Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Swaziland"

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===Mail ===
 
===Mail ===
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you come here expecting U.S. standards, you will be in for a lot of frustration.  Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive, often longer. Some mail may simply not arrive (this is rare, but it does happen). Although we do not want to sound too discouraging, communication can become a very sensitive issue when one is thousands of miles from family and friendsWe think it is best to forewarn you about mail service in this part of the world. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Airmail” on the envelopes.  
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Postal rates in Swaziland are reasonable, and airmail to the United States generally takes two to three weeks.  Aerogrammes and other mailing supplies can be purchased at post offices. Sending large packages via airmail can be very expensive, but smaller items such as cassettes can be sent via airmail for a reasonable charge. Surface mail takes two to four months to reach the United States. During pre-service training, you will receive mail at the training location. During Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site.  
 
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Packages sent via airmail can take from six to nine weeks; those sent by surface mail take around six months. If someone is sending you a package, a suggestion is to keep it small and use a padded envelope so it will be treated like a letter.  
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Despite the potential delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Volunteers in South Africa do not receive duty-free privileges, so be aware that you may be charged duty on items you mail to yourself before you arrive. Volunteers normally receive mail at the Peace Corps office during training, but obtain a local post office box once assigned to their sites.
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Packages received at the Peace Corps/South Africa office will be delivered to you only when staff is traveling in your area. Letters will be forwarded to you once a month.
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Your address during training will be: <br>
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“Your Name,” PCT <br>
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Peace Corps <br>
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PO Box 9536 <br>
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Hatfield 0028 <br>
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Pretoria, South Africa
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===Telephones ===
 
===Telephones ===
  
Do not expect to have e-mail or telephone access during training. Telephones are readily available in South Africa, but you may not have one at your training site. International phone service to South Africa is good, though expensive.  AT&T, MCI, and other U.S. companies provide direct long-distance service to the United States. Using a calling card is cheaper than calling collect.
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Domestic and international phone service is available in large towns and in some villages. You will certainly have the opportunity to make or receive international calls during your service. Cellular phones are becoming more affordable as cellular service is available throughout Swaziland, and Peace Corps/Swaziland provides Volunteers with funds to purchase a cellular phone after completion of pre-service trainingHowever, depending on network coverage, you may not be able to telephone your home from your site on a regular basis.  
 
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Cellphones are widely available in South Africa. You will find that most people have cellphones, even in the remotest parts of the country. A cellphone purchased in the United States may not work here, and many Volunteers choose to purchase their own cellphones here.
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The Peace Corps office in South Africa can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. The number is 011.27.12.344.4255. The fax number is 011.27.12.343.7774Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the office to call family and friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.  
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
 
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
Computers are available in South Africa, but most Volunteers in rural areas will find few, if any computers. Your site may not have electricity, so the ability to use a personal computer is not guaranteed. More and more Volunteers find that their school or organization has a computer, but knowledge of how to use the computer is limited. The Peace Corps office in Pretoria has computers available in the Volunteer resource center for Volunteer use. (Peace Corps staff computers are not available for Volunteer use.) Volunteers normally use these computers for committee work and to complete service documents. We encourage Volunteers to use computers that may be available at district/circuit offices and sponsoring agencies for any grant or proposal writing to ensure that counterparts participate in the proposal-writing process. In most large cities and towns, Volunteers are able to access e-mail at Internet cafes. Volunteers’ monthly living allowance includes money to cover use of Internet cafes.  
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E-mail access is available at Internet cafés in Mbabane and other large towns. As telephone service has increased, so has Internet access. You are likely to have access to these services approximately every one to two months, unless there is access near your site. You should not expect to have access to the Internet and e-mail during pre-service training.
  
