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.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Last post here - time to move on . . .

As mentioned previously, this blog had originally been created to chronicle my Peace Corps application process. Well. it is now 16 months since I submitted my application and I am two weeks from going to Staging in preparation for departure to Macedonia.

I have been on a several week-long farewell tour traveling around saying my good-byes to family and friends; some day-long emotional experiences and some rather brief, but poignant. Some one-on-one and some with groups small and large.

Last weekend Mary, my amazing wife, carried off a wonderful picnic:

Brother-in-law Dan brought two kayaks for everyone to take turns enjoying:

Mary and I had American and Macedonian flags to set the theme:

Mary had a terrific and huge chocolate chip cookie to cap off the festivities. I shared copies of the "Pauza" magazine (Written by Peace Corps Volunteers presently serving in Macedonia).

All in all a wonderful time.

Now, it is only two weeks until Staging. Therefore, I am going to discontinue posting on this Blog and will maintain documentation of my experiences from this point forward in a new Blog:

So, please try to find that new site and if you cannot and want to, feel free to send me an email at:

lew DOT hemmer AT gmail DOT com

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Finally, some really SPECIFIC news!

At long last, the Peace Corps has sent email messages to all Invitees going to Macedonia.

We will meet for Staging on Friday, the 9th of September. Initial meetings for orientation and review of Peace Corps rules & expectations will go on all afternoon that day, with an evening break and completion of that day of meetings around 7PM. We will check-out the next morning at 8:45AM, board a bus and depart Philly at 9:15AM to go to JFK airport where we are scheduled to depart for Macedonia at 5:40PM.

Included in the email were attachments regarding Staging/Reporting Instructions, the Itinerary, a summary of the PC's Approach to Safety and Security, and a Baggage Advisory (We are allowed up to a total of 100 Lbs!).

So, there it is, at last, definite/specific information from the Peace Corps, after I have waited 16 months during which time I received a nomination with approximate departure dates to general regions of the world for vague work assignments. In addition, I did receive word of dental, medical and legal clearances, but without any specific follow-up plans/recommendations from the PC except to "wait". When an invitation to serve finally came, it did contain some specifics, such as Country Assignment, but the Staging date was still subject to change and my work assignment was still wide open within a general description.

Now I know, at last, that I will meet other Invitees on Friday, the 9th of September in Philadelphia.

We will receive initial orientation and leave the States on Saturday, the 10th of September. We will depart from JFK Airport.

Three months of training will begin within a day or two after after we arrive at the Alexander the Great Airport in Skopje.

I will try to add a posting during, or after Staging, but before departure. Then, as previously planned, I hope to discontinue posting within this Blog and will begin posting in a new Blog. I will post the web address for the new Blog site here at some point soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

38 Days Until Staging and we now have 60 members in our Facebook Group

The 60th person has joined our Macedonia Facebook Group today. Of that Group, we have slightly more than 20 who are Invitees; the other members are PCVs actively serving in Macedonia and are in either the end of their first or second year. Those of us who are Invitees have 38 days until Staging. Hopefully, we will hear from the PC in the next week regarding where we will be meeting for Staging.

It appears that we wmight be in Philadelphia,

However, we have heard that there is a possibility that Washington, DC might be the place.

At this point, we do not know. We just have to await notification and plan accordingly.

Now, new anxieties begin to build; What PC paperwork needs to be completed, what gifts to pack for the Host Families, what to decide to leave Stateside to be shipped after arrival at site, and so on.

I have begun a farewell tour, making trips to visit friends and family for a last in-person visit which will have to carry me for the next 27 months, unless any of them manage to visit me in Macedonia.

Meanwhile, I have finished reading "Bury Me Standing" and I must now finish reading "Balkan Ghosts" and get on with "Who are the Macedonians?" The Borders book stores have gone into bankruptcy and during their "Closing Sale" I snagged some great travel books for the Balkan region as well as nice large maps of the USA and the world to bring along. Arranging for a 'no international transaction fee' and 'no annual fee' credit card and completing financial matters here is more complicated and time-consuming than I had anticipated. The decision as to what computer equipment to purchase has been finalized and the winner was a laptop; no tablet and no smart phone. I'll make do with the phone my wife used while living and working in Germany. The sim card in it is easily exchanged. Skype is working for us Stateside (had a wonderful video chat with our daughter last evening between Philadelphia, PA and Jacksonville Beach, FL) so we hope to use that internationally.

In the coming weeks, there will be a shift in the posting of my blogs; I have decided to discontinue with this venue (Blogger) and to move on to a new venue when I depart for Staging. It appears right now that I will shift over to WordPress for the new stage of blogging. I hope that the new postings will be less cluttered with old 'stuff' in the margins that was important to me through the application process and more reflective of my service and experiences while serving in Macedonia. I will post a final notice here before doing so and the new blog address will be the last thing posted here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy World Population Day!

