At the end of service, Peace Corps Volunteers undergo a rigorous medical examination. This includes routine physical and dental exams but also includes a review of your medical history (especially of changes occurring during service), a complete blood work up, TB test, gynecological exam (for the ladies), and stool samples to check for parasites etc. The whole lot is completed over a series of three days. Peace Corps wants to make sure that volunteers return from their service healthy and that there is a detailed record of anything and everything that came up during the two years abroad.
For those of us with intentions of extending our service, the close of service medical examination also serves as our second workup for medical clearance with the government. Much like the medical portion of our application process, there is some anxiety in the waiting.
Last week I underwent my medical review. I was poked, prodded, and probed. Before coming here, the idea of so many needles and doctor's appointments was terrifying but now I feel stronger and like seasoned veteran. These things no longer worry me. Needles were the least of my fears. More so, I was concerned that my weight gain during service might be a problem or the fact that I have had some sleep issues or occasional diarrhea - I didn't want anything to hold me back from staying in Botswana for another year. And, although my problems are common and therefore shouldn't be of concern, these things are all in my record and I had no way of knowing what would be a red flag.
It turns out there was no need to worry. Today I received word from our Medical Officer (PCMO) that my tests came back and everything is clear! I am happy to say that I have, one again, received medical clearance for service in the US Peace Corps! Three cheers for being healthy!
Another really exciting thing that happens after receiving medical clearance for extension volunteers is that you can official apply for Special Home Leave, or the period of one month when volunteers extending for an entire year can return back to their Home of Record at the Peace Corps' expense.
For volunteers like me who haven't gone home during their entire service, this is very exciting (both for the PCV and for family and friends). As you can imagine, within seconds of receiving my clearance, I sent an email to our Director of Management and Operations to request my leave dates. I heard back minutes later that my request is being sent to our travel agent for pricing and review. This means I should know the exact dates I will be in the United States very very soon! While nothing is set yet, those who like to get excited as early as possible (like me) can plan on my arrival some time in late May! Keep this in mind, folks, because I will definitely be hitting you up for welcome home parties, 30th birthday parties, and lots of hang out time! (Also important to note, you should probably start saving your pennies because I'll be surviving on $15/day - which is almost twice what I make now but I'm living in a rural village and not in America - and will need you to either take me out on dates or be keen for deck time on Mama Tina's back porch!)