Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in El Salvador" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Samoa"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
==Communications ==
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==Communication==
 
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===Mail ===
 
===Mail ===
  
Your temporary mailing address in El Salvador will be:  
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Your mailing address as a trainee is:  
“Your Name,” PCV <br>
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Apartado Postal 1947 <br>
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Correo Nacional <br>
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Centro de Gobierno <br>
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San Salvador, El Salvador <br>
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Once you have been assigned to a site and sworn in as a Volunteer, you will be responsible for sending your site address to friends and family.
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“Your Name,” PCT <br>
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Peace Corps  <br>
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Private Mail Bag  <br>
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Apia, Samoa  <br>
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South Pacific  <br>
  
In general, the mail system between the United States and El Salvador is dependable. Airmail can take anywhere from 10 to 14 days to and from El Salvador; surface mail many times take much longer (2-3 months). Also, the farther you are from a large city, the less dependable the mail. Local mail couriers, such as Urgente Express or DHL, can be used to to send/ receive mail a bit faster, however their service fees are much higher than those of the national post office.  
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Your address remains the same throughout your Volunteer service. Outgoing mail from Samoa to the United States leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays every week. Incoming mail from the United States to Samoa arrives on Mondays and Thursdays.  An office messenger picks up Peace Corps mail on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week, and then places it in Volunteer boxes in the hallway outside of the resource center. Mail for Volunteers on the island of Savai’i is taken over once a week.  
  
We recommend that you establish a regular for communicating since friends and relatives in the United States may become concerned if they do not hear from you for an extended period of time. However, we have found that after Volunteers have sworn in and moved to their sites, communication habits change as they become more involved in projects and the newness of their lifestyle wears off. A delay in the mail may also be the result of Volunteers being in a more isolated site.  
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Mail transit between the United States and Samoa (and vice-versa) averages two to three weeks. Family and friends should be forewarned that the postal workers in the U.S. may get confused between Samoa and American Samoa. If the post office wants to include a zip code with the address, then chances are the item will be sent to American Samoa and may or may not eventually make it to Samoa. Adding “Western” or “Independent” in front of “Samoa” often helps to cut down on the confusion.  
  
We do not recommend sending money, packages, or airline tickets to Volunteers through the mail. It is usually not worth the effort to get packages from home. Customs duties may exceed the value of the items sent, and the time invested often means an entire day’s travel to the city or airport.
 
  
Should it become necessary to have an item sent to you in El Salvador, we recommend that the items be limited to those that can fit in a padded envelope. Padded envelopes are usually not opened by customs officials and are taxed less than other types of packages. The express shipping company DHL International has an office in San Salvador. Packages may be sent to you in care of the Peace Corps office in El Salvador using this service. DHL can be costly and usually requires a phone number and street address. (Packages sent via an express carrier cannot be delivered to a post office box).
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===Telephones ===
  
The street address of the Peace Corps Office is:
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During training, telephone access is possible, usually with a local village telephone. When in Apia, you can use the telephone at the training hotel or at the Peace Corps office for receiving calls and for making local and collect calls.
  
Cuerpo de Paz/El Salvador<br>
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Collect calls from Samoa to the United States and abroad are quite expensive. If making a collect call, Volunteers usually relay the number to which the person can call them back directly.  Rather than making collect calls, except in an emergency, Volunteers normally make arrangements ahead of time via e-mail, letter, or previous phone conversation with family and friends on a date, time, and number to call them in Samoa.
Calle Las Dalias #3<br>
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Colonia San Francisco<br>
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San Salvador, El Salvador<br>
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America Central<br>
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The phone number for the Peace Corps Office in El Salvador is: 011.503.2208.2911
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Overseas phone cards do not work from Samoa. There is, however, an international call center in Apia where you can buy phone cards and make direct calls to the U.S. Internet calling cards and Internet calling are the least expensive option when it comes to conversing.  
 
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Airline tickets can be prepaid with the airline and someone in the United States can inform you of the reference number so you can pick up the ticket in San Salvador. Many Volunteers prefer to receive tickets via the e-ticket option.
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===Telephones ===
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The international phone service to and from El Salvador is very good. AT&T, Sprint, and MCI have direct dial lines from El Salvador to the United States however their service is much more expensive than local long distance companies. Because the national telecommunication system has been privatized, many local telephone companies offer very low rates when calling to the United States. Calls within the country may be made from the primary local phone company, TELECOM, from public telephones, or on cellular telephones. Even very rural communities tend to have access to cellular telephone service. A large percentage of the Volunteers purchase cellular phones for their personal use. However, there are some rural health and sanitation and agroforestry and environmental education Volunteers who live in areas that still do not have access to phones. If you have a cellular telephone from the U.S., and it has a SIM chip, you may be able to use it here in El Salvador.  
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There have been recent, major improvements to cellphone service, and a majority of Volunteers now have a personal cellphone with good service. Cellphones are available fairly inexpensively in-country, or a SIM-card ready phone from the U.S. can be brought and a phone number acquired in Samoa.  Most Volunteers receive phone calls from overseas easily, and can even text message back home. Volunteers are responsible for all related expenses.  
  