July 11th, 2011, is World Population Day. This is a day for us to look at the world we live in, realize we're about to hit the 7 billion people mark, and take steps to care more tenderly for this Earth we all share. (Maybe it means we need more wineries!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July - PAPCA

The Philadelphia Area Peace Corps Association participated in the 4th of July parade at the historical district ib Philadelphia, PA

Before the crowd flooded the entire area:

Preparing for the parade:

Participants included RPCVs and Invitees:

Representing Eastern Europe:

Getting going beside Independence Hall:

Leaders with the Banner:

All in all, a GREAT DAY

Monday, June 27, 2011

43 Members in MAK16 and still growing!

MAK16 - - - The Facebook Group site for Invitees and current PCVs serving in Macedonia has been growing at a fairly regular rate and now has exceeded 40 members. For anyone interested in seeing what this group is about, or wanting to join, the address of the site is:

Other exciting news is that the Peace Corps will have representation in part of a nationally televised 4th of July celebration.

"Welcome America!" is a week long event in and around the historic district of Philadelphia. The culmination of the week long celebration is an Independence Day Parade. This year, the route has expanded, winding through the nation’s most historic mile, featuring over 6,000 patriotic and multicultural marchers, musicians, dancers and floats. All five U.S. military branches will be represented.

Here is a picture of a part of the parade last year as it progressed along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway amid the always displayed flags of many nations.

There will be well over 6,000 participants representing everything and anything related to our country and our relationship with the rest of the world. The Philadelphia Area Peace Corps Association will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Peace Corps and RPCVs, along with Invitees, families and friends, will carry flags representing countries where the Peace Corps has provided services.

The Philadelphia Area Peace Corps Association has been invited to participate in the Welcome America Parade that will go through the historic district of Philadelphia on the 4th of July this year.

As an Invitee to the Peace Corps, I am fortunate in being part of the contingent of RPCVs and Invitees who will represent the Peace Corps in this Parade. I will have the honor of carrying the flag of Macedonia!

Friday, June 3, 2011

PC Toolkit updated - again

Well, now my Toolkit again appears as it did last April 5th.

So, now I am officially back on track headed toward Staging without any roadblocks in sight.

I am appreciative of the postings from other Invitees detailing resources and packing suggestions. At present, my biggest dilemma is deciding on a camera and a computer. I have a Canon DSLR, but do not think I want to lug that large camera body with two lenses and assorted filters. I think I prefer a pocket-size camera and I am leaning toward a Nikon S9100. In terms of computers, I already have a Sony Vaio laptop, but I think I will want to take something smaller; perhaps a netbook, or even a tablet. Recommendations will be appreciated. I am going to post on the Macedonia Group Facebook site to elicit opinions from other Invitees and hopefully get some recommendations based on experiences from PCVs already in Macedonia.

So, for now I am looking forward to joining with other Invitees & RPCVs and participating in the "Welcome America" parade through the historic section of Philadelphia, PA on the 4th of July. Those of us representing the Peace Corps will carry flags of the countries served by the Peace Corps. We have been encouraged to have friends and family members accompany us. It should be a wonderful experience.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What a place to celebrate the PC's 50th Anniversary!

Sunday May 22, 2011:

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia:

The Philadelphia Peace Corps Association (PAPCA) held a public information display, informational panel presentations and meetings with recruiters

It was an inspirational setting, with many other historical things to see. such a a life-size display of the signing of the Declaration of Independence; we could actually walk among our activists of yore:

The Hall of Flags is certainly a great environment within which to hold this event:

The dispalys of the various countries was spread out adjoining to the Hall of Flags:

It was inspirational for all and especially nice for this Invitee to get to speak with RPCVs among the displays representing their service. Some of the RPCVs came quite a distance to participate. I had a lengthy conversation with one who traveled from Washington, DC to share his experiences in Zambia.

On the 4th of July, Philadelphia will hold a lot of celebrations including a "Welcome America" parade and the Peace Corps has been invited to participate. pass right in front of Independence Hall:

RPCVs and Invitees, displaying countries of PC service will march holding flags representing countries of service and it looks as though I will be the lucky bearer of the Macedonian flag.

Then, a few weeks later I will join the other Invitees going to Staging right near this historical site as we meet and greet each other and prepare for departure for our service in Macedonia. Oh, yeah!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

e-mail alert - "Application Status Update"

The e-mail had been sent at 5AM alerting me that I needed to check my toolkit regarding an update to my application status. YIKES! The increasing frequency of blogs indicating problems occurring in the whole application / placement process has caused me to have thoughts I have needed to suppress. So, here it was, something is not going well in the Peace Corps placement process and it has grown to affect an Invitee awaiting Staging.

