Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Peace Corps Story Part 1

Let me start this by saying that Hal and I have found out finally what is going to happen with the Peace Corps, whether we are going to serve, or not join at all. But, I'm not going to tell you that just yet. I want you guys to go on the journey with us. So that when I tell you the end result, you can feel how we were feeling. The application process of the Peace Corps is very difficult, and it seriously has been a roller coaster ride over the past year since we applied. So here is our Peace Corps Story.

Hal and I decided that we really wanted to do something service oriented, and we wanted to do it before we had children. We just wanted to go away and serve people, and have an adventure before starting a family . We looked at a few different organizations, but we didn't want to loose money while we served, so we looked for a service organization that would at least pay for us to live while we served. I'm sure there are more than just the Peace Corps that pay for your cost of living, but it's the one that we decided on. We were back and forth for a while, because well, Hal is still in school and it's a 27 month commitment. 27 months is a long time, but they really invest a lot in their volunteers, so of course they want to get their moneys worth.

We decided to start the application process. Their application is the most thorough thing that I have ever filled out. They ask for everything. Even everything medical. You have to write two essays, and have 3 people fill out recommendations for you. Hal and I lucked out, we finished our application a few days before the April 1st deadline, we went to submit our application, and realized oh crap, recommendations. We didn't realize they had to be filled out before you application can be submitted. You fill out their name and e-mail address, and they have to go to a website and fill out a whole lot of information about you. You need a recommendation from a boss, a friend that you've known for more than a year, and a volunteer leader. And we had like umm, 2 days for them to do this. We hopped on our phones and were so lucky that we had people who rallied for us. Seriously we had 6 people who last minute filled out all of this information for us. We were so lucky that people were so kind and willing to do all of that, and amazingly, our application was sent in on time.

Soon after we heard from our fabulous recruiter Nick Hake. In the beginning we weren't sure what to think, but he turned out being so great! We were waiting to hear about the next round of nominations that were coming up in May or June. At this point we had the craziest interview I've ever done. It seriously was hours long. I talked on the phone with Nick for I think an hour and a half, and then Hal came to my work and met up with me, and we had a 45 minute couples interview with him, and then Hal had his hour and a half interview. They asked you so many questions like "Can you think of a time where you had rules unfairly placed upon you, and how did you react" Things like that. Like you had to come up with the answers on the spot. And they're typing up everything that you're saying. Let's just say it was intense.

Now here's the problem with Hal and I. We are married. And it's a lot harder to serve in the Peace Corps if you're married. Actually, the Peace Corps is really competitive right now, so it's hard for anyone to serve. When they have an opening for a volunteer in a certain place, there is a committee that looks at what the opening is for (teaching English, health awareness, water and sanitation, HIV awareness etc) and then they look at everyone who has been nominated, and pick the most qualified candidate for that position. So in our case, we have to wait for two spots to open up in the same village, with our exact skill sets. See why it's harder for couples to serve?

The second problem for us, is that Hal doesn't have his Bachelors Degree yet. You have to have a Bachelors Degree to serve in the Peace Corps, unless you have some serious experience. Luckily, Hal has a ton of construction experience, so we were banking on that.

In June we heard back that we didn't receive a nomination for that round. The next round wasn't until September. We were bummed. At this point we didn't really like our recruiter, mainly because we felt like he didn't like us. Or really, because he didn't give us a nomination. Right after we found out we didn't get the nomination we were invited to a dinner our recruiter was hosting where lots of past volunteers, or hopefuls like ourselves get to meet, eat, and talk. I didn't want to go. I was seriously bummed. It was called a nomination party and we didn't get a nomination. But we went.(if you're in the application process and are invited to one of these, go! They are so informative and helpful. We've been to a few and loved all of them.)

And it was amazing. We heard so many cool stories. We met another potential volunteer who only had one arm. You would think that would be his medical problem of why he couldn't go when he was supposed to, but no, it was a problem with his eyes. It was nice to talk to someone else who was just waiting to hear and see if they were going to go. It was so nice to talk to people who had served in so many different places.

As we were leaving our recruiter told us that if I could pass a Spanish test, he thought he had a place for us. Oh man, right then we started liking him a lot more. Out of the 3 options I had, it seemed like taking the CLEP was my best bet. Why Spanish you may be wondering. It's because Hal is fluent in Spanish, and they don't send couples where one knows the language and the other doesn't. I blogged a few times about the CLEP, you might remember, here, here or here. After months of studying and brushing up on my Spanish I took the CLEP. I took it the day before we left to celebrate our 2 year anniversary, because I just wanted to be able to relax.

Some of you may remember, that I didn't pass. I needed a score of 50, and I received a score of 46. Yes, I know, I was so close. I felt so proud of myself that I didn't cry. I drove home, and Hal got home right as I was getting on the computer because I had an e-mail from the Peace Corps saying my account was updated. I thought I had e-mailed my score to our recruiter, but apparently I sent it to Hal on accident instead. So when he came in the house I was about to fall apart. I was logging into the computer and seriously as I was about to melt, I looked at our updated status and saw. You were nominated on September 17, 2011. WHAT?! Our amazing recruiter nominated us before he even found out the results from my test. It is so amazing to finally feel like someone was willing to take a chance on us.

We had to wait almost a week to find out where we were nominated to, because our recruiter was out of town. I remember exactly where I was when I got the call. I was standing in DownEast, at the Gateway Mall waiting for my friend to try on a shirt. Hal called me, both of us had missed the call, but he checked his voicemail first. I just screamed out ASIA in the middle of the store. Then my friend started screeching from the dressing room ASIA?

Please stick around for Part 2.


Scott & Traci said...

THATS SO EXCITING! :) Woohoo! You guys are Amazing, I hope you will post post post while you are there! ♥

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

Oh my gosh! I am so excited for you guys! I know how bad you wanted this and I remember when you took that spanish test!!!! I can't wait to hear the second part!

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