Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Ghana" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali"

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====Mail====
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You should be prepared for a significant reduction in the frequency and reliability of communications with friends and family. It is a good idea to prepare your family and friends for the reality of lengthy delays between letters, the lack of regular access to a telephone, and uncertain access to e-mail.
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we have in the United States. If you bring with you U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for a great deal of frustration.  Mail takes two to three weeks to arrive. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Air Mail” on their envelopes. All packages are opened and inspected at the post office in Accra in the presence of a Peace Corps staff member.
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===Mail ===
  
Despite delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly (perhaps bi-weekly) and to number your letters. Family members will become worried when they do not hear from you, so please advise your parents, friends, and relatives that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, Peace Corps/Ghana would notify the Office of Special Services at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., and family members would be contacted.  
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The postal system in Mali is relatively reliable by African standards. Few Volunteers report problems with receiving letters and packages sent from the United States by airmail, but the mail can take three to four weeks to arrive. Surface mail is slightly less reliable, significantly less expensive, and takes much longer—six months to a year or more. Mail within the country takes a few days to two weeks. Volunteers can have important documents sent from the U.S. via DHL.  Maintaining good relations with the staff at the local post office is can help to ensure timely receipt of the mail.
  
Your address during the 10-week pre-service training will be:
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You can choose to receive mail at the Peace Corps office or at your site. Most Volunteers share a local post office box in their regional capital once they have moved to their sites. During pre-service training, mail should be sent to you at the Peace Corps office. Mail will be forwarded to the training site once a week.
  
:“Your Name,” PCT
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Your address at the Peace Corps office will be:  
:Peace Corps/Ghana
 
:P.O. Box 5796
 
:Accra-North, Ghana
 
:West Africa 
 
  
Once you have become a Volunteer and are at your site, give your friends and family your new address there, and ask them to send your letters to you directly. Many Volunteers live in a community without a post office. In this case, you will travel to a district or regional capital to pick up and send mail or just get it from one of the Peace Corps Offices (Accra, Kumasi, or Tamale)
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“Your Name,” PCT
  
====Care Packages====
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Corps de la Paix
  
Packages can be sent to the Peace Corps/Ghana Accra office address, where they will be held until either you pick them up or staff travel up-country. You can also have the package sent directly to the address at your site, if you have one, or the nearest Peace Corps office. There is always a customs charge for the package, typically between 3-6 cedis, or $2 (U.S.). You will be responsible for reimbursing Peace Corps for the costs of obtaining your package from customs. Typically, it takes about '''one to three months to receive a package from America.'''
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B.P. 85
  
The address for Peace Corps is below:
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Bamako, Mali
  
:Jane Doe (PCV)
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===Telephones ===
:Peace Corps Ghana
 
:P.O. Box 5796
 
:Accra-North
 
:Ghana, West Africa
 
  
Here is the link for information about the [http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/fh_012.htm  United States Parcel Service in Ghana].
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Telephone service in Mali, like the postal system, is relatively reliable. However, Volunteers do not have telephones in their homes, whether they live in small villages or large towns. An expanding cellphone network covers most cities and large towns, and some Volunteers have access to a phone at their workplace. However, it is not appropriate to make long-distance calls from these phones. Most towns have commercial phone centers that offer phone and fax services, but outgoing calls can be expensive. Many Volunteers arrange times to receive calls from home. Peace Corps regional and transit houses have telephones from which Volunteers can receive but not make calls.  
Here is the link for information about [http://www.dhl.com.gh/en/express/shipping.html  DHL in Ghana].
 
  
Preferred Gifts (Avoid liquids and chocolates as they tend to leak or melt in transit):
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Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the Peace Corps office to call family or friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.  
*Powdered Gatorade
 
:When you receive it, you will understand why it is absolutely fabulous.
 
*Candy
 
*Coffee or tea packets
 
*Dried food
 
*'''Magazines'''
 
:Virtually nonexistent here and perhaps the best way to keep up with current events because the internet is not always the swiftest.
 