 
==Housing and Site Location ==
 
==Housing and Site Location ==
  
All Volunteers live with a host family at a site located anywhere from one hour to nine hours from Pretoria, the capital. Proximity to another Volunteer varies from site to site.
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Your community will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria.  However, you need to be very flexible in your housing expectations. Housing will vary from a mud house with a thatch or tin roof to a cement block house to a room with a local family in a traditional homestead. Most Volunteers live on rural homesteads with Swazi host families. There is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity; if you do not, you will collect your water from a community tap and spend evenings reading by candlelight or lantern. You will receive a settling-in allowance in local currency to purchase necessary household items.  
 
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Your host agency will provide safe and adequate housing—in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria—that is likely to consist of a private room inside a family’s house or a room in an outside building within a family compound. Housing varies from mud houses with either thatch or tin roofs to brick homes with tin roofs. You need to be very flexible in your housing expectations because there is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity. If you do not, you will collect your water from a well or borehole and spend your evenings reading by candlelight or lantern.  
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The sponsoring agency or host family will provide you with basic items (i.e., a bed, mattress, desk/table, straight chair, and cupboard for hanging clothing or storage). Each Volunteer will receive an allowance in local currency to purchase needed settling-in items, as well as a water filter provided by the Peace Corps.  
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==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
 
==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
  
As a Volunteer, you will receive a modest living allowance, paid in rand, that will allow you to live on a par with your colleagues and co-workers. The amount of this allowance is based on regular surveys of Volunteers and the cost of living in South Africa. The living allowance is paid quarterly into Volunteer bank accounts, so the ability to manage funds wisely is important. The allowance is intended to cover the cost of food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 per month (standard in all Peace Corps countries) for the upcoming three months, paid in local currency, along with your living allowance each quarter.  
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The Peace Corps provides each Volunteer with a small allowance during training, a settling-in allowance, and a monthly living allowance for routine, basic expenses. A leave allowance equivalent to $24 a month and a travel allowance for official in-country travel are also provided. The allowances are calculated to allow a modest lifestyle in Swaziland, which most Volunteers find to be adequate.  
  
Most credit cards and ATM cards are widely accepted in South Africa. Current Volunteers suggest that you bring cash and credit cards for vacation travel. The amount of cash depends on the amount of traveling you plan to do while serving in South Africa.  
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The local currency is the lilangeni (plural: emalangeni). South African rand are also accepted as legal tender. MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in Swaziland, while Visa has more limited use. Traveler’s checks are also widely accepted. (Be sure to keep the original receipt of purchase.) Volunteers recommend that you bring some U.S. currency and credit cards if you plan to travel during vacations or after your service. The amount of cash you need will depend on the amount of traveling you plan to do.  In neighboring South Africa, credit cards are widely accepted at places of business, and there are many ATMs that provide access to bank accounts in the United States.
  
 
==Food and Diet ==
 
==Food and Diet ==
  
The staple food in communities where Volunteers live and work is maize (corn), prepared as a thick porridge called pap and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are available in South Africa, and with a little creativity, you can enjoy a varied diet even in rural areas. Volunteers either prepare their own food or share meals with their host family. You can determine what the best arrangement is for you once you have been assigned a site.  Fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means some things will not be in the market year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products are also available. Though most South Africans are meat-eaters, vegetarians are able to eat well here after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. Most South Africans do not understand vegetarianism and will not normally be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home. However, a sensitive explanation of your preferences will be accepted.  Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty after an initial adjustment period.  
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The staple food in Swaziland is corn, prepared as a thick porridge and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Common vegetables include tomatoes, greens, potatoes, cabbage, and onions. Various fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means that some things will not be in markets year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products is also available. You are likely to find canned goods and basic food items throughout Swaziland. Vegetarians will be able to maintain a healthy diet in Swaziland after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. However, being a vegetarian will require some compromises and a willingness to continually explain your diet to others.
  
