So far, so good, but the real transition is still to come. It has been an interesting year to say the least. My experience the last 20 years is that I put great amounts of energy effort, hope and planning to just have everything fall apart. As a person in their mid 50's, to say this has been soul crushing and difficult is an understatement.
I approached joining the Peace Corps with a detachment I usually do not have, mainly because I am so tired of being disappointed and wasting lots of time and effort in the process.
The application is the most comprehensive I have ever undergone. I just thought you apply, they make sure you are not a child molester, terrorist or drug lord and that is it. Well, in addition to clearing you with the FBI, every inch of your body and every aspect of your blood is taken into consideration. Obviously, it makes total sense. The Peace Corps needs physically and mentally healthy people representing the USA in remote areas. But being economically on the edge with no health insurance meant I had to figure stuff out in order to meet all the screening requirements.
The most interesting task was to get a pap smear. I had been a regular with Planned Parenthood for years. Since I have been single for longer than the US has been in Iraq, I got out of the habit of regular check ups. When I first called in to get an appointment, the young man in the appointment department asked me to hold after I gave him my birth date. After about 5 minutes of elevator music, I was told that I did not fit the criteria for services through Planned Parenthood. I guess having real female genitals after menopause made me unfit. Wow, not only am I unemployable because I had the tumerity to be born in the early 1960's, now my cervix was also not what Planned Parenthood was looking for.
Lack of money creates great ingenuity in the highly educated.
After a week of looking to other sources, I finally decided to call another Planned Parenthood and schedule under a false birth date, changing it when I got to the center. It worked, I had a valid and desired cervix once again! When I showed up to the appointment, I corrected the birth date, received excellent care that I had always remembered I had received before when my cervix was acceptable, but upon examination, the Nurse Practitioner told me I had an age appropriate vagina. Talk about a pick up line! Do I tell potential romantic partners before hand or let them find out themselves?
After letting the Peace Corps know I can prove I do not have hepatitis, tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes, cavities, schizophrenia, and have excellent titer immunity to all contagious diseases, I received my medical clearance. I actually, after much time and effort (Thanks to the Alta Med center in Santa Ana that gave me most of my medical requirements for a sliding scale co pay) got clearance and acceptance. I honestly was a bit shocked since apparently the Peace Corps did not get the memo that they like all potential employers I have interviewed with during the last four years, was supposed to string me along and then politely reject me. The Peace Corps has accepted me, I have the paperwork to prove it. So now, while I have been telling myself it might be a possibility, but still trying to prepare for my plan R, since that was the next letter in the alternate plan alphabet, here we are, now what?
I have been living out of a back pack for the past year, house sitting, staying with friends, while looking for work. I went on a speaking tour last November and December, House sat for the Holidays. Packing for me is basically how I have been living. So here we are, what to pack for a climate I am not really used to, for 27 months, with a very different retail environment. Should I buy over there, or buy here, can I actually take it? I have learned that even when at what one would think of as bare bones, it is always too much.
So, this is my next phase. We A20 team members, which is our Peace Corps class designation, are having our first skype calls. We get notes from these calls, which in some ways I find amusing. Since my beginnings of the application process, the questions, interviews, handouts and so on basically keep saying (my words not theirs) "you will not be in America." When I was studying language in Bulgaria in the early 80's I went to the US Embassy to ask about some sort of visa information. The American staff member I was talking to said to me "Well, this is not America" When people say that, I want to reply, you are kidding, a 20 hour plane flight, that explains it, is that why all the signs are in a different language? I knew it! We are not in America! So, good to know, and I guess Albania does not have 24 hour CVS where I can pop by and get my cuticle cream at 2 am.
From what I can see, Albania is a breathtakingly beautiful country. So, I am now figuring out what to pack and trying to create new neurotransmitter pathways for Shqiperi language. My current pathways are an odd mix of Bulgarian and German, this should be as they say interesting.