Monday, May 28, 2012

I, (your name), am accepting my invitation to serve...

So begins the text of the official acceptance statement Perry and I emailed to the Peace Corps yesterday. After inserting our personalized information, of course :).

We arrived home from our cruise yesterday and our neighbor had our Peace Corps invitation packet! It was delivered UPS -- we had USPS on vacation hold and we were afraid we'd have to wait until Tuesday for our packet. So, the suspense has ended and we're officially invited to...insert small drum roll here...South Africa!

According to our packet, we'll be serving in either the Mpumalanga or Kwa-Zulu Natal province. It should be pretty interesting trying to learn a click language like isiZulu! Both of us will be school teachers at the primary level, which for Peace Corps South Africa purposes is grades 1-7. We could end up in a classroom with no teacher (due to demotivation, illness, or even death due to AIDS) and as many as 100+ students. We could be living in a mud hut with a thatch roof or a brick house with a tin roof. We could have electricity or not have it, have running water or not, internet service or not. 

We're not willing to speculate too much (the unexpected seems the norm when it comes to the Peace Corps), but we're thinking we'll end up closer to amenities (e.g. medical services) because of my asthma. Flat maps are deceiving because of distortion, but South Africa is actually as large as Texas and California combined, and some posts will be many hours away from a major city. For anyone considering visiting us, know that when it's winter in the United States, it's summer in South Africa! 

Now, we need to file more paperwork (visa, PC passport, etc.), get more shots (starting with yellow fever), organize our affairs stateside (power of attorney, selling cars, etc.), and squeeze in a visit to New York (visit family!). The next six weeks will certainly fly by.

We're super excited for this new adventure! It promises to be a life changing experience.

- by Elizabeth

Mpumalanga - Kruger Park in the NE, big 5 territory!

Mpumalanga Vista


Kwa-Zulu Natal Vista
Kwa-Zulu Natal



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Invited!

In the wee hours of the morning, I had a gut feeling that the Peace Corps might have updated our status, so I grabbed my iPod and checked my email. Updates occur sometime in the middle of the night, and sure enough, there was a message in my inbox saying they'd updated my application status. An invitation perhaps? After incorrectly typing in my password  -- twice -- I managed to log on and was greeted by the happy message: "Congratulations! You have been invited to become a Peace Corps Volunteer." I got out of bed and found Perry. He hadn't yet checked his email, so I showed him my updated status. Of course, I couldn't get back to sleep after that!

Wow! This is really happening!

Our invitation packets were mailed yesterday, so we hope to get them before we board our cruise to Alaska on Sunday. We won't know where we'll be going our when we'll be leaving until those packets arrive. We're pretty certain that the invitations are for Africa, with a July departure -- when it comes to the Peace Corps, though, the only thing that's certain is uncertainty ;). After receiving our invitation packets, we'll have 7 days to accept or decline. We'll be accepting! Then, a new raft of paperwork and planning will begin. We're ready for it. 

- by Elizabeth

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Peace Corps has updated your Application Status

Perry and I both received the same email notification this morning: "Peace Corps has updated your Application Status." The new check mark today is the one next to "Place." Needless to say, we were both quite excited about this....but we became even more excited after receiving the following email:
Hello Elizabeth and Perry, I hope you are both doing well. I am the Placement and Assessment Specialist responsible for conducting a final review of your applications for placement. Below you will find questions that will help with my review. Please email your responses or contact me by Friday – May 11th to schedule a time to talk through your responses.
Holy cow...getting more real, right? The list our placement specialist wants answered includes quite a few questions that we were asked at our recruitment interview, but there are some new questions -- how have we been preparing for our Peace Corps service, have our motivations changed, and have we spoken with any returned couples. Near the end of her email, though, is the real attention getter:
The program to which you were nominated to has closed. I would like to consider you for the following program: Africa region placement – departure in July 2012: Perry would serve as a primary/secondary level English teacher and Elizabeth would serve as either as a Primary level Teacher Trainer or primary/secondary level English teacher. Please let me know if you are open to being considered for this program.
Holy cow...tangibly real! So close you can taste it real. Freakin' out a little real.

I decided to engage in a little rank speculation and visited the Peace Corps Wiki, which lists South Africa, Namibia, and Zambia as African countries that stage in July. Africa would be very cool, but July is so soon. We emailed our placement specialist to ask whether she believes it possible to find a placement for us that departs after September 2012. We'll see how she responds. We could make July work. Meanwhile, Perry and I decided to break it to the co-op president that there is a distinct possibility we'll be leaving soon -- and for 27 months. Her response was incredibly positive, so at least we have the weight of breaking that news off our shoulders. Feel a little bad about leaving so soon after moving in, but we can make it up to them when we return...this is a once in a lifetime opportunity! 

- by Elizabeth