Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Benin" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Lesotho"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
  
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===Communications ===
  
===Communications===
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===Mail ===
  
====Mail====
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Mail in Lesotho is fairly reliable. Volunteers find they generally receive mail and packages from the United States in 1.5 - 5 weeks. The same is true in sending mail from Lesotho.  Of course, there are exceptional cases in which a letter or a package might arrive within a shorter period or be substantially delayed. These cases are more apt to occur during the holiday season rush—yes, the holiday rush applies to life in Lesotho, too! Rarely, but occasionally, Volunteers lose letters or packages altogether. It is a good idea to number all letters and packages you send to the United States and to encourage people sending you things to do the same. If you do this consistently, you will always know when something has gone missing.  If the package label declares "candy" to be within, there is a greater chance the package might vanish. 
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of service we consider normal in the U.S. If you come to Benin expecting U.S.  standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration.  We do not want to sound discouraging, but when we are thousands of miles from our families and friends, communication becomes a very sensitive issue. We would prefer you be forewarned so as to decide what is important to you.
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While in pre-service training, you will receive all mail through the Peace Corps/Lesotho post office box address:
  
We strongly encourage you to wriiite to your family regularly.  Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so please advise your parents, relatives, and friends that mail is sporadic and that they shouldn’t worry if they don’t receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, Peace Corps/Benin would notify the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., and your family members would be contacted.
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“Your Name,” PCT
  
Similarly, in the event of an emergency at home, your family could contact the Peace Corps at 1.800.424.8580 and any messages would be transmitted to us to deliver to you.
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c/o Peace Corps/Lesotho
  
Mail generally takes two weeks to one month to get from the
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PO Box 554
  
U.S. to Cotonou. Some Volunteers rent post office boxes in their villages; others have mail sent to the office in Cotonou where they pick it up or it is periodically delivered to sites near the Volunteers. Airmail is received several times a week via France and Dakar. Surface mail arrives approximately once every five weeks. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Some letters may arrive with clipped edges because someone has tried to see the contents (again, this is rare, but it does happen). Ninety percent of all packages sent to Benin arrive (sometimes a few months late). Padded envelopes are a better bet than boxes because you don’t have to pay duty. Don’t ask people to send valuables to you. Items such as Walkman speakers, food, and clothing have usually arrived with no problem.
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Maseru, 100 LESOTHO
  
Number your letters, and advise your family and friends to number their letters as well and to write “Air Mail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Your address during training will be:
 
  
“Your Name”, PCT
 
  
Corps de la Paix Americain
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During your Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site. However, Volunteers may always elect to receive mail through the Peace Corps post office box number.
  
01 B.P. 971
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If a package or parcel is sent to you through the Peace Corps/Lesotho post office box while you are in pre-service training, the training director will request identification from you so that we can retrieve the package on your behalf. Usually we only need your passport for this purpose. After pre-service training, you will need to retrieve your own packages.
  
Cotonou, Benin
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===Telephones ===
  
Afrique de l’Ouest (West Africa)  
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A large part of the country does not have land-line telephones. But cellular telephones are *nearly* everywhere. Opportunities to call the United States during pre-service training will be limited. Upon your arrival in-country, the Peace Corps will issue you a phone card or access to a cellular phone with which you can make a brief (less than five minutes) call to the United States. Any other calls will be at your expense.
  
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During the community-based training portion of pre-service training, telephones are likely to be unavailable because community sites are in rural settings. However, you will be taken during this time, or just before community based training, to buy a cell phone with a sim card (pay-as-you-go). 
  
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As Volunteers, you probably will not have a land-line phone in your home. So you will be relying on cell phones. Most often, Volunteers in Lesotho will have cell service, but don't count on it. Some sites do not have cell phone service, and volunteers in these areas might have to hike to an area with service. In areas which are more remote, there are usually homes or local organization which operate community phones. Even these are usually cellular, but some are land line. Volunteers can pay the organization to make local calls to Peace Corps. Some Volunteers might have to rely on the radio for messages from Peace Corps. If you travel to the camp town, there will be service. Fortunately, you can set your phones to store and receive text messages for 30 days. 
  
Once you have been sworn-in as a Volunteer and are at your post, you will have your mail sent directly to your new address there. However, many Volunteers continue to receive packages in Cotonou since in-country delivery of mail is usually unpredictable.  
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Peace Corps/Lesotho does not encourage Volunteers to bring personal cellphones to Lesotho. The cell network is different than in the United States, and it can be quite expensive to use international roaming. If you are interested in having a cellphone as a Volunteer, you may purchase one after you have been sworn in. In some rare instances, Peace Corps/Lesotho may provide you with a cellphone for official Peace Corps-related calls only.
  
====Telephones====
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access===
  
Generally, regular and long-distance communication via telephone is available but expensive. If you are calling from outside the capital city, it may take longer to get a line. You can generally arrange for your family to call you in Benin, depending on your location in-country. You can tell your family how to call once you learn where you will be posted. Remember that there is a six-hour time difference (five hours during Daylight Savings) between Benin and the East Coast of the U.S.  
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Most Volunteers elect to bring laptop computers to Lesotho. Please keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you will be working or living in a village with regular access to electricity. (So think about purchasing a computer with a long battery life, or even bringing an extra battery.) If you choose to bring a laptop computer, make certain that you purchase personal insurance to cover the computer in case of theft or damage. Also, bring all the equipment necessary for the computer’s operation (i.e., adapters, surge protectors, modem (if applicable), etc.). While there are two reputable computer dealers in Maseru, they mainly deal with Windows systems, and the services and equipment are very expensive for Volunteers.  
  
