Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Cameroon" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Bolivia"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
==Communications==
 
  
===Mail===
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===Communications===
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive and may take up to six weeks.  Some mail may simply not arrive, or may arrive with clipped edges because a postal worker has tried to see if any money was inside. The vast majority of letters arrive in decent time.  Advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.
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====Telephones====
  
During training (your first 10 weeks in Cameroon) letters and packages should be sent to:
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International phone service to and from Bolivia is relatively good in the major cities. Volunteers do not typically have telephones in their homes and may not have them in their work facilities. Most have access to a telephone company office at their sites or in their departmental capital where they can make and receive calls, as well as send faxes, when necessary. Collect calls can be made from most phones, and AT&T, MCI, and Sprint calling cards can be used from some phones. International long distance is expensive, however, and most Volunteers find it more convenient and reliable to communicate via electronic or regular mail.
  
“Your name”
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More and more Volunteers are either bringing their own or purchasing cellular phones and service at their own expense when they come to Bolivia. Cellular service is generally available only in and near major cities, not in the rural areas where most Volunteers live and work. Peace Corps/Bolivia does not provide cellphones or service, as every site must be accessible by regular phone service or shortwave radio. Bolivia only uses cellphones with DSM or TDMA technology.
  
Peace Corps Trainee
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===Housing and Site Location===
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They live in houses with usually 3 or more people per bedroom.
  
Corps de la Paix
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
B.P. 215
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During training, your room and board will be provided by your host family. You will receive a small weekly “walk-around” stipend in local currency (bolivianos) to cover transportation expenses from your host community to scheduled training events and other basic expenses (an occasional restaurant meal, snacks, postage, Internet cafè fees, etc.).  
  
Yaoundé
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You are expected to live at the same level as the Bolivian people in your community. After you swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, your monthly living allowance, which is provided in local currency, is intended to cover your housing, utilities, household and personal supplies, clothing, food, job supplies, transportation, recreation and entertainment, and miscellaneous items. The amount of the allowance you receive is based on the cost of living in the area or region to which you are assigned. If you receive free housing or food, your living allowance may be slightly reduced.
  
Cameroon
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Peace Corps/Bolivia will open a savings account in your name at a bank near your site and provide you with an ATM card.  Your living allowance will be deposited in your account by the first working day of every month.
  
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Volunteers receive three additional allowances. First, you will receive a modest vacation allowance and two days of vacation leave for each month of service (excluding training). After taking the Volunteer oath, you will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance to cover the initial expenses of furnishing a house or room and purchasing basic supplies, which might include a cellphone. Finally, for each month of service, the U.S. government sets aside $225. This readjustment allowance is a lump sum, made available to Volunteers upon completion of their service, which permits them to resettle in the United States.
  
Once you have finished training and are at your site, letters can be mailed directly to your new address there.  
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The Peace Corps highly discourages you from relying on gifts or savings from home to supplement your monthly living allowance. The effectiveness and quality of your experience depend, in some measure, on living at the level of the majority of the people in your community. However, we encourage you to use vacation time to visit other areas of Bolivia and South America, and you may want to use personal funds for such travel. We recommend that you bring a credit card or traveler’s checks in lieu of cash. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted throughout South America.  
  
In the event of a serious problem, Peace Corps/Cameroon would notify the Office of Special Services at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, which would then contact your family. Advise your family members that in the case of a family emergency, they should contact the Office of Special Services in Washington. During normal business hours, the number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.
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Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funding, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to help itself and to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site so that you have time to engage the community in project identification. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your project director and country director.  
  
===Telephones===
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The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private-sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Peace Corps’ Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the country director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580 (extension 2170), e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov, or visit www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.volproj
  
Cellular telephones are popular in Cameroon and can easily be purchased in all major cities from under $150. They do not function in all areas of the country, but service is spreading rapidly. Most trainees purchase a cellphone shortly after arrival in Cameroon. (Cellular telephones from the United States will not work in Cameroon unless they are GSM phones.) Some Volunteers bring satellite phones, which work well in most areas of the country. A few Volunteers have fixed-line phones in their homes.
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===Food and Diet===
  
The cost of calling the United States is very expensive (about a quarter a minute), several times more expensive than calling from the United States to Cameroon. Volunteers often make a short call to a friend or family member and have them return the call.
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As a Volunteer you may choose to prepare your own meals or arrange for board with your host family, a neighbor, or a local eating establishment. Your diet will vary according to your site location, as every region has its traditional foods and specialties. Rice, potatoes, and pasta are available almost everywhere. Meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables may be scarce depending on the season and your site location.  
  