 
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
 
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
E-mail and Internet access are more common and widespread and frequently used by Volunteers, although travel may be required to find Internet cafes. Still, every department has Internet facilities, so access to Internet is never more than two hours away and often times closer. Some Volunteers have their laptops here and appreciate having brought them. This mostly depends on your personal interest, as it is seldom a necessity for your eventual work here.  
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Computer, Internet, and e-mail services are available at local Internet cafés in Apia, which trainees and Volunteers can access when they are in town. Computer and limited Internet and e-mail access are also available at the Peace Corps office once trainees become Volunteers. Many Volunteers bring their own laptop computers, but if you bring one, you will need to take steps to protect it from humidity and power surges, which occur often in Samoa. Vacuum-seal space-saving storage bags, such as the Space Bag, can come in handy for storing and protecting the computer from humidity and can double as an overnight bag for short trips. Storing your computer with a dehumidifier can also be a life saver if your computer is prone to failure in high humidity. Since the tropics are hard on appliances, many Volunteers pay extra for a good warranty on their laptops or other expensive appliances so they can get them repaired or replaced when they later return to the U.S.  Theft may also occur.
  
 
==Housing and Site Location ==
 
==Housing and Site Location ==
  
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed their pre-service training. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions.  However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process, and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages but will usually be within 1 hour from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites will require a 6- to 10-hour bus ride from the capital.  
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All Volunteers are provided with adequate and safe housing. As part of their contribution to having a Volunteer, host country agencies and/or communities must provide adequate housing.  
  
==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
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Capacity-building Volunteers live in houses provided by the Samoan government or a local nongovernmental organization (NGO). Most Volunteers in Apia share a house with another Volunteer or, in some cases, a Samoan counterpart. All houses in and around Apia have electricity and running water. All houses in the urban area have indoor toilets and showers.
  
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the Salvadoran people in their community. They are given a moving-in allowance at the time of swearing-in and receive a monthly stipend as Volunteers. The “living allowance” is to be used to cover daily expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for travel to other countries. Credit or debit cards are recommended for this. Traveler’s checks can be used, but there is usually a small charge for cashing them at the banks, and many businesses will not accept themCash is not recommended because of the potential of theft.  Credit/debit cards and traveler’s checks may be left in the safe at the Peace Corps training center office in San Vicente.  As a trainee, the training center will help you open a bank account at a local bank, where you will receive your trainee and Volunteer allowances and where you can deposit any cash or traveler’s checks that you might bring.  
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Volunteers working in the village-based development project, either live in a room with a Samoan family or in a small house on a family compound. Volunteers in this project need to be prepared to live with or very close to a family for their entire two years of service. This is a requirement of working in the project. Most (but not all) villages have electricityMost (but not all) villages have running water within the family compound, but not necessarily inside of the house.  
  
Many Salvadoran businesses, especially in the capital and resort areas, take credit cards, including VISA and MasterCard. Other major credit cards are accepted in the major cities, but not as frequently. The U.S. dollar is the official currency so there is no issue of currency exchange.  
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Most village houses will have flush toilets, but a few will have water seal latrines. Living with a family enables Volunteers to gain important insights into the Samoan culture and helps to minimize safety and security concerns. You will likely develop a love and respect for your Samoan family and an appreciation for having a second family away from home.  
  
You may find it advantageous to retain a U.S. checking account, particularly if you can convince your bank to waive service charges during your Peace Corps service.  
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==Living Allowances and Money Management ==
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Every trainee and Volunteer has a local bank account where their monthly living allowance is deposited. Presently included in the living allowance payment is $24 each month for leave allowance. Volunteers accrue two days of vacation time for each month of active service after being sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Since the amount of the vacation leave allowance is legally fixed in dollars, it must be adjusted monthly to the local currency. Therefore, the amount may vary slightly, reflecting a change in the exchange rate. ATM machines are available in Apia at the Westpac Bank where you will have your account. Your living allowance is sufficient to cover the purchase of food, transport, other essentials, and some entertainment for the month. You are encouraged to live on the living allowance provided to you by the Peace Corps. Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as their local counterparts so additional money you choose to bring with you from the U.S. should be reserved for vacation travel, not day-to-day living expenses. ;l.jkhjbv
  
 
==Food and Diet ==
 
==Food and Diet ==
  
Food Availability: Food availability depends on the season and the size of the community and region you live in. Do not arrive in-country expecting to eat the food you ate at home. Come with an open mind about a new diet.  
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Those living in or near Apia have a greater choice of foods: fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, and seafood. Rural areas have less in the way of fresh foods, but canned, dried, or packaged foods are readily available. Locally grown foods (e.g., papayas, bananas, taro, and breadfruit) and fish are generally available everywhere. The staples—rice, flour, sugar, salt, and bread— are relatively inexpensive. Butter and meat are also reasonably priced. Beans, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sour cream, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt are available in the main towns, but may be more expensive. Good-quality powdered milk and high-temperature treated milk in boxes that have a long shelf life are available and are reasonably priced.  
  
