So I'm in. Completely and totally in. I have a lovely booklet with my country and job assignment and ship out date and all of the things I've been anxiously awaiting to hear about for what seems like an eternity. Getting here wasn't easy (as those of you who have listened to my near constant whining for the last 9 months know) and I'm making this initial post to give some advice to those interested in applying or going through the application process. I knew that the wait would be long, the process difficult, the questions repetitive and endless and if you are seriously considering the Peace Corps I hope you are well aware of all this already. I knew all of it because I had gone to a recruiting seminar (I highly recommend you do the same), read countless blogs and talked with many RPCVs who had all assured me that although the PC was the greatest experience of their lives to date, actually getting in was akin to having half your teeth pulled without the help of Novocaine...and oh how right they were.

I applied in June, was scheduled for a meeting in Atlanta a few short weeks later, and left the office with a tentative nomination and high hopes. "Wow" a much more naive girl with far fewer gray hairs said to herself "what was all the whining about? This whole thing is going so smoothly...I may be cleared in just a couple of months!" I'll give you a moment to stop laughing and compose yourselves. I won't bother giving you the dates each stage was completed or the details of every little hiccup along the way. Hundreds of other volunteers have already taken care of that and the truth is that as soon as you read their blogs you'll see the trend without any help from me at all. The short version is that it takes far too long for most people's liking and there will inevitably be at least two or three problems with your paperwork or references that will require more work on your part.

To be clear, I've never doubted that the Peace Corps was right for me. I acknowledge that fighting through the bureaucratic red tape serves a purpose, namely to weed out those less dedicated before they get sent half-way around the world. That knowledge doesn't make the entire process any less tedious though, and so the best advice I can give you is to not be discouraged. If there is a problem with your physical (like there was with mine) that requires 1 or 2 or 7 additional trips to the doctor look at it as character building. If your placement officer calls you weekly to question everything from your most recent volunteer work to the frowny face you got in K-4 accept that she's merely doing her job and let it double your determination. For all of us who get in there were entire weeks during the application and placement process that we were convinced that the whole thing was bound in tragedy and yet we all made it through in one piece with most of our mind still intact and only a few less handfuls of hair.

That's all the sage advice I'm handing out for today. Tune back in next week to hear all about my packing adventures as I try to squeeze 27 months worth of necessities into two bags.