Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Micronesia"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
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===Communications===
 
===Communications===
  
 
====Mail====
 
====Mail====
  
Airmail to and from Costa Rica takes one to two weeks. Volunteers in more remote areas of the country have an additional delay. You can receive mail at the Peace Corps office both during training and as a Volunteer.
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The postal system of the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia is modeled on the U.S. Postal Service.  Costs for mailing letters and packages were identical to those in the United States, but as of January 2006, international rates have been phased in incrementally. FSM and Palau use their own postage stamps, and a customs declaration form is required for packages. Items that ship airmail normally take about two weeks between the U.S. and FSM or Palau, but those that go by sea may take months to arrive. The mail system is generally quite reliable. There is one post office in each of the state capitals of FSM and in Palau; all are open during regular business hours. During training, you can receive mail at the main Peace Corps office in Kolonia, Pohnpei:  
The mailing address of the Peace Corps office is:  
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“Your Name,” PCT
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“Your Name,” Peace Corps Trainee
  
Cuerpo de Paz
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Peace Corps/Micronesia
  
Apartado Postal 1266
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PO Box 9
  
1000 San José
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Kolonia, Pohnpei, FM 96941
  
Costa Rica
 
  
  
Once you have completed training, you will be responsible for sending the address of your new site to friends and family.  Most sites are near post offices, and Volunteers can rent a post office box or have mail delivered directly to their home.
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After you move to your site, you must make arrangements to have your mail sent directly to the state where you serve.  
 
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We discourage you from having people send you money, airline tickets, or other valuable items through the mail. Items mailed in “bubbled” manila envelopes have a better chance of arriving at your site without being delayed by customs. Larger packages have to go through customs and sometimes mysteriously disappear in transit. Retrieving packages from customs is time-consuming and often requires payment of duty fees.
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DHL, Federal Express, and other couriers have offices in Costa Rica. If your friends or relatives want to send you something by courier, they should send it to the Peace Corps office, for which a phone number and directions to a street address are usually required. The Peace Corps/Costa Rica office phone number is 011.506.231.4122; the fax number is 011.506.220.3275.  
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====Telephones====
 
====Telephones====
  
International phone service to and from Costa Rica is good.  One can make direct calls to the United States at phone centers located throughout the country, using a calling card (e.g., from MCI, AT&T, Sprint, or the Costa Rican telephone company) or calling collect. During training, most of the host families that Volunteers live with have telephones; if they do not, there is likely to be a neighbor with a phone or a public phone nearby. Telephone service is more limited at a few rural sites. The Peace Corps issues a beeper to Volunteers who live with families that do not have phones.  
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Phone service within the main islands of both FSM and Palau is generally reliable, and long-distance service is available in most locations through the use of a prepaid phone card from FSM Telecom or Palau National Communications Company.  
  
Fax service is also available in most cities, usually at the local post office. The post office charges a fee for both sending and receiving faxes. LOL. Once you are at your assigned site, you can send a fax number to your friends and relatives for easier communication.
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Phone service is not available on most outer islands. The four
  
You do not need a cellular phone to carry out your work in Costa Rica. Most U.S. cellphones are not compatible with the cellular technology in Costa Rica, although there are plans to change this in the near future.  
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FSM states and Palau each have one main telecommunications office in their capitals where you can make telephone calls and access the Internet. Cellphones are available in FSM and Palau; their coverage is limited but expanding.  
  
To reach you in an emergency, your family can call the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., at 800.424.8580 (or 202.638.2574 during nonbusiness hours). The Office of Special Services will contact Peace Corps/Costa Rica as soon as possible to relay the information.
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Calls within FSM cost about $1 to $2 per minute, depending on the time of day. Rates for international calls using a prepaid phone card in FSM were recently reduced to 47 cents per minute off-peak; peak times cost about double. Palau prices are slightly higher. (Refer to www.telecom.fm for more information on FSM communications services and prices and www.palaunet.  com for more information for the Republic of Palau.)
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If your site is on an outer island, you will communicate with the Peace Corps offices using single-side band (SSB) radio (all outer islands you may serve on have at least one) or a Peace Corps-issued satellite phone, but you will not have international calling capability from your site.  
  
 
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
 
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
  
You will have access to computers and the Internet at the Volunteer resource center at the Peace Corps office in San José. Because these computers are shared among all Volunteers in-country, access depends on demand. In addition, Volunteers in the children, youth, and families project have limited access to computers at the local child welfare office. Bringing a personal computer to Costa Rica increases your risk of being a victim of theft. Nevertheless, some Volunteers bring laptop computers with them, which they find useful for work purposes, but access to the Internet may be limited.
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The main Peace Corps office in Pohnpei and the field offices in the other FSM states and Palau each have one Volunteer computer with limited Internet access for Volunteers. Note that the Peace Corps offices are located in the state capitals and your site could be more than a two-hour drive away.
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Telephone offices in state capitals and Palau offer Internet access for about $4 per hour, and there is currently no Internet capability on any of the outer islands except Ulithi, Yap. Some schools in FSM and many schools in Palau have Internet access on site, and Volunteers working with schools may have some Internet access at their school. Partner agencies that Volunteers assist may also have Internet access for Volunteers. The public libraries in Pohnpei and Kosrae offer Internet access at reduced prices. There are also Internet cafes in Palau and Pohnpei, which also charge about $4 per hour. FSM prepaid telecom cards can be used for prepaid dial-up Internet service from all four FSM main islands. Charges are based on traffic, and many users report that a $20 card will last them a month if they do not download large files.
  