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access===
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It is challenging, but not impossible, to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet in Bolivia because of the seasonal and regional variations in the availability of certain foods and local customs.  Most Volunteers find that exercising flexibility in their dietary preferences simplifies and enriches their experience.
  
Over the past several years, Internet and e-mail services have sprung up throughout Cameroon.
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===Transportation===
  
At the Peace Corps office in Yaoundé, Volunteers have access to computers with high-speed Internet connections. Many people do bring laptop computers to Cameroon. If you do, you may spend a lot of time worrying about your equipment in transport and at home (not to mention the hassle of lugging it around), and parts may not be available. The choice is up to you. Peace Corps/Cameroon is unable to provide technical support to Volunteers who choose to bring a computer, nor will it reimburse you for any needed repairs. Computers and other high-value items also heighten your exposure to opportunistic theft. Make sure to have any high-value items insured as Peace Corps will not reimburse for loss or theft.  
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As a Volunteer, you will be responsible for arranging your personal and work-related travel and for transporting personal belongings, supplies, and project-related equipment to and from your site. All Volunteers are required to use public transportation when available. Public transportation varies widely; while taxis, minivans, and buses may be available at some sites, some Volunteers may have access only to local cargo trucks. Some sites have daily public transportation to and from major cities, while others have access only once or twice a week. We urge Volunteers to always choose transportation with safety in mind.
  
==Housing and Site Location==
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Conditions for bicycle riders are very poor in Bolivia.  Roads are often bumpy and narrow, shoulders are rare, and unexpected hazards (potholes, uncovered manholes, etc.) are commonplace. Also, motor vehicle operators tend to show little respect to bicycle riders.
  
During training, you will live with a Cameroonian family. After training, you are likely to have your own house in the community where you are posted. Volunteers are assigned to sites throughout Cameroon, which range in size from large cities to small villages. Your assignment will depend on the project, host country needs, housing availability, and your preferences. Cameroon’s development needs are the first priority in posting Volunteers.  
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That said, Volunteers in some rural sites may request a bicycle for work-related transportation. If the request is approved, the Peace Corps provides a one-time allowance for the purchase of a bicycle and a helmet, which you are required to wear at all times when riding. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of all ongoing bicycle maintenance and repair. Volunteers in cities are not eligible to receive bicycles because they have access to reliable public transportation.
  
Arrangements for housing are made by the Peace Corps and depend on resources available in the community. You will have to be flexible in your housing expectations. The Peace Corps tries to ensure that Volunteers have lodging that allows for independence and privacy. You may, however, be lodged in a small, one-room hut within a family’s compound. Your house may have walls made of concrete or mud bricks and a tin or thatched roof. A typical Volunteer house has a sitting room, a bedroom, and a cooking area. Some houses have inside toilets/shower areas while others have nearby pit latrines. About half of Volunteers have running water and/or electricity.  Peace Corps/Cameroon provides items such as an all-terrain bicycle and helmet, a mosquito net, and a water filter. Upon your swearing in as a Volunteer, the Peace Corps will give you a modest settling-in allowance to purchase household necessities and furniture.  
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Bolivia is a physically demanding country. Travel is usually long and arduous. Twelve-hour or longer bus trips on dusty roads and great temperature fluctuations (due to extreme elevation changes) are not uncommon. Volunteers must be willing and able to adjust to difficult physical conditions.
  
Some sites are very isolated (more than 50 kilometers from the next Volunteer), and traveling in and out can sometimes be difficult because of the poor quality of roads and infrequent public transportation. (Fifty kilometers can take anywhere from three to eight hours of travel time, depending on road conditions.) Other posts are short distances from one another and are near paved roads.
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===Geography and Climate===
  
==Living Allowance and Money Management==
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About the size of Texas and California combined, Bolivia boasts outstanding biological and geographic diversity, ranging from the frigid treeless plains of the altiplano (12,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level) to the temperate and fertile valleys to the stark and unforgiving desert of the Chaco to the tropical jungle lowlands a few hundred feet above sea level.
  
