Today I received an email that officially granted me legal clearance! That means that staging is a little over four months away! It still seems like a far way off to me but it also feels like it is getting a lot closer. I thought I would provide a quick update on how I’m coping!
First I thought I’d share my medical/legal clearance processes. In order to leave, you have to be cleared legally and medically. The process is very thorough and demanding but it has to be to ensure that you are both healthy and legally sound so you can endure a full two-year service. Medical clearance consists of dental and medical tasks that are assigned to you in the medical applicant portal (MAP). You are given 60 days from the time they are assigned to upload them for review. After many appointments and missed lunches to make said appointments, I have submitted all my tasks to the MAP to be reviewed by a Peace Corps nurse, finally. Hopefully, I’m in the clear and granted clearance so I don’t have to go back to either the dentist or doctor to redo or seek clarification for any of my tasks, but I’m very aware of how thorough the process is, so I’m expecting I’ll have to go back for something. Legal clearance is just as demanding and consists of fingerprints for an FBI background check to be completed ASAP. The documents were sent right after I was placed under consideration for Senegal and I tried to get them completed and sent back to PC headquarters within a week of receiving them. The quicker these documents are completed, the easier the process is on you and in the Peace Corps.
Now on to the glory of farming! The leaves have come back to the trees and the flowers are in full bloom; it’s officially spring! Which means two things: it is time to plant and it is also time for my allergies to wreak havoc on my eyes and nose.
It’s been a nice change of pace from sitting in my office all winter to preparing seeds for different soybean trials, preparing our fields for planting, and helping out the other researchers in getting their crops out. I really enjoy the communal atmosphere involved whenever it is time to plant! Let me walk you through how an average day these past few weeks has gone!
Depending on what seed tests we are working on and whenever the coordinator of those tests decide to send us the seed, I prepare envelopes for each test to hold a certain amount of seed determined on how many rows per plot and how many plots there are. Once the envelopes are prepared, I then count the seed out at the seed lab. This process can be very monotonous but it also provides time to sort of meditate once I get in the groove which is actually quite enjoyable. After the seed is counted, I then prepare the envelopes in planter boxes based on what the test demands; usually two-row plots or four-row plots. Once the tests are lined up and double checked to match the field plan, they are ready to be planted.
So far, we have one field planted which is a much better start than last year. Planting can be extremely difficult because it is weather/equipment permitting. We have to wait for the soil to dry and since it is April we tend to get a decent amount of rain. We also aren’t the only people planting, therefore we have to manage our time with the planter efficiently as others have tests to plant as well. Hopefully, we can plant two more fields next week if the fields are dry. Some days are longer than others based on the task at hand but I can honestly say I generally have a really great time at work assisting research in agriculture. I might not agree with the business practices and politics of industrial agriculture but that doesn’t mean I’m not learning a lot from it or not enjoying it!
Another thing that spring and the fresh blossoming flowers has brought is more daylight and more activity with bees and that means more beekeeping! In addition to my normal job, I usually go beekeeping twice a week, once during the week after work and once during the weekend. Although my bank account wasn’t too thrilled, the new beekeeping suit I purchased is terrific!
It breathes well in the Louisiana humidity and keeps me from getting stung. I ultimately think the beekeeping suit was not only a great investment for my time in Louisiana, but a smart investment that I think will no doubt come in handy in Senegal. I plan on writing another beekeeping update soon and I will go more in-depth there.
With all my time spent at work or occupied with the bees, I have found that I’ve slacked off a little in practicing French… I wish I didn’t have so much contempt for it but I don’t plan on slacking off much longer.
All in all, spring has sprung at it has given me a lot to do. Now that I’ve gotten my tasks submitted for medical clearance and received legal clearance, I’ve found a little bit of time to skate with my friends, even if it’s only a fraction of what I’d like to do.
I also had the opportunity to take my mother to see Michael Franks and Roy Ayers in New Orleans which was absolutely incredible. Nearly 23 years ago, my mother took me to see Michael Franks at a jazz in the park concert in Kansas City shortly after I was born. To be able to share such an amazing experience with my mother is priceless. So here’s some easy listening from Roy Ayers and Michael Franks to brighten your mood and help bring in spring: