Thursday, December 30, 2004

Dental and Legal are Done

At 5:00 am today, I received another Peace Corps status change email -- this was a big one!
They have received my medical packet, and have already given me dental and legal clearance.
My medical clearance is in process. Some of the reports I have read describe this as one of the bigger hurdles...
Have a great New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Just A Vehicle

Tonight, one of my friends was at my house with his wife and two young children. His daughter who is about 5 years old, noticed that a lock of my hair was hanging down in the middle of my forehead (my hair is quite long now -- the pic in my profile is over a year old).

His daughter looked at me in a concerned way, studying the lock of hair. Very seriously, she motioned for me to come closer to her, all the while remaining focused on the lock of hair. She slowly and gently took the lock of hair and blended it into the hair on the top of my head.

At that moment I understood the awesome warmth that comes from simple compassion. I realized it's not the act that determines the intensity of the compassion - it's the focus and heart of the giver. The act is just the vehicle for the compassion.

(I think sometimes the act might even get in the way -- if it gets too much focus)

Monday, December 27, 2004

Soon is Nice

Tomorrow, my medical clearance package should arrive in Washington. I am more excited about it than I thought I would be.

It’s nice to be unexpectedly excited about something; especially when it's just about to happen!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

What Time is It?

Time seems to matter most, when I am headed in the wrong direction.

Unexpected Moments

Those things that I see in this world, the things external, that come to me through my senses, what they really are, and what I know them to be, is not the same.

The difference is not easy to measure. It comes to me in shards of understanding as I learn about myself. It comes to me during those unexpected moments when peace melts into me.

The more I know myself, the more I understand those things I see in this world.

Friday, December 24, 2004

And the Ball Bounces Back

My little soldier has been sent out on his way.

I completed my medical clearance forms and sent them out yesterday (Thursday). It took me 19 days to get all of the appointments and forms squared away.

It's good to have the ball back in the Peace Corps' court. I experienced a small twinge, each day that passed, after receiving the medical clearance forms. I new with each new day that the clearance process was waiting for me.

Now I can sit back and contemplate what will happen next!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Just Before

Well, it's been a while since my last post -- I was having many competing priorities: family, work, peace corps, Christmas preparation, friends, and sleep.

I have actually been very active on the Peace Corps front -- there is a lot to do during the medical clearance process!

I am glad to report the following wonderful progress:

  • 90% of my medical exam is complete (ya, even the turn and cough part). I will take my tuberculosis test tomorrow, and then I just have to wait for the lab results -- which should be done by this Thursday.
  • I have in my possession one mental health statement written for and about me (it's very weird to read such statements about oneself -- it's kinda like being a peeping Tom on your own life).
  • My dental statement (complete with full x-rays) is ready to go.
  • My eye exam info is done and also ready to go (complete with my very own choice of birth-control glasses).

All I have left to do is create two personal statements, one describing my personal counseling sessions and the other describing my family counseling sessions.

I plan to send a my completed medical clearance package to the Peace Corps on Thursday, just before my long awaited celebration drink!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

And the Phone Rings

Wuuu whooo!

My ex-counselor just called me. She is going to fill out my forms on Monday! It feels good to have this wildcard out of the way.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, December 10, 2004

I am Stable, Hear me Roar

Well, I have left two messages on my ex-counselors voice mail system -- one on Monday and one today. She has not called back yet -- I am hoping its because she's on vacation...

I need to get a hold of her so she can sign papers documenting my mental health...and the stability thereof... :-)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

To Friends That Listen

Today I was at lunch with friends, when someone asked:

  • So, why do you wanna join the Peace Corps?

And then, while I was composing a comprehensive, yet succinct answer in my head; one of my other friends answered for me, in as good or better a fashion than I could have myself.

Thanks Lonnie!

(I guess I must talk about the Peace Corps a lot...)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

An Unexpected Guest

Today was an A-PC day! Some big Peace Corps type things happened:

  • submitted my dental paperwork to my dentist - it should be complete tomorrow or the next day
  • completed the paperwork for my eyes
  • found my ex-counselor and left a message on her work voice mail
  • sweet talked my way into a physical at my clinic for Thursday of next week -- I'm giving up on the VA because it will take too long

If all goes well, I should be able to submit my medical paperwork by the end of next week!

Also, my two daughters and I attended a Peace Corps informational meeting held by the regional Peace Corps office. I found it to be very interesting. It was nice to see returned volunteers dressed in their local clothing and to hear them talking about their experiences. It seemed like they all had a special type of confidence about them that I have not seen in many others...

A surprise guest even showed up...

    The meeting was at a local library. A man that grew up in Cameroon (Africa) happened to be going to the library and saw the signs for the Peace Corps. He followed the signs, and joined the meeting. He gave a wonderfully touching speech on his impression of Peace Corps volunteers that served in his home of Cameroon.

It's going to be hard to sleep tonight!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Appointments R Us

Well, after reading through the packet, it looks like I have to get these things done:

  • Have a complete medical exam
  • Document my penicillin allergy
  • Document my knee surgery
  • Have a complete dental exam (my teeth have trained hard, and are ready)
  • Have an eye exam and get another pair of glasses
  • Explain my family counseling in a written statement
  • Track down my individual counseling counselor so she can complete some mental health documentation

I'm not sure if I will be able to wait for the VA's appointments -- I've been told it's best to get these things done as quickly as possible.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

It's Here!

It's here, my medical clearance packet!

The next piece of the adventure begins!

Friday, December 03, 2004

It's In the Mail

This morning I received one of my favorite types of email; a Peace Corps status change email.
It seems that my medical clearance package has been sent! I am sooo impressed with the organization of the Peace Corps. I know that it is very difficult to provide such detailed tracking to all of the prospective volunteers.
Here's my new app stat:

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

6 Weeks Out!

Well, no medical clearance package should be here soon...I'm guessing it takes longer during the holidays...all these dots are getting annoying...but I find myself unable to stop using them...

I finally got a hold of the right person at the VA. She said she had already setup 5 Peace Corps exams today! She also said the next exam would be 6 weeks out, unless there was a cancellation...I told her to go ahead and setup the appointment...

Here's my plan: when I get my medical clearance papers, I will stop in at my doctor's office and ask them what it would cost for the required exams (which are listed in the clearance papers) and how much would be paid by my insurance...if it's not much, I will schedule an appointment with my doctor instead of the VA...

to be continued...

Monday, November 29, 2004

Go Small

Tonight I am a little melancholy.

I'm trying to use a lesson from the book/movie "Touching the Void".

    When a task seems too large, go small and get as far as you can, and then do it again.

Friday, November 26, 2004

I Am Afraid

I am about halfway through "A Human Being Died That Night". The book describes a series of interviews with Eugene de Kock, the "Prime Evil". He was the commanding officer of state-sanctioned death squads under apartheid in South Africa.

I came upon a quote from de Kock:

    "The question of whether what we did was legal or not did not come into the picture. How we did it was not important. The results were. People wanted to see results. They wanted to know that we were rooting out what at the time we called terrorism."

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Another Geas Cast Upon Me

Every now and then it seems as if a geas (pronounced "gesch") has been cast upon me by some unseen, magical, agent of adventure.

I say geas, because I get these undeniable urges to do some particular thing that I know will end up being more significant then it first appears.

My latest geas is to read the book "A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness". As soon as I saw the book, I knew I had to read it; and I left my house quickly to find it -- geases typically do this to me.

My spirit is happy because people like Pumla are here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Some Lasts (At Least for A While)

I just realized this could be my last Thanksgiving in the States for a couple years...that's a strange feeling (I should mention, I didn't think of this on my own, my recruiter mentioned it to me in an email).

This thought direction is propelling me to see the coming holidays in a more powerful and present light.

It looks like schedules will work out so that I am alone on Thanksgiving day -- that feels appropriate to me. I plan to spend the day thinking deeply about lasts.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Last Tooth

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 am the last errant tooth in my mouth finally gets its long coming attitude adjustment.

The VA called back today and left a voicemail for me. Tomorrow I will call the number and try to setup my medical exam with the VA -- I never thought I would be getting a free medical exam from the VA.

