Following protocol:

Obligatory DISCLAIMER: The contents of this Web Log are solely mine and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Well, back to reality

Feeling that I was nearing the end of my timeline, I decided to reach out to the Placement Office and see if I could gain any further information as to when I might receive an invitation. I came to this decision point because my file had been deemed complete and it had been referred on to the PC Placement Officer over a week ago and, according to PC Wiki, it is now less than 6 weeks until the Staging date for my nominated region of service.

Sending the Placement Assistant a polite email seemed like a good thing to do since some others with RAS had written to PC during their wait and I had previously done so myself when my medical packet was being reviewed. I figured a pleasant email might trigger the PC PO to put some consideration toward my file, especially if I indicated that my motivation for writing was because I had read of other applicants having received invitation to the region I am nominated for and that region has a staging date already appearing in PC Wiki.

I sent a polite email the the PC PO Assistant who had previously sent me the news that my file was being forwarded to a Placement Officer and went back to my comfortable life withing the wishful thinking that I will receive an invitation rather quickly.

Well, I found myself back in reality before I could fantasize about it any further. The response came quickly and curtly:


"Let me start out by mentioning that the online blogs are a collection of hear-say from other volunteers who often do not have the full picture and often speculate much on what goes on in our office . . . You have been nominated to one of several programs . . . , many of them are full, some of them are not . . . This is a long process, and your patience during it is not only appreciated, but indicative of your future success as a volunteer . . ."

Has my effort backfired? Am I now going to receive less consideration because my inquiry will be seen as indicative that I do not possess the degree of patience that PC expects?

I am once again waiting patiently as I watch the calendar move from the 6th week to the 5th week before what PC Wiki has listed as a staging date for my nominated region? (Can I even think about information in PC Wiki?)

Take this posting with the proverbial grain of salt. But for me, I realize that greater PMA is called for now more than ever before.

Continued best wishes to everyone during your wait.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OKAY! Now I get to the next level of anxiety.

Immediately after the email from the Placement and Assessment Assistant last Monday, I sent an email to my former boss, the CFO of the agency I had worked at, and asked to have the request from the Peace Corps fulfilled.
I had not heard anything from either my former boss, or the PC since then, so I wrote to the P&A Assistant asking if we could move ahead in the interim, or what else I could do.
She answered me within about two hours and it was 6PM. Her response surprised me. She said that immediately before receiving my inquiry, she had received the information she requested I get from my former boss (!). She added that she has referred my file on to a Placement Officer and that I am still being considered for the programs I was nominated for and they are scheduled to leave between January and March. She told me to expect to hear from someone "within the next few weeks, if not sooner."
Well, Hooray! - - -
I am now at a higher level of RAS complicated with increased IAA.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Inch by inch

Just when the end of my RAS appeared to be within sight, Murphy elected to apply his law.
On the basis of my recent communication from PC I have been expecting to get called by a Placement Officer this week.
Insread, I received an email from a Placement and Assessment Assistant. She informed me that she was conducting a preliminary review of my file. She said that she had received three references and while two are determined to be "excellent," however, the one from my most recent employer was lacking some comments in the spaces provided.
Awkward - - - My most recent employer eliminated my position in a reorganization of the agency.
So, I decided to just grin and bear it. I sent an email to the CFO at the agency along with a copy of the message from the Placement and Assessment Specialist and asked for the favor of adding some comments to the reference.
I informed the P & A Specialist and she not only thanked me for doing so promptly, but she also volunteered that I am still being considered for my original nomination and there is still plenty of time available for me to get invited as planned. She also cautioned me to not get too excitied by information in PC Wiki. She said what most of us already know; that it is based on hear-say.
So, for now, it is back to the Wait and the RAS.
Lesson learned today? When completing any bureaucratic form, be certain to put something (anything) in every available space.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I don't understand it, but I'm certainly going to celebrate it.

Another 5AM email advising me that my PC Toolkit has been updated.

I immediately opened my Toolkit and saw that the ominous Legal HOLD has been removed. I have no idea what that hold was about. Some others have told me that it happens to many applicants. I'll simply accept it while moving forward. Everything is now complete and the Status section indicates that "[my] file is currently under consideration"! Confirmation that my nurse reviewer gave me spot-on early inside information. Her tip gave me reason to feel more positive. This news cemented the feelings. I avoided anxiety yesterday by spending my available time reformatting my resume so as to be ready for the contact from Placement. Nothing to do right now but await that all important contact some time next week.

Later this same day, I received snail mail from PC/OMS. I "have been medically qualified for service and the Office of Placement notified." (Now, should I change the title of this posting? Nah, I'll just celebrate instead)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ya gotta connect.

