Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Zambia"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
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==Communications ==
  
===Communications ===
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===Mail ===
  
People in Namibia communicate through a variety of means, including mail (called “post”), fax, e-mail, telephone or cellphone, and radio.  
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Few countries in the world offer the level of service we consider normal in the U.S. If you bring with you U.S.  standards for mail service you will be in for lots of frustration.  Mail takes a minimum of 2-4 weeks to arrive in Lusaka.  Surface mail may take up to five months to be delivered and is highly unlikely to be insurable. Duty fees must be paid on all packages received; the amount depends on the value (or perceived value here) of the contents. Though not frequent, some mail may simply not arrive. We recognize that when we are thousands of miles from our families and friends, communication becomes a very sensitive issue. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Air Mail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.  
  
===Mail ===
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Despite delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly, perhaps weekly or biweekly. Family members will typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so please advise your parents, friends, and relatives that mail is sporadic and that they shouldn’t worry if they don’t receive your letters regularly.
  
The postal system is reliable, but service to the more remote communities is often slow. Mail from the United States to Windhoek, the capital, can take up to four weeks. From there, it could take two more weeks for mail to reach your village.  Keep in mind that many rural villages and towns do not have direct mail service; in order to receive mail in these locations, Volunteers must purchase post office boxes in their nearest urban area.
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===Telephones ===
  
During pre-service training, you may use the Peace Corps office address:
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Long-distance telephone communication is available, though it can be difficult and frustrating, especially during the rainy season with its electrical storms. It is also expensive. A call from Zambia to the U.S. can cost about $4.00 per minute.  Calling cards can be used on private phones with the assistance of an operator and costs considerably less. Many Volunteers use this method when they are in Lusaka or in their provincial capitals. Each of the Peace Corps Volunteer leader (PCVL) transit houses, situated in five provinces, has a phone, so it is possible to arrange a time to receive a phone call. Most post offices in the major cities have international services but only during their regular hours. Within Zambia, telegrams take two to three days, are cheap and are sometimes the best/only way to communicate.
  
“Your name,” PCT <br>
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Zambia has an improving cellular telephone network and offers a choice between three cellphone companies: Zamtel, Telecel and Celtel. However, coverage is spotty at best outside of Lusaka and the provincial capitals.
Peace Corps <br>
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PO Box 6862 <br>
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Ausspannplatz, <br>
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Windhoek, Namibia <br>
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Your mail will be forwarded periodically to your training site.  Once you have moved to your permanent site, you will use the school’s address or get a private post office box.
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
===Telephones ===
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There are several Internet service providers in Zambia. There are also a growing number of Internet cafes around the country. The cost of access varies but tends to be relatively expensive. Due to the nature and quality of the landline connections, all companies offer both digital and analog dialup numbers. 
  
Telephones are accessible in most towns and villages, along or near main roads, and in most schools. No international telephone companies (e.g., MCI or AT&T) operate in Namibia, so you will be unable to make collect calls or use calling cards purchased in the United States. Calling cards are available in Namibia for use in-country and internationally. International service from the larger towns is good, but calls must be made from a telecommunications office or a private phoneCellphone usage and coverage is increasing throughout Namibia. Most Volunteers purchase their own cellphone during training or bring their own from home.  Text messaging (or "sms") is quickly becoming a preferred means of communication amongst Volunteers. The two major cellular companies are [http://www.mtc.com MTC] and [http://www.cellone.com.na Cell One].  MTC is the largest cellular company in Namibia and the preferred provider of most Namibians and Volunteers.  Volunteers are advised not to sign up for international plans with their U.S. cell providers, as these plans often do not work in Namibia.
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Computer and e-mail access are available at the PCVL housesInternet access is also available and free at the Volunteer resource library in the Peace Corps office in Lusaka.  
  