This kinda thing always makes me wonder what other surprises my life has in store for me.

Note to my Life: I love surprises, so get busy and throw some at me!

Monday, November 22, 2004

I Want to Understand

Last night, I saw a play called "Permanent Collection". The play explored the powerful impact of a particular virulent form of racism -- the extremely subtle form.

A key phrase from the play sticks in my mind:

    We [the minority] spend our whole life trying to understand you [the majority], while you [the majority] do not even care enough to try to understand us [the minority].

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Good Friends

Tonight, my good friend Dan is taking me out for an African celebration. He wanted to celebrate my nomination with me.

First, we are going to an African restaurant, The Blue Nile, and then to a play that has an African theme.

Dan is one of those kinds of friends that makes my heart smile.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Gods Must Be Crazy -- Or Maybe It's Just Me

Yesterday, I became a little bit more technology enhanced. I now have two exquisite, robotically machined, computer designed, synthetic teeth in my mouth.

Warning - Brief Mental Tangent

    Maybe all of this dental work will have a strange, unexpected side-effect. Maybe I'll find I can read the minds of women if I bite my new teeth together in just the right fashion -- oh ya, that's a left over image from a movie by the road warrior dude.

(Now you know the types of thoughts I live with every day...)

One more dental appointment to go and my teeth are finally ready for the Peace Corps.

I'm really excited to receive my medical packet in the mail. When I get it, I'll take a picture of it and post it (in all it's paperish glory) to this blog. I've never been so excited to receive a bunch of blank forms!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Those 18 Special Little Words

This morning I woke to find one of those wonderful, coveted, automated, Peace Corps status change email messages in my inbox.
Whenever my status officially changes, I get an automated notification from the Peace Corps. This time the notification occurred because I transitioned from "Applicant" to "Nominee". The messages are short and sweet:
    "Peace Corps has updated your Application Status account. Log in to your toolkit to see the latest information."
When I logged into my toolkit, I was surprised to find a whole new set of web links available for me (information about timelines, medical and legal clearance...).
When I was given my toolbox, I posted a picture of status screen in my blog. Here to continue the tradition is my new status screen!

I've scheduled my next dental appointment (2 of 3) for Thursday morning at 7:00 am -- I couldn't think of anything better to do at 7:00 am on an Thursday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Not the Status Quo

I have been nominated. This is a key step that begins my journey through the rest of the Peace Corps process.

I'm finally in the national pool!

In official terms, I have been nominated for the program:

  • Computer Science; number: 163 06 1 B1

What exactly is a nomination you ask?

  • A nomination is a recommendation that my application be given further consideration. My file is being sent to the Placement Unit at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, DC, where several important screenings take place and where assignment matches for qualified prospective volunteers are finalized.

What does my nomination guarantee?

  • It guarantees that I have made it to the next step in the Peace Corps process -- any or all of the following can change after nomination: geographic region, type of program, and leave date (oh, and least wanted, potential rejection from the Peace Corps).

So, what's next?

  • Now I begin the marathon process of medical and legal clearance. Medical clearance can be a very long process -- 60 days is average! I should be receiving my medical paperwork in two weeks.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Jump In!

OK, I should probably stop thinking about Africa -- it's not a for sure kinda deal.

What the hell, life's short -- it's more fun to jump in!

I acquired a map of Africa from the web and used a virtual piece of yellow chalk (it's cheap, readily available, and never runs out) to color in my potential destinations (well, all except the Cape Verde islands because they're not shown on the map).

Click on the thumbnail below to see the full-size version:

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What A List!

I have been doing some rudimentary research (it's always fun to use "rudimentary" in a sentence -- I should be in bed right now).

I have tried to make a list of all the African countries that meet the following criteria:

    1. They are served by the Peace Corps.
    2. French is not one of their official languages.

There is a chance that one of these places could be my new home for over two years:

  • Botswana
  • Cape Verde
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritania
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • South Africa
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • The Gambia
  • Uganda
  • Zambia

This is definetly very thrilling!

4 Slots

Here’s the scoop.

I am being nominated for a gig in Africa that leaves on November 14th, 2005. The assignment is teaching schools and communities aspects of computer hardware and software. There are only four slots available and the position is open to candidates nationwide.

I have no idea where in Africa -- the only clue is this:

  • It’s not a French speaking African country

I will find out next Monday afternoon (November 15th) if I have made the cut into one of the four slots!

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Tribute

I sold my TV today. It feels kinda weird not to have a TV.

Well, if you get technical, I still have an small black and white TV (the kind with knobs that turn) out in the garage; my computer monitor has a built-in TV tuner; and my oldest daughter has a TV in her bedroom.

Selling the TV was a big message to myself that I am serious about having fewer things. The TV wasn't hurting anything up in its nice stand. I could have kept it, until just before I left for the Peace Corps -- it wouldn't have gotten spoiled just sitting there. It was a cool TV, and I am a gadget boy, so it was no small thing for me to sell it.

In a strange way, I feel a little naked with out it.

As a tribute to my TV, I put a big, empty, glass blown head where my TV used to be.

In 2000, 98% of all US households had at least one TV. (source)

Time is a Changing

I’m at a movie theatre waiting to go to a movie – it starts in an hour. I’ve decided to sit around and watch people while trying to organize my thoughts by writing this post for my blog.

I am excited about the voice message my recruiter left for my on Friday. I now believe it’s for sure that I will be nominated, and it will probably happen very soon – one more hurdle about to be jumped.

As expected, jumping such a hurdle leads to joy and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. In the Peace Corps process, it also leads to new, sometimes unexpected feelings. Feelings caused by a realization of (and focus on) the next, new hurdle. This is even more extreme in the Peace Corps process, because all of the hurdles seem so very different!

I was surpised by a new feeling I am having now. November 14th, 2005 is a really looong way away. It’s over a year away… For months, I have been planning on leaving in October and that did not seem far away to me; why does November seem so far away right now?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Some News is Good News

Good news: My recruiter called today!

Bad news: I was in a meeting.

Good news: She left a message with some info, and said I should call her back before 3:30 to get the whole scoop -- otherwise I could call on Monday.

Bad news: My meeting lasted until 4:00...

My recruiter has found a potential gig for me in Africa, leaving mid-November 2005 -- it's getting exciting!

PS: The nomination date has been moved back again.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Calm Excitement

I am waiting with calm excitement for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, there is a good chance my recruiter will send me information on one or more gigs. If I receive the info, I know I will immediately want to begin researching the potential gigs.

As soon as I have the information, I will post it to this site!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

One Moment Please

Every moment before, every decision, every action, reaction, and dream has led me to this moment and helped determine who I am right now.

Every moment after will be built upon what I do next.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Ties that Bind

I've been thinking lot about the ties between culture and values. For the past few days, I have been google-ing through the web for some insight. Tonight, I was surprised to see the word “values” used in a definition of culture:

    "Culture is a group which shapes a person's values and identity." (source)

For most of my life, I have not paid much attention to where my values came from -- they kinda were just there. When I did think about them, I mostly attributed them to who I was; not tied in any way to my culture.

This definition makes me wonder even more what will happen as I am immersed in a new culture. It also helps me explain some of the changes I am undergoing as I begin to identify myself with a different group -- values are not as immutable as I have thought.

The same article had an statement that nailed a feeling I have, but previously could not easily put into words:

    "Often people of the mainstream America, the Anglo culture, perceive their behavior and beliefs as an ultimate norm, forgetting that Anglo culture is just one of the multiple cultures..."

I feel very sad when people view the rest of the world as wrong because the rest of the world does not have normal values.

Friday, October 29, 2004


If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed an underlying theme to many of my posts. I haven’t been trying to do that on purpose. It’s kinda just happened that way.

For much of my life, I have been focusing on becoming a good listener and understander of other people.

The last few years, a number of things happened in my life which pushed me in another direction – focusing on becoming a good listener and understander of myself. I know this has changed my life for the better.

As I have been learning to listen to myself, I have noticed some strange things (about myself – go figure) and experienced previously unnoticed feelings.

Tonight is no exception. I know there is something going on inside of me – it has been there for the last few days. I also know that if I stop and listen, I will learn what it is.

