Life after Peace Corps: A move

This weekend I moved to DC to be close to work, whenever I get to go into the office.

I managed to drive a commercial-size van myself, made less stressful due to the decreased traffic.

My new roommate helped me unload and we got all of the boxes in the house in a few hours. Today I organized my things in the kitchen and set up my work station.

I met some neighbors across the street as one of the kids was having a drive-by birthday party. I walked to an Indian restaurant to pick up dinner, and they did not do a good job with my favorite dish; I’ll be looking for somewhere else to try.

I don’t have any photos of me here yet, but I have one of outside and one inside to share.

The view from the front porch.

My new bed and handmade duvet cover by Wendy.

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Life after Peace Corps, months 3 and 4

The month of February was spent applying for jobs. I tried to apply at locations where I could apply for multiple jobs, in hopes of increasing the number of applications even more. This didn’t work out, and my month’s total was less than January. On the other hand, I had seven interviews in February, which meant that all of those applications were paying off. I was not stressed about most of these and all of the interview prep I had completed earlier was finally paying off. I was even invited to DC for a final round of interviews and a required “meet the director of the organization.”

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The Lincoln Memorial

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The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which I hadn’t seen before

March was the month where I had three offers within one week after multiple great interviews. I had an interview scheduled at the end of the month that I completed as well. I decided to not apply for any additional positions in hopes of the job that I accepted working out. April will be the month where I may find out if it does.

Stats for the month

Number of applications: 9 federal jobs and 22 other jobs
Number of cover letters: 5
Number of interviews: 7 in February and 3 in March
Number of rejections: 4

What else happened in February and March?

I was distracting myself by planning vacations and thought I would be able to take a week-long trip somewhere, but then coronavirus happened. Instead, I convinced my parents to take me to Huron to look at birds.

March was also the month where Peace Corps decided to evacuate all 7000+ volunteers serving around the world, which has me grieving anew over my own forced departure from Peace Corps a few months ago.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Murder at Cape Three Points by Kwei Quartey
Gold of Our Fathers by Kwei Quartey
Sculptors of Mapungubwe by Zakes Mda
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey
Saguaro National Park by David Petersen
Arizona by Bill Weir
Black Diamond by Zakes Mda

I spent the whole month reading half of And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts.

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Life after Peace Corps, Month 2

The month of January was focused on applying to more jobs. I started numerous lists to keep track of everything (jobs I am interested in, applications and interview requests, companies I am interested in, and Ohio health departments).

All of these lists have not only kept me more organized but also more intentional in my job search. Rather than searching aimlessly online, I am more focused on what organizations are on my lists, and I check them directly. I have such a varied work history that searching for only one or two position titles or keywords isn’t very productive for me. What has complicated these lists are jobs that don’t have due dates because they don’t sort well. I am going to have to start making due dates because I have not been able to keep up with these as well. If I want to search a job platform, I have found Glassdoor to work the best for me, and I have also searched Devex, Reliefweb, and Indeed.

I decided I would try to apply to more federal jobs this month, to see if that made any difference to my referral and interview requests. I also feel like the applications are less stressful, the online platform for applying is easy to use, it keeps track of my submitted and upcoming applications, I don’t have to re-enter my work history every time I apply, and there are always new jobs available (I even expanded my search terms to be notified of more jobs I may be interested in).

Compared to all other companies, some have really horrible job/career webpages and I hate how much time it takes to enter all of my work history information, even when copying and pasting. Some websites have you upload your resume, and then the system pulls the information from your resume into work history segments. I have not once had this work correctly, which wastes even more time. Fortunately I have kept a running document of all the questions asked in these forms and I can copy and paste most of the information needed now, and then I tweak parts as necessary rather than rewriting each time. I have also appreciated when only one cover letter is submitted regardless of the number of jobs you are applying for (CHAI, PSI, and Emory University have been like this). And I have also encountered that some local and state health departments use the same system, which means the standard categories of information are shared within the system, and for each position I only have to attach the requested documents and answer the questions related to the position.

Comparing the data of applications and requests for interviews from these two categories, makes me think that I am wasting my time on federal jobs, especially the expanded search terms I added in January. Looking at my above review of the two options, this isn’t the outcome I was hoping for. The turn-around time is much slower, sometimes taking more than a month to find out if I have been referred or not, and out of 58 federal applications I have received only one interview through the traditional system, while Peace Corps has interviewed me for two positions that came up through their RPCV roster.

I had not expected applying to jobs to be so varied or time consuming. I wonder how I could be so thorough in my search if I was going to work every week day–I probably couldn’t be. This has been an interesting process to learn, coming from print journalism, where I looked for jobs on one website dedicated to journalism jobs (, there were no online forms to fill out, and I submitted the same package of clips to nearly every application. The only difference would be whether or not you would submit a paper application or send your clips electronically. This process has been the first of a few that have been drastically different in this current job search.

Stats for the month

Number of applications: 33 federal jobs and 12 other jobs
Number of cover letters: 5
Number of interviews: 2
Number of rejections: 1

What else happened in January?

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My first winning mahjong hand!