With considerable trepidation, I opened my PC Toolkit and found this:

But, how can that be? I received Dental Clearance last August! I have documentation from my Toolkit back in August, 2010:

Peace Corps has completed your dental review. There are no dental holds on your account at this time."

Nine months later I am having second screenings? I waited until 9AM and called the Dental Evaluations Assistant. No answer, so I left a message. Now, over 6 hours later and nearing the end of the PC Headquarters' workday, I have still not received a returned call. I tried another call, but again got no answer.

Just when I was getting really comfortable with my plans and was studying Macedonian history, creating a packing list and studying Macedonian language basics, I find myself back in PC-applicant mode; Anxiously waiting and trying to practice patience.

We must always maintain PMA!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

MAK-16 has been started and is growing!

At the urging of Mary, another Invitee, I have initiated a Facebook Group - - - "MAK-16" which has already attracted some PCVs presently in Macedonia in addition to some Invitees.

To get to the Facebook Group page, highlight the following link, then right-click on it and open the link.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

April, 2010 - Application submitted - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - April, 2011 - PCA Send Off Event

I have included a Macedonian flag among my desk-top flag display representing my immediate family:

The other flags represent, our American nationality along with my wife's Irish heritage, my own German heritage, my Son-in-law's Guatemalan heritage, and my daughter-in-law's Chinese heritage. I couldn't resist adding the flag of the United Nations.

344 days after submitting my PC application, I received my written invitation in the mail. 23 days after that, I was an invited particpant in a "Send Off Event" sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Peace Corps Association, in which RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) in the Philadelphia area pass the torch to current invitees and nominees. This was an informal evening of mingling and celebrating the legacy of Peace Corps. RPCVs representing each decade of the PC's history spoke about their experiences during their service, following which, there was a candle lighting ceremony acknowledging each invitee and wishing all of us success in our assignments. It was wonderful to be able to meet so many RPCVs and have informal conversations about their experiences. I had the very good fortune to meet another invitee who will be part of the cohort I will be joining when I go to Macedonia. I also met RPCVs who had, or will soon have two tours of service. All in all, an inspiring evening and I left with a heightened sense of motivation and eager anticipation for actually getting into training and settling in to Macedonia.

So, I now have a fellow invitee with whom to correspond and share research information about our assigned country and thoughts about planning as we approach departure.

The next events between now and departure will be a Peace Corps Expo at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on 5/22 and participation in the Welcome America Parade on the 4th of July in the historic section of Philadelphia.

Monday, April 11, 2011

And so a new process begins . . .

An e-mail message was received within minutes afetr I hit the 'SEND' button for my acceptance of the invitation. This e-mail congratulated me for becoming a PC Invitee and, in addition, contained two pages of instruction for things to do between now and departure for Staging. I was informed that from now on, I would need to also be coordinating plans with The Country Desk Unit for Macedonia. This was in addition to and somewhat redundant with the instructions received in the BBP. Never-the-less, time was of the essence for submitting two things; An Aspiration Statement and a re-formatted resume.

I spent this past weekend studying the contents of the BBP and searching the Internet for information on the history and culture of Macedonia, in addition to writing, editing and re-writing an aspiration statement, and thanks to the postings of previous applicants, I had already re-formatted my resume.

My Toolkit has been updated:

Today, I submitted my aspiration statement and re-formatted resume and now must move on to other files and activities outlined in my BBP to complete.

The good part about the long wait until Staging is that I can more carefully plan my packing.

I have a wonderful sense of calm at present, knowing that my files and planning are both being coordinated with The Country Desk Unit for Macedonia. No RAS, no IAA, no CAS; just a pervasive sense of calm, with an overall sense of purpose. So, fellow applicants, TAKE HEART! It get better.

At last, it is time to start the countown clock (!).

Friday, April 8, 2011

You are not done when you receive an invitation (!)

I reviewed, then re-read and finally truly studied all 20 pages of the VAD (Volunteer Assignment Description), all 104 pages of the Online Welcome Book and the 10 Core Expectations as directed to do so by one of the many instruction sheets that came in the BBP. I did so, because the instructions stated that I had to certify in writing that I had done that before I could formally accept my invitation.

Having done all of that, I wrote out the formal acceptance in an e-mail message and hit the 'SEND' button. Now, my CAS is well under control and I certainly feel better.

Then, I began to delve into other resources that just became available in my Toolkit for further information about the upcoming phases of training. Be forewarned, fellow applicants, there is a boatload of paperwork ahead after you get to this mile marker.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cel - e - bration time, c'mon!


BBP on my doorstep and only two days after I was told it would be put in the mail. *UBFL*!

