Two days ago my sister asked me if I'd submitted my personal narratives. I did, but I forgot to update her. Yes, they're submitted and yes, 4 of the 6 narratives are exactly the same. I changed my communication narrative and made my substantive knowledge more fluid. I passed to the OA with these narratives, so hopefully the stars will align and I will be chosen to attend the OA again.
In Blood Pressure news, I went to the doc two weeks ago and it was down. Not below levels that DOS requires, but pretty darn close! Hopefully I can continue my plan and head on to Medical Clearances!
...not so fast. As it turns out, I have elevated blood pressure (what?!) and need to go on a special plan to make sure I can get my levels back down to normal. This was surprising and not-so-surprising to me, just based on how much my diet and level of activity have changed since joining Peace Corps one year ago (several PCVs also told me recently they've received the same diagnostic.) It makes sense, honestly: I've gone from a fairly mobile, pure vegan to someone who now eats meat and all sorts of other goodies this country has to offer -- but I am definitely paying the price for my indulgences, haha :D
I'll keep you all updated on my progress
-- I'm currently signed up for a 5K, have made the decision to go back
strictly vegan, and am gonna stick to my morning runs with my host
cousin. Hopefully in about 3-6 months this all pays off, and I won't
have to go on any medications to get it under control.
I never thought medical clearances would hold me back from achieving my long-standing goal, but if there's anything to be said here its that this experience is definitely molding me into a better, stronger...more patient person!
Today has been...pretty awesome. Not only did I get paid, but I received a passing score on the FSOT and found out that DOS has granted me TOP SECRET security clearance! What the what?! Friday is certainly going to be a celebration! ;)
year ago, I landed in Guatemala City with 28 Trainees and began
the complex, interesting, and challenging transition into life as a
Peace Corps Volunteer. The conflicting realities of life and work here
have significantly cooled my desire to work professionally in the grassroots
development sector, but I would be remiss not to note how thankful I am
for the new skills, experiences and friendships I have gained during
In the Peace Corps Unofficial Handbook, there is a chart that explains the so-called 27-month cycle that most Peace Corps Volunteers experience. I think it accurately reflects what I, and many of my peers are going through as we approach our second year in the Corps.
11 - 15
Doubt of Program, Role, Self, Govt
Failures Over Time Reflection: Disillusionment, Confusion Resolving
Frustrations with Victories
New Trainees Arrive
Impatience with Self and Program System
Blame on Program
Haughtiness with New Trainees via Super
Identification with Image and Dress
Review Work Plan
Set New Goals
One Year Anniversary Celebration
Develop New Recreation
Write Long Lost Acquaintances
Explore Better Relations with
GVO & NGO Folks
Return to Language Study and Practice
I can most significantly relate to the third bullet point in the chart, but I'm actively working to make sure I stay on track. Last week saw a lot of cancellations, with my Counterpart putting the icing on the cake by telling me "I sometimes forget to tell the teachers they are required to be at your trainings", but there's no use crying over spilled horchata, right?
It's difficult to express how I feel about my Peace Corps Service thus far, mainly because I cannot muster any strong emotions about my Service (is that a bad sign?), but I raise my glass to the efforts of those in my cohort. Living and working in a new country with new rules and expectations is not as easy as it sounds.
Yes, it begins again. Since I'm still going through hiring clearances and have yet to be placed on the register, I decided to start a second consular candidacy in the hopes I can get a higher Oral Assessment score.
So, I took the FSOT yesterday with a group of fellow PCVs and others living/working in Guatemala. It was really interesting taking the exam at the embassy and getting to see FSOs doing their everyday jobs. The woman working as our proctor and escort was an IT Specialist, and she was so nice! We also made nice with one of the Marines working behind the glass. Hopefully we can hang out sometime.
So...the test. Believe it or not, I believe I failed the essay. I have no idea what happened, but my 5 paragraphs, though complete and with transitions, went around in circles and rambled. I definitely didn't put my best foot forward with the essay, and I think I may be scored with a 4 or a 5. Yikes. Hopefully I'm wrong, but if I have to take the exam again in 2015, that's fine, too!
MC was as it always has been for me: not too hard, not too easy. I finished each section with about 15 minutes to spare and sat during the time, mentally preparing myself for the following section. I know I was completely clueless on some of the Job Knowledge questions, and I might have possibly done the best on the Biographical section (like last time.)
Well, I've got 3-5 weeks to fret over receiving results, and I have my fingers crossed that everyone gets good news in March!
Last week three Peace Corps colleagues and I were chosen to have lunch with officials from the embassy and a visiting Congressman. Of course, I was flattered my name came up, but I was also excited to have the opportunity to see real live Foreign Service Officers on the job. The lunch was pretty uneventful, though I did manage to get in a few "keep funding us!" pleas.
