My latest Peace Corps email communication is titled “Peace Corps Legal Status Pending — Update.” The gist of its content is that the wheels of government bureaucracy turn very slowly . . .
Of course, the Peace Corps does an extensive legal background check on all its potential volunteers. I sent in my fingerprints, and all the necessary paperwork, last November. This latest email, telling me that my background investigation is still pending, assures me that such delay has nothing to do with any results of said background check . . . no, it’s nothing in my sordid past (at least not so far!) that’s clogging up the works. Those results aren’t even yet in as “The background investigation accesses a variety of federal records to assess your eligibility and suitability for Peace Corps service. Some federal agencies require additional time to conduct a thorough search of their records, which in some cases delays the completion of the background investigation.”
Bottom line . . . The deadline for legal clearance is five days prior to one’s “staging date,” which, for me, is September 18 (with sign-in on the 17th). That’s exactly two months from today. My email assures me that I’ll have updates, on this matter, every two weeks. And that the Peace Corps legal folks “are working with our partners to move your background check along as swiftly as possible.”
Do I have a Plan B? Nope.
“Tevye, is there a proper blessing for government bureaucracy?” If anyone knows such an invocation, please intone it with fervor. Your prayers may well be my best hope . . .!
I should have kept track of the many ways that friends and colleagues have voiced their surprise that a person “of my age” was entering the Peace Corps. “I didn’t know the Peace Corps accepted old folks!” is pretty much what they’ve wanted to say. The kindest such sentiment came from a colleague who wrote, “Good for you! I did not know that the Peace Corps took people of (ahem) our age.” Less delicate was the friend who wondered if I was entering the “Elder Peace Corps.”
No, there is no “Elder Peace Corps.” But there have been elders aplenty — long before me! — who have chosen this volunteer service. Remember Jimmy Carter’s Mom, Miss Lillian? In 1966, at the age of 68 (a year older than I am), she applied for the Peace Corps, eventually heading to India for 21 months, where she worked with leprosy patients. The mother of my best friend in High School went into the Peace Corps when she was 68 (Hmm. Is that the magic age?) and did basic health care in Ghana, Africa. In February of 2016, NPR did a story on another Carter — Alice Carter — who at the time was the oldest volunteer in the Peace Corps. She was 87 (!) when she began serving in Morocco.
While there have always been older volunteers, the Peace Corps has recently made a much more intentional effort to recruit us. That’s hardly surprising with so many baby boomers retiring and available. “We love having older volunteers who bring a lot to the table — a wealth of skills and tested maturity that allow them to make a difference in a community.” (Gosh, I hope that’s true . . .) At the end of the 60s, about 1% of Peace Corps volunteers were over 50. Now it’s more like 7%, which totals somewhere around 500-or-so folks. If you’re at all interested, there’s a Peace Corps website dedicated to older volunteers: http.//www.peacecorps.gov/50plus.
And here’s the best news . . . I’m told that African cultures hold their older members in great esteem. It seems, then, that I may have the status of a “venerated elder.” I’m hoping that means that the younger members of my rural village will take pity on me and show me how to do my laundry on a rock and cook my goat over a charcoal fire! Venerated elder status . . . here I come! Dang, it’s about time . . . !!!
Wow! I may have entered the 21st century. Ok . . . more like the 20th. Thanks to Griffin — a recent Reno Bar Mitzvah at whose bris I (incidentally) officiated as well — I now (as you can plainly see!) have a blog. Woowhee!!!
Not much to write as yet. I’ve completed submitting all the medical documents to the Peace Corps. (Oy, such bureaucracy!) Just sold my house, though we are awaiting the inspection. Off to the Black Rock Desert (site of Burning Man in late August) for the Fourth of July. When I get back, it’ll be pack, pack, and more packing as I have to be out of my house by July 28!
My Peace Corps cohort has begun its TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) lessons, and the first one included introductions from many in the group. Wow . . . while most of the volunteers are young things, many of them come with incredible amounts of teaching experience, including teaching English in exotic foreign locales. There are a few “oldsters” in the crowd as well, though I think I may win the old-age contest. (Argh!) Anyway, it already seems to be a really impressive group. I’m awed and feeling more than a bit overwhelmed . . .
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Love ya’ all!!!