A chronicle of my experiences as a Peace Corps Community Organizational Development volunteer in Bulgaria.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Let The Countdown Begin

I've spoken with the folks at the Bulgaria Desk at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington and been told that our Group is being gathered together in Philadelphia on August 6th. We'll spend a couple of days in orientation and then travel by bus up to JFK Airport for our departure to Sofia. Apparently, the Group is somewhat atypical in that there are more "senior" volunteers than recent college grads. I've learned that I miss being the oldest member of the group by a mere 18 years! I was given some very brief background information on a couple of the other Invitees and it sounds as though it will be a very interesting and diverse group of people. Some of us will focus on providing assistance to small businesses and to the government organizations that support them. Others in the group are slated to work in the Environmental sector to assist in developing ways to improve, preserve and protect Bulgaria's natural resources.

I've divested myself of my exercise equipment and the effort nearly exhausted me. But, because I'm used to doing something, I looked around for a way to get the cardio-vascular workout that damn well better be good for me. Hanging from two large hooks in my garage was my bike. I bought it about ten years ago with the idea in mind that I would become a long-distance rider and get in my workout while riding through the countryside. The bike is a beautiful Trek mountain bike, lightweight and painted iridescent green. It came with an odometer which I glanced at as I put it rightside up on the garage floor. Sixteen miles. I've ridden it sixteen miles in ten years. Before you mock me understand that they were very tough miles. Miles that would tax even a fit man. Tough miles. Okay, the real problem is that the seat feels exactly like I'm sitting on a split rail fence..lengthwise. I've spoken to a friend of mine who is an accomplished cyclist and he assures me that the pain eventually goes away. My concern has always been for what may very well go away with it. But I'm not delicate so now I'm out on the bike every day after work logging virtually hundreds of yards of grimace inducing exercise.

When we leave for Bulgaria I'll be fit, limping but fit. This coming Friday is my final day at work so let the countdown begin.

Monday, May 17, 2004

In The Holding Pattern

Since I made the decision to join the Peace Corps, I feel like I've been in a permanent holding pattern. Waiting to move through each phase of the application process, waiting for my house to sell, waiting for my responsibilities at work to grind to a halt and waiting for all the fun stuff to begin.

Packing for the two year trip seems to be quite an issue in the online prospective volunteer community. Sadly, I long ago gave up on my dream of becoming a coverboy for GQ so the packing issue isn't one that I lose sleep over. When the time comes I'll fill a couple of suitcases with whatever is cleanest, keeping the PC dictum "bring nothing more than you can carry" in mind, and that'll do. Suggestions from current volunteers are helpful and the one that makes the most sense is, bring along personal things that remind you of your home.

I have a moving company all lined up to take my things into storage. I have a safe haven for my Mustang and a garage sale for my odds and ends. I'm working my way through a "Teach Yourself Bulgarian" book at the rate of a chapter a week and can already say such useful things as, 'where is the toilet?' and 'how much are those melons?'

I shouldn't hear from the PC until the end of June when I'll receive my Staging information packet. That will give me the details of where and when to join the group prior to our departure. I'll put a post or two up here once in a while, just to keep the thing active, but there won't be much on the PC until closer to my departure date in August.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


LG's Excellent PC Adventure..or..my answer to the question, "You Did What?!!?"

It occurred to me that, at this point in my life, there was nothing to prevent me from going off into the world and having an adventure. I had once been interested in joining the Peace Corps but ended up taking a different road and over the years whenever I thought about that missed opportunity I just excused myself with, "I didn't have much experience to offer them anyway." Now, with the world becoming increasingly belligerent, the mission the Peace Corps was created to serve seems more relevant than ever.

I began to do some research and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Peace Corps was alive, healthy and dedicated to the same ideals that had led to its creation in the Sixties. The more I learned, the more I liked the idea of volunteering. Sharing our experience and values, teaching, learning and creating friendships within our host countries seemed like an excellent concept. I did a quick self-evaluation, decided that I had some useful experience to share and pulled up an on-line application form.

Naively, I believed that once I alerted the Peace Corps to my availability it would only be a matter of having them agree to one or two minor stipulations and I'd let them know when, where and how I'd be willing to serve. After all, I have 'experience' and I'm willing to share it with them...the lucky dogs! So I filled in a 'basic eligibility' application, then completed an extensive on-line application, filled out an on-line health evaluation and waited for the Peace Corps to send a car and driver to collect me. They said, "Please fill out these additional forms" and the application process began.

That process took just over a year to complete and I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have been accepted. The application process is thorough. After filling out stacks of forms, you meet with a recruiter and, if your interview goes well, you become a Nominee. You're nominated for consideration to become a volunteer in a specific area of work and a specific region of the world. Then you fill out more forms, undergo medical and dental evaluation, and have your life examined in detail. If all goes well, you then become an Invitee and are offered a position to accept or decline and are given another set of forms to complete. I am currently an Invitee and have accepted an invitation to work in Bulgaria as a Community Economic Development volunteer. I don't know any of the specifics of my future assignment but I'm fairly certain that more forms are waiting for me down the road.

I'll be part of a group scheduled to arrive in Bulgaria in early August. Once there, I will begin a three month training program designed to teach me the language, the culture and some of the specifics of the job I'll be doing. During those three months I'll be a Trainee and then, if I do well enough during training to earn a position, I'll be sworn in as a Volunteer. As a Volunteer I'll work with my Bulgarian counterparts for two years in some area of Small Business development.

I hope to use this website to allow my friends and family to follow along on the adventure. I'm sure it will be a great ride!

Monday, May 10, 2004

Good as a Journal?

I'm trying to put together a website that will allow me to chronicle my time in the Peace Corps so that my family and friends can share in the experience. I'm hoping that this Blog combined with my Apple website will accomplish this task. If this works, more to follow!!

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