Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Been a While

Well it has been a while hasn't it. There is a slight reason for this...We are back in America for now. A few months back (close to beginning of February) we discovered that we were going to have a baby! Yes Tanie is pregnant! Peace Corps has a policy in Morocco that if you become pregnant then you will be medically separated. Since I am the husband I was forced to ET. There was some slight sadness from myself but also joy. The joy stems from new life that is upon us. due date is October 10th.

We left Morocco the beginning of March (just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps). We are now currently living in our hometown with her family. We have been very blessed that Tanie has already found a job in the business field. I on the other hand Tanie's have not found a job just yet. I am looking daily for something that will fit my needs.

Adjusting to the States was a little easier than I expected. There were many things which are strangely different from the land of Morocco. Still to this day I still think and dream sometimes in Arabic and miss speaking the language the most. I also will miss the PCV's which I had the great opportunity to serve with. Though we were quite different from each other we got a long quite well. Thanks for making my experience a good one and inchallah we see each other at a corny reunion some day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Is It Hard To Get Into The Peace Corps? Part 2

Last post I spoke about how with the Peace Corps there are some prerequisites thats you need before you even think about applying. This post is to look a little further into the mystery of the application process from a PCV's perceptive.

First things first:
There are 12,000 applicants each year and only about 4,000 invites.

This looks pretty grim right? I mean thats one out of three get in. Not to worry. To be honest, getting from applicant to invite is easier than it seems. Why is this?

Starting with the application. Some people don't even make it through the application. Why? Well there are many reasons for this but I assume that the biggest reason would be that they are not that serious about the Peace Corps. I have a sneaking suspicion that the application is very long for a reason. I think that the application is long because they want to be through and also because they want to weed people out of the process. What will weed people out? A little bit of hard work. It can take days to complete the whole thing. It really makes you think about if you are serious about joining if you have fill out all kinds of paperwork.

So you turned in the application and you went to the interview. Great! Now Peace Corps will look over your application to look for crazy red flags or just to see if you are a general fit. Hopefully the interviewer nominates you either now or sometime in the near future. (I hope to post more details about the interview later. )

According to Peace Corps only 8,000 people make it this far every year.  Again, why such a drop off rate? I think that the biggest reason for not getting nominated for service is not that you answered questions wrong in the interview (though some do bomb the interview) but I assume it's because of the basic prerequisites that you didn't meet. Also, if you are looking for a really specific nomination in lets say South America doing small business development but never have had any business experience or don't speak any Spanish. Why would the interviewer nominate you for it. They are looking for people with real skills and volunteer experience.  Also, I think some people have a the wrong idea of Peace Corps going into the interview and the interviewer straightens it out and the person is no longer interested. I assume that most people at this stage drop out on their own accord. It can be a number of things.

Now you are on to medical clearance. I think this is the most exhausting and most difficult part about the whole nomination process. Why? Well, quite frankly dealing with doctors, dentists, and medical staff of Peace Corps can be difficult. This isn't a terrible thing. They just want to make sure that you are completely healthy so that over the next two years you can have the best experience possible. This is also to cover the Peace Corps in the event you have a condition which they can't facilitate overseas. I think it makes sense but it can be frustrating.

A lot of people drop out during this process. I believe for some it is because it is expensive, especially for those without insurance.  Sure they do re-inverse you but the payback is minimal. If you have any abnormalities in any of the tests that you have then you have to pay out of pocket. I had a minor condition and I had to end up paying a couple thousand on further tests because I didn't have the insurance to cover it but Peace Corps said I needed it checked out. If I didn't do it then that would have been the end of my process. This can take a while to get all these things straightened out. Even though I have heard of people that are really healthy getting medical clearance within a week but that is rare. The paperwork itself can be confusing for the doctors. I have heard that 70 percent of the people do not complete their packet correctly the first time and have to have it sent back to them.

Dental can be expensive if you have to have your wisdom teeth removed or have any type of procedures. For more information about dental check out this detailed document that covers anything you would need to know about it. In short there is a lot to go wrong. Stay persistent and get it right the first time to speed up your invitation.