The strange thing is that I am avoiding listening. I'm doing all those things I do when I am trying to escape from myself. All this effort to avoid is making slightly annoyed and kinda tired.

I’m guna be brave and go listen to myself now.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

I just started reading one of the most funny books I have ever read - "The Sex Lives of Cannibals".

It's a non-fiction book about a man that follows his wife to a small island in the South Pacific. They live there for over two years while she does Peace Corps-like work.

In just the first 20 pages, I have caught myself laughing out loud more times than any other book I have read. Check out this . Here is an excerpt describing a night in a hotel, halfway to their new island home:

    “In our room, which was not a bad room, I spent much of the night like a taunted monkey in a cage, lurching from wall to wall flinging my sandals at the insidious creatures [cockroaches], and when my tally reached five dead cockroaches, I thought it was safe to attempt sleep. And then I felt it. It was scrambling up my back, a sharp pitter-patter with razor fur burning my skin. I knew that very soon I would have a cockroach in my ear. Instinct took over. I emitted a primal scream and bounced out of the bed. Slyvia did likewise. She does not like to be woken up suddenly. I calmly explained the situation and she was thoughtful enough to summon with some urgency several higher-power characters in Christian theology.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Nomination, Here I Come!

My recruiter got back to me today with some very good news.

She said the quarter opening was pushed back a week (from November 1st to November 8th). She will be able to see potential gigs the week before the quarter opens.

Here’s where it gets good: she is going to contact me on November 5th to talk about nomination options!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Mini News Flash - 2K

Today, this website reached the 2K mark -- more than 2,000 pageloads since its creation!

Keeping In Touch

Well, I just sent a quick note to my Peace Corps recruiter to let her know that I am still here, and ready for the next step in the process. It's exciting to be at a point were another step forward can occur (6 days before nomination could occur).

I'm going to Barnes and Noble (one of my favorite places to go) to find a book about the impact of culture on values.

Have a great night!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Some Random Mutterings

I remember watching a skit on TV (it might have been from the show Laugh In) where a young man decided to help an old woman across a busy street. As the man started to take her across, she began to hit him with her cane, repeatedly -- she never wanted any help...

Help is one of those strange morphing gifts.

It's weird how quickly help can morph into control. Once it becomes control, it isn't even a gift at all, it's the opposite.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Virtual Garage Sale Begins

Getting ready for the Peace Corps means organizing many aspects of my life; especially on the material belongings front. I'll have to store, sell, or give away what I can't take with me.
I've been reducing my belongings for a while now (even before the Peace Corps thing) -- these are some of the last hold-outs.
I thought about having a normal garage sale, but then the techno-geek side of my personality (the dark side) forced me to create a web-based garage sale.
I plan to post links to my garage sale on my work's employee news database. I am also going to post fliers around the neighborhood with the hot items displayed. The fliers will have pull-offs with my phone number and URL.

The Countdown Begins

There are now less than 10 days before I can be nominated!

I am getting very excited. A couple of days before the 1st, I am going to send an email to my recruiter to remind her that I am still here, and ready to go!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

One High Tech Dentist

Tooth #1 is fixed -- two more to go!

The dentist was great; what's not to like about a dental office called "Serenity Oaks"? Even better, they are the most high-tech dentist I have ever been to (and I am a gadget boy).

Here is what they did:

  1. Took a 3-d picture of my tooth.
  2. Removed the old filling from my tooth -- leaving behind a mere shell.
  3. Used a laser to reshape some of the soft tissue around my tooth.
  4. Took another 3-d picture of the shell.
  5. Created a computer model of an inlay using a wireless CAD computer (I got to watch the whole process).
  6. Created the inlay by sending the CAD information to an onsite robotic milling machine (it took 15 minutes to create).
  7. Glued the new inlay into the shell of my original tooth.

I was eating lunch two hours later!

Tooth #2 is another inlay. Tooth #3 is a traditional cap.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Stealth Mode is Off -- Let's Feed the Goal

Well, I have just come out of stealth mode and back to the land of the blogging!

Today, I called the dentist to setup my first of three "get ready for the Peace Corps" dental appointments. My appointment is for 8:00 am Wednesday morning (tomorrow) -- that's pretty early for a dental appointment...

I have not had much time to think about the Peace Corps lately -- well, that's not exactly true. I think about the Peace Corps every day. I guess what I mean is this: I have not taken the time lately to continue my prep for the Peace Corps.

Writing in this blog one of the best ways I have to prepare for the Peace Corps (the other is reading the Yahoo! Peace Corps forum). Posting to this blog on a regular basis forces me to think about the things I need to do:

  • to be successful getting into the Peace Corps
  • to be prepared for service in the Peace Corps

For me, to keep my goals alive, I need to think of a way to feed them. This blog has turned out to be a wonderful a way to feed my Peace Corps goal -- I never planned for that, it just happened. I've always known that I can feed my goals by telling them to other people, I just never made the connection that a blog could serve the same purpose.

Stopping blogging (for a few days) has just made me realize how important an energy source it is to me. My word to the wise for the week:

Know your goals' energy sources, and guard them well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Stealth Mode

I am going to be in stealth mode for the rest of the week.

This Saturday I am hosting a slide show party at my house. The slides are from the trip my daughters and I took to China this summer.

So, I am feverishly preparing a wonderous PowerPoint presentation with a choice selection of the pictures from our trip -- I should have started working on it weeks ago...

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

3D Movie

I'm sitting in the Wilde Roast Cafe in downtown Minneapolis.

I am experiencing a strange sort of detached feeling -- it's not a bad feeling -- it's a calm feeling.

There are sounds going on all around me. None of the sounds are so loud that they destroy the other sounds. I can direct my ears towards the Jazz singer in the background or the couple talking to the left of me. I can hear the group of friends behind me laughing with each other and the sounds from the kitchen. When I look out the window, I see cars floating by.

It almost feels like I'm watching a 3D movie that is happening all around me. Like I'm here, but not impacting what is happening. I don't feel lonely, just seperate.

I entered this detached state, when I realized that in a little while, I will be far from here, in a very different place. It's kinda like this place I am in now is becoming less real -- I think to make room for the next place.

(I know the soonest I could go is October 2005, but it actually doesn't feel far away to me)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Peace Corps Stats

I've been trying to find some juicy Peace Corps statistics for a while now. There does not seem to be many sources of said statistics.

With that said, I have found a few interesting stats. Here they are, in no particular order:

Application Statistics (compiled from a variety of sources):

  • The Peace Corps receives over 120,000 inquiries each year from people interested in applying.
  • The Peace Corps receives approximately 11,000 applications each year.
  • There are approximately 4,000 volunteer positions available each year (36%).

Electricity availability (from a 1997 survey)

  • 50% of PCVs always had electricity
  • 25% of PCVs lived with electricity sometimes
  • 25% of PCVs lived with no electricity

Water availability (from a 1997 survey)

  • 42% of PCVs had reliable sources of running water
  • 30% of PCVs sometimes had running water
  • 28% of PCVs had no running water

Email availability (from a 1997 survey)

  • 7% of PCVs always had access to email
  • 8% of PCVs sometimes had access to email
  • 85% of PCVs never had access to email

Weight gain/loss

  • Most men lost weight while serving
  • Most women gained weight while serving (just a few pounds)


This Blog Now Sporting PSAs 24x7

I have been working with Google's Adsense group to find a way to have only public service announcements (PSAs) show up on my web.

They have been wonderfully responsive and just today made changes to their system so that only PSAs would show up on my site (in the little box just below my web page title on the right).

Thanks Google's Adsense -- you guys rock!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Aspiring PCV Resources

One thing that all aspiring PCVs seem to have in common, is a search for information about the Peace Corps. With that in mind, I am starting to compile a list of grade A resources about becoming (and being) a PCV -- at least that way I feel like I am doing something while I am waiting...
I put a link to the list in my "Quick Links" section to the right. Here it is again for your browsing convenience.

Monday, October 04, 2004

This and That

Well, finally there is less than a month left before I can be nominated!

I am currently reading the book "So You Want To Join the Peace Corps". It describes the entire Peace Corps life-cycle (from getting pregnant in the host country to readjusting to life back in the States).