*Books
 
  
====Telephones====
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
The Ghana telephone agency has offices located in major cities and some smaller towns with direct lines to the United States. You can call collect or use a calling card such as AT&T, MCI or Sprint. The calling card is generally a cheaper option than calling collect. Fax services are available at post offices.  Once you are at your site, you can send the fax number to your friends and relatives for easy communication.  
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Use and ownership of computers are rapidly expanding, but primarily among better-funded government offices and wealthy individuals and companies. There are Internet cafés in Bamako and the regional capitals. Connection speeds are slow, but improving with growing demand and more private-sector entrepreneurs. Some of the commercial phone centers offer computer and Internet access on an hourly basis (around 1,000 to 2,500 CFA francs per hour), and this is the route by which most Volunteers access the Internet. It is also possible to use a laptop computer in a staffed phone booth to connect via modem to service providers in Bamako, though not all phone booth staff will allow customers to do this.
  
Please do not tell friends or family that you will call or e-mail them as soon as you arrive in Ghana. You will not be able to access phones or Internet until after the first couple of days.  
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Volunteers who served in Mali prior to the late 1990s had no access to email at all, and had to rely on the mail and expensive and unreliable telephone connections provided by the national telephone service.
  
Mobile phones are growing in popularity throughout Africa and Ghana is no exception. A Growing number of Ghanaian mobile phone companies provide services that cover most of the country’s major cities and secondary towns. Most Volunteers choose to purchase a mobile phone in Ghana. AT this time most everyone has mobile service in or near their site; while some PCV's do not have coverage in their communities they use the phone when they travel to a larger town. If you choose to bring your own phone be sure that it is a GSM phone and can operate on the systems (900 and 1900 mhz) available in Africa. You can also buy a cheap mobile phone during training for about $50. SIM cards for the various networks around Ghana are readily available and inexpensive. Everyone uses the "pay as you go" option of buying credit from the ubiquitous kiosks selling "scratch cards". Peace Corps will not pay for mobile phones but know that if your site has service it will be expected by your community members that you have a phone.
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===Radio and Television===
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Radio is by far the most important source of information and entertainment for the majority of Malians, and local radio also serves as a kind of bulletin board for people sending messages about everything from recent deaths to lost children or animals.
  
*mobile/cell phone
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===Housing and Site Location ===
**Cheap cell phones (about $30) can be purchased in Ghana but most phones are knock-offs. Check out the links below to decide if you can use your current phone in Ghana or if you want to buy a new one that is compatible with the frequency in both Ghana and the US. Furthermore, '''there are no cell phone contracts''' or locked phones here. You simply buy a chip and pay prepaid minutes as you go, and you can switch chips at any time depending on phone rates and cell phone coverage.
 
  
**[http://thetravelinsider.info/roadwarriorcontent/quadbandphones.htm  The Travel Insider] discusses the different frequency bands around the world.
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The community to which you are assigned will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. Housing is typically a small house made of mud or cement bricks with a thatch roof. Some Volunteers in urban sites live in cement houses with two or three rooms. Most Volunteers do not have running water or electricity; water comes from a pump or a well, and light is provided by kerosene lanterns or candles. Nearly all Volunteers are within one hour of another Volunteer and most are within 10 hours of the Peace Corps office in Bamako via public transportation.  
**[http://www.mobileworldlive.com/maps/network.php?cid=134&cname=Ghana  Mobile World Live / Ghana] discusses the frequency bands specific to the companies in Ghana.
 
  
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
There is e-mail access in all major cities and in some towns.  These are usually at communications centers (known as com centers). The cost varies, and equipment and connections can be slow. Many people purchase a 3G USB modem.  The data packages and pricing vary from company to company.
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Volunteers’ living allowance is approximately 105,000 CFA francs per month, not including the vacation allowance equivalent to $24 per month. Volunteers also receive a quarterly work-travel allowance ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the location of their sites. All of these allowances are paid in local currency and deposited directly into a bank account that each Volunteer must establish at or near their sites. The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual survey of Volunteers’ financial needs. Most Volunteers report that they can live comfortably with this allowance and have extra money for regional travel as well as occasional nights on the town. You are expected to live at the level of your Malian counterparts, so you are discouraged from bringing or receiving extra money from home to spend in-country.  
  
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===Food and Diet ===
  
===Housing and Site Location===
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Water generally needs to be treated through boiling, bleach treatment, or filtering to be potable. The availability of fruits and vegetables is somewhat limited, but Mali produces some of the best mangoes and papayas in the world. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a local type of eggplant are available year-round. Other fruits and vegetables, available seasonally, include oranges, grapefruits, bananas, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. Staple meals include rice and tô (a thick porridge made of millet, sorghum, corn, or yams), served with a sauce made from peanuts, okra, greens (i.e., spinach or baobab leaves), or tomatoes with meat or fish.  French bread is available in larger towns and villages.
  