Fruits and Vegetables: Many local varieties of fruits and vegetables are available, and generally of good quality, but it is virtually impossible to wash away all dirt and microorganisms from vegetables with many minute cracks and crevices, such as lettuce, celery, and cauliflower. In markets, these foods are exposed to a variety of flies and other germ-bearing insects, and are handled by numerous individuals unfamiliar with basic hygiene. In addition, vegetables are frequently freshened by sprinkling with water that may be polluted. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that attention must be given to the selection and treatment of these foods prior to ingestion.  
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Vegetarians are sometimes challenged in Samoa, but it is possible to remain a vegetarian and eat a healthy diet. In Apia, you can do pretty well, as cheese, granola-type cereals, peanut butter, and fresh vegetables are available. Tofu is also available sporadically, but tends to be expensive. Thus, it serves as a nice treat, but not necessarily a regular source of protein.  Six different kinds of beans (soy, black, kidney, garbanzo, lentils, and split peas) are usually available, but they can be expensive. Grains readily available are oatmeal, brown and white rice, and barley. A few of the bakeries make whole wheat and whole grain breads, and pasta is readily available and affordable. Ice cream bars, salsa, fancy salads, nuts, and other goodies can be found, but like other imported items, they tend to be more expensive. When initially getting settled into a host family situation or receiving an invitation to a gathering, vegetarians find that patience and understanding go a long way. Although they may have explained to their hosts what they mean by vegetarianism, they may find that they are still served foods with canned or fresh fish, soups made with meat broths, or eggs and vegetables fried in lard or meat drippings.  Having a stash of peanut butter and crackers in your room or at the training site for those early adjustment days can help as longer-term strategies are developed.  
  
All fruits and vegetables that will not be peeled or cooked should be washed in soap and water (any dish detergent will do), rinsed in clean water, and soaked 20 minutes in a bleach-and-water solution. This method will eliminate many of the bacteria, but it is still less than 100 percent effective in destroying ameba cysts.
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==Transportation ==
  
Meat and Poultry: Many kinds of meat and poultry are available in the local market. Unlike similar products in the United States, they are not properly inspected, aged, or refrigeratedTo avoid the risk of infection, meat and poultry must be thoroughly cooked.  
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The Peace Corps issues bicycles to Volunteers who need them as a principal form of transportation. A bicycle helmet is issued to all Volunteers who receive a bicycle. Helmet use is mandatory. Buses in Apia are fine, reasonably priced, and fairly quick.  Most run from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Buses to rural villages are often crowded and generally uncomfortable, but usually reliable. Taxis are plentiful, and the fare can be split between riders. Volunteers are not allowed to drive a vehicle during their service, except in rare job-related or vacation situations(This requires the country director’s advance written approval.) Motorcycle use is not permitted.  
  
Seafood: Seafood, particularly shellfish, carries germs and parasites if grown in contaminated waters. Diseases that can be transmitted by shellfish include typhoid fever, infectious hepatitis, and some types of dysentery. Eat only cooked fish and shellfish. Never eat raw fish or shellfish.  
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Buses in rural Savai’i are usually unpredictable. Volunteers who plan to travel to the main town and wharf area of Salelologa early in the morning for shopping or travel to Apia must allow at least two hours before the normal departure time, in case the bus leaves before the scheduled time. Also, ferries sometimes leave early, especially during the peak public holidays when they get crowded quickly.  
  
Dairy Products: Locally obtained “raw” milk should be boiled. Store-bought packaged milk and other milk products (e.g., butter, cheese, or ice cream) if pasteurized, are safe to consume. Unpasteurized dairy products provide a favorable culture media for many infectious organisms. All unpasteurized milk should be brought to a rolling boil before drinking.  
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Volunteers living and working on the island of Manono-tai are required to carry life jackets with them every time they travel to and from Manono-tai to any of the other Samoan Islands. If Volunteers are planning to engage in deep-sea fishing or other water-related activities, they must inform the Peace Corps medical officer or safety and security coordinator and obtain a life jacket in advance. Failure to do so may result in administrative separation.  
  
Food Storage: Heat and humidity cause foods to spoil rapidly.  Prepare only what you will eat at one meal. Eliminate leftovers, particularly custards and puddings. Diarrhea is many times caused by spoiled foods.
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==Geography and Climate ==
  
All foods should obviously be obtained as fresh as possible.  It is best to store most foods in the refrigerator, covered in glass or plastic containers. Do not allow cooked food to stand around the kitchen uncovered. Handle food as little as possible.  
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May through October is considered the cool, dry time of year in Samoa. Temperatures drop by an average of a few degrees, and it only rains a couple of times each week. Nighttime temperatures during this period are generally very pleasant.  
  
