I just finally got a call from my placement officer on April 14th. I am not sure if this was the final interview – there might be more questions given I have a pretty long lead time on when I am available to ship out – I said I could leave August 2011.
The reason I held off posting about this first contact with my placement officer was because I had some serious concerns about possible discrimination due to my faith and dietary restriction with regards to pork. I am happy to say that after discussion with the supervisor of the placement office that I am confident that the concerns have been resolved and InshaAllah will be moving forward towards getting an actual placement.
I also want to encourage my readers to ask questions along the way. I learned that the Placement Office only respond to you after interviewing you if you ask a direct question that relates to the. Also if you feel uncomfortable at any point – such as I did – to ask is this normal? Which is what I did.
So what were the questions I was asked you might be wondering?
I was asked a bunch of questions about – how would I deal with isolation and loneliness?
Well although I enjoy the easy of communication via the internet and social media – its a great way to get back to communicating via letter, take back up old fashioned journal writing, sketching, also exploring the community and meet new people perhaps even hosting dinner parties.
Am I still romantically involved? When I started my application in September 2009 – I was in “talks” I guess is the best way to put it with a guy in Ireland – alhumdualillah it ended but now there is a new guy who knows the score when it comes to the Peace Corps and him.
So they wanted to know how significant our relationship is and what that means for them because when you look at the major reasons for people leaving the Peace Corps relationship issues ranks up in the top 5 reasons. I had to break down the whole – Muslim’s don’t date – we get engaged and then married.
Do I have a back up plan if Peace Corps doesn’t work out? Yep. Work and attend grad school.
What did I see as the greatest challenges to living in a different country? Obviously first thing that comes to mind for me is learning the language. Next is learning the cultural do’s and don’t – as a guide-book only covers the basics not the fine details or the things you will need to know in a work environment. Food is another issue for some people – picky eaters need not apply to the Peace Corps – sometimes you can get homesick for food you recognize which is another good reason to throw a dinner party.
However as I am Muslim and I don’t eat pork I was questioned on what I would do if I was served pork and how I would deal with the situation without offending my hosts. I said I would do my best to explain that I am Muslim – and that I don’t eat pork. However if I wasn’t able to get the message across in native language I would go home – write a note with the help of a dictionary and come back the next day to make sure the reason was clearly communicated.
The whole purpose of this interview and any other interviews is to figure out your breaking point. Which means don’t be surprised at the aggressive interviewing style of your placement officer or if they try to push your thinking and boundaries to see how adaptable you are before you are shipped out.
I was very surprised by the aggressive interviewing style especially around the dietary issue – I asked on a Peace Corps list that I am on if this is normal – apparently it is especially for those with dietary restrictions, disabilities and any kind of issue that might mean you experience a great level of hardship in adapting to a new environment.
So I suggest sitting down and brainstorming strategies to help you cope and adapt to your new environment. Of course – like me – until you know your placement you won’t actually be able to get super specific however you can get some general ideas together could work in multiple situations and environments.
Which reminds me of a quote from the book the Alchemist, “In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.”