Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Questions I've received about my Peace Corps essay

Hey, I'm trying to finish my application. I'm having a hard time writing the essays. Do you have any advice for writing the Peace Corps essays? 

I suggest that you write several versions. Some of my earlier ones were WAY too informal, and some were WAY too formal. I wanted to strike a nice balance and find my voice, and overall make it sound like ME.

I suggest an outline to keep you together.

Here was my outline for my Peace Corps essay:

1. My reason for teaching ESL--experiencing culture.
2. Why Peace Corps--personal
3. Why Peace Corps--professional

It's a tough balance--it's a little more than a job interview--it's two years of your life. I kept in mind that they REALLY do want to know WHO I AM so that they can determine IF I am a good fit and WHERE I would be a good fit.

Your essay should truly show an aspect of YOU. And yet at the same time you can't forget that it's a job interview. And memorable--if people in the office are discussing your essay, what will they say? In mine, they can say "Hey, did you read the Saudi Arabian essay?"

They read hundreds of essays, so include SOMETHING to be memorable. Something they can grab on to, or it will just be a generic "OMG I <3 b="b" c="c" change="change" i="i" me="me" p="p" pc="pc" pick="pick" the="the" to="to" want="want" world="world">
is this the final version of the essay you submitted? i'm also having a bit of trouble with my essays. your comments are helpful.

This was my final submission! I was happy with it, as I felt it reflected me, and was memorable. I recommend some personal anecdote. Imagine if people in the PC office are talking about the different essays--with mine they could say "the girl who went to the Saudi Arabian dinner" instead of just "the girl who really really wants to join PC."

do you feel it is important to specify what exactly you want type of work you want to be doing? 

I clarified the type of work I wanted to do because I clarified it on my application. PC gives you a choice: you can tell them you want a specific job but don't care about the country, that you don't care about the job but you want a specific country, that you want a specific job and a specific country, or that you don't care about either.

I cared about the job, but didn't care about where I ended up, hence putting it in the essay.

Was curious what comments you might proffer regarding working with older peace corps volunteers, tips, etc. I am 54 and completing my application and would like considerable bluntness...  

I would decide where you want to go and don't want to go. Ukraine is very tough on older volunteers--the weather, the stairs, etc. You should also understand that in many countries there is serious ageism and organizations may not want an older volunteer at their site, however the time I knew about that, the gentleman involved was 70+.

Some PCV groups have support groups for older volunteers. In Ukraine they had a senior support group.

Also, the medical is fantastic.

It's also good to know that most volunteers are just out of college and some don't have all the partying out of their system. I was in a weird age group where I was too old for the partying, but too young to be going to bed when the older volunteers were.

Good luck to you! Peace Corps can be a really great choice for older volunteers!

I am not sure if you posted this under another topic on the blog, but did you ask to go to the Ukraine? Did they care about where you wanted to go? 

I did not ask to go to Ukraine. I specifically said "I want an ESL job, but don't care where I go." There are essentially four options:
1. You choose your job preference and not the country.
2. You choose your country preference and not the job.
3. You choose your job preference and country preference.
4. You choose "open" on both.

When you decide to state a preference, it may mean limiting your opportunities in Peace Corps. I would not have gone had they told me I had to dig wells or something. My background is in Education and I could not afford the two years out of my career - I needed the experience.

They told me I would be a teacher trainer, then said they had 3 openings - one was in Ukraine, one in Africa, and one in central Asia. I told them my preference was:
1. Ukraine 2. Africa 3. Asia - mostly because of the job definition.

Then I got my acceptance letter.

I *think* that when you restrict where you go that it potentially raises some red flags - like - why DON'T you want to go there? I also think if you sound reasonable and rational and not making a kneejerk reaction, that you'll be okay.

I didn't mind that I'd gotten Ukraine because I really didn't care where I went. Some people DO care, but either they don't want to admit it or they don't realize it. One of the gals I knew was terribly disappointed that she had gotten Ukraine because she imagined a more rural Peace Corps experience. 