Beverages: All water must be considered unsafe for drinking and making ice-cubes and should be boiled for at least one minute. Boiled water should be stored in clean glass containers, which are washed and rinsed frequently. Purified bottled water can be purchased only in the larger cities.  
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The rainy season begins in November, and you can expect some rain almost every day. Luckily, much of the rain comes at night. The temperatures are not that much higher than during the cooler season, but the additional humidity can be intense as can be the direct sunlight. People tend to avoid being out in the heat of the day. Cyclones (hurricanes) can also occur during the rainy season, although Samoa does not lie in the normal path of Pacific cyclones. On average, one to two cyclones hit every 10 to 11 years. The rainy season also brings occasional spells of hot and humid weather with little to no wind—especially at night. However, the southeast trade winds help cool the islands for most of the year.  
  
Filters remove some of the larger microorganisms and microscopic material, providing aesthetically acceptable water.  However, unless the filters are frequently removed, thoroughly washed with a brush, and boiled for 10 minutes, they act as a source of contamination. If filtering is used in conjunction with boiling, the safest procedure is to filter first and follow with boiling. Chlorine also may be used after filtering.
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==Social Activities ==
  
Volunteers contemplating local travel should carry their own purified water or obtain iodine water purification tablets from the health unit.  
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Village life is generally relaxed. The men go to the plantations in the early morning, while women tend the house and children, wash clothes, and gather shellfish at low tides.  Families rest in the heat of the afternoon. In the late afternoon, fishing, yard work, sports, and food preparation take place. Evenings are filled with prayer meetings (lotu), choir practice, easy conversation, bingo, evening strolls, dominoes, and the ubiquitous card game—suipi. Apia, on the other hand, works on a schedule of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Few shops are open outside of these hours. Sundays are incredibly quiet in Apia, with most people attending church services and enjoying Sunday afternoon to’ona’i (traditional umu feast) with their families. Only a handful of stores, bakeries, restaurants, and movie rental places open for a few hours. Employment in the numerous businesses, shops, and government offices provides people with an alternative to fishing or working on the family plantation. In the evenings and on weekends in Apia, people rent movies to view at home or go to Magik Cinemas, dine at local restaurants, walk on the seawall, and dance at local clubs.  
  
A variety of carbonated soft drinks are available in El Salvador. These drinks are generally safe because the carbonation process creates an environment unfavorable for the growth of bacteria. Coconut water is enjoyable to some and quite safe to drink. Hot coffee and tea are safe to drink, since the water has been boiled.
 
  
Stronger drinks served with ice should be avoided. Alcohol will not disinfect dirty ice. Moreover, many health authorities feel that alcohol is tolerated less well in the tropics than in colder climates. Excessive and daily use can cause salt loss and dehydration, make you more susceptible to dysentery, and reduce your tolerance to stress, heat, and physical activity. As is well-known, excessive alcohol intake can be extremely damaging to your mental and physical health.
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Social activities in the village and Apia also center around families, the church, and the village (most Samoans living in Apia still maintain close relations with their villages). Some important social activities for Samoans include preparing for a wedding or funeral; opening a church or school; playing cricket, rugby, soccer, or volleyball; hosting visiting village members or dignitaries; learning traditional songs and dances for festivals and celebrations; and playing bingo for leisure and/or fundraising for the church.  
 
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==Transportation ==
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Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited by Volunteers. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to a lot of walking.  On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this is only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process and will be needed to open your bank account, so please bring it with you. Volunteers in El Salvador do not need to get an international driver’s license.
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==Geography and Climate ==
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El Salvador is a relatively small country. Covering 8,260 square miles, it is about the size of Massachusetts. The capital city is San Salvador. Mountains separate the country into three distinct regions: the southern coastal belt, the central valleys and plateaus, and the northern mountains. The climate is semi-tropical, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is tropical on the coast and temperate in the highlands. There is a distinct wet season from May through October. November through April is considered the dry season.
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==Social Activities ==
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The Salvadoran culture is quite warm and hospitable, and most Volunteers find that establishing relationships and participating in local activities is very rewarding. For additional pertinent information on social activities, refer to the section on letters from El Salvador Volunteers.  
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==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
 
==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
  
The dress standards required of trainees at registration, during training, and of Volunteers in the field reflect what the Peace Corps staff (both U.S. and Salvadoran alike) believes to be culturally acceptable for El Salvador. These standards indicate appropriate dress on the job and in the capital.  
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A lot is said by the way you dress. To rephrase an old saying, “A new book is judged by its cover.” Follow your co-workers’ examples. Appearance is an issue that can easily get in the way of building trust and credibility within your community.  Clothes for office, school, and village meetings are along the lines of slacks or the local lava lavas (wraparound skirts) and sport shirts rather than jeans, cut-offs, and T-shirts for men. Women are expected to dress modestly. Knee-length or longer skirts and dresses are appropriate, as are short-sleeved shirts rather than tank tops or sleeveless shirts. Normal common sense works well in the village. Dress should always be modest, as your appearance reflects not only on you, but also on your host family. For female trainees and Volunteers, immodest dress (by Samoan standards) could lead others to misread your intentions. Clothes in Pacific styles can be made inexpensively by local tailors and having clothes made in-country can be a source of enjoyment as you can choose your own fabrics and designs.  
  