 
===Housing and Site Location===
 
===Housing and Site Location===
  
Currently, there are Volunteers in all parts of the country: the Central Valley, Limón on the Caribbean coast, Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, as far north as Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border, and as far south as Paso Canoas on the Panama border. While sites vary in size, climate, and distance to downtown San José (from 20 minutes to eight hours by bus), each has been preselected by the Peace Corps in consultation with relevant host country agencies as being a community where a Volunteer will find plenty of work opportunities and support.  
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Volunteers in Micronesia are required to live with a host family for training and for the entire two years of service. Many Volunteers find it a challenge to adjust from the independent living they are used to. Household rules, especially for women, are likely to feel very restrictive compared to life in the United States. Yet the rewards tend to be immense. Almost all life in Micronesia revolves around the family, and being “adopted” into a family gives a Volunteer a vehicle to becoming part of the local community. Micronesians live with extended family, and find it extremely odd for anyone to live alone. Living with a family makes it easier to learn the language, provides unique opportunities to become part of the culture, and ensures a safer and more secure environment. Much of a Volunteer’s life in Micronesia is based on interactions with the host family, and these interactions help facilitate community entry. Married couples also live with a family for their entire service.  
  
Volunteers in the children, youth, and families project live in urban, semi-urban, or rural communities. While Volunteers in the community development and micro-enterprise development projects will live in rural/semi-rural communities. Volunteers in urban sites usually have access via a short bus ride to services such as banks, post offices, and hospitals.  Volunteers in more rural areas have to take a longer bus ride to the nearest large town to mail letters or cash checks. Some sites are converted squatter settlements made up of a combination of tin and wood shacks, but most sites have recently built two- or three-room cement block buildings with corrugated steel roofs. All Volunteer houses have cold running water and electricity, and most have phones. In all communities, you will find a church, a school, and general stores (pulperías) that sell staples such as rice, black beans, tuna, soap, soft drinks, and snack food.  
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If you serve on a main island, you will likely live with a family in a small village. On main islands host family sites range from a two-hour drive to the capital to right near the city. Peace Corps/Micronesia is committed to focusing on rural communities. Living in the more rural villages is a very different experience from living in one very close to the capital town. On main islands, you may be surprised by how spread-out houses in a village tend to be. On outer islands, space and land is more limited.  
  
During training, you will live with a family selected by the training staff in one of several training communities. During your first year of service, you are also required to live with a family in your assigned communityThis promotes your integration into the community, increases your language skills, and helps ensure your safety. The families are recommended by community leaders and approved by your program manager. Requests to live independently during the second year are approved on a case-by-case basis.  
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If your primary site is a school in your community, you will likely be within walking or biking distance from the schoolTaxis are available and inexpensive in most cases. You will likely use taxis or get rides with host families to get to town if you live in a village outside of town. Only the main island of Yap has a “public transportation” system of sorts; school buses transport workers from villages to the capital in the morning and back in the late afternoon.  
  
The family you stay with, which is likely to include children, will probably have a home modest in size and comfort. While the Peace Corps requests that Volunteers be given their own room, you may find that its walls do not reach the ceiling or are very thin. It is important to remember that the concept of individual space in Costa Rica is different from that in America. While some Volunteers find living with a family frustrating at times, they also concede that it is an enriching way to experience a new culture and develop an awareness of its values.  
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Although living situations differ, most host families’ houses in the main islands of FSM and Palau are constructed of corrugated iron and cement, with tin roofs, and have electricity.  Most houses have running water inside, but some have outside toilet and shower facilities on their “compound.” Most Volunteers take bucket showers. In most homes, you will find televisions, VCRs or DVD players, telephones, and other Western conveniences. Host families are required to provide you with your own room for sleeping, with a door and lock.  Peace Corps staff attempts to identify host family situations for married couples that offer slightly more privacy.  
  
While you will find most Costa Rican people to be kind and good, communities also have members with a variety of problems, including substance abuse and alcoholism, low income, single parenthood, child abuse, high unemployment, and delinquency. Therefore your safety is of major concern, and you will have to adjust and conform to different norms of behavior and take continual precautions to maximize your safety. (The Health Care and Safety chapter provides more information on this important issue.)
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If you are assigned to a lagoon or outer island, you will probably live with a large extended family, and you are not likely to have running water, electricity, or inside toilet facilities.
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During “site development”, Peace Corps identifies housing and host families using criteria that include safety and security guidelines. Your host family might provide simple, basic furniture; a bed/mattress, table/desk and chair, and storage space.  
  
 
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
 
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
During pre-service training, the Peace Corps will open an electronic debit account (in colóns) for you at Banco Naciónal, to which you can gain access from any of the bank’s automated teller machines throughout the country.  (Most ATM cards from U.S. banks can also be used at local banks.) The debit card can also be used at most larger businesses.  The Peace Corps pays host families a set amount to cover your food, lodging, and laundry during training and deposits a small “walking-around allowance” in your account for other expenses.  
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As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will receive several types of allowances. FSM and Palau use the U.S. dollar for currency. Allowances will be deposited quarterly into your local bank account, which we will assist you in setting up once your site is assigned.  
  
