A Decision to Extend Service: Goodbye Francistown and Hello… MAUN

It’s time to move on, challenge myself again, and get out of what’s familiar. As much as I miss home, before I get there I’m going to tackle the next year working in a whole new way here in Botswana.

Francistown.    Source: http://www.flickr.com/ photos/ennor/4789822402/

I pondered the idea to extend back in October. Back then it was all about the comfort and connection I felt with Francistown. I didn’t want to leave. The pull of this place is eerie – you’re in a city yet everywhere you go people recognize you. Low turnover in the businesses means store owners and employees know your name, what you like to eat or drink, will help you out if you’re stuck, etc. Living is easy, relaxed, and each year it grabs a little more of you and makes you think you could live here for years. I realize now that Francistown is actually a pitcher plant, and I almost fell in. Note to the incoming Francistown PCVs.

After that epiphany I decided that for my own good I had to get out of Francistown, no matter what. The idea to extend, however, still lingered in my mind as an option for the next year. Why? Well, third-year Peace Corps Volunteers have more say in where they work, what they do, and are usually able to find great opportunities for professional growth. In making this decision I told myself I would not settle (operation “Go Hard or Go Home” is what I acutally called it), and that if I did extend it would be for something really worthwhile.

Luckily that happened, and so a week from Thursday I’ll be “Going Hard” and relocating to Maun.

So for the next year I’ll actually split my time between two jobs. The first is tied entirely to Peace Corps, and is one of three third-year positions called PCVLs, or Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders. PCVLs provide guidance and support to other Volunteers, liaise between the Volunteers and Peace Corps staff, conduct Volunteer site development, and participate in the development and implementation of Peace Corps programs and trainings.

Map showing the three PCVL regions. Mine’s the blue one.

We also regularly visit Volunteers at their sites, which means lots of travel. There are three of us so we can divide the Volunteer placements up geographically and give our focused attention to those in our region. Due to the low density of volunteers in the North and West parts of the country, I’ll be managing the area shaded in blue. Wish me luck.

My other role will be as the HIV and Volunteer Coordinator for SAREP, the Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program. This is a USAID funded project operating in Namibia, Angola and Botswana. It focuses on:

  • Protecting Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
  • Increasing Access to Water Supply and Sanitation
  • Addressing Global Climate Change at local levels
  • Integrating HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment
I’ll be working in their Maun office and heading up the HIV/AIDS portion, which entails creating partnerships with HIV/AIDS organizations all over the Delta area and building a working program that effectively disseminates HIV/AIDS information to people in the region. I’ll also be managing any volunteers who sign on to help the program.

So there you have it. It’s quite a big change, and I’m pretty excited to get started. I hope you’ll stick with me! Another perk for third-years is the month of home leave provided by Peace Corps. I can’t imagine a better time to visit the States than around Thanksgiving, so hey let’s make some plans.

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BOTSWANA

Today I received my invitation to serve in Botswana leaving April 7th! I’m part of the HIV/AIDS Capacity Building Project and my title will be Community Capacity Builder.

This seems a little vague right now, but once I arrive and go through training the office will assess my skills and match them to their needs for a more specific placement.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled!!

Botswana is a beautiful country with some enormous wildlife reserves. I’ve heard incredible things about the people and culture and I’m so excited to jump in and get started.

I’m going to be remodeling this blog a little bit to get it Botswana-ready.  My “Fly Guy” background might not be as relevant anymore, but if you haven’t checked out “Fly Guy”, it’s pretty sweet.

So, soon I’ll have more resources posted about the country, my address for the months of April – June, and my assignment.

Thanks!

P.S. quick little side note- my invitation arrived just TWO days before the anniversary of my application submission. See “Resources” for my application timeline.


It’s Happening Now

My Peace Corps invitation is in the mail!!

“That’s great dear. I’m proud of you. Now sell everything. ” -Dad

Placement Update

Just a quick note –

I received a phone call from the Placement Office this morning – my nomination program, which was once slated for March and then for June, has now been canceled.

Eep!

On a positive note, however, they said they would definitely place me in a different program, and that I may leave as early as April. I also may find out my invitation details by the end of this week or next!!

Placement Nudge

Perhaps the Placement Office keeps up with Peace Corps Journals and just read about how patient I’ve been (ha). Perhaps they were so impressed with my calm demeanor towards the whole thing (haha) that yesterday they decided to send me a little nudge.

Or, more likely, perhaps they’ve finally begun to review more applications for the April-June nominations.

Either way, the Placement Office is “busy reviewing my file” and apparently needs a resume update!

They also need a second romantic questionnaire update, which I am happy to give them. The fact that I’ve had a significant other for 8 years has been a large factor in this application. No, we’re not married, but yes, we believe we’re ready for a period like this in our life. I’ll write about that progression if or when I become a volunteer.

To everyone writing comments – thank you! They’ve been very helpful and greatly appreciated.

Placement Patience

So it’s mid-December, and I haven’t heard anything yet from the Peace Corps office regarding my application.  I don’t know who my Placement Officer is, and though I’m volunteering a whole lot, I haven’t been asked to share that recent information with anyone at the main office.  It’s alright though, and certainly a little expected. Patience has become the word of the season.

Though the Peace Corps office stated that June departures won’t hear anything until at least January/February, they’ve teased us a little by already sending out a couple of invites for that time period (or, at least the PeaceCorpsWiki Timeline leads us to believe this).  This has created quite a buzz in some online forums among many other “June babies” like myself.  It’s reassuring to be able to communicate with others who are also biting their nails in anticipation for something to happen.

People ask me all the time if I know where and when I’m headed, and I reassure them that I should know any month now.