Sport sandals or flip-flops, regardless of their cost, are not appropriate for men or women in professional settings. Shoes must be worn at all times. Body piercings, with the exception of earrings on women, should be removed or hidden. Shorts are not appropriate outside the home for most areas, especially around the training center. Camouflage or khaki army equipment, uniforms, and duffel bags should be avoided.  
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As far as male/female relationships go, you should exercise caution. The term “friend,or uo, usually denotes something far different in Samoa than what it typically means in the States. In a village, you should not have friends of the opposite sex stay overnight in your home. If they want to visit you, it is best if your Samoan neighbors make arrangements for their sleeping accommodations. Your neighbors may be curious to know just who your overnight visitors are, and there will always be talk about your lifestyle. Privacy in the U.S. sense does not exist in the villages. Remember, everybody knows everyone’s business here.  
  
Men should keep hair beards short and neatly trimmed. Pony tails on men are unacceptable and facial hair should be neatly groomed. Shirts with collars are preferable to T-shirts. Women are strongly advised to wear bras at all times outside of the home. All trainees and Volunteers are advised to cover preexisting tattoos whenever possible, as tattoos in El Salvador are commonly associated with gang-related activities.
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The lifestyle of a female Volunteer in Apia is not as confined as it is in a village, but it still calls for sound judgment in culturally sensitive matters. The various nightclubs in the area may be an attraction to you, but do not go to or leave them by yourself. The best policy is to be in the company of at least one male friend or a small group of men and women.  Bars can present sticky situations where tact is a useful tool.  Some specific strategies in this area will be discussed during pre-service training. Samoa provides the perfect setting for living in the proverbial fishbowl. Your own personal discretion in keeping with your role as a Peace Corps Volunteer and good judgment in culturally sensitive areas should enable you to live in reasonable harmony within the Fa’a Samoa.  
  
For some projects, there is a need for more casual and durable clothes appropriate to fieldwork, such as boots, jeans, and work shirts. However, these clothes must be clean and mended, with no patches. The best advice is to follow the lead of the Salvadorans.
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==Personal Safety ==
  
In general, casual skirts, dresses and dress pants are acceptable attire for women. Lightweight pants are appropriate for some work and social occasions. Jeans (not torn) are commonly worn by men and women for social occasions and for some fieldwork situations. Trainees should pack at least two “professional” outfits for special occasions.
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More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be 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 Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety issues.  
  
It is important to remember that your personal tastes and characteristics should be a deciding factor in what to bring.  It is not necessary to change your entire wardrobe. You should base your decision on what to bring on your present wardrobe, the type of work you will be doing, and the few suggestions we are passing on to you.
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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 at staging and in Samoa. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.  
  
==Personal Safety ==
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==Rewards and Frustrations ==
  
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. 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 many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety problems.  The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in El Salvador. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. Anything short of total commitment to Peace Corps’ safety and security guidance may result in administrative separation, or worse, serious physical danger to the Volunteer.  
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Although individual work situations may be as varied as Volunteer living conditions, there are several important threads of commonality. The influences of New Zealand and Australia affect life and work in Samoa. Thus, Volunteers working in government departments or offices will encounter New Zealand/Australian administrative systems and procedures. Volunteer teachers find themselves teaching Australian/New Zealand-oriented curricula. Some Volunteers have supervisors who are expatriate personnel contracted from the British Commonwealth.  
  
==Rewards and Frustrations ==
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Most Volunteers are faced with the frustration of limited equipment, materials, supplies, and lack of funds to repair the equipment that is available. Lack of trained or skilled counterparts also causes concern among many Volunteers.  In cases where counterparts are available, different attitudes toward work can be frustrating. However, what may appear to be apathy on the part of some co-workers may actually represent embarrassment from not fully understanding the concepts or rationale in a certain task.
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Due to financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support promised, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and many people are hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys that occur while you adapt to a new culture and environment.  
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If you are a village-based development Volunteer, you will be challenged and sometimes frustrated by living with a Samoan family. Your privacy and individualism will probably be compromised, and you will be expected to participate in family activities and share in family expenses.  
  
