Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Tonga" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala"

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===Communications ===
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===Communications===
  
===Mail ===
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====Mail====
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. Mail usually takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Tonga. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). This is not meant to discourage you, but to prepare you for the realities of international mail service in the South Pacific. Despite the delays, we encourage you to write to your family regularly and to develop a way of tracking letters—such as numbering them.  Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.  
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. Guatemala’s mail service is fair, but often unreliable. Mail normally takes at least one to two weeks to arrive; however, it is common for letters to arrive much later, or never at all. It is recommended that you arrange a system of numbering correspondence with family and friends.  
  
Volunteers who serve on Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island, collect their mail from the Peace Corps office. Mail to Volunteers on outer islands is mailed directly to an address on that island.  Sometimes volunteers will need to leave their island and travel to a larger island in order to pick-up mail. During your first six months of service, you will be able to receive mail without paying customs duties.
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Packages and letters with enclosures may also be sent directly to you in care of the Peace Corps office in Guatemala City. Again, please note that the mail system is not considered reliable. The address of the Peace Corps office is:
  
Your specific address during service will depend on your site location, which is determined during the training process.  The main Peace Corps office in Nuku’alofa has a P.O. box for Volunteer mail, and P.O. boxes have been established on certain outer island groupings. Once you know your site location, you can advise your family and friends about the appropriate address to use.
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“Your Name,” PCT
  
===Telephones ===
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8 Calle 6-55, Zone 9
  
Calling the United States from Tonga is complicated and expensive. No U.S. telephone cards work in Tonga. To call the U.S.  from Tonga, Volunteers must purchase Tongan telephone cards.
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Guatemala City, 01009
  
Friends and family in the U.S. may call Volunteers. Most Volunteers do not have land-line phones, but several who work within the area covered by Tonga's cellphone network purchase local mobile phones. There is no charge for incoming calls on mobile phones and there is no monthly fee.
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Guatemala, Central America
  
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
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Office Tel. # 502.2384.3800 (needed for courier packages: FedEx, DHL, etc.)
  
If your sponsoring agency owns a computer, you may be able to arrange Internet access for work-related or personal use.
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(this address will change towards the end of 2007 when the main office moves to Santa Lucia Milpas Altas)
  
We discourage Volunteers from bringing computers to Tonga for several reasons. Phone hookup and service are expensive, and the power supply experiences frequent surges. You may or may not have electricity in your home. Tonga’s humid climate is not friendly to electronics. Finally, Peace Corps/Tonga cannot guarantee the safety of your computer or replace it if it is damaged or stolen. If you choose to bring a computer, the safest way to transport it is as carry-on luggage, but remember if you do bring one, you do so at your own risk.  Many volunteers do bring computers and love having them.  They often assist in the work being done and allow for some much needed entertainment.
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Once you complete training and are assigned to your site, you can decide how to receive your mail and inform family and friends. Some Volunteers choose to receive mail at a local post office; others prefer to have mail held at the Peace Corps office in Guatemala City.  
  
There are two computers with Internet access at Peace Corps/ Tonga's main office in the capital city of Nuku’alofa. Outer islands have e-mail access (through a shared account), but do not have access to the Internet.  
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Receiving “care packages” can be problematic—packages might be held at the central post office for pick-up and customs duties will be your responsibility. Often, the packages are opened or never arrive at all. Experience has shown that small padded envelopes are most likely to arrive intact.
  
Many of you might be thinking of creating website or blogs as a way to communicate to your family and friends. If you are thinking of using this type of communication, you must speak with your country director first as there is some very specific information that you need to know.
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====Telephones====
  
===Housing and Site Location ===
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All major cities in Guatemala have public phone and fax service. The national phone company has established offices with phone banks, where you can make and receive calls for a fee. Smaller towns or pueblos will often have one community phone that can be used for a fee. In very rural areas and small villages, phone service is usually not available.
  
Volunteers’ host organizations are responsible for identifying and providing safe and suitable housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ criteria. Housing ranges from a one-room fale Tonga (traditional hut) with a thatched roof to a two-or three-bedroom wooden or brick house with very basic furniture. Peace Corps/Tonga asks host agencies to provide private bath and toilet facilities; however, some Volunteers may have to share facilities with a neighbor.  
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The organization to which you are assigned (your host agency) will most likely have telephone service at its office; however, that office might be some distance away from where you live. In the more developed cities, residential phone service is available, and there are a few Volunteers who have home phones.  
  
As access to electricity and running water varies widely, you will need to be flexible. Some Volunteers have electric lights and outlets, flush toilets, and running water in their homes.  Others spend evenings reading by kerosene lamp or candle, use a pit latrine, and collect water from a tank near their home.
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Cellphone service is extremely popular among Volunteers;
  
The Peace Corps will provide you with a kerosene lamp, a life vest, a bike helmet (if necessary); and an AM/FM radio. Once you become a Volunteer, you will receive a settling-in allowance to purchase additional household necessities.  
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95 percent of them have cellphones. Volunteers generally purchase these out of their living allowances. We strongly discourage you from bringing a cellphone with you from the United States, as it is highly unlikely that your plan will cover Guatemala and the surrounding region. Once you have been assigned to your site, you can determine if a cellphone is a viable option and purchase one locally.  
  