The local currency is the CFA franc, and the current exchange rate is approximately 515 CFA to the dollar. Volunteers receive a monthly living allowance of 160,000 CFA to cover their cost of living simply, but adequately, while serving overseas. The living allowance covers the cost of utilities, domestic help, household supplies, clothing, food, work-related transport and supplies, and modest entertainment and recreation expenditures. Housing is provided at no cost.  In addition to a living allowance, you will receive $24 each month as a vacation allowance. If you are requested by the Peace Corps to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and lodging.  
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At nearly 12,000 feet, La Paz is the highest national capital in the world. While some visitors experience problems related to the altitude, most Volunteers adapt to the altiplano’s heights within several months.  
  
Volunteers open a bank account that is easily accessible from their site, and the living allowance is deposited quarterly into the account. Although credit cards can be used in large hotels in Yaoundé and Douala, they can rarely be used elsewhere in Cameroon. ATM machines that use the “Plus” network exist in nearly all provincial capitals. Identity theft, however, is a major problem in Cameroon, and an additional reason not to use credit, debit, or ATM cards in the country. For vacation travel outside of Cameroon, a credit card may be useful. Many Volunteers bring extra cash or traveler’s checks, which can be cashed for a fee at banks, for emergencies and vacation travel. A safe is available in the Peace Corps office for use by Volunteers. Note that the Peace Corps is not able to transfer personal funds from the United States to a Volunteer or trainee.  
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The altiplano’s alternating hills and flatlands are punctuated with breathtaking, snow-covered mountain peaks that reach nearly 21,500 feet. The highland valleys, such as Cochabamba, are generally temperate and contain some of the most fertile soil in the country. The hot, dry expanses of the Chaco are reminiscent of the high desert plains of the Western United States. Bolivia’s lowlands feature steamy forests and swamps, along with the bugs, high humidity, and relentless downpours characteristic of the tropics.  
  
==Food and Diet==
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Seasonal changes in weather are marked more by the amount of rainfall than by extremes in temperature. Generally, during the rainy summer season (November to March), altiplano temperatures are cool, valley temperatures moderate during the day and cool at night, and lowland temperatures very hot and humid. There can be severe flooding at this time of year that washes out roads, making transportation to and from Volunteer sites difficult. The climate is generally drier during the winter season (May through September), with less extreme weather in all zones (i.e., mild days and cool nights in the altiplano and high valleys and less intense heat and humidity in the lowlands).
  
If there is one country on the African continent that can be described as a land of plenty, Cameroon certainly deserves the title. Cameroon is the breadbasket for this region, and local foods such as millet, plantains, beans, cassava, cocoyams, sweet potatoes, and okra, together with meats, fish, poultry, and seasonal fruits and vegetables, provide the bulk of the diet.  However, food availability varies significantly by region—in the south and west of the country, a wide range of vegetables and fruits is always available. In the more arid north, variety is far more limited. Meats, fish, and poultry are generally available everywhere. Some of the villages in which Volunteers are posted have a weekly market, and others must depend on a neighboring market for various items. Some canned and imported Western foods and products will be available in towns where you live or in the larger provincial capitals, but they are expensive. Being a vegetarian should not pose a problem.  However, the stricter you are in a vegetarian diet, the more challenging it will be. Cameroon’s climate is generally favorable for vegetable gardening, and many Volunteers supplement what is available at the market with their own harvest. (Spices are among the few items not available in Cameroon, so you may want to bring some with you.)
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===Social Activities===
  
