A New Beginning

I have recently been medically cleared for Peace Corps Service, which means I may be leaving for staging in as little as three months! In honor of that, I thought I’d start chronicling my application process and pre-service adventures. I’ll give you a brief timeline here to give you an idea of my application process. All of these dates are 2009.

February 25 – I finished my online application to Peace Corps, including having in all my references and completing my initial medical questionnaire.

March 6 – I received a packet asking for my transcript, fingerprints, permission for PC to conduct a background check, etc. Turned it back in ASAP (may have been same day, but I’m not sure).

March 24 – Due to budget cuts under the Bush administration, Denver no longer has a PC office. I met my recruiter in a downtown Denver coffee shop.  She was absolutely wonderful, and we had a great conversation. I told her that I had previously been nominated to Morocco, and despite not getting medically cleared several years ago I still was sort of hoping for that country.  She flipped through some papers she had, found that an environmental position in Morocco was open during my desired time frame, and told me I’d be nominated there as soon as she could get around to it. I was nominated that afternoon.

March 30 – I was mailed a medical kit. I had to make a bunch of appointments 4+ hours away from the small town in which I was living. When I finally got all of my medical tests and other paperwork finished, I had to go back to a town where I could make copies of my 60+ page medical packet before turning it in. So…

June 19 – The Office of Medical Services received my packet. I was dentally cleared several days later.

July – I moved to Asheville, NC.  I forgot to change my PC address until the beginning of August, but I checked in with the pre-service unit to make sure I hadn’t missed any letters and they said I was all good.

October – I was sent a generic e-mail from the Ag/Env placement office, a gentle reminder to get all my med done. After e-mailing the pre-service unit again (I’d contacted them several times previously, but I really didn’t want to bother them), I received a call from a nurse who said I had been sent a letter at the beginning of August (!!) to CO – all the medical office wanted from me was a few vaccinations. I hadn’t received the letter due to my move. I was inoculated the next day, faxed the information in immediately, and then received a letter the next week that they wanted a statement from me regarding my carpal tunnel issues and past knee pain I had reported.  I was actually in TN for the week after they sent that request, so I had about a week turnaround time. On Oct. 27th I was medically cleared for service;  I found the letter in my mailbox on Oct. 30th.

November – I created a killer new blog.

Another thing I’ve been doing is studying French. I knew no French before this year – I could say Je ne parle pas le français, but that was about it. Why am I learning French? Two, possibly three reasons. Morocco was a French protectorate through the colonial period up through the second world war, and that left quite an impact. French is the second or third language of many Moroccans, and it is widely spoken within the government, for business, and many newspapers are French. The second or third language of a person isn’t nearly as important to learn as the first language, which is, confusingly enough, why I’m learning it – the vast majority of Moroccans speak either Darija (Moroccan Arabic, significantly different than Modern Standard Arabic) or a Berber dialect as their first language. Neither of these are easy to learn in the states, and, if I am invited to serve in Morocco, I will be trained in one of those two languages with no training in French.  This is why my recruiter told me to learn as much French as I could before placement. Not only would French be a good language to know, but it should give me at least a bit of a competitive edge in the placement process. I’ve heard rumors that recruiters nominate two people to each available PCV spot, which is one of many reasons a nomination is no guarantee of either when or where the nominee will actually serve.

To learn French I’ve been utilizing the Fluenz software – I have both Fluenz 1 & 2, and overall I really enjoy it. I don’t particularly feel like giving a review right now; I bring this up because it gave me the name of this blog. One of the main themes for Fluenz lessons is travelling:  getting tickets for trains, taxi directions, etc. One of these lessons on the first CD had the sentence Il y a un autre train in the intro conversation, which translates to there is another train. For some reason it struck me, maybe I was feeling philosophic or nostalgic, I don’t know. I thought it was very nice philosophically, either in the sense that something else will always come or that there are other paths (à la Robert Frost). I also liked it for the way it is such a beginning level language learning phrase – it feels like all the stiff phrases I was teaching my kids in Korea. If I serve in Peace Corps Morocco, I’m guaranteed to be stuck in beginner mode in at least two of three main languages for my two years of service.  It may be a little cheesy, but I like it.

And that, dear friends, is all you get for today. Have a good one!

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