Monday, December 24, 2007

kids


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
the two little ones were petrified of us for a while. The one on the left, Aissata, would cry and scream when we would come near her. Then we gave her candy and popcorn and she became our friend :)

with a few of our new 'siblings'


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
they were FACINATED when I brought out the camera... Everyone wanted to have their picture taken.

Christmas in the City

Well, it definitely does not feel like Christmas, but I'm glad for a day of repose. I saw my first christmas tree of the season while driving into Conakry this afternoon on the roof of some random building. Very out of place and sad looking, but it made me smile : )

Thank you to all of you who have thought of us. We miss you all and hope you have a great Chrismas and happy new year!!

Also, we put up some pics on flickr. Our time is almost up on the computer, so we might not be able to link them all. Check em out if you have time.

SITE ANNOUNCEMENTS!

12/18/2007

Today we were told our sites. We met with our APCDs (basically our PC bosses for our training sectors –public health for me, Business for Dan) the week before so they could get to know us and find out our preferences for where we would be placed after training. Unfortunately for us, the process was more of a formality than a productive event. For married couples the equation is more complex and they already knew where they were going to place us since options are much more limited. As a result, they really couldn’t take our preferences in to play. Because of that, I had already heard through the grapevine where we were going to be placed before site announcements.

Initially I was pretty disappointed overall about our site selection. It is pretty much opposite of all the preferences I had given. I didn’t really care too much about some things, but it was still hard to have to give up on some of my ideals. I really wanted a small village. Instead, we’re placed in one of the biggest cities in the country. I really wanted to be placed in the Fouta (the mountainous region in the middle of the country). Instead, we’re in Bas Cote. I really wanted to work with a small community health post and be out in the community more. Instead, I’m going to be working at the DPS. (Equivalent of probably the county health department I would say…) I thought it would be awesome to be a first generation volunteer in the community. Instead I’m at least third. (ie- there have been at least 2 health volunteers at this post before me.) I said it would be great to ride a couple K to work every day on my bike. Instead, we live in the DPS compound where I will be working.

Now even though it sounds like I’m dogging on everything, I’m really OK with it all. It was just the initial disappointment of not getting ANY of my preferences. The great thing about the PC is that I can take my assignment and run with it in any direction. So, even though I will be living in a huge city, since I work with the DPS, I can ride out to all the smaller villages around and maybe adopt one of those as my own instead to base my projects. There are 2 agfo volunteers very close to us, so I can do some cross sector projects with them – like a demo garden right in the DPS compound (aka my yard). Fresh tomatoes and basil, anyone? And then there are side projects… I’m sure I’ll be able to find hundreds of things to interest me right in our town. Overall, there are definite benefits to being in a bigger town. It’s just not what I would have picked. Ask me in 2 years though, and I’ll probably tell you there is nowhere I would rather be!

Dec 20, 2007

We’ve been here in Guinea now for a little over 2 weeks now. The first few days in Conakry were just to get our feet wet before we were thrown headfirst into Real World, Guinea style. On the 8th we drove out to our training city, a couple hours outside of the capitol. Once we got here, we had an ceremony in which we were ‘adopted’ into a Guinean family. After the adoption, we ate with our new parents, found our luggage, and were whisked away to our new home. It was a pretty crazy day.

Our family: Our father is the Sous-Prefect of the neighboring village where the Agro-forestry volunteers are doing their training. It’s a pretty big position for around here. I would kind of equate it to the level of city mayor, only he was appointed. But there is a mayor too… just to confuse you. He’s pretty interesting to talk to, but we don’t see him much. He spends the week down in the other village and only comes home for the weekends. Whenever he comes home, he always brings gifts for everyone – candy, popcorn, little cakes, a chicken. I haven’t decided if he does it to show off his money or if he does it out of guilt for being absent all week. Either way, we all appreciate the gifts. (I especially appreciate the chicken… I can’t take too much more of the fish here.)