It appears that some of my previous attempts to make a genuine personal connection with my nurse reviewer have been successful. During our previous exchanges I tried to understand the long application process by asking several questions in each exchange about her PC application process experiences and doing some reflective listening and adding follow-up exploratory questions. (I suppose a career of individual & family interviewing and organizational consultation experiences have enabled me to be a true listener).

I woke to an email message from my nurse reviewer sent at 7:48AM this morning (totally unsolicited) - - -

"I’m hearing you are up for next week review, don’t buy any green bananas."

It had the appearance of a "Pssst" and was a wonderful gift of inside information and the humor goes a long way toward balancing out all of that RAS. Well, the wait continues, but the IAA has now taken on a rising degree of positive excitement.

Timeline updated.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

RAS spiked, but is diminishing - - - - - IAA now rising

Well, was I ever wrong.
I thought that I had my RAS in check and was being positive and appropriately patient. However, I found myself beginning to 'over-think' the new development in my PC Toolkit (refer to previous blog).

The specific wording in my Toolkit began to play over and over in my mind and I found myself thinking, "They didn't say that I was medically cleared. They said 'A decision has been reached . . . Please look for a letter in the mail.' " The subtle difference became a big thing in my mind and it could only be explained by concluding that I was not cleared and the awful news was being mailed to me.

Before I would allow myself to despair, I emailed my nurse reviewer and asked some clarifying questions.

Lo, and behold! She responded within the hour. She clearly stated that I am medically cleared and she was pushing my questions/concerns on "to Placement."
This brings me to the point of explaining the title of this blog. My RAS spiked sharply due to my over-thinking incomplete information, but it was quickly soothed by the merciful nurse reviewer. She is a RPCV who, like me, entered PC after years in a career and perhaps she has a special reason for helping me.
Now, I am experiencing something new - - - IAA.
Just what the Peace Corps needs; another acronym (!).
I am calling this new emotional state 'Invitation Anticipation Anxiety."
Someday IAA will appear in the DSM along with, but distinctly different from RAS.

Lessons learned:
1) Do NOT over-think anything.
2) Do not be reluctant to reach out and ask PC to clarify things for you.
3) Maintain PMA and remain patient.

Yikes! Good, but confusing news

Another 5AM email was received this morning.

This time it was the same cryptic message as the previous one - - - "Peace Corps has updated your Application Status account."
My immediate check of my PC Toolkit revealed that my medical documentation is now:

"Complete. A decision has been reached regarding your medical review. Please look for a letter in the mail."

But, wait, my Toolkit also still has that puzzling Legal HOLD in those ominous bold red capital letters.
("Your legal eligibility to serve in the Peace Corps is currently under review.") My legal eligibility to serve is under review, yet they are sending me mail about my medical clearance?

Alas, feeling good but can't shake the anxiety and still have to wait. Maybe the USPS will deliver an answer, or at least a clue. Maybe (!)

Must maintain a positive mental attitude and resume being patient.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The 5AM email

As I mentioned previously, a PC nurse reviewer had requested "one last" medical report and I had mailed it on 11/17/10. I checked the tracking number yesterday and learned that it was at the Washington, DC post office as of 11/29/10. WHAT? It took 12 days for a first class envelope to go from Philadelphia, PA to Washington, DC? No wonder I hadn't heard from the nurse reviewer since 11/19 when the post office had suggested the envelope should arrive at Washington, DC. I settled back into my "wait" mode. But each day dawns anew - - -
Following the blogs of others gave me the basis for a feeling of excitement when I opened my email in-box this morning and saw that I had received a message from PC. It had been sent at 5AM and it stated that "Peace Corps has updated your Application Status account." I immediately opened my PC Toolkit and saw that the Medical Hold had been removed and in its place it stated that, "Peace Corps is currently reviewing your medical documentation."
Well, that certainly feels like good news, but is it true progress? The original Legal Hold is still there.
So, for now, I'll have to retreat back into my "wait" mode. However, this time with an increase in my general anxiety level because a check of PC Wiki indicates that a staging date of January 27 has been posted for my original nomination region (Eastern Caribbean). I have waited waited 40 years to become a serious PC applicant so I suppose another few days are tolerable.
Hopefully, it is no longer a matter of months and not even weeks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nut'n to do but wait - again (!)