PROGRAM: Community and Organizational Development
JOB TITLE: Youth Development Volunteer
DEPARTING: September 9, 2011
PRE-TRAINING: September 11th - November 24th, 2011
DATES OF SERVICE: September 11th, 2011 - November 23rd, 2013
("Dates subject to change")

Now, I have a sense of how the dog felt when he finally caught the car (!).

Well, unlike that dog, I have seven days to decide what I really want to do.

So, after 344 days filled with RAS, anxiety, RAS, anxiety, IAA, anxiety, IAA, (and, did I mention anxiety?) imagining (?hoping) for a few other countries of service, I no longer have RAS or IAA.
However, CAS (Commitment Apprehension Syndrome) has hit like a truck.
I have seven days to resolve this and resolve it I will before seven days have passed.

(Say . . . is that BBP Carolina Blue? No, not really, but in the photo it does seem that way)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A new level of anxious anticipation

OKAY(!).I have heard from a Placement Specialist at long last.
The call from area code 202 came through yesterday morning. We spoke for a bit more than an hour during which I was asked to explore my motivations, and concerns. After speaking about several concerns, I felt I was being judged for having any concerns at all. However, we got past that discomfort (on my part) and I was asked to describe my hoped for assignmant. Again, after describing some of my hopes and wishes, I felt as though I shouldn't have mentioned any and should have merely stated that I am totally open to any program assignment anywhere in the world. After explaining my perspective that I could have preferences while still being willing to accept any invitation/assignment, we moved into the Placement Specialist giving me an explanation for what I felt had been a long wait to get to this point in the process. I was given a long explanation of the challenges that the PC is having for matching applicants with the requests from all of the countries and I was essentially led toward agreeing with the conclusion that the best assignment for me (in the judgement of the Placement Specialist) would be an assignment in which the varied skills I had acquired throughout my career would be best utilized working with several NGOs in a country in eastern Europe. The departure for that service will be in early September. Throughout the entire conversation, I made an extra effort to sound calm and comfortably in control of my emotions. Perhaps this led The Placement Specialist to think that I wasn't too enthused about what he was about to offer and he asked me several times if I would accept such an assignment. I assured him I was accepting the offer and asked some clarifying questions after which I was cautioned to not try to guess the specific country, but rather to wait for the written invitation and the specifics included with it.

The final outcome? I was informed that I was being qualified to receive an invitation and I could expect to receive the written invitation in the mail within the next 5 to 10 days. It will contain other specific information and directions for follow-up steps that I must take. I was advised that I can take up to, but no more than 10 days to contemplate the specific invitation and decide whether I will accept it. I was also clearly informed that if I decline the invitaton, I should not expect to receive any other invitation.

So, with lots to ponder in the next several days, and with little information on which to focus, I will now wait for the delivery of the BBP (Big Blue Packet) which all applicants are so eager to receive. I awoke this morning to find my PC Toolkit had been updated with this message:

Finally! Another hurdle overcome and a new level of anticipatory anxiety achieved. Nothing to do at the moment but to maintain PMA and patiently await that BBP.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Murphy's Law applies to my phone

According to Murphy's Law, if anything can go wrong it will. In this case, and as it applies to my phone, my phone did not ring when I received that all important call from area code 202, nor did it even give me the reminder signals that I had a voicemail message.

To clarify what happened last Friday, it all started when I sent a carefully worded email to the (2nd & most recent) Placement Assessment Assistant I had heard from. I asked four questions about what was happening with my file, whether two Placement Officers were involved, would I be given a new tentative departure date now that I have passed my original one or would I have to wait until next year for my original target departure date. I received a prompt response that same morning. This P & A Assistant assured me that my file was intact and in the hands of only one Placement Specialist. Further, I was informed that the Placement Specialist would call me later that same day.

At last! Some solid/specific information and the promise of a direct call from Placement. What could go wrong at this point? All I had to do was cancell all plans for the day and wait for that call.

Enter Murphy's Law. There was one plan for the day that I did not cancel. I maintained my gym work since I am certain that I will need as much stamina as I can maintain at my age when I am in-country for the PC. After getting home from the gym, and because it was getting on in the afternoon, and I had still not heard from Placement, I just obsessively checked my phone for missed calls. What?! There was a call that I had missed? Yes, but it was from the OMS Review Nurse I had last spoken with four months ago. Why would she have been calling? Perhaps she was going to give me another inside tip as she had done back in December. I immediately attempted to return that call, but (Murphy again?) I received a message that "The number you have dialed is no longer in service." What?! How could I have received a call but the number that called me no longer be in service? I made repeated tries, all to no avail. I wondered what else could go wrong this day. I soon found out when I again obsessively checked my phone to see if I had missed any text or voice mail messages. How could this be? There was voice mail. I immediately played it and could barely focus on listening after hearing that it was from the Placement Specialist I was hoping to hear from. The next frustration for the day came when I returned the call to Placement and received a message that he was not available. Yes, I left a voice mail for him, but it was late in the afternoon by then and I waited out the remainder of the day without achieving the contact I had been waiting for since I had received Medical Clearance in the forst week of last December.