When you become a Volunteer, the Peace Corps will begin depositing a living allowance in your account every month, along with a one-time settling-in allowance (about $200) to purchase items to set up your home. The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual cost-of-living survey of current Volunteers and is intended to cover all of your essential expenses, i.e., rent, local travel, food, and entertainment. You will negotiate the rent you pay your host family using guidelines provided by the Peace Corps.  
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You will receive a living allowance of around $383 to $415 per month to cover your living expenses. You will provide $75 of this amount in cash or in-kind as your contribution to your host family. You will eat primarily with your host family. The remainder of your living allowance is provided to fund your needs for toiletries and household supplies, clothing, supplemental food you choose to buy, transportation, reading materials, recreation and entertainment, and other incidentals. A vacation allowance of $24 per month will be deposited with your living allowance. After you swear-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance of $150 to purchase household necessities such as a futon, lantern, and fan. You may find that even though you are a Volunteer, you receive more remuneration than your Micronesian counterpart or even your supervisor, which can create certain challenges. Additionally you will probably have more material goods and actual money than your host family, issues that should be dealt with sensitively.  
  
The Peace Corps encourages you to maintain a lifestyle similar to that of the people with whom you live and work, so you do not need to bring additional money. Nevertheless, many Volunteers bring at least one major credit card in case they need to make a major personal purchase or for out-ofcountry travel. If you choose to bring extra money, we
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Peace Corps/FSM/Palau will likely ask you to travel for training events/conferences. For these instances, you will be given funds to cover the cost of any additional transportation and meals.  
  
recommend that you bring traveler’s checks or open a local bank account in dollars to minimize the risk of loss or theft.  There is also a safe at the Peace Corps office in which Volunteers can store cash, credit cards, traveler’s checks, and important documents.
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Most ATM cards can be used in the capital towns of Pohnpei and in the Republic of Palau. Credit cards and traveler’s checks can be used in tourist areas in Micronesia and Palau. Volunteers are discouraged from supplementing their living allowance with money from home. It is important for Volunteers to live at an economic level similar to that of the people they serve in their communities.  
 
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You will also accrue $24 per month of Volunteer service for a vacation allowance, deposited monthly in your account in local currency. Some Volunteers regularly transfer their leave allowance into a dollar account to prevent losses resulting from devaluation of the local currency.
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===Food and Diet===
 
===Food and Diet===
  
During training, your host family will prepare all of your meals. Once you are a Volunteer, you can arrange to have all or some of your meals with your host family or buy and prepare your own food.  
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You will be living and eating with a host family, so your diet will be heavily dependent on what the family eats. In FSM and Palau, staples consist of breadfruit, taro, tapioca, and many varieties of banana, rice, ramen, canned meat, pork, reef fish, and tuna. On ceremonial occasions, dog is eaten in the Eastern Caroline Islands. Canned foods are popular, and SPAM, sardines, and turkey tail are dietary staples among Micronesians. Many items may be cooked with coconut milk, and Micronesians like sugar added to many dishes. Seasonal fruits and vegetables include papaya, soursop, eggplant, cucumber, avocado, and green beans. These fresh fruits and vegetables may not be a usual part of your host family’s diet.  
  
The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables depends on the season and the region. Costa Ricans tend to eat few green vegetables, favoring root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassavas, etc.). Volunteers sometimes comment on the lack of diversity in the local diet, which relies heavily on rice and beans and starchy foods fried in oil or lard. Many families do not eat a lot of meat because of its cost. Although almost any specialty food can be purchased at supermarkets in San José, these imported products are not part of the local diet and are well beyond the economic means of most host families.  
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Generally a meal is rice, soy sauce, and a meat/fish product. Local root crops (taro, tapioca), bananas and oranges can also be found at reasonable prices. For the most part, especially in FSM, few local fruits and vegetables are available at the markets. Some Pohnpei and Yap stores carry imported fruits and vegetables when the ship arrives, but they are more expensive and not fresh. In general, more produce is available in the capital of Palau. Cheese is sometimes available in Pohnpei and common in the capital of Palau. Eggs, tofu, onions, and butter cannot usually be found in rural communities, but tend to be available in island capitals after the arrival of a ship.  It is important to remember that the host family is doing you a service by allowing you to stay; it is a hardship for them to constantly worry about the Volunteer’s eating needs.  
  
It is relatively easy for vegetarians to maintain their diet in Costa Rica, since rice and beans are the staple foods. However, Costa Ricans often prepare their vegetables with meat or in meat broth, so you will have to make special arrangements to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet.
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The local diet is often high in fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Vegetarians will find it difficult to maintain their diet both because of the limited variety of fruits and vegetables and because host families expect Volunteers to accept the food that they eat. Most vegetarians choose to modify their diet while serving in Micronesia, at least to include fish.  
  
 
===Transportation===
 
===Transportation===
  
The country has an extensive road system of more than 18,600 miles (30,000 km), although much of it is in disrepair. The main cities in the Central Valley are connected by paved, all-weather roads to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and to the Pan American Highway, which goes to Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica’s neighbors to the north and south.  Unfortunately, the rate of traffic-related fatalities is one of the highest per capita in the world.  
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There is no public transportation in FSM or Palau, except for the limited school bus service in Yap. Volunteers are encouraged to use taxis, which tend to be inexpensive. If you choose to purchase a bicycle, the Peace Corps requires you to wear a helmet and will issue you one. You may travel by boat on a regular basis, and you are required to wear a life jacket (also provided by the Peace Corps) any time you are in a boat. Peace Corps prohibits Volunteers from owning or driving motorized vehicles and riding on motorcycles. Violations of these policies may result in immediate termination of your Peace Corps service.  
 