We’re still trying to figure out the rest of the family. The mother, Kadiatou, has 7 kids of her own, the oldest of which lives back in Conakry, but there are 11 kids who live here in our compound. Apparently one of Kadiatou’s brothers died and they took in a few of his kids. We don’t know the connection with the others, but they are apparently taken in out of generosity. Since our dad is well off, all the kids can go to school and they all have enough food to eat. The kids here range from 2 to 19. The family speaks Soussou, so we don’t know what’s going on half the time. We’ve only learned a handful of phrases. Only the older kids have learned French, and their level of fluency varies greatly. The oldest daughter (I think she’s one of the adopted ones) never learned French though. She doesn’t go to school. She stays at home and does all the cooking and cleaning and looking after the two little 2 year olds. That’s fairly typical here.

Life here is very different for us. I don’t know where to even start. We squat over a hole, carry all of our water in buckets from the neighbor’s well, bathe with a cold bucket of water (over the same hole we squat over), filter and bleach our drinking water, eat rice with fish sauce every night, walk miles every day, and sweat profusely. We do have electricity… occasionally… for a few hours at night (if we’re lucky). It still takes us a second to realize when the kids start cheering that they cheer because the electricity has come on. It typically comes between 6 and 8 in the evening, surges, cuts out for 10-20 minutes periodically, and occasionally does not come at all. Our family has a TV. They just put up a new antenna, so they get 12 stations now instead of just one. Very exciting. They told us they have a DVD player too, but we haven’t seen it.

Our bodies are adapting, but still getting used to it here. Not everyone is adapting too well though to the new life here. Group moral has hit a few slumps. Several people broke down once we got to our host homes. Feeling overwhelmed and tired on top of being sick is not a good combination. Two people have already thrown in the towel and Early Terminated (ETed). They’re already back home in the US. I just hope that will be all the ETs for training… I know that every one of us has had at least one moment of “WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE?!?!?” but our motivation and determination that got us here (or sheer pride) keeps us trudging along. Overall, training is just hard. Not the classes, but just adapting to a completely different world and way of living is extremely exhausting. I can’t wait until we get to our own sites with our own home and own schedule and can make our own food. I just want some degree of feeling settled and can make some choices for ourselves. For now, things are all scheduled for us. In some ways, that makes life pretty nice. In others, it is very very hard. We hang out with the other volunteers just to vent and veg. We hung out last night and sang Christmas songs while the Guineans looked on and laughed. Great therapy right there.

Quick Note

wow--it's strange to see a computer let alone have internet access. We're back in Conakry after only two weeks in Forecariah. Strange--it seems much longer than that. I feel much more "at home" in Guinea now, but it is still a trip to think I'm here in Africa.

Life is much slower because everything takes longer to do. We did our laundry for the first time last Sunday. We had three weeks worth of clothes and it took two girls three hours to wash them all on a washboard. We pretty much watched them the whole time, but we did attempt to help rinse and hang to dry. It literally would have broken my back had I tried to do it myself. I am just at awe at their physical strength.

There is much more to say, but alas, time is limited as many other volunteers would like to use this Christmas trip in Conakry to contact family and friends. I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. We love you all. Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and comments.

Friday, December 07, 2007

sunset over ocean


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
Sunset as viewed from the restaurant where we ate last night. pretty cool if you ask me. if you zoom in, you may be able to see all the people and kids who were yelling "fote" (white person) at us from accross the water. hah.

The PC house is also right on the water (outside of the compound of giant cement walls surrounding us which are topped by barbed wire...), but they told us in no uncertain terms to STAY OUT OF THE WATER. A bit dirty... but still looks amazing!

On the ground in Guinea!


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
Bonding time crammed into the PC van going to the PC house in Conakry. Excitement is shown here for first, actually having made it to GUINEA! (it took some of us a long long time to make it to this point in our lives, let alone the 27 hours of travel time.) and second, that ALL of our bags made it too!

Andrew and Neil in front, and Candee, Ciara, and Alison behind.

view from the plane


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
Our first view of our new home! This is Conakry, the capital where we are now. I took this so the people sitting in the middle of the plane could see our view vicariously. We had the window seat.

plane ride


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
This was on the final plane ride into Conakry from Dakar. The excitement was felt by all as exhibited here by Erich, Katy, and Allison. Caleb is being Caleb.

unloading at JFK


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
what a MASSIVE amount of bags! Wish we got a better picture to depict the sheer quantity of it all.

gettin on the bus


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
Loading the bus from Philly to JFK.

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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
this is what training is all about baby... human pyramids.
This was in Philly too.