==Transportation ==
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Most social activities revolve around daily and special community events. Volunteers are often invited to share family and community events such as birthday parties, local holidays and festivals, sports activities, or just chatting over tea. Integrating into your community is the key to an enjoyable and rich experience as a Volunteer. By spending time in your community and building solid relationships-through both your work assignment and interaction with Bolivian neighbors, shop owners, and other community members—you will have greater opportunities to participate in social activities.  
Volunteers use trains, buses, bush taxis, motorcycle taxis, bikes and occasionally planes. Public transportation in Cameroon is relatively reliable. Trains run from Douala to Yaoundé to the East and Adamaoua provinces each day.  Bus routes run between Yaoundé, Douala, Bafoussam, and Bamenda. Planes are often late and frequently flights are canceled. Taxis are available and inexpensive in most major towns. Motorcycle taxis predominate in the Extreme North and North provinces and are increasing rapidly elsewhere in the country. Finally, minivans or “bush taxis” ply both paved and unpaved roads, bringing passengers and their belongings (including bunches of bananas, goats, pigs, etc.) to all but the tiniest villages.  
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Although available, travel is not always easy. Because of lack of road maintenance and the fact that some major routes have yet to be paved, transportation can be difficult and time-consuming—especially in the rainy season. Since the transport infrastructure is limited, every means is used to its fullest capacity. This can mean squeezing six or more people into a city taxi or bush taxi or sharing seats on the train.  
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While extensive training will prepare you, you will need to develop a keen awareness of Bolivian culture and customs. Many social events include alcohol consumption. Volunteers are expected to avoid excessive use of alcohol, which is often the determining factor in Volunteer safety incidents. You have to exercise continual, careful judgment under sometimes difficult circumstances, including social pressure to drink to excess.  
  
You may have to rely on public transport to travel to major towns to do banking, post letters, use the Internet, etc. In doing this, you must take an active role in choosing the safest, most reliable transport. This means refusing to enter vehicles that are poorly maintained or driven by irresponsible chauffeurs and waiting for the “next car.
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The Peace Corps prohibits the use of all illegal drugs, including marijuana, and any form of coca ingestion by Peace Corps Volunteers and trainees. Any use thereof is grounds for termination of Peace Corps service. The government of Bolivia, with the support of the United States, has taken a strong stand against the illegal cultivation of coca and the use of illegal drugs. Bolivia’s stringent antidrug law mandates stiff prison sentences and does not differentiate between using and dealing drugs. Any invitee who uses illegal substances should not accept an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  
  
==Geography and Climate ==
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
Cameroon is a land of geographic and climatic diversity, with desert, rain forest, savanna, ancient and active volcanoes, and tropical beaches. The climate ranges from extremely hot and dry in the north, to cool in the central plateau, to humid and hot in the south.  
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Dress in Bolivia is more conservative and more formal than in the United States, and Volunteers should follow the example of Bolivians in attire at their work site and in their community. You will be working as a development professional in Bolivia, and inappropriate dress may make Bolivians less receptive to you.  
  
It is best to bring clothing that will work in all these regions, as you will not know in advance where you will be posted. Clothing—new, used, and custom-made—is widely available in Cameroon, the latter at very inexpensive prices, so you can have many of your clothes made locally.  
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During training, and as a Volunteer, there will be very few occasions for men to wear jackets and ties and for women to wear dresses. In classroom and office settings in cities and larger rural communities, attire should be conservative to casual: khakis, dockers or nice blue jeans, button-down shirts with collars, polo shirts, casual skirts (knee length or longer), blouses, etc. Also bring plenty of casual clothes that you would wear in nonformal settings (e.g., jeans, T-shirts, work boots) for use after work or while in the field. Clothes should always be untorn, neat and clean.  
  
==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior==
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Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and other revealing attire. While young Bolivian women in the larger lowland cities do wear such clothing, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are exacerbated by revealing attire and oftentimes this leads to unwanted attention or harassment. This is especially true outside of major cities like La Paz and Santa Cruz. Similarly, ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, and shorts are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Bolivia.
  
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve. You will be working as a representative of a government ministry or a professional organization and as such you will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. Professional dress standards are high in Cameroon. Being neat and cleanly dressed is a sign of respect and pride.  
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Pierced ears are acceptable for women. Younger Bolivian men in the larger cities occasionally wear earrings. Male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities. Other body piercing is not appropriate for Volunteers in Bolivia. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times.  
  