Cellphone coverage is more and more prevalent throughout Benin. Many Volunteers buy cellphones once they arrive, which facilitates contact with family and friends back home as well as Peace Corps staff in-country. The Peace Corps does not supply cellphones to Volunteers unless secured into a [http://www.infosafe.fr fireproof safe].
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Notify family and friends that you will have very limited access to the Internet while you are in training, and may have limited access during your time as a Volunteer in Lesotho.
  
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
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Volunteers will have occasional access to computers and the Internet at the Peace Corps office in Maseru. In addition, Internet cafes are becoming more popular in Lesotho, and there are several cafes in Maseru, and in many of the cuntries larger towns; Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Qatcha's Nek, Mohale's Hoek, Mafeteng, and several others as well as in neighboring towns in South Africa. Internet access is only as reliable as the cell service, as all of the internet cafe's use 3G or 4G.
  
If your sponsoring agency or counterpart owns a computer, you might be able to arrange access for work or personal use. The resource center in the Peace Corps office and the three workstations located in Parakou, Natitingou, and Kandi all have computers for work-related use. However, Internet access is currently not available at all of these workstations, nor is it available in rural areas where the most Volunteers are placed. In most cities, Volunteers have been able to access e-mail at private businesses or at Internet cafes; access to the Internet averages about $1 per hour, though the connection and speed are best in major cities and much slower in rural areas. Please let your family and friends know that it may be one or two months between times when you can check your e-mail. E-mail should not be considered by family and friends your main avenue of communication.  
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You can purchase a smart phone with 3G, or purchase a cellular modem for your computer in country, data is pay-as-you go just like cell service. Wait until you find out about your site location though, because the cellular modem is expensive, and a waste if you live in a rural area without 3G. If you use the smart phone for email, and basic internet, and suspend images, data costs can be relatively cheap. Don't expect to be able to download the most recent episodes of your favorite TV show. That is a lot of data and will take a long time.
  
===Housing and Site Location===
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*This information may be out dated*
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If you are lucky, you may be placed in one of the three districts where Peace Corps/Lesotho has district resource centers (Qatcha's Nek, Mohale's Hoek, Mohotlong). These resource centers have basic computer equipment that Volunteers can use (i.e., computer, printer, and in some case, a photocopy machine). However, the centers are subject to temporary suspension or even closure because of rising costs to maintain these outlets.
  
Peace Corps staff, in collaboration with the ministry for which you will work, will decide your post according to the needs of the country. This happens after Peace Corps staff reviews all sites for appropriateness, safety, and security and takes time to get to know each trainee during pre-service training.  You may not know where you’ll be assigned until the last few weeks of your training program.
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===Housing and Site Location ===
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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You must be prepared for a number of hardships and for a lack of amenities that you are probably accustomed to in the United States. Each house will be simply furnished with a bed, a two-burner gas stove, and a heater for winter. You will probably have to walk a short distance to fetch water from a community water tap. Depending on where you are stationed, you may be required to use an outdoor pit latrine. The Peace Corps works with communities prior to the arrival of Volunteers at their sites to ensure safe and adequate housing.  For a house to be considered suitable, it must have strong doors and windows, a good roof, and burglar bars. Many Volunteers live in a one-room rondavel (round house) with an outdoor pit latrine. Others may be provided housing on a school compound and may have electricity, indoor plumbing, and running water.
  
As a Volunteer in Benin, you will receive four types of allowances: living allowance, settling-in allowance, vacation allowance, and, when needed, travel allowances.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
Your living allowance is meant to cover your basic expenses; i.e., food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. The allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. Currently, the living allowance in Benin is paid in local currency and is equivalent to approximately $180 a month. It is directly deposited quarterly into your bank account.  
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When training ends and you move to your work site, you will receive a modest, one-time settling-in allowance. This is meant to cover basic household supplies, including any additional furniture you might need. During your Volunteer service, you will be given just over 1,600 maloti (approximately $220) per month as a living allowance. This money should cover items such as utilities, food, household supplies, domestic help, clothing, recreation, transportation, reading materials, incidentals, and communication expenses while you are a Volunteer. Additionally, in the winter months you will receive a heating allowance. You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 each month once you are sworn in (given in rand at the same time as your living allowance) and you will accrue $225 a month, which you receive at the end of your service as a readjustment allowance.  
  
Additionally, you’ll receive a one-time settling-in allowance (roughly the equivalent of $150, and paid in local currency) to buy basic household items when you move to your site.  
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The living and leave allowances are deposited in a Lesotho bank account for you on a monthly basis. The bank account will be opened for you by the Peace Corps/Lesotho cashier.  
  
You earn your vacation allowance at the rate of $24 per month and it is added to your living allowance each quarter.  
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Peace Corps/Lesotho discourages Volunteers from using other sources of money to supplement their daily needs during service, as the living allowance should sufficiently cover those expenses and it is important that Volunteers live at the same economic level as their hosts. However, people may want to bring additional funds for travel during vacations. For this reason, many Peace Corps/Lesotho Volunteers opt to bring credit cards and/or debit cards, traveler’s checks, dollars, or checkbooks with them to Lesotho.  
  