So, late Friday afternoon, there was nothing to do until next week except to again spend time reading PCJs and vicariously enjoying the progress of other applicants.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is 'PC-speak' quantifiable?

The process of applying to the Peace Corps establishes quite an interesting relationship between the applicant and the organization. On the one hand, the organization expects prompt and precise information from the applicant while on the other hand, the organization expects that the applicant will accept occasional pieces of general information and will exhibit boundless patience waiting for the occasional word about the details of a more than two year committment by the applicant. Even the time line for the application process is described by the organization in vague terms and inconsistently in different publications ('6 to 9 months' in some publications, and '9 months to a year' in others).

When a PC Placement Assessment Assistant informs you that you can expect to hear from a Placement Officer "within several weeks, if not sooner" is there a specific number of weeks beyond which it is no longer "within several"?

If another PC Placement Assessessment Assistant informs you that you should expect to hear from a Placement Officer "within a few weeks" is there a specific number beyond which it is no loger within "a few"?

I have received both of the reassurances mentioned above. The first was in the first week of December (16 weeks ago). The second was in the beginning of this month (4 weeks ago).

While it might be possible to claim that 4 weeks is close to "within a few weeks", it seems to be beyond any stretch to imagine that 16 weeks could be considered to be within "several weeks."

In a posting on March 4th, I mentioned:

So, I have been following the PCJs and re-reading some PC material yet again and this time I have been reading with more focus. TODAY, I noticed on the last page of the (latest) PC catalog a significant sentence within the paragraph under the heading "Placement". It states,

"If you do not hear from your placement officer and your departure month is less than eight weeks away, contact your recruiter for your placement officer's phone number."

Subsequent to that posting, I wrote to my recruiter who gave me an e-mail address for the CYD Placement Office. An e-mail to that office resulted an a prompt response stating I should expect to hear from a Placement Officer, who "should be in touch with you within the next few weeks with more specific programmatic information to discuss with you. Thank you for your patience, I see you have been waiting for a while; we are certainly doing our best to place you as soon as we can."

Since tomorrow is the end of 4 weeks since my previous e-mail to the CYD Placement Office, I am pondering whether to write again, or whether I should contact my recruiter and again request a phone number for a Placement Officer, as suggested in the PC publication referrenced above.

Something that has caused me additional concern is that I have now gone well past my original nomination departure date and have no idea of any revised departure date for the future. It took the PC 159 days from the time they received my complete medical packet (and PC complimented me for it being so complete and well organized) yet it took PC 159 days from receipt of the packet to issue me clearance for placement. It appears that those 159 days took me past the threshold of the Placement Office being able to place me with regard to my nominated departure date. I am wondering whether I should ask my Recruiter about a new departure date, or should I pose that question to the CYD Placement Office?

It has been just a little more than 11 months since I submitted my application, a little more than 9 months since the PC OMS Office received my complete Medical/Dental/Vision Packet, and 4 months since I have received complete medical clearance. Is it reasonable to expect to at least have a (new) tentative departure date?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The tragedy in Japan - before and after images of the exact same sites.

Pictures say a thousand words . . .
Click on this interactive page (link below) from the New York Times.

I am feeling blessed and grateful for all that I have.

Just move the slider left and right in the pictures to see the whole before and after pictures of the exact same scenes. Look for the slider in the middle of each pictoral display. This is some incredible technology and conveys a powerful message.

When I clicked on the link above, the resulting photo did not open properly and the other photos did not open at all.
However, when I copied that address and pasted it into my browser address bar and opened it that way, everything worked just fine.

Isn't it amazing that our major news networks are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to send correspondents to Japan to report "live" but they continue to use the same original videos repeatedly to the exclusion of showing something like this. Don't tell me how much the news producers and editors earn, I do not want to know.

We have so much to be thankful for.
These images are very humbling.

Give thanks in prayers that we, our loved ones and our homes are all safe.
This is beyond words.

Pray for the people in Japan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

While waiting, - - - Why not reinforce your inspiration?

There have been some previous postings by other PC applicants drawing our attention to T.E.D. Conferences (Technology, Entertainment Design) presentations. They are all excellent and stimulating. Here is a special one that is by a former PCV, who went on to become an engineer at M.I.T. She has devoted her post-service career to empowering the people of countries around the world to develop and maintain self-sufficiency and to improve their own health and the health of their families and communities.

