Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Albania group 16!

Hi there people who read my blog! Thanks to worldwide access of the internet and current PCVs in Albania (group 15) I have found people (and people have found me) who are related to PC Albania! Now there is a Facebook group for all PCVs departing in March 2013 for Albania :)) It's really cool to see a group starting to come together, and also to be able to ask the current volunteers about life in Albania. I can't wait to see more and more people join, and I also can't wait until March! There was a little glitch in the system so some of us did not receive our PC passport application stuff in the mail, but all that has been taken care of.

I've been asked what I've been doing to kill time between now and March and this is what I've done so far:

1) Traveled to Asia
2) Coaching gymnastics
3) Home improvement projects (painting, flooring, etc.)
4) Catching up with old friends
5) Skype-dating all my far-away friends
6) Buying things for Albania
7) Learning Albanian
8) Enjoying time with the fam
9) Working out

That's all I have for now. :)) Looking forward to the holiday season coming up!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

5 months until departure

In PC post-Invite news I was asked to submit an aspiration statement, an updated resume, and my Peace Corps passport request form to the Albanian desk at PC headquarters. The aspiration statement is my only chance to introduce myself to the PC Albania employees before I actually get there, so it was kind of a cool chance to let them know what I'm all about. The updated resume did not take much time --just had to reformat, and I have yet to turn in my passport application (although I did go to Walgreens to get my 2*2 photos taken). As I wait for my departure in 5 months... a lot of things go through my head, and I thought that this blog would be a perfect place to share them!

1. Clothing to bring -- So..although Albania is a developing country, the people there are greatly influenced by Italian fashion, which means they like to look good. Any of you that know me well know I'm kind of a sweatpants, sports bra, t-shirt etc. type of person..and well, that look just simply won't fly there. As I reflect on my "going out" clothes I shorts and skirts are way too short, and my tops are either too tight, see through, or thin-strapped for any activity in Albania..which makes me feel like a floozy. I also have a lifetime supply of Nike Ohio State gear that will do me no good in Albania (although I will probably bring some..if anything for sentiment). Anywhoo long story short -- I need a new wardrobe. I need stylish, professional looking clothes that cover my knees and shoulders. Do I just wait and buy most of these clothes there? Do they even have munchkin-sized (I'm almost 4 ft 10) clothes in Albania?! These are things I need to consider...

2. Handling the awesome PC discounts -- I have emailed many different companies about discounts for PCVs and almost all of them have offered my pretty substantial deals. The issue is once I start looking for things I need I get carried away and think things like "Of course I will need this hammock that I can sleep, cook in, and store all my valuables!!! $500 with a 50% discount..what an excellent deal! I must buy this." or "Full body mountain-climbing suit? Albania has mountains! What if I will climb those mountain?! I will need this suit, and there's a discount!" I must stay strong against these feelings, and not give in to the discounts and buy everything REI has to offer. I might considering making a list of things I want/need with a 1-10 scale of how necessary they are.

3. Learning Albania -- I have Pimsleur CDs that I borrowed from the library that have been helping me learn Albanian. I also have a great friend who speaks Albanian so I've been getting a decent amount of practice in (Faleminderit Doni!). Albanian is an Indo-European language that sounds kind of like Russian and Italian. I struggle with where to put emphasis on certain words, but otherwise it's not too hard --much easier than Chinese!

Well that's it for today. I will check-in when I have any other random PC thoughts or when I have any significant PC updates. I have now found 2 other people who are going to Albania in March, and I am super excited about it (I google "Peace Corps Albania March 2013" and look for Blogs--like a stalker). Hah, well Naten e Mire (good night)!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Albania March 2013!!!

I had my final interview today at 10am. My placement specialist asked me a couple questions about religion and race, and then proceeded to tell me about the next steps in the process after my INVITATION. Now that the process has changed, they are electronically sending the invitations the same day that you get invited (no more waiting!). I am SO SO excited to go to Albania! Our staging is March 18th. I have 7 days to accept the invitation, and while I need to read through the mountain of info they gave me first.. I am 99.9% be sure that I am accepting that invitation! This process took me exactly 1 year and 5 days from start to Invite.