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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
Dan during staging class in Philly

Eating Fish in Guinea


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
If you look closely you can see the fish heads. There were white things in its eyes--not sure what it was.

Mary at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia


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Originally uploaded by dan&mary
Just a picture of Mary while we were at "staging" in Philadelphia.

first thoughts

Well, today marks my third full day in Conakry and it also marks my third full day with the "Green Apple Quick Steps" as my fellow volunteer Jim calls it. I can't say that it has been too much fun being as sick as I am. I think everyone has this initiation process of getting sick—most of our group have the runs or are vomiting—if not, they have at least felt some stomach aches. It's definitely taken away the euphoria of being in Africa—but I still can’t believe I’m here.

I don't think anyone can imagine what it's like being in a country where you can't trust the food, the water, the bathrooms, the hands, etc. Anything and everything can get you sick. I must say that I was not expecting bad health to hit me so soon or so hard. I don't feel like eating much, but the food tastes good. The food is the same, but it tastes different. It's hard to explain. The beef, the chicken, the fish--it all tastes different in itself. One thing I learned is that you can't trust anything to be cleaned properly. Everything has the bones intact. I don't think you'll ever see chicken or beef that comes boneless. Not only did the fish have its bones, but the head and tail as well. Even rice has stones or hard shells in it.

About the only really familiar thing we’ve had was some Fanta orange soda—which is actually made with real sugar instead of corn syrup.

We’re unable to use the tap water for drinking or even brushing our teeth—right now we’re just using bottled water, but apparently we’ll have to start boiling it and filtering it on site.

The traffic situation is also unbelievable. There are no sidewalks, so there are people constantly jumping out of the way. The drivers are honking like crazy and flashing their lights at cars and pedestrians. There are so many people out walking around at all times of the day. There are little cars with loads strapped to the top of the roof that are bigger than the cars are.

Other than that we’ve just been going through the basic orientation for Peace Corps. We’re learning to speak Susu—and the classes are in French, which makes it interesting. All of the staff have been really helpful—some of them are Americans, but most are Guineans and a couple are from other countries.

We’ll be going to our host families tomorrow, so it may be awhile before we have access to internet again—hopefully less than a month. We’ll all be in the capital for Christmas apparently.

other blogs/pictures to check out

Well, if you have time and want more than our sparse posts can provide, check out some of the other volunteer's blogs. Go to peacecorpsjournals.com and choose Guinea. (Or just click HERE)Most of the ones at the top of the list, dated Nov 2007, are from our stage (aka the group of people we left the country with). Their journals might give you an idea of what we're all going through right now and some people may be able to give updates a little more often than others.

Today the majority of our group is feeling pretty sick. Nothing to worry about much, just stomach/food issues they say are 'normal' for integration. hah. We went out to eat last night at a pretty nice restaurant, and a lot of people think it was food poisoning from what we ate. I just hope that we get it out of the way now, and will be back up to speed by the end of the week.

Don't get spoiled by the frequency of posts this first week... this is not going to be typical. We're just updating while we can! As I mentioned before, we will be going off to our training site tomorrow, which means no internet til probably Christmas.

Until then, think of us! Write us letters. Comment on our wonderful posts.

And if we don't talk to you before then, Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dan & Mary and Peace Corp Group Arrive in Guinea


Here is a group picture of everyone in our stage. PC calls us G15. (Guinea group 15... best there is, baby!) For those of you who have already forgotten who we are and what we look like, we're in the lower right hand corner.

Day One

Well, we officially survived our first 24 hours in Guinea. We arrived yesterday a little after 6pm GMT and slid through customs with the aid of the Peace Corps people who greeted us.

Chaos. Thats the first word I would use to describe our experience. Lots of people and chaos. (The lack of sleep and 27 straight hours of travel for the large pack of disoriented americans didn't help the situation at all.) But, we amazingly enough found all of our bags and drove to the PC house. The drive was interesting... our first glimpse into the life we're about to start. People. Everywhere. In packs, walking down the street, jumping between cars, piled into cars... everywhere. We were told it was still kind of Conakry's 'rush hour,' but apparently its pretty packed most of the time. I'm interested to see the streets again during daylight hours. We only saw it lit by headlights of all cars and scattered kerosene lanterns.