I am a soon to be graduated college student and after reading your essay I fear that I don't have enough to offer in order to truly make a difference while I'm out there. I will have BFA after graduation, with minimal volunteer experience, but loads of traveling experience and a strong desire to serve. What do you recommend I focus on in the essays? 

Focus on what you know, what your plans are, and again - do something to make yourself stand out. Ultimately they're looking for people who will stick with this for 2 years, so if you can demonstrate that within your essay that's great. I'd suggest mentioning what inspires you, what will help keep you there, etc. I'd also recommend you try to think about what "make a difference" means to you, because if what you're doing doesn't match your thinking, that can create problems. I mention it in my post "Advice from a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer." 

The Peace Corps requires two essays. One about why you want to do it and one about an experience you had working with people of another culture. Did you write this second one or was it not required or something?  

I wrote it but couldn't find it to post it.

I really don't have additional tips for your essays other than stand out, be yourself, and make a good impression. Good luck to you.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cat Adventures in Ukraine

I just realized I'd never posted this article, so I'm sharing it now. I wrote this 5/11/08 for the Peace Corps Newsletter. Hope you enjoy!

Cat Adventures in Ukraine

I am a cat person. Not to the extent that I strive to become a crazy cat lady, but were I to become one it would be a nice consolidation prize. I have been sans cat for the past several years, with only my roommates to fill this void. Not exactly them per se, but rather the pets that they had. One roommate had two cats, which worked marvelously until she went a bit mad and got rid of everything of value to her, including her friends, and got a rat. My next house was entirely without pets, but I'm sure would have continued the rat tradition because they were the filthiest pigs I'd ever lived with. To finish out the year of the rat, the final apartment I lived in had two rats in it, of the pet variety, and they were absolutely sweet and loveable, but still, not cats.

So after settling into my apartment in Zhytomyr, I decided it was high time to get a cat. I live in Alley-Cat Alley, so it occurred to me that I should abduct a cat off the street (more on that later), but I also realized that I love cats rather than kittens, and the transition from filthy dumpster to not-always filthy apartment might prove more difficult than it was worth. So I went into a pet store and asked the woman working there if she knew someone who had an older cat that needed a home. I think I may have literally said "you know someone with old cat not want? I want old cat. Not from street." Thankfully this message came through and I was hooked up with a gal who had a cat that needed a home.

Waiting for my cat proved to be an adventure. I had asked the woman if I needed a package for the cat and she said no, so I half expected to be greeted by a woman simply holding a cat. Or perhaps the cat would be in a box. Either way I was surprised when a young Ukrainian walked up to me holding a small babushka's bag. She opened it and big eyes peered up at me. I thanked her and rushed home to let the cat out of the bag.

Once out, I had to get food and litter, so I let the cat acclimate to my house while I fetched its supplies. The cat pulled a David Kot-erfield on me and disappeared itself. The first time I found it when I lifted up the seat of my couch and there was the cat. Then I simply couldn't find it. I nick-named the cat Waldo.

One morning, while preparing breakfast, a tuft of fur fell from the heavens. I looked up and there was my cat, now freaking out because I was in the same room with it. At this point in our relationship, my cat had only greeted me with hisses when approached, though otherwise completely silent, and this time was no different. As my refrigerator is, logically, in my hallway near the door, I left the kitchen to grab some breakfasty foods. I heard my cat jump down, and when I went back into the kitchen my cat was presented with a new dilemma―it was in the same room with me! The solution was, clearly, to run behind the gas stove.

I opened the windows a small bit to let fresh air in while cooking. I went back and forth between the living room and kitchen a few times, ate my food, shut the windows and went to work. When I got home I passed through Alley-Cat Alley and was shocked to see my cat hanging out with the pack of dumpster cats!

