Monday, December 19, 2011

Countdown: 3 months to go!

The holidays are upon us...and once we are past them I know that time will really fly.  Today marks our 3 month countdown to our departure day! We are getting excited - reading books, studying Arabic, thinking about what and how we will pack our suitcases...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reflection on Leadership

Reflection on Leadership:
The Challenges of Change and What is Made Possible
This blog entry is a part of and a start to my final reflective, course-work integration paper for my Leading Organizational Change course at St. Kate’s.  It may seem a little self-indulgent to some, but I felt like it was worth posting.
When Arie and I found out that our Peace Corps service was going to be delayed by 6 months, I was devastated.  We had been working so hard on our paperwork – bugging people for references, ordering transcripts, making appointments to see doctors and dentists, running (well, actually biking and busing) all over the city to make things happen… We had been making plans and preparing ourselves for the inevitable goodbyes.  And then, we get the message that we have to wait longer.  NO!  I was upset and frustrated, especially because I had just been laid off by the Saint Paul Public Schools.  I had no job to go back to in September; my last day of work would be July, 19th.  What was I going to do?
As the strong feelings of upset diminished, I began to look at what might be possible within the new amount of time that was now available to us and me in particular.  As I began to put the pieces of my time together they began to fall into a perfect place.  I contacted St. Kate’s to see about re-enrolling back into the MAOL program (to learn more about MAOL click here).  I contacted my dear, dear friend Noelle (she gets 2 dears!) to see about working with her in Washington D.C. in the month of August. 
All that came to be after July 19th was nothing but further growth and self-development to enhance my Peace Corps service.  In July I enrolled in my first graduate class at St. Kate’s since winter of 2010: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Leadership.  This class was led by Josef Mestenhauser – a man who has been a leader in International Education at the University of Minnesota since 1951.  He is a refugee from Communist Czechoslovakia, was a friend and colleague of Hubert H. Humphrey, is a multi-Fulbright scholar, and has studied and worked in Indonesia, Japan, the Czech Republic , and the Philippines to name just a few places.  I thought I understood culture well, but this course broke down the framework, ideas, thoughts, and observations in the field even more deeply that I have ever considered.
Following this course I then went and worked in Washington DC with two best friends (Noelle and Patrick! :).  We were leading orientations all month long for incoming high school exchange students from nearly 40 countries, many of them Muslim (during Ramadan!).  They were coming to study on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Study (YES) scholarship program (learn more about YES here) for the school year.  Working with these young people, the alumni of the program, and all of the other teachers and leaders was a not only a heart-warming experience, it was also one of the most exhilarating and life-changing moments of my career thus far.  I now have new friends all over the world. 
Back home in September it was time to start back at St. Kate’s.  This fall I have been taking two courses: Leading Organizational Change and International Trade and the Global Economy.  Never have two courses ever been so relevant to my path in the Peace Corps.  They are invaluable additions to my knowledge and skill set. 
Today as I reflect back on the past 6 months I can see how such a seemingly devastating set-back was really an opening of space to allow me to really create new and relevant possibilities for myself.  This is a path of leadership.  Leaders, especially during challenging times of change, must be able to face the challenges not only with courage, but also with creativity.  In a book from my Leading Org Change class, Guiding Change Journey: A Synergistic Approach to Organization Transformation by Rebecca Chan Allen, we explored the Archetypal Change Journey map.  This map explains that Leaders must first endure and then transcend trials and tribulations and the lowest place of dissolution in order to enter back into a space of discovery. This is the point of producing possibilities that hold great value.  Leaders must find what is possible in the most challenging of times.   
In reflection I understand now that this path that I am on, that both Arie and I are on, is not a path we can always dictate.  While the path ultimately guides us, we must also guide the path.  I am forever grateful for the fact that our Peace Corps service was delayed.  Had it not been, I would have missed out on some eternally valuable experiences that will only enhance my Peace Corps service.  Being delayed allows both Arie and I to spend more time with friends and family; it allows us to save more money and plan more thoroughly.  Being delayed allowed me to get 12 credits further into my MAOL degree, allowed me to be mentored and taught by some amazing professors, and allowed me to meet and lead some of the most amazing young people on this planet.  I am so thankful for this extra time and all that it has made possible for Arie and me.
Arie and Kate with YES students and alumni from:
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mali, Pakistan, and Palestine

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Countdown Time

Today is November 19th!  4 months from now, on March 19th, we will be leaving for...somewhere....  We think it might be Washington D.C. first for some initial training, but we are not sure until we are issued plane tickets.  We are already starting to say some goodbyes to a few people.  Most of our paperwork is complete - Arie just needs to get his Yellow Fever vaccine and we should be done.  We have been working on paperwork since June 2010! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life as a US ambassador in the Arab world

Today, October 3rd, Minnesota Public Radio's Midday program with Gary Eichten talks with Sam and Sylvia Kaplan.  Sam Kaplan is a  Minneapolis attorney who was recently appointed U.S. Ambassador in Morocco.  They join MPR's Midday to talk about diplomacy in a time of upheaval in North Africa, and their life in Morocco.  They also discuss Peace Corps service in Morocco, so listen carefully for a special surprise (about 19:50 minutes into the show).

Listen here  
The program starts about 2 minutes in.

