Sunday, February 26, 2012

For More Information

A link to RPCVs website.

I need to make clear that I do not advocate or agree with her own personal feelings. However, she shares legitimate points and she went through/is going through a totally different system than I have merely because of the time and improvements between our experiences.

 Why am I sharing, then? Because there are some out there who may be looking for this information. Just as the body of Christ is a family, as your parents and siblings and spouses and children are family, Peace Corps Volunteers are a family. 

It's unlike anything I've been a part of.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Are you getting excited?

Not you, silly reader.


"Are you getting excited yet?" has been the most popular question during the past six weeks or so.
I'm going to plead the fifth and decline to answer at this time. Lucky you.

However, I will take a moment to answer the second most popular, less subjective, question:
"What do you do in the Peace Corps?"

Contrary to popular belief, we are not a bunch of grubby hippies who "make peace, not war."
A year ago I would have rattled off some politically correct answer about building sustainable projects and improving the quality of life to peoples living in developing countries.
Now--with oh so much more experience and understanding--I reply with a simple: It depends.

Raise your hand if you've ever found yourself completing a task completely unrelated to your job, thinking Where was THIS in my job description? That's the ongoing lifestyle of a Peace Corps Volunteer.

For humor's sake, I'll give you a "choose your own answer" format. (Do you remember those "choose your own ending" books? It's like that.)

First, a little background:
The PC has six different sectors: agriculture, business, education, environment, health, and water sanitation. Because of my background and experience, I am in the education sector. Each PC country has its own unique makeup of sector representatives based on local need.

Now, read
  1. if you want the dictionary definition (courtesy of
  2. if you want to hear about the three goals of PC.
  3. if you want to read about my ideal PC job.
  4. if you want real-life examples.
(1) Dictionary Definition:
"This is the largest area of need for Peace Corps countries. Education Volunteers team-teach or directly teach English, health, literacy, math, and science. Education Volunteers strengthen local capacity by training and mentoring teachers in primary and secondary schools, teacher training colleges, and universities. Volunteers work with teachers to improve participatory teaching methodologies, inclusion practices, classroom management, authentic assessments, parental involvement, and gender equality in the classroom. They also create after-school programs, clubs, and camps for boys and girls to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and life skills."

(2) Peace Corps three "simple" goals:
  a. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  b. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  c. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
  ...and in layman's terms:
  a.  Volunteers learn about host culture while living there.
  b. Host culture learns about America.
  c. Volunteer shares knowledge/experience about host culture when they return to US.

(3) My original motive (2 years ago!) in applying for the PC was to obtain my CA teaching credential. That's right, people: CA offers a preliminary credential in lieu of a credentialing program to returned education PCVs. My changed motive now has to do with how I feel about my coworkers. Because my blog is now being stalked by the government and have agreed to not write anything too controversial, you can ask me more about this in person. For my second time around, I have been given the job descriptions of "Youth Literacy Adviser," "Special Education Adviser," and "Youth Development." Apparently someone thinks I'm really good at advising, especially in two areas that I have relatively no experience. But that's beside the point. In addition to our primary assignments, we are encouraged to branch out and help with other projects volunteers have going. In my ideal job, I really hope to get involved in the health sector and even dabble a bit in the environment sector. There is so much to learn (not to mention-add to the resume) from my fellow volunteers.

(4) I will share about my 2 site mates in Africa. C, a fellow education volunteer, had been there a year previous to me. In her first year of service she had cleaned out and reestablished the library in the primary school she was assigned to. That included literal cleaning and remodeling, having furniture built, gathering/purchasing supplies, and teaching students and teachers how to use a library. She also hosted classes during the school day for library time. C held a study hall after school for struggling students (whose parents would let them attend) as well as workshops and seminars for the teachers at her school. Besides the library, C also held regular teacher training workshops, offered advice/feedback, started a school garden, and many other things I don't even know about. Her main goal going into this school year was to start a peer tutoring program at the new, local secondary school.
M was a health volunteer, preceding me by 6 months. Her main project was to assist in a local health clinic that mainly ran healthy baby visits. They made monthly health treks through local villages, tracking the weight and size of babies. Her other accomplishments included getting a $10,000 grant to dig a bore hole in her village for a clean water source. During my second day at site, M took me on a tour of her newly fenced community garden complete with three new wells. Besides their big tasks, both C and M were planting trees, educating their host families about proper sanitation and health, as well as being a moral support to PC/The Gambia as a whole.

The job of a PCV is quite detailed and involves many different skills. We become experts at making much out of nothing, coping with loneliness, and finding pleasure in simple things. Communication with other volunteers and letters/emails from home become our lifeline. Support yer local PCV. Send a letter.

And as a reward for getting to the end of this post:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Classy Little Women

I received a new Kindle from a friend's family for Christmas. Receiving it was a complete surprise, and they are so generous to think of and gift it to me. (Turns out that my parents had also purchased one for me, so my dad made a mad dash on Christmas Eve to find an alternative gift. I am thankful for thoughtful and generous people in my life!) I immediately starting perusing the free books and downloaded many classics. Among them: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Disclaimer: I thought this would be some sort of intellectual and inspiring rambling on character development and relevance. However, it literally turned out to be my appreciation for good writing.