Aside from the regular goings-on with my family, I had a visitor (who graciously went with me to an Indian restaurant!), learned to play mahjong at the community center across the street, started beading more frequently, caught up on more TV, and went to the local library for the first time. I also signed up for car insurance and practiced driving.

Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa
Gods and Soldiers [a collection of short stories written by Africans] edited by Rob Spillman
Rachel’s Blue by Zakes Mda

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Life after Peace Corps, Month 1

I am confident I would have been more prepared for life after Peace Corps had my service not ended early. But since it did, and I have read very little about other RPCVs’ returns to a non-PC life, I have been thinking about all the things I have had to do and how some of them could have been done better if only I had known about them or read about them on someone else’s blog.

So, month 1, which is really a month and a half.

The first thing I did upon returning was reread all of the health insurance paperwork I received, sign up for insurance on, and pester PC staff about finalizing my 127-Cs. I tried scheduling appointments for the 127-Cs, which was difficult and took multiple days and offices for one and a month and a half for the second.

I also started my haphazard job search, which I am still trying to streamline (why isn’t there one website where every health department posts their jobs just like for newspapers?). Fortunately I had time for my resume to be reviewed and to sign up for USAJOBS before leaving eSwatini; otherwise, I would have needed to do those things first.

SHIFTT and other insurance info

SHIFTT is the insurance given to RPCVs for free for one month after service, and it can be purchased for two additional months. This insurance does not include enough benefits to count as meeting the insurance requirement of the Affordable Care Act. There is a $250 deductible that resets each month. Read more about SHIFTT here and here. The second link allows you to find providers, if you want to schedule appointments before returning to the US.

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This plan, with a slightly different ID number and the same list of providers, is the insurance you will use for any 127-C forms you receive at your final medical appointment (or by email later). Everyone receives forms for three sessions with a PhD psychologist or psychiatrist. If anything else wasn’t completed before the end of your service that needs to be, you will also receive the 127-C forms for those.

I would not extend the SHIFTT insurance if you will be returning to the US without a job because you should be able to qualify for your state’s Medicaid, which will provide much better coverage. Fill out the website application within 60 days of your COS date and it will help you apply for Medicaid if you qualify. If you don’t qualify or want any of the other insurance options available at, you can extend SHIFTT before it expires.

If you know that you need medical appointments when you return to the US and you know the insurance you will be using, try to schedule appointments before your return. I was not able to, and I have been home for 45 days and still have not been able to see any providers for the 127-C forms I was issued. The wait time for some appointments has been lengthy.

DOS and resume

Doing a good job completing your Volunteer Report Form (VRF) during service will help you complete a good Description of Service (DOS) and a useful resume. The VRF serves as the tool that tracks what you have completed during your service, and you need to include many of those things in your DOS and resume. I would recommend updating your DOS and resume at least once a year so that it is as current as possible when you need to use it.

Fortunately, I had updated my DOS and resume when I finished my extension at PSI, so it was easy to update both and receive feedback on both before my service ended.

USAJOBS website

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Are you interested in applying for a federal job? Then get your USAJOBS account set up and start filling in the resume builder. I spent about 10 hours on the website the day I signed up because I wanted to apply for a job that closed that day. I even had a resume filled with every position I have held as an adult that I was able to use to speed the process along. If you have to search for you previous job information and write job descriptions, expect your initial time on the website to be even longer. If you have a long work history, this step will take time, and you will thank yourself for doing it in advance of the jobs you want to apply for. You may need to tweek your resume for specific jobs, but that is much simpler when you already have a filled-in template. Also, don’t be like me and forget to email yourself a picture of the sheet of codes you will need for future logins to your account.

Stats for the month

Number of applications: 25 federal jobs and 19 NGO jobs
Number of unique cover letters: 3
Number of interviews: 4 for one position
Number of rejections: 1 (it came in January, but I know you were all dying to know)

I will focus next month’s learning points on job searching and interviews.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently at the end of your Peace Corps service? What have you learned in your job search?

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What I have been reading, part 2

I wrote about my reading for the first half of the year here: What I have been reading, and this will take us through the second half of the year.

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
River Town by Peter Hessler
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Catch Me if You Can by Frank Abagnale
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
Demelza by Winston Graham
Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
The Kingdom of Roses and Thorns by Debra Liebenow Daly
The Longest March by Fred Khumalo
Little Suns by Zakes Mda
My Maasai Life: From Suburbia to Savannah by Robin Wiszowaty
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

That’s 19 books through June and 17 for the second half of the year (total 36). I definitely watched more TV programming and beaded more this year, and the entire Outlander series was quite lengthy, which dropped me from the near 50 books I read each of the last two years.


The best: Know My Name by Chanel Miller and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

The worst: My Maasai Life: From Suburbia to Savannah by Robin Wiszowaty
The quickest read: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The longest read: Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

It was nice to finish the Gabaldon “big” books in the Outlander series, but I still have a handful of short stories to read to complete the series. And she says she may write more “big” books. I am satisfied with the current end.

River Town was an excellent telling of Peace Corps service, and I learned a lot about the author’s service in China.

Murder on the Orient Express was my first Christie book, and was a book club selection. I love mysteries but did not love this. I won’t be moving any of her other books closer to the top of my list.