Housing varies by region, district, community, and by sector.
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===Transportation ===
  
There are few generalities about housing or site location. Peace Corps Volunteers are placed at the request of the government, Volunteers go where they are needed. Peace Corps/Ghana requires that the community contribute housing and that it meet the minimum standard of at least two rooms (or one room with a porch/sitting area). Housing must be adequately ventilated with a leak-proof roof, a solid floor and walls, access to year-round water supply, latrine, bathing facilities (often a bucket bath), and secure doors and windows. Some Volunteers find their housing goes way beyond these minimums, while others barely meet them.  
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llllllll connect regional capitals and large towns in Mali, and fairly well-maintained buses operate on a regular daily schedule. Smaller towns and villages are served by “bush taxis”—typically overcrowded and poorly maintained minibuses that do not run on a fixed schedule. Most Volunteers do not live near paved roads and thus do not have daily access to motorized transportation out of their villages.  
  
Peace Corps/Ghana has Volunteers in all 10 regions of the country. Some sites are very remote, while others are in sizable towns or cities. Once you arrive in Ghana, you will be interviewed by the associate Peace Corps director for your project to help guide the final placement decision.  
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Volunteers can choose between receiving a transportation allowance or receiving a bike to use for work and recreation purposes. Bicycle helmets are required. If you plan to use a bike, we encourage you to purchase a high-quality helmet in the United States. Peace Corps/Mali will reimburse you for the cost if you provide the receipt. The quality and selection of helmets available in-country are limited.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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For safety reasons, Peace Corps/Mali prohibits Volunteers from driving motorized vehicles (such as a motorcycle) except in a life-threatening emergency. Moreover, Volunteers are not permitted to ride as a passenger on motorcycles.
  
The local currency, the Ghanaian Cedi(GHS), is freely convertible. The exchange rate is determined by market forces and is 1.50 Ghana Cedis to the US Dollar as of February 2011. [http://www.exchange-rates.org/Rate/USD/GHS Check here] for the current exchange rate.
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===Geography and Climate ===
  
Volunteers are expected to live modestly. Do not bring flashy or expensive equipment. Volunteers can live comfortably on the living allowance provided. There is no reason or obligation to bring additional money. Some Volunteers choose to bring about $100 or $200 USD for post-service or vacation travel, or to purchase gifts. Traveler's checks are also a good idea (use American Express, they don't expire). Some volunteers also bring ATM cards but make sure: it has the Visa logo, you've notified the card issuer of your travels, and verify the expiry date does not fall within your time of service.
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Mali stretches across three climatic zones: savanna, steppe, and desert. The savanna features wooded grasslands broken occasionally by cliff and rock formations and is watered by the Niger and Senegal rivers and their tributaries. This area lies south of a rough line drawn from Kayes in the west to a point just south of Mopti in the east. The steppe, or the Sahelian, zone is between the savanna and the desert, stretching north from Mopti to roughly 50 miles beyond the great bend of the Niger River. It consists of dry, sandy plains sparsely wooded by trees. The third zone, north of these plains, is part of the Sahara Desert and is characterized by rocky outcrops dotted by vegetation and small villages wherever water is close to the surface. The harshness, vastness, and romance of the desert exert an influence that is felt throughout the country and has helped shape the culture.  
  
As a Volunteer in Ghana, you will receive four types of allowances:
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Nomadic herdsmen and camel drivers inhabit the northern half of Mali, where they haul salt and other commodities from Taoudeni to Tombouctou and Gao.
  
* A living allowance (paid monthly) in Cedis to cover your basic living expenses.
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The Sahel provides grazing land for more than half of the country’s 5 million to 6 million cattle. The savanna is the most densely populated and most heavily cultivated area, furnishing most of the cereal, cotton, and peanuts produced in Mali. The richest farming area is in and around the Niger River basin.  
* A vacation allowance of $24 (U.S.) per month for the upcoming three months is added to your living allowance each quarter. The vacation allowance is converted into Cedis at the prevailing rate on the date the money is ordered.
 
* A one-time settling-in allowance in Cedis is given after training to buy basic household items when you move into your house at your site.
 
* If you are requested by the Peace Corps to travel, you will be provided with additional money for transportation, lodging, and meals.
 
