Friday, April 27, 2012

Teaching English

Where we're from..
Although I wasn't quite sure I'd enjoy teaching English (I'm certified as an elementary education and middle level science teacher), I really had a blast with it! There I am, on the right of the photo, with four of my students: Two from Mexico, one from Somalia, and one from Hong Kong. I also had students in my class from mainland China, Taiwan, India, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Algeria, The Congo, and El Salvador. Working with such a diverse group kept things interesting but also posed certain challenges, not the least of which was trying to accommodate a vast range of proficiency levels. I hope I did right by my students and that I helped them to navigate the English language with a bit more ease! They taught me a lot about how -- and how not -- to teach English effectively.

 - by Elizabeth

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Wait

Patience: the gentle clock hand circles,
and what was promised once, will be...
The Son - Rainier Maria Rilke, tr. Edward Snow

Today, I (Elizabeth) was happy to receive an email confirmation from our placement officer, indicating receipt of my updated resume and our updated availability:
Dear Elizabeth,
Thank you for your emails. I will add this information to your file now. We will be in touch if we need any additional information.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
I suppose there is nothing to do now but wait. 

Earlier today, I visited the Peace Corps recruiting office -- I went down to pick up a DVD to show my English class. My students are very curious about the Peace Corps. I had a nice chat with our recruiter while I was there, who told me that there probably won't be much, if any, email or phone communication from the Placement Office from here on out. The next thing to expect, she said, is a big blue envelope on our doorstep. 

For now, patience.

To honor the waiting game, I post two videos for your enjoyment. Anticipation, by Carly Simon and The Waiting, by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Heard from the Peace Corps Placement Office!

I (Elizabeth) received an email from the placement office today. They requested an updated resume and also an update on our availability. Updating my resume is a simple matter, I just need to add my volunteer work teaching English at the North Seattle Family Center. The request for updated availability, though, made me stop and think. It never crossed my mind that they'd ask whether our availability date had changed. To be honest, for the past couple weeks I've seriously questioned our ability to be ready by June. Especially since we've traveling for a good two-thirds to three-quarters of May! Here are some of the things we'll need to do before we leave:
  • Tell the co-op that we've been invited to the Peace Corps and will be gone for 27 months. Arrange for our dues to be paid while we're gone (electronic payments? pre-payment? post-dated checks?) and have a plan for any emergencies (i.e. water heater failure).
  • Grant someone, probably our accountant, power-of-attorney.
  • Arrange to have someone check on our apartment occasionally (once a month?).
  • Figure out where our mail is going to go for the 27 months we're gone and make sure important documents end up where they need to be.
  • Put the apartment to bed. I'm thinking space bags for clothes and linens, dust covers for the furniture, etc.
  • Sell vehicles.
  • Contact our insurers. We can probably let go of our car insurance (see "sell vehicles" above ;) ), but don't know what to do about health insurance. Although we'll be fully covered by the Peace Corps during our service, will letting go of our health insurance restrict our ability to buy it again when we return?
Considering this list, it feels like a good idea to revise our availability date. I'm sure Perry has things on his mental to-do list that I haven't listed here, too! So right now, we are thinking of telling the placement office we'll be ready to go September 1st. While this could mean passing up an opportunity in the intervening months, it also means we can tackle our list at a healthy pace (and be able to build some relationships in the co-op before telling them we'll be gone for two years). Who knows, June may not even be feasible right now, given where we are in the process -- but changing the date ensures we won't be stressing out about a possible June departure.

By the way, Perry did not receive the request for an updated resume, I am presuming because he wasn't asked to gain any additional experience for our nomination.

Ever closer to an invite, we hope!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seven months into our Peace Corps application process.

Greetings from Elizabeth and Perry! Since we both received our medical clearance today, I (Elizabeth) figured it was about time to start a Peace Corps blog. Things are falling into place and this endeavor may just get off the ground! 

To begin, I will briefly recap our journey up until today:
  • Late September, 2011: Submitted our online applications and references.
  • October, 2011: Had our interview at the Peace Corps Offices in Seattle, WA.
  • Mid-October, 2011: At our recruiter's request, I began accruing 30 hours of experience teaching English to adults.
  • Early November, 2011: Put our house on the market. Completed my 30 hours - teaching English to adult immigrants/refugees at the North Seattle Family Center and assisting in an ESL class at Shoreline Community College. Submitted documenting paperwork.
  • November 17th, 2011: Nominated for University English (Perry, who has a PhD in Linguistics) and "Unique Skill" (Elizabeth). Asia, June 2012. Apparently, the main skill sought is University English, making Perry the "lead spouse" on our application. I am labeled ambiguously and could end up in one of several placements, but most likely secondary English. 
  • Late November, 2011: Received our medical and dental packets and began scheduling appointments.
  • December 15th, 2011: Accepted an offer on our house. Around this time, also received notification of a legal hold on our application, which concerned our home equity loan -- we had one, and we needed to indicate how we'd pay it while away.
  • January, 2012: Mailed in our medical and dental packets. Closed on both our house and our new co-op. Moved. Resolved the legal hold on our application by paying off our home equity loan. Became completely and officially debt-free! Woot!
  • Late January to mid-April 2012: Corrected error on my medical forms: Forgot to check one check box on my mammogram form. We also had to re-submit all our dental films because the heat treatment process all federal mail undergoes fried (melted) the first sets we sent in. Perry had some additional immunizations and medical tests (new glasses for Perry!).
  • Late March, 2011: Received dental clearance.
  • April 16th, 2012: Faxed in final set of medical paperwork requested by the Office of Medical Services.
  • April 18th, 2012: Both of our Peace Corps Toolkits are updated: "Medical: Complete. A decision has been reached regarding your medical review. Please look for a letter in the mail."
I am not sure whether we'll make our original nomination date and/or region or not. One thing is certain, though. I will require placement in a medically accommodating country (MAC), probably because of my asthma. 

As warned and as expected, the medical & dental process was lengthy and the information requested was comprehensive. As an over 40 female volunteer, I was required to have a mammogram and to fill out special paperwork indicating whether I'd need a mammogram during the 27 months I'd be away (only certain countries can accommodate this need). As a 50 plus volunteer, my husband needed an EKG and some other additional tests. Be forewarned that the examinations, laboratory work, and tests are not inexpensive, and the Peace Corps reimburses only a small amount (around 300 dollars).

However, readers should also know that older prospective volunteers are strongly encouraged to apply -- Peace Corps recently partnered with AARP and there is an entire section of the Peace Corps site dedicated to 50 plus volunteering.  The abundant life and professional experience that older volunteers bring to the Peace Corps is definitely sought.

So, in a nutshell, that's our Peace Corps journey so far. More soon, I hope!