I'm so happy :))

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Phone call from the 202

Today I received a phone call from my placement specialist, and unfortunately I happened to be driving on the freeway at the time so I couldn't talk on the phone. The first time she called I just sadly stared at my phone wishing I could pick it up and then the 2nd time I picked it up and told her I could talk in 15 minutes. She wasn't sure if she would still be in the office in 15 minutes so she set up a time for us to talk at 10am (Cali time) tomorrow morning! Could this be it..the final interview? And if there a possibility I could finallllly receive an invitation sometime next week? I have so many mixed emotions because I get really excited when I think about it, but I don't want to get my hopes up if it's just something small..or worse.. a rejection from the PC after a year's worth of application process. My RAS has been pretty out of control lately, and I am on PC Journals and PC wiki more than once..daily. I've been constantly looking at the staging dates, and there is one listed for Morocco in January so I think that was what my original nomination was for. However, there is also one for Albania in March so maybe that is where I will be sent. There's really no point in speculating any of these things because PC is so unpredictable, and I know I will be happy as long as I get to go somewhere. *Sighh.. anyway here are the 3 main things that I feel contribute the most to RAS:

1) People constantly asking when, where, and what you'll be doing in the Peace Corps..when you don't even know if you're going to serve. However, you still tell them you are going to the Peace Corps because that is what you're planning on/hoping so desperately for.
2) Reading about other PCV's invitations and thinking " seems like they have way more going for them than I do. No wonder they got an invitation."
3) Not really being able to commit to a job that will lead into a career..finding things to take your mind off of all PC related thing.

Patience, patience, patience... just got to stay positive and preoccupied.

Friday, September 7, 2012

No more North Africa/Middle East in January flexible, right? 50% of applicants don't go where they were originally nominated for so it's no surprise I will not be going to the North Africa/Middle East region in January anymore. I received this email today (I will post it at the bottom of this blog) which pretty much explains everything. The questionnaire I was asked to fill out asked me many questions such as what I've been doing to prepare, what my physical capabilities were, what challenges I expected to face etc. I sent it in maybe 1 or 2 hours after she sent it to me. I am a little bummed that my new departure date is in March and that I will not be going to N.A./M.E., but that's okay. At least a Placement specialist is looking at my application. Also, Eastern Europe sounds pretty cool, and I never had any preferences of destination anyway. It is just funny because I speak both spanish and french, and now they have selected a region in which those languages will be somewhat useless.

The following is the email I received today from my Placement Specialist:

Hello Miranda-My name is ________ and I am the Placement and Assessment Specialist working with your application.  I wanted to touch base with you today about where you stand in the process.  First, the Office of Medical Services (OMS) has deemed you medically qualified for service and provided the Placement and Assessment Office with site specific support guidelines to ensure that you may serve healthfully and happily. These guidelines are based on 50 years of institutional knowledge, and the available medical care in each of our host countries.  The Placement and Assessment Specialist must work within these guidelines to make sure the Applicant is considered for the appropriate programs.  Part of this process involves seeking individual medical approval on behalf of the applicant, from Peace Corps Medical Staff in specific host countries.    The Placement and Assessment Office works very hard to identify placements for all qualified and suitable applicants.  The placement process is complex and accommodating these guidelines adds another layer of complexity.  All applicants are asked to demonstrate their flexibility and willingness to serve where  and in the capacity Peace Corps deems their skills are most needed and this is especially true when site specific support guidelines must be considered. Your medical information is confidential, and the details are not shared with the Placement and Assessment Office.  If you would like to discuss medical questions feel free to contact OMS at __________At this time I can confirm that the program to which you were originally nominated is not an option, medically speaking.  I have received medical approval however, for an alternate program.  Based on your medical clearance, and our upcoming programmatic needs, you are now under consideration for the following program:·        
English Teaching·         Eastern Europe·         Departing: March 2013

Your application has undergone a preliminary placement review and I am in the process of conducting the final assessment.  As part of this assessment I would like to review and answer the attached questions.  Please send your responses, by of before Friday, Sept 14th.  I look forward to hearing from you.
Warm Regards,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

PC Update in China

So the day that PC Updates returned, I got one from a Placement Officer asking me for my final transcript, answers to an education questionnaire, an updated resume, and my current availability dates. Unfortunately the Chinese government bands all sorts of websites so getting onto my school website, PC Journals, using google, and facebook were all out of the question. Luckily I anticipated having to turn in an updated resume so I saved on to my email prior to traveling. I sent the Placement officer my resume, answers to the questions *which were along the lines of How can Education help 3rd World countries and how would you deal with corporal punishment in schools? etc.* and my availability dates, but I still cant get a hold of my final transcript..urghh! I have one more week in Asia (Im in Japan now) and then I can get back to the States where I can figure all that out. As always, fingers crossed for an invite!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Medical Clearance With a Bit of a Twist!

I decided to call the OMS to see if there was anything else I needed to turn in before Asia, and they pretty much told me to email the Pre-service unit in order to figure things out. I was trying to email them when I accidentally pressed send after only writing "Dear Pre-Service Unit" ...ugh embarrassing. Anyway, that email alone triggered an automatic response saying that the PSU would not be responding to emails until after August 15th. At this point I pretty much gave up on hearing from them for the next month because I'll be in Asia as of TOMORROW! :) But then.. I got a PC letter in the mail. I've been provisionally medically qualified. The reason my medical qualification is provisional is because I have slight reactive airway disease (aka baby-sized asthma) and an allergic reaction to bleu cheese. In my letter I was told that they are now looking for places that will be able to support my health issues. I'm really hoping that my original nomination holds, but it's PC so I know things can change very easily. I just don't understand why they can't send me there with an epi pen and an inhaler from the states and call it a go. Oh well, excited to jump into the placement stage and to go to Asia tomorrow! Also, provisional clearance is better than no clearance so at least I'm still in it!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Toolkit update without a toolkit!