Read about Amy Smith:

Amy Smith joined the Peace Corps and served four years as a volunteer in Botswana. During her Peace Corps service she was struck by the fact that "the most needy are often the least empowered to invent solutions to their problems." While she was serving in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, she decided what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. "At one point I had sort of an epiphany, sitting at my desk looking out over the bush, when I realized I wanted to do engineering for developing countries", Smith said. "In Botswana, I was teaching and then working for the ministry of agriculture as a beekeeper, and I remember thinking to myself that I really liked doing development work, but I wished could do some engineering too, because I like creative problem solving", says Smith. "People in the developing world scrape every last ounce of life that they can out of objects, and my students used to bring me things to fix, and I always enjoyed being able to do that."

Going forward, the former Peace Corps volunteer strives to do much more, bringing her inventiveness and boundless energy to bear on some of the world's most persistent problems.
Mechanical engineer Amy Smith's approach to problem-solving in developing nations is refreshingly common-sense: Invent cheap, low-tech devices that use local resources, so communities can reproduce her efforts and ultimately help themselves. Smith, working with her students at MIT's D-Lab, has come up with several useful tools, including an incubator that stays warm without electricity, a simple grain mill, and a tool that converts farm waste into cleaner-burning charcoal.

The inventions have earned Smith three prestigious prizes: the B.F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award, the MIT-Lemelson Prize, and a MacArthur "genius" grant. Her course, "Design for Developing Countries," is a pioneer in bringing humanitarian design into the curriculum of major institutions.
- Wikipedia

"Smith has a stable of oldfangled technologies that she has reconfigured and applied to underdeveloped areas around the world. Her solutions sound like answers to problems that should have been solved a century ago. To Smith, that's the point."
- Wired News

Watch a brief presentation by her at:

(My Blogger site won't allow me to create a link - - - please copy and paste this address into your own browser address bar)

Monday, March 7, 2011

At the suggestion of my recruiter - - -

On Friday (3/4/11) late in the afternoon - I decided to act on my recruiter's recommendation and I sent a brief and very carefully worded inquiry to the CYD Placement office at PC Headquarters in DC.
Immediately after sending that inquiry, I wrote a brief thank you message to my recruter.
On Monday morning (3/7/11) early in the morning - I received two emails, almost simultaneously.
The first email was from my recruiter with some further explanation for the delay in my consideration for an invitation and encouraged me to remain positive and, again requested me to stay in touch with any further concerns.
The second email was from a Placement and Assessment Assistant in the Office of Placement. This was a different assistant from the one who had been so curt with me last December. This assistant actually thanked me for my patience and assured me that they were "certainly doing our best to place you as soon as we can." Further, the assistant stated that a Placement Specialist should be in touch with me "within the next few weeks with more specific programmatic information to discuss with you." Not only was this a different assistant than previously, but this assistant referenced the Placement Officer as a male. I found this especially interesting because the previous assistant had used a female name when referencing a Placement Specialist who would be contacting me.
Overall, very interesting and positive.
Yes, the wait continues, but this time with a whole lot more basis for maintaining PMA while enduring RAS & IAA.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Well . . .

During the seemingly interminable wait since I applied (4/27/10), I have spent a lot of time getting all of my medical/dental/vision history, exams, lab work and paperwork completed. But that consumed only a fraction of the total time since last spring. I have arbitrarily divided a whole lot of the balance of my time among several PC-related activities. I have searched out and read a lot of material related to the PC (books, the PC archives, etc.), scoured the PCJs & PC Wiki and even occasionally been in contact with my medical review nurse and my recruiter (by email and even in person). Now that I have gone well past the Jan/Feb/Mar departure target period given to me last June when I received my nomination, I find myself re-reading a lot of the official material distributed by the PC. One of the PC publications is a catalog by the PC. In the 40 pages covering everything from the history of the PC, its mission, programs and benefits, there are two pages outlining the application process. I had read over this publication several times in the past and had not really given detailed attention to the outline of the process, except to skim over the headings and the beginning statement under each heading for affirmation as to where I was in the process. In the first week of last December I had been given medical clearance and told that my application was being passed along to a Placement Officer. At that time I was informed that I would hear from a Placement Officer "within several weeks, if not sooner". Shortly after that, I asked the Placement Assessment Assistant if I would likely make the targeted departure time frame. I was told to wait and that patience is something PC looks for in applicants. So, That is where I have been living for the past three months - - - waiting as the calender slides past the supposed departure time frame of Jan/Feb/Mar.
My aforementioned follow-up contacts with my nurse reviewer and my recruiter have resulted in me being reassured that my file is moving along predictably within the PC process. Each of those supportive PC staff even gave me some, albeit slight, encouragement to contact the PC Placement Office if I felt it necessary. I might have misinterpreted their comments, because I have been reluctant to do so, mostly because of how I had been previously admonished.
So, I have been following the PCJs and re-reading some PC material yet again and this time I have been reading with more focus. TODAY, I noticed on the last page of the PC catalog a significant sentence within the paragraph under the heading "Placement". It states,

"If you do not hear from your placement officer and your departure month is less than eight weeks away, contact your recruiter for your placement officer's phone number."

