Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I applied for the Peace Corps soon after I returned from South Africa. I was looking at and noticed a job posting for someone with marketing experience, to help in small business development. I applied, and it was one of the first interviews I had, back when nobody else seemed to want to talk to me. Of course, it was for a volunteer job, but still, I really got excited when I talked to the recruiter. I was nominated (meaning, as I put it, put in the hopper for) the Caribbean, leaving last July (I wasn’t going to accept anything that left before my 25th Reunion). Medical clearance took a while (due to my cataracts – which are done, so they shouldn’t be an issue) and recommendations took a while, but I got everything in in time – and then didn’t hear anything. I finally called on what turned out to be the last day to get an invitation (the formal offer) in time to leave in July, and they told me that the parameters of the program had changed (were they going to tell me? Do I want to know?). So I was put back in the hopper. I had to pick a region, and my sister suggested Eastern Europe. I wasn’t really excited about Eastern Europe though – not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it wasn’t resonating with me (especially this winter, when I heard how cold it was there). So I decided to call after I got back from Italy and ask if there was anywhere else with business development, for which I was medically cleared, that left in the fall (so I’d have vacation time to go to Reunions). It took a while for them to get back to me, and they did with Morocco (so no, I didn’t have other options that I know of) in the artisan program (when I call or e-mail someone in the Peace Corps HQ, they say, “oh, the artisan program,” so it sounds like a coveted assignment). I had 10 days to decide whether or not to ask for the formal invitation, and 10 days to accept that, and then the aforementioned guest-cold-class-upcoming trip to Reunions – oh yeah, I also had to get in a term paper for class and a Peace Corps Resume and Aspiration Statement (available on request – as are the details of my assignment and detail on Morocco. You can go to to find out more about Morocco – the kids tab has a nice explanation, under Europe and the Mediterranean – and there’s also a tab for Family and Friends; click onto “On the Home Front” for a lot of answers to FAQ. While you’re at it, just for fun, google Turkish toilets, and you ladies might be interested in

I felt right away that I should say yes. Ironically, I was closing in on something else, having had some really good interviews lately and feeling focused thanks to my non-profit classes. Had something come through earlier, I might have had a tougher time, but I think I would have made the same decision anyway. There were also a number of remarkable coincidences – hearing about Morocco, microfinance, the Peace Corps – that I could choose to interpret as signs that I made the right decision. And then I was immediately overwhelmed by the logistics of moving out and of all the things I have to do before I go. I have to get over that, and then I can be overwhelmed by all of the changes that I’ll encounter. So I’ve been in a bit of a tailspin – after all, I’ve been very busy even without a job! I can substitute the time I spent jobhunting with Peace Corps preparation, but I still have a lot going on! Most of the preparation will be trying to get rid of stuff, reading up on Morocco and on the Peace Corps (they have a reading list that I’ll never get through, so I have to prioritize) and taking French lessons (they’ll teach me Arabic or a Berber dialect there, but suggested I take some French before I go. I took Spanish in school, so it’s daunting).

Some answers to FAQ that have already come up:
- I’m not planning to keep my apartment. I love it here, but it doesn’t make sense. I rent. I’m planning to put my stuff in storage – after I get rid of some. That’s not easy for me, as you probably know, but I am not going to drive myself crazy – if it all has to go into storage, so be it.

- I don’t know where I’ll be living – I have three months of training in Rabat, and then will be assigned elsewhere (hopefully a place with electricity, running water, and close proximity to e-mail, but I might not).
- Other than “helping artisans start small businesses” I don’t know much about the assignment. I think they give you enough information on which to make a decision but really don’t know the details until they match up the people with what’s going on once the people finally get there.
- There’s a class of 50 – age range 23-60, half business people and half artists.
- We have staging in Philadelphia September 9-10; in-country service starts September 12. So what they aren’t saying is that you’re flying to a Muslim country on September 11. As a friend pointed out, good air fare.
- I may be on the east coast after September 1 (I am dreading the conversation with my landlord; lease runs out July 31 but I would think that after 19 years they could let me stay an extra six weeks – or at least until August 31) and if so, I would like to see people.
- I’ll be living with a family to start and then will find my own place to live, at my site. I’ll have an address for the training and will then have another address (which a kind friend has volunteered to disseminate to everyone on my mailing list). I’ll have the same e-mail address and expect to have limited, but some, e-mail access. Unsure of how I will do holiday letters – I may send the 2006 one before I go, since there’s “not much downtime during training.”
- They don’t tell you about the training at first – once you accept the two-year assignment, then they mention that, so it’s 27 months total (or, as my blog or book will be called, “27 months without baseball.” Blog is a maybe…book is something I’d like to do).
- A LOT more people don’t finish the two years than one might think. So I might be back sooner, but I don’t want to think that way. I have my heart and mind set on coming back for Reunions and expect to go on the March See the World Tour trip (next year’s plan was already Portugal - a hop, skip and a jump!). Not sure what else I’ll do with my 24 days/year of vacation time, but I’d like to explore Morocco and nearby countries with it.
- I can have visitors, but not in the first six (including training) or last three months.

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