If you are requested by the Peace Corps to travel, you will be given funds for transportation and meals. This amount is based on the costs of transportation and lodging.  
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Credit cards (and usually debit cards) are widely accepted at places of business in South Africa and parts of Lesotho. Major hotels, restaurants, and shops in Maseru or tourist areas will be able to process electronic payments, but your village shop or cafe will probably not. There are ATMs in Lesotho and even more in South Africa that can access accounts in the United States. Be sure to bring your PIN for any credit or debit cards you bring. After two years of service, lots of things will get rusty, including your memory for the PIN!
  
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Benin with these four allowances, although many Volunteers bring money (in U.S. currency; cash or traveler’s checks) for out-of-country travel. You are strongly discouraged from supplementing your income with money brought from home. The living allowance is adequate, and Volunteers should be living at the same economic level of their neighbors and colleagues.  
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Places that accept credit cards generally also accept traveler’s checks, but it is difficult to purchase traveler’s checks in Lesotho unless you have an airline ticket for leaving the country.  
  
Credit cards can be used at a few hotels in the capital. Traveler’s checks can be cashed for a fee. You will not find many retail places that accept credit cards or traveler’s checks.  
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A personal checkbook from the United States is not so helpful as very few places are able to accept the risk of cashing a check from a foreign account. However, it is a good idea to bring all account numbers, your bank’s name and address, and the bank’s nine-digit routing number with you. When you finish your service, you will have options about the way in which you receive some post-Volunteer service allowances.  
  
===Food and Diet===
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Many Volunteers want to have it by direct deposit. This can be convenient for folks who wish to travel and want to withdraw necessary amounts from their accounts back home (as opposed to carrying large amounts of cash with you as you travel home).
  
Practically all foods are available at local markets in regional centers and in Cotonou. In some regional centers, there is a sufficient variety of meats, and local green vegetables are in abundant supply and variety when in season. Most tropical fruits can be found year-round. Fresh milk is not available, but powdered milk can generally be found throughout the country. In some villages, fruits and vegetables are rare, and Volunteers must travel to larger towns to obtain them.There are several supermarkets in Cotonou that cater to European and American tastes. Almost everything is available, but items are typically imported and therefore expensive. Basic foodstuffs available in almost all markets include beans, corn, rice, tomatoes, yams, hot peppers, garlic, onions, and spices.
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===Food and Diet ===
  
===Transportation===
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Most food, such as fruits and vegetables, is imported from South Africa. There is a wide range to choose from if you have access to shops in the bigger towns in Lesotho or in the towns across the border in South Africa. The main meal of the Basotho includes papa, made of cornflower; moroho, or vegetables (mainly cabbage); and nama, or meat, which could be beef, pork, mutton, or chicken.
  
Voluteers are not allowed to own or drive cars. Instead, you will be issued a bicycle and a bicycle helmet. All Volunteers must be prepared to ride on zemi-jahns (a motor scooter operated by a taxi driver), which is a principal source of transportation throughout Benin. You must wear a Peace Corps-provided motorcycle helmet when riding one of these, and you must wear the bicycle helmet when riding your bike.  Violation of this policy will result in administrative separation.  There are precious few vehicle taxis, and they are expensive and located only in Cotonou.  
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Dairy products are also available. Because of the prevalence of tuberculosis and brucellosis in Lesotho, do not consume raw milk. For storage purposes, we recommend the use of powdered milk or ultrapasteurized milk, which comes in cartons and is available all over Lesotho.  
  
Most Volunteers travel throughout the country in “bush taxis,” which are generally in less-than-optimum condition and unregulated for safety standards. There are frequent road traffic accidents due to fast driving and poor road conditions.  
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Maintaining a vegetarian diet in Lesotho can be quite challenging in terms of being able to find all that you need to get recommended daily allowances of vital food groups.  Whether you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian (eats dairy products and eggs) or a vegan (consumes no animal products at all), your daily meals will need to be balanced to provide sufficient energy. The medical office provides multivitamin supplements, calcium tablets, iron, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12.  Tofu and other soybean products are available in neighboring towns in South Africa, although they can be expensive. There is a wide variety of pulses (legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils) in Lesotho.  
  
We strongly urge that you pay careful attention during the training sessions on selecting public transportation and ask other Volunteers to assist in identifying safe drivers. You should avoid traveling at night whenever possible and use the bus lines when feasible.
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Many Volunteers in Lesotho have their own vegetable gardens.  
  
===Geography and Climate===
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This enables you to have fresh food when you need it, and gardening can be good for your mental and emotional wellbeing. There are four distinct seasons in Lesotho; during training you will receive a chart indicating the crops that grow in Lesotho and when they should be planted.
  
Benin has a hot and humid climate in the south. There are four distinct seasons in most of the country: a long rainy season from April to July; a short dry season from August to September; a short rainy season from October to November; and a long dry season from December to March.  
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A healthy and balanced diet is covered in a few sessions during pre-service training, and there is more detailed information in the health handbook you will receive on arrival in Lesotho. A volunteer cookbook of collected recipes can be purchased in country.
  
In contrast, the north has two seasons: a dry season from November to the beginning of May and a rainy season from May to October. The north is also marked by extreme daily temperature fluctuations, especially during the Harmattan (a dry sand-carrying wind from the desert during the dry season months of November, December, and January).
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===Transportation ===
  
===Social Activities===
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Local transportation varies from your own two feet to “luxury” coach buses. For the most part, as a Volunteer you will travel around the country in either kombis (which are basically minivans that seat 10-12 people comfortably), slightly larger taxi/bus crossbreeds, or regular buses.
  