Well, since my recruiter had been so nice not only during my interview, but also in those subsequent meetings, I am working on the wording of an email to send reflecting on that statement in the catalog and asking if I should call my placement officer. If so, I will ask for the name and number and place that call. If not, well, the wait goes on.
I am wondering if anyone else has taken this route.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Anniversary Peace Corps!

I was a senior in high school when President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 creating the Peace Corps and I wanted to serve in the PC as soon as I learned about it. I held that dream throughout undergrad, marriage, grad and post-grad and while helping to raise two children while pursuing a career. I was a senior when he PC began and I dreamed of serving in the PC. I am now a senior of a different kind, but now at the point of realizing that dream and I now have medical clearance (!) and I am awaiting an invitation from the PC Placement Office.

The link below is to CNN coverage of the 50th anniversary of when President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 creating the Peace Corps. My Blogger account does not seem to recognize links, so you will need to copy it and paste it into your Internet browser address bar. There are write ups and quotes from PCVS across the decades if you click on the arrow on the CNN site.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On our importance in this world . . .

This gives us a good perspective to keep in mind while waiting to serve in the Peace Corps.

Something to ponder . . .

(I am having problems adding links, so you need to copy the above address and paste it into your browser address bar)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A little diversion during "The Great Wait"

Here is something to occupy your mind while waiting to hear from PC regarding your application status - - -

Take your time; after all, you have plenty of it. Ponder on each question. Don't rush to check the answers at the end. Why rush and have nothing to do but wait?

A Quiz for Bright People - ?????

There are only nine questions.
This is a quiz for people who just might know everything!
I found out in a hurry that I didn't.
These are not trick questions.
They are straight questions with straight answers . . .

1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters ' dw' and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'

Answers to Quiz:

1... The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends: Boxing.

2. North American landmark constantly moving backward: Niagara Falls .
(The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.)

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons: Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside: Strawberry.

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle.
The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.

6. Three English words beginning with dw: Dwarf, dwell and dwindle...

7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar: Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.

8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh: Lettuce.

9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with 'S': Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

There, now wasn't that an interesting, challenging, educative and over-all a great way to spend some time while waiting to hear from PC?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Good fortune

So, as I scanned the official PC web site a few weeks ago to see what 'events' might be available on-line, I happened to notice that the PC was going to have a presence at a career fair at Villanova University and follow-up with an information session the next day at the same place. In addition, the PC would be represented by the same recruiter who had interviewed and nominated me way back in June, 2010. What luck! I happpen to live about 20 miles from Villanova and my sister-in-law is the Assistant Director for Systems and Marketing in the Career Center at Villanova. I immediately asked my sister-in-law if she would be there those days and, if so, would she help me with parking on campus and entry into the event. I also wrote to my PC Recruiter and asked if I could have some one-on-one time during those events.
What a great time I had this past Tuesday and Wednesday. The recruiter gave me extra time beyond the formal sessions to discuss lots of things that had crept into my mind during the past nine months since receiving my nomination. Thngs such as the impact upon the Placement Office of the relocation of PCVs from countries experiencing political turmoil (e.g. Niger) and the huge increase in the number of applicants at a time of reduced budgets from Congress. Additionallly, listening first-hand to the discussions with others interested in applying to the PC added to my understanding to the timing of the PC application, screening and invitation process. Especially the behind the scenes activities in the invitation process.
All in all, two days comprising several infornmative hours. An enlighteneing insight was obtained when the recruiter shared with me that the PC begins to assess the depth of an applicant's interest / passion according to the promptness with which the paperwork is submitted and also the nature and quality of the communications initiated by the applicant. I was informed that I had been pegged from the beginning as being sincerely and highly motivated to serve in the PC (!). What could have been better?
Well, I soon found out when I returned home after the second day of meeting with that recruiter to find an email from the review nurse who had been so helpful a few months ago with my medical clearance. The email was to ask me if I needed any further help. That was the strawberry on top of the whipped cream on the treat that I was still savoring.
RAS? Only a little right now.
I continue to wait, but with a whole lot less anxiety.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Area 202 called again - - - great timing!