Catch Me if You Can was a lot of fun to read and I am interested in rewatching the movie now. This was another book club read.

I started the Poldark series because a few of my friends liked watching the TV show. I haven’t been able to watch the show, but the books were decent and easy reads.

I read Blue Shoes and Happiness on the way to the airport in September. The stories can be a bit ridiculous but I enjoy reading about the detective Mma Ramotswe.

The Kingdom of Roses and Thorns was written by an American who spent time in eSwatini that was connected to the Fulbright program. I liked how realistic the stories were and how they intertwined.

I bought The Longest March and Little Suns at the Johannesburg airport bookstore, which has a great assortment of books written by South Africans. I enjoyed The Longest March more, but Little Suns was also excellent, and the author studied at and has taught at Ohio University. The Longest March was about a forced march out of Johannesburg, which is one of many events from South African history I haven’t learned about. Little Suns was about a man looking for the woman he loved and lost and had a wonderful way of intertwining the story of his people with his search.

My Maasai Life really, really annoyed me. I found this book in the Peace Corps library, and it was written by a white woman who spent a lot of money to spend a year living with a Maasai family, and she writes as if she is the only person to have ever done this and faced the challenges of having to fetch water and firewood and eat an unbalanced diet.

Walk Two Moons was another book club read, where the topic was children’s literature. I remembered this chapter book from my childhood, and I loved rereading it. It has a lot of great messages, and I know the major themes will continue to stick with me.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle was a short read and still packed a punch. The story is a bit strange, and it would make a good book club book.

I gave Mahfouz another chance when I read Palace Walk. This story was better, but extremely long. I also thought the book was focused on the whole family, but once the female children get married and move out, they are no longer characters of importance. The patriarchy he described also annoyed me.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller is the story of her, her sexual assault by the Standford swimmer, how it changed her, and her life after. I remember reading the statement she prepared for the sentencing in 2016 and sought this book out once it was published. I cried throughout this memoir. It is powerful and I am happy to know Chanel’s name now. Read it, so you can know her name, too.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck has been on my list for a long time, and it was a good book for my current situation, which has parts that I can and can’t do anything about. I hope I am able to use what this book has taught me.

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Sometimes things do not work out as planned

It has been 30 days since I left eSwatini.

I am sure you have a million questions, and I do, too. Simply, Peace Corps ended my service because of a security incident.

It took me this long to tell you because I still wish this was a nightmare that I could wake up from, and I wish that waking up would be in my bed in eSwatini.

For those of you who know me, you know this was not how I expected my service to end. I had another year of plans as a volunteer and was just getting into the swing of a job I was finally loving and was finally putting my skills and talents to work.

I remember a few months ago at Homecoming at BGSU, my favorite journalism professor asked me how I, the student who planned nearly every minute of a journalism trip to Paris and became known as a meticulous planner, was handling the relaxed time of Africa. My answer was that I prepared for it by taking water, food, and a book everywhere I went.

I was immobilized during my time of uncertainty about my future as Peace Corps decided my fate, and when Peace Corps (or you) decides your service is over, you have 72 hours to complete a multitude of tasks and move out.

What I learned as this situation progressed, is that your country director has power and that power can be used to make your situation less shitty. For example, I received extra time to end my service and was able to leave eSwatini with a slightly better state of mind and with more belongings. So make sure you have a good relationship with your country director. (I also wasn’t a horrible wreck when I got to the airport, even after someone accidentally stole one of my bags—she realized she had the wrong one after a few nerve-racking minutes and returned it—which meant I was also able to surprise all the airline staff with my siSwati skills and get my extra checked bags at a lower price. So learn your local language.)

And at the end of this, at least I can remember all the nice things that staff and my friends did for me during my time of extreme need.

While I try not to panic at being unemployed, I keep reminding myself that one of the now-PCVs said to me that she hopes that she can be a PCV like me, and I hope that is enough for now.

P.S. I now have an American phone number for my calls and WhatsApp. Let me know if you’d like it.

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Wednesday photo: Art

I saw some excellent art of Swati imvunulo, or traditional clothing, at MTN, the cell phone provider.

I was happy to see that all my money spent on their products over the years was at least spent on some beautiful art.

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Wednesday photo: My view

My new apartment complex has a nice sunset view. My apartment has no view, so I’m happy there is some common space to spread out.

I have been trying on the weekends to spend time outside, especially the sunset.

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Wednesday photo: The news

One of my new jobs is to review the week’s news and write a summary report that is emailed to all Peace Corps staff.

I immensely enjoy this task, especially because the news writing is horrifying and the editorial decisions leave me confused. All in all, it is an entertaining task.

Check out these two headlines with typos.

This article is about corporal punishment, not driving.

This article is actually about a drunk driver fleeing a cop, rather than a cop fleeing the drunk driver.

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Wednesday photo: Jacaranda tree

I’m not sure which season in eSwatini is my favorite, but I do love the spring flowers.

The jacarandas bloomed this month and I love looking at these flowers.

Sadly, this tree is considered a pest here and it is not a native species.

The rains have started and soon all the flowers will fall.

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