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
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Due to the lack of electricity and potential for theft, very few Volunteers keep laptop computers at their sites. It is not recommended. If you do bring a laptop, make sure to insure it.
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==Housing and Site Location ==
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Most Volunteers live in earthen houses lighted by kerosene lamps. Meals are cooked over wood or charcoal. Typically, Volunteer sites are in villages where there is neither plumbing nor electricity. You will have your own mud brick/thatch roof house, pit latrine, outdoor cooking area and shower area.  Drinking/washing water may need to be carried from as far as 30 minutes away on foot. Some sites will be very isolated and the closest Volunteer may be 40 kilometers or more away.
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Within the first week of arriving in Zambia you will have the opportunity to choose the language that you will be speaking.  Volunteers from the various provinces do a presentation to help you decide. The associate Peace Corps director (APCD) of your program may offer advice based on the various skills and interest of individuals in your group. Your placements are made in cooperation with the training staff and are based on their assessments and recommendations regarding your skill levels in the technical, cross-cultural, and language areas.  Your APCD can discuss particular preferences concerning a site. You will not be able to choose your site. Site placements are made using the following criteria (in priority order):
  
Access to e-mail is available in Internet cafes in Windhoek and other larger towns. Some teacher resource centers provide public access to e-mail but not the Internet, and junior and senior secondary schools throughout the country are increasingly setting up internet access in their computer labs. Internet access is also available through the cell phone companies with a GPRS capable GSM phone, as well as High Speed 3G service in larger towns.  The major cell phone companies sell 3G devices which connect via USB to a computer and allow the user to access the internet wherever there is cell service (including in rural areas). Check out the [http://www.mtc.com.na MTC Website]for more information.
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* Medical considerations;
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* Community needs;  
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* Site requirements matched with demonstrated technical, cross cultural, and language skills;
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* Personal preference of the Volunteer.  
  
===Housing and Site Location ===
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==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
  
Housing varies considerably. Your site might be a Western-style cement block house, usually with electricity and running water; an apartment attached to a student boarding facility (hostel); a traditional hut on a family compound; or a room with a local family. As the government has invited assistance from a variety of sources, you may also be asked to share a two- or three-bedroom house with one or two colleagues (either Namibian or Volunteers from other countries). Our expectation is that you will have a private bedroom, but remember that there is a shortage of housing for government staff in most areas in Namibia. The ministry or agency to which you are assigned is responsible for providing housing, as well as paying your monthly utilities and providing you with the basic furnishings (e.g., bed, chairs, table, stove or hot plate, and refrigerator).  With the exception of extremely rural sites in the northern part of the country and the Caprivi, most Volunteers have electricity at home; in these areas, it is the norm for Volunteers (as well as their host country colleagues) to make use of electricity at the school or office to charge electronic devices (i.e. cellphones).
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The local currency is the Zambian Kwacha (Zkw). Between 2002 and 2004, the value of the Kwacha has fluctuated between 4,600 and 5,000 Zkw per one U.S. dollar.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
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As a Volunteer in Zambia you will receive four types of allowances: a living allowance, vacation allowance, settling-in allowance, and readjustment allowance.
  
The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a monthly living allowance for basic expenses, a leave allowance of $24 a month, and a quarterly travel allowance for in-country travel.  All allowances are paid in local currency. The amounts are intended to allow a modest lifestyle, and most Volunteers find the allowances to be adequate. The last increase in the Volunteer living allowance in Namibia was in 2009, and annual surveys are conducted to assess the need for an increase in living allowance.
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The living allowance covers your basic living expenses. The living allowance is reviewed at least once per year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. In Zambia, this is typically about $200 each month, and it is paid in local currency. This allowance is disbursed to Volunteers through locally established personal bank accounts on a quarterly basis. It is intended to cover expenses including food, household supplies, clothing, recreation, transportation, reading materials and other incidentals. By comparison, your local Zambian peers working for the government will be making about $90 a month.  
  
Volunteers open accounts at the First National Bank of Namibia during pre-service training and are issued an ATM card. The Peace Corps deposits all allowances and reimbursements at the Windhoek branch, which Volunteers can then withdraw from the bank nearest to their site or through the use of their ATM card. For some, this involves a five-minute walk. For most, it requires planning ahead for a ride to town on a free day. Volunteers often travel to town with fellow teachers on payday.  
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A standard Peace Corps vacation allowance amounting to $24 a month will be added to your living allowance. This is also paid on a quarterly basis in local currency.  
  
