The following content is comprised of personal opinions, and in no way reflects the opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Staging, National Punctuation Day, and More!

I received an email a day or two ago (OK, it was actually on Monday during my round trip excursion to Duluth) with a bunch of information for my 'Staging Event' in Philadelphia. When I saw I leave for Rwanda on the 19th of October, I really mean that I leave for Staging on the 19th and for Rwanda on the 20th.

After getting all the details, I had to call the travel company that handles all the airline tickets and whatnot. The kind woman there informed me that I needed to be at the hotel in Philadelphia by 11am on the 19th and the only flight for the Twin Cities that would meet the deadline takes off at 6:30 in the morning. This really wasn't a problem for me because I routinely start work at 6am. However, she then informed me that she could not pre-print my ticket or assign me a specific seat, so I need to make sure to check in with plenty of extra time. This means I need to be at the airport at like 4:30 or 5, which means I have to be conscious before then. Yeah, not too keen for that one.

After all the orientation in Philadelphia, we (the ~70 member training group) will be bused to JFK in New York (ish) for a 6pm flight on the 20th. that flight will take us to Brussels and be a little under 8 hours long. We then transfer flights for another 8 hour leg to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) and will land at about the same time we left JFK, only a day later. Bring on the exhaustion...

Today is also National Punctuation Day in the US. Feel free to scan this post for any mistakes, hopefully you find none (thanks spellcheck).

In addition, today was also two week notice day. By that I mean I talked to my boss and let him know I will be done working on the 8th of October and informed him that I will be joining the Peace Corps. Or at least, that was the plan. However, my boss has decided that I am not yet convinced of my own decision and asked me to let him know on Monday if I really am going. After failing to convince him once again that I am already set on going, I backed down and accepted that I will just have to tell him again on Monday.

With less than a month before I leave, I feel slightly deprived of information. This is however, nothing new as far as my relation with the Peace Corps. Almost everything is done in ambiguity and they expect you to just hang on for the ride. They tell you what you need to know and not a whole lot else. I'm not saying this is a bad thing; I completely understand the logic behind it. Plus, I feel that it may be good practice for my time abroad. But if you're going to be a volunteer with the Peace Corps, expect to be left in the dark. Just remember that there are hundreds of others in the dark with you, some of which may be your closest American contacts for 27 months.

Don't forget to be awesome...


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Project Digital Textbook

 The other night, while I was discussing what to pack for the Peace Corps with my mother, I expressed that I really wished I could bring my Calculus textbook because it would be an amazing resource while I'm there. However, the thing weighs near eight pounds and would take up a lot of my allotted weight. We had just also been discussing making copies of my paperwork, and she lightly suggested that I photocopy the textbook.

Like that, Project Digital Textbook was born. I was able to locate an industrial automatic scanner that will allow me to scan the pages quickly, provided I cut them off of the book binding first. The scanner will then save them as a pdf file and email them to me, thus converting eight pounds of paper and text into a (relatively) small digital version.

The legality of Project Digital Textbook is somewhat...gray. Under new federal laws, copying copyrighted media to a digital format (weather it came from an physical format or a digital one) is considered theft, piracy, illegal, and a bunch of other bad things. However, under fair use clauses, I believe I am allowed to 'back up' copyrighted material that I purchased, so long as I do so without distributing it to others or making a profit off of it.

This only slightly concerns me considering I will be serving in the Peace Corps, an extension of the US Federal Government, who ultimately enforces copyright law. Make no mistake, I plan to only use these files for the best of intentions. I'm not aiming to sell them or distribute them. I am merely using them in place of physical copies to ensure I give a quality education to the students of Rwanda.

While Project Digital Textbook is on hold due to the fact that Test Subject #1, my Calculus book, is in Duluth and I'm in the Twin Cities, I have been advancing the scope of the project ion the meantime. I spoke with the Tutoring Center I volunteered at during college and inquired if they had textbooks they wanted to get rid of. They told me that they have boxes of them every year that they give away to students for free because they are too old. They said I could swing by any time and claim any textbooks I thought would help me, especially if I am going to put them to as good a use as teaching in developing areas.