So far we haven't really ventured out of the PC compound gates much. Just classes and, yes, more shots. We head to our official training site on Saturday for our "adoption ceremony." That's when we'll meet our host family where we'll stay for about 9 weeks of training.

Stomaches are trying to keep up with it all. Yuck.
But thank you for all of your warm wishes! We'll try to post again before we head off to training, but time is limited. It's doubtful that we will be able to post for a while once there...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Stage complete!

We're currently sitting here in Philadelphia. We just completed our 'stage' (aka pre-service orientation) before we fly out tomorrow for Guinea. It was pretty interesting actually -- beginning to get to know all the other volunteers and getting a taste of PC -- but nothing concrete in the ways of Guinea much or practical day-to-day stuff. We stuck to overviews of policies, safety issues, integrating and adapting, logistics of actually getting there, and of course some unavoidable getting-to-know-you games. Once we arrive, we'll have 9 weeks of intensive training to get us up to speed on language and whatever the heck we'll be doing.

Stats: there are 37 of us altogether heading out. 13 guys, 24 girls. There are 15 volunteers currently in Guinea. One other married couple. Average age is 26 they say. I think only 2 people are over 30. Youngest I believe is 22. Pretty interesting and fun group overall. It takes an interesting person I guess to want to jump into this!

Tomorrow we head out bright and early to get shots... lots and lots of shots... then we pile onto a bus to JFK. We fly out tomorrow night and arrive in Guinea Tuesday night after way too much time in buses/airports/planes (about 27 hours altogether, if all goes smoothly) Cross your fingers for us that we wont get snowed into New York and that all of our bags arrive in Guinea with us!!

Sorry for the lack of exciting posts. I will try to get to some better posts beyond just reporting at some point. For now we are just extremely exhausted. We stayed up all night on Friday getting packed to fly out early Saturday. To top it off, Dan is fighting off the remnants of a cold. Great start... come to a third-world country already sick. Wonderful.

Overall though things are great. We just wanted to post a little something before we leave since we have no idea when the next time we can post will be. We'll try our best to keep everyone updated though!

Monday, November 26, 2007

a letter from PC to friends and family

Dear Families,

Greetings from the Guinea Desk in Washington, D.C. It is with great pleasure that we welcome your family member to the Peace Corps Guinea Program. During the past few years we have received many questions from Volunteers and family members alike regarding travel plans, sending money, relaying messages and mail, etc. As we are unable to involve ourselves in the personal arrangements of Volunteers, we would like to offer you advice and assistance in advance by providing specific examples of situations and how we suggest you handle them.

1. Irregular Communication. (Please see #3 for the mailing address to Peace Corps' office in Conakry the capital of Guinea) The mail service in Guinea is not as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service. Thus, it is important to be patient. It can take three to four weeks for mail coming from Conakry to arrive in the United States via the Guinea postal system. From a Volunteer's post, mail might take 1-2 months to reach the United States. Sometimes mail is hand carried to the States by a traveler and mailed through the U.S. postal system. This leg of the trip can take another several weeks as it is also dependent on the frequency of travelers to the U.S.

We suggest that in your first letters, you ask your Volunteer family member to give an estimate of how long it takes for him/her to receive your letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often you will write to each other. Also, try numbering your letters so that the Volunteer knows if he/she has missed one. Postcards should be sent in envelopes--otherwise they may be found on the wall of the local post office!

Volunteers often enjoy telling their "horror" stories when they write home. Letters (or e-mails) might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, etc. While the subject matter is good reading material, it is often misinterpreted on the home front. There are two medical officers at the Peace Corps office in Conakry to meet the medical needs of the volunteers. Through a “telephone tree”, the Peace Corps office in Conakry maintains at minimum, regular weekly contact with the Regional Coordinators, one per region where Peace Corps works. Peace Corps Guinea has also established a monthly mail run which delivers mail, medical supplies, and sometimes volunteers or staff to each volunteer site.

In the event of an emergency, Volunteers have been instructed to contact their designated Regional Coordinator, who in turn contacts the staff in Conakry, and appropriate steps are taken to assist that Volunteer. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer is sent to Conakry and is cared for by our medical staff. If the Volunteer requires medical care that is not available in Conakry he/she will be medically evacuated to either Senegal, South Africa or the United States. Fortunately, these are rare circumstances.