I put down my bags and ran after Waldo three-year-old style: hands straight in front of me saying "kitty kitty kitty." After chasing him around for several minutes, I caught him. I asked some random Ukrainian to help me carry my bags, as my arms were full of cat. I let the cat go in my house and he immediately ran into the kitchen and attempted to jump out the closed window. Aha! That was how he'd gotten out before. He was mewling up a storm and running around desperate to get out. After watching him spray my walls, I called the vet and made an appointment to get him fixed.. Waldo wouldn't stop mewling, but he would now let me pet him. It was amazing how much he'd changed in those five hours outside. He was like a whole new cat. A spraying, mewling cat, but a cat who would let me pet him and who would sit in my lap and who would eat all his food down in a wolfing manner. After wearing himself out with loud meows for several hours, Waldo went to sleep on the couch.

That's when my cat came out of hiding and stared at this cat and then at me as if to say "who the hell is that?"

I almost decided to get the big tom cat who happened to look exactly like my cat fixed. I imagined him telling his friends "Worst. Abduction. Ever. First she kidnapped me, then she cut off my balls." But really, he wore me down with all his loud mewling and stinky spraying and I let him out.

My cat has finally come out of hiding and she and I are getting along well. Either that or she has Stockholm Syndrome, but I'm okay with either scenario. I renamed her, partly because I realized she was a girl―after she went into heat, and partly because "Waldo" isn't the easiest name to say. Her new name is Мяу-Мяу (Meow-Meow).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Advice about Peace Corps from an RPCV

The single most often asked question I get about Peace Corps, and the one I remember asking is: I always hear all these great stories and experiences. I want to hear the bad stuff. The things that might make me crazy and regret my decision. So please let me have it.

So here is my answer:

Red Tape
Make no mistake, you are joining a government organization. This means that there are policies that WILL NOT make sense to you. There are restrictions you MUST adhere to. There are forms and more forms and more forms. This is frustrating. One policy is that if you are out of the country during a weekend, this counts as your yearly vacation time. "But why should it count if weekends don't usually count????" That's what most volunteers complain about. What they don't realize is that they are volunteers 24/7. This means that if they're away from their sites and in the country, they're STILL PCVs. They're STILL representing the country. As soon as you leave, you stop representing America to your host country. Still, this red tape is annoying to many volunteers.

Down Time
It amuses me so much to hear future volunteers talk about how much they'll do at their site. They get the idea that they'll land in country and everyone will be so excited to see them and they'll have so many projects and be so busy. The reality is that a LOT of Peace Corps is the down time. In Ukraine the wintertime is harsh. It feels like it gets dark at 4pm, people stay inside, it's freezing cold. And you find yourself at home sitting, doing nothing. "I'll go visit my neighbors!" Well, what if they're suspicious of you and want you to leave them alone? (Yes, this happened to me). I personally watched a lot of tv. Some people read a lot of books. Others called their friends. Regardless, you will find your self with a LOT of time on your hands. Peace Corps is NOT just about doing your job. It's about living in the country.

Not properly utilized/not being NEEDED
Sadly, this has happened to many a volunteer. In some cases the site just doesn't want the person to do ANYTHING but their job, which in Ukraine means teaching English. Even though the volunteer may have grant writing experience, the site may not care. The volunteer may find that the host country nationals, while SAYING they wanted to help or get something done, may not actually have any follow through. Additionally, many volunteers feel like their skills and talents are going to waste. They have a lot of experience working on computers or with adults, and end up teaching children. This leads to a lot of frustration. Additionally, many felt like "Ukraine doesn't really NEED our help!" and they ended up leaving, wishing they'd been selected for a country that REALLY needed help.

Not appreciated
When you leave your home, your friends, and your country for two years, it's not unreasonable to think that you'll be appreciated. Your host country will welcome you, you'll be a celebrity, people will thank you, and you will have made a difference. But what if you end up in a town like my friend, whose neighbors kept telling her things like "You need to stop buying so many raisins" or "Stop running. It's dangerous for your health" or worse: they wouldn't allow her to help the students who were preparing for English tests. Imagine being bullied by people whose language you barely speak, who will reluctantly help you if at all, and who seem to feel you are more of a hassle than you are worth. This is not the experience of all volunteers, but I know more than one volunteer who has fallen victim to this.