===Food and Diet ===
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A one-time settling-in allowance, also paid in ZKw at an equivalency of roughly $160, is given to buy basic household items when you move to your site. In addition, a security upgrade fund, equivalent to $40, is added to be used for Volunteers’ homes. 
  
Basic foods such as flour, rice, pasta, and root vegetables can be bought in most communities, and a wide variety of products are available in the larger town centers. Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly seasonal in rural areas and may have to be transported from quite a distance. Canned goods are widely available throughout Namibia.  
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A readjustment allowance of $225 is accumulated each month. One-third is given to you prior to your departure and the balance is sent to your home of record after you return.  
  
Although committed vegetarians and vegans have successfully maintained their diet and health in Namibia, obtaining the recommended daily allowances of vital food groups and micronutrients can be quite challenging. The Peace Corps medical office provides multivitamins, calcium, iron tablets, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12. Some Volunteers in Namibia grow their own gardens in order to have fresh vegetables when they want them. Maintenance of a healthy and balanced diet will be discussed extensively during pre-service training.  
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When on official Peace Corps/Zambia travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and meals.  
  
===Transportation ===
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If you do bring cash for travel and vacation, only bring a limited amount because of the potential for theft. Cashing personal checks or checks family or friends may want to send is extremely complicated and should be avoided. Peace Corps/Zambia cannot facilitate any personal banking transactions.
  
Traveling by road is inherently dangerous in Namibia. People generally drive too fast and the level of driving skill and courtesy is often lower than you would encounter in the United States. The miles of unpaved roads and the poor state of many vehicles on the road, including those serving as informal taxis, present serious challenges to Volunteers trying to get around. Given the lack of public transport in many areas, Volunteers are often forced to utilize informal taxis or other forms of hitching a ride. The Peace Corps policies on transportation in Namibia urge Volunteers to limit their travel only to essential trips and to stay at site as much as possible. If a Volunteer has to travel by road, care must be taken to choose the safest route and means of transportation.  Given the paucity of transportation options available to Volunteers, this requires prior planning and flexibility on the part of the Volunteer. It will often be necessary to extend a trip or to put it off because the transportation options available are not safe. The ultimate responsibility for choosing the safest means of travel falls on the Volunteer.  
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It is also advisable to bring U.S. dollars because traveler’s checks are becoming harder to cash. Some foreign exchange posts do not accept $1 or $5 bills and you will receive a lower exchange rate for $10 and $20 notes. If you plan to travel outside of Zambia on vacation, some U.S. currency may be needed for airport fees, visas, and other expenses which must be paid in cash, in U.S. dollars.  
  
Taxis are available in some more populated areas. Bus service is beginning to expand throughout the country, which should provide alternatives to hiking in certain areas.
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==Food and Diet ==
  
===Geography and Climate ===
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Your access to Western-style foods may be very limited, but you will soon become familiar and even enamored with nshima (cornmeal porridge), cabbage, and kapenta (fish), as well as other staple foods like local leaf sauces and smoked fish. Fruits, other than mangoes in season, are difficult to obtain and can be expensive; vegetable variety is generally good, but can be seasonally difficult, and meat is not easily available for Volunteers while at their site.
  
Namibia borders the South Atlantic Ocean, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. It lies between latitudes 18 degrees to 28 degrees south and longitudes 12 degrees to 24 degrees east. It covers some 317,5000 square miles and has a population of about 1.8 million.  
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Ideally, mealtime should be a time of relaxation, but, in an unfamiliar country, mealtimes will, at first, be an unsettling challenge. The available food may seem strange in type and appearance; it may even initially appear to be unpalatable. Yet, you may feel obligated to demonstrate your friendliness and willingness to accept local customs by eating food that doesn’t appeal to you. You’ll need to stay within your comfort zone, but remember that the local cuisine, customs, and expectations are very different from your own. If you are not prepared to make some major adjustments in your lifestyle, you will very likely experience a great deal of frustration.  
  
