a third year

There are many opportunities for PCVs to take on additional roles during our 27-month commitment. We can offer ourselves for consideration as a VAC member (voted in by our PCV peers), representing our region as a liaison between Volunteers and Peace Corps/Mongolia staff. There are various task forces (e.g., disabilities, alcohol) to join and other projects (monthly newsletter, cookbook revision) to take on. We can apply for non-Peace Corps projects (such as judging an English competition or leading a summer camp). We can apply to attend, with a counterpart, PDM (Project Design and Management, I think), an optional training/seminar about half-way through the first and/or second year. We can apply to be a PST trainer for the incoming class of Trainees, after our first or second year. Any of these ad-ons is what really makes each PCVs service unique. Additionally, we can apply to be a PCVL (L for Leader) in a third year, with time split between a Host Country Agency and PC responsibilities (In-Service Training, Mid-Service Training, etc.). And, finally, we can apply for an extension of our current position (or with a new HCA) for 3 months to a year.

A third year is something we discuss within our different circles (PST site mates, permanent site mates, project group members, friends), maybe beginning after the first year. From the beginning, I hadn’t considered a third year. To my mind, I came to the Peace Corps for the Peace Corps experience and after these two years are up, I will have gotten it. I came to Mongolia for the living abroad experience and I have gotten that. By coming here, I paused my life-in-America and I was eager to restart it with this new experience chronologically behind me but forever a part of me. So, when I say that I hadn’t considered a third year, I literally mean I hadn’t considered it.

Recently, my friend asked me if returning home was the default option. Meaning that, since I’ve now lived abroad, is it something I would like to continue to do (in Mongolia or elsewhere). Now, if this thought didn’t occur to you, maybe it springs from her living in Singapore for 4 years, because, the truth is, yes, returning home is the default option. Now that I’ve lived outside of America, I really would like to continue living abroad, or to do it again in the future. Some TEFL volunteers go this route post service, using their Peace Corps experience as a stepping stone to continue teaching English abroad. As for me (my own worst critic), I don’t feel my particular classroom experience has given me this confidence. I’ve no doubt, however, that many volunteers finish well prepared for the tasks of lesson planning, classroom management and teaching the four aspects of language. So, despite the fact that I would indeed like to continue living abroad, I really don’t know how I would go about it, absent the TEFL angle. I suppose another option would have been to apply to an international graduate school, but I didn’t get my act together enough to apply to any school, which precludes the international school altogether. Basically, I am preparing to return home to nothing… not to dismiss all you lovely people awaiting my return, but I don’t have a plan for a job or even where I will live (and the two cities on the table are not remotely close).

I got the email from the Country Director announcing the possible Close of Service dates. It was very exciting to begin the countdown. But sitting right next to that in my inbox was the lengthy email with information for a third year. Though I hadn’t been considering it, I read the email. It sounded exciting, rewarding, and meaningful. I thought of the projects that are just now getting underway and how amazing it would be to see them through. I thought of my opportunity for language improvement and deepening my friendships with my Mongolian friends and my PCV site mates. Part of me thought, “well, I don’t have a plan anyway, so why not?” Within all these rapid fire thoughts, and entirely unexpectedly, I found myself considering a third year of Peace Corps Service in Mongolia. With a very uncertain frame of mind, I sought guidance for this decision from my mom and sister-in-law, both of whom were completely supportive of either decision, which was really no help at all! I also discussed with my site mate her reasons for applying for a third year.

Well, this blog post isn’t building up to an announcement. Ultimately, I have decided not to pursue a third year. But, I want you to know that the decision was not easy. And, for the record, at no point while I was making this decision did I consider the extreme winters, the scarcity of produce, or the once weekly shower as reasons for leaving. I’ve just come to see that the feeling that “there’s so much more to do” goes hand in hand with working in a developing country. So, instead of thinking of what I will miss by leaving as scheduled, I’m going to try and focus on what I’ve done, and what I’ve still to do, as these last few months tick by.

4 Responses to a third year

  1. Maryse says:

    What about working for an international health group or maybe going for an mph in international health? You could work overseas and use what you learned working at Dfci.

  2. Ally says:

    Wow! So proud of you Love for all the consideration and thought you did give it. I’m sure that MUST have been difficult!! EJ always has short-term missions trips available!! He he he! This summer Sabri and Taylor are going to Nicaragua in July with him for the first time. He doesn’t do wham/bam random trips–his are consistent with the same people, to build relationship and to SERVE where THEY need it. (Not to come in with an American mentality of solving all their problems!!). Anyway…there is so much more to it than that–but the invitation remains open!!! There is NOTHING compared to the long-term, living and engrossing yourself in the culture. But the short trips can also expose you to places and maybe spark interest–while at the same time serving for the time you are there!! (He is headed to Sri Lanka in August and Kenya next year!) He he he!! Love you so much!!! Praying these last few months will be just AMAZING for you!! Forever, -Ally

  3. Kathy P. Willis says:

    Hey there Love… I don’t know why, but I began to weep when I thought you might stay another year. Don’t get me wrong, what you’ve done & continue to do for the rest of your term is too awesome for words (forever the proud auntie), but it just seems right that you return home – even for a while. Therefore I am grateful for your decision. You’re an amazing woman & I know that what you’ve learned while there in Mongolia will always be with you as you try to figure out your next step.

    Seriously, what Ally said about the short term missions trips is really something to consider (she’s a pretty smart kid – if proud mommy may say so!). I’ve never heard anything but positive remarks from those who have returned from those trips – lives are always impacted when the heart is involved.

    Take care sweet niece, ❤ Aunt Kathy

  4. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    As I read your latest blog entry, my emotions were a roller coaster! I was so proud of you at the thought that you might add one more year in Mongolia or seek employment abroad, yet at the same time I was sad and disappointed at the thought of not seeing you for at least another year! I was excited for you at the thought of all the possibilities of where you might go, what you might do and that made me happy for you, the thought of you continuing on in your adventures, whether in Mongolia or somewhere else. As I neared the end of your entry, I was a little nervous to see what you’d decided and no matter what your final decision was, I was going to be happy for you. I have to admit I’m really happy to have read that you’ll be coming home sooner than later, but I also feel a little selfish. BTW, I work w/someone who’s son-in-law went to USM (Farmington, ME) for his degree in teaching and after graduating and working at Sanford HS but not making much (he’s married to my coworker’s daughter and THEY have their own little girl, so 3 people in all to support), he threw his resume out there, far and wide, and was offered a teaching job in Abu Dhabi! They’ve been there 3 years so far. Look forward to seeing you and maybe you can spend your 1st few months back in the States working on your book (so many of my coworkers agree A. Kathy and I that a book about your experience, the way you write, the photos to go along w/it all, would make a WONDERFUL book!!!!).

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