If for some reason your communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member for at least three months, you may want to contact the Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-800-424-8580, extension 1470. The OSS will then contact the Peace Corps Director in Conakry and ask him to check up on the Volunteer. Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, sudden illness, etc.), you should call OSS immediately, so that the Volunteer can be informed by a member of Peace Corps/Guinea staff.

2. Telephone Calls. The telephone system in Guinea is decent at best. Service in and out of Conakry to the United States can be unreliable. If communicating via email or by phone, please understand that the telephone lines and their connections can be, and are often down. Outside of Conakry, where most of the Volunteers are located, there are even fewer phones. Sometimes Volunteers plan to be in Conakry on a certain date to receive calls from home. This can sometimes work, but there are also innumerable factors that can make the best-laid plans fall apart. Please be aware that the Peace Corps staff in Conakry and Washington do not have the time to assist in arranging these calls. Your family member will be able to inform you of the actual telephone numbers once they arrive in country.

The Guinea Desk usually calls the Peace Corps office in Conakry once every two weeks. However, these calls are reserved for business only and we cannot relay personal messages over the phone. All communication between family members and the Volunteer can be done via telephone, email or international mail. You may be able to send a Western Union telegram to the Volunteer at the Peace Corps office in Conakry. If you have an urgent message, however, and have exhausted your other means, you can call the Desk, and the message will be relayed.

3. Sending packages. Parents and Volunteers like to send and receive care packages through the mail. Unfortunately, sending packages can be a frustrating experience for all involved due to the high incidence of theft and heavy customs taxes. You may want to try to send inexpensive items through the mail, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. We do not recommend, however, that costly items be sent through the mail. Even though many Volunteers sometimes choose to get local post office boxes, you may always use the following address to send letters and/or packages to your family member:

John Doe, PCV
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 1927
Conakry, Guinea
West Africa

It is recommended that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed more frequently. Custom fees can sometimes be up to $100. For lightweight but important items (e.g. airline tickets), DHL (an express mail service) does operate in Conakry. If you choose to send items through DHL, you must address the package to the Country Director, c/o Corps de la Paix, Quartier Taouyah, Commune de Ratoma, BP 1927, Conakry, Guinea (the phone number for the Peace Corps office in Guinea is (224) 60-22-78-09 , as DHL will need this information). If you send the item to the Country Director, no liability can be assumed. For more information about DHL, please call their toll free number, 1-800-CALL-DHL, or visit their web site at www.dhl.com.

Sending airplane tickets via international mail is not recommended. Certain airlines will allow you to buy a pre-paid ticket in the States; they will telex their Guinea office to have the ticket ready. Unfortunately, this system is not always reliable.

Trying to send cash or checks is very risky and is discouraged. If your Volunteer family member requests money from you, it is his/her responsibility to arrange receipt of it. Western Union seems to work well in countries where they are present. Some banks will also do electronic funds transfers.

An alternative option is to send packages or money or other important documents with a family member or other visitor traveling to Guinea. The GPS (see next section) is a good way to stay in contact with family members of current Guinea Volunteers.
4. Guinea Parent Support (GPS). In collaboration with the non-profit group, Friends of Guinea (http://www.friendsofguinea.org/) parents, family, and friends of Guinea PCVs can correspond with other PC family and friends, in groups by departure date, to share tips and support during this exciting yet stressful time. Each new group will have a parent mentor from a previous group to help guide them through the entire two years of service. You may send your email address(es) on the form provided in your Volunteer’s packet to become part of the group of family and friends whose PCVs will train in Guinea together. Or you may email your desire to become part of the secure listserv by sending your email address(es) and your PCV’s name and departure date via email to: gps@friendsofguinea.org .

We hope this information is helpful to you during the time your family member is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea. We understand how frustrating it is to communicate with your family member overseas and we appreciate your using this information as a guideline. Please feel free to contact us at the Guinea Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions. Our phone number is 1-800-424-8580, ext. 2326 or 2307, or locally, 202-692-2326/2307.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Brown, Country Desk Officer

Sunday, November 25, 2007

T minus 5.5 days and counting.

Less than a week to go... crazy to think.