Namibia’s generally hot and dry climate ranges from true desert to subtropical. As in other parts of southern Africa, temperatures are closely related to wind systems, ocean currents, and altitude. Except for the highest mountain areas, the lowest temperatures occur in the Namib Desert region and are affected greatly by the cold Benguela current from the South Atlantic. Daytime summer temperatures in the desert frequently exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime winter temperatures can drop below 32 degrees. Volunteers who accept an assignment to Namibia must be willing and medically able to live and work in this extreme climate.  
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During pre-service training, you will have many opportunities to become familiar with what is available, as well as how to prepare and cook a wide variety of foods. Some Volunteers will lose weight during training. This is to be expected; it is not unusual to lose up to 10 pounds during the eight to ten-week period.  
  
In the mountainous Windhoek region, average temperatures for the warmest month, December, range from 63 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. In July, average temperatures range from 43 to 69 degrees. Annual rainfall averages 22 inches in the north, six inches in the south, and about two inches in the coastal region. Rain falls mostly during the summer (October through March), and the winter (July through September) is very dry. The most pleasant months are April, May, and June.
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==Transportation ==
  
Windhoek is the seat of the national government and the business and cultural center. Keetmanshoop is the center of the karakul (sheepskin) industry, Tsumeb is the headquarters of copper-mining operations, and Otjiwarongo is the center of the cattle farming area. Swakopmund is a coastal tourist center, Oranjemund is a diamond-mining town, and Arandis is the home of the Rossing uranium mine. Walvis Bay is an important port and fishing center west of Windhoek.  
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All Volunteers will be expected to travel in Zambia using local means of transportation as your Zambian peers do (foot, bicycle, bus, van, or train) starting during your first days of training until the end of your service. Rural travel is very limited and difficult due to the condition of the roads and public transportation. Every trip is an adventure.  Transportation from your post to your provincial capital may be sporadic, may take a full day or more, and will generally be crowded and dusty. Volunteers may find it necessary to travel on trucks carrying produce or livestock or hitch rides on one of the district or community vehicles. It may take two days or more by crowded, public transportation to reach the capital city, Lusaka. Some Volunteers walk or ride their bikes up to 100 kilometers to catch a ride at a main road. Some roads are not easily passable by bicycle in the rainy season. All Volunteers will be provided with a bicycle and helmet. Riding motorcycles is prohibited.  
  
===Social Activities ===
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==Social Activities ==
  
Social activities vary depending on where your site is located.  In more rural communities, social activities include visiting neighbors’ fields and cattle posts and, for men, drinking at local bars. Cultural festivals, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and socialize with community members and their extended families. Groups of teachers sometimes go to town to shop and relax on paydays before heading off to visit their families. Namibia’s rich geography provides many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, including national parks and conservation areas.  Volunteers sometimes visit each other or meet in larger towns for shopping, socializing, or going to a movie. Although the Peace Corps recognizes that periodic visits to towns are important for networking and moral support, Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites as much as possible.  
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Social activities will vary depending on where you are located.  These may include taking part in various festivities, parties, storytelling, and sitting around at fire a night talking with your neighbors. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers on weekends and make occasional trips to their provincial capital, although we encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites to accomplish the important Peace Corps goal of cultural exchange.  
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
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==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
  
Namibians attach great importance to neatness and proper dress, particularly in professional situations. Volunteers are expected to dress appropriately both on and off the job and to show respect for Namibian attitudes concerning personal appearance. For work, male Volunteers usually wear slacks or khakis and a nice shirt, often with a tie. Female Volunteers usually wear a long dress, a long skirt with a nice top, or pants with a nice shirt. While floor-length skirts and dresses are not required, women generally do not wear skirts shorter than knee length.  
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One of the challenges of finding your place as a Volunteer is simultaneously fitting into the local culture, maintaining your own cultural identity, and acting like a professional. It is not an easy act to balance, and we can only provide you with some guidelines to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this will be due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing raggedy, unmended clothing is more likely to be considered an affront than someone trying to “get closer to the people.
  
Excessive drinking is widespread in Namibia. Volunteers come under social pressure from colleagues or other Volunteers to drink, often to excess. Because of the Volunteers’ unique status in the community and as a representative of the American people, they are “on duty” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As such, Volunteers are expected to comport themselves in a professional and culturally sensitive manner at all times. Peace Corps/Namibia has strict regulations concerning the excessive consumption of alcohol and these rules are enforced.
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Zambians regard dress and appearance as part of one’s respect for one another. They value neatness of appearance, which is much more important than being “stylish.” You are expected to dress appropriately, whether you are in training, traveling, or on the job. Not doing so may jeopardize your credibility and that of the entire program.  
  
