I thought getting a job would be the hardest part. But I was very, very wrong. After accepting my invitation with the Peace Corps, I was suddenly flooded with emails sending me PDFs to read, links to portals I had to access, and files upon files of paperwork to complete. So far I’ve had to print out about 20 pages from my Medical Portal, spent hours doing virtual paperwork on my New Volunteer Portal, and several documents I’ve had to complete and send in.
The Peace Corps is… very thorough. To complete the medical forms that are mandatory for departure rely on you seeing a dentist, a primary care doctor, a gynecologist (for women) and possibly an eye doctor (I’m still trying to figure out if I actually need to do that). I was lucky with the dentist; while it usually takes months to get an appointment with the dentist, I already had a dentist appointment scheduled since the summer and was able to keep that. I was also able to schedule a physical with a new doctor (since before I’d used my university doctor) for the week after I called. The biggest problem was getting a gynecologist appointment. When I called and asked for a specific doctor, the receptionist told me October was her earliest opening and “would that work?”… no. No that won’t work because I’ll be in Belize. I was finally able to get an appointment with another doctor in the same office, but her earliest was in March. Guess I get to wait until last minute, yay.
Anyway, I went to my dentist appointment on Monday, and of course the paperwork required new x-rays. The machine wasn’t working right, and finally after 2 different attempts, they told me that they’d get the print to work later. The dentist also didn’t have time to fill out all my paperwork (understandable– it was like 10 pages long), and they told me they’d give me a call when they had everything put together. Kind of an ordeal.
Then yesterday I went to my new doctor for the physical. I felt a bit guilty when I walked into the room and told the nurse about all the paperwork; she looked a bit overwhelmed with the 15+ pages I handed her. It took a while to go through the paperwork with the nurse, and then with the doctor. But finally we figured out everything that had to get done; one immunization shot (and a TB shot next week), and a LOT of blood work. I have to say, the blood draw was probably the most entertaining part of the visit. The technician doing it kept looking at me as she went through the paperwork, saying “I hope you have good veins”… well I hope so too! She very carefully selected the vein she wanted, and then twice asked if I needed to lay down while she did it. I didn’t understand why she was so cautious until she pulled out all the collection vials– I had to fill 7 tubes! After sticking me with the needle she starting drawing blood, and at least 3 or 4 times asked if I was feeling ok and if my arm hurt. Finally she filled the last vial and removed the needle, telling me that I broke the record for most vials filled. I was amazed myself that I didn’t feel dizzy or anything. I had to make an appointment for next week to get my paperwork done, get the results of my blood work, and get my TB test done. Then I’ll have to go back to get the TB test read. A lot of work to be done…
Luckily the medical paperwork seems to be the most detailed and complicated. I already completed everything I had to do for my passport/ visa obligations, I submitted two documents to my Application Portal that reworked my resume and detailed my thoughts and plans for work in Belize, and I submitted an official transcript. I’ve *finally* accessed my New Volunteer Portal (after days of trying, using two computers and three we browsers, and not being able to load the portal) and done all the activities and forms (I had to switch browsers to submit the form– if you’re doing this, don’t use Chrome). I’m still working on reading through all the PDFs and figuring out what else I have to get done. It’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it later!
So here’s the lesson I’ve learned from this experience and I hope to pass along to you: don’t relax once you get the offer. The interviews are hard, but you’ve got to be on your game to get through all the technicalities of getting all the legal stuff done. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, and it might be expensive to get all the medical stuff completed. But in the end, it’s always worth it.