According to the book, when I am nominated, I will be told the following things:

  • the Peace Corps program I have been assigned to (IT, education, small business, forestry...)
  • the region of the world I will most likely serve
  • the language requirements of the region
  • my approximate date of departure

Neither of the two potential motorcycle buyers showed up this weekend -- oh well. If I don't get it sold this fall I will try to sell it in the spring. Maybe I'll have enough money saved up so that I can keep it!

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

What Seeds?

Who Knows What Seeds We Plant In Others
(or which ones we water)

About once a month, a certain memory passes through my thoughts -- I think it is looking for an outlet.

I had been in Nepal for about three weeks. During the entire trip I relentlessly practiced my Nepali language skills on anyone that would listen. Given any chance, I would whip out my Nepali language phrase book and begin uttering. As a result, I had learned a few common Nepali phrases. I could confidently handle the first three minutes of any initial conversion.

I was in Kathmandu, and had been there for about three days. I was comfortable with the surroundings, and had already bought most of the gifts I had planned to buy. I decided to spend a whole day just walking around talking to whomever would listen.

Each session with a new stranger would start out with me attempting to speak in Nepali. After no time at all, I would bust out my Nepali phrase book and together we would slowly become acquaintances sharing the small, tattered book with each other.

During one of these sessions I was talking with a shop keeper. About halfway through, he asked me if I was with the Peace Corps. I remember thinking:

    I wish I could say yes -- It would be so cool if I could say yes -- Even a stranger sees that potential in me -- why aren't I in the Peace Corps?

This memory has been a frequent visitor of my consciousness ever since.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

A Magic Mirror

Someplace I read (or heard) about a type of magic mirror -- instead of seeing myself when I looked into it, I would see how others perceived me.

    I think a more powerful magic (than the magic in the mirror) would be the magic found in a magic book whose pages told me what to do with what I saw in a magic mirror...

I have had a rare chance to experience something like the magic mirror. Through work, I was able to have a 360 degree review/survey of my performance and tendencies. The survey canvassed people I work with: peers, supervisors, and direct reports.

There are some comments and scores in the results that have been difficult for me to accept. I felt sad after reading them and I began to wonder:

Why don't they understand me?
(they should try harder to understand me)

It's very surprising to me how much misunderstanding can occur between people from the same culture, language, profession, company, and workgroup. Sometimes I feel that people try harder not to understand each other than they try to understand each other.

After I typed the previous sentence, I realized:

I should not be asking why don't they understand me. I should instead be asking myself:

Why don't I understand them?

Magic Mirror
(Text for the Book of Thoughts)

Because I don't know where to buy a magic mirror, I have had to invent my own. Whenever I catch myself thinking:

Why don't they understand me?

I will think of a mirror, and reflect this question into:

Why don't I understand them?

Friday, October 01, 2004

New Teeth Can't Be Far Away

Another person called about my motorcycle today -- she is going to check it out this weekend.

I would have stared at you in disbelief, if you would have told me last year that I would be selling my bike, so that I could fix my teeth, so that I could get in the Peace Corps.

This is starting to remind me of the song "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea"...

Have a good night!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Details to Dental

Well, the good news is: someone is interested in my bike. They will probably come and check it out this weekend. So, to get ready for them, I spent a hour detailing her (of course, my bike is a girl). And yes, she does have a girl-sportbike type name.

As soon as I sell my bike, I can begin my dental repairs. I'm hoping to have those repairs done by November 1st so that I do not have to delay my medical submission waiting for my teeth.

Only if my bike was a chopper, than I could say:

I'm selling my chopper for some new choppers.

(forgive me, it was just too hard to resist)

I was just thinking:

  • I wonder what other medical deficiencies the Peace Corps medical tests will discover?
  • I wonder if they will be bloggable?
  • I wonder if they should be blogged?

(of course I'll write about them -- it's always more fun to write about secrets, especial if they're taboo)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A Peace Corps Paradox

Chapter 1: A Paradox Appears

There are a few questions from my interview that have continued to stick in the back of my mind. The questions hinted at an interesting paradox that can occur for Peace Corps volunteers.

The Peace Corps has a three-part mission:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.

During my interview, I was asked questions about my ability to flex myself into another culture. They were trying to find out if I could be a cultural chameleon. There are very good reasons for this -- things like personal safety and acceptance.

This "request for conformity" and the Peace Corps mission seems to lead to a paradox:

    How can I teach others about my country and myself, if I have to become like them and conform to their culture?

Chapter 2: A Team is Formed

I once worked for a large company that was experiencing significantly above average attrition in their minority workforce. The heads of the company created a "tiger team" to study the issue, document the causes, and propose solutions.

Initially, the team was made entirely of members from the minority workforce. Shortly after they were formed, the team determined they needed a member from the majority workforce to help gauge potential backlash from any of their proposed solutions. To this day, I am still surprised and happy that they picked me.

Chapter 3: An Answer is Found

My first days on the team were difficult. Normally, at meetings, I was used to speaking out, and speaking a lot. During the first days, the issues discussed were foreign to me, and when I spoke (or attempted to speak) I realized (and others realized too) that I knew very little about what I was trying to talk about. I could tell that I was loosing my chance to be a contributor because I did not really understand the issues at hand.

I quit trying to be who I was, and I started to just listen, watch, and help with basic tasks. I was learning and absorbing -- not trying to teach others who I was.

At some point during the process, People started asking me questions. They were also listening to my opinions and conclusions. It was a seamless transition that came on so slowly that I did not notice it until it had been going on for some time.

During our post-mortem. One of the team members said (paraphrased because I can not remember it exactly):

    When Jay joined the team, I felt there was no way he would be able to understand our issues and concerns. Now I know that's not true. He has changed my opinion of him and others like him. I have seen him learn, understand, and empathize with our issues.

Chapter 4: My Answer

How can I teach others about my country and myself, if I have to become like them and conform to their culture?

To be accepted by people of another culture, I must first seek to fully understand their culture, the people, and issues they face -- I must walk in their shoes as much as possible.

Initially, just my presence may seem so different and could cause skepticism in the people that I am with. I will have to show them I can learn, understand, and empathize.

The process of first seeking to understand, will in the end, teach others the best thing about my culture and myself.

(This is definitely going into my book of thoughts)

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Time Between

For a long time, I felt like I didn't fully fit in with the things that were going on around me. I did not feel as interested, as others seemed to be, in certain popular aspects of society.

Every now and then, I would find people that seemed more like me than most others. Sadly, the occurrence of these people was so rare that I would forget what is was like to be with such a person during the time between occurrences.

I am surprised, happy, and drawing a lot of energy from the fact that through research and preparation for the Peace Corps, I am meeting many people that have some major wavelengths in common with me.

I feel like I have found a home for the parts of me that did not have a place to go before.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Repairs -- Ouch!

It looks like the dentist is going to be able to buy a new motorcycle; I now have 1,493 more reasons to sell mine...

Chalk up $2,985.00 worth of repairs to:

  • 3 molars, each mostly comprised of disintegrating fillings
  • one slightly decayed tooth
  • one exposed root

The good news is my dental insurance will pay for half. The bad news is that half of a big number can still be big.

During my lunch at work, I posted my motorcycle for sale on the web. Posting it in my work's classified ads yesterday was at best, a half-hearted attempt to sell it.

Now, I definitely need to sell the bike so that I can stay on track with my "get out of debt" schedule.

I am starting to see how getting ready for the Peace Corps can really force a person to view their life from a different perspective. Another aspiring Peace Corps volunteer, Kerry Boutell, said it best with this statement:

    "I have been in the process of getting my entire life in order so I could continue with the Peace Corps process."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Getting Ready for Medical Clearance

Last night, I posted a message on a wonderful Yahoo! Peace Corps forum. I asked if there was anything I could do to prepare for my medical clearance -- anything that could make the process easier.

One recommendation was to get my teeth in order. So today I setup an appointment, for tomorrow, to see a dentist.

At 10:00 am central time tomorrow, I will be enjoying a hearty teeth cleaning.

Hopefully they will not find anything that needs to be repaired...

Debt Elimination Shifts Gears

Today I shifted my debt elimination project into the next gear.

[I need to be debt free by the time I enter the Peace Corps.]

First, I woke up and cut-up my credit card. I still have some lingering debt associated with it (left over from the trip to China). I must not add any more liability to it!

Second, before leaving for work this morning, I took a picture of my motorcycle. When I got to work, I used the picture to create a quick electronic posting in our company classifieds listing my motorcycle for sale. I will be sad to see it go.

This is how I have convinced myself to sell it:

  • I could use the money to greatly reduce my debt.
  • I can save money on reduced insurance costs.
  • I don't feel that it makes sense to store it for two years -- especially because I am not sure what I will be doing when I complete my service with the Peace Corps.
  • I can always buy a cheaper bike if I need one; when I get back.

If you know anyone looking for a nice sport bike, send 'em my way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Paths -- Addendum

Although we can not easily change another's path,
we can at times wake them
so they can see their own path with clarity;
sometimes this is done with the smallest of questions.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Emergency Kit Item #6 -- My Path

Today, in my native land and culture, I see many people headed in directions I don't understand. When I don't pay attention to my thoughts, I become impatient and judgmental of these people.

I would imagine that when I am in a different land surrounded by a different culture, I will see even more people headed in directions I do not understand. I do not want to become impatient or judgmental of them, rather I want to watch with an open mind and learn more about the path they are on.

Sometimes when I am impatient or judgmental in this way, thinking about a simple fact can help me become less:

We are all moving along our own path.

[No, I did not forget any words, I wanted to end the sentence with less.]
[It makes sense if you think about it.]

Item #6 -- My Path

I am going to write this in my thought book. On the opposite page I will draw a simple path leading into the page.

We are all moving along our own path.
This is my path.
Do not confuse my path with the path of others.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Thinking Less

I keep trying to write a posting about sharing and how people that have a lot seem to share less than people with very little, but I can not write it...

    Tonight, I had just finished supper with my daughter and her boyfriend in downtown Minneapolis. I took them to a very friendly, smallish part of the city. We were walking down a street I am familiar with when I remembered a wonderful Ukrainian restaurant that was nearby. The restaurant often has live folk music from eastern Europe. I convinced my daughter and her boyfriend to come with me down the street a little further.
    There happened to be a band playing. A rather large band (about 20 people). As soon as I stepped into the restaurant, I noticed a very beautiful woman playing some sort of strange stringed instrument.
    As soon as I saw her, even before I could think about doing anything (or about not doing something) I found myself eagerly waving and warmly smiling at her like she was a close friend not seen for a long while. The wave and smile just popped out of me. I had not planned or even thought about it. It was completely impulsive and wonderful -- I have always wanted to be the type of person that did that type of thing but was always thinking so much that it never happened.

      And guess what: she smiled back -- in that happy, sweet, slightly embarrassed way.

                The place had a very warm feeling, and as I looked around, many people warmly smiled back at me (my heart was leaping). I felt so in touch with myself and my own joy. It was like the feelings I had while being in small towns in Nepal or China.
                The music was great and we stayed as long as my daughter and her boyfriend could stand it. As we walked away from the restaurant, we happened to pass by the window that was just behind the band. The beautiful woman with the strange stringed instrument came to the window and smiled at me again, in a brave, happy way.
                Now, her smile keeps bumping into my thoughts.

              There will be no Peace Corps-type posting tonight, because my thoughts have been hijacked by a smile from beautiful woman with a strange stringed instrument.

              Thursday, September 16, 2004

              Only Dreams

              Life will go by very quickly.
              In an instant it will have happened.

              Do not wait for another time to do those things that you dream of.

              Wednesday, September 15, 2004

              Symptoms of Chronic Peace Corps Withdrawal

              An interesting topic related to being a Peace Corps volunteer is:

              • How does it feel to be a returning Peace Corps volunteer?

              I have read about the strange and unexpected reactions people have upon returning to the States. The following list is taken from a Peace Corps "Completion of Service" manual. It describes some common reactions and feelings experienced by returning Peace Corps volunteers.

              Fifteen Symptoms of Chronic Peace Corps Withdrawal

              1. Guilty feelings about your indulgent lifestyle.
              2. Salivating when you hear poly-rhythmic music.
              3. Decorating more than two rooms of your house with host country memorabilia.
              4. The desire to do everything outdoors.
              5. Confusion between "immediately" and "by next week".
              6. Greetings exceeding three sentences or eight seconds.
              7. Making deprecating comments about American beer.
              8. Subscribing to magazines normally found only in libraries.
              9. Anxiety induced insomnia from lack of mosquito net in bedroom.
              10. A fixation with ethnic restaurants.
              11. Feeling nostalgic when your commuter bus is filled to over capacity.
              12. Involuntarily using foreign swear words and interjections.
              13. The inability to use the left hand when making cash transactions.
              14. Reaching for the pepper before the salt.
              15. Considering yourself better informed about third world countries than top level state department officials.

              Tuesday, September 14, 2004

              High-risk Altruist

              High-risk: Being particularly subject to potential danger or hazard.

              Altruist: Someone who makes charitable donations intended to increase human well-being.

              Article that coined the phrase

              High-risk + Altruist = Me!

              (What do you expect after two strong margaritas)

              Sunday, September 12, 2004

              In an Instant

              I have been thinking about my perception of time. I've been trying to notice when I am patient with time, and when I am impatient with time. I know that many times when I get lost, I begin to become impatient with time -- time starts to matter more:

              Time starts to close in around me.

              In this state, I become very aware that time is running out. I recognize I am not where I should be, or at least not going where I should be going. As soon as I become un-lost, time seems to fall away; I take a deep breath and feel very relaxed.

              The fact that moving from lost to un-lost can happen so quickly makes it a wonderful event to study. One moment I have no idea where I am at; the next moment I see something familiar and all is well -- the situation completly changes in an instant. One moment I am impatient with time; the next I am patient with it.

              This analogy is important, because these last few days I have been feeling much more patient with time; I've taken a gi-normous deep breath and feel very relaxed. Something has changed in an instant.

              I now admit that I was feeling lost in my life. It was a subtle (but strong) feeling of being lost. Sometimes it would appear to me as loneliness, but that was only a symptom. I was headed in the wrong direction and time was beginning to close in around me.

              I was surprised (and a little unnerved) how quickly and intensely my feelings changed a few days ago until I started thinking about what usually happens when I move from being lost to un-lost.

              Friday, September 10, 2004


              I'm still feeling really happy inside. This is very strange to me -- I need to figure out the source of this feeling...

              [Insert a long pause here while I think]

              I think I am feeling the joy of knowing my life is heading in a direction that is true to my core. I guess I have never felt this way before, because I have always known there was something more I should be doing -- some responsibility unanswered.

              Here is my hypothesis: Something must have clicked inside of me, once I decided that no matter what, I would be going out into the world to help those in most need (see this post) -- the next night is the night I woke up happy and not worried about the Peace Corps process!

              For so long, I have been rationalizing the value of what I am currently doing -- I did not realize the toll it was taking on me. So much is changing inside of me right now, parts of me are waking up that have been asleep for a long time.

              It's time to get up!

              PS: Writing in this journal really does help me to understand myself -- I often make self discoveries as I write a post. Also, I know I would not be writing if you were not reading what I wrote (of course, I have a hit counter). Thank you for being a part of my life!

              Thursday, September 09, 2004

              Emergency Kit Item #5 -- Adventure

              One of the quickest ways I can get into a good mood is by going on an adventure. The anticipation of encountering something unexpected (the expectation of the unexpected...) gets me all wound up.

                Once a friend and I went to the airport. We had carefully packed a large assortment of clothing and gear. We knew we were going somewhere far -- we just didn't know where.
                At the airport, we started talking with a ticketing agent. We asked the agent to find the best deal tickets to some other country leaving as soon as possible. The agent found round trip tickets to Spain for just over $600! About an hour later, we were on the plane to Spain.
                Sitting back today, I can still feel the excitement I felt then, as I walked onto the plane.

              The times I find the most adventures are those times when I am paying careful attention to what is going on in the present. When things are at their best, one adventure leads right into the next!