Peace Corps staff and Volunteer leaders make site visits to Volunteers to provide ongoing support and to follow up on any housing or safety issues that arise. However, Volunteers are encouraged to contact staff if there are any improvements needed for their homes—especially if it is safety-related.  
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The Peace Corps office in Guatemala can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. The number is 011.502.2384.3800. Volunteers are not permitted to use telephones at the Peace Corps office in Guatemala to call family and friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved by the country director.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
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====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
  
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tonga, you will receive four types of allowances. The living allowance is intended to cover the cost of food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. It is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. Currently, the living allowance is $570 pa’anga (TOP), equivalent to $280 (U.S.). The living allowance is deposited monthly into your bank account in local currency.  This allowance covers basic living expenses, and also communication, transportation, and utilities. You are likely to find that you receive more remuneration than your Tongan counterpart or supervisor.  
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Computer and Internet access are growing in Guatemala.  Much like the telephone, most Volunteers will only be able to use these services when traveling to a central location. If your host agency has a computer, you might be able to arrange for access for work-related or personal use. Internet cafés can be found in most Guatemalan cities that are popular tourist destinations. In many instances, you can compose work offline and then go to a café to send it via the Internet. Since connection fees can be high, Peace Corps/Guatemala includes a small stipend for Internet use in your monthly living allowance to help defray the costs. There are also Internet-connected computers at the Peace Corps office in Guatemala.  
  
A vacation allowance of $24 per month, paid in U.S. dollars, is added to your living allowance periodically. Also, toward the end of pre-service training, a one-time settling-in allowance of T$1,050, roughly equivalent to $516 (U.S.), will be deposited into your account to buy basic household items when you move to your site.  
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Some Volunteers do bring laptop computers with them, which they are able to use for work purposes, but they may not be able to access the Internet. Palm Pilots, because of their small size and lower cost, are good options for day-to-day use.  Possessing a laptop or Palm Pilot can be a security concern in Guatemala, since they command high prices on the black market. They can also be damaged or lost.  
  
If the Peace Corps requests you to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and meals. The amount is established by the administrative officer based on the local cost of transportation and lodging.
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===Housing and Site Location===
  
Most Volunteers find that they can live comfortably in Tonga with these four allowances. While many Volunteers bring their own funds to Tonga for travel during vacations, we strongly discourage you from supplementing your income with money from home. You are expected to live at the same economic level as your neighbors and colleagues.  
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Volunteer housing and site locations vary depending on your project and the type of work you will do. Peace Corps staff work with your host agency, Volunteers who currently live in the area, and municipal leaders to locate appropriate sites and determine if the living conditions meet selection criteria established by the Peace Corps. In addition, the Peace Corps consults with security staff at the U.S. embassy to review any pertinent safety concerns that might be present.  
  
Credit cards can be used in a few establishments in the capital and are useful for vacations and travel. Traveler’s checks can be cashed at the Bank of Tonga for a small fee, but there are few retail establishments in Tonga that accept them. Volunteers can store U.S. dollars or traveler’s checks in the Peace Corps’ safe. Peace Corps/Tonga will assist you in establishing a local bank account.  
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Peace Corps/Guatemala Volunteers must live with a family during the first three months of their service. This helps Volunteers better integrate into their community and aligns with Guatemalan culture where it is uncommon for single people to live alone. There are often living arrangements in Volunteer sites where there is private space within a family compound-type area. This affords privacy to the Volunteer and the many benefits of meeting your community with the guidance and support of one of its members. By living with a family, you will more fully experience Guatemalan culture.  
  
===Food and Diet ===
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Many Volunteers become very close to their host families and find that living with them is one of the most rewarding aspects of their service
  
Tongan meals consist of staple foods, such as yam, taro, sweet potato, cassava, fish, pork, and canned meats. One of the most common dishes is cooked taro leaves with coconut cream. On Sundays and for special occasions, Tongan families prepare an underground oven called an umu.  
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After the initial three-month period, you will be involved in the selection of your permanent housing. The type of house you live in will depend on what is common in the area. In a city or large town, this will likely be a cement block house with either a tin or tile roof and a solid floor. Most will have electricity. Most households in Guatemala have a pila, a large cement sink for washing dishes and clothes, with a section for collecting water. In more developed areas, you will likely have plumbing, although the water may go off and on. You may have a flush toilet or use a latrine that is separate from the house.  
  
Tongan food is generally considered bland by American standards. Root crops are boiled, baked, or fried and served with salt at every meal. Onions, garlic, curry powder, soy sauce, and chili peppers are usually available, but are only occasionally used in food preparation.  
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Volunteers in more rural areas may have a house of cement, adobe (homemade brick), with a roof of tin, tile, or thatch.  Some have solid floors, but in poorer areas dirt floors are more common. Electricity is present in almost all areas, even small villages, and some will use a generator for a few hours each night. However, power outages are very frequent, especially in rural sites. You may come to rely on candles and lanterns in the evenings. Most will have an outside pila, but you may find yourself carrying water from a community water source or collecting rainwater to fill it. In some areas, people use a community pila or a river for their water source.  
  