A foreigner who wears unkempt or old clothes is likely to be considered an affront. Trousers (for men, and women in some regions), blouses/shirts, skirts (below the knee), and dresses are appropriate wear for work. If your dress is inappropriate (shorts, halter tops, short skirts, form-fitting or low-cut blouses, dirty or torn clothing), you may not be readily accepted in your job, and for women, inappropriate dress and behavior will attract unwanted attention. Cameroonians are not likely to directly comment on your dress, but they are likely to think that you either do not know what is culturally acceptable or do not care. You should certainly bring at least one dressy outfit for important or ceremonial occasions.
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===Personal Safety===
  
The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to behave in a way that will foster respect within their community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on citizens of the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest, and you should be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.  
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More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter. It is an important issue that 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 Bolivia Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. 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 continual safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Bolivia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. It is your responsibility to inform Peace Corps/Bolivia of your whereabouts. For some independent adults this may be frustrating, but is of utmost importance.  
  
==Personal Safety ==
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
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 (often 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 Cameroon Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious 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 Cameroon. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.and everone farts.
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Volunteers in Bolivia must demonstrate a great deal of flexibility and maturity. It takes considerable sensitivity and effort to establish your credibility both as a professional and as a member of your community. With most Bolivians, you will need to develop friendly social relations before you can proceed with satisfactory work relations.  
  
==Rewards and Frustrations==
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The challenges and rewards of Peace Corps service depend in large part on an individual’s attitude and commitment, and each person’s situation is different. Still, there are some common occurrences that you are likely to find annoying or frustrating at some point, such as having to repeatedly explain your role as a Volunteer to people, lack of technical support from your counterpart or supervisor, numerous delays during the course of your work and daily life, lack of privacy, gossip about you, and perceptions that you are a wealthy foreigner.
  
You will certainly experience ups and downs during your time in Cameroon. One week, cultural and language differences will seem exotic, exciting, and inviting; the next week, you may see them as barriers to everything you want to experience and accomplish in Cameroon. You will need serious coping skills—humor, humility, and the ability to forge strong social connections—to get you through the difficult passes. You should expect hardship and difficulty to be part of your weekly routine and be aware that the Peace Corps staff will not always be there to help you through each cycle of ups and downs.  
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Other frustrations faced by Volunteers result from inadequate infrastructure, including poor roads, infrequent and unreliable public transportation and communications, and lack of access to water and sanitation facilities. Volunteers also occasionally get impatient with or bothered by uninformed community health and hygiene practices, antiquated educational approaches, an inappropriate dependence on external resources, and lack of community organization.  
  
Particularly during the first year of service, many Volunteers feel very alone in their work because they lack the support one gets from working with people who share a common background. You may feel isolated by language and cultural barriers. Paradoxically, you also may feel that you are never alone, but are always on parade or under scrutiny. Even the few people who find this exhilarating at first eventually find it irritating and burdensome.  
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Successful Volunteers demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, a willingness to make personal sacrifices, and the ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. An optimistic attitude and a sense of humor are also essential characteristics of successful Volunteers.  
  
Your initial reaction to a new country is likely to be one of delight and curiosity, but working in a country is another matter. “Flexible time,” where “soon” can mean anything from 20 minutes to the next day or week, can become very frustrating. But eventually you will learn to turn the burdens into tools in your work; combining your own cultural baggage with the new culture, you will learn to both live comfortably and accomplish your objectives. Learning to function well in a community so vastly different from anything you have known in the United States is part of the challenge and magic of being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  
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There are few more enriching experiences than living and working in a new culture, interacting with people different from you, and developing an awareness of diverse values.  Most Volunteers find that the rewards of Peace Corps service far outweigh the challenges. Volunteers in Bolivia report strong gratification from developing new technical and language skills, discovering formerly untapped personal strengths and abilities, broadening their global perspective, deepening their cultural understanding, and helping others live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.  
  
It is not an exaggeration to state that every successful Peace Corps project begins by identifying a particular host country national who is competent, reliable, understanding, and dedicated. This can be a long, slow, arduous task requiring many months of frequently frustrated efforts. A deep conviction that you share a common humanity with your host that transcends the cultural differences will be a big help.  In the end, these relationships are the ones that will add tremendous meaning to your time here.
 