              Item #5 -- Adventure

              I am going to write this message to myself in my thought book and I will draw big 3-d arrows pointing in all directions on the opposite page:

                Go on an adventure right now! I mean it, set this book down and go to a new place.

              Wednesday, September 08, 2004

              Strange Energy

              Warning*, this is my strangest post yet...

              *Journal disclaimer: the thoughts in this post represent the current state of the writer's mind, and should in no way be expected to make complete sense.

              All day today, I have felt a strange, positive (yet chaotic) energy inside of me. I know, this sounds strange; when I sit quietly and slow my thoughts, I feel steady warmth in my chest. It is the warmth of uncontrolled happiness.

              Last night, I woke up around 1:00 am. I was feeling strangely happy and for some unknown reason, I was no longer worried about not making it into the Peace Corps. I don't know why I was no longer worried, and I don't remember waking up happy like that before.

              My brain feels extremely uncluttered, but my thoughts are slightly distracted by the strange energy. Every now and then, a burst shoots into my consciousness and plays with my thoughts in a happy, teasing sort of way that makes me smile.

              When I am feeling sad, it can be easy for me to focus on the sadness and let it start to encompass me. Now that this strange happiness is in me, I am going to focus on it and let it pleasantly start to encompass me.

              Has anyone else felt this way before?

              Tuesday, September 07, 2004

              EK and BOT -- Who Would Have Guessed?

              I have started to consolidate the meager beginnings of my emergency kit and my Book of Thoughts into to online HTML documents:
              There are not a lot of details in either document yet -- I'm not sure why I felt compelled to create separate web pages for them. I guess it's because I hope they will become significant documents in the future.
              The Book of Thoughts looses some of its effect rendered with computer based fonts. Maybe I will scan the pages of the real book (after I make it) and post them on its website. Sometimes it takes real hand writing to get the full message across.
              For Christmas last year, I made thought books for some members of my family. I guess this book will be for me. All I can say is that: I hope it gets to travel to another country.

              Monday, September 06, 2004

              Deep Down

              Deep down, I have always known that I was continually impacting the world. I tried to avoid thinking about it; because when I thought about it, I realized I had more responsibility than I wanted.

              The funny thing about responsibility is that once I have it, it's hard to get rid of, and not thinking about it doesn't always make it go away.

              The busier I was, the easier it was to not think about my responsibility to the world. If I was really busy, thoughts of my own tasks, problems, and dreams would completely push world thoughts out of my consciousness. In this busy state, life pleasantly zoomed by. I felt awake because of all my busy tasks, but really I was asleep to what was deep down inside of me.

              I did not realize what would eventually happen (it has taken a couple of years) when I decided to slow down my life and my thoughts. Strangely, when I freed up some space in my mind it got filled with things that really mattered, and I began to learn who I was.

              I am still working to free space up in my mind -- it's a continual battle. Although, now I wonder (with excitement) what I will discover next, hidden deep down in there.

              Sunday, September 05, 2004

              True and Best

              I have been reading posts from a very informative Yahoo! Group about being a Peace Corps volunteer. The group has a lot of information about individuals working through the process of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. I did not have to read very many posts to spot some very interesting trends:

              • Many people are waiting. They are waiting for clearance to the next step in the process, and it is hard for them to be patient.
              • Many of the people waiting to become volunteers are vigorously searching for more information on the process of becoming invited to the Peace Corps.
              • When someone is finally invited, there is a collective sigh of relief for the invitee, and I think, some small pangs of envy in others (like me).

              I am beginning to understand that two things are needed during the process of becoming an invitee:

              • Patience
              • Extra Patience

              I know for myself, once I decided to try for the Peace Corps, I began to imagine how it might change my life. I began to realize that finally there was a really good chance that I would be getting rid of most of my material belongings, going some place else, learning a new language, and helping in a way that I have only dreamed of before. These thoughts created a "fertile ground" for some core feelings and values deep within me. Already, since late July, those core feelings and values have grown and I feel like I am moving closer to the true and best me.

              Now, if I think about not making it into the Peace Corps, I become sad. Mostly because I am afraid I will loose that fertile ground and eventually be sucked back into the old equation for my life; and slowly, the movement towards a true and best me will become a memory.

              This means that I need a backup plan! I will make the following deal with myself:

              • If I do not make it into the Peace Corps, I will find a way to go out into this world to someplace where my skills can provide the most help for those in most need.

              Saturday, September 04, 2004

              Emergency Kit Item #4 -- Food For The Spirit

              There are times when my spirit feels tired. It's different than being physically tired -- in some ways its even more debilitating. It can also take more than rest and sleep to replentish my spirit. I am guessing that people experience a tired spirit during service in the Peace Corps. Before now, I have not consciously thought the things that feed and heal my spirit.

              [Insert considerable time here, while I think about those things that feed my spirit]

              Through the miracle of time-lapse writing, here is my list:

              • Breath meditation
              • Reading the right kind of book
              • Receiving a caring smile from another person
              • Giving someone a small, unexpected gift

              Item #4 -- Food For the Spirit

              I will carefully store the following items in my emergency kit:

              • A series of small, thoughtful gifts.
              • I will draw a small picture in my Book of Thoughts accompanied with the words "Smile More".
              • I will write the following phrase in my Book of Thoughts "Meditate More". I will draw a bunch of vines around the words.
              • The wonderful book "The Art of Being A Healing Presence" by James Miller & Susan Cutshal. This book has a strange an unexpected effect on me -- it gives me a feeling of serenity and provides a hearty meal for my spirit!

              Thursday, September 02, 2004

              Emergency Kit Item #3 -- Life Support

              Life support is defined as: equipment that makes life possible in otherwise deadly environmental conditions. Therefore, if you happen to be somewhere without oxygen, life support means getting oxygen to your lungs. If you are experiencing hypothermia, it means getting your body warm.

              So, if I want to add a life support component to my emergency kit, I need to consider the following environment:

              • I will be far from my friends and family.
              • The people I will be around will not know me and will probably not understand my personality.
              • It will be difficult to communicate with the people around me.
              • I will be expected to keep myself highly motivated.

              Item #3 -- Life Support

              1. I will ask my friends and family to find one of their favorite pictures of themselves.
              2. I will ask them to imagine I am kinda down and low on energy.
              3. I will ask them to write some words of support, encouragement, and love to me on the back of their picture.
              4. I will put the pictures in a water-proof, dent-proof, bug-proof container labeled "Personalized Life Support System".
              5. I will package the whole thing into my emergency kit.

              When I am feeling bad, I can bust out this reusable, self-sustaining, life support system and in an instant: see my family and friends and read their words of support!

              (This will also provide me with wonderful pictures to share with the new people I meet)

              Wednesday, September 01, 2004

              Some Bells For You

              Bells have a wonderful power over me. Their sound cuts deep and interrupts my consuming, seductive thoughts of the past and future so that I am free to focus on the present. Bells wake me up so that I can experience what is going on right now.

              Here are some beautiful yak bells from Nepal for you:

              Yak Bells

              Tuesday, August 31, 2004

              What do you do?

              When I am first introduced to a new person, I often count the moments until they ask me one of the following questions:

              • So, what do you do for a living?
              • Where do you work?

              (Ya, I know it's kind of a strange habit -- believe me, it's not my only strange habit)

              When people ask me those questions, I wonder if they are really trying to ask a question that will help them understand "who I am". Sometimes this makes me sad, because as I am describing my job to them, I know it is not telling them very much about who I am.

              (This also points out a basic need I have -- to be understood by others)

              I have a feeling that this same disconnect is true for other people -- their job does not describe much about who they are.

              What if your job was an expression of who you are?

              As an interesting aside, in some countries instead of asking about your job, people will ask:

              • What is your hobby?
              • What do you do for fun?

              Sunday, August 29, 2004

              Emergency Kit Item #2 -- Serenity

              There have been a few times in my life when I have felt very serene. It was a wonderful feeling which I found hard to explain to other people. I began searching for a definition of serenity that explained how it felt to me.

              I found a definition that matched, and it has become a part of me. When I am feeling bad, reading it helps me feel better. Therefore it will be a prime citizen of my emergency kit's book of thoughts.

