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...
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)
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!
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.
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!
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:
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!
Today I was at lunch with friends, when someone asked:
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.
(I guess I must talk about the Peace Corps a lot...)
Today was an A-PC day! Some big Peace Corps type things happened:
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...
It's going to be hard to sleep tonight!
Well, after reading through the packet, it looks like I have to get these things done:
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.
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:
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.
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!
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:
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
(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!
I have been nominated. This is a key step that begins my journey through the rest of the Peace Corps process.
In official terms, I have been nominated for the program:
What exactly is a nomination you ask?
What does my nomination guarantee?
So, what's next?
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:
There is a chance that one of these places could be my new home for over two years:
This is definetly very thrilling!
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:
I will find out next Monday afternoon (November 15th) if I have made the cut into one of the four slots!
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
Have a great night!
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...
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.
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:
I was eating lunch two hours later!
Tooth #2 is another inlay. Tooth #3 is a traditional cap.
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:
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:
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!
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)
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):
Electricity availability (from a 1997 survey)
Water availability (from a 1997 survey)
Email availability (from a 1997 survey)
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!
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:
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!
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:
This memory has been a frequent visitor of my consciousness ever since.
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 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?
(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?
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!
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:
(of course I'll write about them -- it's always more fun to write about secrets, especial if they're taboo)
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:
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:
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):
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)
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.
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:
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:
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...
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:
If you know anyone looking for a nice sport bike, send 'em my way.
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.
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.
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...
And guess what: she smiled back -- in that happy, sweet, slightly embarrassed way.
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.
An interesting topic related to being a Peace Corps volunteer is:
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
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.
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!
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.
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:
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?
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.
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:
I am beginning to understand that two things are needed during the process of becoming an invitee:
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:
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:
Item #4 -- Food For the Spirit
I will carefully store the following items in my emergency kit:
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:
Item #3 -- Life Support
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)
When I am first introduced to a new person, I often count the moments until they ask me one of the following questions:
(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:
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
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:
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
(I'll write this phrase in my emergency kit's "book of thoughts")
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:
I have a friend that feels stuck.
I think I will give my friend a secret note in an sealed envelope that says "Open in Case of an Emergency".
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.
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:
Here is what I have left:
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...
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...
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...
To my family: I love you, and I will be patient.
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.
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:
Have a good night!
"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:
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...
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:
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!
Guess who said this:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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."
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 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:
There are also some interesting open-ended questions like:
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.