Now you finished with medical and dental clearance. Next is legal clearance which shouldn't be an issue unless you are trying to hide something. Now hopefully you will be both medically and legally cleared. If you are their is a really good chance that you are going to get an invitation to serve. This is the time where you are starting to check your email every hour to make sure that there isn't anything new and any time a phone rings your heart skips a beat. This is like the final check to make sure you have what it takes and that you are serious about this commitment. Then they should invite you over the phone. Now all you have to do is wait for your invitation packet in the mail.

Congratulations you have made it this far! Only 5,000 invites have been sent out this year and you became of one of them. Even out of these 5,000 only 4,000 choose to become volunteers. Why? Many reasons. I think a lot of people didn't get a country they wanted. Or it could be that their situation has changed over the past year. Or now that it is here they really can't leave there job. Pick a reason. People are complex beings and to put everything on hold for two years is a lot to ask for. So if you accept you invitation then you made it!  Welcome to Peace Corps!

So is it hard to get into the Peace Corps? In my opinion, no. If you meet all of the prerequisites and you are persistent about the application, medical, dental, legal and whatever else they might throw at you I think most normal people can make it in. It's not an exclusive club as some might believe. There has been around 200,000 volunteers since the beginning of Peace Corps. I will never forget what my recruiter said to me, "If you want to serve and you have the qualifications why would we stop you from serving?" Keep that in mind.

I hope this blog will help people who are interested in becoming a volunteer or at least getting some information about the process from an insiders point of view. This is not an exhaustive account so if you have specific questions let me know.  Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Is It Hard To Get Into The Peace Corps?

This is a question that I see a lot on message boards or on the Peace Corps Journals website. There is a lot to be said about this so I hope to do this in two parts (hang in there). The straight forward answer to question is yes and no.  Okay, I admit it that isn't that straight forward at all but at least you get an honest answer. 

The Peace Corps is a service in which you volunteer for but you are also trying to get hired on by the government. They don't take just anyone. Because of this there are several prerequisites. If you do not meet these requirements don't bother applying. It wouldn't be worth the effort. Here are a few.

-You must have a four year college/university degree in something. It really doesn't matter what it is in really because they can always fit you somewhere teaching English. I hear it is not always required to have a degree but you would have to have had some real time experience in the field somewhere.  I believe it is three to five years minimum. This is the one I see the most confusion on. I see a lot of people out of high school excited to serve but have not read the fine print. They will most likely won't even look at the application because they want people that can be a true service to the host country nationals. Not just someone with a great heart. 

-You need to be willing to commit to 27 months of service. Peace Corps does not offer shorter terms. Twenty seven months isn't for the faint of heart. It sounds so fantastic to live in a foreign land, to learn a new language, etc. The truth is that in the beginning it does feel fantastic to be doing these things but just like the feel of a new car it wears off. Apply for the right reasons. Think it through. Don't just apply for an escape. Sometimes where you escape to is even more challenging then where you came from. 

-You need to have some past volunteering experience. That was one of the things that was asked of me in my entire process from application to invitation. They wanted to make sure that my experience matched the job that they wanted to give me. This is partly because they want to make sure that you are serious about wanting to serve. I am sure that the thought process is that if you haven't shown that you served somewhere in the past then why would you be a good candidate to volunteer for such a long time. They want to make sure you are relevant when you get to your host country and have real skills to offer. 

-You need to be healthy. Straight to the point: You are an investment. They want people who have little to no health problems. This is because they do not want to have to spend a lot of money on you when you get in country. They are running on a budget (part of the government remember). So why would they accept you over another when you might have or had health issues. Also remember that things like past surgeries are risky and need to have supervision. There are chances that you could be restricted on where you go because of medical. I know I didn't get my original nomination because of health stuff. In the end it's a really great feeling that you that you can be safe away from home. They are looking out for you and themselves. If you have questions of what it means to be "healthy" check the PC website for more detailed information. Also, here is a PDF which speaks about the subject.