You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will ever experience. Often you will find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your counterparts with little guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress is often seen only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
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Samoa is a country that benefits from high remittances from abroad. As family members living overseas send money home, families can often purchase Western goods or items that are expensive on the local market despite the lower salary levels in-country. This often causes a disparity in standards of living, and oftentimes gives the superficial appearance of wealth. Like most places around the world, there is a difference in lifestyles and living conditions between the capital and rural areas.  
  
To approach and overcome these difficulties, you will need commitment, maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Service in Peace Corps/El Salvador is not an extension of “year-abroad” study. However, Salvadorans are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. The Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during challenging times as well as in moments of success.  Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave El Salvador feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.  
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Are there rewards for Volunteers who sacrifice so much? Of course there are! Among them are learning to speak Samoan, becoming intimately familiar with another culture, and making friends with people whose life experience is vastly different from your own (including other Peace Corps Volunteers and Volunteers from other nations). You will also be playing a role in the development of another country, and, of course, will achieve some level of personal satisfaction in knowing that you were able to meet the unique challenge of two years of Peace Corps service in Samoa.
  
[[Category:El Salvador]]
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[[Category:Samoa]]

Latest revision as of 12:34, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communication[edit]

Mail[edit]

Your mailing address as a trainee is:

“Your Name,” PCT
Peace Corps
Private Mail Bag
Apia, Samoa
South Pacific

Your address remains the same throughout your Volunteer service. Outgoing mail from Samoa to the United States leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays every week. Incoming mail from the United States to Samoa arrives on Mondays and Thursdays. An office messenger picks up Peace Corps mail on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week, and then places it in Volunteer boxes in the hallway outside of the resource center. Mail for Volunteers on the island of Savai’i is taken over once a week.

Mail transit between the United States and Samoa (and vice-versa) averages two to three weeks. Family and friends should be forewarned that the postal workers in the U.S. may get confused between Samoa and American Samoa. If the post office wants to include a zip code with the address, then chances are the item will be sent to American Samoa and may or may not eventually make it to Samoa. Adding “Western” or “Independent” in front of “Samoa” often helps to cut down on the confusion.


Telephones[edit]

During training, telephone access is possible, usually with a local village telephone. When in Apia, you can use the telephone at the training hotel or at the Peace Corps office for receiving calls and for making local and collect calls.

Collect calls from Samoa to the United States and abroad are quite expensive. If making a collect call, Volunteers usually relay the number to which the person can call them back directly. Rather than making collect calls, except in an emergency, Volunteers normally make arrangements ahead of time via e-mail, letter, or previous phone conversation with family and friends on a date, time, and number to call them in Samoa.

Overseas phone cards do not work from Samoa. There is, however, an international call center in Apia where you can buy phone cards and make direct calls to the U.S. Internet calling cards and Internet calling are the least expensive option when it comes to conversing.

There have been recent, major improvements to cellphone service, and a majority of Volunteers now have a personal cellphone with good service. Cellphones are available fairly inexpensively in-country, or a SIM-card ready phone from the U.S. can be brought and a phone number acquired in Samoa. Most Volunteers receive phone calls from overseas easily, and can even text message back home. Volunteers are responsible for all related expenses.

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

Computer, Internet, and e-mail services are available at local Internet cafés in Apia, which trainees and Volunteers can access when they are in town. Computer and limited Internet and e-mail access are also available at the Peace Corps office once trainees become Volunteers. Many Volunteers bring their own laptop computers, but if you bring one, you will need to take steps to protect it from humidity and power surges, which occur often in Samoa. Vacuum-seal space-saving storage bags, such as the Space Bag, can come in handy for storing and protecting the computer from humidity and can double as an overnight bag for short trips. Storing your computer with a dehumidifier can also be a life saver if your computer is prone to failure in high humidity. Since the tropics are hard on appliances, many Volunteers pay extra for a good warranty on their laptops or other expensive appliances so they can get them repaired or replaced when they later return to the U.S. Theft may also occur.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

All Volunteers are provided with adequate and safe housing. As part of their contribution to having a Volunteer, host country agencies and/or communities must provide adequate housing.

Capacity-building Volunteers live in houses provided by the Samoan government or a local nongovernmental organization (NGO). Most Volunteers in Apia share a house with another Volunteer or, in some cases, a Samoan counterpart. All houses in and around Apia have electricity and running water. All houses in the urban area have indoor toilets and showers.

Volunteers working in the village-based development project, either live in a room with a Samoan family or in a small house on a family compound. Volunteers in this project need to be prepared to live with or very close to a family for their entire two years of service. This is a requirement of working in the project. Most (but not all) villages have electricity. Most (but not all) villages have running water within the family compound, but not necessarily inside of the house.

Most village houses will have flush toilets, but a few will have water seal latrines. Living with a family enables Volunteers to gain important insights into the Samoan culture and helps to minimize safety and security concerns. You will likely develop a love and respect for your Samoan family and an appreciation for having a second family away from home.