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Volunteers travel mostly by public bus. Costa Rica has an extensive and dependable bus system that operates in most of the country. The service is inexpensive and usually runs on a set schedule several times a day. In the San José metropolitan area, however, traffic jams often extend travel times.
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The Peace Corps recommends taking “official” taxis at night; the red cars with yellow triangles on the front doors are easily identifiable. Most fares within the San José area are determined by using the meter (called the María), but longer distances are usually set at a fixed rate.  
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Volunteers are not allowed to drive motorized vehicles except during an official vacation. Many Volunteers request and receive bicycles from the Peace Corps to facilitate travel around their sites. Volunteers who are issued a bicycle must receive safety training and wear a bicycle helmet provided by the Peace Corps.
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===Geography and Climate===
 
===Geography and Climate===
  
There are two distinct seasons in Costa Rica, rainy and dry. In much of the country, the rainy season lasts from May to November, but parts of the Caribbean coast receive rain year-round. And when it rains, it really rains, with heavy afternoon downpours resulting in flooded or muddy streets. The driest months in San José are December through April. The southwestern plains and mountain slopes receive more rain, averaging only three dry months a year. Temperatures vary little between seasons—the main influence on temperature is altitude. San José, at almost 3,800 feet (1,150 meters), has temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The coasts and lowlands are much hotter, averaging 72 degrees at night and 86 degrees during the day.  
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The climate of Micronesia is tropical. Temperatures fluctuate very little annually (86 degrees Fahrenheit is the average year round, but it can seem warmer under the intense sun).  Rainfall and humidity are high year-round. Northeast trade winds bring relief from the tropical climate during the first few months of the year, but these breezes are mostly felt directly along the coast. October through May is typically typhoon season in the Pacific. Although most of Micronesia is outside of the main typhoon belt, Chuuk and Yap are the most likely to be affected by typhoon activity.  
  
Training takes place in several communities in the Central Valley (near San José), so be prepared for warm days and cool nights. You will need a warm jacket or heavy sweater, especially during the rainy season, when the dampness and wind make it quite chilly. A blanket (easily purchased in Costa Rica) is necessary for sleeping even at lower altitudes.  
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All of the main islands receive a fair amount of rainfall, but none as much as Pohnpei, arguably the wettest place in the world. Pohnpei averages more than 400 inches of rainfall per year in the upland forests and more than 200 inches on the coast. On these islands, people go on with their daily chores, seemingly oblivious to the rain.  
 
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The climate in your future work site will depend on where you are located. You should be prepared for a location that is very hot, somewhat cooler, or anything in between.  
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===Social Activities===
 
===Social Activities===
  
Since your assignment will entail working with people, much of your “work” time will be spent socializing and getting to know community members by drinking a cafecito (coffee) with them. This time with community members is important to building the trust necessary to work effectively with them. The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to spend most evenings and weekends working or socializing in their community, except when they work in another community on integrated programming efforts. In fact, Volunteers may spend only one weekend night per month away from their site for non-workrelated reasons, unless they have requested vacation time.  
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Most social activities in Micronesia center on the family.  There are many sporting events, cultural events, and customs throughout the year in which you may be able to participate.  Micronesians love watching movies, and most families on main islands own DVD or VCR players.
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Going out at night to a bar or restaurant is more difficult for female Volunteers than male Volunteers. Traditionally, local women would only go out to the houses of other family members in the evening. Volunteers under age 35 or 40 will still be considered “youth” per the Micronesian definition of youth, and will likely be under the protective and watchful eyes of strict host families. Standards of social behavior may appear somewhat more relaxed in communities in Palau closer to the capital, but the nuances of what behavior is considered acceptable and not acceptable take time and patience to learn. Kosrae is the most religious of the islands, and Volunteers there may find themselves in church with their families every Sunday. Despite these differences in social activities and norms, most Volunteers learn to enjoy recreational time with Micronesian friends and find their niche over time.  
  
Most Volunteers celebrate birthdays, weddings, and holidays with their host families. Other activities depend on the size of the community. Smaller sites have activities at the community center, local school, soccer field, and churches. Larger communities may also have restaurants, a movie theater, a dance hall or disco, and special cultural activities. When you are in San José, you will find a variety of movie theaters, music and theater performances, art galleries, museums, and sports events. In addition, you are likely to discover places of incredible natural beauty close to your site and throughout the country.  
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Possible outdoor activities include snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. There are marvelous waterfalls on most main islands. Caution is necessary, as currents can be strong and flash flooding can occur. SCUBA diving is expensive, but spectacular. Much diving in the FSM and Palau is rated as advanced due to the currents. Volunteers interested in diving should become SCUBA certified before arriving in-country, as not all the islands offer accredited certification classes.  
  