Ok, Tuesday night I faxed everything in and received an email the very next morning confirming that they received my fax. On Thursday morning I got a Toolkit Status Update email telling me that my medical portion was once again under review. Yesterday was also the last day that the Toolkit was up and running so I thought it was kind of cool that they slipped an update in there for me the day the toolkit closed down. However, this morning I woke up to another update. I was so excited and confused so I clicked on the link as fast as I could just to find a note that read.."

Check Your Application Status

Our application process is changing to a more streamlined, secure, and electronic-based system.  As part of that change, MyToolkit is no longer active.
Applicants will be receiving information about next steps sometime after July 26th"

Of course..I get a status update without a status. I'm thinking it was either a mistake or (fingers crossed) medical clearance?! Haha, well..I have 5 more days until I leave for Asia. I hope I get an email or a letter explaining the update soon!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This should be the week..

Ok..this should be the week when big PC things start to happen. I heard back from the OMS that I was missing 5 things for medical clearance:
1 and 2) 2 personal statements..1 saying I would agree not to wear contact lenses during my PC service and another saying that my ankle has gotten better with the lack of gymnastics training (and it has).
3 and 4) 2 Titers..1 against Varicella and the other for Hep B surface antibodies. --Originally my doctor only wrote down that I had chicken pox when I was younger and apparently my Heb B vaccinations have worn off since 1996 (Because of this I've already received 2 out of 3 of the necessary Hep B vaccinations).
5) An ophthalmology exam sheet explaining that I have fully recovered from a corneal abrasion that I had last year from contact lens overuse. the beginning of last week I wrote my 2 statements, received my titers, and sent in the letter to my Optometrist/Ophthalmologist who told me he had completed and mailed me and the PC the ophthalmology questionnaire sheet. I was told to expect all the results by well..tomorrow! I have to fax in all of my papers and once so I am really hoping that I am able to do that by Wednesday. Unfortunately I expect to miss having everything done by the 26th, and therefore will not have any Toolkit updates to look forward to, but that's okay. I am just hoping to get everything in this week, and be medically approved. Fingers as always are crossed, and I hope I get through this next step so I can finally start doing PLACEMENT!

And also..I am leaving for Thailand, China, and Japan on August 1st!! I have already told the PC that I'll be gone from Aug 1 - Sept 5th, but I just can't help but feel like all of the important PC stuff will happen while I'm in Asia..Timing is everything haha.. but I'm sure everything will fall into place.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Oh..this process...

After receiving dental clearance I got super psyched waiting to hear about my medical clearance..well it didn't come..yet. I changed my address back to my Cali address right after receiving dental clearance, but unfortunately PC papers got sent back to my apartment in Columbus. My roommate called me today to tell me 2 envelopes had come from the Peace Corps. Of course this made me super nervous/excited and I asked her to open them and tell me what they said. She texted me that one was about dental coverage for a year, and the other said my medical information was...incomplete. :(. She said she had left the house already, but tomorrow she could call me and tell me more details. I have RAS soooo badly right now. I just really want to know what is missing from my med packet so that I can submit it and start talking to placement. I'm also still nervous that something may be wrong. To make matters slightly more stressful, the toolkit will be shutting down come July 26, and I really want to have everything complete by then. I feel like I'm so close to  that invitation, but I'm still worried that something may be wrong. Oh, this process.. it is for sure a patience tester!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Road trip from OH to CA with some PC news in AZ

So I finally finished the drive from Ohio to Cali, and it was ridiculously fun. We stopped in Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona. We stopped to take pictures at the St. Louis arch, go river rafting (for free!) with my friend Niki in Durango, Colorado, see the Meteor Crater and Grand Canyon in Arizona, stand in the 4 corners of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, play in Las Vegas, chill on the beach in SoCal, and then watch Olympic Trials in San Jose! When I was in Arizona I woke up to a nice email letting me know that I got dental clearance! Yayy! It happened a lot earlier than I expected, and I'm so happy to know they're at least looking at my application. I got a little nervous when I looked a little further down and saw a big red hold on my medical clearance though. However, it said that all applicants have a hold at first because they still need time to review that part of the application --so fingers crossed--.