  
One of the difficulties faced by some Volunteers is a lack of clarity in their role in development: To what extent are you an agent of change, and to what extent are you a respectful, conforming guest and fellow worker? The answer is not clear-cut because both motivations are relevant, and yet they are clearly contradictory. Whether you work in teaching or in community development, you will encounter an established traditional system, some of which may seem absurd, grossly inefficient, pointless, or superstitious. Do you oppose it or go along with it? If you oppose it, you will encounter resistance and hostility—often subtle, sometimes blatant. On the other hand, if you go along with the system, nothing changes and you feel useless. Volunteers who follow the latter course often rationalize their passivity with a statements like: “After all, we are not here to change things” or “Who is to say that the American way of life is any better than the host country’s?” There is no easy solution. Most Volunteers work out a flexible approach in which sometimes they oppose the system directly and sometimes they go along with it, hopefully without giving up the objective of imparting something of themselves in the process.
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[[Category:Bolivia]]
 
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While it is possible that you will sail through every stressful situation without encountering any discomfort, that would be unusual. There are times for all Volunteers when the difficult conditions under which they live and work prove upsetting.
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Many experience intense feelings of discouragement and futility, especially during the first year of service. Things that seemed clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You do not feel in control of a situation or a problem, and this can be frightening. These are the times when coping skills and your social support system are critical.
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Having said all that, the rewards of Peace Corps service are immense. The very tangible rewards are the acquisition of language, technical, and cross-cultural skills that improve your ability to make your way anywhere in the world. In addition, your two years of overseas work experience gives you a significant advantage for future international work, as well as for many jobs based in the United States.
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But it is the intangible rewards that are most gratifying to Volunteers—the cross-cultural understanding you gain from integration into a community for a long period of time and the deep relationships that surely come of that. Even for the veteran world traveler, these experiences will be deeper and more profound than any other travel adventure you have had. You cannot help leaving the Peace Corps with a broader worldview and a deeper understanding of the realities experienced by others around the globe. And you will never be understimulated by your environment. More important, while having this incredible experience, you will also have the profound satisfaction of making some small difference to an individual, a community, and a country.
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[[Category:Cameroon]]
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Latest revision as of 12:33, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Telephones[edit]

International phone service to and from Bolivia is relatively good in the major cities. Volunteers do not typically have telephones in their homes and may not have them in their work facilities. Most have access to a telephone company office at their sites or in their departmental capital where they can make and receive calls, as well as send faxes, when necessary. Collect calls can be made from most phones, and AT&T, MCI, and Sprint calling cards can be used from some phones. International long distance is expensive, however, and most Volunteers find it more convenient and reliable to communicate via electronic or regular mail.

More and more Volunteers are either bringing their own or purchasing cellular phones and service at their own expense when they come to Bolivia. Cellular service is generally available only in and near major cities, not in the rural areas where most Volunteers live and work. Peace Corps/Bolivia does not provide cellphones or service, as every site must be accessible by regular phone service or shortwave radio. Bolivia only uses cellphones with DSM or TDMA technology.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

They live in houses with usually 3 or more people per bedroom.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

During training, your room and board will be provided by your host family. You will receive a small weekly “walk-around” stipend in local currency (bolivianos) to cover transportation expenses from your host community to scheduled training events and other basic expenses (an occasional restaurant meal, snacks, postage, Internet cafè fees, etc.).

You are expected to live at the same level as the Bolivian people in your community. After you swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, your monthly living allowance, which is provided in local currency, is intended to cover your housing, utilities, household and personal supplies, clothing, food, job supplies, transportation, recreation and entertainment, and miscellaneous items. The amount of the allowance you receive is based on the cost of living in the area or region to which you are assigned. If you receive free housing or food, your living allowance may be slightly reduced.

Peace Corps/Bolivia will open a savings account in your name at a bank near your site and provide you with an ATM card. Your living allowance will be deposited in your account by the first working day of every month.

Volunteers receive three additional allowances. First, you will receive a modest vacation allowance and two days of vacation leave for each month of service (excluding training). After taking the Volunteer oath, you will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance to cover the initial expenses of furnishing a house or room and purchasing basic supplies, which might include a cellphone. Finally, for each month of service, the U.S. government sets aside $225. This readjustment allowance is a lump sum, made available to Volunteers upon completion of their service, which permits them to resettle in the United States.

