Friday, February 29, 2008

Mongolians! Stop tearing down my shitty wall!

Finally, over a year work coming to fruition. A lot of pain and anguish getting paperwork submitted and then re-done. Many hoops to jump through, and a lot of hurdles to clear, but its here:

Yes my friends, thats the actual invite package from the Peace Corps! I've been accepted to join the next group of volunteers shipping out this June to Mongolia. I'll be a Primary Education English Teacher, working with kids again, YAY!

So what exactly went through my mind when I got this package after months of waiting? I'm not going to lie, the first thing that popped in my head was... "Damn, shit is going to be cold." And after looking up wikipedia to verify, I was sadly informed that I was right.
Most of the country is hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter, with January averages dropping as low as -30°C (-22°F). (wikipedia)
Yeah, weather in the extremes! To make matters worse, the winter is a lot longer than the other seasons. So this is what I'm going to look forward to the next 27 months of my life? I hope not.

After pulling myself together, I realized the people there have been surviving in those conditions for thousands of years, why can't I? Other than the weather, I really have no qualms with me being in Mongolia. I've seen those travel channel shows, often picturesque green fields with mountains in the backdrop. Horse riders, grown men wrestling, yurts, and roaming herds. Thinking of these images ease my thoughts, and cleared any trepidation that I had. This will be an adventure to look forward to!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Finally, Medical Clearance!

After six months of running around from the doctor's to the dentist's office, it is finally over! I am now medically cleared for Peace Corps service. You can say that the hardest part of the application process is now officially over. But to detail why it took me so long to do all of this, lets examine the path that I took to get clearance.

6 Months ago: got the medical and dental package from the Peace Corps office, but since I had no insurance, had to search around for economically viable options. Found that the Veteran's Affairs was a federal institution, so made appointments with them to get the tests done. After making multiple trips and wasting a lot of blood for the required lab tests, I was finished with the medical part of the examination (or so I thought). During this time, I also did a little sleuthing and found that there are reputable dentists out there that provide free dental exams for PC applicants. Thrilled that I didn't have to pay for the extra fees, I shipped out to Medford and headed to the office and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the dentist is a double Jumbo, graduated for Tufts U. and Tufts Dental. The dentist was awesome! providing me with all the required information, your general dental evaluation, periodontal eval., and all the accompanying x-rays.. I think I saved a couple of hundred bucks through him. So after that, I sent both my medical and dental application to the Office of Medical Services (OMS).

4 Months ago: Received a letter from the OMS detailing stuff that I was missing; ranging from missing bloodwork to out-of-date shots and immunizations, this was a major annoyance since the nurse at the VA had told me everything was in order. As for the dental part, I knew that I had to extract my wisdom teeth for dental clearance, so the news was not that surprising to me. So after that, had to make new appointments to get more blood work, and more shots ( I guess they had to be within six months of the application). During this time, I almost became a regular at the VA, which was kinda weird since everybody that was there were in their 60s and 70s, and here I am, a 23 year old perfectly healthy individual that needed to take all of these tests to make sure that I am healthy.

3 Months ago: Shopped around for dentists to extract my wisdom teeth (without insurance). Looked around the Internet, searched forums, and found that each tooth extraction usually costs anywhere between 250 to 400 dollars a pop. NOT GOOD NEWS! Checked out local dentists, and they told me that I had to go in for a check up to determine how much it would cost. Still not good news. When all seemed doomed, my dad told me that he found a place that could do these extractions for 100 dollars a pop. I was kinda blown back by this, and was somewhat skeptical to find such a good deal. You know the conventional wisdom, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So I went in for the appointment, it was a quaint little office and there were a couple of people waiting in line, so I thought... ehh, it couldn't be that bad. Then it was my turn, went in and saw the guy, which first made me chuckle a little bit because he resembled Don Vito from Viva La Bam! After that, got comfortable on my chair, talked to the dentist, and what do you know, he is also a graduate of Tufts Dental! It seems like every dentist I meet graduated from my alma mater. Somewhat relieved and comforted by the thought that he's a Tufts Alumni, I eased up and let him pull those suckers out... within 20 to 30 minutes, I had $200 pulled out of my mouth! the guy was good, I didn't feel any pain at all, but that maybe because I was drugged up on anesthetic. Two weeks after, had the other 2 wisdom teeth pulled out, and I have to say... Good Riddance!

2 Months ago: After the teeth extraction and after I filed in the report, I was dentally cleared. But medically, the OMS sent for further inquiries. Somehow my PPD test slip was lost in the mailing process, and was sent back to me through the postal service, yeah.. unlucky! But aside from that minor inconvenience, I was tested positive for Hep B core Antibody. Shocking news, so I called the VA right away to go in for yet another test, this time a liver function test. So had that done, but had to wait for the results because I was going to travel with my family to Viet Nam.

1 Month ago: Got back from Viet Nam, called the VA, got the results (it was negative) and sent them in to the OMS. I couldn't possibly be missing anything else right?

1 Hour ago: In my gmail, Peace Corps: Application Status Update! Seeing that header on the email, I knew that I was finally medically cleared.

So now stop asking me about my status, when I get it, I'll immediately update you folks!

Now, I await for my invitation...