Your diet will vary depending on your site and personal preferences. In the capital and the few other city centers and ports, you will find a reasonable variety of imported foods at grocery stores and a good assortment of locally grown foods at the market. Bread, rolls, pastries, and ice cream are readily available through commercial operations and family-run shops in the city centers, but often unavailable in outlying villages and outer islands. Noodles, flour, sugar, rice, eggs, butter, milk, canned fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables are available in most small shops on the main islands. The living allowance is sufficient to buy some imported fresh and canned fruits and vegetables to take to outlying sites.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
The main meats are pork, chicken, and mutton, but shops in the capital also sell beef, hamburgers, sausages, and hot dogsFresh fish can be purchased from markets and local fishermen throughout Tonga. Tropical fruits grow on most islands, but availability of particular items varies by the season. Tongans do not eat many vegetables, so Volunteers often plant and maintain vegetable gardens in their communities. Canned foods, such as fish, corned beef, and snacks, are readily available and both locals and Volunteers eat these regularly.  
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Volunteers receive a living allowance adequate to their needs as determined by annual cost-of-living surveys. Volunteers are entirely responsible for managing their personal financesLiving allowances allow Volunteers to live according to the standards of the people with whom they live and work. There are several living allowance categories. They are based on the cost of living in different geographical areas. The principal bank used by Peace Corps/Guatemala is Banco del Quetzal. Upon arrival in Guatemala, each Volunteer must open a personal checking account with this bank and sign a power of attorney authorizing Peace Corps/Guatemala to make deposits for living allowances, reimbursements, etc. to the account. Prior to leaving Guatemala, each Volunteer must personally close the account after ascertaining that all checks have cleared and making the necessary arrangements to cover those that have not. For convenience, Volunteers often open a second account at a bank in or near their site. Funds can then be transferred from the Banco del Quetzal account into the second account.  
  
Although it is possible to maintain a vegetarian diet in Tonga, it can be challenging because of the lack of fruits and vegetables at certain times of the year. Also, when living with or visiting Tongan families, you will be offered and expected to accept traditional foods, so you will have to be flexible in respecting local customs. Visitors usually eat only with selected members of the family, with children eating in a different place. Although Tongans usually do not converse during meals, they enjoy hearing about a visitor’s home country and travel experiences. Eating and drinking while standing is not considered appropriate, even though you may see others doing this. Note that some Tongans eat with their hands as it is not considered rude.
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===Food and Diet===
  
===Transportation ===
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Most Volunteers enjoy eating the typical food in their community, often with their neighbors or host families. In towns and cities, you will usually find a greater variety; in poor rural areas, the food choices can be limited. Throughout Guatemala, corn tortillas and black beans are a staple; other common foods include eggs, rice, chicken soup, and bread brought in from bakeries in larger towns. These types of foods are eaten daily in most poor areas of Guatemala. The most common fruits and vegetables include tomatoes, onions, avocado, a squash called huisquil (chayote in the United States), bananas, and mangoes (when in season). Papaya and citrus are found in some areas. Tamales, chicken or pork, are often prepared as well as a sweet rice or corn drink called atoll.
  
Volunteers may bring bicycles from home or buy them locally.  Distances are not great in Tonga, and the low traffic density is conducive to travel by bike. Peace Corps/Tonga issues helmets to Volunteers who own bicycles or you may bring your own.  
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In more developed areas, you might find a greater variety of food, including more meat (most often chicken) and more fruits and vegetables.  
  
Local buses run on the main island of Tongatapu and Vava'u and taxis are available and affordable on both. Depending on the day, there may be bus service on the other main islands.  However, this changes regularly. Volunteers often catch rides with members of their community.  Travel among islands is by air, boat, or both. Peau Vava’u and Airline Tonga have regular flights from the main island to Vava'u and Ha'apai, with some flights to other islands.  The three inter-island ferries provide service throughout Tonga and are used more often (and more reliably) by volunteers.  
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Even in the most rural areas, there is likely to be a small local store that stocks snacks, sodas, and staples. Traditional outdoor markets, where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, clothing, household items, and knickknacks, are held on a regular basis (usually weekly) in central towns and are always open in main cities. In larger cities, you will also find supermarkets, where you can purchase non-perishables and imported goods; in the capital, there is great variety. Some Volunteers take advantage of the opportunity while in town to stock up on special foods and cooking items, such as spices, peanut butter, pasta, or a food that reminds them of home.  
  
For safety reasons, Peace Corps/Tonga prohibits Volunteers from owning, driving, or riding on motorcycles and from owning or driving private cars for any reason. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.
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Being a vegetarian as a Volunteer is not difficult—in many of the poorer areas, for example, meat is rarely eaten. However, since many Volunteers eat with their neighbors, and meat is prepared on special occasions, there will likely be situations where meat is presented to you. Many Volunteers have successfully served as vegetarians, and you will need to find a way to deal with these situations that is appropriate for you in your circumstances.  
  
===Geography and Climate ===
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===Transportation===
  
The Kingdom of Tonga consists of 171 islands, 36 of which are inhabited, and is spread over 144,000 square miles (360,000 square kilometers) of ocean. The total land area is only 268 square miles (670 square kilometers), about the size of Memphis, Tennessee. About 77 percent of the total land area is arable—the highest percentage in the world. The highest point in the island groups is Tofua, which rises to over 3,300 feet (1,000 meters).  
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Guatemala has extensive and relatively cheap transportation among major urban areas and relatively good access in some rural areas. Volunteers often travel around their site for work activities on foot, in the company of other community members or work colleagues. Some Volunteers use bicycles provided by the Peace Corps to travel. If a Volunteer needs a bicycle to facilitate his or her work and the program manager agrees, the Volunteer will be provided with the means to get a bicycle by PC/Guatemala. However, this can be difficult in mountainous areas, and all Volunteers must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle (provided by the Peace Corps).  
  