I sent out my passport documents today. I'm slightly more concerned about this because that gives me less than five weeks to have them be processed and approved. But I supposes that's what happens when I receive a six week notice that my life will change forever. That's not a complaint, just a remark. The Peace Corps, an especially the Placement Office, does wonderful work and i very much appreciate all they have done for me.

Tomorrow marks the one month mark before I leave. I find it rather hard to believe that it was near a year ago that I started applying for this opportunity. All the hard work, the waiting, the paperwork, the waiting, the drawn blood (and passing out), ans the waiting are now paying off. of course, now I need to wait some more.

Don't forget to be awesome


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Massive Peace Corps Update

Wow. As I sat down to post this, I realized the last time I wrote anything was back in November of 2009, back before I even received a Nomination. Here is the massive update as to what has happened since then (For the streamlined version look in the right hand column for my Peace Corps Timeline):

In mid to late December, I received an official Nomination for the Peace Corps. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Peace Corps process, here is a run-down.

Application: Anyone interested in the Peace Corps fills out and sends the Peace Corps Application. after submitting this you are now an APPLICANT.

Nomination: After reviewing the application, a Recruiter will contact the Applicant and request additional information and conduct a phone screen or an in-person interview depending on location. If the Recruiter thinks you are qualified for service, they Nominate you for service. The nomination includes a general position, location, and month of the year. For instance, mine was Education, Africa, October 2010. After receiving this you are now a NOMINEE.

Clearances: After receiving a nomination, you must pass a series of clearances, generally, your legal clearance is first to go through because most of the paperwork needed for this was filled out during the nomination process, although it may still take several months for the clearance to be shown in the Online Toolkit. You must also pass Dental and Medical Clearances. It may be important to note that the Office of Medical Services (OMS) usually will not touch your medical packet if your nominated departure date isn't within four months. Once your receive these three clearances, you ares still considered a Nominee, but your file is transferred to the Placement Office, and eventually to a specific desk (like Education or Community Development).

Invitation/Placement: The last clearance you must receive is a placement clearance, which is the last step prior to being invited to join the Peace Corps. In my case, my placement clearance (meaning they found my qualifications not only sufficient to serve, but in the top of the pool of nominees) and my invitation came in the same email. When you are extended an invitation, your Placement Officer will contact you by email or phone and let you know that you have been invited and to look for an invitation packet. You have a certain number of day to accept the invitation before it 'expires.' Once you officially accept the invitation, you are now considered an INVITEE.

So that's where I am now. After breezing through medical and dental clearances in mid July, I was stuck waiting (again...) on the Peace Corps Office. In mid August I was asked by the Placement office to submit an up-to-date resume and transcript. On a side note, they say your invitation must be extended AT LEAST six week prior to your date of departure because of paperwork processing time. When I had not yet received an invitation at the end of August, I figured I would most likely not be going in October, more like November or December.

However, my invitation came on the 8th of September! When I received the packet two days later, I noticed they wanted me to depart on the 19th of October, just barely making the 6 week deadline (you may notice that the 8th to the 19th is actually one day short of six weeks... the 19th of October is when I leave for staging/orientation, while I actually leave the country on the 21st of October). I will admit I was a little unhinged by the closeness of that date.

I may be one of the lucky ones, one of the rather few whose invitation does not deviate at all from my original nomination. Here's the big news of this all. On October 19th, 2010, I will be departing for the country of Rwanda, where I will teach Math to high-school aged students for 27 months, including three months of training.

I will be maintaining this blog MUCH more frequently that I have been. Expect weekly or bi-weekly updates leading up to my departure. Hopefully I will be able to maintain at least some consistency in posting while overseas.

If you receive this in an email, let me know if you want me to remove your address if you want to simply look it up yourself. Otherwise, you will continue to receive an email with my posts. If there are any questions you have or things you'd like me to discuss, feel free to leave a comment, email me, or call me (if you don;t have the number...sorry). I'll be sure to address anything that anyone wishes to know more about.

Don't forget to be awesome,