 
==Transportation ==
 
==Transportation ==
  
Volunteers’ primary modes of transportation in South Africa are public buses and combies (minivans) loaded with people and goods. Combies travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel on this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in some rural areas.  
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The primary modes of transportation in Swaziland are public buses and minivans. Minivans travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel via this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in remote, rural areas. Roads generally are in good condition in the larger towns and cities. Poorly maintained vehicles, livestock wandering into the road, and intoxicated drivers are the main causes of road accidents in Swaziland.
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Swaziland Volunteers receive an all-terrain bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate transportation to and from their work. Peace Corps policy requires that helmets be worn when riding. The bikes provided by the Peace Corps are men’s bikes, which can be difficult for women to ride when wearing a skirt. Female Volunteers often wear shorts under their skirts to accommodate this.  
  
Many Volunteers receive an all-terrain bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate their work. It is Peace Corps’ policy that helmets be worn when riding. Note that these bikes are men’s bikes, which can be difficult for women to ride when wearing a skirt. Many female Volunteers wear shorts under their skirt to solve this problem.  
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Volunteers are not allowed to own or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles. Furthermore, Volunteers are not allowed to ride or be a passenger on a motorcycle. All trainees will receive a copy of Peace Corps/Swaziland’s transportation policy during pre-service training. Violation of this policy will result in your being terminated from Volunteer service.  
  
Volunteers are not allowed to drive, own, or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles (two- or three-wheeled).  Violation of this policy can result in your being terminated from Volunteer service.
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==Geography and Climate==
  
==Geography and Climate ==
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Swaziland can be divided into four distinct geographical areas, running north to south, each with its own climate and other characteristics: highveld, middleveld, lowveld (or bushveld), and the Lubombo Plateau.
  
Most world maps give a poor idea of how large South Africa actually is. At 472,276 square miles, it is five times the size of the United Kingdom and one-eighth the size of the United States. Kruger National Park alone is as big as Wales, and the distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town is the same as that from London to Rome. The country’s 1,835 miles of coastline border the Atlantic and Indian oceans, which meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.  
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On the western border is the highveld, lying on the edge of an escarpment at altitudes averaging 4,000 feet. This mountainous area has abundant rivers, waterfalls, and gorges. The climate is temperate with wet, warm summers and cold, dry winters. The capital, Mbabane, is located in this area. Moving toward the east, at a lower altitude, is the middleveld, which gets slightly less rain, has a warm climate, and features lush, fertile valleys. This region is the main area for agriculture and industry and has the densest population. Adjacent to the middleveld is the lowveld, which is hotter and drier than the areas to the west. Major export crops such as sugarcane and citrus fruits are cultivated here. Dominated by grasslands and thorn trees, the region is the least populated area. Eastern Swaziland consists of the Lubombo Plateau, an escarpment bordering Mozambique. This mountainous area is broken by three main rivers and has a subtropical climate much like that of the middleveld.  
  
South Africa is south of the equator, so its seasons will be the opposite of what you are accustomed to. January is midsummer and July is midwinter. Johannesburg, Pretoria, and the rest of the eastern Highveld have a dry, sunny climate, with maximum winter temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and crisp nights, with temperatures dropping to around 40 degrees. Between October and April, the daytime temperature can rise into the 80s, with frequent late-afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures can get hotter in the Great Karroo, the semidesert heart of the three Cape provinces; in the Kalahari region; and in the Lowveld of the Eastern and Northern Transvaal. The terrain ranges in altitude from sea level to South Africa’s highest peak, Injasuti (11,178 feet), in the Drakensberg, near the border with Lesotho, and contains ecosystems from tropical forest to desert dunes. Almost every known crop can be grown somewhere in the country.  
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The moderate climate ranges from subtropical to temperate depending on the altitude. June through September is cool and dry, but often cold at night, while October through May is warm and wet. Higher elevations are generally cloudy, mist covered, and about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the country. The temperature in Mbabane ranges from 59 to 77 degrees in January and 42 to 67 degrees in July (Farenheit).  
  