  
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Ghana with these four allowances. Volunteers are not permitted to supplement their income with dollars brought from home. The living allowance is adequate, and all Volunteers should have no difficulty living modestly. Credit cards are worthless in a rural setting but can be used in a limited number of establishments in Accra and for travel outside of Ghana. Credit card fraud is high throughout West Africa.
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Mali’s climate is similar to that of Arizona. The rainy season extends from June to October in the south, but starts later and ends earlier as one goes north. The period between November and early March is characterized by moderate daytime temperatures, cool nights, and cloudless skies. In April and May, the humidity drops to about 10 percent, and temperatures rise to as high as 110 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. June brings rains that slowly ease the intensity of the heat. The climate becomes hotter and drier farther north.
  
===Food and Diet===
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===Social Activities ===
  
Ghana has a diverse and flavorful cuisine. You will find yourself cooking creatively with items from Ghanaian markets. Many Volunteers take their meals with friends and neighbors; others enjoy inventive cooking for a fusion of American and Ghanaian flavors.  
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Social activities vary according to where you are located. They might include relaxing and talking with friends and neighbors, going to the market, or taking part in local festivals. The cultural diversity of Mali means that there is always something of interest taking place nearby from which you can learn, be it drumming and dancing or planting peanuts. Many Volunteers meet periodically in regional market towns to share ideas and experiences. But in keeping with its goal of cross-cultural exchange, the Peace Corps expects Volunteers to establish social networks with Malian friends and colleagues at their sites rather than seek out other Volunteers for social activities. Such networks enhance Volunteers’ ability to be effective in their work.  
  
What food is available to you will vary greatly by region/site location. Common meats and other protein include: chicken and eggs, fish (smoked and dried), beef, pork, goat, grass cutter (small wild animal), beans (bambara, red, and white), and ground nuts (peanuts). Common vegetables include: tomatoes (fresh and canned paste), okra, garden eggs (like small eggplant), onions, kontomire (like spinach), hot peppers, red peppers (very hot), and cabbage. Fruits (in season) include: mango, banana, orange, avocado , pawpaw (papaya), coconut, pineapple, and watermelon. Staple foods include: Bread, coco yam, rice, plantain, pasta, sweet potato, yams, cassava, and oatmeal. Spices include: red pepper (not black), curry pepper, salt, cloves, bay leaves, sugar, fresh ginger, and fresh garlic. Also readily available are: white flour, popcorn, oils, corn flour, dry whole milk, soft drinks, coffee, tea, baking powder, vinegar, crackers, cookies, canned whole milk, and maggie cubes (like beef bouillon). Lettuce, potatoes, apples, cucumbers, cheese, and green peppers, are sometimes available but expensive. At or very near site you will have the basic minimum market of tomatoes, onions, pepe, and some basic starch, with quality varying by season.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
  
Bring recipes that include these items. It is very unlikely that you will have an oven, but you can make a Dutch oven and bake almost as well as with a conventional oven.
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One of the biggest challenges faced by Volunteers in Mali is defining their role as professionals in the Malian context while maintaining a sense of their own work ethic and cultural identity. The tendency of Malian counterparts to blur (from a Western perspective) the distinction between professional and personal time and space adds another layer of complexity to the challenge of establishing yourself as a professional in this context. Cultivating work relationships is not something that happens only during working hours; behavior and activities outside the work setting will have an impact on your professional relationships.  
  
===Transportation===
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Malians generally consider it important to dress appropriately whenever they are going to be seen in public—whether at work, in the market, or at a bar. It is almost unheard of, for example, for an urban Malian man or woman to wear shorts unless he or she is taking part in some kind of sporting event. Nor would a professional man or woman ever be seen in public wearing dirty, disheveled, wrinkled, or torn clothing, but for rural farmers this is not at all uncommon because expensive dress clothing would be easily ruined during a normal work day. Dressing appropriately - as a professional Malian would - will greatly enhance your credibility, improve your ability to integrate into your community, and increase your odds of having a safe Peace Corps service. Aside from following Malian norms for dress, however, Volunteers need to be aware of other unwritten rules of the culture, such as the fact that Malian women never go to a bar on their own.  Serving in the Peace Corps often requires sacrificing personal preferences regarding dress and behavior. There will be ample discussion of this subject during cross-cultural sessions in pre-service training, but ultimately these are personal choices that the volunteer must make on a daily basis.
  
