21 May 2009

Looking ahead

Voice update--no change. Still very hoarse. Some people say they can hear my voice getting better, but I don't hear it. If anything, I've become more cognizant of what I'd describe as a constant dryness in the back of my throat and sometimes soreness from speaking. Now before I get jumped on by those who would say--but you're not supposed to be talking, yes I know that. I don't talk if I can usually avoid it, but it isn't easy.

I carry around a small dry-erase board and marker to write out most of my thoughts. That works great for those that can read the words and read them at a pace that can actually create a conversation. If anything, this experience has enlightened me to the seriousness of the adult reading problem. I already know how poorly many of the children read and I have to talk with them. I'm still attending my meetings with various organizations and again, I might start writing but end up talking when my ideas became misconstrued. Getting a bus to stop or answering phone calls has been it's own challenge especially if there is any sort of background noise. Of course there are also those people who I write words to communicate with and they look at me as if I was stupid and inform me that I can just talk to them since they heard me talking with someone else nearby (who was one the people who don't read well). That's a fun one to explain to a person who doesn't want to work any harder than what it takes--even in conversation.

Anyways, things are still moving along here.

Not always as I'd like them to, but who says we get what we want. Half of our job is just finding a way to make it work with what we get. Hum...perhaps I might coin it Social MacGyverism. Been having the usual bought of attendance dilemmas with meetings lately, which of has been affecting the progress of various group efforts. Perhaps some of it might be attributed to the Carnival season in the air, but it is still too early for the big events to steal away the attentions of most people.

Been on that roller coaster again of the what the heck are we doing here while going through the corkscrews of love my job/hate my job. Either way, I'm here and trying to keep a balance of everything here to keep sane.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”--Buddhist teaching and quote.

The two year roller coaster really makes that lesson an interesting day to day practice. It is hard not to think of our futures after the Peace Corps--particularly on those frustrating days of waiting for an activity to start and you're missing more than half of the committed people while pondering if people are actually taking our seriously.

Either way, whether things going peachy or not I need to start looking ahead to life after service. Many of us have aspirations of graduate school and many of those would like their applications far in advance. This means that I'll be spending some of my free time hoping through grad school websites and the various programs offered. The cost of higher education is rather sad and finding creative ways to pay for graduate school might sadly take up just as much time for many a student as the time they spend in class and studying. That's just not right. Service in the Peace Corps looks great for applicants, but it would be nice to have a tuition reduction as a thank you as well.

It would be nice to have some standardized support for return volunteers and I think I'll actually contact my congressmen on that soon. The average university that I've seen tends to offer a 'discount' of waiving the cost of on average 6-18 credit hours of coursework--not very much in the scheme of things. Of course, many universities have stepped up to support return volunteers and I do appreciate that. However, many of those programs are in education or social-work and not what I'm looking to pursue. I'm looking for degree plans that will help me return to work on the international job market. Working with some of these organizations and getting a closer proximity to working with government officials (if not regularly as I'd like) has only reinforced my desire to work abroad in a composite government scene such as the United Nations.

Right now, Columbia of New York is topping my list with their Masters in International Affairs--Energy & Environment specialty track. I'm also strongly considering their law school for international law. I've taken my GRE, but I'll have to find a way to take my LSAT if I do apply to law school and that probably means I'll have to go off island for it. After seeing so many policy issues in the world and even reflecting on them back home--I'm surprised more volunteers haven't gone into law that I'm aware of and I haven't seen a Law School with a return volunteer tuition break. (not saying they are not out there, just haven't seen it yet)

Grad tuition is frightening. Columbia's Masters program is near $40k in tuition alone for the year--it's law school is much more. A couple years of that, 4 if I pursued the dual degree option and I'd be able to buy a small house. Scary the cost of education. Having a desire to work outside the US is also a very scary risk--especially if that work is not via the U.S. Government. Trying to justify living abroad where work pay might be on par with standards of living and yet make sure to earn enough to send money back home for the student loans for gosh knows how long is a scary venture.

Too bad I didn't want a degree in economics--I do want to thank Western Illinois University for their contribution to our service. I read a leaflet in our office from them and they offer a full ride tuition waiver, stipend, and internship for many of their programs. Too bad it is focused from their Department of Rural Affairs and I am looking for one that will help me connect and get the leg up into the international scene.

Recently, our Country Director sent us an email to clarify a few things regarding Early Termination. It's name is fairly self-explanatory. We are volunteers, yes we are on a contract, but we are not bound to be here. If we follow a series of procedures, we may 'early terminate' our service and go home.

Only the volunteer can weigh those pros can cons since it is a case by case basis. What most volunteers here are grumbling about, particularly those wanting to attend grad school, is our Close of Service date. My group, EC78, has a COS date of 15 October 2010. This puts us just outside of the fall semester start time by 1-3 months. Given that most graduate programs start only in the fall, we would have to find ways to occupy ourselves for nearly an entire year. For someone who has just given 26 months of service--that is a rather crappy thank you. The start and end timing of our service is said to be part of the country assignment's needs--however this is debatable.

80% of EC76 (the group that left before we arrived) early terminated. Many of them did it those last few months before before their COS. To me this sends a clear message and not one that regards them having a direct problem with their service here. Of course an early termination is not without its drawbacks either. For those who wish to work for the government, we are granted a one-year non-competitive eligibility for employment (a handy thing to have). Early terminating denies us this benefit. For those who don't see themselves in the life of public service--giving that up probably doesn't matter. For those of us who may go into government work, that's a sacrifice.

So while I'm living here and happily for the most part and looking forward to finishing my service as scheduled, I am still trying to keep an eye on the future without disrupting the present. Looks like there is plenty to investigate and ponder for later on.

Stay happy and well
ciao tutti
~your local wannabe jedi

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