Tonga lies three degrees east of the international date line, which was bent to include Tonga in the same time zone as its neighbors. For this reason, Tonga is the first country in the world to welcome each new day.
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For longer distances, Volunteers usually ride “chicken buses,
  
The islands of Tonga were formed on top of two parallel submarine ridges. Between the two ridges is the shallow Tofua Trough, which is 31 miles (50 kilometers) wide. Along the western ridge are many volcanoes, most of which are dormant. Kao, Late, Fonualei, and Tafahi are the remains of cones formed after violent volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Also along this ridge are two other active volcanic cones, Tofua and Niuafo’ou, which are now inhabited islands. Violent eruptions caused the volcanoes to collapse, and the resulting huge craters have become beautiful lakes. Along the eastern ridge, many coral islands have formed.  
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U.S. school buses painted and outfitted with racks to haul supplies, and sometimes animals. In rural areas, you might have a chicken bus that leaves your site once a day, travels to a major city, and returns at night. In other areas, pick-up trucks provide transportation to villages on a regular basis instead of a bus. Sometimes, you might arrange for a ride with someone you know who has a car or pick-up. For long distances on major routes, there are “pullmans,” much like a Greyhound bus, which provide a more comfortable ride for a higher fee. On either kind of bus, you will find that they stop frequently to pick up passengers and are often overcrowded, so you might find yourself sitting three to a seat or standing in the aisle.  
  
The ocean west of these ridges is 1.86 miles (three kilometers) deep, but the ocean east of them is over five miles (eight kilometers) deep. This deep water is known as the Tonga Trench; 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) long and 62 miles (100 kilometers) wide, it extends from Samoa to the southeast of New Zealand. At one point the trench descends to 35,617 feet (10,793 meters), the second deepest trench in the Pacific Ocean.
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===Geography and Climate===
  
’Eua, on the eastern ridge, is one of the oldest islands in the Pacific. ’Eua has steep cliffs on its eastern side and is home to the last remaining rain forests in Tonga.  
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Guatemala is the northernmost and most populous of the Central American republics. More than 12 million people live in an area about the size of Tennessee or Ohio. Guatemala has coastlines on the Pacific and the Caribbean, and it borders Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.  
  
Tonga’s climate is mild to warm, humid, and moderately wetAlthough the temperature varies little, there are distinct wet and dry seasons. The wet season, which also brings cyclones, is from November to April, with average temperatures of 77 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dry season is from May to October, with temperatures of 71 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (at night, it can get as cool as 60 degrees). The climate of northern Tonga (e.g., Niuatoputapu) is about five degrees hotter than the rest of Tonga and has more rainfall.  
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The central highlands are the most densely populated areaBetween the highlands and the Pacific lies a narrow plain. The Caribbean lowlands have fertile river valleys. The north of the country contains tropical jungles and protected biospheres.  
  
===Social Activities ===
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Temperatures are fairly constant year-round and are most influenced by elevation. In the cattle country of eastern Guatemala and coastal lowlands, temperatures can reach 100°F. In western Guatemala, which is the highest part of Central America, the climate is cold, and morning temperatures in December and January are frequently below freezing. In the areas of more moderate elevation, the climate is generally milder—cool in the mornings, warm to hot in the afternoons, and then cooling down again at night.  Average temperatures would be around 50°F to 70°F. The most noticeable feature of Guatemala’s tropical climate is the seasonal alternation between dry and rainy seasons. During May to October, most parts of the country get rain every day, resulting in lush vegetation and cooler temperatures. During the dry season (November to April), rain tapers off and most sections of the country get no rain. This results in dry, dusty weather and hotter temperatures.
  
Tongans are very social and enjoy team sports. Rugby is the national sport, and most villages also have competitions in volleyball, basketball, table tennis, soccer, and tennis, which are almost exclusively male sports. Women play games including netball and field hockey. Movies, videos, and dances are also major forms of recreation in larger villages. Young boys play with marbles and slingshots. Men gather to drink kava root juice, converse, and sing late into the night. Families have picnics on the beach for special occasions.
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===Social Activities===
  
Men traditionally build boats, canoes, and houses and are proficient in woodcarving. Women traditionally weave mats and baskets and make tapa (cloth made of bark), dolls, and leis.  
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There are three prominent aspects of rural social life in Guatemala. The first has to do with the religious celebrations of the community and families. Births, confirmations and coming-of-age ceremonies, communions, marriages, and funerals are themes for the celebration of life. Funerals, in particular, are the recognition of the accomplishments and thoughts of the departed.  
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
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The second aspect of social life in rural Guatemala centers on the market, which is far more than a place to buy needed goods. The market is the place to meet and visit with people to exchange news and hold discussions.
  