Sam Kaplan, U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, 
and his wife Sylvia visit the Minnesota Public Radio 
studios in St. Paul, Minn., on October 3, 2011. 
(MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)

Some highlights from the interview:

"The State Department is probably harder to adjust to than the country of Morocco...the Morocco people are so extraordinarily warm and welcoming...that it makes you feel comfortable."

"It's too scary to drive in Morocco." (Peace Corps volunteers are not allowed to drive cars in Morocco!)

"We are very proud to the fact that we have the second largest Peace Corps contingent in the world.  The Peace Corps in Morocco is invaluable."

"I just want to tell you how impressed we are with the Peace Corps volunteers."

"I don't know what Kate's future plans are, but I can tell you a significant number of Peace Corps volunteers then become so enthusiastic about the roles they're playing in making a difference that they become foreign service officers." :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Arie told me last night that there are camels in Morocco.  I didn't beleive him.  Not because I didn't think it was possible for there to be camels in Morocco, but because I had no clue about what animals actually live in Morocco.  I didn't want to "generalize" or "stereotype" that just because Morocco is in Africa there would for certain be camels, and I thought that he was doing that.  Except he actually knows, and he is right - there are camels in Morocco! I guess he read a lot of Zoo Books as a child. 

Arie also told me that people in other parts of the world drink camel milk.  I said NO! Really? Yep they do.  And not only that, supposedly camel milk has less lactose in it, so it is easier to digest for those who are lactose intolerant  - like me! Wow.  Looks like I will be trying some camel milk while in Morocco.  No guarantee that my digestive system will like it though.

Happy 50th Birthday Peace Corps!

50 years ago today, on September 22nd, 1961, Congress passed the Peace Corps Act.  While President John F. Kennedy and R. Sargent Shriver usually get the credit for launching the Peace Corps, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey was one to introduce the actual idea.  In 1960 Representative Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin proposed that the government study the idea, and Senator Humphrey asked for the establishment of a Peace Corps itself (source:

In Kennedy's last State of the Union address he said, "Nothing carries the spirit of American idealism and expresses our hopes better and more effectively to the far corners of the earth than the Peace Corps." Today, several thousand Americans every year answer his call to "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country" by serving in the Peace Corps (source:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Invitation to Morocco!

WE ARE GOING TO MOROCCO! We will depart March 19th, 2012 and will return to the US in late May 2014.  Both of us are going to be working in Youth Development.  We will have to learn Arabic which is the main language spoken in Morocco. Here is some info from our handbook:

History of the Peace Corps in Morocco 
Morocco was among the first countries to invite the Peace Corps to assist in its development process. A group of 53 surveyors, English teachers, and irrigation supervisors arrived in Morocco in 1963 at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since then, over 4,000 Volunteers have served in the Kingdom of Morocco in areas such as lab technology, urban development, home economics, commercial development, education of the blind and deaf, rural water supply, vocational education, maternal child health, natural resources management, youth development, marine and inland fisheries, small business development, sports, beekeeping, architecture, and English language training.

In 1995, education Volunteers began teaching English in community youth centers (dar chebab), enabling youth to practice the English they learned in school. While content-based English teaching is still widely used, the program today focuses on youth leadership, strengthening youth networks, capacity-building of professionals who work with youth, and promotion of girls’ education.  Volunteers work with local professionals and youth to promote volunteerism and youth leadership through
activities such as sports, study of world geography, libraries, exercise classes, environmental projects, project management training, thematic English teaching, and self-esteem activities for girls.

Learn about the Peace Corps in Morocco HERE!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Invitation Process

We had another interview last week; this interview was like our "invitation interview." It was mostly a check-in to see how we are feeling and what we are thinking.  They wanted to know what challenges we thought we might face as individuals and as a couple.  Following the conversation we were told that we were officially qualified for an invitation! That is good to know!

A few ideas we have based on the conversation:

What will we be doing? It sounds like Arie may be doing community development, and Kate may be doing youth development and teaching English. 

Where might we go? Eastern Europe was mentioned - does this mean that we will serve there?  Who knows, but it is a region where A LOT of Peace Corps Volunteers serve.  Check out the Interactive Map of Peace Corps countries; it is really fun to play with. You can see what countries we might enf up in.  Eastern Europe is not just the former western USSR countries (which is what I have always thought) but also more southern countries closer to the Middle East.  We were told that Central and South America would be "last resort" places for us.  They would look for open positions there if they could not find us anything else for us in the world.  This is because there are so many American's with really strong Spanish skills, and Kate in particular has minimal Spanish.  Arie has college level Spanish, but there are many people who are fluent - they go to this region first. 

We were told we would hear something from them in August, but we are not sure what.  We will keep you all updated! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Second Interview

Have you ever been called back for a second interview?  Usually one thinks "they liked me!" But it does not mean that you got the job...yet.  

We have been contacted by a Volunteer Placement and Assessment Specialist to have a phone "conversation" to discuss our application and to provide an opportunity for the specialist to "get to know us better and discuss our expectations and preparations for Peace Corps service. "

OK.  That is good right?  I call it a 'second interview'.  We had our first interview last September 2010 - almost a year ago.  This one, well, we will ROCK it.  I know so. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


We created this blog for all of our friends and family who want to know our Peace Corps progress.  Check in to see how we are doing and if we know where we are going!

Just yesterday we got official notice that we are now medically cleared.  We survived the 10 month medical review process! Now we are waiting to get out official "invitation" aka Job Offer.  Who knows when it will come - it could be in a few weeks or a few months.  Stay tuned.