This is an approximate timeline of my Peace Corps journey to date.  It is in no way complete because I didn’t want to spend too much time digging up exact info, but is pretty comprehensive.  I also included a very vague timeline of my brother Ben’s cancer battle, as that was a huge thing happening in my life at the same time as all of my Peace Corps steps were being taken.

I learn what the Peace Corps is.

January 1, 2003

At some point in high school, I learn about the Peace Corps, and the initial idea is born.

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Graduate from high school; head to college at the University of Minnesota

June 10, 2005

Take teaching ESL class taught by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

January 21, 2008

This teacher was in the Peace Corps in the 70s, and has the most amazing stories to share.  The bug resurges.

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Start a relationship with a boy.

January 25, 2008

Not long after, the bug is squelched.

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Graduate from college

December 21, 2008

I graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Studies and a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language

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Meet Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

June 3, 2011

Seemingly all of a sudden, I begin meeting Returned Peace Corps Volunteers left and right, and the bug resurges.

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Begin teaching an ESL class

August 18, 2011

Begin teaching an ESL class

Relationship ends

November 25, 2012

The relationship that originally squashed my Peace Corps plans ends.  The bug begins creeping back. I decide that after getting more professional experience on my resume and hopefully “finding myself,” I will finally apply for the Peace Corps. I set a deadline for myself: either my next promotion at work, or August 2014, whichever comes first.

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Begin looking for programs; scramble to get application in before deadline

May 31, 2014

I begin looking into program opportunities, find that the ones in the areas I am interested in a) depart mid-2015 and b) have a May 31 application deadline, so I scramble to pull together my resume, references, college transcript, and personal essays. By the end of the month, I apply for Peace Corps service.

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Promotion at work.

June 20, 2014

I get that “next” promotion at work – after submitting my application.  Technically, I jumped the gun on the application compared to the deadline I had given myself.

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Peace Corps interview

June 26, 2014

Fortunately, my recent interviews at work help me feel prepared for the Skype interviews I have for the Peace Corps.

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Begin hosting trivia

July 29, 2014

I’m pretty bad at first, but eventually I become much more comfortable at talking to strangers, a skill that I think will be invaluable for my service.

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Ben brother is diagnosed with cancer.

September 4, 2014

After inexplicably losing 10 pounds and experiencing fevers for months on end, my big brother is diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

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Ben begins chemo.

September 23, 2014

Request for updated resume and transcript

November 6, 2014

I receive a request for updated materials to be submitted within a week.

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Receive & accept invitation to be a Peace Corps Volunteer

November 22, 2014

I receive official invitation to the Peace Corps for a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia as a Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL) Trainer – Secondary Level, departing August 26, 2015, and formally accept the position the following day.

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Receive first medical tasks for clearance

November 24, 2014

Legal clearance kit received & returned

December 4, 2014

Legal clearance kit received & returned

Legal kit is mailed with directions to submit within 10 days of receipt.  I go to the courthouse and get fingerprinted, complete the paperwork, and return the packet.  I never really hear anything back.  No news is good news in the Peace Corps.

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Submit first medical tasks: dental x-rays and records

December 22, 2014

Take Spanish classes

January 21, 2015

I have a little brushing up to do.

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Receive notification that departure has been delayed; are given 1 week to make decision

January 22, 2015

Our departure has been delayed from an 8/26/15 departure to a 1/12/16 departure.  The reason: our training class will be embarking into new sites which are less densely populated, where community integration will be very important, and the Colombian Peace Corps staff wanted more time to prepare our sites for our arrival to ensure a better experience for us.  My existential nightmare (and pro/con list building) begins.

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Accept position with 1/12/16 departure date

January 28, 2015

Ben begins auto-stem cell transplant process

March 5, 2015

He needs to do priming chemo and start generating cells like mad before they will harvest.

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Ben finally harvests stem cells

March 30, 2015

After spending three weeks away from home, Ben is finally able to harvest stem cells and head back home.

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Family vacation to Arizona

April 5, 2015

Family vacation to Arizona

Our family takes one last vacation as a full unit.  It is lovely, filled with lots of games, hikes, and sunshine.

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Ben goes back to chemo; stem cell transplant plans change

April 14, 2015

We had learned on vacation that Ben’s cancer hadn’t receded enough to move forward with the auto-stem cell transplant.  He was to do more chemo when we got back, and would need a stem cell donor.  I wasn’t a match, but fortunately our brother Barry was.

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Marty & I go on what is arguably our first date.

June 22, 2015

Marty & I go on what is arguably our first date.

Drinks followed by Monday Movies with Marty to see Inside Out.  So great.  I think it may be while we are sitting on the patio people-watching that Marty first learns about my plans to leave for the Peace Corps in January.

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Notified that my rent is being raised

June 29, 2015

I decide now is the time to begin down-sizing, and look for temporary housing options.

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Ben in ICU. It’s terrifying.

July 2, 2015

Buster finds a new home

July 28, 2015

My pet rabbit Buster, finds a new home with a wonderful family. My parents had cared for him before and my mom’s asthma flared up with him in the house, due to his fur & the hay he eats. The family is amazing. They are perfect for him.

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First round of vaccinations

August 10, 2015

I receive initial vaccinations (yellow fever, polio, etc.). Because yellow fever is a live vaccine and Ben has no immune system, I am not permitted to see him for 3 weeks.  I need an MMR booster, but because it is another live vaccine, I need to wait 4 weeks. I schedule the appointment for September 14 to ensure that I can see Ben for his birthday on September 11.