I was telling someone last night that I hope our posts get a little more exciting once we get to Guinea, but not TOO exciting like some of the blogs we've read. (One person's blog included stories of getting robbed at machete point, getting malaria (again), and getting in various car accidents - all within a few weeks.) I'm up for adventure, but prefer to stay alive.

I'm sure we'll have our share of crazy stories though. So stay tuned!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

upcoming elections

"Guinea is full of people who are pitting one against the other to ensure that change never takes place."

from an article on upcoming Guinea elections

Sunday, October 28, 2007

biding our time

Well, it's been a while since we've updated anything, so I thought I write a little about what we've been up to. Time has FLOWN since we got our invitation. We're now down to 5 weeks away from departure. I have to say, it has worked out for the best that our departure was bumped back like it was. We definitely wouldn't have been ready to leave October 1st.

The end of September our lease was up so we moved in with Dan's parents in Olathe. We had a big ol' garage sale and sold most of our furniture and a bunch of stuff. It's amazing how much stuff you accumulate over a short time, isn't it?

We took a week trip up to Niagara Falls this month to get away and do something just for us. The weather was pretty mild, so we took some of our new gear with us and camped a couple of nights. Overall, a great trip. (even with an unscheduled extra night in lovely Rochester...) We'll post some pictures to go along with this.

We came back to face 8 days left of work. Yes, this Friday, November 2nd, is our last day of being employed. With the way time has been passing lately, we definitely look forward to some time off to get things ready to go. There is still so much on our to-do list, it's crazy. (on top of finding time to say goodbye to friends and family...) We're going to try to head out to see my parents one last time for Thanksgiving.

Overall, it just feels like we're picking up speed, heading downhill full-force. Staying busy I think has kept a lot of the reality from sinking in. When I stop to think about some things, there are definite moments of disbelief and many questions. It still feels very distant in many ways, even though I still don't feel like we have enough time before we leave. Odd feeling. I know we'll be getting on that plane in what will seem like no time at all. Luckily, I still haven't gotten to the freak-out point... :)

Sheesh. 33 days.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

we're #1!

Guinea is, according to some study, the most perceivably corrupt country in Africa. Yeah baby! I knew it had to be #1 for something!

It's perceived as 4th most corrupt in the world, ranking only behind Myanmar, Iraq, and Haiti. Hah. What prestigious company...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Guinea or Bust




Yep, we're going to Guinea.

Peace Corps Invitation Kit - Status: Received/Unopened

Yes, a few hours ago I was home for lunch and I checked the mailbox before going back to work. There was a key in our mailbox, which means there was a package too big to place in our small apartment mailbox. So, I went to the large package mailboxes and opened it only to find our long-awaited Peace Corps Invitation Kit. The mailing address window is probably big enough to look through and find the country without opening the envelope, but I refrained as Mary would probably not appreciate me snooping around without her.

I got the video camera and took the package to work with me--afraid that Mary might open it without me when she gets home. So, as protector of the package I called Mary and left a voice message. I also emailed her to tell her the good news--unfortunately, I can't get a hold of her right now. I even thought about just driving straight to her work site to open the package together. But as the kids just got out of school I figured she would be too busy to do something as mundane as finding out where we're going for the next two years of our lives.

In any case, whether we open it at my parents' house or at our apartment, we'll definitely find out tonight.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

14 instead of 6...

14 more weeks of waiting ahead.

Well today we bring you good news, bad news.

Good News: Our invitation is in the mail!!! Yay!
Bad News: We got bumped back 2 months... grrr......

We were originally supposed to leave in 6 weeks on October 1st. Now we have to wait 14 weeks with a scheduled departure date of December 5th. Reuben, our Placement Officer, couldn't tell us the country over the phone (why?!? don't ask me. we're dealing with the government here...) but he did inform us that it is basically the exact same nomination, just a slightly later departure date. *sigh* So no Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso for us. (isn't that the coolest capital name?) I'm guessing the invite will be to Guinea, but thats just my guess from snooping through posts on the web. It might very well be somewhere else.

Interesting note: they had to pull the volunteers out of Guinea in February due to political instability, but they're sending a new group back starting early December. Talk about Guinea Pigs. hah! (yes... I realize how cheesy I am...)

Now I am forced to spend the next week stalking the mailman...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

STILL no invite...