 
==Social Activities ==
 
==Social Activities ==
  
Your social life will vary depending on where you are located, but is likely to include taking part in various community festivities and celebrations. The most common form of entertainment is socializing with friends and neighbors. There are three television stations, which broadcast both South African and American productions, and several radio stations that play popular music. In communities with electricity, watching TV is a major pastime.  
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Your social life will vary depending on where you are located.  In more rural communities, the major pastime is visiting with neighbors and friends. Cultural festivities, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and catch up with community members and their extended families.  
  
Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers on weekends and during holidays. However, we encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites in order to develop relationships in their community and promote the second goal of the Peace Corps, cultural exchange. Most regional towns have movies, Internet cafes, and restaurants that Volunteers can take advantage of when in town for shopping or other business.  
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Although Volunteers often want to visit other Volunteers on weekends or holidays, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites to develop relationships in their community and to promote the second goal of the Peace Corps, i.e., cultural exchange. Also, in accordance with the Peace Corps’ philosophy of full community integration, Volunteers are deemed to be on duty seven days a week, except on national or local holidays.  
  
==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
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Swaziland has a few television stations and several radio stations that play popular music.
  
South Africans place an importance on professional dress in the workplace. Dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in the major cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In South Africa, your clothes are seen as a sign of your respect for those around you. South Africans do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing them will reduce the amount of respect given to you and therefore your effectiveness. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses, skirts, or slacks with blouses or shirts. South Africans generally do not hesitate to voice their opinions when they consider someone’s dress to be embarrassing or inappropriate.
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==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior==
  
The Peace Corps is still a young organization in South Africa, and as a Volunteer you will be expected to behave in a way that fosters respect within your community and reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well the agency is received. You will have the status of an invited guest, and thus you will have to be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. If you have reservations about your ability or willingness to do so, you should reevaluate your decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Volunteering to work effectively in another culture requires a level of sacrifice and flexibility that can be difficult for some people. Behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps program or your personal safety in South Africa cannot be tolerated and may lead to administrative separation—a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.  
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Swazis value professional dress in the workplace, and dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In Swaziland, dressing well is seen as a sign of your respect for others, and how you are viewed by your local colleagues will be highly dependent on the way you present yourself. Swazis do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing such clothes will reduce the amount of respect given to you and therefore your effectiveness. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses or skirts or slacks with blouses or shirts.  
  
==Personal Safety ==
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The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you but reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well the agency is received.  As an invited guest, you must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.
  
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter of this Welcome Book and in Peace Corps/South Africa’s Volunteer Safety Manual, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most South Africa 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 safety training, will be provided once you arrive in South Africa. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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==Personal Safety==
  
'''The AIDS pandemic''' strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.  
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety section, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Swaziland 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 safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Swaziland. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
==Rewards and Frustrations ==
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==Rewards and Frustrations==
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Perceptions of time that are very different from those in the United States, financial or other challenges of collaborating agencies, lack of expected support in a timely manner, and being perceived as very rich can be challenging. Peace Corps Volunteers often describe their experience of adapting to a new culture and environment as an intense series of emotional peaks and valleys. You will be given a great deal of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you ever have. Often you will need to motivate yourself and others with little to no guidance. You might work for months with little visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
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Invariably, Volunteers who have completed their service speak of the relationships that they have established as the highlight of their service. Many speak of how they learned to value and respect a more family- and community-centered way of life and of how they have grown in patience and understanding. Most are able to point to specific contributions they have made to a country’s development. In Swaziland, such contributions might include increasing the dialogue about HIV/AIDS; helping improve the level of knowledge about HIV/ AIDS among community members, teachers, and students; seeing colleagues try new approaches to nonformal education; and helping a community organize and plan an important project.  
  