It had been 230 days since I received my nomination from my PC Recruiter and I was on my way to the gym yesterday. While I was in a parking lot, my phone rang and the Caller ID indicated it was from area code 202 (!). It had been only four days since that previous not-PC call from area code 202, so this time it was surely from the PC Placement Office. Several thoughts shot through my mind as I answered the call; 1) Okay, THIS time it HAS to be the PC since I already got that other call from area code 202 last week. 2) Is this a pure coincidence that the call was coming the evening before I am going to meet my PC Recruiter at an event at nearby Villanova University? 3) Since having that false alarm call last week, I am more than ready to receive a call from a Placement Officer.
Dismay and practically total disbelief fogged my mind and I could barely manage to utter an intelligible response when the caller identified herself as calling from the Washington, DC National Headquarters of the National Association of Social Workers. She informed me that NASW was calling again because they wanted to give me recognition for 34 years of active membership. She offered me a free annual subscription to the professional practice journal of my choice (IF I renewed my membership). I politely informed the caller that I was not going to renew my membership and before I could explain why, she said "Thank you" and hung up. My mental fog became displaced by disappointment and even some resentment - - - disappointment because this call was (again) not from PC and resentment because NASW tried to praise me for my career-long support of the professional organization, but didn't even ask why when I informed them that I was not going to renew my membership.
I consoled myself with thoughts about meeting my PC Recruiter at the Villanova University event the next day. The call last week and this one yesterday both caused me to focus my thinking and give serious consideration to what I might ask and how I want to respond when I actually do receive a call from the PC Placement Officer.
So, false alarm times two, but beneficial nevertheless.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Area Code 202 called - Phooey!

While I was caught up in a phone conversation with our tax accountant, my phone gave me a signal that another call was waiting. I looked at the caller ID and almost jumped when I saw that the call was from area code 202 (!). I couldn't abruptly end my current call, because our taxes have been something to behold for the past two years. My wife had been transferred to work in Europe for a year by her employer. We have had to deal with two governments regarding taxes because of that and we are just now getting everything resolved and thus the need for a tax accountant and the need to continue this call. As soon as the conversation ended, however, I immediately attempted to listen to whatever voice message was waiting for me.

Nada. There wasn't a voice message. -?- . I re-checked the missed calls list and sure enough, I had missed a call from area code 202. Why would the Peace Corps not leave a message? Was it because the PC Placement Office was not going to give me an invitation and they didn't want to leave that news as a message?

I took a deep breath, held it, and called the number. I exhaled much as a full balloon deflates when you let go of it - - - the number that had called me was the Washington, DC headquarters of the National Association of Social Workers and they had called me to remind me that my membership was due for renewal.

And, we're waiting . . . maintaining PMA and waiting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Okay, I'm ready now

During the 'Great PC Wait' I have been volunteering at our community library coordinating with other volunteers for maintenance tasks and special community events. In the winter, this includes shoveling snow so as to help the library save money (contractors have been charging the library $360 each time they shovel the walks which total about about 1,000' x 4', plus the steps, the primary and secondary entrance areas, emergency exits, and the wheelchair ramp). I have shoveled the library areas four times so far this year. In addition, I spend a lot of time during the winter shoveling driveways and walks for some neighbors who are aged or disabled.

This winter has presented some regular snowfalls here and I am so ready for a change of pace! This morning, I shoveled my own walks and drive, then my neighbors' walks and drives and then went to the library and shoveled the walks around the building, the emergency exit areas and the steps leading to the exits as well as the wheelchair ramp and the main and secondary entrance areas. After that, when I returned home, I found that the continuing snowfall necessitated another attack of my walk and drive as well as the walks and drives of my neighbors. I no sooner got inside and began to warm up than I received a call to return to the library because of the new snow accumulation (it is still snowing). Upon returning home for the second time today, I had to once again shovel my walk & drive and one of my neighbors' drive.

Am I ready to hear from the PC? Oh, yes, I am so ready!

Alas, it is forecast to snow another 8" tonight.

Maybe in the spring, PC?

Friday, January 21, 2011

An unexpected calm - - - RAS & IAA greatly diminished

Fairly objective reporting by a few applicants very recently regarding the back-up for issuing invitations by the PC Placement Office has given me a sad, but noticeable sense of calm. Reading that all programs have been filled for this quarter and the PC Placement Office is focusing on invitations for the next quarter has greatly reduced my RAS (Restless Applicant Syndrome) and helped me put my IAA (Invitation Anticipation Anxiety) in check for the time-being.

The news helps to clarify the uncertainty of waiting and it provided support to the ever-present thoughts of actively pursuing other ventures rather than merely watching the calendar while waiting for contact from Placement.

Can anyone help but appreciate what the applicants must have gone through decades ago before we had the near immediate dissemination of news via such things as the PCJs on the Internet?

Thank you to everyone who contributes to the communication network among all interested applicants. The contributions of the experiences of PCVs and RPCVs are also greatly appreciated. A broad perspective is always helpful!