Social activities will vary depending on your interests and where you are located. They may include taking part in various festivities, parties, storytelling, and local dances. We encourage all Volunteers to remain at their sites and to discover the region to accomplish the second Peace Corps goal of cultural exchange.  
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The terrain in Lesotho is mountainous and rocky and Volunteers are expected to walk long distances on rocky, uneven terrain. It is more likely that Volunteers will walk from two to eight kilometers before reaching their work site of where they can access public transportation. Volunteers will be based in camp towns and rural villages and will use public transportation when shopping in camp towns to purchase food supplies and to go out to participate in community activities in different parts of the district. The fares for buses and taxis are reasonable.  
  
A few larger towns may have more entertainment venues and an assortment of buvettes (bars) with live music and dancing, but for the most part it will be incumbent upon you to entertain yourself. The most successful Volunteers are those who make friends in their village and organize their lives around activities that take place there. There are many religious and traditional ceremonies during the year that provide opportunities for you to participate and immerse yourself in the cultural life of your village or town. Much of life revolves around food and Volunteers are often invited to other people's homes to relax and enjoy a meal and conversation.  
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At your site you will most likely walk to work or to shop. A few Volunteers may be issued bicycles or horses depending on resource availability and safety and security concerns. If deemed necessary, Peace Corps/Lesotho will provide you with a bicycle and mandatory helmet for riding to work. If you need to ride a horse to work, Peace Corps/Lesotho will provide the necessary gear for riding, including the mandatory helmet. Horseback riding for official purposes must be approved in advance by the Peace Corps medical office in Lesotho.  
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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Under exceptional circumstances, Peace Corps/Lesotho may authorize Volunteers to operate a motor vehicle for project-related purposes. This is very rare and must be justified by the supervisor before it can be approved. The country director must approve all requests to drive a vehicle for work.  Operating or riding on a motorcycle is strictly prohibited by Peace Corps/Lesotho.
  
Your social and public behavior as a Volunteer is of critical importance to you and the Peace Corps. Volunteers have social responsibilities that are more complex than those of private citizens. The Volunteer is often the most identifiable (and frequently the only) American in the community; hence, in addition to the responsibility for personal conduct that resides with every individual, Volunteers have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner reflecting credit on the Peace Corps and on the United States. Your hosts will inevitably see you as an example of American culture and customs. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during your training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest, and thus you should be sensitive to the culture and customs of your hosts and other Americans who may have a culture different than your own.
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===Geography and Climate ===
  
Being neat and cleanly dressed is a sign of respect and pride.  Trousers (for men, and women in some regions), blouses/ shirts, skirts (below the knee) and dresses are appropriate wear for work. Particularly in the Muslim north, dress is very conservative. If dress is inappropriate—shorts, halter tops, short skirts, form-fitting or low-cut blouses, dirty or torn clothing—you will not be readily accepted in your job.  
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January is the hottest month, though the evenings can be refreshingly cool. Spending Christmas under a hot sun takes a bit of mental adjustment, but not too much.  
  
Moreover, for women, inappropriate dress and behavior will attract unwanted attention. Beninese may not directly comment on your dress, but they most likely will think that you either don’t know what is culturally acceptable or that you don’t care and are disrespectful. Beginning in pre-service training, staff will require you to appear appropriately dressed and will ask you to leave the training site if you are not dressed properly.  
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The climate can be extreme. Daytime temperatures in the summer may reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the winter there can be severe frost and even snow, especially in the mountains. Summer falls between November and February, and winter falls between May and August. Rain is fairly regular in the summer and is often mixed with hail. The days range from very hot to cool and damp. In the winter, the sunshine warms the days, but the breezes are still cool, and the nights are very cold. Lesotho’s climate is the result of its high altitude. As the “Roof of Africa,” it does not have what one normally would think of as an African climate. Lesotho includes the highest parts of the Drakensberg Mountains in the east. It also has the distinction of having the “highest low point” of any country in the world. Stated simply, this means that Lesotho’s lowlands are a high plateau, and from there the only way to go is up!
  
===Personal Safety===
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===Social Activities ===
  
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 overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well off are some of the factors that can put you at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. We ask that you inform the country director of harassment of any kind on the job, as there is a zero-tolerance policy.  
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For the most part, social activities in Lesotho are fairly informal. Those who are interested in getting to know you can be quite persistent. It is normal for people to stop by completely unannounced. Do not be put off by this; the Basotho will expect the same from you. It is rare to receive a formal invitation to visit. If you want to see someone, just stop by. Unfortunately, many social situations are connected to funeral activities. While it may seem inappropriate to utilize such activities to socialize, they are a useful way to get to know your community. Your presence will be welcomed and appreciated. It is important to establish relationships within your community. Most Volunteers feel that having relationships with host country nationals makes life in Lesotho more enjoyable and easier to handle. The Basotho are a welcoming, hospitable people. You will meet many who will look out for you and make sure you are taken care of. Within a few months, many Volunteers refer to their Lesotho hosts as “families” and feel that Lesotho is home.  
  
Harassment in public (e.g., being called yovo [foreigner] by children or adults on the street) is an issue that you will encounter. Staff and peer support Volunteers will help you develop strategies to cope. Your success and effectiveness in doing so will depend largely on your personality. Perhaps for the first time in your life, you will learn what it means to be “different” or a member of the “minority.” If you are uncomfortable with being perceived as different all the time, Peace Corps service is not for you.  
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Rural areas offer few recreational opportunities. Alcohol use in Lesotho is widespread and alcohol abuse is common.  
  
Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical assault do occur, although most 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. At the same time, Volunteers are expected to take responsibility for their safety and well-being by exercising common sense and by following the policies and procedures developed from the experience of staff and Volunteers who have come before you.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
  
These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Benin.  
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As representatives of the United States and Peace Corps/Lesotho, your appearance must be acceptable and appropriate both on the job and while in Maseru on official business. If in doubt about what constitutes acceptable and appropriate appearance, take note of what your Basotho coworkers and counterparts wear and you will never go wrong.  During training, Peace Corps encourages semi-professional dress, but once you get to site, you will realize that this is not always neccessary.
  
===Rewards and Frustrations===
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At work and in office situations, women are required to wear skirts, dresses, or slacks. Slacks are not appropriate in the classroom in some schools, though culottes and split skirts are acceptable. It is important that you take your lead from how your Basotho colleages dress before wearing pants or jeans to the classroom. Spaghetti straps, bare-backed tops, and tops that exposue the midriff must be avoided to minimize unwanted attention. Sandals are acceptable if they are not too casual.  Casual flats are also acceptable.
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrationsFor example, the pace of work and life is slower in Benin than most Americans are accustomed to; and, people change practices and traditions that are centuries old only when it is sensible to them and profitable. Also, due to financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support promised. For these, and other similar reasons, the Peace Corps experience is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys that occur while you adapt to a new culture and environment.  
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During the summer pre-service training (November-January), women are expected to wear skirts or dresses to all training sessions; pants or jeans may be worn only during free timeDuring the winter pre-service training (June-August), women are encouraged to wear skirts or dresses, but because of the cold weather, dressy pants, jeans, or culottes are also acceptable. Comfortable, professional shoes should be worn at all times.  
  
To counterbalance some of these frustrations, Peace Corps/Benin has worked to create formal collaborative and supportive systems and work environments. You will find yourself in work situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your counterparts with little guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work.  
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For men during training, wearing hair below the nape of the neck, ponytails, and adornments are unacceptable. Hair should be no longer than to the nape of the neck, clean, and neatly trimmed.  Beards and mustaches are acceptable if they are clean and neatly trimmed. Though neatly groomed braids are becoming more fashionable in Lesotho, you should avoid thick matted braids because these tend to be associated with the drug culture. Note that dreadlocks are often associated with drug use or unprofessional behavior in Basotho culture and can be unacceptable in some positions.  
  
Development is a slow ongoing process. Positive progress is often seen only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
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During pre-service training, men are required to wear long pants and comfortable shoes during all official training sessions. Shorts may be worn only during free time.
  
To approach and overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulnessBeninese are a hospitable, friendly, and warm people. 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 experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Benin feeling that they have gained much more than they gave 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.  
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In conclusion, proper dress only matters during trainingAfter that, use the guidelines of your fellow host country nationals to guage the appropriate nature of your dress.
  
[[Category:Benin]]
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===Personal Safety ===
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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 overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), 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 Lesotho Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. 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 Lesotho. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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===Rewards and Frustrations ===
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Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a rewarding experience.  Living in Lesotho, you will meet an enriching variety of Basotho and learn many new things about our world and Lesotho culture. If you have never lived overseas before, your Volunteer experience will provide an excellent opportunity for you to see yourself and American culture from another vantage point. If you have lived or traveled extensively overseas, living in Lesotho may provide you with additional depth in your understanding of the world. Regardless of your background, being a Lesotho Volunteer will offer many opportunities to grow and learn.
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With more than 35 years of operation in Lesotho, the Peace Corps is a respected organization that is recognized for performing an essential role in Lesotho’s development. The people of Lesotho are very welcoming to Volunteers and do their best to ensure Volunteers have everything they need to work successfully. Basotho are very business-oriented and professional and expect the same from Peace Corps Volunteers. At the same time, most Basotho love a good party with plenty of delicious food and good music.
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However wonderful your Volunteer experience is, there will also be times when you will feel frustrations and perhaps even aggravations. As with any new and foreign experience, there will be ups and downs. Life in Lesotho, as in most places, is not perfect. Sometimes you might feel that everyone’s curiosity about you and America is overwhelming; you might feel like your home is a fishbowl with Basotho constantly watching all that you do; you might become frustrated by buses that do not arrive on time or meetings that do not take place when scheduled. Accomplishing a project or goal that would take a couple of days or a week in the United States might take a month or several months here because of a lack of resources, information, and infrastructure. If you live in a lowland area, you might be able to access the things you need to complete a project in a few weeks, but Volunteers living in mountainous areas might find that the time to complete the same project takes much longer.
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Many Volunteers also find that there are a number of social dynamics that add to the difficulties of working in Lesotho. An increasing level of poverty associated with the rising rate of unemployment has exacerbated social issues such as crime, HIV/AIDS, and incidences of domestic violence, to name but a few. As a Lesotho Volunteer you may not have a visible impact on any of these issues. However, you do have the opportunity to make a real difference here with your work. No matter how small the accomplishment is for you, your impact on the community in which you live and the people with whom you interact is almost guaranteed to be great.
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[[Category:Lesotho]]

Latest revision as of 12:26, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

Mail in Lesotho is fairly reliable. Volunteers find they generally receive mail and packages from the United States in 1.5 - 5 weeks. The same is true in sending mail from Lesotho. Of course, there are exceptional cases in which a letter or a package might arrive within a shorter period or be substantially delayed. These cases are more apt to occur during the holiday season rush—yes, the holiday rush applies to life in Lesotho, too! Rarely, but occasionally, Volunteers lose letters or packages altogether. It is a good idea to number all letters and packages you send to the United States and to encourage people sending you things to do the same. If you do this consistently, you will always know when something has gone missing. If the package label declares "candy" to be within, there is a greater chance the package might vanish.