I'm definitely starting to get RAS (restless applicant syndrome) now and I'm also starting to have PC dreams of being sent to all sorts of places. It's weird that I'm back in Cali now and that I'm done with college and gym..and it's forsure weird to say "I have a degree in.." instead of "I'm majoring in.." I had to update my address back to Cali for PC too which made me a little sentimental for some reason. Anyway, here's to hoping for that invite soon and a journey that's gonna help me grow into a better and more experienced person!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Graduation and Med Packet in

So finally my blog has appeared on the website! I don't think a single person has looked at it so far, so it's nice to see it up there, hah!

Well, a lot has happened since the last time I posted. I graduated with honors..booyah! I retired from gymnastics..sad! I also decided that I will drive back to Cali from Ohio in 2 weeks (weird)!!! I'm going back earlier than anticipated to watch Olympic Trials because I have 4 friends competing, and I can't wait to see all their progress out there on the gym floor.

Anyway in PC-related news..I'm legally cleared, and all of my medical stuff is in, but not being reviewed yet. The whole med process cost me about $30..which I got reimbursed for really quickly. I gotta say Ohio State Student Health Insurance is pretty baller. I got an email from the Education Office saying that in the next coming months I will be hearing from Placement, and that I need to be ready to respond quickly to any requests from the OMS. I really hope there are not many, but after reading everyone's blogs, I'm guessing I'll be submitting and resubmitting a lot of papers.

Unfortunately, I haven't found any other blogs of people with the same nomination as me yet. PC says that I should wait until 4 months before my departure date to start hearing from placement, but I'm hoping they hit me up a little sooner. I have a lot of things going on to take up my time before then, but it would be awesome to know!

Hopefully I'll have exciting news to share with you soon!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Medical Packet Stress

So after reading many many blogs on how stressful the med packet is, I finally understand. I received mine a week and a half ago, and I've been running around like a headless chicken trying to cram appointments into my schedule. So far I've completed the physical (including blood work, vaccines, and lady doctor visit), and 2 of my "special" required forms--aka asthma and orthopedic work. Now all I have are the dental and optometry appointments, but I've heard the dental exam can be a nightmare so I'm a little concerned. I really hope that my asthma and sore ankle (from 18 years of gymnastics) do not lead me to a deferral or worse, a rejection. It would be terrible to get this far through the process only to be stopped now! Anyway, happy thoughts!

My gymnastics team qualified for NCAA nationals for the 1st time in 22 years. BOOM! We are so excited, and I'm so proud of our team. I couldn't have asked for a better way to end my career. I'm really going to miss my team next year, but I know they'll be doing great things--each and every one of them :)) Too bad there won't be any Big Ten Network where I'm going, hah. well, I'll update again once I have finished my packet and sent it in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Medical Packet

My med pack is on its way! It was mailed out yesterday, and should arrive by tomorrow. I am so excited, and I'm wondering how that's going to affect the time in between now and my invitation. I still need to finish up my gymnastics career, my last quarter of undergrad, and my trip to China! :)) This quarter I'm taking 2 super advanced French courses and I'm TA-ing an ESL class in accent reduction. I love it because they all gawk at "how beautiful" my English is hahaha. It's nice to know I can at least speak my native language well. I love my students though. I enjoy being both a language learner and teacher because it just gives me such a great perspective of both sides. Well, I'm gonna try and finish up those appointments asap. I'll update once they're done. Crossing the fingers for no problems!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nomination Details

A lot of people have asked me "Is there any place you wouldn't want to go?" I always responded by saying no, and then admitting that I'd probably prefer not to go the North Africa/Middle East region. Well, that's where my nomination is for! Hahaha..of course! It's okay though because while I wanted to go there the least, I still want to go there (if that makes sense). I've started researching the 2 countries that are open there (Morocco and Jordan), and they look pretty sweet. I'm excited, and the nomination just makes it all seem so much more real. My tentative departure date is in January, and I'll be teaching English :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Finally Nominated!

Hello PC Journal world,

I've been wanting to make a blog for some time now, but seeing as I started my application process back in September, and hadn't really heard anything, I wasn't sure my PC journey would actually happen. Today, I woke up to an email telling me I've been nominated so I'm pretty darn happy. I see this part as me being halfway there!

Last weekend was Senior night for us gymnasts at THE Ohio State University. It was really emotional, and leaving 17 years of gymnastics behind is kind of hard for me to process, but knowing that I have a PC journey ahead of me definitely helps! I was surprised to see a nomination without a region or time frame notification, but I'm assuming my PC recruiter will let me know soon enough. I'm kind of hoping for francophone Africa because of all the French I've learned in college, but I also speak Spanish so Latin America is a possibility, and I'm half Chinese so anywhere in Asia would be sweet too. I would love to go anywhere though! I'm qualified for both Health Extension and Education, but I'd prefer to work in the Education field. That's pretty much it for now. I'm happy to be blogging on here now, and I hope I will have many more updates for the future!

Until then,