The Peace Corps highly discourages you from relying on gifts or savings from home to supplement your monthly living allowance. The effectiveness and quality of your experience depend, in some measure, on living at the level of the majority of the people in your community. However, we encourage you to use vacation time to visit other areas of Bolivia and South America, and you may want to use personal funds for such travel. We recommend that you bring a credit card or traveler’s checks in lieu of cash. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted throughout South America.

Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funding, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to help itself and to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site so that you have time to engage the community in project identification. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your project director and country director.

The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private-sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Peace Corps’ Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the country director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580 (extension 2170), e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov, or visit www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.volproj

Food and Diet[edit]

As a Volunteer you may choose to prepare your own meals or arrange for board with your host family, a neighbor, or a local eating establishment. Your diet will vary according to your site location, as every region has its traditional foods and specialties. Rice, potatoes, and pasta are available almost everywhere. Meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables may be scarce depending on the season and your site location.

It is challenging, but not impossible, to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet in Bolivia because of the seasonal and regional variations in the availability of certain foods and local customs. Most Volunteers find that exercising flexibility in their dietary preferences simplifies and enriches their experience.

Transportation[edit]

As a Volunteer, you will be responsible for arranging your personal and work-related travel and for transporting personal belongings, supplies, and project-related equipment to and from your site. All Volunteers are required to use public transportation when available. Public transportation varies widely; while taxis, minivans, and buses may be available at some sites, some Volunteers may have access only to local cargo trucks. Some sites have daily public transportation to and from major cities, while others have access only once or twice a week. We urge Volunteers to always choose transportation with safety in mind.

Conditions for bicycle riders are very poor in Bolivia. Roads are often bumpy and narrow, shoulders are rare, and unexpected hazards (potholes, uncovered manholes, etc.) are commonplace. Also, motor vehicle operators tend to show little respect to bicycle riders.

That said, Volunteers in some rural sites may request a bicycle for work-related transportation. If the request is approved, the Peace Corps provides a one-time allowance for the purchase of a bicycle and a helmet, which you are required to wear at all times when riding. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of all ongoing bicycle maintenance and repair. Volunteers in cities are not eligible to receive bicycles because they have access to reliable public transportation.

Bolivia is a physically demanding country. Travel is usually long and arduous. Twelve-hour or longer bus trips on dusty roads and great temperature fluctuations (due to extreme elevation changes) are not uncommon. Volunteers must be willing and able to adjust to difficult physical conditions.

Geography and Climate[edit]

About the size of Texas and California combined, Bolivia boasts outstanding biological and geographic diversity, ranging from the frigid treeless plains of the altiplano (12,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level) to the temperate and fertile valleys to the stark and unforgiving desert of the Chaco to the tropical jungle lowlands a few hundred feet above sea level.

At nearly 12,000 feet, La Paz is the highest national capital in the world. While some visitors experience problems related to the altitude, most Volunteers adapt to the altiplano’s heights within several months.

The altiplano’s alternating hills and flatlands are punctuated with breathtaking, snow-covered mountain peaks that reach nearly 21,500 feet. The highland valleys, such as Cochabamba, are generally temperate and contain some of the most fertile soil in the country. The hot, dry expanses of the Chaco are reminiscent of the high desert plains of the Western United States. Bolivia’s lowlands feature steamy forests and swamps, along with the bugs, high humidity, and relentless downpours characteristic of the tropics.

Seasonal changes in weather are marked more by the amount of rainfall than by extremes in temperature. Generally, during the rainy summer season (November to March), altiplano temperatures are cool, valley temperatures moderate during the day and cool at night, and lowland temperatures very hot and humid. There can be severe flooding at this time of year that washes out roads, making transportation to and from Volunteer sites difficult. The climate is generally drier during the winter season (May through September), with less extreme weather in all zones (i.e., mild days and cool nights in the altiplano and high valleys and less intense heat and humidity in the lowlands).

