Applying and preparing for Peace Corps service is this crazy game of tag with the headquarters in Washington D.C. Once I was accepted as a volunteer nominee last March, months of doctor appointments, EMT certification and wrapping up legal matters followed. The Peace Corps has become quite competitive lately and those even nominated after the initial application and interview process are then faced with going against two or three other nominees for an invitation spot. This makes those few months of paperwork so hectic.. knowing that if you don't hit the ground running with your nomination packet and check list, you might be giving up your spot. I finished up the last of my legal clearance drama (was still dealing with a car accident from 2006) in May and had the rest of the summer to wait for any new news from Washington and enjoy this time traveling and avoiding getting a real job.
As most know, I was originally assigned to serve my two years in the Health Extension program in Africa...or so I thought. What ended up happening was a type-o. The United States government somehow accidentally wrote the Africa Region instead of Caribbean Region on my nomination. My frustration with this mistake was overwhelming when it was finally discovered only this past September when I began getting more feedback about my possible assignment if I were invited to serve. I had spent the last six months mentally preparing for Africa and was very disappointed to learn that I would be serving in the Caribbean instead. Now that I say it aloud, it seems pretty silly to be disappointed in being stationed in the Caribbean, but at the time I was so amped on Africa, thinking that it would be the "real Peace Corps experience", that I couldn't see that there was reason for Peace Corps service in the islands too. My preparation for
Africa ended up coming in very handy, as I was able to serve on a church planting team with e3 Partners this past October in Uganda. Sometimes I've just got to laugh at the way God works. He used a type-o to ready my heart for Africa and then gave me the opportunity to share that experience in Uganda. Good one, big guy. I was able to get Africa checked off my list and ease into the new task of preparing for the Caribbean.
I only had a month of knowing my nominated region for service before I received my official invitation on October 1st for serving as a volunteer in Jamaica. Again, I was for some reason disappointed with my assignment. I knew very little about the island and what I did know was based on stereotypes from Sandals commercials and Disney movies from the early 90s. It wasn't very long before I realized the need for Peace Corps volunteer work and my purpose there. Jamaica, still a third world country, is facing some of the worst dicotomy of the quality of living among developing countries. Venture out of the resorts and poverty and need is abundant. The expanding tourism on the island is putting a strain on the underdeveloped government and draining natural resources. For most Jamaicans, consistant electricity and clean water supply is rare. Overcrowding in the ghettos is causing the spread of sickness and most of all, violence. While this sounds like an intimidating environment to dive into, I'm excited at the opportunity I'm given to do something about it.
I've been given the assignment as a Community Health Advisor and will be trained for two months with a group of volunteers with similar assignments and backgrounds of medical services. That was back in early October and since then I have, besides a simple letter of aspiration sent to my Country Director, just been sitting and waiting for more information. In my invitation packet I was told that my departure date would be sometime around March 16 and that's about all I've been working on up until now. I'm rushing to the mail every day hoping that my Staging packet is waiting for me and can finally find out when and where I will start this amazing adventure!
Five more weeks! I have yet to begin packing; that's when it becomes very real and I'm not sure if I'm quite ready to start that yet. :) My awesome parents are very graciously hosting a send off party for me on March 7, about a week before I'm scheduled to take flight. I can't tell if I'm more nervous or excited, but I think it's the perfect combination right now. I think most of all I just want to get started. I've been thinking and talking and preparing for this for more than two years now. Let's go already! I'm ready for the next hurry up time of packing up my life and a little less of this anticipation in the final waiting period. I'm ready to start saying "ya mon"!