad news. I feel like this is a good start.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Fresh-Water Pirate

Does anyone else notice that the older they get the more obviously and painfully aware they become of the depressing state of our nation? I guess that's just part and parcel of self-development and adulthood (adulthood...giggle), but my main observation over the last few months, is that it really sucks. A lot.

I was a lot happier when I didn't know about the stupid, petty games that our government plays, oftentimes just to prove a point that they have already proved countless times before. I was a lot happier when I was playing with my dinosaur models or discovering boys then discovering that it is a frighteningly small number of Americans that care about helping each other. WTF on not repealing the ban on Don't Ask Don't Tell? It'll probably take us another 500 years as nation before we are able to collectively accept that gay people are people, too. I don't want to think about when we will finally get that giving breaks to the extraordinarily wealthy does not, in fact, help poor people. Or the nation.

I was just about to spiral off on a long rant about the public transportation and systematic racism but then I got really tired and forgot how to form a sentence. And think.

So, onto parrots. Yesterday I saw a parrot. I was depositing money in the skyway bank in Saint Paul and after my transaction was complete, someone behind me said "Hello!" in a loud, nasal grandmother sort of way. Upon turning, I discovered the enthusiastic greeter to be a yellow parrot on the shoulder of a man wearing tattered, weather-worn clothing. Amazing. The man was clearly a pirate, and a severely confused one at that, to find himself washed ashore in central Minnesota. Maybe though, there is a sort of off-brand pirate that hail and pillage from the Great Lakes. The fresh-water pirate. In other words, the pirate that failed the physical. Perhaps this tattered and money-transacting man was flat-footed, and so instead of pillaging tropical islands and seas, he sinks the motor boats of Scandinavians in Duluth during fishing season to get their Bud Lites. Either way, I left just as the two were beginning to do their bank transaction, but I did hear the parrot say "How are you?" to the bank teller. I guess Great-Lakes pirates adhere to Minnesota nice.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Paraguay or Somewhere Else?

It's getting down to it. My application is finally in the hands of my placement officer (specialist) at the D.C. headquarters.

A few days ago they had me send in an updated resume and an explanation of my relevant Spanish experience since I first applied. Yesterday, I was told that my application would be passed to my Placement Officer and that my preliminary review was complete. !!! I am much less panicked because my 8 week deadline is approaching and the lady I spoke with yesterday told me that placement officers are still working on Mid-January currently. It must be more of a 6-week deadline, after all.
I was also told that I was nominated to leave in early February....and although I had always known I was supposed to leave in February, I did not know it was early February. This is an important distinction. There is a Peace Corps wikki article that my boyfriend showed me that gives the dates of future country departures, as reported by volunteers who have already been invited. This same page also has a placement calculator that gives a better idea of where you may serve, depending on your sector (i.e. agriculture, education).
Here is the February time line:

February 2 = Paraguay
February 2 = Ecuador
February 9 = Uganda
February 14 = Zambia
February 15 = Guyana
February 18 = Namibia
February 22 = Honduras
February 27 = Malawi
February 28 = Costa Rica
February 28 = Madagascar

After using the placement calculator, I found out that Paraguay had volunteer positions in my specific educational sector (Primary Teacher Training), and that Ecuador didn't. So to me this means that I have a fairly good chance of going to Paraguay, that is IF I don't miss my original departure date or if Peace Corps doesn't randomly send me to Africa or something. This could always happen, and DOES happen fairly frequently. Peace Corps never guarantees that you will end up going to where you were originally nominated.

However, I needed to be swept up in something, so I immediately started researching Paraguay. If it ends up being another country, then I'll pour the same sort of joyful curiosity into it, as well. Some key things about Paragauy:
It's landlocked.
It's very impoverished.
It has widely varying geography and climate.
Meat (red meat) is the main staple of their diet. (Yikes)

I'll be happy wherever I go, whether I eat solely raw meat or mangoes. This was one of my original reasons for doing the Peace Corps. I'll go where they need me. BUt, it's still fun to learn about a potential country. And if I do end up going to Paraguay, I'm going to have to start eating meat sometime before to acclimate my body and so that my soul doesn't explode when my host mum feeds me some undefinable meat on my first day there.