Modesty is very important in Tonga, and people take pride in their appearance. By law, Tongan men over age 16 must wear shirts in public places, and many do not even take off their shirts in their own homes. Tongan women do not wear short skirts, sleeveless tops, or low-necked dresses outside their homes. Pants are not considered appropriate for women in certain areas. Except when worn as athletic wear or while working in the garden, shorts are considered improper on women, especially outside the capital. However, shorts may be appropriate as swimwear, and women do wear them at home and in public under wraparound skirts.  
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The third facet of social life is inter-community competition. Winning a soccer game against a neighboring community, or even losing, creates a sense of solidarity and identity.  
  
Please review the packing list carefully. Volunteers often bring clothes to Tonga that are too casual for their work assignment.  Men are expected to dress similarly to their male counterparts at school, in the office where they are assigned, or in the village. This often means wearing ironed shirts with collars and ties. Sometimes, even wearing a suit jacket is appropriate.  Likewise, women are expected to dress similarly to their female counterparts at the schools, in the offices where they are assigned, or in the villages. This typically means wearing long dresses, skirts (that come down to at least mid-calf), and appropriate tops. Short dresses are never appropriate, nor are sleeveless shirts. Wearing dirty, old, torn T-shirts is never appropriate for your work assignment, though you may certainly wear T-shirts inside your houses.  
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For most Volunteers, getting involved with sporting events and activities is the easiest way to integrate fully into the community.  
  
You also will need black clothing during your service in Tonga. Black is generally the prevailing color and is always appropriate. Black clothing is especially important if there is a funeral you must attend. Black tupenus, a traditional wraparound skirt, or pants for men and black collared shirts are appropriate. All male Volunteers will purchase tupenus here in Tonga. Long, solid black dresses or skirts with a black blouse or jacket are appropriate for women.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
To gain the acceptance, respect, and confidence of community members and colleagues, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally. The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that will foster respect toward you in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the United States. You will receive an orientation about appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and thus must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hostsBehavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Tonga or your personal safety may lead to a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service. Refer to the Volunteer Handbook for more information about the grounds for administrative separation. In the words of a Volunteer, "you must dress and speak Tongan to get anything accomplished here."
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In Guatemala, a Peace Corps Volunteer is expected to be a professional, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to the quality of work. It takes most Volunteers a while to get a sense of what constitutes a reasonable personal workloadSome Volunteers may have a busy schedule of activities set up with their counterparts or host agency. Other Volunteers may be in a less structured environment, where they must get to know their community, find various avenues for work, and develop their own schedule. Because of logistical considerations, some routine tasks may take longer to complete in Guatemala than in the United States.  
  
===Personal Safety ===
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Appropriate dress is important, since physical appearance makes a personal statement in Guatemala. What constitutes as appropriate dress for work will vary depending on the type of work you will be doing, Your assignment description will provide specific guidelines.
  
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasizedAs stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer involves certain safety risks. Living and traveling alone in an unfamiliar environment, having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Tonga Volunteers complete their two years of service without any personal security incidents.  
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In general, the norm is a conservative, neat appearanceExcept in tourist areas and a few locations near the coast, men do not wear shorts or sandals. Pants or jeans with a clean button-down shirt, polo, or nice T-shirt are common for work and casual wear. Long hair, piercings, or earrings on men are associated with drug dealers and gang members, and thus are not acceptable for Volunteers. Likewise, dreadlocks are not an acceptable hairstyle for Volunteers in Guatemala.  You will be expected to adjust your appearance if necessary to accommodate these standards.  
  
The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Tonga. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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Women in Guatemala tend to take pride in their appearance and “dress up.” In indigenous areas, women wear handwoven traditional dress. In other areas of the country, dress varies depending on the site. In conservative areas and small villages, you are likely to see women wearing mid-length dresses, or a skirt with a blouse or T-shirt. In towns and more modern areas, it is common to see women in pants or jeans, and you might see women dressed in a manner that Americans might consider flashy. Female Volunteers are not expected to adopt traditional dress or dress like the women in their community; however, your attire should reflect your status as a professional. Female Volunteers usually wear dresses, skirts, pants, or jeans, with short-sleeved or modest sleeveless blouses in hotter climates. Shorts, bare shoulders and tank tops should be avoided except while on vacation in tourist areas. For assignments that require a lot of hiking or field work, pants are most appropriate. It is important to note that tight or revealing clothing for women could elicit negative attention. Volunteers are expected to dress conservatively.  
  
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
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Peace Corps has a zero-tolerance policy on the use of illegal drugs, including marijuana. It is illegal in Guatemala, and puts both the safety of the Volunteer and the image of the Peace Corps at great risk. Use of illegal drugs will result in immediate separation from Peace Corps. There are absolutely no exceptions.
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction in Tonga is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of limited resources, co-workers and community members do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.  
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Volunteers are “on duty” representing Peace Corps 24hours a day, seven days a week—even while relaxing on weekends or on vacation. Your use of alcohol, relationships with Guatemalans and other Volunteers, and your general lifestyle are constantly under observation, both within the local community as well as by other Americans who may be in the country as tourists or on private business. It can at times feel like a restriction on your personal liberties. If you do not feel comfortable with this responsibility, and are not willing to make any necessary adjustments to your lifestyle, then it would be best not to accept this invitation to serve.  
  