To deal with these difficulties you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, compassion, and resourcefulness. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave South Africa feeling that they gained more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community, work hard, and revel in small accomplishments, you will have a truly life-altering experience. it will be hard.
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The positive reflections are the endpoint of a series of highs and lows that are part and parcel of the process of leaving the United States, arriving in Swaziland, and adapting to the practices and slower pace of life in a new culture. You will have less guidance and direction than you would get in a new job in the United States. Oftentimes you will need to motivate yourself and your counterpart without receiving any feedback on your work. You will need flexibility, maturity, openmindedness, and resourcefulness to overcome difficulties. Community development work is not a 9-to-5 job. Often there is little structure in place as a result of the devastation of HIV/AIDS in the rural areas. If you are willing to respect and become integrated into your community, to work hard at your assignment, and to be open to all that Swaziland has to offer, you will be a successful Volunteer. You, too, will be able to look back positively on the relationships you have built and the small differences you have made by virtue of those relationships.  
  
  
[[Category:South Africa]]
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[[Category:Swaziland]]

Latest revision as of 12:27, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

Postal rates in Swaziland are reasonable, and airmail to the United States generally takes two to three weeks. Aerogrammes and other mailing supplies can be purchased at post offices. Sending large packages via airmail can be very expensive, but smaller items such as cassettes can be sent via airmail for a reasonable charge. Surface mail takes two to four months to reach the United States. During pre-service training, you will receive mail at the training location. During Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site.

Telephones[edit]

Domestic and international phone service is available in large towns and in some villages. You will certainly have the opportunity to make or receive international calls during your service. Cellular phones are becoming more affordable as cellular service is available throughout Swaziland, and Peace Corps/Swaziland provides Volunteers with funds to purchase a cellular phone after completion of pre-service training. However, depending on network coverage, you may not be able to telephone your home from your site on a regular basis.

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

E-mail access is available at Internet cafés in Mbabane and other large towns. As telephone service has increased, so has Internet access. You are likely to have access to these services approximately every one to two months, unless there is access near your site. You should not expect to have access to the Internet and e-mail during pre-service training.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

Your community will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. However, you need to be very flexible in your housing expectations. Housing will vary from a mud house with a thatch or tin roof to a cement block house to a room with a local family in a traditional homestead. Most Volunteers live on rural homesteads with Swazi host families. There is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity; if you do not, you will collect your water from a community tap and spend evenings reading by candlelight or lantern. You will receive a settling-in allowance in local currency to purchase necessary household items.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

The Peace Corps provides each Volunteer with a small allowance during training, a settling-in allowance, and a monthly living allowance for routine, basic expenses. A leave allowance equivalent to $24 a month and a travel allowance for official in-country travel are also provided. The allowances are calculated to allow a modest lifestyle in Swaziland, which most Volunteers find to be adequate.

The local currency is the lilangeni (plural: emalangeni). South African rand are also accepted as legal tender. MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in Swaziland, while Visa has more limited use. Traveler’s checks are also widely accepted. (Be sure to keep the original receipt of purchase.) Volunteers recommend that you bring some U.S. currency and credit cards if you plan to travel during vacations or after your service. The amount of cash you need will depend on the amount of traveling you plan to do. In neighboring South Africa, credit cards are widely accepted at places of business, and there are many ATMs that provide access to bank accounts in the United States.

Food and Diet[edit]

The staple food in Swaziland is corn, prepared as a thick porridge and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Common vegetables include tomatoes, greens, potatoes, cabbage, and onions. Various fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means that some things will not be in markets year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products is also available. You are likely to find canned goods and basic food items throughout Swaziland. Vegetarians will be able to maintain a healthy diet in Swaziland after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. However, being a vegetarian will require some compromises and a willingness to continually explain your diet to others.

Transportation[edit]

The primary modes of transportation in Swaziland are public buses and minivans. Minivans travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel via this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in remote, rural areas. Roads generally are in good condition in the larger towns and cities. Poorly maintained vehicles, livestock wandering into the road, and intoxicated drivers are the main causes of road accidents in Swaziland.

Swaziland Volunteers receive an all-terrain bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate transportation to and from their work. Peace Corps policy requires that helmets be worn when riding. The bikes provided by the Peace Corps are men’s bikes, which can be difficult for women to ride when wearing a skirt. Female Volunteers often wear shorts under their skirts to accommodate this.

