October 2005 - Went to my 10th high school reunion and met up with one of my favorite people. She and I hadn't talked since graduation, so we spent the whole night catching up with each other. She'd just returned from serving with the Peace Corps in Jamaica. I'd just finished serving two years in Houston, TX with Teach For America. (We also ran into a friend who'd just served three years in Iraq with the Marines. As one of us observed, how often do you get Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Marine Corps folks all talking to each other?) She told me about her experiences, and a very small seed got planted.
July 2006 - My sis goes to her 10th college reunion and meets up with old friends who are stationed in Jordan with the Foreign Service. They invite her to come out. (For that matter, they invite everybody to come out. I think their smalltalk begins, "Hi! How are things? Want to come visit us in Jordan?") But Sis is the only one to take them up on their offer.
Later July 2006 - Sis calls me up and says, "Hey! I'm going to the Middle East! Wanna come?" After ascertaining that she's not high, lying, or kidding, I say, "Yeah!!" I mean, who doesn't want to see the Holy Land, see Petra (of Indiana Jones fame) and visit the Pyramids?? Plus, if my sister is going to a country that borders Iraq and various other zones of danger, I'm not letting her do it alone!
July - December 2006 - Extensive trip planning. I'm unemployed for most of this time, so I take on the lion's share of the legwork. Our final itinerary: 3 days in Israel, 6 days in Egypt, 6 days in Jordan, plus a few days that are pretty much entirely travel.
January 2 - 20, 2007 - In the Middle East! I fill a journal with observations, notes, reflections, and musings. (I'll spare you.) Long story short: I love it here. The visible challenges tug at my heart and gut, though...seeing bullet holes in the ancient walls of Jerusalem just hurts.
January 22, 2007 - Once de-jet-lagged, I visit the Peace Corps website and discover that Jordan is the only Middle Eastern country where PCVs serve. I start filling out my application.
January - April, 2007 - The application proceeds in fits and starts. For one, I'm a procrastinator, and for another, I keep second-guessing myself. Plus, it's a really long application, requiring details like the name and phone number of your supervisor from the job you had nine years ago, and every volunteer gig you've ever done.
May 1st - Submit application
First week of May - My recommendations all come in. (Thanks, guys!)
May 29th - Interview with recruiter. Get fingerprinted. I learn that I can be nominated to the Middle East - North Africa region, but there are no guarantees as to which country I'll be serving in. There are only two countries in the region, though, Jordan and Morocco, so I've got a fifty-fifty shot.
May 30th - Get my first update from the Peace Corps website...saying that I've now had my interview. Which I knew.
June 18 - Unexpected sidewalk encounter with former boss leads to a conversation about what I'm up to...which ends up with her spontaneously giving me a symbol for religious harmony. :D It is a small circle of gold, about the size of a quarter, that interweaves a cross, an ankh, a Star of David, an ohm, a yin-yang, and one symbol I don't recognize. It's lovely, plus a beautiful depiction of what I'm up to... I want to work in the Middle East because I want to help create/support/establish a harmonious relationship among the Christians, Jews, Muslims, and any other inhabitants of the region. I want Jerusalem to be a city of peace.
June 15th - Nominated!
August 3-9, 2007 - Doctor's visits and medical testing. I feel like a pincushion. Seriously, how many tests are they doing?!?
August 14, 2007 - Taking Arabic classes. I email friends:
Arabic is working throat muscles I never knew I had. Between kh, which is pronounced like a drawn-out version of the ch in Bach, 'c, which is sort of an emphatic glottal stop (like the middle sound in uh-oh, but not silent), gh, which is basically articulate gargling (kinda like an emphatic form of the French r), and h*, which is a small, forceful expulsion of air, my throat has never gotten such a workout. I'm going to be the most skilled gargler *ever*.September 12, 2007 - Peace Corps inoculations. The first round, anyway.
October 29 - After visiting and/or calling every medical professional in a thousand-mile radius (more or less), I'm finally ready to submit the medical and dental packet. I quadruple check everything, heave a big sigh, and send it out.
November 1 - Peace Corps Status Update: They've received the medical packet.
November 2 - Peace Corps Status Update: I'm cleared by their dentist. My pearly whites are in good enough condition that they don't need to worry about my not having access to American dentistry for two years. It also helps that I had my wisdom teeth out a couple years ago - that can be a problem for some.
November 21 - My placement officer shoots me a Happy Thanksgiving email. (This is the first I've heard of her. Apparently, once my recruiter nominated me back in June, I was officially handed from his bailiwick into hers.) She says, "I know that OMS recently requested some information from you. As your placement officer, I’ve already reviewed your application and have qualified you for placement. As soon as you turn in the missing medical information and if OMS can medically qualify you, I’ll be able to invite you."
November 26 - I read the November 21 email. (Thanksgiving had interfered with my email access.) I'm delighted to hear that she wants to invite me, but the "recently requested some information" sets off red flags. What information? Why haven't I received this "request"? Did I miss an email or letter?? Is everything OK??? A few phone calls and emails later, I learn that there are a few medical questions that the nurse raised, but until the doctor reviews my file, I won't be officially asked for anything.
November 27 - Peace Corps status update! My heart is in my throat...what do they have to tell me??? Turns out - I got my legal clearance. Woo-hoo...turns out the FBI doesn't have any outstanding warrants for me. Shocker. ;)