The Northern Coast

The Northern Coast
The Northern Coast--photo by Zack Thieman

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Delayed Departure

I'm not leaving in January for the Peace Corps.

In all of my musings of how my future endeavors with the Peace Corps would go, I never practiced these words. I never imagined myself saying them out loud. And now I find myself having to say them repeatedly throughout the day; both for myself, and the many people I informed of my wishes to join the PC.

I imagined saying, "Unless you have a Christmas present that I can take with me, don't buy me anything-- I'm going to [insert Caribbean country] on January [insert date] to teach English to [insert age group] !!!"

I thought ahead of all the little things I would miss from my home country, home state, home town. I snuggled my pillow extra tight with the comforter pulled high around my face. I gave my boyfriend extra long hugs. My family made last minute arrangements to spend a holiday together for what may be out last for a long time.

And now, bureaucracy created a few hurdles I couldn't get over in time. The paperwork shuffle in the Peace Corps headquarters of D.C. didn't happen fast enough. While my medical files were sitting on someone's desk completely looked through and just waiting for the final "OK", all of the other people nominated for a position in the Caribbean who were qualified got invitations. I was medically cleared, and therefore eligible for the position, a week too late.

I was completely aware this might happen. I even warned those around me it might happen. But, it wasn't supposed to happen. I at least thought they would find a new placement for me in February, even March at the latest. However, all of those placements are filled with other hopeful nominees who applied at the same time as me (even sooner). Now I'm waiting for possible openings in April through June, with no promises I will have a region similar to my original nomination. That means Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa are back on the table.

I know nothing was promised to me in the first place, that a placement in April or June doesn't mean the end of my dream, but just a longer time to get ready and enjoy all the things I knew I would miss. But it doesn't make the transition any easier. I was driving down the highway and the car got thrown in reverse. I had my life planned out for leaving sooner rather than later. So many things I didn't start because I thought I couldn't finish them. Hell, I hadn't even completely unpacked my things after moving in the new house because I thought I would only have to repack them within a month. I thought it would be harder to live life as usual only to find I had to pick up my life and go. I guess it's just hard no matter what.

One of the hardest parts is explaining to people that I'm not leaving, and it's not a simple "are you in or are you out?" There are phases to the Peace Corps, and I'm still in the nomination phase. A lot of people have been asking similar questions, so here are the FAQs.

What does this mean? Are you out of the Peace Corps? Do you have to be re-qualified?
I am not out of the Peace Corps, I just have to wait for a new placement. The Peace Corps holds onto applications for a long time for people they feel are qualified applicants. Since I am medically and legally cleared, I just have to keep them updated over the next couple months on any new happenings. I'll probably have to send in a new resume, and I'll have to continue to update them on new volunteer opportunities, etc. I'm unsure, but I think they keep you on file for over a year before telling you it won't work out.

Well this is a bunch of crap! Maybe you shouldn't even join the Peace Corps anymore. Why not join a non-government organization instead?
I'm not giving up on the Peace Corps just because I have to wait. I knew this was a possibility from the start. Some pretty incredible opportunities would have to come my way for me to consider giving up something I've worked so hard for. I chose the Peace Corps over NGO's for specific reasons, and at this point I just want to see this through.

How does this make you feel about the Peace Corps? Are you sure you want to be a part of an organization that doesn't seem to have their stuff together?
I don't think the Peace Corps is a faulty, unorganized program. I've been told once on site, things flow pretty smoothly since I would be working more closely with program directors, etc. Getting through the application process and working through the D.C. office isn't going to be easy because, well, it's a government office. Things take time, there are thousands of applicants, there are policies to be followed, regulations and rules, and papers being passed from one person to another. It's not completely unfamiliar to me. I did work with the Forest Service, after all.

It's a bummer, and a big adjustment. Adventure, postponed. In the mean time, I'll just have to live life. Luckily, I've made some pretty cool friends in Corvallis and now I have more time to get to know them better. I get to spend more time with Justin, more time to visit loved ones. I have more time to do a lot of things. The hope is to train for a half/full marathon. I need a project with an end goal that I can do here and look forward to. I really wanted to run a big race before leaving for the Peace Corps, and that was something I was bummed I didn't do. Now I get the another chance to do that.

Like Mom always said, everything happens for a reason. It will be interesting to see what that reason is. In the meantime, I'll be here, living life.