Recent communications (phone calls and e-mails) from a PC Nurse Reviewer were great for clarifying what I needed to do in order to get my medical packet totally complete and ready for Placement staff to evaluate and recommend an invitation. Also, during those exchanges I was able to glean just a few more tidbits of information regarding where my application was within the evaluation process. Additionally, I managed to engage the Nurse Reviewer in some discussion about her own experiences as a volunteer and what she recalled about the experiences of her fellow volunteers during this process. She was quite personable and open to sharing helpful information. She told me that my packet, although quite lengthy due to my age and resultant long medical history, was "one of the most complete packets" that she has seen. She congratulated me and my medical resources for having been so thorough in getting it all together and submitted. She had two minor requests in order to totally complete the packet and have it ready for clearance. She requested a copy of a previous lab test that my physician had reported in my packet and an updated audiology report because I had an audiology exam last spring (2010). I followed up on every request within the following two weeks.
My PC Timeline has been updated to reflect everything to date.
NOW, however, I am once again right back in "The Big Wait" with nothing to do but check PC Wiki and read the blogs of others as a means of coping with my RAS.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does any information indicate progress?

A nurse reviewer has been calling and e-mailing me over the past three weeks.
This is a welcomed development following 13 weeks of waiting after PC received my medical packet.
I have updated my Timeline twice in the past week to reflect these new developments.
Blogs from other applicants also in "The Big Wait" indicate that PC is presently prioritizing those who are projected to leave for staging in January 2011. Also, one blog stated that the review/invitation cut-off has been changed from 6 weeks to 8 weeks prior to staging. Interesting news, eh?
Hopefully, after I submit the recently requested additional information to the nurse reviewer, PC will proceed with the full review and approval of my medical packet. At least the nurse reviewer was amenable to me engaging her in some additional questions about the process and she assured me that I am well within the PC timeline for me to be on track for my original nomination program & region.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sometimes the message is in the action

I have been somewhere in "The Great Wait" following submission of my medical packet on 08/06/2010 and eagerly anticipating a formal invitation to serve. My RAS (Restless Applicant Syndrome)has fluctuated, but generally worsened as time passed oh so slowly. I awake every day thinking / hoping "Perhaps today will be the day I hear from the Peace Corps." I have sent e-mail inquiries occassionally, the most recent being last Friday (10/29/2010). All to no avail.
When my phone rang today and my caller ID displayed an area code 202 number, I was elated. The caller identified herself as Diane and she explained that she is a nurse reviewer at PC Headquarters. she said that she had two questions about my medical packet. 1) Could I have my doctor's office send a copy of the lab results for one of the tests I had when completeing the medical packet. 2) Additionally, she asked if she could (snail) mail another form for me to have my audiologist complete regarding my hearing test.
I immediately acquiesced to both requests and then asked her if I could ask her a few questions. She agreed and we proceeded to have a wonderful conversation ranging from her congratulating me on how complete my submission had been and the status of my packet to discussing her own Peace Corps application, training and service experiences as a fellow age 50+ volunteer. She assured me that I am well within the time frame for my original nomination and that my file is moving along appropriately per PC protocol. (A strong, but silent "Well allll riiigghht!" on my part).
The outcome being that the review nurse making a call for further clarification provided me with 1) assurance that my file is actually being looked at, and, 2) my application process is not lost in limbo somewhere in "The Great Wait."
That's all I need to know for now. My RAS has diminished already.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My application time line - updated as of 04/11/2011

Okay, I have been as anxious as it appears everyone else is about this process. Perhaps I am even a little more anxious because I have not found much information from others in my age range (I retired at 66)  My own experience in applying, to date, does not seem much different from that of most of the blogs/journals I have looked at. However, just so the next person will have the advantage of one more applicant's experiences to look at, I am submitting my time line in this entry.

Here is my Time Line:

- 4/27/2010 On-Line Application submitted.

- Followed-up with references and transcripts during the next five weeks (One reference seemed to need a reminder and I had undergrad, grad and post-grad transcripts to get mailed).

- 6/16/2010 Interviewed with PC Recruiter. Received verbal nomination.

- 6/22/2010 Received written Nomination for Eastern Europe, but it was not what we had discussed upon during the interview. I e-mailed a question of clarification to the recruiter.

- 6/25/2010 Received a written (correct) Nomination for Youth Development Programs in Central / South America / Eastern Caribbean.

- Completed Medical/Dental/Vision appointments, including blood tests and several immunizations throughout month of July.

- 8/2/2010 Submitted all Medical/Dental/Vision paperwork.

- 8/6/2010 According to my PC Tool Kit, all medical/Dental/Vision paperwork was received in PC Headquarters in Washington, DC).