===Personal Safety ===
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The following guidelines have been formalized based not only on advice from Zambians, but also on the experiences of current Volunteers.
  
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 Namibia 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 Namibia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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Dresses and skirts should fall below the knees. Appropriate undergarments should be worn, including slips. Men and women should wear shorts only at home, when exercising, or when doing work where Zambian counterparts are also wearing them. If shorts are worn in public, they should be of “walking” length. Hair should be clean and combed, and beards should be neatly trimmed. Men should never wear a hat indoors unless custom in the area allows, and they should always be removed when speaking to an elder. Sunglasses should also be removed indoors.  
  
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
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==Personal Safety ==
  
Invariably, former Namibia Volunteers speak of the relationships they established as the highlight of their service.  
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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 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 Zambia. At the same time, each Volunteer is expected to take responsibility for his/her safety and well-being.  
  
Many speak of how they learned to value a more family- and community-centered way of life, and of how they grew in patience and understanding. Most are able to pinpoint specific contributions they made to Namibia’s development (i.e., improving the levels of English proficiency of their students, teachers, and community colleagues; seeing students pick up science and math concepts; watching teachers try new ideas in the classroom; helping a community organize an important development project; and fostering a dialogue about HIV/AIDS).
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==Rewards and Frustrations ==
  
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 Namibia, and adapting to the practices and pace of life in a new culture. You are likely to have less guidance and direction than you would get in a new job in the United States. You may have to motivate yourself and your colleagues without receiving any feedback on your work. You will need flexibility, maturity, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness to overcome difficulties. 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 Namibia 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.  
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The excitement and adventure of the Volunteer experience are, in some measure, due to its unpredictability. There will be unexpected joys as well as unexpected disappointments. You could find plans for a health clinic canceled at the last minute because the Ministry of Health has been reorganized. Your plan to dig a well may be held up by a quarrel between local groups over who is to do the digging or because the required materials cannot be delivered as scheduled. The official to whom you were supposed to report may be replaced by a successor who knows little about a scheduled project. Such variables can erode the enthusiasm, the patience, and the idealism of a Volunteer. Your success will often depend upon determination, patience, and the ability to find another way. A Peace Corps Volunteer always has to be able to come up with a Plan B and many times, a Plan C, D, or even E! A big part of Peace Corps is the challenge to remain flexible, energetic, and hopeful at a time when it would be easy to give in to cynicism or indifference. Accepting the community and being accepted by it is essential for success. In both your daily life and in your work, Volunteers must take care to avoid the appearance of superiority or arrogance that can be associated with an outsider bringing “change” and “improvements.” Volunteers find that as they live and work in their communities, they learn as much or more from the people of their host country than they share in return.  
  
[[Category:Namibia]]
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[[Category:Zambia]]

Latest revision as of 12:27, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

Few countries in the world offer the level of service we consider normal in the U.S. If you bring with you U.S. standards for mail service you will be in for lots of frustration. Mail takes a minimum of 2-4 weeks to arrive in Lusaka. Surface mail may take up to five months to be delivered and is highly unlikely to be insurable. Duty fees must be paid on all packages received; the amount depends on the value (or perceived value here) of the contents. Though not frequent, some mail may simply not arrive. We recognize that when we are thousands of miles from our families and friends, communication becomes a very sensitive issue. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Air Mail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.

Despite delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly, perhaps weekly or biweekly. Family members will typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so please advise your parents, friends, and relatives that mail is sporadic and that they shouldn’t worry if they don’t receive your letters regularly.

Telephones[edit]

Long-distance telephone communication is available, though it can be difficult and frustrating, especially during the rainy season with its electrical storms. It is also expensive. A call from Zambia to the U.S. can cost about $4.00 per minute. Calling cards can be used on private phones with the assistance of an operator and costs considerably less. Many Volunteers use this method when they are in Lusaka or in their provincial capitals. Each of the Peace Corps Volunteer leader (PCVL) transit houses, situated in five provinces, has a phone, so it is possible to arrange a time to receive a phone call. Most post offices in the major cities have international services but only during their regular hours. Within Zambia, telegrams take two to three days, are cheap and are sometimes the best/only way to communicate.

