Box Full of Darkness

When a person applies for Peace Corps, one of the steps is to prepare yourself to be away from home for 27 months. Most people realize the experience is going to be hard and have prepared themselves in some way.

You prepare yourself for the lack of the water, the lack of electricity, the lack of native English speakers, the lack of familiar foods, the lack of ease the first world brings to your life… and you prepare yourself for the fact that you’re missing weddings, births, promotions, cross country moves and even deaths.

But sometimes you’re unprepared for  how difficult things can really be in your new home:
to stare poverty in the face every day and know there is nothing you can do about it,
to feel guilt or anxiety about how you’ve been given when others have received so little,
to have an unexpected funeral for someone who died far too young of something completely preventable,
to feel abandoned when your compound family gets divorced and someone moves out,
to move on when your friends get promotions and move,
to feel the loss of the person you were,
to cope with very few people back home understanding your experience.

No one tells you Peace Corps will be easy, but most people think about how hard it is leaving everything behind… but beyond the mere physical hardship, it’s hard emotionally living it every day.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

― Mary Oliver

Peace Corps is powerful, at times uncomfortable and it changes your life. For all the beautiful experiences and gifts you’ll receive during your times as a PCV, there’s the other side of that, Mary Oliver’s metaphorical “box full of darkness” of sadness, tragedy, loss and change. But it is still a gift, in it’s own way, and if you properly unwrap and handle it, your life will never be the same again.

Taksim Square

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February 2014 FSOT: Results are in!

The February 2014 FSOT results letters came out this past Thursday… as I’m in Ethiopia, I didn’t remember they would be out until during our nightly call, my fiance said, “Hey, there are Personal Narrative Questions (PNQs) on my ACT account.” What?? I quickly tried to log on (my CDMA device has never seemed so slow) and found my own PNQ questions waiting for me.

So it’s official… I passed!! I’m really not quite sure how it happened as I barely squeaked by with a passing score (I needed a 154/6 and I got a 156/8), but I’m moving on to the next round of the Foreign Service Officer application process!

Here’s a breakdown of my results:

Job Knowledge:  60.11
Biographic Information:  44.08
English Expression:  52.20
Multiple-Choice Total:  156.39

Essay score: 8

As I mentioned in my last post, I really didn’t think I passed the essay, but somehow I did! And with a better essay score than my fiance (who thought he wrote a bangin’ essay… however 17 pts lower on the MC). I guess all those AP English classes and university writing courses really paid off in a big way here.

I’m really excited to dive into the PNQs–as a first time test taker I really don’t know what to expect out of it, but all the same I’m going to give it my best shot and get on to the Oral Assessments!

Galata Bridge

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Taking the FSOT

As I mentioned (very briefly) in a previous post, Ryan and I were in Addis a little over three weeks ago to take the Foreign Service Officer Test, hereafter referred to as the FSOT.

We decided to take the FSOT because we feel that not only does the Foreign Service offer a lifestyle we feel passionate about living, we also want to serve the country we love and do it in a meaningful way. Becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) has been a lifelong dream of Ryan’s and a more recent dream of mine, but all the same, we decided to go at it together.

The FSOT has a pretty serious Non-Disclosure Agreement that can expel you from the process of becoming an FSO, so I’m not going to go into any detail about the content of the questions, but I’ll talk about our experience.

For those who don’t know anything about the FSOT, there are 4 sections:

  1. Job Knowledge
    A variety of questions including topics on current events, pop culture, US history, US politics and government, communications and IT, economics and world geography and history.
  2. Biographical
    Asks questions about your personality, past jobs and how you interact with people (among others), sometimes asking for examples. This is probably the most vague section of the FSOT since no one really knows how it’s graded.
  3. English Expression
    You are given passages or scenarios and asked to select the correct or best replacement.
  4. Essay
    A 30-minute essay with one prompt, graded in the typical ACT writing fashion.

I thought I did really well on the English Expression, I finished in something like 20 minutes and only had a couple I wasn’t 100% sure on. I also feel as though I did fairly decent on job knowledge although I know I missed a few key ones I shouldn’t have. Who knows on the Bio section? I thought I repeated myself a LOT but I guess that’s normal. And the essay I am pretty sure I bombed, I didn’t practice it enough prior to the test. Oh well.

Results come out in 3-5 weeks after the test date so we’ll know in early March at the latest if either one of us made it on to the next round, the Personal Narrative Questions (PNQs). I’ll try to keep you all updated as best I can on this journey!