Not the experience you expected
This one hit several volunteers hard when they were told they were going to Ukraine. There was a crestfallen look as they read their acceptance letter. Either because they were hoping for a proper third world experience, or they felt like this would be "Peace Corps Lite", or they were sad that so much technology (cell phones and computers and tv, oh my!) would be available. They had this idea of a rural living situation and got a post-soviet country. Or they hoped they would be working with their hands and instead were teaching children English.

Nothing to show
This one is very specific to the ESL job. When you build wells, you have something to show for it. You can look on your work and be very satisfied. When you plant crops, you have something very tangible and empirical that you can look at and say "See, I'm making a difference." With education it's nearly impossible to do. You DON'T see the results right away. You end up NOT feeling like you've really done anything. There is no proof of your efforts.

Being ON all the time
Some Volunteers never fully relax. They have this "I'm representing the United States and all Americans" thing going on all the time. They don't ever yell or show they're upset. They don't feel comfortable saying NO when men in their town ask for their phone numbers. They don't ever really make friends because they are not really people--they're representations of people.

This one is huge. This one got me. I had a million volunteers around me and I felt utterly alone. I was tired of just being able to say "I have a family. I have a mother. I have a father." etc and not really connecting with anyone. Even though at times it felt like "Hey, people are people!" other times I would be shocked at how utterly different we were, and that made me feel very alone. A friend of mine had literally no one in her town who was even close to her age. When the young people would come into town they wanted nothing to do with her. They were small town people not used to changes in their lives and didn't know how to incorporate this new, strange gal.

For me, the absolute hardest part of Peace Corps was the other volunteers. Before I offend everyone I have made friends with, let me clarify. I was in a country where volunteers had to be warned about alcohol abuse, as it was a very serious issue. Most volunteers were either fresh out of college or were seniors, and I fell in that awkward age of 30s. I absolutely hated the drinking parties and college frat feel that seemed to arise whenever volunteers got together. I absolutely made wonderful friends there, but I couldn't stand the party mentality. For me, it had no place in Peace Corps. I did have a reputation of being overly serious and caring too much about my job. In fact, every time I talked to volunteers I would talk about projects or ESL or teaching. I was there to do a job and was very very annoyed when volunteers would "cut loose." At one point I found myself at a party where the volunteers were SO LOUD that the Ukrainian police came, took everyone's passports, then agreed to accept a bribe to make this "go away." Which should be fine, except that a few volunteers were SO ANGRY about this CORRUPT SYSTEM and being loud and belligerent and being total JERKS. I have little patience for this. I wouldn't be surprised to know that many volunteers there didn't care for me, but honestly I don't care. I spent nearly all my time with my Ukrainian friends and hanging out with them.

These are what I feel were the worst things about Peace Corps where *I* was assigned. Your miles may vary, especially depending on the country you are assigned. For me, it was a really great experience, one I wouldn't change for the world. I was very lucky for a few reasons: I met some very outstanding Ukrainians who were absolutely ready to work, I met many Ukrainian women my age who spoke English, I felt comfortable being myself--I realized that I wasn't doing the US any favors by not being myself, I had a background in Education, so for me, having no "results" was absolutely no issue, I was properly utilized and appreciated at my site, and I personally loved all the down time.

I'm sure that these would be very different for people who are in Africa, but many will remain the same regardless. Just remember--the less developed the country, the more time you will have to spend on JUST LIVING. Getting water, getting and preparing food, etc.

