The long road home

At the beginning of this month the majority of my stajj that I came here to Morocco with began the long road home.  We all came into Rabat to have our Close of Service (COS) conference and say our goodbyes to each other amid a dizzying amount of information being thrown at us and different appointments – dental, medical  and LPI.

I actually dreaded going into Rabat for a number of reasons – 1. I always lose money leaving my site as the per diem is not realistic for the cost of things in Rabat 2. I like a majority of the stajj but its extremely overwhelming to be around so many American’s after living essentially alone in Taza for two years – I knew by day two I would be longing to have a room alone to simply lock and be alone in  3. 90% of the information didn’t apply to myself or my good friend Kelly since we aren’t leaving Morocco once we COS’d and neither are we extending with Peace Corps either.

I was hoping that we would actually sit down and do a full workshop on our Description’s of Service (DOS) but that never happened – it was just touched on and then we were told to sit down and write it and submit it to our regional managers. Oh Joy.  Its like when you ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor usually in my experience they say – write it yourself and I will tweek it a bit and sign my name at the bottom.  In someways its like I rejoined university when I joined Peace Corps.

I would say at the end of each day I was checked out mentally by 3pm to prevent my brain from exploding from an information overload.

Job Search was a good idea but not really important to me when I can simply continue to work with the people and associations I know as a private citizen volunteer.  I also wonder why we only get one year of Non Competitive Eligibility instead of two since we served two plus years?

The Coverdell Program is also good however our COS date stinks because we are in the middle of the Fall semester trying to apply for next fall admissions or spring admissions for 2014. Bad timing.

I think my whole stajj is hoping that the feedback we gave during this COS conference was taken seriously – especially when it comes to site preparation and transparency about past safety and security incidents.  Peace Corps Morocco has policy banning use of a site for five year after a major assault currently.  The local law enforcement also takes the steps to remove the perpetrator from the area as long as the PCV is in the site for more minor incidents but then once the PCV leaves the aggressor can come back to that location.  Local law enforcement and the Moroccan laws aren’t tough enough when it comes to harassment and sexual assault – not that the different laws in the US aren’t do for improvement in this area either.

Our stajj had a lot to say about how the Peace Corps Morocco site ban doesn’t solve the problem and that the perpetrator of the crime could still live in that site after five years – only to have a new PCV put in that site to be a new potential target.

In my opinion and other stajj mates opinions – they should simply never use that site again – its the easy & lazy way to deal with the problem.  If that site is so desirous for a PCV to work with them – they should have to come to PC Morocco HQ and petition a PCV Safety and Security committee for a PCV to be placed in that site with a security plan that the community designs and enforces.

We also touched on telling PCV’s about the safety and security history of the site they are placed in and how to balance the privacy of the earlier PCV that may have had something happen to them and the security of the incoming PCV to that site.

Some PCV’s felt they should be told about even the site history of other nearby sites as its common for PCV’s to travel within their region more often than outside of their region.

I think it would be a good idea to create a PCV incident privacy waiver – so if a PCV does have security issue – they can choose how much information to share with the PCV’s in the region and in the site.

We love our safety and security head however one woman can’t handle all the day to day problems and strategically plan for how to deal with security issues by herself or with an assistant.  She needs a team of people to help her formulate an effective policy for Peace Corps Morocco and the PCV’s she serves.

I was glad to hear that Peace Corps has updated their policy when it comes to reporting assaults especially sexual ones- by introducing an immunity policy- so that a PCV is not punished if they were doing something that violated Peace Corps policy that could have decreased the PCV’s safety and contributed to the circumstances of the incident.

Bad enough to have something bad happen to you in a foreign country and then have Peace Corps throw the book at you for breaking a rule on top of it – its a form of victim blaming and I am glad they are trying to nip that in bud.

In all honesty the previous policy had led to PCV’s not saying anything to PC Morocco HQ but telling other PCV’s either by waiting till they were replaced and warning the next PCV or not ever telling anyone what happened.

Then there are all the little details of tying up loose ends in site – giving your landlord the final payment and letter to sign off on that you did indeed pay your rent the whole time your in site.

Same with the electricity and water bills but – exactly who do we give those to the random person who works in the office you go to pay your bill? *shrug* I guess so.

I decided to get cash instead of a ticket home – good news I will be able to cover 90% of our one way tickets home – InshaAllah.

However my husband and I’s journey home is really dependent on the USCIS – US Customs and Immigration Services at this point.  I sent in my husband’s application for a I-130 – visa for a spouse in August.

The first review of the application takes 6 month or more –  so if we are lucky with the first phase by February 2014 we will move on to the next phase.

I am hoping that by summer 2014 we will be home in the USA but I am worried by the news I read in articles such as the report by the ACLU about discrimination against Muslims in the visa process – see article here – http://tinyurl.com/npov2tz

I have to admit I am not surprised but I am saddened by the fear based mindless discrimination against Muslims that has happened in reaction to 9/11.

I had hoped our different security agencies would react in a smart and well educated fashion however its become obvious that our security agencies were not ready nor thinking about different scenarios outside what they had already encountered.

It should also be obvious that our intelligence agencies are lacking the dynamic, out of the box thinkers who are educated with the current information in the key decision making positions in order to effectively address the reality of terrorism as it stands currently – this is what will be the different agencies down fall.

Cold war strategies won’t be successful in a world now connected with internet, social media and smart phones.  The exception lies in the such cases of different governments choosing to selectively take parts of themselves off the grid so to speak as Russia has done with its recent acquisition of typewriters to prevent electronic espionage.

Still as it stands – it will be a long road home maybe made longer by the lovely people at USCIS or perhaps they will surprise my husband and I – with an earlier date to head home.

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