Living Allowances and Money Management[edit]

Every trainee and Volunteer has a local bank account where their monthly living allowance is deposited. Presently included in the living allowance payment is $24 each month for leave allowance. Volunteers accrue two days of vacation time for each month of active service after being sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Since the amount of the vacation leave allowance is legally fixed in dollars, it must be adjusted monthly to the local currency. Therefore, the amount may vary slightly, reflecting a change in the exchange rate. ATM machines are available in Apia at the Westpac Bank where you will have your account. Your living allowance is sufficient to cover the purchase of food, transport, other essentials, and some entertainment for the month. You are encouraged to live on the living allowance provided to you by the Peace Corps. Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as their local counterparts so additional money you choose to bring with you from the U.S. should be reserved for vacation travel, not day-to-day living expenses. ;l.jkhjbv

Food and Diet[edit]

Those living in or near Apia have a greater choice of foods: fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, and seafood. Rural areas have less in the way of fresh foods, but canned, dried, or packaged foods are readily available. Locally grown foods (e.g., papayas, bananas, taro, and breadfruit) and fish are generally available everywhere. The staples—rice, flour, sugar, salt, and bread— are relatively inexpensive. Butter and meat are also reasonably priced. Beans, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sour cream, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt are available in the main towns, but may be more expensive. Good-quality powdered milk and high-temperature treated milk in boxes that have a long shelf life are available and are reasonably priced.

Vegetarians are sometimes challenged in Samoa, but it is possible to remain a vegetarian and eat a healthy diet. In Apia, you can do pretty well, as cheese, granola-type cereals, peanut butter, and fresh vegetables are available. Tofu is also available sporadically, but tends to be expensive. Thus, it serves as a nice treat, but not necessarily a regular source of protein. Six different kinds of beans (soy, black, kidney, garbanzo, lentils, and split peas) are usually available, but they can be expensive. Grains readily available are oatmeal, brown and white rice, and barley. A few of the bakeries make whole wheat and whole grain breads, and pasta is readily available and affordable. Ice cream bars, salsa, fancy salads, nuts, and other goodies can be found, but like other imported items, they tend to be more expensive. When initially getting settled into a host family situation or receiving an invitation to a gathering, vegetarians find that patience and understanding go a long way. Although they may have explained to their hosts what they mean by vegetarianism, they may find that they are still served foods with canned or fresh fish, soups made with meat broths, or eggs and vegetables fried in lard or meat drippings. Having a stash of peanut butter and crackers in your room or at the training site for those early adjustment days can help as longer-term strategies are developed.

Transportation[edit]

The Peace Corps issues bicycles to Volunteers who need them as a principal form of transportation. A bicycle helmet is issued to all Volunteers who receive a bicycle. Helmet use is mandatory. Buses in Apia are fine, reasonably priced, and fairly quick. Most run from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Buses to rural villages are often crowded and generally uncomfortable, but usually reliable. Taxis are plentiful, and the fare can be split between riders. Volunteers are not allowed to drive a vehicle during their service, except in rare job-related or vacation situations. (This requires the country director’s advance written approval.) Motorcycle use is not permitted.

Buses in rural Savai’i are usually unpredictable. Volunteers who plan to travel to the main town and wharf area of Salelologa early in the morning for shopping or travel to Apia must allow at least two hours before the normal departure time, in case the bus leaves before the scheduled time. Also, ferries sometimes leave early, especially during the peak public holidays when they get crowded quickly.

Volunteers living and working on the island of Manono-tai are required to carry life jackets with them every time they travel to and from Manono-tai to any of the other Samoan Islands. If Volunteers are planning to engage in deep-sea fishing or other water-related activities, they must inform the Peace Corps medical officer or safety and security coordinator and obtain a life jacket in advance. Failure to do so may result in administrative separation.

Geography and Climate[edit]

May through October is considered the cool, dry time of year in Samoa. Temperatures drop by an average of a few degrees, and it only rains a couple of times each week. Nighttime temperatures during this period are generally very pleasant.

The rainy season begins in November, and you can expect some rain almost every day. Luckily, much of the rain comes at night. The temperatures are not that much higher than during the cooler season, but the additional humidity can be intense as can be the direct sunlight. People tend to avoid being out in the heat of the day. Cyclones (hurricanes) can also occur during the rainy season, although Samoa does not lie in the normal path of Pacific cyclones. On average, one to two cyclones hit every 10 to 11 years. The rainy season also brings occasional spells of hot and humid weather with little to no wind—especially at night. However, the southeast trade winds help cool the islands for most of the year.