- 8/20/2010, my Dental review is completed and approved. I am still awaiting Medical & Vision review and approval. There is also a Legal HOLD(yep, in bold red capital letters) on my review status (!).

- I called the PC 800 # and sought the Legal Office and was given a very pleasant and reassuring explanation that everything was within standard procedure and there might be a few questions about how I am planning to take care of my financial obligation in the future (I have a mortgage on my house), but all I had to do was wait until contacted. I could not get any clarification on the expected wait time, but I was given acceptable reassurance that everything in my file appears in order and the process is moving along per protocol.

So, as of 8/20/2010, I now join the ranks of those of you who are somewhere in the same process.

I hope that this adds to whatever help someone might be gaining by scouring these blogs / journals and I will gladly accept any comments / suggestions / information anyone wishes to share in this endeavor. I will attempt to maintain this up-to-date as things progress,

- 11/1/2010 Phone call from Gayle (Nurse Reviewer) - asking for me to have my doctor's office fax a copy of a lab report to her to back up the doctor's written lab value on my medical summary. Additionally, she informed me that she will (snail) mail a document that must be completed regarding an audiology exam from last spring (2010).

- 11/11/2010 Have not received any Form from PC, so an e-mail was sent informing the nurse reviewer of this.

- 11/13/2010 (Late Saturday) Received a phone call from the local U.S.P.S. office informing me that they have just discovered a bin with considerable mail that had not been delivered to me. I went immediately to that office and found a stack of mail addressed to me, including the Form I have been waiting to complete.

- 11/15/2010 (Early Monday) Called and visited my audiologist's office to ask their help in completing the Form. Needed to make appointments for an updated eval & yet another test.

- 11/16/2010 Received an e-mail (posted at 5:09AM today) stating that my PC Toolkit has been updated. Opened my Toolkit to find a HOLD on my medical review pending further information necessary for a final determination. Well, this is obvious after the previous direct contacts from the nurse reviewer. I have appointments scheduled today and tomorrow to hopefully resolve this matter. The previous legal HOLD is still there and the nurse reviewer had told me three weeks ago that it was likely just a "routine" hold pending complete medical review and might be removed when the medical information was complete.

- 11/17/2010 Obtained audiology exam and mailed documentation to OMS (certified w/return receipt, of course).

- 11/29/2010 Checked the tracking number of the audiology report on the USPS web site and learned that it has arrived at the Washington, DC central post office this morning. WHAT? It isn't in the hands of the PC nurse reviewer yet, or even in the PC offices?

- 11/20/2010 Checked my email and there is a message from PC stating that my Application Status account (PC Toolkit) has been updated. Opened my PC Toolkit and see that the Medical Hold has been removed and that PC is currently reviewing my medical documentation. Progress! BUT, there is still the original Legal Hold right there in red letters. More waiting appears to be in order.

- 12/01/2010 PC Toolkit updated with "Medical review complete. Look for a letter in the mail." An email to my nurse reviewer was answered with confirmation that I am medically cleared.

- 12/02/2010 An unsolicited email message was received from my nurse reviewer informing me that she has learned that I am "up for next week review."

- 12/03/2010 Toolkit updated. The Legal HOLD has been removed and the Status header states that my "File is currently under consideration."
- Later that same day I received (USPS) mail from OMS stating I "have been medically qualified for service and the Office for Placement notiified."

- 12/06/2010 Received email from Placement & Assessment Assistanct. She just discovered that while two of my three referrals were "excellent", one was incomplete. It was the one from my most recent employer. Apparently, PC insists that EVERY section of their referral form have something in it. In this case, my former boss had not made a comment in every section available for comments. I sent an email immediately requesting that my former boss help by completing that referral.

- 12/08/2010 The P & A Assistant sent an email stating that she had received the completed referral form. Everything in my file is now complete and satisfactory. She is sending my file on to a Placement Officer. She informed me that I should expect to hear from a Placement Officer "within several weeks, if not sooner."

- 12/17/2010 email inquiry sent to P&A Assistant regarding clarification as to how long the process might take. Response same day reminding me that “this is a long process, and your patience during it is not only appreciated, but indicative of your future success as a volunteer. “ I was told that I will be contacted as soon as the Placement Officer is able to get to my file.

- 02/08/2011 & 02/09/2011 I met with my recruiter during and after PC information sessions being held on campus at a nearby university. I was assured that I am cleared for service and that I just have to wait to hear from a Placement Officer. I also received an email from my medical review nurse at about this same time reassuring me that my file is in process and I just have to wait until I hear from a Placement officer.

- 02/27/2011 As of this date, eleven (11 weeks!)weeks have passed without a word from the PC Placement Office.