As the title would indicate, we still have no answer for the countless people who continue to pose questions about when and where we are going. "Yeah, we'd like to know the answer too... especially since it might be in as little as 6 weeks away."

Everyone cross fingers and toes that we will hear this week. Maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

still no invite

I got Dan's permission and broke down and tried calling Reuben, our Placement Officer, yesterday. Unfortunately I got his voicemail saying that he would be out of the office until Monday the 13th! That means we will for sure be waiting at least a full week before we hear anything.

At least I can stop obsessively checking my phone for messages over the next couple of days.

I called Stephanie today to ask when the latest is that we can be invited to keep our nomination. She told me that the program we were nominated for was actually bumped back a couple weeks. It's now scheduled to leave the first week in October. (I didn't tell her that is the time of departure we were originally told about for our nomination...) Either way, she said we're still ok on time. Final answer: August 20th. So Reuben has one week from when he gets back in town to get us our invitations. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Email from Placement Assistant

So, Mary wrote an email for me to the Peace Corps Placement Office to update my resume to include my Scoutmaster responsibilities. We got a response back saying they hope to send out our invitation within the coming weeks. Mary and I were hoping to get our invitation this week, so to read "coming weeks" was a bit nerve-racking. I've got to go feed the hedgehog.

Cassette Tape


Monday, July 30, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

One countdown complete!

Finally! ONE HUNDRED DAYS after submitting our medical packets (No exageration. We were counting), we both got our medical clearance today! WOOHOO!

I got the feeling yesterday that they would be calling so I kept my phone on me all day. While on a feild trip with my kids at work to the KU Natural History Museum today, I checked the time and realized I just barely missed a call! From DC! Oh no! What was worse is that they didn't leave a message! So I made a quick call to Dan to see if they called him as well. He non-challantley said they had. I was about to jump out of my skin to find out what they said.

What'd they say?? What'd they say???

We're finally cleared!!!!!!!

I subsequently bounced around for the remainder of the field trip, in a very pleasant mood. One giant hurdle passed! Now on to the invitation....

Yup. Now it's on to more waiting.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Quick update

We're still waiting...big surprise. Everyone keeps asking us if we've heard anything, but the answer is always the same--NO!!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peace Corps Time Line

OK--here's a sketch of our Peace Corps time line:

1/10/2006 - Mary and Dan started talking about the Peace Corps

1/14/2006 - Mary and Dan started talking about getting married and serving in the Peace Corps together

2/15/2006 - Mary reopened her application - Dan tried to start his application for the first time but we needed to submit marriage information, so we decided to wait until we were married

4/7/2006 - Mary and Dan got engaged (continued to talk about Peace Corps)

5/18/2006 - Mary and Dan were married in Newport Beach, California

7/8/2006 - Dan started his application online

8/12/2006 - Mary races off to go to the Kansas City Public Library to meet Emily, who eventually will be our recruiter from Denver, for the first time. Information meeting and video. Mary finds out that the placement of couples does take longer - usually 12-15 months from application review. She also said the next application deadline is at the beginning of October for couple reviews, since the next nomination reviews would be in November and then February. Even if we are nominated in November/December, the earliest we could go is probably Fall 2007, but it would most likely be February 2008.

8/20/2006 - We tell Dan's parents that we are applying to the Peace Corps

10/4/2006 - Mary and Dan both submit their Peace Corps applications

-Mary and Dan both finish the Health Review Status
-Mary and Dan both receive the couple questionnaire and discuss the issues that we might have as a couple serving in the Peace Corps

10/12/2006 - Receive confirmation from Peace Corps that they have received our applications.

-Complete fingerprinting, background check stuff, and couple questions.

10/25/2006 - Interview with Emily on KU campus

12/4/2006 - Mary calls Emily and finds out that we did not get a nomination for the August 2007 selection - she said it will most likely be January/February/March of 2008

2/5/2007 - Mary called Emily expecting to get an update on our nomination and found out the applications are still in review--we will actually find out towards the end of February

2/21/2007 - Emily calls and leaves a message that we have been nominated for French-speaking Africa to leave in October--our medical/dental packets would arrive in the mail within a couple of weeks. Dan is nominated to business development and Mary is nominated to community development and health.

2/28/2007 - We receive our official nomination in the mail.

3/8/2007 - We receive our medical/dental forms.