Social Activities[edit]

Most social activities revolve around daily and special community events. Volunteers are often invited to share family and community events such as birthday parties, local holidays and festivals, sports activities, or just chatting over tea. Integrating into your community is the key to an enjoyable and rich experience as a Volunteer. By spending time in your community and building solid relationships-through both your work assignment and interaction with Bolivian neighbors, shop owners, and other community members—you will have greater opportunities to participate in social activities.

While extensive training will prepare you, you will need to develop a keen awareness of Bolivian culture and customs. Many social events include alcohol consumption. Volunteers are expected to avoid excessive use of alcohol, which is often the determining factor in Volunteer safety incidents. You have to exercise continual, careful judgment under sometimes difficult circumstances, including social pressure to drink to excess.

The Peace Corps prohibits the use of all illegal drugs, including marijuana, and any form of coca ingestion by Peace Corps Volunteers and trainees. Any use thereof is grounds for termination of Peace Corps service. The government of Bolivia, with the support of the United States, has taken a strong stand against the illegal cultivation of coca and the use of illegal drugs. Bolivia’s stringent antidrug law mandates stiff prison sentences and does not differentiate between using and dealing drugs. Any invitee who uses illegal substances should not accept an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

Dress in Bolivia is more conservative and more formal than in the United States, and Volunteers should follow the example of Bolivians in attire at their work site and in their community. You will be working as a development professional in Bolivia, and inappropriate dress may make Bolivians less receptive to you.

During training, and as a Volunteer, there will be very few occasions for men to wear jackets and ties and for women to wear dresses. In classroom and office settings in cities and larger rural communities, attire should be conservative to casual: khakis, dockers or nice blue jeans, button-down shirts with collars, polo shirts, casual skirts (knee length or longer), blouses, etc. Also bring plenty of casual clothes that you would wear in nonformal settings (e.g., jeans, T-shirts, work boots) for use after work or while in the field. Clothes should always be untorn, neat and clean.

Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and other revealing attire. While young Bolivian women in the larger lowland cities do wear such clothing, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are exacerbated by revealing attire and oftentimes this leads to unwanted attention or harassment. This is especially true outside of major cities like La Paz and Santa Cruz. Similarly, ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, and shorts are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Bolivia.

Pierced ears are acceptable for women. Younger Bolivian men in the larger cities occasionally wear earrings. Male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities. Other body piercing is not appropriate for Volunteers in Bolivia. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times.

Personal Safety[edit]

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter. It is an important issue that 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 Bolivia Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. 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 continual safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Bolivia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. It is your responsibility to inform Peace Corps/Bolivia of your whereabouts. For some independent adults this may be frustrating, but is of utmost importance.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

Volunteers in Bolivia must demonstrate a great deal of flexibility and maturity. It takes considerable sensitivity and effort to establish your credibility both as a professional and as a member of your community. With most Bolivians, you will need to develop friendly social relations before you can proceed with satisfactory work relations.

The challenges and rewards of Peace Corps service depend in large part on an individual’s attitude and commitment, and each person’s situation is different. Still, there are some common occurrences that you are likely to find annoying or frustrating at some point, such as having to repeatedly explain your role as a Volunteer to people, lack of technical support from your counterpart or supervisor, numerous delays during the course of your work and daily life, lack of privacy, gossip about you, and perceptions that you are a wealthy foreigner.

Other frustrations faced by Volunteers result from inadequate infrastructure, including poor roads, infrequent and unreliable public transportation and communications, and lack of access to water and sanitation facilities. Volunteers also occasionally get impatient with or bothered by uninformed community health and hygiene practices, antiquated educational approaches, an inappropriate dependence on external resources, and lack of community organization.

Successful Volunteers demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, a willingness to make personal sacrifices, and the ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. An optimistic attitude and a sense of humor are also essential characteristics of successful Volunteers.

There are few more enriching experiences than living and working in a new culture, interacting with people different from you, and developing an awareness of diverse values. Most Volunteers find that the rewards of Peace Corps service far outweigh the challenges. Volunteers in Bolivia report strong gratification from developing new technical and language skills, discovering formerly untapped personal strengths and abilities, broadening their global perspective, deepening their cultural understanding, and helping others live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.