The Mediterranean

Got a call today from the Peace Corps placement officer for the Pacific and Inter-Americas. He covers all of Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean along with the South Pacific.

He said the program to which I had been nominated had been "delayed" until October. (I guessing this is the reason.) He also said because of my allergy to Shrimp and Lobster, he was limited in the number of countries where he could put me in the South Pacific. He then added there had been one other business development program but because of the delay in getting my clearance, that program was now filled. This was clearly NOT the news I was expecting to hear. (And by the way, the delay was not really on my end) I told him that my shrimp and lobster allergy was very mild and that I had had no symptoms in over ten years. I told him I would be glad to take an allergy test if that would help. He said that was an option to get the medical restriction listed and that I should discuss it with my Peace Corps medical officer.

He said they wanted to make sure they put me in a program where my business skills could be best utilized. He said they don't like to put people like me with a lot of business experience in a program that is very basic. I told him I really was interested in business development.

He then said there was a "high-level" business development program in the Mediterranean working with the Peace Corps and USAID. It was scheduled to leave late June/early July. That was not his area but if I was interested in looking at that program, he could send my file over there. I asked him a few questions about the program and he did say it had a moderate climate since he had noticed that my file said I didn't want to go any where cold. I told him I would be happy to go anywhere in his area, but would want to know more about the Mediterranean program.

I was out of the office at the time I got the phone call. When I got back to work, I called my sister Becky and asked her to call me back when she was near a computer. I have made a point NOT to call-up any web sites or send any e-mail related to the Peace Corps from my office. She and I spent a while on the phone and figured the most likely place was Albania based on the location and the program. It could also be Morocco or Jordan. However, Albania seemed to be closest to the way the program was described. She called me back a bit later to say there was a USAID program in Albania, which seem to make it an even better match.

The placement officer said he would call me later today, but I never got the call. When I got home, I had this e-mail.

Subject: Business project in Eastern Europe
Hi Steve,
This email is to let you know that I have sent your skills over to my program managers in the field, for their review. Once I hear back from them on whether they feel the skill fit is right, I will let you know. You would then work with me towards an invitation, or go back to David for other program options.

Ok, so that was probably my "call-back" sent via e-mail instead of phone. It was sent at 3:48pm. So now I thinking about a whole different part of the world and an area where I haven't done a whole lot of research. The subject line of this e-mail specifically says "Eastern Europe". That pretty much eliminates Morocco. I called up the Peace Corps Congressional Budget Justification which is a great document to find out about what is going on in each country and region. There are no countries specifically identified as being in the Mediterranean region, but there are just three in the "Central and Eastern Europe" region: Moldova, Romania and Ukraine. I don't really consider any of those Mediterranean. Albania is part of the "Balkans and North Africa" Region along with Morocco, Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Unlike the South Pacific, where I would pretty much go to any of the countries, I do have concerns about going to many of these countries. First, having been to Eastern Europe on several occasions, including a visit to the Soviet Union before it fell, I have some idea of what to expect there. I also have some concerns about going to a strong Muslim country. While I would enjoy learning Arabic and more about the Muslim religion, I am not sure how comfortable I would be in a country where some (not all) of the Muslims would be very anti-American. That presents a bit of a problem, as Albania is 70% Muslim and Morocco is 98% Muslim,

I spoke with my Dad tonight and he made a great point..don't go just to get away from your current job. Do what is best for you. That was good advice and after doing a bit of reading on this, I don't think I would be as happy in this region as in the Pacific. It would be much easier for me to get home from Eastern Europe than the South Pacific, but that probably should not be my overriding reason for going someplace. If I have to get home, I'll get home.

I'm going to send an e-mail to the Peace Corps medical officer tonight and ask him about taking an allergy test for Shrimp and Lobster. Since I've had no symptoms for so many years, it's possible it is not a big deal for me any more. I used to have pollen allergies as well, but those went away 20 years ago. I can get that removed from my health record, that would free me up to go to any of the countries in the South Pacific. I may have to wait a while, but I can probably tough it out at work a bit longer.

I feel pretty certain the Peace Corps invitation is going to happen and it does appear there is a bit more negotiation possible than I may have thought. Of course I also realize I have a bit more experience than the typical applicant.

At this point, I'm resigned to staying at work through May. I've been very careful to make sure that I've done nothing different at work and to make all the decisions as if I was staying. Now, I know that was probably a smart thing to do.

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