It was mentioned around the table that I was going through my security clearances and that I had just (that morning, actually) found out I'd passed the Spanish language test. The Control officer during the lunch was actually a Consular Officer, and when I told him Consular was my chosen cone, he did a little fist pump in the air. He said he loved his career (in fact, it's the only career he's had) and that he was happy with his profession.
We all got his card, and he told me, "No matter what -- whether you get the letter or whether you're just curious, give me a call and I'll answer your questions."
It was a very sincere-sounding invitation, and I am happy to have
contact with a (Consular) FSO! I am going to the embassy on February 5th
to take the FSOT again, so maybe I can arrange a shadowing or
visitation around that time (if it's even allowed.)
I know I just got a couple of business cards and a free lunch, but being in the company of folks who work for our nation made me feel like a million bucks ;)
Results are in! I am crossing my fingers for everyone out there! I know what it's like to get both a passing letter and a letter saying I did not make the cut. My case just goes to show: don't give up if it's bad news! Good luck!
I'm thinking on the day I took the Foreign Service Oral Assessment.
I was staying in a hostel in DC and because I'd lost my Guatemalan cell phone in the Miami airport, I set my computer alarm to wake me up at 5:00AM. Well, that didn't happen, and I ended up jolting awake at 6:15AM, 30 minutes before the cab was to arrive. Luckily, my clothes were set and no one was in the shower so I was able to get ready in a hurry. But that hurry wasn't enough, as the cab arrived a full 10 minutes early, and I had to run after it, outside, barefoot (the hostel didn't allow us to wear shoes inside the building, and I could not find them quickly in the shoe cubbies.) Yes, it was wintertime. Yes, my feet felt like they were going to freeze off - but there was no way I was letting that car get away! As I rode to the Annex, I calmed my frazzled nerves by telling myself that if I'd had such a terrible morning, there was nowhere to go but up -- and seeing as I passed, I'm totally thanking myself for keeping cool and not letting a terrible start ruin what turned out to be an amazing day :D
My OA morning is pretty much how I feel in Peace Corps every day. But I'm making it ;)
Well, I passed! I really did not expect to receive the good news! They've adjusted my OA score, so it's been raised to a 5.47 from a 5.3. That score is still not high enough to get me off the register, I don't think, but it's still a pretty good lift to the old self-esteem! Thanks for all your support! ;)
My site is located in the borderlands of El Quiché and
Totonicapán. I live in the cabecera (municipal seat), population 2,500, and usually spend my days working, chatting with my neighbors or
enjoying the weather on the family balcony -- daily temperatures are
usually between 75 and 80 degrees and don't change much from that. My site is a fairly sleepy town, by anyone's standards, but I enjoy the quiet
and the opportunities to connect with my family and neighbors. My site is
the 6th most impoverished of Guatemala's 322 municipalities, but a lack
of some of the everyday creature comforts other municipalities may enjoy
has not dampened their spirits or hospitality. 98% of the population
here is ethnically and linguistically K'iche', which means the only
Spanish I ever hear is when it's directed at me ;)
I love this place. One day this town will have high-rises and sky-scrapers and a population over fifty-thousand but for now I'll enjoy its beautiful big sky and amazing nighttime stars. This place is what makes me feel, truly, like a Peace Corps Volunteer. The people, too. I could make the journey from one side of my town to the other in a leisurely ten minutes, but it usually takes me three times as long, because of all the people coming up to chat, or to ask about my health, or to scold me about not wearing a sweater. I love it. I didn't think I would (being the center of attention makes me feel incredibly uneasy at times), but to my surprise, I do. And my host family...I often say they're one of the main reasons I've survived PC living this long. I've been in Guatemala almost one year (in my site 8 months) and, dare I say?, it's actually starting to feel like home ♥
Yes, I finally took the Spanish Language Phone Exam. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, lasting around 15 or 20 minutes. One thing, though, is that I forgot about the time difference between Guatemala and DC, and I called in 15 minutes late! Good thing I thought to call and check the connection, or else I would probably have been deemed a "no show."
I am pretty sure I did not reach the required "3" to get the bonus points for hiring. I mainly took the exam to see where I fall on the spectrum and where I need to focus most of my practice. Honestly speaking, I'm pretty sure I received a 2+ in speaking according to this scale.
Anyway, I've received news on Friday that my security investigation is being "finalized", though I am only vaguely sure of what this means (I believe my file has to be looked over, then sent to another board for review.) I also just finished my last medical examination yesterday, which is awesome because it was getting tiring to leave my site so many times. Hopefully all goes well and I can find out my spot on the register ASAP ;) Given my score, I know I will take last place, but it still feels good being on the register at all.
I know I will need to complete the process again if I have any hope of being hired...which is why I signed up to take the February exam here in Guatemala on February 5th. This will be my 3rd time taking the exam, and hopefully the 3rd time I will pass. What makes this time really interesting is that 4 of my fellow PCV's will also be taking the test. I convinced them all to schedule with me on the same day, so we can share cab fare and possibly hotel fare (if they let us stay in the Capital.)
