Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The answers to your questions...

So a lot of people have been asking me the same questions. I love talking to people about it, but I figure I put it down right here so everyone knows. Have at it and if you still are curious I can go on for days...

The number one question...

What made me decide to join the Peace Corps?

People have a hard time understanding why I would want to go to a third world country that most people can't spot on a map, make pennies for my work, and live in less than desirable conditions. Well...back in late High School and early college I thought about it and said to myself that one day I would do it. It really was just a small thought. As I finished college and dabbled in the entertainment industry, I kicked the idea out of my head and honestly admitted that I would never do it. One day I sat at my work, not unhappy, but unsatisfied, and grew some balls. I said screw it. Am I gonna sit here the rest of my life and work like a lemming for some coin? I saw the road ahead and didn't feel like it would be the life I wanted. Its time to do something I really feel certain about. That day I began to research and months later here I am strapping up to go into the Peace Corps.

Joining the Peace Corps is not a professional experience for me but a personal one. I crave new adventures and doing things that go out of the ordinary. While Jedi's disagree with me (I am not a Star Wars fan but know the line from Mallrats) I can't deny who I am. "But 2 years? That is a long time...too long." I once thought this too. But as soon as I made the choice to do this I haven't even thought about the 2 years. We live in very fortunate circumstances, other people out there don't. I think with that comes a responsibility to those who live in dire circumstances. If we turn a blind eye, we will never understand other's situation and how even the smallest effort changes things for the better. And even if some think this not to be true, I can't tell my self taking 2 years, out of what will be a long life for me, is too much time to serve. Sometimes things in my life instinctively feel right and I can't explain it. I have never felt more right about something in my life.

I am 25, starting a new phase and putting my career on hold. Crazy huh? To me, not really. Its time to start living. I made this crazy decision to stop doing things I don't like doing, and start doing the things I want to. I think it will pay off.

How long will I be there, where will I go and what will I be doing?

I will be in Honduras for 27 months. For 3 months I train in country near the capitol (Tegucigalpa). I am not 100% sure where I will be but I know its 1 of 2 cities close to the capitol. After training is swearing in, then 2 years of service. At that time I will move to a new placement location.

There are different programs that are part of the Peace Corps. I am going with the Business Advising group. In my region I am told there is an emphasis on Information Technology in my program. What projects I get into specifically is decided once I am in Honduras. Some of the projects I may have are teaching children about business plans, how to use computers, starting microfinance organizations, or helping non-governmental organizations with certain projects.

How do you qualify for business? (with emphasis)

I know, I am not your typical businessman. Former volunteers tell me just living in the U.S. makes me a great teacher of business in the third world. What Peace Corps liked is that I began to develop a small business while I lived in LA and had experience in the work force with management and day to day business experience.

I do plan on it being an educational experience as well. Upon my return if you want me to run your company we can do some negotiating. I am not cheap though.

How much do I get paid?

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am not paid a salary. Instead, I receive a stipend to cover my basic necessities - food, housing expenses, and local transportation. While the amount of the stipend varies from country to country, I receive an amount that allows me to live at the same level as the people. My personal expenses - souvenirs and vacation travel - are my responsibility. The Peace Corps pays for my transportation to and from Guyana and provides me with complete medical and dental care. At the conclusion of my service as a Volunteer, I will receive a "readjustment allowance" of $225 for each month of service. When I complete my full term of service, I will receive $6,075.

Do you get vacation time? Can you come home for a visit? Can I come to Honduras to visit you?

The Peace Corps gives me 2 days of vacation for every month I serve. This accrues to 48 days of vacation over my 2 year period. I can't visit or have visitors my first 6 months of service and my last 3 months.

I can use that vacation to come home but unfortunately those expenses will be my responsibility. I am hoping to come home once during service.

You can come visit me and I encourage it. Drop me a line when I get contact info out and let me know.

Do I speak Spanish?

I can communicate effectively but am by no means fluent. In my training have hours of training, 5-6 days a week. I hope to be fluent by the end of my service.

I hear it's very hard to get into the Peace Corps. Is that true? How competitive was it?

Less than one third of all applicants are invited to serve in the Peace Corps. To become a Peace Corps Volunteer, I had to meet certain education and work experience requirements. When evaluating me, the Peace Corps considered my life experiences, community involvement, volunteer work, motivations, and even my hobbies. In most cases, a bachelor's degree in any discipline, strong motivation, and a commitment to Peace Corps service will be competitive enough to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.

With budget cuts and the nation's economy, it is getting even harder. Although Obama promises to double the Peace Corps by 2011.

How can I keep in touch?

For starters I will be blogging right here as often as I can. They won't be this long. When I learn about more contact info and such I will post it here. My email is the same...balemos@gmail.com

So...

If you have any more questions or are curious I am more than welcome to answer them for you. You can also go to peacecorps.gov to learn more. There you can learn about Peace Corps' goals purpose, and history. Even if you aren't considering joining, it is pretty interesting.

Until next time...much love.

-B

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome to my blog

Hello all! This blog is created to keep friends, family, and anyone interested updated during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras.

I depart on February 24th for 2 days in Washington, D.C. After that I fly to Tegucigalpa, Honduras for 3 months of training and in March be sworn in officially as a volunteer.

Thanks for checking it out and loo forward to keeping you all connected.

Much Love