Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is This a Test?

Of the ten “Core Expectations for Peace Corps Volunteers,” the third on the list is “Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service.”
In July I received my invitation to serve as an education volunteer in Lesotho, a country I’d never heard of before (only later did I realize it was the country called Basutoland  in colonial days). I was scheduled to leave November 2.
In August, I moved out of my apartment, distributing most of my worldly possessions to friends and family, charitable organizations, and the junk yard, keeping only the things I intended to take with me to Africa. I moved into a cottage I own and began commuting 45 minutes each way to work.
In August and September, I helped my employer interview and hire my successor and set my last day at work for October 15. I also prepared for my trade association’s major event of the year, our annual fall trade show, which was held October 8-10.
Two days before I left for the trade show, Peace Corps sent me details on staging and departure for Lesotho. I called SATO travel, the Peace Corps’ travel agency and booked my flight.
The evening of October 12, two days after I came back from the trade show, I had a message on my cell phone telling me to call the Lesotho country desk. It was about 6:00 p.m. when I called, not sure I would still find someone there. But I did, and she told me, apologetically, that the Lesotho education group had been cancelled. The good news was that there were many other programs leaving in the next few months and they would put all of us Lesotho invitees at the top of the list for placement with those programs.
The next evening I got a call from the poor woman in the placement office whose job it was to find a spot for all 27 of us who had been assigned to Lesotho. It was late (about 7:00 p.m.), she said she was probably going to be working another 4 hours, and I could tell she was just opening my file as she said, “We’ll find something….” She paused and said, “Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for you.” (I have a medical restriction that prevents me from being sent to a malarial region – and almost all of Peace Corps’ programs are in malarial regions!) The earliest available departure for me would be January 28. After that, there was one in late March, then one in April, and another in May.
She emailed information on each of the possibilities. In the morning I emailed back with my preference. That evening, Thursday, the day before my last day on the job, she emailed back saying my choice would work. So, even though I haven’t yet received my official invitation, I know that I’m now scheduled to depart in late March (about five months after my original departure date) for Morocco as a non-profit development volunteer.
So my question is, “Is this a test…and do I pass?”

Actually, lest I leave the impression that I’m a whiner, I see that this situation – the tragic killing of the young man that I talked about in my last post – and Peace Corps’ decision to go into the country and do a security assessment – is an extreme example of why Expectation #3 is on that list. And, I must say, the Peace Corps staff have been most sympathetic, understanding, helpful, and efficient. As the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens.
I’d been wishing I had a little more time between my last day at work and my departure. I’ve never had such a big chunk of time to do with as I please since I began my working career. Even though I hadn’t planned on not having an income for this length of time, I’ve decided to not to go out and find a job. Instead, I’m going to do some writing and lots of reading. There a couple of projects at the cottage I now can do instead of put on the shelf as “things to do when I get back.” And I can buff up my French and maybe get a start on Arabic. I’m going to read Paul Bowles and some of the Beats who found their way to Morocco and go back and look at the paintings of Matisse and Delacroix. That sounds like more than enough to fill up those five months already.
While this decision has caused a disruption in my plans, I’m sure I’m in an easier situation than some of the other 26 volunteers who were affected, and I feel for them. In these last two weeks, I’d planned to sell my car, change lots of addresses, discontinue various services, etc. But I hadn’t actually done those things yet, so I don’t have to undo them. I also have a wonderful place to live – a vacation home on Lake Michigan that I built between 1998 and 2001, photos of which you see in this blog, along with my view to the north and the south from the top floor porch. I’ve never even spent that much time there – a week or a weekend here and there – as my work schedule was especially busy in the summer. So now I’ll get five continuous months - glorious months, I'm sure. I’m looking forward to logging the changes in the weather, the beach, and the wildlife. The summer people have already left!.
I plan to continue this blog – and post to it more regularly (I should be able to, don’t you think!) – since, though I’ll be using these months just for themselves, they will also be preparation for my Peace Corps experience. I hope you'll stick with me.

No comments:

Post a Comment