Peace Corps is a very rewarding site, and truly the inflexible will not make it far. People drop out all the time. They realize it's just not for them for a multitude of reasons. But many times it's because they're absolutely inflexible. One girl quit after she was told where she'd be living. She went to visit and said "I'm done" because they couldn't accommodate her religion. Others would cry when they were told they'd be living in the East, or had to learn Russian or had to learn Ukrainian. It was as though they'd used up their whole notion of "flexibility" right before they landed in the country, then were absolutely rigid when they got there. Frankly, a lot of that made me absolutely sick to my stomach and made me fairly angry.

So my advice: put down on the application countries you DON'T want to go with. If you'd feel disappointed working in a 2nd world country, tell Peace Corps you don't want to go there. If you heard you'd be in Ukraine and that would bring tears to your eyes, tell PC you don't want to go there. You get my point of view. Your viewpoint will be colored when you get there, you'll be looking for reasons to hate it and back up your point of view, and you'll probably leave during training.

Good luck to you. I adored my time in Peace Corps, and hopefully this will help you in your journey. I am by no means an expert, I just try to be a bit observant and listen to what the volunteers I KNEW were complaining about. Just remember: BE FLEXIBLE! It will serve you well.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Operation: Legal Kitty

I have been having kitty related stress lately. The apartment complex I was to stay in in Korea has a no cats allowed rule. I worried about this, and I even considered sneaking her in.

After discussing it with my company, they talked with the landlord's wife. First she said no. Then said it was because cats make so much noise. I told them my cat is SO QUIET! and my company kept wearing her down. Finally she said yes, but her husband said no. Twice. Then today I got this news:

They finally called me today, and told me that she could bring the cat (Dr. Kim also talked to them), but if the residents complain, they can't allow her to have the cat there. Julia said her cat is so calm and does not make any noise at all. As long as she's careful when she brings her outside.

HOORAY!!! I am so excited about this!

I also received news that my paperwork is being processed and that everything should be finished on March 8. Once the paperwork is finished I will book an appointment with the Korean consulate in Seattle and then get my airline ticket! SO EXCITING!

So yes, I will be heading to Korea VERY SOON and I will be legally taking my kitty with me! YAY!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Preparing to leave: Wardrobe

The wardrobe takes careful consideration when you are going overseas for a set amount of years and are not given money for relocation.

You want to account for the weather, professional and personal, casual and dressy, etc.

I made the mistake of bringing a lot of shirts that were like this:

The problem was that Ukraine ran hot and cold. So when it was cold I really wished I had two layers on. When it was hot I wished I could take one layer off or roll up the sleeves. A better solution would have been to go with two button up shirts and two sweaters or a sweater and a vest.

Another problem I had was going too professional. Nearly all my clothes were professional and I had very few lounging clothes. SO STUPID! Who wants to hang out in their house in a button up shirt and slacks? That's what t-shirts are for! and pajama bottoms! When no one is coming around, comfort should be priority! Argh!

So now that I'm packing for Korea I am trying to keep these things in mind. What can be layered. Can everything go with everything? Professional AND casual. Most of what I brought to Ukraine was clothes and books. Now I will be bringing very few books, less clothing, but still quite a bit of wearables.

My place in Korea will be miniscule, but still, it's important to bring nice things that remind you of home. I will be bringing some artwork with me--small and portable, they don't take up a lot of space, they will look very nice on my walls, and they are very personal.

I will be bringing three cross stitch projects: One I've started, one I intend to start, and one with a much lower level of difficulty just in case I want to do something different. That should be enough. I may bring some knitting needles, but no yarn.

Thankfully I'm getting things like a Kindle, and I have my hard drives, so I don't have to lug dvds or music or books.

Tomorrow we do a trial run of packing for Korea, just to see what kind of room we have. Then I'll make some choices and decide what should come with me and what should stay, going back into storage.

Some things I *am* bringing that will take up some space: games and a frying pan. I am taking my cast iron skillet with me. I can handle a lot when it comes to kitchens: poor burners, no space, but having a skillet that SUCKS is not stress I want to handle. Good skillet is high on my MUST HAVEs. Really.

I finally broke down and bought a gorillapod

It is a perfect tripod, and something I've had my eye on for 2+ years.