The main mode of transportation within and around your site is by bicycle. It is very likely that you will ride a bike on a daily basis. Volunteers are provided cash to purchase a bicycle. You must bring a bike helmet with you. Peace Corps/Ghana will reimburse you up to $50 when you arrive for this helmet. Wearing helmets is a requirement. Peace Corps/Ghana prohibits the driving of, or riding on, any two or three-wheeled motorized vehicle. Violation of either of these regulations can be grounds for administrative separation.  Volunteers are not allowed to drive cars without the approval of the country director.  
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Peace Corps/Mali has instituted a dress code that must be followed by Volunteers, trainees, and staff at the Bamako office, the Tubani So training center, and at any function where a staff member, Volunteer, or trainee could reasonably be considered to be representing the Peace Corps. The code is also suggested for any Volunteer with an office-type work assignment, anyone attending a professional meeting, or attending a meeting with someone to whom one is expected (as per Malian mores) to show deference.  
  
For longer distances Volunteers travel by local taxis and tro tros (vans). Longer trips around the country are on large “Greyhound-type” buses. Internal airline service between Accra, Kumasi, and Tamale is provided by two airlines but the cost is out of the range of a Volunteer’s living allowance. For family and friends, many major airlines fly in and out of Accra daily and to other parts of Africa and the world.
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* Shirts with buttons, sleeves, and collars for men (must cover midriff)
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* Shirts with sleeves for women (must cover midriff)
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* Any kind of shoes or sandals (except rubber/plastic shower flip-flops)  
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* Long pants for men and at least mid-calf length for women (if worn by women they should never be tight or transparent and best accompanied by a long shirt)
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* Skirts (opaque and at least knee length), dresses, veils (dampe), Malian-style outfits for men and women), or boubous (robes worn by local men or women)
  
===Geography and Climate===
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===Personal Safety ===
  
Ghana, located on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, extends about 450 miles from north to south, and 250 miles from east to west (roughly the size of Oregon). Geographically, the country can be divided into three zones: the southern narrow coastal strip of savanna; a broad tropical rain forest extending 150-200 miles north; and the northern savanna area. Lake Volta, formed by the construction of the Akosombo Dam, is the largest manmade lake in the world and is an important geographical feature of the country.  
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Peace Corps 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 the local language and culture, and being perceived as rich 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 in Mali complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Mali. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
The climate of Ghana is tropical with two main seasons, the dry season from November through March, and the rainy season from May through August. It is hot and dry along the southeast coast. It is hot and humid in the southwest, and dry in the north. During the dry season, the Harmattan affects the northern and southern regions with days of continual cool air, haze, and fine dust.
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How will living and working in communities affected by HIV/AIDS affect me?
  
===Social Activities===
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The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS.  Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.
  
Volunteers immerse themselves in their communities and take part in the various festivities, weddings, funerals, parties, story telling, local dances, and other interesting activities.  Many Volunteers pay special attention to youth and use informal time with them to read, color, play games, sing songs, and do household chores together. Volunteers are encouraged to explore the areas around their community and visit nearby interesting sites during the weekends. Visiting and spending time with people is a primary form of socializing. You will find yourself socializing with friends in their compounds, under a tree, or on a bench for hours on end. Being present is a critical factor in relationship building.
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===Rewards and Frustrations ===
  
There is a continually changing repository of books at the main Peace Corps office in Accra and at the offices in Tamale and Kumasi.  
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Although the potential for job satisfaction in Mali is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations.  Because of financial constraints, inefficient management, and an often contradictory incentive system, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.  
  
When you join Peace Corps, you expect it to be difficult.  
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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 have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development anywhere in the world—including disadvantaged areas in the United States—is slow work that requires perseverance. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
  
That’s why you join; to challenge yourself, to give and to grow. You will choose what kind of Volunteer you will be. Will you be the kind who gravitates only to other Volunteers or will you be the kind that goes out of your way to develop strong friendships with Ghanaians? Will Ghana be the backdrop to your American adventure in Africa or w[http://www.example.com link title]ill Ghana be in the forefront of your experience?
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To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your Malian co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge 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 Mali 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.
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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[[Category:Mali]]
 
 
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines.
 
 
 
You will be working as a representative of multiple organizations, and as such you are expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your Ghanaian counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or old clothes, this will be due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing ragged, un-mended clothing is likely to be considered an affront.
 
