Monday, March 12, 2012

The Beginning: Application and Invitation Process

The time has finally arrived, I am now less than one month away from my departure for Pre-Service Training (PST) in Botswana. As this reality sinks in I feel as if I am finally ready to begin posting. This blog will chronicle my application process, preparations, and my personal and professional experiences as a NGO (non-governmental organization) Capacity Builder Peace Corps Volunteer in the southern African country of Botswana. I will be serving from April 2012 until June 2014.

It's been a long road to get to this point, one full of frustrations, excitement, let-downs, and then new excitements.

I began my Peace Corps application in June 2010 as I sat in the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on my way home from a field study course in Kenya. I first interviewed for a position in August 2010 via telephone just days before moving to Dalian China where I was to spend my final year of college. In September 2010 I was nominated for a position in Education in Francophone Africa departing in September 2011. Up until this point the process was seamless.

It was living in China and trying to complete my medical, dental and legal holds on my application that proved to be difficult. It wasn't until July 2011 that I was able to finally be medically cleared for service. However the day I was medically cleared was the same exact date that all pending applicants were informed that due to unforeseeable circumstances all pending applicants would have delayed departures, with the earliest being in January 2012. I was obviously crushed. There I was, having been back in the US for only weeks, expecting to leave in September or not long after and suddenly being informed that January would be the earliest possibility.

This change in plans, while somewhat unsettling, became one for the better ( as you must always see change). I was able to spend more time with family and friends, and given more time to prepare for my departure. Originally having no prospective departure date came as a challenge as a began a search for a temporary job. But as luck would have it I received an invitation just days before I was set to interview with Continental Airlines as a flight attendant in Houston, Texas. The invitation was to serve as a Community Outreach and Economic Development Volunteer in El Salvador beginning January 2012. I was ecstatic, excited to have a position focused on development and excited for the opportunity to improved my Spanish.

Thus October began a three month preparation process for my new post. I began work at a temporary job, I worked on my Spanish skills, read about the country, met other volunteers from my training group, completed all the necessary paperwork, began the packing process etc. Then just one month shy of my departure date I got the call that all too many applicants got. The call informing me that due to ongoing security concerns in El Salvador (also those trainees bound for Honduras and Guatemala) our training class would be suspended. It was a tough call to take. However when asked if I wanted to stay in the applicant pool, there was only one acceptable answer for me: of course. How, after all of the work, paperwork, stress, changes, let downs and excitement could I just give up?

Thus began the waiting process once again. I was luckily able to keep my temporary job a while longer, and with that worry out of the way I anxiously awaited my next post. In was the second week of January 2012 that I received the next awaited call. Because of the number of displaced volunteers it was difficult to get placed again before March or April, but I was luckily able to receive and invitation to serve in Botswana as an NGO Capacity Builder focusing on the HIV/AIDS outreach there.

I had been so let down, that I hesitated to allow myself to become excited about this new post. But with the support from the PC Staff in Botswana thus far, the outreach from fellow volunteers I have received, and all of the resources I have I feel that I am finally ready to let the excitement sink in.

I do not know what I am in store for in the next two years, I know it will come with challenges and rewards, with good and bad, with frustrations and excitements. But all in all I am glad that I did not give up on the process.

I've been trying to live life by a quote I found recently by Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did."

This extends to all facets of life, helping you to see that even when situations don't work out as you expected or wanted, that as long as you've tried, that you've done your best, that it is always better than never trying at all.

This all said, I am now at the end of the Application and Invitation Process. As I prepare to end my time as an 'Invitee' and begin my service as a 'Trainee' there is a lot left to do, and shockingly little time in which to do it!!!

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