Social Activities[edit]

Village life is generally relaxed. The men go to the plantations in the early morning, while women tend the house and children, wash clothes, and gather shellfish at low tides. Families rest in the heat of the afternoon. In the late afternoon, fishing, yard work, sports, and food preparation take place. Evenings are filled with prayer meetings (lotu), choir practice, easy conversation, bingo, evening strolls, dominoes, and the ubiquitous card game—suipi. Apia, on the other hand, works on a schedule of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Few shops are open outside of these hours. Sundays are incredibly quiet in Apia, with most people attending church services and enjoying Sunday afternoon to’ona’i (traditional umu feast) with their families. Only a handful of stores, bakeries, restaurants, and movie rental places open for a few hours. Employment in the numerous businesses, shops, and government offices provides people with an alternative to fishing or working on the family plantation. In the evenings and on weekends in Apia, people rent movies to view at home or go to Magik Cinemas, dine at local restaurants, walk on the seawall, and dance at local clubs.


Social activities in the village and Apia also center around families, the church, and the village (most Samoans living in Apia still maintain close relations with their villages). Some important social activities for Samoans include preparing for a wedding or funeral; opening a church or school; playing cricket, rugby, soccer, or volleyball; hosting visiting village members or dignitaries; learning traditional songs and dances for festivals and celebrations; and playing bingo for leisure and/or fundraising for the church.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

A lot is said by the way you dress. To rephrase an old saying, “A new book is judged by its cover.” Follow your co-workers’ examples. Appearance is an issue that can easily get in the way of building trust and credibility within your community. Clothes for office, school, and village meetings are along the lines of slacks or the local lava lavas (wraparound skirts) and sport shirts rather than jeans, cut-offs, and T-shirts for men. Women are expected to dress modestly. Knee-length or longer skirts and dresses are appropriate, as are short-sleeved shirts rather than tank tops or sleeveless shirts. Normal common sense works well in the village. Dress should always be modest, as your appearance reflects not only on you, but also on your host family. For female trainees and Volunteers, immodest dress (by Samoan standards) could lead others to misread your intentions. Clothes in Pacific styles can be made inexpensively by local tailors and having clothes made in-country can be a source of enjoyment as you can choose your own fabrics and designs.

As far as male/female relationships go, you should exercise caution. The term “friend,” or uo, usually denotes something far different in Samoa than what it typically means in the States. In a village, you should not have friends of the opposite sex stay overnight in your home. If they want to visit you, it is best if your Samoan neighbors make arrangements for their sleeping accommodations. Your neighbors may be curious to know just who your overnight visitors are, and there will always be talk about your lifestyle. Privacy in the U.S. sense does not exist in the villages. Remember, everybody knows everyone’s business here.

The lifestyle of a female Volunteer in Apia is not as confined as it is in a village, but it still calls for sound judgment in culturally sensitive matters. The various nightclubs in the area may be an attraction to you, but do not go to or leave them by yourself. The best policy is to be in the company of at least one male friend or a small group of men and women. Bars can present sticky situations where tact is a useful tool. Some specific strategies in this area will be discussed during pre-service training. Samoa provides the perfect setting for living in the proverbial fishbowl. Your own personal discretion in keeping with your role as a Peace Corps Volunteer and good judgment in culturally sensitive areas should enable you to live in reasonable harmony within the Fa’a Samoa.

Personal Safety[edit]

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put 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 Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety issues.

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 at staging and in Samoa. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

Although individual work situations may be as varied as Volunteer living conditions, there are several important threads of commonality. The influences of New Zealand and Australia affect life and work in Samoa. Thus, Volunteers working in government departments or offices will encounter New Zealand/Australian administrative systems and procedures. Volunteer teachers find themselves teaching Australian/New Zealand-oriented curricula. Some Volunteers have supervisors who are expatriate personnel contracted from the British Commonwealth.

Most Volunteers are faced with the frustration of limited equipment, materials, supplies, and lack of funds to repair the equipment that is available. Lack of trained or skilled counterparts also causes concern among many Volunteers. In cases where counterparts are available, different attitudes toward work can be frustrating. However, what may appear to be apathy on the part of some co-workers may actually represent embarrassment from not fully understanding the concepts or rationale in a certain task.

If you are a village-based development Volunteer, you will be challenged and sometimes frustrated by living with a Samoan family. Your privacy and individualism will probably be compromised, and you will be expected to participate in family activities and share in family expenses.

Samoa is a country that benefits from high remittances from abroad. As family members living overseas send money home, families can often purchase Western goods or items that are expensive on the local market despite the lower salary levels in-country. This often causes a disparity in standards of living, and oftentimes gives the superficial appearance of wealth. Like most places around the world, there is a difference in lifestyles and living conditions between the capital and rural areas.

Are there rewards for Volunteers who sacrifice so much? Of course there are! Among them are learning to speak Samoan, becoming intimately familiar with another culture, and making friends with people whose life experience is vastly different from your own (including other Peace Corps Volunteers and Volunteers from other nations). You will also be playing a role in the development of another country, and, of course, will achieve some level of personal satisfaction in knowing that you were able to meet the unique challenge of two years of Peace Corps service in Samoa.