You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You may also face periods of isolation. While you are likely to be placed in a community or on an island within an hour’s walk, bike ride, or boat ride from another Volunteer, there will be limited opportunities to gather with the majority of your fellow Volunteers. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without receiving extensive peer support.
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===Personal Safety===
  
Another source of frustration to Peace Corps Volunteers is the use of corporal punishment in schools. Even though corporal punishment is forbidden in the Tonga education system, it still happens. Some parents oppose this strongly; others consider it an effective way of discipline.  
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More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk.  Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety problems. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in your country of service. Though the Peace Corps will provide you with training and ongoing support, you are expected to take personal responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
To overcome these difficulties and differences, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness.  Tongans are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experiences of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Tonga feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer and develop meaningful, long-lasting friendships.
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
[[Category:Tonga]]
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Both the rewards and frustrations of service in Guatemala seem to come mostly from the differences between U.S. and Guatemalan culture. In the United States, the culture emphasizes “action” or “doing,” in which a person’s value to society is assessed primarily in terms of what he or she is able to achieve over the course of someone’s lifetime. In Guatemala, the culture emphasizes “being,” where social value is a function of affiliation and group solidarity. Some Volunteers have a difficult time appreciating the importance of simply spending time with associates and community members to establish confidence based on interpersonal relationships.  Most agencies to which Volunteers are assigned have little cultural understanding of the U.S. ethic of volunteerism, and they may have a limited understanding of what kind of support and supervision Volunteers need to feel productive. The rewards, particularly for “self-starters” with high energy, are ample opportunities to make a measurable difference in the lives of the people one serves.
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[[Category:Guatemala]]

Revision as of 00:08, 13 March 2009



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
As a Peace Corps Volunteers, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping — may take significantly different forms in the context of the host country. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]
See also:

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles by Country Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

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[[Category:{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guatemala| |8}}]]


Communications

Mail

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. Guatemala’s mail service is fair, but often unreliable. Mail normally takes at least one to two weeks to arrive; however, it is common for letters to arrive much later, or never at all. It is recommended that you arrange a system of numbering correspondence with family and friends.

Packages and letters with enclosures may also be sent directly to you in care of the Peace Corps office in Guatemala City. Again, please note that the mail system is not considered reliable. The address of the Peace Corps office is:

“Your Name,” PCT

8 Calle 6-55, Zone 9

Guatemala City, 01009

Guatemala, Central America

Office Tel. # 502.2384.3800 (needed for courier packages: FedEx, DHL, etc.)

(this address will change towards the end of 2007 when the main office moves to Santa Lucia Milpas Altas)

Once you complete training and are assigned to your site, you can decide how to receive your mail and inform family and friends. Some Volunteers choose to receive mail at a local post office; others prefer to have mail held at the Peace Corps office in Guatemala City.

Receiving “care packages” can be problematic—packages might be held at the central post office for pick-up and customs duties will be your responsibility. Often, the packages are opened or never arrive at all. Experience has shown that small padded envelopes are most likely to arrive intact.

Telephones

All major cities in Guatemala have public phone and fax service. The national phone company has established offices with phone banks, where you can make and receive calls for a fee. Smaller towns or pueblos will often have one community phone that can be used for a fee. In very rural areas and small villages, phone service is usually not available.

The organization to which you are assigned (your host agency) will most likely have telephone service at its office; however, that office might be some distance away from where you live. In the more developed cities, residential phone service is available, and there are a few Volunteers who have home phones.

Cellphone service is extremely popular among Volunteers;

95 percent of them have cellphones. Volunteers generally purchase these out of their living allowances. We strongly discourage you from bringing a cellphone with you from the United States, as it is highly unlikely that your plan will cover Guatemala and the surrounding region. Once you have been assigned to your site, you can determine if a cellphone is a viable option and purchase one locally.

The Peace Corps office in Guatemala can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. The number is 011.502.2384.3800. Volunteers are not permitted to use telephones at the Peace Corps office in Guatemala to call family and friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved by the country director.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Computer and Internet access are growing in Guatemala. Much like the telephone, most Volunteers will only be able to use these services when traveling to a central location. If your host agency has a computer, you might be able to arrange for access for work-related or personal use. Internet cafés can be found in most Guatemalan cities that are popular tourist destinations. In many instances, you can compose work offline and then go to a café to send it via the Internet. Since connection fees can be high, Peace Corps/Guatemala includes a small stipend for Internet use in your monthly living allowance to help defray the costs. There are also Internet-connected computers at the Peace Corps office in Guatemala.

Some Volunteers do bring laptop computers with them, which they are able to use for work purposes, but they may not be able to access the Internet. Palm Pilots, because of their small size and lower cost, are good options for day-to-day use. Possessing a laptop or Palm Pilot can be a security concern in Guatemala, since they command high prices on the black market. They can also be damaged or lost.

Housing and Site Location

Volunteer housing and site locations vary depending on your project and the type of work you will do. Peace Corps staff work with your host agency, Volunteers who currently live in the area, and municipal leaders to locate appropriate sites and determine if the living conditions meet selection criteria established by the Peace Corps. In addition, the Peace Corps consults with security staff at the U.S. embassy to review any pertinent safety concerns that might be present.