While in pre-service training, you will receive all mail through the Peace Corps/Lesotho post office box address:

“Your Name,” PCT

c/o Peace Corps/Lesotho

PO Box 554

Maseru, 100 LESOTHO


During your Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site. However, Volunteers may always elect to receive mail through the Peace Corps post office box number.

If a package or parcel is sent to you through the Peace Corps/Lesotho post office box while you are in pre-service training, the training director will request identification from you so that we can retrieve the package on your behalf. Usually we only need your passport for this purpose. After pre-service training, you will need to retrieve your own packages.

Telephones[edit]

A large part of the country does not have land-line telephones. But cellular telephones are *nearly* everywhere. Opportunities to call the United States during pre-service training will be limited. Upon your arrival in-country, the Peace Corps will issue you a phone card or access to a cellular phone with which you can make a brief (less than five minutes) call to the United States. Any other calls will be at your expense.

During the community-based training portion of pre-service training, telephones are likely to be unavailable because community sites are in rural settings. However, you will be taken during this time, or just before community based training, to buy a cell phone with a sim card (pay-as-you-go).

As Volunteers, you probably will not have a land-line phone in your home. So you will be relying on cell phones. Most often, Volunteers in Lesotho will have cell service, but don't count on it. Some sites do not have cell phone service, and volunteers in these areas might have to hike to an area with service. In areas which are more remote, there are usually homes or local organization which operate community phones. Even these are usually cellular, but some are land line. Volunteers can pay the organization to make local calls to Peace Corps. Some Volunteers might have to rely on the radio for messages from Peace Corps. If you travel to the camp town, there will be service. Fortunately, you can set your phones to store and receive text messages for 30 days.

Peace Corps/Lesotho does not encourage Volunteers to bring personal cellphones to Lesotho. The cell network is different than in the United States, and it can be quite expensive to use international roaming. If you are interested in having a cellphone as a Volunteer, you may purchase one after you have been sworn in. In some rare instances, Peace Corps/Lesotho may provide you with a cellphone for official Peace Corps-related calls only.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access[edit]

Most Volunteers elect to bring laptop computers to Lesotho. Please keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you will be working or living in a village with regular access to electricity. (So think about purchasing a computer with a long battery life, or even bringing an extra battery.) If you choose to bring a laptop computer, make certain that you purchase personal insurance to cover the computer in case of theft or damage. Also, bring all the equipment necessary for the computer’s operation (i.e., adapters, surge protectors, modem (if applicable), etc.). While there are two reputable computer dealers in Maseru, they mainly deal with Windows systems, and the services and equipment are very expensive for Volunteers.

Notify family and friends that you will have very limited access to the Internet while you are in training, and may have limited access during your time as a Volunteer in Lesotho.

Volunteers will have occasional access to computers and the Internet at the Peace Corps office in Maseru. In addition, Internet cafes are becoming more popular in Lesotho, and there are several cafes in Maseru, and in many of the cuntries larger towns; Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Qatcha's Nek, Mohale's Hoek, Mafeteng, and several others as well as in neighboring towns in South Africa. Internet access is only as reliable as the cell service, as all of the internet cafe's use 3G or 4G.

You can purchase a smart phone with 3G, or purchase a cellular modem for your computer in country, data is pay-as-you go just like cell service. Wait until you find out about your site location though, because the cellular modem is expensive, and a waste if you live in a rural area without 3G. If you use the smart phone for email, and basic internet, and suspend images, data costs can be relatively cheap. Don't expect to be able to download the most recent episodes of your favorite TV show. That is a lot of data and will take a long time.

  • This information may be out dated*

If you are lucky, you may be placed in one of the three districts where Peace Corps/Lesotho has district resource centers (Qatcha's Nek, Mohale's Hoek, Mohotlong). These resource centers have basic computer equipment that Volunteers can use (i.e., computer, printer, and in some case, a photocopy machine). However, the centers are subject to temporary suspension or even closure because of rising costs to maintain these outlets.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

You must be prepared for a number of hardships and for a lack of amenities that you are probably accustomed to in the United States. Each house will be simply furnished with a bed, a two-burner gas stove, and a heater for winter. You will probably have to walk a short distance to fetch water from a community water tap. Depending on where you are stationed, you may be required to use an outdoor pit latrine. The Peace Corps works with communities prior to the arrival of Volunteers at their sites to ensure safe and adequate housing. For a house to be considered suitable, it must have strong doors and windows, a good roof, and burglar bars. Many Volunteers live in a one-room rondavel (round house) with an outdoor pit latrine. Others may be provided housing on a school compound and may have electricity, indoor plumbing, and running water.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

When training ends and you move to your work site, you will receive a modest, one-time settling-in allowance. This is meant to cover basic household supplies, including any additional furniture you might need. During your Volunteer service, you will be given just over 1,600 maloti (approximately $220) per month as a living allowance. This money should cover items such as utilities, food, household supplies, domestic help, clothing, recreation, transportation, reading materials, incidentals, and communication expenses while you are a Volunteer. Additionally, in the winter months you will receive a heating allowance. You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 each month once you are sworn in (given in rand at the same time as your living allowance) and you will accrue $225 a month, which you receive at the end of your service as a readjustment allowance.