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
As a novelty in your community, you will be noticed, and your dress and behavior will be commented upon. Therefore, to minimize any unnecessary obstacles in your work and personal relations, you must respect local cultural norms. To help ensure that you serve as a positive role model by working in a professional and ethical manner, you will be asked to sign a copy of the code of behavior that governs the Peace Corps program in Costa Rica.  
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Micronesians in all FSM states and Palau dress conservatively. Micronesian men rarely wear shorts to work. The average Micronesian woman does not wear anything that would expose her thighs or knees. Women typically wear longer skirts and muumuus (loose dresses), often with layers of slips or other skirts underneath so that their thighs are not visible when backlit. Bicycle-type sports shorts can also be worn underneath skirts. Tight blouses, halter-tops, and tank tops are never appropriate for women. Loose-fitting blouses with covered shoulders or T-shirts are appropriate. In your home, loose sleeveless tops that are not “strappy” may be acceptable.  Men should wear casual slacks and sports shirts. On some of the outer islands (Western Chuuk and Yap), both men and women go bare-breasted, but women still cover their thighs.  
  
Personal appearance delivers a message, whether intended or unintended. As in the United States, dressing appropriately in Costa Rica can enhance your credibility, since it reflects your respect for the customs and expectations of the people with whom you live and work. Inappropriate dress, like inappropriate behavior, is something that can set you unnecessarily apart from your community. Until you become well-known by Costa Ricans, your dress will be an important indicator to them. From the biggest city to the remotest village, you will be judged, especially initially, on your appearance.  
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Although island dress tends to be casual, trainees and Volunteers should dress up (long pants for men; nice long skirt/dress and covered shouldered blouses for women) during special occasions and when visiting government offices.  
  
Costa Ricans dress very neatly and take great pride in looking good in public (i.e., clean with ironed clothes, polished shoes, and groomed hair), even on informal occasions. “Dressing down” as a personal statement does not occur to most people, since they are still struggling to better their lives. For example, it may be confusing and offensive to them to see a “rich” North American wear dirty gym shoes when dressier shoes are appropriate. A Volunteer who looks “young” can gain greater acceptance of his or her ideas by wearing the right outfit, which generally means wearing what Costa Ricans wear in the same situation. For example, in schools, Costa Rican women tend to wear skirts, dresses, or pressed pants and men tend to wear collared shirts with pants. When visiting with neighbors, however, you can wear casual clothes.  You are expected to observe these guidelines for dress during pre-service training as well.  
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Volunteers are not only guests in the country but also representatives of the Peace Corps. Micronesians will look up to you for dressing well, and earning their respect will help you succeed as a development worker. Peace Corps/ Micronesia’s recommendation is to dress as conservatively as possible until you learn the norms at your permanent site. You may choose to consult with your host family and colleagues. Keep in mind that it is the older, more traditional generation whose support and approval you will need throughout your Peace Corps service for you to be effective. Modeling your attire after the extremes that may be visible in some members of the younger generation can quickly alienate the elders, who are the decision-makers in these communities.  
  
On the coast and in the big cities, shorts are acceptable for doing household projects and for recreational or sports activities. Shorts may not be worn at the Peace Corps office or in other professional settings (long culottes are acceptable for women). In hot areas, women often wear tank tops, sundresses, and dressy sandals for work.  
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During pre-service training, trainees will be expected to follow these same Micronesian norms of attire.  
  
 
===Personal Safety===
 
===Personal Safety===
  
More detailed 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 a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers, especially women, 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 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 Costa Rica. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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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. Although Micronesia presents relatively few risks to a Volunteer’s personal safety, harassment is common and there have been infrequent incidents of assault. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Assuming personal responsibility for your actions and integrating into your community as a member of your host family will help keep you safe. Appropriate dress and behavior will help minimize occurrences of harassment and the risk of assault.  
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Avoiding bars or isolated areas (such as ports) late at night and not walking alone after dark can also decrease risks. It is also important to be attuned to water hazards, and to check with your program assistant on your island of service before traveling on the water. Peace Corps/Micronesia monitors weather and water conditions, and will, at times, restrict water travel when there is a “high surf warning” or other weather advisory.
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Most Micronesia Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. Peace Corps/ Micronesia has established procedures and policies designed to help reduce your risks and will provide ongoing training to enhance your safety and security.  
  
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
The Peace Corps is not for everyone. You will have to cope with the frustrations of working in a new culture with different norms and behaviors. You may be made fun of because of your difference from Costa Ricans. You must be willing to live with a family, even it makes you feel like a child again or makes you feel like you never leave your work. You will work with government employees who are often overworked and underappreciated. The work can be mentally and physically stressful because of Costa Rica’s complex social problems. Resources may be limited and facilities inadequate.  
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Most Peace Corps Micronesia Volunteers have rewarding personal and professional experiences that are with them for the rest of their lives, but you will inevitably encounter frustrations. Collaborating organizations and host families do not always provide the support they intended due to cultural and family obligations, changing financial situations, or illness/obligations that cause people to unexpectedly travel off-island for long periods of time. The pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to.  Family, not work, is the priority of almost all Micronesians.  Some Micronesians are understandably hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old in the name of “development.” For these reasons and many others, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to and living in a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.  
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You will have personal responsibility and independence in your work in a way that you have not had in any other job. You will initially be a listener and an observer, and you may do little else for your first six months of service. Micronesians have their own goals and community priorities, and your biggest task will be to acquire an understanding of what they want for themselves, their family, and their community. You may find yourself in situations where you have little guidance and want to motivate your community partners. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact from your efforts and may not receive any feedback. Development is a slow process.  Progress may come 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.  
  