Volunteers are not allowed to own or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles. Furthermore, Volunteers are not allowed to ride or be a passenger on a motorcycle. All trainees will receive a copy of Peace Corps/Swaziland’s transportation policy during pre-service training. Violation of this policy will result in your being terminated from Volunteer service.

Geography and Climate[edit]

Swaziland can be divided into four distinct geographical areas, running north to south, each with its own climate and other characteristics: highveld, middleveld, lowveld (or bushveld), and the Lubombo Plateau.

On the western border is the highveld, lying on the edge of an escarpment at altitudes averaging 4,000 feet. This mountainous area has abundant rivers, waterfalls, and gorges. The climate is temperate with wet, warm summers and cold, dry winters. The capital, Mbabane, is located in this area. Moving toward the east, at a lower altitude, is the middleveld, which gets slightly less rain, has a warm climate, and features lush, fertile valleys. This region is the main area for agriculture and industry and has the densest population. Adjacent to the middleveld is the lowveld, which is hotter and drier than the areas to the west. Major export crops such as sugarcane and citrus fruits are cultivated here. Dominated by grasslands and thorn trees, the region is the least populated area. Eastern Swaziland consists of the Lubombo Plateau, an escarpment bordering Mozambique. This mountainous area is broken by three main rivers and has a subtropical climate much like that of the middleveld.

The moderate climate ranges from subtropical to temperate depending on the altitude. June through September is cool and dry, but often cold at night, while October through May is warm and wet. Higher elevations are generally cloudy, mist covered, and about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the country. The temperature in Mbabane ranges from 59 to 77 degrees in January and 42 to 67 degrees in July (Farenheit).

Social Activities[edit]

Your social life will vary depending on where you are located. In more rural communities, the major pastime is visiting with neighbors and friends. Cultural festivities, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and catch up with community members and their extended families.

Although Volunteers often want to visit other Volunteers on weekends or holidays, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites to develop relationships in their community and to promote the second goal of the Peace Corps, i.e., cultural exchange. Also, in accordance with the Peace Corps’ philosophy of full community integration, Volunteers are deemed to be on duty seven days a week, except on national or local holidays.

Swaziland has a few television stations and several radio stations that play popular music.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

Swazis value professional dress in the workplace, and dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In Swaziland, dressing well is seen as a sign of your respect for others, and how you are viewed by your local colleagues will be highly dependent on the way you present yourself. Swazis do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing such clothes will reduce the amount of respect given to you and therefore your effectiveness. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses or skirts or slacks with blouses or shirts.

The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you but reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well the agency is received. As an invited guest, you must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.

Personal Safety[edit]

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety section, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Swaziland 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 safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Swaziland. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

Invariably, Volunteers who have completed their service speak of the relationships that they have established as the highlight of their service. Many speak of how they learned to value and respect a more family- and community-centered way of life and of how they have grown in patience and understanding. Most are able to point to specific contributions they have made to a country’s development. In Swaziland, such contributions might include increasing the dialogue about HIV/AIDS; helping improve the level of knowledge about HIV/ AIDS among community members, teachers, and students; seeing colleagues try new approaches to nonformal education; and helping a community organize and plan an important project.

The positive reflections are the endpoint of a series of highs and lows that are part and parcel of the process of leaving the United States, arriving in Swaziland, and adapting to the practices and slower pace of life in a new culture. You will have less guidance and direction than you would get in a new job in the United States. Oftentimes you will need to motivate yourself and your counterpart without receiving any feedback on your work. You will need flexibility, maturity, openmindedness, and resourcefulness to overcome difficulties. Community development work is not a 9-to-5 job. Often there is little structure in place as a result of the devastation of HIV/AIDS in the rural areas. If you are willing to respect and become integrated into your community, to work hard at your assignment, and to be open to all that Swaziland has to offer, you will be a successful Volunteer. You, too, will be able to look back positively on the relationships you have built and the small differences you have made by virtue of those relationships.