The living and leave allowances are deposited in a Lesotho bank account for you on a monthly basis. The bank account will be opened for you by the Peace Corps/Lesotho cashier.

Peace Corps/Lesotho discourages Volunteers from using other sources of money to supplement their daily needs during service, as the living allowance should sufficiently cover those expenses and it is important that Volunteers live at the same economic level as their hosts. However, people may want to bring additional funds for travel during vacations. For this reason, many Peace Corps/Lesotho Volunteers opt to bring credit cards and/or debit cards, traveler’s checks, dollars, or checkbooks with them to Lesotho.

Credit cards (and usually debit cards) are widely accepted at places of business in South Africa and parts of Lesotho. Major hotels, restaurants, and shops in Maseru or tourist areas will be able to process electronic payments, but your village shop or cafe will probably not. There are ATMs in Lesotho and even more in South Africa that can access accounts in the United States. Be sure to bring your PIN for any credit or debit cards you bring. After two years of service, lots of things will get rusty, including your memory for the PIN!

Places that accept credit cards generally also accept traveler’s checks, but it is difficult to purchase traveler’s checks in Lesotho unless you have an airline ticket for leaving the country.

A personal checkbook from the United States is not so helpful as very few places are able to accept the risk of cashing a check from a foreign account. However, it is a good idea to bring all account numbers, your bank’s name and address, and the bank’s nine-digit routing number with you. When you finish your service, you will have options about the way in which you receive some post-Volunteer service allowances.

Many Volunteers want to have it by direct deposit. This can be convenient for folks who wish to travel and want to withdraw necessary amounts from their accounts back home (as opposed to carrying large amounts of cash with you as you travel home).

Food and Diet[edit]

Most food, such as fruits and vegetables, is imported from South Africa. There is a wide range to choose from if you have access to shops in the bigger towns in Lesotho or in the towns across the border in South Africa. The main meal of the Basotho includes papa, made of cornflower; moroho, or vegetables (mainly cabbage); and nama, or meat, which could be beef, pork, mutton, or chicken.

Dairy products are also available. Because of the prevalence of tuberculosis and brucellosis in Lesotho, do not consume raw milk. For storage purposes, we recommend the use of powdered milk or ultrapasteurized milk, which comes in cartons and is available all over Lesotho.

Maintaining a vegetarian diet in Lesotho can be quite challenging in terms of being able to find all that you need to get recommended daily allowances of vital food groups. Whether you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian (eats dairy products and eggs) or a vegan (consumes no animal products at all), your daily meals will need to be balanced to provide sufficient energy. The medical office provides multivitamin supplements, calcium tablets, iron, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12. Tofu and other soybean products are available in neighboring towns in South Africa, although they can be expensive. There is a wide variety of pulses (legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils) in Lesotho.

Many Volunteers in Lesotho have their own vegetable gardens.

This enables you to have fresh food when you need it, and gardening can be good for your mental and emotional wellbeing. There are four distinct seasons in Lesotho; during training you will receive a chart indicating the crops that grow in Lesotho and when they should be planted.

A healthy and balanced diet is covered in a few sessions during pre-service training, and there is more detailed information in the health handbook you will receive on arrival in Lesotho. A volunteer cookbook of collected recipes can be purchased in country.

Transportation[edit]

Local transportation varies from your own two feet to “luxury” coach buses. For the most part, as a Volunteer you will travel around the country in either kombis (which are basically minivans that seat 10-12 people comfortably), slightly larger taxi/bus crossbreeds, or regular buses.

The terrain in Lesotho is mountainous and rocky and Volunteers are expected to walk long distances on rocky, uneven terrain. It is more likely that Volunteers will walk from two to eight kilometers before reaching their work site of where they can access public transportation. Volunteers will be based in camp towns and rural villages and will use public transportation when shopping in camp towns to purchase food supplies and to go out to participate in community activities in different parts of the district. The fares for buses and taxis are reasonable.

At your site you will most likely walk to work or to shop. A few Volunteers may be issued bicycles or horses depending on resource availability and safety and security concerns. If deemed necessary, Peace Corps/Lesotho will provide you with a bicycle and mandatory helmet for riding to work. If you need to ride a horse to work, Peace Corps/Lesotho will provide the necessary gear for riding, including the mandatory helmet. Horseback riding for official purposes must be approved in advance by the Peace Corps medical office in Lesotho.

Under exceptional circumstances, Peace Corps/Lesotho may authorize Volunteers to operate a motor vehicle for project-related purposes. This is very rare and must be justified by the supervisor before it can be approved. The country director must approve all requests to drive a vehicle for work. Operating or riding on a motorcycle is strictly prohibited by Peace Corps/Lesotho.

Geography and Climate[edit]

January is the hottest month, though the evenings can be refreshingly cool. Spending Christmas under a hot sun takes a bit of mental adjustment, but not too much.