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Finally submit application for no-fee passport

August 12, 2015

Finally submit application for no-fee passport

I realize that I was supposed to send in my passport to receive a new no-fee passport within 30 days of invitation, so I finally do that.  I never heard anything back. No news is good news.

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Barry begins stem cell harvest process

August 14, 2015

Four days of growth hormone shots, followed by a day in bed harvesting.  Meanwhile, Ben is getting radiated and chemoed at toxic levels.

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Grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary

August 21, 2015

Ben & Jen can’t make it.  Ben’s doing really shitty post-chemo and radiation.

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I move into my cute little basement room.

August 26, 2015

See more info here.

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I’m allowed to see Ben again!

August 31, 2015

I’m finally allowed back.  Ben’s doing pretty terribly because his immune system was depleted and the stem cells haven’t kicked in yet, so I try to spend as much time at the hospital as possible to keep him company.

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Ben has a great day with PT and white blood cell counts showing

September 2, 2015

Last cabin vacay with friends

September 4, 2015

Last cabin vacay with friends

My parents and Barry rotate in at the hospital.

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Arrive at hospital to find Ben is in ICU

September 8, 2015

Doctors were attempting to biopsy something in lungs to find cause of an infection when his oxygen levels plummeted and he was intubated.

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Ben passes away

September 9, 2015

It happened so suddenly; one minute we are talking about what the doctors’ plan will be for when he’s out of the ICU and I head home, the next I am getting calls in the middle of the night that there’s not much time left.

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Language training begins via Duolingo app

September 9, 2015

Family celebrates Ben’s birthday with shakes at the diner

September 11, 2015

Ben’s Celebration of Life

September 13, 2015

Ben’s Celebration of Life

Read more here.

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I see Shakira!

September 16, 2015

I win a VIP experience for Target’s Fall National Meeting, so I go back to work for the morning just for the meeting.  Shakira performs. I hope that she does a photo op so I can tell her I am going to be spending 2 years in Colombia, but it never happens.

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MMR booster; lab work; physical

September 21, 2015

Vials and vials of blood are taken from me, and I finally complete some of the steps I had planned for 10 days prior.

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Follow-up doctor’s appointment

October 27, 2015

More tasks to complete & forms to fill out.  I spend a lot of time between now and 11/16 chasing additional paperwork.

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I am medically cleared!

November 17, 2015

This is a huge relief to me.

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Give notice at work

November 19, 2015

I waited until I felt confident that I would be for sure leaving on January 13 (waited for medical clearance, some confirmation from our program coordinator), but wanted to be early enough that I was providing my employer ample time to plan for my departure.

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Apply for Colombian visa

November 30, 2015

We receive directions for requesting a Colombian Visa on 11/29, and I attempt to complete my application immediately.  The system won’t upload my passport.  The next day I try with a different web browser, and it works.  Go figure.

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Receive staging information, including flight details

December 14, 2015

Receive staging information (schedule for 5 hours of welcome & pre-departure orientation), flight details to Barranquilla (we are taking a non-stop 2 hr 55 minute ride), and info for booking domestic flights.

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Language Proficiency Interview

December 15, 2015

Originally scheduled as a Google Hangout on Air for 8am COT (Colombian Time, which is the same as Eastern Standard Time), I received a phone call and had a recorded chat with Carlos.

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Depart for Miami

January 11, 2016

Depart for Miami

Departure, Staging, and the Beginning of Pre-Service Training

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Staging

January 12, 2016

Depart for Colombia

January 13, 2016

Depart for Colombia

Move to Palmar de Varela, my training site

January 16, 2016

I meet my wonderful host family – Gladis, Angélica, and Waldy, three generations of women.

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Volunteer Visit

January 31, 2016

Visited a current volunteer’s site, stayed with his family, and saw how life as a sworn-in volunteer could look one year into service.

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Second Language Proficiency Interview

February 27, 2016

Halfway through training we are interviewed again to assess where our language is at after being in-country for six weeks. This time in person!

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Site placement!

March 18, 2016

Site placement!

After two months of waiting to know where our two-year sites would be, we finally found out!  Read about it here.

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Swearing-In Ceremony

April 15, 2016

Swearing-In Ceremony

Read about it here!

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In-Service Technical Training and Reconnect conferences

July 25, 2016

This was the first time my cohort came back together post-swear-in. We were accompanied by counterparts for half of the conference, so that we could share in the technical training and formulate action plans together.

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Started community English classes

September 5, 2016

Project Design and Management Conference

October 19, 2016

Everyone in my cohort was brought together, each volunteer accompanied by a community counterpart (except in my case ’cause he bailed), to learn how to design and manage large-scale projects. The goal was to learn how to focus on using community assets to address community problems, and how to write a grant application.

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National teacher’s strike begins

May 10, 2017

Public school teachers strike nationwide because of a lack of funding for education. Schools have few resources, are in bad conditions, and teacher salary and benefits are sub-par for their working conditions. The strike is indefinite.

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Mid-Service Training

June 5, 2017

My cohort came together once again for a mid-service training.

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I visited home!

June 28, 2017

For the first time in 18 months, I visited the United States. It was amazing.

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