My first snail mail letter from the Peace Corps arrived in my Post Office box last week. Very exciting opening the letter to see the Peace Corps logo at the top. The sort of letter to keep in a memory box somewhere. I also received a large envelope from my health insurance fund with an A4 size X-Ray of my head. Must have been taken several months ago just before I had my braces fitted. Most unexpected. I must say it’s quite disconcerting to receive an unanticipated X-Ray of your head in the mail. Quite caught me offguard. X-Rays always remind me of my own mortality in a seeing-yourself-in-flesh-&-bones kind way. I’ve no idea what to do with it, turn it into an artwork perhaps.
So the Peace Corps letter has three parts. First an introduction & welcome & thanks for applying. It then refers to the other two documents included in the envelope- two FBI fingerprint forms, and a Privacy permission form. It’s all rather official looking and makes me feel important for some strange reason, despite the fact that I’m about 12 months still from a) being accepted into the program and b) being offered a place. I felt the same way when I got my voting ballot form for the last US election. Something about ‘official’ mail and ‘US postage paid’ stamps with the little wavey lines that seems important. Silly I know but it’s like the mini salt & pepper shakers you get on planes…for some unexplained reason I just like them.
So I called the Victoria Police as the fingerprint forms need to be ‘professionally’ done, and signed off by someone in an official capacity. The only police station that does them in Melbourne is in the CBD at the World Trade Centre, and they’re booked up until November which is a bummer as the letter says the forms should be returned within two weeks (although it also states that they can make an exception for overseas applicants to extend that period on advise, which I emailed them immediately). The other stations that can do fingerprints are located in regional Victoria, and I’d made an appointment for today to have them taken in Ararat (about three hours away by train), but cancelled my appointment this morning as I woke up with a headache and didn’t want to risk getting halfway there and have it turn into a migraine. The last migraine I had was followed by three hours of dry-reaching on an empty stomach, and I’d really rather not risk having that happen on a long train journey. It was bad enough happening alone in the confines of my bedroom.
I got an email from the Peace Corps recruiter ‘Shari’ this morning in response to my email requesting an extension of the two week return period. I’m not sure if Shari is a she or a he yet, but they replied that an extension to the two week return period would be fine. They also said that I’d need to send in my uni grades, either via scan or snail mail. I’m fairly sure I’ve got them scanned somewhere so will have to dig around and see if I can find them. They also sent through a second email saying that my preference to be posted to China was by no means guaranteed, and that being flexible in terms of geographic placement is the best way to improve chances of being allocated a post. I replied this morning that although China is my first preference I’d be quite willing to be posted elsewhere. I really am hoping for China, but being posted anywhere will be an experience, so I’m not fussed. Hopefully nowhere too hot!
My next step will be calling to make another appointment to have my fingerprints taken. I might just make it for the CBD in November. I’m just being impatient making the appointment earlier at a regional centre. So I’ll make that call this morning. Seems ironic that I can’t get them done sooner given my parents house is about three metres from the Victorian Police Academy.
I’m sitting in the Pancake Parlour because my home WiFi connection is very weak. The Pancake Parlour’s WiFi is fast, and they tend to let me sit here all afternoon, so I’ve been coming here most days for the past month. The manager knows me by now, by sight if not by name. Since coming here I’ve learned that the Pancake Parlour is a “Melbourne Institution’- started in the 1960s (in Adelaide of all places), then quickly migrating to Victoria. They’re not a US based franchise at all, which is odd given there’s plenty about them that screams ‘US/Canada inspired’. They’ve got to be one of the few restaurant chains not supported by a major corporation that has survived so many decades…and in Australia…serving pancakes…of all things. I suppose Melbourne does kind of have the climate for it. And turns out they play nothing but soul music, which I’ve learned I can listen to for hours on end without it bothering me. I’m quite familiar with their soundtrack now, ‘signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours’ is indelibly carved into my memory as a groove specific to the Pancake Parlour.
So I’ve submitted my application for the Peace Corps. It’s not exactly a swift process. The website estimates it takes about 8 hours to complete the online part of the application, but my guess it’s more like double that, especially if you’ve got a slow internet connection. In addition to uploading your CV, you need to fill in four or five work field entries with dates, contact names and phone numbers of previous employers over the past ten years, accounting for any gaps of more than a few months between employers. You also need to provide a minimum of three ‘recommenders’, one work, one volunteer or uni supervisor, and one friend that’s known you at least two years. You provide your recommenders email address to the Peace Corps and they send the recommender an email providing a link to an online form which they fill in. I’ve no idea what the form asks as I elected to allow my recommenders to provide their recommendations without me being privy to them. But Peter (my supervisor recommender) assured me it was a very slow site. Then once your recommenders have all submitted their recommendations, you have to provide answers to two essay questions asking you why you want to volunteer in the Peace Corps, and how you plan on managing/fulfilling the 10 key Peace Corps expectations. Fortunately my answers came out quite fast and naturally, I didn’t really need to think much, it all just flowed. Oddly enough though I ended up specifying a preference to work in China and learn Mandarin, which is strange because at the outset of the process I had no inclination in this direction at all. It must have been mulling around at the back of my mind somewhere though because at the point at which they offered the option to choose a preferred geographic location I didn’t hesitate, I just wrote ‘China’ and that I’d like to learn Mandarin. Sometimes I think these things stew in the background without your conscious awareness until it’s crunchtime and then out it comes as if from nowhere. But when I really think about it, and about the future, I think Australia’s about one step removed from being a great big cousin-province of China, so perhaps that’s why I veered so decidedly towards China and learning Chinese. But I could be placed anywhere, depending on the match between the regions needs and the skills I have to offer.
Anyway, on top of the essay questions I also I needed to provide my Social Security number, which fortunately my Dad still had in his files. If he hadn’t, and being in Australia, it might have taken a lot longer to get a hold of one. Probably would have involved at least an appointment and one or two visits to the US Embassy here I’m guessing.
Then once you get past all the initial formalities, you move onto the online medical review, which is an eye-opener in itself. It’s about ten web pages long, listing so many ailments it seems impossible not to have had at least one of them. But fortunately my bill of health is for the most part clean so hopefully I should have no trouble on that score.
So now that the online part is submitted, I wait for them to make contact via snail mail sometime in the next few weeks.