              Item #2 -- Serenity

                Serenity: a spiritual experience of inner peace, trust, and connectedness that exists independently of external events.

              Saturday, August 28, 2004

              Emergency Kit Item #1 -- Magic Jewels

              I know there will be difficult times working as a Peace Corps volunteer, far from my family and friends. In preparation for those times, I have decided to build an emergency kit for myself (see this post). I am going to document the contents of that kit in this journal.

              The Tibetan book of the dead describes a very interesting process for helping someone that is dying. Here is my attempt to paraphrase that process:

                1. Sit very close to the person that is dying.
                2. Breath in as the dying person breaths out, imagining you are pulling the pain and death from the person that is dying.
                3. As you bring this pain and death into yourself, use it to destroy those bad things that are inside of you (hate, anger, loneliness...).
                4. When you breath out, breath out peace and happiness for the dying person to inhale.

              Trying to understanding the pain of others has helped me understand and then reduce my own pain -- sometimes it has even helped the other. Also, in a strange type of symbiosis, as I build compassion for other people I find I am more able to have compassion for myself, which helps me have more compassion for others...

              Item #1 -- Magic Jewels

                Compassionate thoughts are like beautiful jewels made of bright magic. Their magic is strong and over time can heal great pain.

                  (I'll write this phrase in my emergency kit's "book of thoughts")

                Update from the Recruiter

                I just found out more information about my nomination status. Nothing has actually changed with my status; just my understanding of how long I will have to wait before my status could possibly change:

                  The earliest I could be nominated into the national pool would be November 1st -- that is the day the Peace Corps will begin nominating volunteers for October 2005 deployment.

                Thursday, August 26, 2004

                Getting Stuck

                I have a friend that feels stuck.

                  I've felt stuck before, and it is a terrible sort of "non-feeling". I knew where I was at, and what I was supposed to do, but for some reason I could not do it. It was almost as if I was watching myself in a detached way, wondering when I would get going. Now that I think about it, its more like I was out of gas. From what I have read, this is a common feeling for Peace Corps volunteers at some point during their service.
                  I think I am going to make a list of all the things that give me gas (like refried beans) and then tuck the list away in a type of emergency kit for myself. I'll make the kit look official and fill it with all sorts of interesting things that make me smile. I include phrases and poems that help me through difficult times. I think I will also ask people to write me secret notes stored in sealed envelopes that say "Open in Case of an Emergency". I'll put the secret notes in an especially safe area of the emergency kit.

                I think I will give my friend a secret note in an sealed envelope that says "Open in Case of an Emergency".

                Moving Forward

                My Dad, Grandpa, and I used to fish for walleyes. Sometimes we fished at night, far from shore. Once while fishing at night, I looked out and studied the lights of all the cabins on the shore.

                I found it difficult to grasp that in each cabin the lives of unknown people moved forward, separate from my life.

                Now far from that night, I know that in fact we are all connected, and moving forward together.

                Wednesday, August 25, 2004

                The Path Ahead

                As of yet, I have not been accepted into the Peace Corps, and if I am, there are still a number of hurdles to cross. Here is what I have done so far:

                1. Applied
                2. Submitted references
                3. Had an interview

                Here is what I have left:

                1. Wait for nomination (into the national pool)
                2. Get medical and dental clearances
                3. Get legal clearance
                4. Get placed
                5. Wait for an invitation (upon receiving an invitation, the recipient has 10 days to review the invitation package and decide whether to accept it)

                I have decided that if I am not accepted into the Peace Corps, I will find some other way to go where the most help is needed. That thought is a little scary to me, because I have really become attached to the idea of being in the Peace Corps. The more I learn about the Peace Corps, the more I appreciate what it is trying to accomplish.

                Tonight I will send an email to my recruiter and ask her how things are going...

                Monday, August 23, 2004

                Not My Decisions

                Not everyone in my family is as excited about me trying to join the Peace Corps as I am. Actually, I think a better way to describe it would be: they have significant concerns. I guess that if our family was not a close family, they would not have so much concern. I can sense their angst -- they want me to go forward and meet the challenges of my life, and they also do not want to see me (or my children) suffer from decisions I may not understand completely. I know this is because they want me to live a happy, safe life...

                  One of my daughters is beginning to make big decisions regarding her life. This has been very hard for me. I don't think I want her to change -- I have become very used to how we are together and how she is (I mean was). I am also very scared at times because I do not think she realizes some of the very likely consequences of her decisions. I care for her so much -- I wish she could make it through life easy, without the big mistakes I made. I want her to be happy, and I am afraid the consequences of her decisions might lead to a more difficult life for her...

                  I have spent a great time thinking about what things I can say to my family to ease their concern. I have tried to tell them key thoughts that I have, in hopes that these might help them see what is in me, and why the Peace Corps is right for me. I think that this has left them confused, and me feeling empty. I have not come up with the magic words to make this easy for us...

                    I have been waiting for my daughter to say some magic words to me that will reduce my concern about her decisions and her future happiness. I can tell she has been searching for those words. I know that she wants me to be as happy about her future as she is. I can also see that she has also begun to feel sad because she can not find those words that I am waiting for. I can see now, as I am typing this, I am not making this easy for us...

                    It would be easier if my daughter would make the decisions I want her to make, but then I guess they would not be her decisions. She has been trying to tell me this, but my ears were filled with my fears of her future. Her love for me, and her patience with me have proven to be stronger than any magic words.

                  To my family: I love you, and I will be patient.

                  Saturday, August 21, 2004

                  Home Sweet Home

                  This weekend, my Dad is coming over to help me fix some parts of my house that need help. We don't have much time (or money) so we have to choose carefully where we are going to spend our time and my money. It only makes sense to work on the parts of the house where we can make the most difference in a short amount of time.

                  While driving home today, I started to wonder what would happen if we all felt that the world was our house. What if we knew that we only had a short time (to be here) to fix the things that really needed help.

                  Friday, August 20, 2004

                  How a Goal Is Changing What I Value

                  It's easy for me to understand how my values affect my choice of goals.

                  I never realized before, how much my goals also affect my values. Obviously, discord happens when I select a goal that does not match my values (but still, many of us do select mismatched goals for some strange reason -- a topic which would be fun to discuss over a few beers). I now see that when I select a goal that matches my values, a wonderful synergy starts to occur:

                    Slowly, behind the scenes, the goal strengthens my values (it hints and whispers to them that they are correct). My values being encouraged in such a way, begin to strengthen and validate the goal...
                    At this point I am reminded of the words of Eddie Brickell: "choke me in the shallow waters before I get too deep..."

                  Have a good night!

                  Who's Crazy?

                  I saw this ad for the Peace Corps and immediately felt at one with it!

                  Yes, I have been called crazy and weird, but I still wear my bell!

                  Thursday, August 19, 2004

                  Additive Bilingualism

                  "The majority of the world's population are bi- or multilingual. Even so, monolingualism often gets treated as the norm."

                  I know that I am in the minority on this one... I have often wondered how much of my thinking is impacted by the language I know. This has led me to ponder:

                  • How would my thinking change if I learned a second language?

                  I have talked with people about the process of learning a second language. Often times, these bilinguals describe to me, with great fondness, their first memories of dreaming in their second language. That has always sounded amazing and wondrous to me...

                    I hope I get the chance to dream in another language -- I wonder what I will say in the dream -- what if I don't understand myself? :-)

                  The first three months of Peace Corps service are spent in intensive language and cultural training. These first months are spent living in the host country with a host family. When the three months are completed, volunteers are sent to a new location in the host country where they will usually serve out their two years working with their host country counterpart. Volunteers do not learn their final destination until halfway through the language and cultural training.

                  I have been given the following expectations regarding language and culture:

                  • After the first three months of training, I will only have a rudimentary grasp of the language and culture.
                  • I will make cultural mistakes.
                  • Sometime after a year I will begin to feel comfortable with the language and the culture.
                  • It can get pretty lonely until language and cultural proficiency occurs.
                  • People may treat me in a child-like way because of my lack of language skills.

