Saturday, August 9, 2008

On to a new blog

Enough of this; time to move on. Join us on our REAL adventure. We apologize for any confusion.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Visa update

We got our visas while we were in DC! It took less than 24 hours. That was a load off our minds. Now we're visiting Keith's grandmother in Virginia and we're set to fly out of DC on Wednesday morning.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On our way (take 2)

Our passports arrived in the mail yesterday!! Now we're just hoping they haven't arrived too late for us to apply for visas to Taiwan. We're optimistic, and looking forward to a trip to Virginia tomorrow to see Keith's grandparents. I believe our Peace Corps chapter is officially closed. I hope. Now we say goodbye to Norfolk and Roger and Cindy, with much gratitude for their generosity and tolerance.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Peace Corps, Peace Corps, Peace Corps!

One more point about PC. We've been gone from them for two weeks now, and we still don't have our passports back. We're ready to go to Taiwan instead, but we need to get visas and we need passports to get the visas. We have tickets, so we get our passports soon or, what? The tickets are just more money down the PC drain? I dunno, but I don't wanna find out.

Oh, and I talked with a guy in PC's travel agency the same day PC said we were out; he said he'd send our passports right out. I called back a week later to find out they were never sent. Just so you know, if you're joining the Peace Corps and something goes wrong, there is a chance for it to go really wrong.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bad, evil, naughty Peace Corps!

This's not a post for family and friends, not that you can't read it, but it's more for people researching Peace Corps. Marie and I noticed (when we were researching the Peace Corps) that there wasn't much material to be found that didn't like the Peace Corps. I guess that implies good things about it, but it doesn't tell the whole story, either. I'm not trying to be mean, and I don't think I'm that bitter (we have a better deal to go to Taiwan now, anyway), but this's what happened.

There are several points I'd like potential Peace Corps volunteers to know about that we learned the hard way.

One: it takes months for PC to process and place you as a volunteer, but if you're going as a married couple, that process will take years, I'm not kidding. We started applying in June or July of 2006 and we were interviewed in October or so, where we were told that we couldn't possibly be placed until early 2008. Those are not typos. We weren't actually accepted until May of 2008. Almost two full years after starting the application process.

Two: you'd better answer all the questions on the online application right or it'll come back to haunt you. I don't know why (forgot, scared, dunno), but I answered a question wrong on the medical history and when PC found out, they stopped the whole process dead, which felt like a train derailing because we were two weeks from leaving. We had only the things we were taking to Armenia: no cars, no jobs, no place to live.

Three: don't think that because your doctor filled out three or four pages of medical clearance forms and you've submitted to a credit check and an F.B.I. background check that PC trusts you now. After all that they discovered I didn't answer a medical question right, and any trust just went away. They call that kinda thing "non-disclosure" and they used it as the reason for keeping myself and my wife from joining the Peace Corps.

Four: don't assume that because you've spent two years applying, and thousands of dollars of your own money on tests and vaccinations, and you've sold everything you owned, and quit your job, and you're two weeks from leaving that PC owes you anything. If they find a reason, they will drop you like hot metal. That's where we are. No apologies that mean anything. No support or medical insurance or readjustment fee. You're just out.

Five: if you have a run-in with a nurse or secretary in the PC medical office named Barbara Brogan, demand to talk to someone else. She's either burned out, overworked, evil, or stupid. Compared to the other PC people we've dealt with in two years, and the doctor from the medical office I talked with, she's an unprofessional, inept, selfish person who won't try and help. If anything, she'll make an effort to make your situation come out as badly as possible.

Six: just because you've got a one- or two-year deferment to join the Peace Corps that you've been led to believe can be lifted quickly with a little new information, don't assume that it can't get worse. For my mistake with the medical form, we were given a one-year deferment. We were told this was standard pending a full, current checkup. We appealed the deferment because we'd been waiting to go for two years, and we'd been two weeks from leaving; we didn't have anywhere else to go. After the appeal we were dismissed from consideration completely, largely thanks to Ms. Brogan. It was kinda like appealing a one-year prison sentence and getting five years instead.

Seven: if you do get stopped for some non-disclosure, don't assume that because you've been told you can provide more information or appeal the decision, that they've forgotten about the original mistake. After discovering my non-disclosure, we went through two months of providing health records and getting a me a checkup and waiting, only to be told we were being dismissed for non-disclosure, which they could've told us in the first place and saved us months of time and hundreds of dollars, but strangely, they didn't.