So there you have it. A little information to think about and I hope to have a part two in the next couple of days. If you have any questions leave a comment and I will try my best to answer it. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Fog

It always strikes me. When I walk around the city of Rabat I see common sights and hear sounds of any other city. The differences though in my point of view are profound. People don't freak out when I start speaking Darjia. This is normal in the capital city (foreign people speaking their language). No shocking looks. No laughing. When I walk around the streets and look around no one is trying to get me to buy anything. No yelling. No bon jour's. No questions about why I am here and what I am doing. The people here they just live their life with this idea that foreigners are amongst them and they are okay with that. Something about this city brings out another side of myself that I have lost (or presumably so) a year ago. I forgot what it was like to be able to walk down the street and be able to smile at strangers. To look them in the eye and just smile. In a round about way I believe this to be normal. But as I ponder my transformation into the person that I have become I realize that normal is a perspective. One which has now changed because of constant struggle, misunderstanding and successes.

I wonder about change. I have come to the realization that change is inevitable. It's something which I need in my life in order to feel at rest, to feel at home. I think this is why it is hard to be comfortable in our own skin: we aren't comfortable with change. Though the irony is that change is the definition of life. Evolution. Constant change which we fight and fight until we give in or break down. I think better when everything is changing. I have learned to embrace change with a free spirit. It has taken me longer than most to understand that if I would have done this sooner then this experience would have been easier. Clarity is what I think that most of us are looking for. But my clarity is understanding that there is really no such thing. We all live life differently. Most of us have no idea to what is next in life. I call this the fog. Maybe to have life, to truly live, is to be okay with the fog of life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Returning from London

Well Tanie and I went to London for 7 days. We didn't really have any plan because we just wanted to be able to explore and experience somewhere sort of new to us. Well at least somewhere that is different then our normal everyday life now. It turned out really well and always had something to do and the trip was a great time. Highlights were the British Museum, Ice-Skating in Hyde Park, Westminster, Tower Bridge Area, eating great food, watching Harry Potter 7: Part 1, Christmas lights and music all around, and understanding the language. Here are some pictures of the trip:

Big Ben at Night

Tanie and I Ice-Skating In Hyde Park

Me at One of My Favorite Areas In London

In The Tower Bridge Area

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

London Part 2

I am going to London again with my beautiful wife. We head out tomorrow and we will be there till next Wednesday. This is going to be a proper holiday and I am so excited to feel some cold in my bones. I heard that recently they have also had some snow so we will be able to get some of that as well. This is mostly a Christmas gift to ourselves. We both missed the holidays last year and just kind of skimmed over them like they were another day. I felt like it took a toll on our psyche and we needed to get out of Morocco for our Christmas. This really isn't on Christmas really but it doesn't matter to us. It's close enough.

Last time we saw all the touristy things in London. This time we are going to try and experience the city a little more and see things that I always wanted to see but never got around to seeing. Oh not to mention that we are going to a Christmasy thing at Hyde park called "Winter Wonderland 2010"! There will be ice skating and Christmas foods! There are also Christmas lights in places around the city. It will be a great site to see. Now to think of it, completely opposite of sites here in Morocco. I will let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Morocco is getting easier. At least that is what I tell myself. Everyday I seem to learn something new and it helps with understanding this world I am living in. 

Language is getting a little better but to be honest I know now by the time I leave I won't even be close to fluent. As a first language Moroccan Arabic is very difficult. Not only that I know I am not great at acquiring languages. One thing that encourages me is that I can do just about anything I need to do to survive but equally on the other side I have a really hard time with detail things. For example, I can tell you that I like something or something isn't good but I cannot really describe why. I really hoped to be at a higher level of language then I am. I put in the time and study a little each day and use it as much as I can but one thing that really hurts me with language is I am naturally extremely shy. I normally won't say much unless I know you pretty well. 

So advice to those who are thinking about PC or trying to learn a new language you need to know if you are shy push yourself. It not only hurts your language but also your ability to have friends in country. It funny I still hear a lot about a past volunteer. Everywhere in town I go I hear things about she was the best volunteer and she did this and that. She made an impact here. I don't know her but I am sure that she was an extrovert. I have noticed here that if you are an extrovert the PC experience tends to come a little easier. I think thats why I have struggled up to this point. Now I have gotten to the point where I just don't care what people think. I just be try to be myself in every situation. (It sounds easier then it is trust me.) Confidence and being a little more care free tends to make my experience a little more enjoyable than it would be otherwise. These are things I wish I had discovered before I came. Maybe now I can do something about it.