You will need to find inner reserves of strength to continue your work with enthusiasm, new ideas, and much patience. In most cases, you will structure your own time. You must possess the self-confidence and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without always seeing immediate results.  
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Your impact on the ambitions and English language skills of a child, your lifelong friendship with your host sister, or the computer skills you teach to a colleague are each significant accomplishments. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by focusing on your positive impact on the people around you and on your own personal growth and experiences.  
  
You will find that the key to satisfying work as a Peace Corps Volunteer is the ability to establish successful human relationships at all levels—with your host family, the community members with whom you work, counterpart agencies and school officials, and your fellow Volunteers. You can expect Costa Ricans to be friendly and interested in having you in their community. You will acquire a sense of accomplishment when small projects are made effective because of your efforts. In addition, acceptance into a foreign culture and acquisition of a second or even a third language are significant rewards. If you have the personal qualifications needed to meet the challenges of two years of service in Costa Rica, you will have a rewarding, enriching, and lasting experience. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have had a positive impact on other people’s lives while making much-needed contributions to the goals of Peace Corps/Costa Rica. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the rewards are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Costa Rica feeling that they gained much more than they sacrificed during their service.
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You will need maturity, flexibility, open mindedness, resourcefulness, and a good sense of humor. Micronesians are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. The Peace Corps staff, host families, colleagues, and fellow Volunteers will help support you through times of challenge and in moments of success. Most Volunteers feel that the peaks of their service are well worth the difficult times and leave Micronesia feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service.  
  
[[Category:Costa Rica]]
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[[Category:Micronesia]]

Latest revision as of 12:34, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

The postal system of the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia is modeled on the U.S. Postal Service. Costs for mailing letters and packages were identical to those in the United States, but as of January 2006, international rates have been phased in incrementally. FSM and Palau use their own postage stamps, and a customs declaration form is required for packages. Items that ship airmail normally take about two weeks between the U.S. and FSM or Palau, but those that go by sea may take months to arrive. The mail system is generally quite reliable. There is one post office in each of the state capitals of FSM and in Palau; all are open during regular business hours. During training, you can receive mail at the main Peace Corps office in Kolonia, Pohnpei:

“Your Name,” Peace Corps Trainee

Peace Corps/Micronesia

PO Box 9

Kolonia, Pohnpei, FM 96941


After you move to your site, you must make arrangements to have your mail sent directly to the state where you serve.

Telephones[edit]

Phone service within the main islands of both FSM and Palau is generally reliable, and long-distance service is available in most locations through the use of a prepaid phone card from FSM Telecom or Palau National Communications Company.

Phone service is not available on most outer islands. The four

FSM states and Palau each have one main telecommunications office in their capitals where you can make telephone calls and access the Internet. Cellphones are available in FSM and Palau; their coverage is limited but expanding.

Calls within FSM cost about $1 to $2 per minute, depending on the time of day. Rates for international calls using a prepaid phone card in FSM were recently reduced to 47 cents per minute off-peak; peak times cost about double. Palau prices are slightly higher. (Refer to www.telecom.fm for more information on FSM communications services and prices and www.palaunet. com for more information for the Republic of Palau.)

If your site is on an outer island, you will communicate with the Peace Corps offices using single-side band (SSB) radio (all outer islands you may serve on have at least one) or a Peace Corps-issued satellite phone, but you will not have international calling capability from your site.

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

The main Peace Corps office in Pohnpei and the field offices in the other FSM states and Palau each have one Volunteer computer with limited Internet access for Volunteers. Note that the Peace Corps offices are located in the state capitals and your site could be more than a two-hour drive away.

Telephone offices in state capitals and Palau offer Internet access for about $4 per hour, and there is currently no Internet capability on any of the outer islands except Ulithi, Yap. Some schools in FSM and many schools in Palau have Internet access on site, and Volunteers working with schools may have some Internet access at their school. Partner agencies that Volunteers assist may also have Internet access for Volunteers. The public libraries in Pohnpei and Kosrae offer Internet access at reduced prices. There are also Internet cafes in Palau and Pohnpei, which also charge about $4 per hour. FSM prepaid telecom cards can be used for prepaid dial-up Internet service from all four FSM main islands. Charges are based on traffic, and many users report that a $20 card will last them a month if they do not download large files.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

Volunteers in Micronesia are required to live with a host family for training and for the entire two years of service. Many Volunteers find it a challenge to adjust from the independent living they are used to. Household rules, especially for women, are likely to feel very restrictive compared to life in the United States. Yet the rewards tend to be immense. Almost all life in Micronesia revolves around the family, and being “adopted” into a family gives a Volunteer a vehicle to becoming part of the local community. Micronesians live with extended family, and find it extremely odd for anyone to live alone. Living with a family makes it easier to learn the language, provides unique opportunities to become part of the culture, and ensures a safer and more secure environment. Much of a Volunteer’s life in Micronesia is based on interactions with the host family, and these interactions help facilitate community entry. Married couples also live with a family for their entire service.

If you serve on a main island, you will likely live with a family in a small village. On main islands host family sites range from a two-hour drive to the capital to right near the city. Peace Corps/Micronesia is committed to focusing on rural communities. Living in the more rural villages is a very different experience from living in one very close to the capital town. On main islands, you may be surprised by how spread-out houses in a village tend to be. On outer islands, space and land is more limited.