Peace Corps/Guatemala Volunteers must live with a family during the first three months of their service. This helps Volunteers better integrate into their community and aligns with Guatemalan culture where it is uncommon for single people to live alone. There are often living arrangements in Volunteer sites where there is private space within a family compound-type area. This affords privacy to the Volunteer and the many benefits of meeting your community with the guidance and support of one of its members. By living with a family, you will more fully experience Guatemalan culture.

Many Volunteers become very close to their host families and find that living with them is one of the most rewarding aspects of their service

After the initial three-month period, you will be involved in the selection of your permanent housing. The type of house you live in will depend on what is common in the area. In a city or large town, this will likely be a cement block house with either a tin or tile roof and a solid floor. Most will have electricity. Most households in Guatemala have a pila, a large cement sink for washing dishes and clothes, with a section for collecting water. In more developed areas, you will likely have plumbing, although the water may go off and on. You may have a flush toilet or use a latrine that is separate from the house.

Volunteers in more rural areas may have a house of cement, adobe (homemade brick), with a roof of tin, tile, or thatch. Some have solid floors, but in poorer areas dirt floors are more common. Electricity is present in almost all areas, even small villages, and some will use a generator for a few hours each night. However, power outages are very frequent, especially in rural sites. You may come to rely on candles and lanterns in the evenings. Most will have an outside pila, but you may find yourself carrying water from a community water source or collecting rainwater to fill it. In some areas, people use a community pila or a river for their water source.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a living allowance adequate to their needs as determined by annual cost-of-living surveys. Volunteers are entirely responsible for managing their personal finances. Living allowances allow Volunteers to live according to the standards of the people with whom they live and work. There are several living allowance categories. They are based on the cost of living in different geographical areas. The principal bank used by Peace Corps/Guatemala is Banco del Quetzal. Upon arrival in Guatemala, each Volunteer must open a personal checking account with this bank and sign a power of attorney authorizing Peace Corps/Guatemala to make deposits for living allowances, reimbursements, etc. to the account. Prior to leaving Guatemala, each Volunteer must personally close the account after ascertaining that all checks have cleared and making the necessary arrangements to cover those that have not. For convenience, Volunteers often open a second account at a bank in or near their site. Funds can then be transferred from the Banco del Quetzal account into the second account.

Food and Diet

Most Volunteers enjoy eating the typical food in their community, often with their neighbors or host families. In towns and cities, you will usually find a greater variety; in poor rural areas, the food choices can be limited. Throughout Guatemala, corn tortillas and black beans are a staple; other common foods include eggs, rice, chicken soup, and bread brought in from bakeries in larger towns. These types of foods are eaten daily in most poor areas of Guatemala. The most common fruits and vegetables include tomatoes, onions, avocado, a squash called huisquil (chayote in the United States), bananas, and mangoes (when in season). Papaya and citrus are found in some areas. Tamales, chicken or pork, are often prepared as well as a sweet rice or corn drink called atoll.

In more developed areas, you might find a greater variety of food, including more meat (most often chicken) and more fruits and vegetables.

Even in the most rural areas, there is likely to be a small local store that stocks snacks, sodas, and staples. Traditional outdoor markets, where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, clothing, household items, and knickknacks, are held on a regular basis (usually weekly) in central towns and are always open in main cities. In larger cities, you will also find supermarkets, where you can purchase non-perishables and imported goods; in the capital, there is great variety. Some Volunteers take advantage of the opportunity while in town to stock up on special foods and cooking items, such as spices, peanut butter, pasta, or a food that reminds them of home.

Being a vegetarian as a Volunteer is not difficult—in many of the poorer areas, for example, meat is rarely eaten. However, since many Volunteers eat with their neighbors, and meat is prepared on special occasions, there will likely be situations where meat is presented to you. Many Volunteers have successfully served as vegetarians, and you will need to find a way to deal with these situations that is appropriate for you in your circumstances.

Transportation

Guatemala has extensive and relatively cheap transportation among major urban areas and relatively good access in some rural areas. Volunteers often travel around their site for work activities on foot, in the company of other community members or work colleagues. Some Volunteers use bicycles provided by the Peace Corps to travel. If a Volunteer needs a bicycle to facilitate his or her work and the program manager agrees, the Volunteer will be provided with the means to get a bicycle by PC/Guatemala. However, this can be difficult in mountainous areas, and all Volunteers must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle (provided by the Peace Corps).

For longer distances, Volunteers usually ride “chicken buses,”

U.S. school buses painted and outfitted with racks to haul supplies, and sometimes animals. In rural areas, you might have a chicken bus that leaves your site once a day, travels to a major city, and returns at night. In other areas, pick-up trucks provide transportation to villages on a regular basis instead of a bus. Sometimes, you might arrange for a ride with someone you know who has a car or pick-up. For long distances on major routes, there are “pullmans,” much like a Greyhound bus, which provide a more comfortable ride for a higher fee. On either kind of bus, you will find that they stop frequently to pick up passengers and are often overcrowded, so you might find yourself sitting three to a seat or standing in the aisle.

Geography and Climate

Guatemala is the northernmost and most populous of the Central American republics. More than 12 million people live in an area about the size of Tennessee or Ohio. Guatemala has coastlines on the Pacific and the Caribbean, and it borders Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

The central highlands are the most densely populated area. Between the highlands and the Pacific lies a narrow plain. The Caribbean lowlands have fertile river valleys. The north of the country contains tropical jungles and protected biospheres.