                  I am very excited about actually knowing another language, and because of some strange wiring in my head; I am just as excited about going through the process of learning a new language and culture -- mistakes and all!

                  Wednesday, August 18, 2004

                  Guess Who?

                  Guess who said this:

                    For more than 40 years, the Peace Corps has sent Americans to serve their country by serving the world. America has a new kind of force today. I mean, we're not only a great country, a great economic engine, and obviously a great military, we're a great idea. The greatness of the country is in the values we believe in -- freedom and hope and opportunity. We're a nation founded on just valuable principles. And the power of the idea cannot, and will not, be stopped at our borders.
                    The Peace Corps volunteers carry the American idea with them. They don't carry our culture; they carry universal values and principles that are so incredibly important for all of mankind. Peace Corps volunteers contribute in unaccountable ways to the countries to which they're assigned. They not only teach reading, English language skills, they introduce new business and farming methods, help spark economic development, promote training and modern technology, help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases. They make an incredibly important contribution to our fellow mankind.

                  Our current President, George Bush. I don't usually agree with President Bush , but on this topic we could not be in more agreement. I have to say, it felt very strange to type the previous sentence.

                  If you want to read the rest of his speach, visit this link:

                  Tuesday, August 17, 2004

                  What Can Stop the Desire for More?

                  I have often wondered what can stop my desire for more things. It seems like whenever I buy some special new thing (that should make me happier or make my life easier) I end up having to by more special new things...

                  I know each thing I buy owns a "little piece" of me. The more things I have, the less of me there is for me. Here is another way for me to say it:

                    Let's say I have a lot of things, and that each of those things has a claim on a little piece of me (because they require my time or money or attention...). It is very easy for me to have so many things that I am no longer able to appropriately concentrate on the care and feeding of myself, because I am occupied with the care and feeding of all those things.

                  A requirement of volunteering for the Peace Corps is that I have no debt, or prove how my debt will be taken care of while I am in the Peace Corps. Because of this requirement, I will have to sell my house, car, and most of my belongings. I know that in a year I will have very few things. The thought of being un-thing-ed has had an unexpected affect on my desire for more things...It has reduced that desire to a level I have not know for a long time. This is surprisingly comforting.

                  So You Wanna...

                  There is a neat website called They have interesting articles about all sorts of things you might (or might not) wanna do. I found their Peace Corps article to be very good, and it seemed to match up with what I had heard from other volunteers and my recruiter. Here is the link:

                  Monday, August 16, 2004

                  Applicant Status

                  I used to think it was easy to get into the Peace Corps, you just give them your name, and pretty soon you would be in a foreign country (I also used to think it was easy to get a tatoo, but that's another story)...
                  Right now, I am in "applicant status". This means the Peace Corps is reviewing my documentation (and the results of my interview) to determine if I will become a nominee. My recruiter has told me that I may not be nominated for a while, because I have requested a start date of no earlier than October 2005, and currently they are not nominating people for that time period.
                  I have access to a neat website that lets me monitor my status. Also, I am sent an email whenever my status is changed or updated. Here is a screen shot of the status webpage.

                  Sunday, August 15, 2004

                  The Interview

                  My interview was set for late in the day on a Friday. I had been instructed to bring a number of pieces of documentation, including documentation describing my strategy for handling my current debt while in the Peace Corps.

                  The interview was in downtown Minneapolis at the regional Peace Corps office. While I was waiting in the lobby, I read a newsletter that listed job openings targeted at returning Peace Corps volunteers (RPCV). Many of the job postings were exactly as I would have expected: English teacher needed in China, cultural speaker needed to speak to children, and so on. One of the postings caught my attention because of its uniqueness:

                  • Sheep herder needed in Montana. Must be able to live alone for months at a time in the Montana wilderness...

                  Soon, my interview started. It lasted two-and-a-half hours. It included getting finger printed. Just as in the volunteer application, there were a number of non-standard interview questions. Questions like:

                  • Would you be willing to change your appearance to fit in with a culture?
                  • Are you in a romantic relationship?
                  • What is the longest time you have been away from your family?
                  • How is your family reacting to your decision?
                  • How do you handle stress?

                  The interview had two main parts; the first part seemed to be an evaluation of me. The second part was a description of what I could expect as a Peace Corps volunteer. We talked a great deal about how being a Peace Corps volunteer can be very stressful, especially until the volunteer has become comfortable with the norms of the host country’s culture and their language (sometimes having only simple-level language skills can lead to people treating you in a simple or childlike way). We talked about commitment and responsibilities as a guest in another country. We discussed how even though there can be many people around it can still sometimes feel lonely as a Peace Corps volunteer. It may sound strange, but the more we talked about such things, the more I new it was for me.

                  At the end of the interview, I asked my recruiter about the sheep herder job posting, and its appearance in the job listings for returning Peace Corps volunteers. She said, "Ya, that makes sense."

                  Saturday, August 14, 2004

                  My Reason

                  This posting contains my answer to the volunteer application question:

                  Why do you want to join the Peace Corps?

                  Over the last four years, I have slowly been undergoing a transformation. I have spent a great deal of time contemplating and studying what goes on inside of me. I have been on a quest to understand myself and grow my inner peace. Through this process I have begun to learn what truly matters to me. It probably sounds corny; as the peace in me has grown, I have felt more and more that I must let go of what physical items I have, and use the knowledge and skills I have gained to help others in need.

                  I have always had a great deal of empathy, and gentleness with others, which has helped me quickly become comfortable while in a different culture. I have found that as I experience a new culture, aspects of me grow and change becoming “larger” and better. I feel as though I get a deeper understanding of what it is to be human, and as a result, the “peace” in me grows.

                  I know there is much more I could be contributing to the world. I know that the Peace Corps is not for everyone. From what I have read and heard, I believe that the Peace Corps is for me. I believe that the Peace Corps would provide me a wonderful opportunity to give my time and skills in a way that uniquely adds to the world.

                  The Application

                  The Peace Corps is surprisingly tech-nofied. Their online volunteer application process is both smooth and well thought-out. Some of the questions they ask are also surprising – because the questions do not (and often can not) show up on standard business job application forms. For example:

                  • How much debt do you have?
                  • How do you plan to cover that debt while in the Peace Corps?[You only make $168 USD per month. This small amount of money is designed to be just enough to cover your food and lodging at the same living-level as the locals]
                  • Have you ever worked for the CIA?

                  There are also some interesting open-ended questions like:

                  • Describe cross-cultural experiences you have had.
                  • Describe why you want to join the Peace Corps.

                  Besides the in-depth application form, there is also a comprehensive “Health Status Review”.
                  The whole online application process took me about four hours to complete.

                  A few days after I submitted my application, I received a postcard in the mail. The postcard was a notification stating my application had been routed to the regional office serving my area and was now being processed. A couple of days later I received a phone call from my recruiter to setup an interview!

                  I was again surprised, this time by how fast the Peace Corps responded to my application.
                  The recruiter described the documentation I would need to bring to the interview, and also sent me some additional documentation to fill out – two skill addenda (computer science and health extension). During the application process, I had listed the skills I possessed. No I was asked to describe those skill areas in detail via the addenda. This took some time, and eventually I ended up with an eight page document describing my computer science skills!

                  I found the whole process unique and exciting.

                  The Beginning

                  When I step back and look at my life, I can see how it follows certain "standard equations". It's actually not that hard to seem them -- If you step back far enough. I think I spent a lot of my time pretending they were not there, or at least believing that I was not following their intoxicating logic...

                  Deep inside myself, these standard equations had carefully deactivated and contained the best part of myself -- my core. Deactivated, but not destroyed, this core was fortunately preserved. As my life progressed something unexpected began to chip away at the power of the standard equations. Very often I made mistakes; every so often, the results of these mistakes had a wondrous and unexpected side-effect. They quietly pointed out flaws in the standard equations. At first, I did not see these flaws because I was too busy (a key ingredient to the standard equations). As I started to slow down my life, I began to see the flaws, and the logic of the standard equations slowly became less intoxicating...

                  From now on, I am going to try to follow equations that honor my core. I know when I am getting close, because I get this warm, peaceful feeling inside that makes me smile, and that is intoxicating!