Finally, just remember what the Peace Corps told us: most people self-select themselves out of the application process. They realize it's not for them, it's not a good fit. But MOST people does not mean ALL people. You can be removed from consideration by PC, and if you are, it can be at any point in the process and you won't have any help from PC in the next thing you do.

I realize this might sound pretty grim and irritable, but I think it's mostly just blunt. These things can happen, and they have. I hope that preparing for them can prevent them or at least soften any blows you might take.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The waiting is over

So we've been slapped with a one-year medical deferment by Peace Corps, we've appealed it, and have been awaiting the response. We figure, if the appeal fails, we'll go to teach English in Taiwan for a year, then we'll evaluate whether we still want to serve in PC. On the other hand, if the appeal succeeds and we get medical clearance, but they can't place us before the end of the year, then we can't wait at Mom and Dad's anymore, and we'll go teach English in Taiwan. So we have a Plan B in place.

Finally, last Friday we got our response. Instead of lifting the deferment, they decided to dismiss us completely. Do not pass Go. Do not serve your country.

Apparently, the appeal was a bad idea. We don't really understand how a one-year deferment can be reviewed and result in our being kicked out. But in this process we've learned that our understanding of it doesn't seem to be that relevant. Never mind, also, that this whole thing started because Keith forgot to check two boxes on an online application in 2006.

At least the waiting is over. I've enjoyed getting to know Keith's folks, but I'm looking forward to moving on. If anyone has any advice about teaching English...or living in Asia...or facing your friends and family after your grand plans have been trashed...feel free to send it.

We hope to leave in early August, but of course we still expect to have Internet access.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Oh the places you'll go

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, but this entire experience has been an experience in frustration and humor. I've spent much time embarrassed and guilt ridden that my mistake has prevented us from leaving for the Peace Corps as we planned, and then there are times like this, when we found a giant inflatable eagle painted red, white, and blue in the parking lot of my high school, next to one of the local fireworks stands. Even after many years in Seattle, this's a novelty.

So, there's been several things to lighten my mood for this extended stay in my hometown. They say you can't go home again, but I think that only applies to when you want to go home. When you intended to visit for a week and you were kinda shoved into an extra month (and counting), damn right you're home.

But it's been fun as well. We've done a few classic summer things, like going to the zoo.

Not to sound like an ad for Nebraska but there is one world-class thing here, the zoo in Omaha is huge and very well done (I've been to the zoo in Seattle, but I'd been spoiled by the Henry-Doorly in Omaha). I've been going since I was five or so and there's been something new just about every time.

I've been kicking myself that I didn't get more pictures of animals, but I realized that pictures of animals are like pictures of mountains or sunsets, it doesn't really show the experience.

So I can show you animals like this massive Silverback gorilla, just as an example

but even with a sense of scale (look at the little girl he's staring at)

or a little anthropomorphism (it really felt like this guy watched the crowds like a human would watch a reality show), it just doesn't create the same impression. But we had a good time doing it.

We've done a lot of laying around watching TV or reading. It's made me a little anxious not having a job, but not having to pay Seattle-like rent makes the little money we've saved suddenly seem pretty good. And we've done a few house-sitting jobs for friends of my parents. It's given us a few weeks where we have our own space and things to keep track of and mow. And this time has made me realize that I don't particularly want a yard that I have to water and mow and fertilize, blah, blah, blah. I might suck it up and do it if we find the right house a few years from now, but my resistance to buying a condo is weakening.

This is Murphy. We kept him company for a week or so. Murphy is a 20 pound cat. He is on a diet. I am very glad Murphy slept locked in the laundry room, because I didn't want to wake up missing toes.

But it was fun to have a cat again. Marie really seemed to enjoy that. She didn't like mowing very much, but few people do.

But it's the Fourth of July now. The carnage is getting pretty serious.

This process certainly didn't turn out how I'd planned, but it's been a vacation of a sort, and Marie's been a good sport about being homeless and spending an extra month with her in-laws (what is a good gift for that sort of spousal tolerance?).

Myself, I've had to remember that the weather plays a major part of conversations here. Marie mentioned the yard work; I can't tell if the interest in the weather is influenced by the focus on yards (see nearly any King of the Hill episode), or if it's incidental, but it comes up a lot.

But our original ambitions are unchanged, we expect to have something definitive in the next week; either we get an approval from the Peace Corps and we get a definitive statement that we will leave in the next couple months, or we're going to Taiwan. Either way, the time here is just a part of the adventure, though a more known and predictable adventure.