Temperatures are fairly constant year-round and are most influenced by elevation. In the cattle country of eastern Guatemala and coastal lowlands, temperatures can reach 100°F. In western Guatemala, which is the highest part of Central America, the climate is cold, and morning temperatures in December and January are frequently below freezing. In the areas of more moderate elevation, the climate is generally milder—cool in the mornings, warm to hot in the afternoons, and then cooling down again at night. Average temperatures would be around 50°F to 70°F. The most noticeable feature of Guatemala’s tropical climate is the seasonal alternation between dry and rainy seasons. During May to October, most parts of the country get rain every day, resulting in lush vegetation and cooler temperatures. During the dry season (November to April), rain tapers off and most sections of the country get no rain. This results in dry, dusty weather and hotter temperatures.

Social Activities

There are three prominent aspects of rural social life in Guatemala. The first has to do with the religious celebrations of the community and families. Births, confirmations and coming-of-age ceremonies, communions, marriages, and funerals are themes for the celebration of life. Funerals, in particular, are the recognition of the accomplishments and thoughts of the departed.

The second aspect of social life in rural Guatemala centers on the market, which is far more than a place to buy needed goods. The market is the place to meet and visit with people to exchange news and hold discussions.

The third facet of social life is inter-community competition. Winning a soccer game against a neighboring community, or even losing, creates a sense of solidarity and identity.

For most Volunteers, getting involved with sporting events and activities is the easiest way to integrate fully into the community.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

In Guatemala, a Peace Corps Volunteer is expected to be a professional, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to the quality of work. It takes most Volunteers a while to get a sense of what constitutes a reasonable personal workload. Some Volunteers may have a busy schedule of activities set up with their counterparts or host agency. Other Volunteers may be in a less structured environment, where they must get to know their community, find various avenues for work, and develop their own schedule. Because of logistical considerations, some routine tasks may take longer to complete in Guatemala than in the United States.

Appropriate dress is important, since physical appearance makes a personal statement in Guatemala. What constitutes as appropriate dress for work will vary depending on the type of work you will be doing, Your assignment description will provide specific guidelines.

In general, the norm is a conservative, neat appearance. Except in tourist areas and a few locations near the coast, men do not wear shorts or sandals. Pants or jeans with a clean button-down shirt, polo, or nice T-shirt are common for work and casual wear. Long hair, piercings, or earrings on men are associated with drug dealers and gang members, and thus are not acceptable for Volunteers. Likewise, dreadlocks are not an acceptable hairstyle for Volunteers in Guatemala. You will be expected to adjust your appearance if necessary to accommodate these standards.

Women in Guatemala tend to take pride in their appearance and “dress up.” In indigenous areas, women wear handwoven traditional dress. In other areas of the country, dress varies depending on the site. In conservative areas and small villages, you are likely to see women wearing mid-length dresses, or a skirt with a blouse or T-shirt. In towns and more modern areas, it is common to see women in pants or jeans, and you might see women dressed in a manner that Americans might consider flashy. Female Volunteers are not expected to adopt traditional dress or dress like the women in their community; however, your attire should reflect your status as a professional. Female Volunteers usually wear dresses, skirts, pants, or jeans, with short-sleeved or modest sleeveless blouses in hotter climates. Shorts, bare shoulders and tank tops should be avoided except while on vacation in tourist areas. For assignments that require a lot of hiking or field work, pants are most appropriate. It is important to note that tight or revealing clothing for women could elicit negative attention. Volunteers are expected to dress conservatively.

Peace Corps has a zero-tolerance policy on the use of illegal drugs, including marijuana. It is illegal in Guatemala, and puts both the safety of the Volunteer and the image of the Peace Corps at great risk. Use of illegal drugs will result in immediate separation from Peace Corps. There are absolutely no exceptions.

Volunteers are “on duty” representing Peace Corps 24hours a day, seven days a week—even while relaxing on weekends or on vacation. Your use of alcohol, relationships with Guatemalans and other Volunteers, and your general lifestyle are constantly under observation, both within the local community as well as by other Americans who may be in the country as tourists or on private business. It can at times feel like a restriction on your personal liberties. If you do not feel comfortable with this responsibility, and are not willing to make any necessary adjustments to your lifestyle, then it would be best not to accept this invitation to serve.

Personal Safety

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety problems. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in your country of service. Though the Peace Corps will provide you with training and ongoing support, you are expected to take personal responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

Both the rewards and frustrations of service in Guatemala seem to come mostly from the differences between U.S. and Guatemalan culture. In the United States, the culture emphasizes “action” or “doing,” in which a person’s value to society is assessed primarily in terms of what he or she is able to achieve over the course of someone’s lifetime. In Guatemala, the culture emphasizes “being,” where social value is a function of affiliation and group solidarity. Some Volunteers have a difficult time appreciating the importance of simply spending time with associates and community members to establish confidence based on interpersonal relationships. Most agencies to which Volunteers are assigned have little cultural understanding of the U.S. ethic of volunteerism, and they may have a limited understanding of what kind of support and supervision Volunteers need to feel productive. The rewards, particularly for “self-starters” with high energy, are ample opportunities to make a measurable difference in the lives of the people one serves.