If your primary site is a school in your community, you will likely be within walking or biking distance from the school. Taxis are available and inexpensive in most cases. You will likely use taxis or get rides with host families to get to town if you live in a village outside of town. Only the main island of Yap has a “public transportation” system of sorts; school buses transport workers from villages to the capital in the morning and back in the late afternoon.

Although living situations differ, most host families’ houses in the main islands of FSM and Palau are constructed of corrugated iron and cement, with tin roofs, and have electricity. Most houses have running water inside, but some have outside toilet and shower facilities on their “compound.” Most Volunteers take bucket showers. In most homes, you will find televisions, VCRs or DVD players, telephones, and other Western conveniences. Host families are required to provide you with your own room for sleeping, with a door and lock. Peace Corps staff attempts to identify host family situations for married couples that offer slightly more privacy.

If you are assigned to a lagoon or outer island, you will probably live with a large extended family, and you are not likely to have running water, electricity, or inside toilet facilities.

During “site development”, Peace Corps identifies housing and host families using criteria that include safety and security guidelines. Your host family might provide simple, basic furniture; a bed/mattress, table/desk and chair, and storage space.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will receive several types of allowances. FSM and Palau use the U.S. dollar for currency. Allowances will be deposited quarterly into your local bank account, which we will assist you in setting up once your site is assigned.

You will receive a living allowance of around $383 to $415 per month to cover your living expenses. You will provide $75 of this amount in cash or in-kind as your contribution to your host family. You will eat primarily with your host family. The remainder of your living allowance is provided to fund your needs for toiletries and household supplies, clothing, supplemental food you choose to buy, transportation, reading materials, recreation and entertainment, and other incidentals. A vacation allowance of $24 per month will be deposited with your living allowance. After you swear-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance of $150 to purchase household necessities such as a futon, lantern, and fan. You may find that even though you are a Volunteer, you receive more remuneration than your Micronesian counterpart or even your supervisor, which can create certain challenges. Additionally you will probably have more material goods and actual money than your host family, issues that should be dealt with sensitively.

Peace Corps/FSM/Palau will likely ask you to travel for training events/conferences. For these instances, you will be given funds to cover the cost of any additional transportation and meals.

Most ATM cards can be used in the capital towns of Pohnpei and in the Republic of Palau. Credit cards and traveler’s checks can be used in tourist areas in Micronesia and Palau. Volunteers are discouraged from supplementing their living allowance with money from home. It is important for Volunteers to live at an economic level similar to that of the people they serve in their communities.

Food and Diet[edit]

You will be living and eating with a host family, so your diet will be heavily dependent on what the family eats. In FSM and Palau, staples consist of breadfruit, taro, tapioca, and many varieties of banana, rice, ramen, canned meat, pork, reef fish, and tuna. On ceremonial occasions, dog is eaten in the Eastern Caroline Islands. Canned foods are popular, and SPAM, sardines, and turkey tail are dietary staples among Micronesians. Many items may be cooked with coconut milk, and Micronesians like sugar added to many dishes. Seasonal fruits and vegetables include papaya, soursop, eggplant, cucumber, avocado, and green beans. These fresh fruits and vegetables may not be a usual part of your host family’s diet.

Generally a meal is rice, soy sauce, and a meat/fish product. Local root crops (taro, tapioca), bananas and oranges can also be found at reasonable prices. For the most part, especially in FSM, few local fruits and vegetables are available at the markets. Some Pohnpei and Yap stores carry imported fruits and vegetables when the ship arrives, but they are more expensive and not fresh. In general, more produce is available in the capital of Palau. Cheese is sometimes available in Pohnpei and common in the capital of Palau. Eggs, tofu, onions, and butter cannot usually be found in rural communities, but tend to be available in island capitals after the arrival of a ship. It is important to remember that the host family is doing you a service by allowing you to stay; it is a hardship for them to constantly worry about the Volunteer’s eating needs.

The local diet is often high in fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Vegetarians will find it difficult to maintain their diet both because of the limited variety of fruits and vegetables and because host families expect Volunteers to accept the food that they eat. Most vegetarians choose to modify their diet while serving in Micronesia, at least to include fish.

Transportation[edit]

There is no public transportation in FSM or Palau, except for the limited school bus service in Yap. Volunteers are encouraged to use taxis, which tend to be inexpensive. If you choose to purchase a bicycle, the Peace Corps requires you to wear a helmet and will issue you one. You may travel by boat on a regular basis, and you are required to wear a life jacket (also provided by the Peace Corps) any time you are in a boat. Peace Corps prohibits Volunteers from owning or driving motorized vehicles and riding on motorcycles. Violations of these policies may result in immediate termination of your Peace Corps service.

Geography and Climate[edit]

The climate of Micronesia is tropical. Temperatures fluctuate very little annually (86 degrees Fahrenheit is the average year round, but it can seem warmer under the intense sun). Rainfall and humidity are high year-round. Northeast trade winds bring relief from the tropical climate during the first few months of the year, but these breezes are mostly felt directly along the coast. October through May is typically typhoon season in the Pacific. Although most of Micronesia is outside of the main typhoon belt, Chuuk and Yap are the most likely to be affected by typhoon activity.