3/14/2007 - Dan's medical appointment

3/20/2007 - Mary's medical appointment

3/28/2007 - Dan's dental appointment

4/11/2007 - Mary's dental appointment

4/18/2007 - Mailed off completed medical packet

4/25/2007 - Received confirmation via Tool-kit that PC received completed medical packet

5/1/2007 - Mailed off completed dental packet

5/12/2007 - Received Dental Clearance!!!! WOOHOO! One shiny moment.

Waiting.... Waiting... Waiting....


7/6/2007 - Mary called Emily (our regional recruiter) and Anthony (our Medical Officer for the African region) to ask about medical clearance status. They informed me that the DC office was very backlogged trying to get through all the August/September departure date nominees before they would get to our clearance. ARGH. Anthony said that they would get to ours within the next 4 weeks.

MORE waiting... waiting... waiting...


7/26/2007 - After 100 days of waiting, we receive our Medical Clearance! AWESOME!!!

8/9/2007 - Dan breaks news to his boss about joining the Peace Corps

8/20/2007 - Deadline to receive invitation for the program we were originally nominated for... We're not invited. :(

8/21/2007 - Reuben calls. We receive invitation to mystery country leaving December 5th.

8/24/2007 - Toolkit is updated: Invitation has been mailed.

8/24 to 8/27/2007 - time spent stalking the mailman....

8/27/2007 - We get our invitation packet in the mail. We go over to Dan's parent's house to open it. WE'RE GOIN' TO GUINEA!


Anticipated Time Line:

9/27/2007
- Move out of apartment and in with Dan's Parents.

10/16/2007 - Dan's 29th birthday

11/02/2007
- Dan and Mary's last day of work


12/1/2007
- Mary and Dan leave for the Peace Corps.

12/08/2007 to 2/24/2008 - Dan and Mary separated for 11 weeks of in-country training :(

12/21/2007 - Brandon returns from mission in California

12/25/2007 - 1st Christmas (of 3) in Africa

1/1/2008 - First New Year in Africa

2/1/2008 - Mary's 26th birthday

2/24/2008
- Dan and Mary reunite! Sworn in as Official Peace Corps Volunteers

2/24/2010 - Close of Service. Travel? Return to US Soil.

The Waiting Game

Soooooo..... I have been going insane without some concrete information or answers. I have been addicted to blogs, websites, online forums, and anything that might give me some information about anything Peace Corps related. (That is how I came up with the country list...) We're going crazy trying to sort through what we want to buy, what we should plan on taking, what to expect, our expected timeline, and more. I'm so glad I at least have the internet to give me some helpful hints, but I want more! I check my email/mailbox/cell phone constantly for messages. No luck.

I'm dying with anticipation. We've been waiting for medical clearance without any word for over 3 months. In less than 3 months from now, our entire life will be changed dramatically. A little foreshadowing would be convenient.

But c'est la vie for the time being. We will survive. Just slightly nerve racking.

Where, oh where....

So here is a list of French-speaking African countries with Peace Corps programs:

Benin
Burkina Faso
Cameroon
Guinea
Madagascar
Mali
Mauritania
Morocco
Niger
Senegal
Togo

Out of these countries, we've tried to figure out where we think they might send us, based on departure dates. (Basically, I figured this out only from reading posts from others who just got invitations to some of these countries in programs we have been nominated to) Here is our narrowed-down list:

Benin
Burkina Faso
Madagascar
Niger
Morocco
Mauritania

From there, looking at the programs currently offered in each of these places, the list is narrowed further. (But, there is always the possibility of a new program starting in a country not listed, so this is just a guess for fun right now. Always the chance of change!) Oh. And apparently Guinea pulled its volunteers out a few months ago and we don't know if they've been OKed for return. So this is what we think our chances are narrowed down to:

Burkina Faso
Mauritania
Morocco

We're crossing fingers for Morocco, but they kinda group that with the MidEast and not Africa. So we don't know if that even fits our Nomination to French-speaking Africa. So Mauritania or Burkina Faso?

What it really boils down to though is this: WE STILL DON'T KNOW A THING. And plus, everything could change in a minute and we might end up in the Philippines/Mongolia/Ukraine or somewhere else random or crazy. We are dealing with the government "bureaucrazy," you know.