Also bought: a small "day bag"

And a matching purse or a "city bag" as REI calls it

And a pair of athletic shoes. So today was an astounding success. I was very happy with the outcome. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Got myself a new laptop case

When I was in Ukraine, my laptop case's strap broke. This meant always carrying it by hand. And sometimes it was VERY heavy, especially since I would put papers or books in with it. So I was thrilled when we came across this beauty:

So now I'll be able to fit my laptop in it AND everything else AND not rip my arm out of its socket!

In paperwork news, my company received my paperwork and have begun processing it! Hooray! I told them I can't leave until March 1 at the earliest, but who knows how long it will actually be...I'll keep you updated!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Diva Cup

Shhh this isn't something women are supposed to talk about! BUT, let's talk about it anyway.

Going to less populated places, or foreign countries, it can be really difficult to find the feminine hygiene product you favor (you are welcome to stop reading now:). I got around this by having my parents send me Insteads, which have been my preference for years now.

Having someone send you products like these that you use on a regular basis isn't very practical. Not to mention expensive. Also, being a Seattle girl, I do have some green guilt, and thinking about all those products ending up in a landfill is really distressing.

Introducing the Diva Cup! :) It's reusable, simple, and clean. You can wear it up to 12 hours no problem. You don't throw anything away, just wash and reuse. I had wanted to get mine for Peace Corps but I never got around to it. Now that I'm going to Korea I finally splurged and got it. $40 for an entire year. I can't believe I didn't get this earlier.

UPDATE: 10/20/10
I am extremely happy with my Diva Cup. It's sometimes a hassle boiling it after use, and if you're living with a host family that can be EXTREMELY difficult. Some of these issues are discussed here:

The waiting begins tomorrow

Today I drove down to Olympia. My job in Korea requires I have a background check done and have an apostille. What is an apostille? I'm glad you asked. It's a bit like notarizing a notary. So after I went online to do a criminal background check for $15, I then had to print out the "your name does not match any known criminal names" page. After that I had to get it notarized by the Washington State Patrol. I could do this online, sending in payment there and then having it mailed to me, or I could go in in person and have it done within about an hour and a half.

I picked the faster route and drove down. I got there around 1pm, turned in my form, paid the $5, then sat down and read my book until it was finished (the paperwork, not the book). Next, I drove to the Secretary of State building and paid them $15 to sign a piece of paper. All done!

Tomorrow I FedEx all my paperwork in to Korea!

I've been getting very excited about this. I signed up at two different expat forums and started making connections, including meeting one very nerdy girl who will play boardgames with me. I also contacted the KOTESOL organization and talked to them about being a part time Teacher Trainer with their organization. I looked at another organization called KATE (Korean Association of Teachers of English) and they have a call for publications, so I will be writing a paper in hopes they will accept it! I also have decided I'd like to volunteer at a thrift store on the army base. 20 hours a month volunteering=free pass to get on the army base, which gives me access to free sewing lessons!

I am very excited about this. I am very much looking forward to doing well in my career.

The cat costs will be high, though. I was looking online and some of the fees were as much as $250 for taking a cat on the plane. Sigh. She's coming with me, regardless. Because how can you refuse a face this cute?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The next, new adventure: Seoul!

Since January I have been applying to various ESL jobs. I had a few criteria I was aiming for:
  1. A salary of around $3000 per month
  2. Adult students, 18+
  3. Located in Korea or the middle east
  4. Airfare and housing paid
I had an interview in January, shortly after applying for a teacher training job in Seoul. This phone interview went very well. I knew I would be working with the woman who was interviewing me--we would be colleagues, so I intentionally strove for a balance of professional and personal. For example, I asked questions about turnover rates in the company, and I also asked if the staff socialized in their off hours. I showed an interest both in the job and in the staff. We spoke for a very long time, and I was thrilled at how wonderful it seemed to go. She told me I should hear from her within a week or two.