All of the main islands receive a fair amount of rainfall, but none as much as Pohnpei, arguably the wettest place in the world. Pohnpei averages more than 400 inches of rainfall per year in the upland forests and more than 200 inches on the coast. On these islands, people go on with their daily chores, seemingly oblivious to the rain.

Social Activities[edit]

Most social activities in Micronesia center on the family. There are many sporting events, cultural events, and customs throughout the year in which you may be able to participate. Micronesians love watching movies, and most families on main islands own DVD or VCR players.

Going out at night to a bar or restaurant is more difficult for female Volunteers than male Volunteers. Traditionally, local women would only go out to the houses of other family members in the evening. Volunteers under age 35 or 40 will still be considered “youth” per the Micronesian definition of youth, and will likely be under the protective and watchful eyes of strict host families. Standards of social behavior may appear somewhat more relaxed in communities in Palau closer to the capital, but the nuances of what behavior is considered acceptable and not acceptable take time and patience to learn. Kosrae is the most religious of the islands, and Volunteers there may find themselves in church with their families every Sunday. Despite these differences in social activities and norms, most Volunteers learn to enjoy recreational time with Micronesian friends and find their niche over time.

Possible outdoor activities include snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. There are marvelous waterfalls on most main islands. Caution is necessary, as currents can be strong and flash flooding can occur. SCUBA diving is expensive, but spectacular. Much diving in the FSM and Palau is rated as advanced due to the currents. Volunteers interested in diving should become SCUBA certified before arriving in-country, as not all the islands offer accredited certification classes.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

Micronesians in all FSM states and Palau dress conservatively. Micronesian men rarely wear shorts to work. The average Micronesian woman does not wear anything that would expose her thighs or knees. Women typically wear longer skirts and muumuus (loose dresses), often with layers of slips or other skirts underneath so that their thighs are not visible when backlit. Bicycle-type sports shorts can also be worn underneath skirts. Tight blouses, halter-tops, and tank tops are never appropriate for women. Loose-fitting blouses with covered shoulders or T-shirts are appropriate. In your home, loose sleeveless tops that are not “strappy” may be acceptable. Men should wear casual slacks and sports shirts. On some of the outer islands (Western Chuuk and Yap), both men and women go bare-breasted, but women still cover their thighs.

Although island dress tends to be casual, trainees and Volunteers should dress up (long pants for men; nice long skirt/dress and covered shouldered blouses for women) during special occasions and when visiting government offices.

Volunteers are not only guests in the country but also representatives of the Peace Corps. Micronesians will look up to you for dressing well, and earning their respect will help you succeed as a development worker. Peace Corps/ Micronesia’s recommendation is to dress as conservatively as possible until you learn the norms at your permanent site. You may choose to consult with your host family and colleagues. Keep in mind that it is the older, more traditional generation whose support and approval you will need throughout your Peace Corps service for you to be effective. Modeling your attire after the extremes that may be visible in some members of the younger generation can quickly alienate the elders, who are the decision-makers in these communities.

During pre-service training, trainees will be expected to follow these same Micronesian norms of attire.

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. Although Micronesia presents relatively few risks to a Volunteer’s personal safety, harassment is common and there have been infrequent incidents of assault. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Assuming personal responsibility for your actions and integrating into your community as a member of your host family will help keep you safe. Appropriate dress and behavior will help minimize occurrences of harassment and the risk of assault.

Avoiding bars or isolated areas (such as ports) late at night and not walking alone after dark can also decrease risks. It is also important to be attuned to water hazards, and to check with your program assistant on your island of service before traveling on the water. Peace Corps/Micronesia monitors weather and water conditions, and will, at times, restrict water travel when there is a “high surf warning” or other weather advisory.

Most Micronesia Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. Peace Corps/ Micronesia has established procedures and policies designed to help reduce your risks and will provide ongoing training to enhance your safety and security.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

Most Peace Corps Micronesia Volunteers have rewarding personal and professional experiences that are with them for the rest of their lives, but you will inevitably encounter frustrations. Collaborating organizations and host families do not always provide the support they intended due to cultural and family obligations, changing financial situations, or illness/obligations that cause people to unexpectedly travel off-island for long periods of time. The pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to. Family, not work, is the priority of almost all Micronesians. Some Micronesians are understandably hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old in the name of “development.” For these reasons and many others, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to and living in a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.

You will have personal responsibility and independence in your work in a way that you have not had in any other job. You will initially be a listener and an observer, and you may do little else for your first six months of service. Micronesians have their own goals and community priorities, and your biggest task will be to acquire an understanding of what they want for themselves, their family, and their community. You may find yourself in situations where you have little guidance and want to motivate your community partners. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact from your efforts and may not receive any feedback. Development is a slow process. Progress may come 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.

Your impact on the ambitions and English language skills of a child, your lifelong friendship with your host sister, or the computer skills you teach to a colleague are each significant accomplishments. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by focusing on your positive impact on the people around you and on your own personal growth and experiences.

You will need maturity, flexibility, open mindedness, resourcefulness, and a good sense of humor. Micronesians are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. The Peace Corps staff, host families, colleagues, and fellow Volunteers will help support you through times of challenge and in moments of success. Most Volunteers feel that the peaks of their service are well worth the difficult times and leave Micronesia feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service.