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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.

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.