"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Return of the Peace Corps medical bills...

Last month I went to an ophthalmologist in Alaska to get a piece of paper signed saying I have a cataract and it doesn't need to be removed so I could qualify to serve in the Peace Corps. I made all of this extremely clear to the medical office, who said I would have a 'comprehensive exam for a new patient.'

The doctor and assistant began running vision tests and viewed my cataract, signed the paperwork, and said they had just a few more tests to do. They didn't say this was in addition to the comprehensive exam. So they did the tests, and I settled my entire bill in the office for $243 (without insurance). Everything was peachy. I just paid $243 for a doctor to sign off on something I already knew, but hey. One more step in the process taken.

Then I got a call on my drive from Alaska to Illinois from a medical bill collector. I couldn't hear them due to static, and thought it really strange because all my bills are paid. Then today, my mother hands me a letter from Alaska - a bill for $395 from the ophthalmologist: $110 for an 'echo exam eye thickness' and $285 for 'eye exam with photos.'

I'm absolutely shocked. I don't have that money to spare and I don't have a job...and I feel totally taken advantage of when I'm just trying to do a good thing. All I wanted was the paper signed!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Horray, the weekend is over! Hello Office of Placement...

Ever since I began the application process, I looked forward to Monday. Because Saturday and Sunday usually meant no communication for Peace Corps (apparently that's not always true according to my medical update on Saturday).

So each Monday or any other weekday is exciting - the first thing I do is check my email to see if anything's been updated.

Today I was elated. A generic email from the Agriculture/Environmental desk today welcomed me to the Office of Placement! "We wish to congratulate you on receiving your medical clearance, and achieving one of the most important steps on your way to becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer." Specifics should arrive by mail within a week, but hey! I got through it without any problems! Hopefully sooner here than most other pieces of mail took to arrive in Alaska! I hope I get to know soon what I'm doing and where I'll be going. It'll be nice not to begin or end each explanation with "I hope..." or "hopefully."

But then I got an email from the Assessment and Placement Office saying my recruiter recommended I gain more experience in Protected Areas Management. Really? I had no idea. I'm 100% certain she never said I need more experience. I did the best I could with my response describing how I've still been volunteering for Denali National Park and will continue as a contractor soon, how I've sought out volunteer jobs in Chicagoland but they're all one-day events, and sent in an updated resume. This step was mildly discouraging because I thought all was well...

The Assessment and Placement Assistant emailed me right back thanking me for the update, and another email saying that I was
"quite right, no additional experience was called for in your file. However, I will make due note of what you have sent me below and add it to your application."

Ahhhh! Rollercoaster!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Application status update - at 3 a.m.!

This morning, up way earlier than usual to get ready for my first professional hair cut in four years, I was checking all my usual things online. I was totally taken by surprise to have a Toolkit update - sent at 3 a.m. Eastern on a Saturday morning. Whoa!! My heart began to thump in anticipation... do they need more information? Did I not get a signature? Or is it... COMPLETE!! They have reached a decision and now I need to gallop out to the mailbox daily when the post officer comes by.

And now... to a wedding. My first as a guest. I remember when my recruiter asked in my interview about a time when I had to conform to the local customs out of sensitivity and necessity. Well, today would be a good example, because I'm wearing a dress and getting my hair done.

WHOOOO! Good or not, I've finally reached the end of the medical review!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dental clearance!

Like others I've read about, I check my email first thing in the morning to see if I have an email from Peace Corps regarding my Toolkit. For the past 21 days I've been waiting eagerly for just an update saying my medical information arrived, which seemed way longer than anyone else.

The past two nights I've been having dreams about waking up and seeing the update - this is how much these applications get to us. But today the dream came true, and not only has my application officially arrived, but I also received dental clearance. I whooped for joy and jumped out of bed, ran around the house looking for someone to tell. But dad is in Indiana on a business trip, and mom is bizarrely missing. Really missing. Usually back by 10 a.m., it's now 2 p.m. and her phone is off.

Oops, here she is. Beckoned by the frantic barking of their half chihuahua, half dachshund. Job interview, looking angry. Guess I have to just be happy for myself. I just told her excitedly and got a "Oh, good. Sorry, I'm not excited about anything right now."

Monday, September 20, 2010

First PC post

This is my first Peace Corps post, despite the fact I have been applying since June of 2010. The lack of communication and updates has finally driven me to write about it, maybe to see if anyone else went through the same thing.

So right before I left Alaska, I unceremoniously launched my completed medical and dental forms into the custody of the USPS (with tracking, obviously). What I shouldn't have paid extra for was Priority shipping. It started the journey on 1 September, and didn't reach Washington D.C. until 11 September. And then it did some pretty strange things. The package was redirected. My medical representative said that's normal, as all packages arriving to federal facility need to get through security clearance, and she would expect it to arrive within the week. That was the 13th and it's now the 20th.

So just now I tried emailing my medical representative, and got an immediate reply that she is "no longer with the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services," and supplied another email address. Fantastic. All those blogs I've read about these situations are actually coming true for me. So I called the office and left a message (seems a message box is the only option), and emailed the address my former representative sent me.

I'd really like to know what's going on.

EDIT: I got a reply from the person at the new email address saying they got both my phone message and email (...well, I was eager), and that again it takes awhile for packages to pass anthrax screening. It still seems way longer than normal, but she also said to contact them again if the status doesn't change by the end of the month.

10 days.