It is nearly a year since this journey has begun. Like all government institutions, there is quite a bit of policy, procedures and steps to go through. Filling out forms, getting recommendations, background checks, finger prints, applications, health screenings, essays, classes and so on, and then waiting. I have been rejected for so long from everything you can imagine, I enter new arenas with the assumption that it will not work out. I know, this is counter to being "successful" this envisioning stuff that sells lots of books and workshop tickets, but let me tell you, being a single female over 50 is worse than having Ebola in many respects regarding rejection and isolation. (No disrespect or trivialization of real Ebola sufferers intended but sometimes I would start to wonder what exactly was causing people to flee from my presence in such a hurried manner, what was so repulsive about my presentation, education and experience in terms of trying to find gainful employment.)
When I got my final clearance and was given the "you will make a fine volunteer" in writing, I must say I was a bit shocked. My fellow over 50 single friends of both sexes completely understand. I mused that the Peace Corps did not get the memo that instructs all potential employers. (Yes, this is volunteer gig, but it is much like employment in that they give me a stipend, health care and housing allowance) The universal rejection memo which also covers all sane eligible men in addition to prospective employers reads something like this: string this highly qualified, deeply sensitive hard working, creative and fun woman along as long as possible and then tell her, thank you we have filled the position, you were not a fit, not what we were looking for, which is code for "old and over weight. She is not to have a shred of self esteem or feelings of competence in this life time, it has been decreed, discount this memo to your own peril." So I still was not quite believing that it was real until I got the "Peace Corps Albania Staging Information" email.
As par usual with my email, it did not post until about 6 hours after it was sent. So I had already checked my email twice that day and assumed that either it had not been sent or the Peace Corps finally got the universal memo to all potential employers to reject me after great effort on my part. I checked email late last night and POOF there it was, I clicked with apprehension, hoping we had not been cancelled in some sort of frenzied alt right budget cut under the new Department of State purge, and there is was:
"The Staging Unit is looking forward to your arrival in Miami, FL on March 4, 2017 for the Albania staging event. Please read this email and the attachments carefully, as the information here will answer many of the questions you have regarding your final steps prior to departing for Albania. "
Since my menopausal ovaries refuse to let me sleep for any length of time, I was actually WAITING for 6 am to arrive so I could call the Peace Corps Travel office in Washington DC. After all the email said to call them IMMEDIATELY to book my ticket to Miami from Southern California. This was an order I took seriously.
Cool, non stop flight from LAX on an airline with which I have frequent flyer membership! Free frequent flyer points!
This is the next step towards Albania. We gather to basically get to know one another, get our government issued Passport that will allow us to live in Albania and become Peace Corps experts. Apparently we will be having a choice of pancakes or waffles for breakfast during staging. I have also been learning through our FB chat group that I can get my hair cut in Albania for a very reasonable price, and it is best to purchase a blow dryer there.
I will now actually look at the check list of things to purchase and bring, I just did not have the heart to do this before getting my ticket so to speak. Sleeping bag and Albanian phone are the first items. Yesterday, I thought I should try to educate myself a bit, so I went to the Orange Main Library to see if there were any books on Albania. I found ONE, and it was in the childrens section. I went to the number in the adult section, and could not find it, only books on Byzantium and the Balkans. When I asked the research librarian where it was, she told me the "J" on the call number meant it was in the "juvenile" section of the library. The only book on Albania in the entire Orange County Library system was in a series of picture books featuring nations like Estonia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Checked it out along with a couple of Balkan books I found in the adult section. Everything to do with the Balkans is so highly charged in terms of perspective, so we shall see what I learn. So far, the pictures in the Albania book are quite lovely.
I found a couple of beautiful California picture books at the Library book shop yesterday. I have been trying to think of gifts to bring for my host family during my training. I am feeling more like I am a representative of California than what I would term a chaotic USA these days. Discussions are sort of eeking out on skype calls as well as on FB on how we can best deal with the inevitable questions regarding the new administration. We have been reassured that Albanians love Americans. Well, hopefully so. I for one and looking forward to getting out of this tornado and simply being blissfully distant from all of what is going on in the USA. I also found a great text book on anatomy and physiology which I think will be useful for me as a health educator.
So, Miami and then Albania, here I come!