I don't think I will study much this year, as work is going to be pretty hectic, but I am still getting those lovely jitters that accompany me every time I begin the FSOT process. And we all know how opaque the QEP process can be, which is why my fingers are crossed for receiving another invite to the Orals!
Happy first day of Kwanzaa (Umoja --> Unity!) Actually, I haven't celebrated Kwanzaa since I was a child (during my mother's Pan Africa! days), but I still like the way "habari gani" and "kujichagulia" roll of the tongue...
In other, non-Holiday news, my new Spanish language exam is scheduled for 3PM on January 6th. I have some hope that maybe I'll be able to squeak by with a 3. If not, I've got many more times to get better! Also, because I am going through the Foreign Service process all over again in order to get a higher FSOA score, I am sending off a FOIA for my exact scores. I am pretty sure I scored above average on the SI, average on the GE and totally bombed CM. But, we shall see! Hopefully I'll be able to use my exact score as a guide on what I need to practice if I'm invited to the FSOA next time.
Not much is happening on the Peace Corps front -- though I am traveling to Xela on New Year's Eve to give a presentation to a group of folks traveling to Guatemala as members of the National Peace Corps Association. I am bringing along my host cousin, and I hope the group learns a lot from her. After that, she and I are gonna spend the night with other PCVs and head to Panajachel for some much needed R&R!
Well, that's all for now, so I leave you with one of my favorite mentions of Kwanzaa, taken from an episode of the hilarious animated television show, Futurama. Enjoy!
Yes, I am sitting in an airport, waiting to fly back to lovely Guatemala. I planned a surprise trip home with my twin, and we managed to surprise some family members who had no idea I would be home for thanksgiving. Seeing their surprised, happy faces made my day :)
I spent two weeks in my hometown, just relaxing, vegging out and gossiping with my twin. I also had the most meat-free two weeks I've had since I left for Peace Corps. It felt good to be able to refrain from meat, cheese and other milk products without being asked a bunch of questions about my dietary habits. Ohio isn't a bastion of vegans -- but it's much more accommodating than Guatemala, LOL.
I am glad I took this extra two weeks at home, as I definitely needed a break from the Peace Corps world. It's funny -- I don't know what happened between the time I was 19, all about roughing it and being "intrepid", and now, where I am 29 and dreading the thought of hostels and bucket baths. I often wonder what I'd be like as a 19 or 20 year-old Peace Corps Volunteer. A lot more carefree, I assume, but a lot more immature ;)
Now it's back to the grind, and I am very excited to head back to work in my small little site. I have 6 months of work planned, and it looks like my work partner has gotten used to me ideas and my way of working. And...finally, I get my office (sounds fancy, but it's a table against the wall in my work partner's office, LOL.)
In Foreign Service news, I'm signed up for the February test, and hopefully will receive an invite around the week of January 8th. Our main Management officer here at Peace Corps sent out a mass e-mail asking how many of us wanted to take the Feb exam, because the embassy is trying to figure out if they should offer it for more than one day. I am slowly trying to convince some of my cohorts to go take the exam ;) I hope so! I think it would be fun to head to Guatemala City as a group ;)
Well, that's all for now. I've got to go hunt down some food and hunker down for the long wait for my flight!
It's today! I am not really nervous, but a little concerned, as they want me to call in using a land-line phone. No one in my family has a land-line phone anymore, but hopefully there won't be any huge technical issues that get in the way of me taking the test. Anyway, my test is at 3PM and I'll update afterward to talk about how I think it went! :D
Update: As I feared, the connection wasn't very good. Luckily, they're going to set up another time with me for next week when I'll be in the Peace Corps offices (and with land-lines handy!)
Nearly everyone I know has been talking all about me in these past few weeks. It feels so weird! My mother was actually first to be interviewed, and then my sister (on separate days and in separate places.) My mom and sister are fairly level women, so I knew they would be fine. Still, I had to let my mother know that it was quite alright to tell the investigator I drink alcohol, LOL.
Another investigator also randomly showed up to my close friend's childhood home, which worried the holy heck out of her mother. After he realized my friend was not there, he interviewed her mother, who spoke at length about how my friend and I met while still in high school during an invitational at our Alma Mater. I barely remember that event, but I guess proud mamas are always good with the details ;)
A separate investigator came to speak with me here in Guatemala. She was pleasant and the interview seemed to go quickly. It was only yesterday that my boss told me we were in there for a little under two hours. I suppose having to go through every place I've lived and every place I've traveled took up quite some time!
All in all, the investigation itself is winding down, and my medical appointments are winding up! Hopefully I can get this done soon...and then onto my language examinations! :D