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Norbert and Carol Hoffmann's Peace Corps Journal

    June 23, 1999    Like an eternity

         Five more weeks until our recruiter will know about openings for the April/June 2000!  It might seem like an eternity if life weren't so hectic.  Selling the house, packing possessions, moving to an apartment, vacationing across the country at two family reunions all provide much needed distraction. 

        The decision to sell our house has nothing to do with the Peace Corps.  One way or the other, we plan to move and now is better than rushing it in 2000.  The market is good. Interest rates are low. I only dread the weeks of keeping counters spotless and laundry hidden out of sight.  On the other hand, it's better than having our departure date approaching and no sales prospects to be found.   

  •     Then there is also the freedom!  No grass to mow, no hedges to trim, no snow to plow and if we don't get invited to the Peace Corps, by spring we're out of here.  (For the rest of the country this means May or June.) A few months on the road in our camper won't match a trip to North Africa, Nepal or Moscow but we'll manage to find adventure just the same.         
  • - Carol
  • June 24, 1999    Books, books, books
  •      We've been reading every P.C. related book of fiction and non-fiction we could find. We also found several videos in our college library.  Click here to see our reading list.  I think it's my way of dealing with anxiety, but it seems to just add to Carol's.
  • - Norbert’’

  • July 14, 1999   Sold
  •      We close on the house tomorrow and it was more painless than I expected.  We never even contacted a realtor.  The college bought it for faculty housing.  What a relief.
  •                                                                                                                                                      -Carol
  • Axe-man, transformers and solar panels
  •    Research is the theme of the month!  We've been looking into investment options and easy ways to access funds whether we end up in the P.C. or travel through the U.S.  I also started investigating laptops and solar panels. (For strange, cheap equipment, check out Twin Cities' Axe-man stores!)  A good source for transformers (a converter should not be used for laptops) , plug and modem jack adapters is or 800-962-4943.  Their brochure explains all there is to know and the Magellan people are very helpful.  Pictures of  the actual plugs and outlets used in different countries can be seen at  Look for the country in the upper left window (scroll down), find the pattern code and look for it in the upper right window.  Since theft is reported as a major concern by many P.C .V's, I've looked into options there, too.  My oldest son likes to tinker, so I asked him for advice.  
  • - Norbert

  • July 26, 1999    Hot off the press
  •      Checked in with Matt, our recruiter, this morning. He didn't have the June 2000 openings for couples yet and suggested to call him back in another week. But this afternoon he called (audio clip 106k) me back with a list "hot off the press." He wanted us to prioritize three of the six choices. Three of them were in Eastern Europe, one in Mongolia, one in Central Asia (the " -stan" countries), and the last one in North Africa. Mostly business advising/education for me and teaching English as a secondary language for Carol.

    - Norbert

    July 28, 1999   Reunion

         It's the Cullen family reunion time, this year at Beaver Lake, Arkansas.  We exchanged e-mail addresses with cousins to keep them updated about our plans.     

        July is H O T in Arkansas but luckily my parents live nearby in Oklahoma with plenty of air-conditioned comfort for all.  We escaped the heat and checked-in with Matt.   He had asked us to decide on our top three preferences .  North Africa was at the bottom of Norbert's list because he thinks it will be ruled-out later anyway - once the medical staff learns of my asthma.  Mongolia is at the bottom of my list because I worry (a little) about Norbert's access to emergency cardiac care.  OK!  So there are a few little health concerns that tug at us!  Anyway that leaves three options in Eastern Europe...not quite the exotic places we've been reading about but plenty interesting and exciting for the two of us.  Our first two choices have departure dates in late June.  That would work well for us - leaving time for moving and final family visits after Norbert retires and I resign my job.  Oh-h-h, the suspense is mounting! Will we actually be nominated? When will we know?


      August 9, 1999    It happened

        Today's the day - and sooner than expected.  Matt called each one of us at work.  We were nominated for our choice # 1!  It actually happened!. We made the first hurdle.  Trying to calm myself enough to listen, I learned that we would each be assigned our own placement officer out of Washington.  That's  because we will be working in different job areas.  Matt recommended we check-in with him or her about every six weeks.  Tomorrow we should receive an official notification letter including names of our D.C. contacts.  The medical office will send those forms in about four weeks.  Bring it on!

    - Norbert

    August 15, 1999   A friendly bunch

         The National Peace Corps Association's R.P.C.V. Conference was in St. Paul this year.  What luck!  Of course we attended, even though we were probably the only ones there who had not yet served.  How could we pass an opportunity on our doorstep?   It was a terrific conference!  RPCV's are a friendly bunch, ready to share experiences and their best tips with us.  The fact that we were "just" nominees didn't matter at all.  We saw movies, heard briefings on Eastern Europe, attended author's readings and workshops on entrepreneurship and writing.  The two days left us with lots of good ideas, helpful information, and exciting stories of high adventure, not to mention those icky, incurable diseases.  

    - Carol

    August 16, 1999    That's all we needed

         Our daughter Ryan called from Alaska last night to inform us of her engagement and plans to be married here in Northfield only two weeks before we are to leave for Eastern Europe.  Yikes!  She and her fiancÚ felt under pressure when they learned of our probable departure date.  They just don't want to wait an extra 27 months until we return.  It wasn't a complete surprise but has helped us reevaluate our plans.   Now, Carol will be leaving her job by  May 1, and I will retire two weeks later.  That should give us enough time to handle both the wedding and preparation for our departure two weeks later. Don't you think?

    - Norbert

      August 18, 1999    Nominated

    The official nomination letters finally came in the mail today. Actually, it was more of a non-event than I expected, maybe because we already knew.  Our recruiter had been awfully busy with the conference and only managed to get them out afterward.  No problem.  What did surprise us, though, was that no actual jobs, geographical regions or dates were mentioned.