So I waited. Nothing.

One important thing I learned from Ukraine is that the world moves at different speeds and urgency doesn't always translate. This is neither good nor bad, just important to note. While America often is very schedule and deadline focused, many other countries have a lackadaisical approach that seems to lack urgency. Knowing this, I was not concerned when I did not hear from them.

For the next month I heard from the woman twice to tell me that the director had not yet made up his mind (great idiom, right?), but that she would let me know as soon as she could. So I waited, but began applying for other jobs.

I've been unemployed since coming back to America. Money runs out, sadly. I had my heart set on the Middle East for a while, applied to several jobs there and waited to hear back from anyone.

I got a job offer from South Korea and Saudi Arabia on the same day. This was unexpected, but it gave me a lot to think about. I know I would like to live both places within my life, both are very appealing to me, so I made a mental list:

PRO - Saudi Arabia           PRO - South Korea
good food some of my favorite food
better money more freedom
extra plane ticket home allowed to date
friends and family can visit
better job

Ultimately I ended up with South Korea, and I am excited about my job! Here are some of the nitty gritty details:
  1. 20-25 hours a week teaching TESOL certification courses
  2. 30 hours a week in the office
  3. 4 weeks paid vacation
  4. free housing
Additionally, I'll be right on the metro line only 4 stops away from my work. Convenient, convenient, convenient. I am very much looking forward to this new adventure!

Miau Miau will get to rack up some frequent flier miles! Ukraine to America to South Korea!

For now I am waiting on paperwork. In order to proceed, I need to submit a Fedex package consisting of:
  1. 3 visa sized pictures (35mm x 45mm)
  2. my original diplomas (this is very normal for Korea)
  3. current resume
  4. 2 official transcripts from each school
  5. criminal background check with a special signature from someone in Olympia, WA
  6. signed contract
Thankfully a few weeks ago I contacted my schools and asked for 2 official transcripts already. I have all but one of them, and I expect the final ones tomorrow or Tuesday. I need to print the visa pictures, and I need to drive to Olympia tomorrow for the autograph. Beyond that I am finished. They'll fill out the paperwork and I'll make an appointment with someone in the Korean consulate in Seattle.

I could leave in as little as 3 weeks. This is amazing.

New language goals: read and speak Korean. Let's hope it doesn't mean I forget all of my Russian.

Hope you enjoy my new adventures!

Changes to my blog

I will be making changes to my blog.

1. MORE UPDATES! I had a very difficult time with Peace Corps's policy about blogging. All my blog postings had to be first sent to my regional manager who had to approve them. For some reason that step caused a huge mental block for me. Every entry I submitted was approved, but the fact that I had to take the step prevented me from posting as much as I would have liked. My goal will be to blog at least once per week. I also plan on adding more stories about Ukraine.

2. MORE PICTURES! I went back and put a few pictures in to nearly every entry. I plan to upload and post pictures relevant to the journal entries. Pictures make things more interesting, break up the monotony of words, and are fun! Plus, it means I'd be uploading my pics to the Internet. Sadly, after coming home, my hard drive failed and I lost every picture I took in Ukraine. :( Uploading them will help prevent that from happening.

See how much more interesting this is? :) It is I, at Beth's!

3. MORE ADVENTURES! While I do love sitting around and watching tv more than your average bear, it doesn't really make for interesting blog posts. So to remedy that, I shall have more adventures.

4. MORE INFORMATION! I'm an English teacher and I find language fascinating. I find that in general most people don't have a strong level of awareness about their language. For example, if I asked you which idioms you use most, could you tell me? I know many of the ones I use a lot, such as "yanking my chain" or "on the fence" "pick you up (in a car)" or even "change my mind." They seem like "normal" English to most Americans, but they are idioms and their meanings are unintelligible unless you learned it as a phrase. I find this very interesting.

5. MORE TAGS! Tags are useful and should be used!

I hope you continue to read as I continue to write! Thank you again!