Hi y'all, it's been like a roller coaster the past few months since we decided to apply for the Peace Corps. Now we are at one of the quiet stretches where they pull you up one of the steeper hills before you plunge down again. After we submitted our application with essays on motivation and cross-cultural experiences, copies of transcripts and licenses, resume etc. etc. a few weeks ago, we had our four hour interview Friday at the Minneapolis Peace Corps recruiting office. It was a very positive almost freeing experience which left us feeling good and reassured about our big plan. We both liked the recruiter a lot. Matt Dufresne was a volunteer for 30 months in Nicaragua a few years ago and actually got married to a native.
The interview lasted 1 1/2 hour each and 1 hour together including 1/2 hour for fingerprinting. I found some of the questions difficult to answer at first, like this one: "How do you deal with conflict? Give me an example when you had to work through a conflict with someone." He wanted to know about our general adaptability, ability to deal with isolation, language foods on the table like roasted crickets, would I be willing to cut off my beard if local customs would require it, not wear shorts etc. etc. In some countries we may have to learn two languages and sometimes a new alphabet like Cyrillic.
In one of the handbooks I read that to be a Peace Corps volunteer is like putting on a Mickey Mouse hat with long ears, standing at a busy intersection downtown Chicago and asking the passerby's in broken English: "Can I help you?" Of course, what he described were extremes and reality for us may not be quite that different from what we are used to. But then again - it may.
I was taken by surprise when he wanted to include Agriculture Extension as a job option for me in addition to Business Management and Community Services. I did not feel I was qualified for that at all. But when he explained that it would give us more chances finding matching openings and assured me that my years of vegetable and herb gardening plus the training they provide would be more than adequate experience, I agreed to leave it as an option. I am still worried about the one question on the Agriculture Extension skills sheet I had to complete before we went for the interview. First, I had to list the types of vegetables grown and size of plots. I walked down to the garden with umbrella in one hand and tape measure in the other, rain pouring down heavily, and measured the individual beds. The next question: was I willing to be trained and train others in beekeeping. If so, had I ever been stung by a bee and what was the reaction. I answered with "Perhaps, I would need to know more about it." Brrrr, I don't know if I could handle that. The whole approach reminded me of this young woman I read about who took a course in beekeeping as an elective in college just out of curiosity. She had no other experience with agriculture whatsoever. Before she knew it she found herself in a remote village somewhere in Africa or South America teaching natives on how to do beekeeping.
Jobs in any of my three possible areas may or may not be largely unstructured. Sometimes volunteers have to design their own jobs, develop and assist with a new project they design which requires needs assessment and feasibility study, methods I am used to in my field. Well, working in the Agriculture Extension program may be a challenge and lots of fun and perhaps more fulfilling than continuing to work in computing. I was disappointed to find out that computing no longer is a separate program since third world countries still are not at our level of technology. It would have been a safe field for me, though. Business Management or Community Services may, however, include activities dealing with computing like teaching basic skills - you know, how to turn on a computer and how to load a program (just kidding).
Carol got it made, she is only being considered for teaching English as a Secondary Language or teaching Elementary School teachers, two of the most popular Peace Corps fields. She will have no trouble at all with a job like that with her many years of teaching experience in Tulsa. Anyhow, when I asked Matt at the end if he had any concerns about us, he said none at all and that we were some of the best candidates he ever had :=))) big grin. We still have to mail in the three completed references each and then we won't hear from him until the end of July/beginning of August. At that time he will have received the list of openings for the spring period next year which ends in June when we will be available. Placing couples is more difficult and might take 12 - 18 months.
After we receive the nominations in August or so for a particular field and a general geographical area, we have to go through FBI, credit and medical clearance. Medical will most likely be a lengthy process. It requires dental (just for Carol, I guess ;=) since I have full dentures) and physical exams and probably additional tests since Carol has mild asthma and I had the bypass operation a year ago. I understand that the fact that she sometimes uses an inhaler will raise a major concern. I may have to repeat the stress test I just took a couple of months ago. Anyhow, the asthma means that Africa and several or all countries in Central and South America will be out which is just fine with us. That leaves Eastern and Central Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia and the Pacific, countries like Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Thailand, Philippines, Western Samoa, or China, altogether still about 45 possible countries. I just picked a few of the more exotic ones.
Now the wait is on. Fortunately we have a busy few weeks ahead of us with Michael and Fran's house warming party and family reunion in N.C. this weekend, our trip to Michael and Kathy, Cape Cod and Boston beginning of July, and Carol's family reunion in Arkansas End of July. Hopefully, we also will sell the house during that time and move to an apartment. We are waiting to hear from the appraiser. He promised the results for this week. After that it will just be agreeing on a price with St. Olaf college and signing a contract - and finding an apartment to move into. Gosh, how are we going to do all that in ten weeks?