The climate can be extreme. Daytime temperatures in the summer may reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the winter there can be severe frost and even snow, especially in the mountains. Summer falls between November and February, and winter falls between May and August. Rain is fairly regular in the summer and is often mixed with hail. The days range from very hot to cool and damp. In the winter, the sunshine warms the days, but the breezes are still cool, and the nights are very cold. Lesotho’s climate is the result of its high altitude. As the “Roof of Africa,” it does not have what one normally would think of as an African climate. Lesotho includes the highest parts of the Drakensberg Mountains in the east. It also has the distinction of having the “highest low point” of any country in the world. Stated simply, this means that Lesotho’s lowlands are a high plateau, and from there the only way to go is up!

Social Activities[edit]

For the most part, social activities in Lesotho are fairly informal. Those who are interested in getting to know you can be quite persistent. It is normal for people to stop by completely unannounced. Do not be put off by this; the Basotho will expect the same from you. It is rare to receive a formal invitation to visit. If you want to see someone, just stop by. Unfortunately, many social situations are connected to funeral activities. While it may seem inappropriate to utilize such activities to socialize, they are a useful way to get to know your community. Your presence will be welcomed and appreciated. It is important to establish relationships within your community. Most Volunteers feel that having relationships with host country nationals makes life in Lesotho more enjoyable and easier to handle. The Basotho are a welcoming, hospitable people. You will meet many who will look out for you and make sure you are taken care of. Within a few months, many Volunteers refer to their Lesotho hosts as “families” and feel that Lesotho is home.

Rural areas offer few recreational opportunities. Alcohol use in Lesotho is widespread and alcohol abuse is common.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

As representatives of the United States and Peace Corps/Lesotho, your appearance must be acceptable and appropriate both on the job and while in Maseru on official business. If in doubt about what constitutes acceptable and appropriate appearance, take note of what your Basotho coworkers and counterparts wear and you will never go wrong. During training, Peace Corps encourages semi-professional dress, but once you get to site, you will realize that this is not always neccessary.

At work and in office situations, women are required to wear skirts, dresses, or slacks. Slacks are not appropriate in the classroom in some schools, though culottes and split skirts are acceptable. It is important that you take your lead from how your Basotho colleages dress before wearing pants or jeans to the classroom. Spaghetti straps, bare-backed tops, and tops that exposue the midriff must be avoided to minimize unwanted attention. Sandals are acceptable if they are not too casual. Casual flats are also acceptable.

During the summer pre-service training (November-January), women are expected to wear skirts or dresses to all training sessions; pants or jeans may be worn only during free time. During the winter pre-service training (June-August), women are encouraged to wear skirts or dresses, but because of the cold weather, dressy pants, jeans, or culottes are also acceptable. Comfortable, professional shoes should be worn at all times.

For men during training, wearing hair below the nape of the neck, ponytails, and adornments are unacceptable. Hair should be no longer than to the nape of the neck, clean, and neatly trimmed. Beards and mustaches are acceptable if they are clean and neatly trimmed. Though neatly groomed braids are becoming more fashionable in Lesotho, you should avoid thick matted braids because these tend to be associated with the drug culture. Note that dreadlocks are often associated with drug use or unprofessional behavior in Basotho culture and can be unacceptable in some positions.

During pre-service training, men are required to wear long pants and comfortable shoes during all official training sessions. Shorts may be worn only during free time.

In conclusion, proper dress only matters during training. After that, use the guidelines of your fellow host country nationals to guage the appropriate nature of your dress.

Personal Safety[edit]

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 overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), 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 Lesotho Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. 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 Lesotho. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a rewarding experience. Living in Lesotho, you will meet an enriching variety of Basotho and learn many new things about our world and Lesotho culture. If you have never lived overseas before, your Volunteer experience will provide an excellent opportunity for you to see yourself and American culture from another vantage point. If you have lived or traveled extensively overseas, living in Lesotho may provide you with additional depth in your understanding of the world. Regardless of your background, being a Lesotho Volunteer will offer many opportunities to grow and learn.

With more than 35 years of operation in Lesotho, the Peace Corps is a respected organization that is recognized for performing an essential role in Lesotho’s development. The people of Lesotho are very welcoming to Volunteers and do their best to ensure Volunteers have everything they need to work successfully. Basotho are very business-oriented and professional and expect the same from Peace Corps Volunteers. At the same time, most Basotho love a good party with plenty of delicious food and good music.

However wonderful your Volunteer experience is, there will also be times when you will feel frustrations and perhaps even aggravations. As with any new and foreign experience, there will be ups and downs. Life in Lesotho, as in most places, is not perfect. Sometimes you might feel that everyone’s curiosity about you and America is overwhelming; you might feel like your home is a fishbowl with Basotho constantly watching all that you do; you might become frustrated by buses that do not arrive on time or meetings that do not take place when scheduled. Accomplishing a project or goal that would take a couple of days or a week in the United States might take a month or several months here because of a lack of resources, information, and infrastructure. If you live in a lowland area, you might be able to access the things you need to complete a project in a few weeks, but Volunteers living in mountainous areas might find that the time to complete the same project takes much longer.

Many Volunteers also find that there are a number of social dynamics that add to the difficulties of working in Lesotho. An increasing level of poverty associated with the rising rate of unemployment has exacerbated social issues such as crime, HIV/AIDS, and incidences of domestic violence, to name but a few. As a Lesotho Volunteer you may not have a visible impact on any of these issues. However, you do have the opportunity to make a real difference here with your work. No matter how small the accomplishment is for you, your impact on the community in which you live and the people with whom you interact is almost guaranteed to be great.