Zambia has an improving cellular telephone network and offers a choice between three cellphone companies: Zamtel, Telecel and Celtel. However, coverage is spotty at best outside of Lusaka and the provincial capitals.

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

There are several Internet service providers in Zambia. There are also a growing number of Internet cafes around the country. The cost of access varies but tends to be relatively expensive. Due to the nature and quality of the landline connections, all companies offer both digital and analog dialup numbers.

Computer and e-mail access are available at the PCVL houses. Internet access is also available and free at the Volunteer resource library in the Peace Corps office in Lusaka.

Due to the lack of electricity and potential for theft, very few Volunteers keep laptop computers at their sites. It is not recommended. If you do bring a laptop, make sure to insure it.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

Most Volunteers live in earthen houses lighted by kerosene lamps. Meals are cooked over wood or charcoal. Typically, Volunteer sites are in villages where there is neither plumbing nor electricity. You will have your own mud brick/thatch roof house, pit latrine, outdoor cooking area and shower area. Drinking/washing water may need to be carried from as far as 30 minutes away on foot. Some sites will be very isolated and the closest Volunteer may be 40 kilometers or more away.

Within the first week of arriving in Zambia you will have the opportunity to choose the language that you will be speaking. Volunteers from the various provinces do a presentation to help you decide. The associate Peace Corps director (APCD) of your program may offer advice based on the various skills and interest of individuals in your group. Your placements are made in cooperation with the training staff and are based on their assessments and recommendations regarding your skill levels in the technical, cross-cultural, and language areas. Your APCD can discuss particular preferences concerning a site. You will not be able to choose your site. Site placements are made using the following criteria (in priority order):

  • Medical considerations;
  • Community needs;
  • Site requirements matched with demonstrated technical, cross cultural, and language skills;
  • Personal preference of the Volunteer.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

The local currency is the Zambian Kwacha (Zkw). Between 2002 and 2004, the value of the Kwacha has fluctuated between 4,600 and 5,000 Zkw per one U.S. dollar.

As a Volunteer in Zambia you will receive four types of allowances: a living allowance, vacation allowance, settling-in allowance, and readjustment allowance.

The living allowance covers your basic living expenses. The living allowance is reviewed at least once per year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. In Zambia, this is typically about $200 each month, and it is paid in local currency. This allowance is disbursed to Volunteers through locally established personal bank accounts on a quarterly basis. It is intended to cover expenses including food, household supplies, clothing, recreation, transportation, reading materials and other incidentals. By comparison, your local Zambian peers working for the government will be making about $90 a month.

A standard Peace Corps vacation allowance amounting to $24 a month will be added to your living allowance. This is also paid on a quarterly basis in local currency.

A one-time settling-in allowance, also paid in ZKw at an equivalency of roughly $160, is given to buy basic household items when you move to your site. In addition, a security upgrade fund, equivalent to $40, is added to be used for Volunteers’ homes.

A readjustment allowance of $225 is accumulated each month. One-third is given to you prior to your departure and the balance is sent to your home of record after you return.

When on official Peace Corps/Zambia travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and meals.

If you do bring cash for travel and vacation, only bring a limited amount because of the potential for theft. Cashing personal checks or checks family or friends may want to send is extremely complicated and should be avoided. Peace Corps/Zambia cannot facilitate any personal banking transactions.

It is also advisable to bring U.S. dollars because traveler’s checks are becoming harder to cash. Some foreign exchange posts do not accept $1 or $5 bills and you will receive a lower exchange rate for $10 and $20 notes. If you plan to travel outside of Zambia on vacation, some U.S. currency may be needed for airport fees, visas, and other expenses which must be paid in cash, in U.S. dollars.

Food and Diet[edit]

Your access to Western-style foods may be very limited, but you will soon become familiar and even enamored with nshima (cornmeal porridge), cabbage, and kapenta (fish), as well as other staple foods like local leaf sauces and smoked fish. Fruits, other than mangoes in season, are difficult to obtain and can be expensive; vegetable variety is generally good, but can be seasonally difficult, and meat is not easily available for Volunteers while at their site.

