Peace Corps Videos

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Nicaraguan Video

Several times a week, I look at resume tapes of people who want to become TV reporters. Most are pretty predictable and with rare exception, I seldom watch an entire tape. Today was an exception. In the stack of tapes was a DVD from someone named Ian Wood. It was a documentary he had produced during his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2002 to 2005 in Jinotepe, Nicaragua. I didn't have time to watch the entire program at work, so tonight I brought it home and watched it. It was fascinating to see his house, his "outdoor" kitchen and to see the other Peace Corps Volunteers who were serving with him. I am making copies of the DVD to send to my parents and my sisters.

I'm not sure if he is qualified to be a reporter with my station, but after watching the tape, I sent him an e-mail telling him I would be happy to meet with him. I'm sure I won't tell him that I've been nominated to serve but it will be interesting to meet him and talk with him about his experiences.

The Peace Corps also sent me a book today with stories written by RPCV's or Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. I look forward to reading that.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Circle Widens

I flew to Virginia this weekend and told my family of my plans to join the Peace Corps. As expected, they were supportive and I've invited them to join this blog. My oldest sister, Becky seemed a little apprehensive when I asked my two sisters and my parents to come downstairs because I had something to tell them. Becky's comment was "you are scaring me". However, once I made the big announcement she was the first to say congratulations and give me a high five. In fact, later Saturday evening after everyone had left, Becky and I got on her computer and started looking at the places I could be going.

"Where are you going" was obviously one of the first questions that my family wanted to know and one which I would like to know myself. However, the Peace Corps doesn't share that information until they give you an official invitation. My recruiter told me she was recommending me for a business development program in the Pacific. The Peace Corps web site shows six countries with active programs: Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia and Palau, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. My best guess is Vanuatu since it is the only one that specifically lists a business development program, but my recruiter says that doesn't really mean anything since the programs are constantly changing.

Becky, with help from my nephew Isaac and I spent time looking at different web sites about Vanuatu including the State Department Site which I had not visited before. Isaac suggested we look at Google Earth so he could see exactly where Vanuatu and the other islands are located. Becky says she has always wanted to visit Australia and said that if she can't come to wherever I am stationed, that we could always meet there. Isaac promptly announced he wasn't going to get on a plane and go that far away.

I didn't get to spend as much time Saturday evening talking with Maria, my other sister and with Mom and Dad, but I'm hopeful they will come visit regardless of where I am stationed.

The big hurdle left for me is my medical examination. I am not aware of any medical issues that would prevent me from going anywhere, but you never know what may be discovered. My recruiter had originally requested to be sent to Africa but was not able to go there after it was discovered she was allergic to the medicine they use to treat Malaria. I also have to have a complete dental exam, but that one doesn't worry me. Any dental problems can be fixed.

I've started making a list of the many things that I need to do in preparation for my assignment. I don't want to do anything permanent until I have the official invitation, but certainly I need to do some pre-planning. My parents have agreed to take my dog, Lady during the time that I am gone and my sister Maria may also think about taking her pending a discussion with her husband, Andy. Becky and her husband Bill, an attorney said they would be happy to serve as my "Power of Attorney" to deal with any issues during my time away.

I also have some financial planning I need to do which I can begin to do even before I get the invitation. One of those is making sure I am receiving all of my bills electronically. I'm hopeful that wherever I end up, I will have access to the Internet. Even if I don't have that, having everything electronically will allow someone else to check on how things are going and to pay any outstanding bills. Once my house is sold, I should not have any additional bills.

At this point, the circle of people who know of my plans still remains limited to my three references and my immediate family. I'm going to keep the circle tight until after I get my year-end bonus, even if I should get the official invitation before then. I probably won't broaden it until the invitation arrives so that word does not leak out to my staff and my company.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Getting Started

I found out today that I'm going to be nominated to be a Peace Corps volunteer. This is great news and I'm excited. I'm starting this blog to keep a record of my experiences in the Peace Corps, the application process and my time overseas.

I've spent almost 15 years working for the same company and the last 23 years working in television news. I have a good job and a nice life, but I feel it is time to do something different. The Peace Corps seems to fit that bill.

I first remember hearing about the Peace Corps when Jimmy Carter was running for President. I was probably about 15 years old at the time and his mother "Ms. Lillian" was getting almost as much attention as Mr. Carter. I remembered hearing that she had been a Peace Corps volunteer and I remember thinking that would something I would like to do. (A few years later, I had the chance to interview Ms. Lillian, but I didn't ask her about the Peace Corps.)

The next time I got interested in the Peace Corps was during a three week exchange trip to Germany sponsored by the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) and RIAS, which hosts two groups of journalists in Germany each year. It was a great experience and really got me interested in wanting to live in another culture, another place.

Now, fast forward ten years later, I'm 46, financially secure and have no debt and really no reason that I can't do this now. There was not ONE thing that motivated me to make the move at this time, but probably a combination of things at work. The industry is changing, like all industries do, but it isn't as much fun as it used to be. As the head of a TV news department I often feel like I'm more of a Personnel Manager instead of a news manager. It has always been the news that I have enjoyed and I get to do less and less of that each day. My company is also undergoing some transformations. We are now on our 4Th CEO since I've been with the company. There are many changes coming and I'm not sure I really want to shoulder the blame that my staff will give me for some of these.

My process started on-line. I came home on September 26th after a stressful day at the TV station, filled out the application and medical history, hit send and was on my way. A little over a week later, I was getting fingerprinted at the police department, getting copies of my college transcript and getting three references to say good things about me.

That lead to the interview and it was quite an unusual interview. I met Tricia Siaso, my recruiter at a Borders bookstore, we walked back into the stacks at the store, found two chairs and chatted for about an hour. I told her that my interest was really in business development and would enjoy working with someone to either start or develop their business. I also expressed a desire to work somewhere warm. We briefly discussed the former Soviet states and Eastern Europe but I think she got the idea that I didn't want to go somewhere cold if I could help it. She told me she thought I was competitive for the position and would be in touch with me this week.

After I got home from the interview, I started what has become an almost nightly task--going on-line and reading more about the Peace Corps. It was the night after the interview when I read an article that almost 1/2 of the people who apply to the Peace Corps are turned down. However, I also saw that many of those were people without professional experience. I remained hopeful.

True to her word, Tricia phoned and e-mailed me on Monday to say she had some good news...a business development opportunity in the Pacific. I didn't get the messages until Monday night so couldn't call her until Tuesday. I asked more about the position. She didn't have a lot of details except that it was in the Pacific. She did have one business advising position left in the Caribbean but she said she didn't know if it was still open and that she really felt like I should be in the higher level business development program. I said okay so she is forwarding me the medical paperwork to complete and the official nomination.

Until today, only three people know that I have applied for this position and those are my three references. I am flying up to Virginia this weekend to tell my family my plans. I believe they will be supportive and I am going to need their support. My plan is to sell my house before I leave but I don't want to put it on the market until I receive the official invitation that I have been cleared. The same for my job. I'm not going to say anything until I know for sure that this is happening. Tricia, my recruiter, said that if I get my medical work done quickly, I should get something by January, but said it could take longer. All the Peace Corps will guarantee is six weeks before you leave. I'm hoping for a bit more time.