I got my invitation in the mail today–I’m officially invited to be a Rural Community Health Advisor in Benin! I still have to read through the information more thoroughly after I turn in this paper that I am in the middle of writing, but I’m 99% sure that I will accept the invitation. It sounds completely aligned with my interests as far as Community Health goes–I’ll be working mainly on maternal and child health/nutrition and on disease prevention in conjunction with either a local health center or an NGO. I don’t know much about Benin but from what I’ve read about it so far, it sounds like somewhere I would like to spend two years of my life. I’m fine with a rural placement; in fact, I think I’d prefer that over an urban one, so that sounds great. And the staging date is at the end of June, which is exactly when I was hoping to leave. So all in all, perfect! The only thing that concerns me is that apparently I’m expected to have “working fluency” in French by the end of the 3-month training period…considering how lacking my French skills are, this could be interesting. But I’m sure that the language immersion will help me reach that level quickly.
That’s really the gist of the news. You may want to skip over this next part, because it will be boring unless you are in the process of applying for Peace Corps. I’m including a few details of how these changes went down, for other applicants who are (like I was) scouring the web for information on what might be happening in the mysterious PC application process: On Friday of last week (3 weeks and 1 day after I sent my revised resume and was told that I would hear from them in 4-6 weeks), I got a call from a 202 area code around 4:30 in the afternoon. I freaked out when I saw the number, because I was definitely not expecting any other calls from the DC area, but I had also pretty much given up hope on getting the call that week. When I answered, the voice on the other end confirmed that he was from PC Placement and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. He wanted to schedule a time to have our final interview (unless I had time right then, which of course I did. I mean, really…there was no way I was going to wait until the next week now that I had him on the phone!). We talked for about 30 minutes about various things: my motivations for doing PC, safety in PC, my support system at home, my vegetarianism, how I would deal with certain situations, etc. At the end, he said the next step was to qualify me for placement and invite me to a program. He said he had a program in mind, and asked me a few questions about changing from the program I was originally nominated for, specifically the departure date. I said that I’d be more than happy to leave in June instead of September, and he said he’d like to invite me to be a community health advisor in West Africa, leaving at the end of June. After he explained the position a bit, I said I would love to do that and would be extremely excited to accept that invitation. He said the invitation would be sent the next day, and that I would receive it in 5-10 days. We hung up and I freaked out. I ran to find my housemates and proceeded to scream at them that I was getting an invitation. They have been with me through the whole process, so they knew what a big deal it was, and joined me in celebrating. I could not stop smiling.
I checked the Peace Corps Wiki and saw that Benin was leaving at the end of June, so I suspected that it might be my placement, but I wanted to keep an open mind until I knew for sure. The e-mail informing me that I had mail that was too big to fit in my dorm mailbox arrived today while I was at my internship. I didn’t tell anyone that it had arrived, even though people knew I was expecting it. I was so nervous my whole way back to school and as I was walking up to Mail Services. When I finally had the package in my hands, I didn’t even know what to do. I’ve been waiting for this for so long that I almost didn’t want to open it. What if it was a letdown? What if I was disappointed by my placement? I finally sat down on a park bench on my way back to my dorm and slowly peeled back the envelope. I saw the cover page, which said I was invited to Benin. I honestly felt a bit numb (this might have been in part due to the all-nighter I had pulled last night, which meant that I was beyond exhausted) and I thought I might cry (not because I was unhappy but because it was such a relief to find out and generally so emotional). I put the paper back in the envelope, but the envelope in my bag, and went home to take a nap. I held off on telling people for a few hours…I just felt like I needed some time to sit with it by myself before I shared with everyone. But now I’ve told everyone and their brother, it feels like, and it’s on facebook and everything, so it’s official! I’m super excited and can’t believe I’ll be leaving in 2 months!!! It was quite the wait, but it all feels worth it now. So excited to read all about Benin and my placement, but first I need to finish my paper so I can graduate. Peace and love everyone!