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.