What I appreciate about Little Women is that the girls are so classy. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy all have their strengths and weaknesses. As a young woman myself, I admired different character traits about each girl. Meg is such a responsible girly-girl. Jo is bold and honest. Beth is a tender spirit and talented musician. And Amy. Oh, Amy is the artist of the family who also fights the same battle that all girls do in being popular and pretty.

All of the girls have such a high respect for their mother, Marmie. Marmie does not let foul behavior go unpunished, but she desires fair punishment. She allows her daughters to explore their imaginations and does not attempt to live vicariously through them. She teaches them tenderness and faithfulness. When she speaks to them, she treats them with maturity. She calls them to a higher standard than the world and constantly reminds them of their salvation through faith. She lives sacrificially and calls her little women to do the same.

And then there's the neighbor boy, Laurie. Move over, Mr. Darcy. Laurie has stolen this girls' heart! Younger than Meg but older than Jo, he fits right in with the March sisters as the brother they never had. He complies with their theatrical adventures and child's play. He attends high class social events to protect the girls from immodesty. Eventually, Jo rejects his profession of love toward her. Not to worry: Laurie finds Amy in Europe while on sabbatical, and the two are betrothed and eventually wed.

My favorite piece from the Broadway score is from the the song, Astonishing. Jo is upset about Laurie's profession of love toward her, upset at the prospect of breaking up the four sisters as they were. Any normal human can relate to her words. It completely encompasses her personality and heart's desires:

I thought home was all I'd ever want
My attic all I'd ever need.
Now nothing feels the way it was before
And I don't know how to proceed.
I only know I'm meant for something more
I've got to know if I can be

There's a life
That I am meant to lead
A life like nothing I have known
I can feel it
And it's far from here
I've got to find it on my own

Even now I feel it's heat upon my skin.
A life of passion that pulls me from within,
A life that I am making to begin.
There must be somewhere I can be

Here I go
And there's no turning back
My great adventure has begun
I may be small
But I've got giant plans
To shine as greatly as the sun

I will blaze until I find my time and place
I will be fearless,
Surrendering modesty and grace
I will not disapear without a trace
I'll shout and start a riot
Be anything but quiet
Christopher Columbus
I'll be astonishing
Astonishing at last!

Favorite quote from the novel:
"Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Twenty Two

I still refer to Megan as my little sister, which takes most by surprise when they learn that she's actually in her 20s. I still imagine her as a 7 or 8-year-old, perhaps because that's when she really started getting "old" or "big" enough to hang with the big sisters. I remember my mom being pregnant with her, I remember feeding her as a baby in the high chair. I remember sharing a room with her, from crib to bunk beds.

I'm still learning about her. Learning that her favorite cake is red velvet with cream cheese frosting.
Learning that she does not usually answer directly, and that she takes great joy in giving gifts to others. Learning that though her bedroom may not reflect it, she is detailed in most areas of her life.
Learning that she has a sensitive heart and desires to see the best in people.

Happy birthday, little sister! 
May this day bring about a spirit of thanksgiving for the years of life God has granted you.
I love you!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Can of Worms: The Basic Scoop

Though not all of my initial questions have been answered, I have a better idea of what RPCV is trying to accomplish.

She served in a Latin American country a handful of years before I was born. I understand that she was never medically evacuated during or medically separated from her service; however, she continues to suffer lasting effects within her physical body--related directly to things she contracted from her PC service. She has had quite the frustrating and discouraging experience attempting to find adequate care for these conditions. Likewise, she has known many other RPCVs to be in the same state, and sometimes worse off than she is. She feels mistreated and neglected by the PC and is hoping that "going public" will cause PC to change and improve service those who have suffered for the cause.

I hope that she found encouragement and faith in my words when I explained a few positive things I witnessed while at headquarters.

(1) The newly hired and instated Victim Advocate rocks. She was another person I never would have thought to communicate with, but Ed knew better and introduced us personally. Volunteers are told that her main duty is to respond to and support victims of sexual assault, but she firmly believes that she is paid to help any and every volunteer who might benefit from her services. The victim advocate was also quite instrumental in helping me understand my options and how to make my desires known.

(2) OMS (office of medical services) was the hardest one for me to handle emotionally. However, once I stated my separation status wishes to my IHC (international healthcare coordinator), she was faithful to communicate that to the decision-making team. In the end, they separated me as I desired.

I was transparent with RPCV, as I am with you. I wrote:

"There was a time during my first med evac in Dakar, Senegal, that I literally thought I was going to die. I remember very clearly lying in the bed at the PCMO crying because I was so sad for my parents and sisters who I would be leaving behind, and feeling guilty because all I really wanted to do was to die. Praise the Lord that He sustained my life and I am now "recovered," typing this message to you. At this point, I am doing fine. i do suffer problems that I did not suffer before service, and that I know are directly linked to my service. But the medical doctors cannot do anything about them anymore. No one really can. It's not anyone's fault and no one is responsible for them. They're just a fact of life now.
'The first wealth is health,' Hippocrates wrote. Yes, I am bummed that I am still suffering physically. But, in a sense, I knew that I was signing up for those risks. And I cannot imagine not finishing that which I've started. Therefore, I am attempting another term in a safer place, physically speaking: Jamaica."

More thoughts on my opinion of what [perhaps little] I understand about RPCV's cause to come...