- 03/04/2011 Found interesting statement in a PC catalog (refer to posting on 3/4/2011) and wrote to my recruiter about it. Received a response within an hour(refer to posting on 3/6/2011). Summary - PC didn't get my paperwork done in time to invite me in time for the target date for my program. Recruiter suggested I contact placement office for my program. Sent email to community & youth Development placement office on 3/4/2011 (Friday afternoon).

- 03/30/2011 No further contact from the PC as of this date.

- 03/31/2011 Sent email to (second) P & A Assistant inquiring into progress of my file and asking for clarification of what my tentative departure date might be at this point.

- 04/04/2011 Received phone call from a Placement Specialist for a final interview. At the end of the session which lasted a bit more than an hour, I was told that I would be qualified for service and an invitation would be mailed to me. The only information that was given over the phone was that departure will be in September and I will be assigned to NGOs for community and youth development in an eastern European country.

- 04/05/2011 PC Toolkit has been updated to state that I have been invited to serve.

- 04/06/2011 BBP arrives on my doorstep! Macedonia - September, 2011 to November, 2013

- 04/08/2011 I submit a formal (written) acceptance of my invitation and receive in return an e-mail message congratulating and welcoming me along with two pages of instructions to follow.

- 04/11/2011 I submit my Aspiration Statement and my Resume to the Macedonia Country Desk at PC per pre-staging instructions received on 4/8.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How did I get here and why did it take so long?

During my freshman year at Penn State President Kennedy created the Peace Corps and I was immediately enthused about the possibility doing something positive for my country while living in another culture,  helping people in need and also helping fellow Americans learn more about the rest of the world. I became even more motivated to complete my undergraduate studies from that point on so that I could qualify to serve in the Peace Corps. Upon graduation, I sought employment in human services to begin to live my values as well as support myself while pursuing long-term goals. However, life began to get in the way. I got married, went on to graduate school, then post-graduate school, raised two children and pursued a varied and rewarding career as a state licensed and nationally certified social worker and behavior therapist with experiences in child welfare, hospital social work administration, community behavioral health services and staff development/training.
From its beginning, my life has been one of travel and constant exposure to people of differing cultures, classes and lifestyles. In addition to traveling throughout all of the continental United States, many Caribbean island nations, Senegal in Western Africa and most of the European Continent, I have lived at the summit of Mount Washington (NH) for six months and on a farm in the South of France also for six months. My mother had always encouraged me to understand the differences among people and to appreciate the good points of different religions and cultures. My father had frequently impressed upon me during my childhood that aviation was going to help solve a lot of the problems in the world by facilitating more direct contact of people from different cultures with each other. Through such experiences, he reasoned, people would become more understanding of each other, more accepting of differences and more appreciative of the positive aspects of each others' cultures. He believed that greater use of aviation by larger numbers of people would be more significant than even military strength as the greatest deterrent to future wars.
Now, my children have each completed graduate school and are into their own careers and I have recently retired. Shortly before and immediately upon retirement, I became anxious about what I will do if I am not working and I was filled with a feeling of emptiness. I realized that I do not wish to go quietly into a retirement of “nothing to do” and I am still compelled to work with marginalized individuals, their families and communities to enable them to improve their lives and assist them fulfill their wishes to improve the lives of their children. I sorely miss helping children with developmental delays. So what better time than now to follow-through on my long held desire to serve in the Peace Corps? When we got married, my wife and I initiated our application to join the Peace Corps together. However, our first child came along before we could complete that process and we decided to pursue raising our children and pursuing our chosen careers while doing so. We never gave up on our original desire to serve in the Peace Corps and would console each other over the years with our promises to each other with renewed pledges to apply to the Peace Corps "some day." My wife is a few years younger than me and not yet ready to retire, so she has encouraged me to enter on my own while she continued in her career for a few more years. After all, she reasoned, if I have a successful / rewarding experience, perhaps I can serve another term together with her when she retires. This logic seemed logical and sound to us partly because we had the experience of her transfer to one of her employer's offices in Europe for almost a year while I remained here in the States. That experience gave us great assurance that we will do well if I serve in the Peace Corps while she continued to pursue her career and we will be able to continue to work toward joint long-term goals.
Therefore, with the support and encouragement of my wife, I decided to retire at the age of 66 and begin the Peace Corps application process. I did both this past April (2010). Hopefully, there are some other applicants as well as some PCTs, PCVs and RPCVs in my age range with whom I can share information and from whom I can learn more about the application process and serving in the Peace Corps. I will begin an application time line in my next entry.