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When is Sera coming back?
10 - 26 March 2004

"Seven years was a long time to be away from one's clan.  A man's place was not always there, waiting for him.  As soon as he left, someone else rose to fill it.  The clan was like a lizard; if it lost it's tail, it soon grew another.  Okonkwo knew these things.  But some of these losses were not irreparable.  He was determined that his return should be marked by his people.  He would return with a flourish, and regain the seven wasted years.  Even in his first year in exile he had begun to plan for his return."
        --Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

More excerpts of letters from Stateside Sera

10 March
The doctor loves his wife… so I can go back to Namibia!

That's right. The privileges of marriage extend far beyond tax breaks and insurance coverage. By being married, you tap into a compassion bank that everyone, married or not, seems to understand. Whenever I am discussing my desire to return to Africa, defunct left shoulder and all, people look at me kind of confused, like "You managed to get out and now you want to go back?" As if I am desiring to return to the very inner circle of Dante's Inferno--which I probably deserve for betraying my American life. But then, if I happen to mention that I'm married and my husband is still there, there is a flicker of comprehension then a full awakening of compassion. "Oh, you must miss him! It must be hard being separated! How long have you been married?" About a year and a half. "Oh dear, that must be hard. Now I know why you want to go back. Well, I hope you can get back over there soon!"

I don't mind this version of my desire to go back, and of course Zac is a large part of it, but I like to believe that Namibia, and my students there, have some merits of their own that make me want to return. But what I find interesting about this exchange is, what did Zac and I do to deserve such understanding and respect as a couple? Nothing. But we're tapping into a national ideal of what marriage and love must be like. I find it an inexcusable tragedy that this same compassion and respect and even privilege is not extended to all couples in our country.

On Monday I had another doctor appointment. After being continuously disappointed at past visits, I wasn't expecting any good news to come from this one, except that maybe I would be allowed to start doing some strengthening instead of just assisted stretching. So Dr. Guth comes in, I demonstrate how far I can rotate my shoulder after three weeks of therapy (about 15 degrees). "Well," he says, "that's better. It's not great, but it's better." He moves my arm around a bit. "Now, you want to get out of here, right?" I nod. "And your husband is over there still?" I nod. "I know if my wife were over there, I wouldn't stay here, I would go there. What do you need for the Peace Corps to let you go back?" I need a letter of medical clearance saying I don't need to be here anymore and that I am capable of doing my teaching job over there. "Ok, so here's what we're going to do. I can let you go in two weeks. I'll write the letter now and I'm going to have the therapist create a program of therapy for you to do at your home there. It's not ideal, but given your situation, I can't justify keeping you here, away from your husband." Oh! Thank you!

So he faxed the letter to the Peace Corps, and I made a bunch of phone calls and wrote a few e-mails. When I talked to people at the Peace Corps, they all said, "Yes, we know your husband is still there. So we understand you are eager to go back." I've initiated what's called "re-instatement" where I re-apply for my same job, and it's basically guaranteed, IF I get medical clearance. So although the doctor himself has cleared me to go, the Peace Corps has their own set of requirements and could still say no. I should know their answer in about two weeks. If they say no, I will just pay to send myself back over. If they say yes, then they pay for everything, which is much better. Either way, I estimate I should be back in Namibia by early April. All because the doctor and I are married.

11 March

Hi Zac,

Well, although nothing was actually different this week, I felt a lot better just knowing that I would definitely be returning to Namibia soon. I'm really hoping that The Peace Corps will let me back in, as that would be perfect, but I'm trying to prepare myself for an expensive disappointment. I feel like the decision could really go either way. I was more optimistic before I read what the doctor wrote. Here is the letter:

"Mrs. Sera Arcaro underwent surgery on 1/21/04 on her left shoulder for instability. She has been afflicted with adhesive capsulitis both preoperatively and her post op recovery has been slowed by that. We feel that she has reached a point where she could safely return to Africa and her duties as a teacher with The Peace Corps. She will need to continue therapy but will be instructed on a home directed program that she can perform on her own. She at this point is not moving her shoulder well enough that a dislocation should be a concern."

It just seems to have overtones of hesitancy. For example, how I can't move my arm well enough to dislocate it, and my slow recovery. But oh well, it's out of my hands now. All we can do is hope. Tracy has received the letter by fax and she told me to call back on the 19th. So I guess that is the earliest I can expect a decision. The good thing is, once I find out I'm medically cleared, I can wait for the rest more patiently. And if I don't get in, then I can go back right away. I will call you as soon as I find out anything.

25 March

And the verdict is…

"No, you will not be re-instated."

And the reason is…

"You have bilateral instability…meaning that although your left shoulder is fixed, your right shoulder could still dislocate. Also, you do not have the full range of motion with your left shoulder."

"So this is final?"

"Yes. I'm sorry, Sera."

* * * * * * * *

No, The Peace Corps will not send Sera back to Namibia.

And yet, Sera will still go back to Namibia.

No, your tax dollars will not pay for this.

And yet, they will. When Sera got kicked out of The Peace Corps, they gave her a nice little "re-adjustment allowance" that had accumulated monthly during her service. This money will now fund her trip back to Namibia.

Yes, Sera will still be able to teach and live at the house with Zac.

No, Sera will not be paid to teach.

Sera is currently arranging for airline tickets, and will inform you of her departure date, which she hopes is soon.

26 March

THE RETURN OF THE VOLUNTEER: Coming soon to a computer near you!

This all-new reality series will begin on April 6th, when ex-communicated Peace Corps volunteer Sera Arcaro returns to her life in Namibia. Watch as she tries to survive in a deserted country without the auspices of the U.S. Government. Follow along as she battles the Namibian Ministry of Home Affairs over her passport extension. Read how she re-unites with her husband and students after 3 months of separation.

This series promises adventure and comedy for the whole family. Critics are already acclaiming it as "ridiculous" "worth a chuckle or two" and "the best thing on e-mail."

Written by The Muses. Directed by Luck. Produced by Love. Starring: Sera Arcaro, Zac Arcaro, The Learners, The Teachers, The Taxi Drivers, The Animals, and Time.

***

Love sera

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