Ideally, mealtime should be a time of relaxation, but, in an unfamiliar country, mealtimes will, at first, be an unsettling challenge. The available food may seem strange in type and appearance; it may even initially appear to be unpalatable. Yet, you may feel obligated to demonstrate your friendliness and willingness to accept local customs by eating food that doesn’t appeal to you. You’ll need to stay within your comfort zone, but remember that the local cuisine, customs, and expectations are very different from your own. If you are not prepared to make some major adjustments in your lifestyle, you will very likely experience a great deal of frustration.

During pre-service training, you will have many opportunities to become familiar with what is available, as well as how to prepare and cook a wide variety of foods. Some Volunteers will lose weight during training. This is to be expected; it is not unusual to lose up to 10 pounds during the eight to ten-week period.

Transportation[edit]

All Volunteers will be expected to travel in Zambia using local means of transportation as your Zambian peers do (foot, bicycle, bus, van, or train) starting during your first days of training until the end of your service. Rural travel is very limited and difficult due to the condition of the roads and public transportation. Every trip is an adventure. Transportation from your post to your provincial capital may be sporadic, may take a full day or more, and will generally be crowded and dusty. Volunteers may find it necessary to travel on trucks carrying produce or livestock or hitch rides on one of the district or community vehicles. It may take two days or more by crowded, public transportation to reach the capital city, Lusaka. Some Volunteers walk or ride their bikes up to 100 kilometers to catch a ride at a main road. Some roads are not easily passable by bicycle in the rainy season. All Volunteers will be provided with a bicycle and helmet. Riding motorcycles is prohibited.

Social Activities[edit]

Social activities will vary depending on where you are located. These may include taking part in various festivities, parties, storytelling, and sitting around at fire a night talking with your neighbors. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers on weekends and make occasional trips to their provincial capital, although we encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites to accomplish the important Peace Corps goal of cultural exchange.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

One of the challenges of finding your place as a Volunteer is simultaneously fitting into the local culture, maintaining your own cultural identity, and acting like a professional. It is not an easy act to balance, and we can only provide you with some guidelines to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this will be due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing raggedy, unmended clothing is more likely to be considered an affront than someone trying to “get closer to the people.”

Zambians regard dress and appearance as part of one’s respect for one another. They value neatness of appearance, which is much more important than being “stylish.” You are expected to dress appropriately, whether you are in training, traveling, or on the job. Not doing so may jeopardize your credibility and that of the entire program.

The following guidelines have been formalized based not only on advice from Zambians, but also on the experiences of current Volunteers.

Dresses and skirts should fall below the knees. Appropriate undergarments should be worn, including slips. Men and women should wear shorts only at home, when exercising, or when doing work where Zambian counterparts are also wearing them. If shorts are worn in public, they should be of “walking” length. Hair should be clean and combed, and beards should be neatly trimmed. Men should never wear a hat indoors unless custom in the area allows, and they should always be removed when speaking to an elder. Sunglasses should also be removed indoors.

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 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 Zambia. At the same time, each Volunteer is expected to take responsibility for his/her safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

The excitement and adventure of the Volunteer experience are, in some measure, due to its unpredictability. There will be unexpected joys as well as unexpected disappointments. You could find plans for a health clinic canceled at the last minute because the Ministry of Health has been reorganized. Your plan to dig a well may be held up by a quarrel between local groups over who is to do the digging or because the required materials cannot be delivered as scheduled. The official to whom you were supposed to report may be replaced by a successor who knows little about a scheduled project. Such variables can erode the enthusiasm, the patience, and the idealism of a Volunteer. Your success will often depend upon determination, patience, and the ability to find another way. A Peace Corps Volunteer always has to be able to come up with a Plan B and many times, a Plan C, D, or even E! A big part of Peace Corps is the challenge to remain flexible, energetic, and hopeful at a time when it would be easy to give in to cynicism or indifference. Accepting the community and being accepted by it is essential for success. In both your daily life and in your work, Volunteers must take care to avoid the appearance of superiority or arrogance that can be associated with an outsider bringing “change” and “improvements.” Volunteers find that as they live and work in their communities, they learn as much or more from the people of their host country than they share in return.