ONTD Political

Shenanigans Friday: June 1, 2012.

7:22 pm - 06/01/2012
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13chapters 2nd-Jun-2012 12:04 am (UTC)
O_O i really hope you mean "western european nations" because I used to be a teacher in bulgaria and the introductory teacher's salary is 200 euro a month. (or it was when i left in 2008...maybe they've gotten a raise since then.) If they make a third of that in Spain that's gotta hurt.
sobota 2nd-Jun-2012 12:06 am (UTC)
oh, yeah, sorry. *western european

and i didn't mean to forget about eastern europe. gosh, that makes me sound so... western centric. :(
13chapters 2nd-Jun-2012 12:11 am (UTC)
i just realized I was confused anyway, the intro salary is 200 LEVA, which is 100 euro*. however I got paid ~200 euro because I was a peace corps volunteer and got paid by the us government.

*no, this is not enough to live on. the teachers had a countrywide strike for a month and a half my second year...and got fuck all. Eventually they had to go back to work because obviously none of them had enough money to go that long without getting paid.
bellichka 2nd-Jun-2012 01:32 am (UTC)
how was your experience in the peace corps?
13chapters 2nd-Jun-2012 02:02 am (UTC)
Oh god, idk...tough? it was a good experience, but really hard and stressful. I'm glad I did it, but it wasn't always super fun when it was going on. A lot of the time it felt like I was wasting my time because the school system I was working in (I was an elementary school teacher in a really teensy town) was so screwed up that I couldn't teach effectively. But then one of my students would do something awesome and I would get all heartseyes about my work.

I feel like a lot of people (I was just looking at the peace corps tag on tumblr today...) have a sort of weird and almost neocolonialist idea about peace corps, like you go to some poor country and teach the poor ignorant people how we do it in america. But the way it really works is that peace corps sets you up with a job with a school or organization and then you just...go to work every day like you would back in the US. Usually a volunteer starts out not knowing shit about how to do their job effectively or what the community needs, plus they probably don't speak the language, so there's a pretty steep learning curve to get to the point where you're actually even useful. A lot of people quit because it's so lonely and frustrating. I think most volunteers would agree that the whole first year is about learning - the language, your job, your community - and then the second year is when you can get shit accomplished. But making it through that first year can be a real killer.

For me, a really hard part wasn't so much being in a foreign country or having a tough job, but living in such a small town (pop. 3000) where there's so little to do. I thought it would be cool to be part of a small community when I started, but the truth was that it wasn't for me.

But tbh if I won the lottery I'd be on a plane to Bulgaria the next day. I miss it a lot. Having successfully completed my service is one of my proudest accomplishments.
bellichka 3rd-Jun-2012 12:54 am (UTC)
Ooh, thanks for the info, all really good stuff. How was the selection process and what qualifications did you have when compared to what they were looking for? I'm 28 and just graduated with my Masters, and am contemplating the Peace Corps for the experience, loan deferment, and to ~make a difference in the world~ etc. etc. How much of an input did you have in terms of country/region you were sent to? How much of your loans were forgiven? I have so many questions lol. Your experience sounds more like what I'd expect the PC to be, vs. the glorified paternalism that most seem to see it as.
13chapters OH MY GOD SORRY THIS GOT SO LONG.3rd-Jun-2012 02:08 am (UTC)
I haven't gotten any of my loans forgiven because of anxiety issues with financial things, so that's kind of fucked up. i should get on that but it's not happening right now. do not take me as a model on that. i think you're supposed to get 15% of subsidized federal loans forgiven for each year you serve, which for me was actually only a really small portion of my overall loans, so it wasn't that great. (I might have the details wrong, but I know for sure that it's the amount of loans I barely have any of, so it hasn't seemed worth the potential panic attacks.)

The selection process was a pain in the ass. I think like a quarter of people who apply to PC actually leave, but it's not because they're sooooo selective, it's because the process of getting in is so time consuming and nitpicky that everyone who isn't totally committed gives up along the way haha. (no, seriously.)

The medical clearance process can take AGES. I actually missed my initial nomination because I couldn't get medically cleared in time, and I don't have any serious medical issues. They really go above and beyond normal medical necessities just because they really really really want to make sure that you're okay to be in an area where you might not have easy access to medical care. Like, I sent them my dental information, and they came back to me with a whole list of dental procedures I needed done. When I showed the list to my dentist, he was shocked and said he really didn't think I needed most of them.

As for country choice...it depends a lot on you and your qualifications. If you don't speak Spanish pretty well already, you're probably not going to go to Latin America unless you have an awesome skill they really want. Latin America is the part of the world people want to go to the most, and a lot of applicants already speak Spanish, so they can afford to be really picky. I recommend that you don't get really dead set on going to any country or region. You can make a request on the application form, and when you talk to your recruiter you can tell them what parts of the world you're really interested in, but they can't guarantee anything. I was really clear on the point that I did NOT want to be on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, and that was apparently not a burdensome request because tiny island nations were never mentioned during the rest of my application process.

The way it worked for me was that I got a call saying "I have three programs you can choose. One is in Sub-Saharan Africa and it leaves in X number of months. One is Central Asia and it leaves in Y number of months. The last is also in Sub-Saharan Africa and it leaves in Z number of months." I chose Central Asia because I felt like the departure date fit in best with my schedule. But then I ended up missing my departure date because of medical clearance problems, and then it was winter, and very few groups leave in the winter. Then in February 2006 I got a call saying "I have a spot in a group in Eastern Europe leaving in six weeks. Do you want it?" I had been waiting for SO LONG at that point, I just jumped at it. A few days later I received my formal invitation to serve in Bulgaria. I know people who got to that point and then rejected their invitations, but there's a strong feeling among volunteers that being too picky and refusing invitations will result in never getting another invitation. I know a guy who turned down two invitations before accepting the invitation to Bulgaria, but it seems kind of risky to me.
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