 
 
Ghanaians are very meticulous about their dress in the workplace and wear their good clothes. They are particular about their personal hygiene (a real accomplishment in communities of mud-brick houses and no running water), and cleanliness is a sign of respect. Shorts are acceptable around your house after work, but Peace Corps Volunteers must never wear them in public. Above-the-knee length skirts are seen in the cities, but not in small communities. Besides, they are not practical, comfortable, or appropriate when traveling in a crowded bus. Although it is hot here, you can only wear tank tops with small neck and sleeve openings. Tops with “spaghetti-string” straps are only appropriate at the beach, so do not bring too many of these.
 
 
 
You will find that some volunteers adopt the Ghanian attitude about dress and personal appearance while others do not. It is helpful to understand that how you dress on a daily basis will depend on the work you are doing (Environment volunteers are not expected to "go to farm" in their best while Teacher PCV's are expected to dress smartly to school). In addition, cultural attitudes about dress vary from community to community; some villages will be very formal about dress and some will not. However, on the whole, you should realize you will be treated more as a leader if you dress well in your community, no matter the work you are doing and how important that is to you is an individual choice. During travel on public transport, especially in the North, it is especially important to dress well in order to be treated with respect.
 
 
 
===Personal Safety===
 
 
 
Peace Corps’ approach to safety and security is called the acceptance model. You are safest when your neighbors, friends and colleagues look out for you, when you are accepted into the community. 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.
 
 
 
All 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 you reduce risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Ghana. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
 
 
 
Unfortunately, as elsewhere, crime does exist in Ghana.  Because you are a foreigner and considered “rich,” your new home may be more prone to break-ins than those of your neighbors. Normal precautions such as not leaving your belongings in plain site will usually reduce most risks.  Ghanaians are fastidious about locking up their belongings and you must also be careful. Crime at the village or town level is much less frequent, but risks increase in proportion to population size. In urban areas, you must be security conscious.  Fortunately, violent crime is not a severe problem. Ghana is considered comparably safe, although in some situations women should be escorted at night or travel in groups.
 
 
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
 
 
 
Many Americans never have the opportunity to live in a place where families and the life of the community are literally the most important things. Many people never truly understand how much people can do with seemingly so little, and what a difference just a little help can make in someone’s life.  With their familiar habits and routines gone, Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana learn to develop new routines and relationships, and in doing so, have life changing experiences.  What could be more rewarding?
 
 
 
Most Americans coming to Ghana find the pace of life much slower, and for some this is difficult to adjust to. It is especially difficult when you are trying to meet deadlines that you believe are important while everyone around you seems to be on a different schedule. Relying on unpredictable transport rather than just picking up and leaving when you want to, not being able to make yourself clear when communicating, and finding that you really are responsible for making this experience what it turns out to be, can be overwhelming. At the end of two years however, when you realize what you gained and how you adjusted to a new environment, you will see why it was the experience of a lifetime.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
[[Category:Ghana]]
 

Latest revision as of 13:02, 23 August 2016



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
As a Peace Corps Volunteers, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping — may take significantly different forms in the context of the host country. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
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  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
See also:

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles by Country Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

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Communications

You should be prepared for a significant reduction in the frequency and reliability of communications with friends and family. It is a good idea to prepare your family and friends for the reality of lengthy delays between letters, the lack of regular access to a telephone, and uncertain access to e-mail.

Mail

The postal system in Mali is relatively reliable by African standards. Few Volunteers report problems with receiving letters and packages sent from the United States by airmail, but the mail can take three to four weeks to arrive. Surface mail is slightly less reliable, significantly less expensive, and takes much longer—six months to a year or more. Mail within the country takes a few days to two weeks. Volunteers can have important documents sent from the U.S. via DHL. Maintaining good relations with the staff at the local post office is can help to ensure timely receipt of the mail.

You can choose to receive mail at the Peace Corps office or at your site. Most Volunteers share a local post office box in their regional capital once they have moved to their sites. During pre-service training, mail should be sent to you at the Peace Corps office. Mail will be forwarded to the training site once a week.

Your address at the Peace Corps office will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 85

Bamako, Mali

Telephones

Telephone service in Mali, like the postal system, is relatively reliable. However, Volunteers do not have telephones in their homes, whether they live in small villages or large towns. An expanding cellphone network covers most cities and large towns, and some Volunteers have access to a phone at their workplace. However, it is not appropriate to make long-distance calls from these phones. Most towns have commercial phone centers that offer phone and fax services, but outgoing calls can be expensive. Many Volunteers arrange times to receive calls from home. Peace Corps regional and transit houses have telephones from which Volunteers can receive but not make calls.

Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the Peace Corps office to call family or friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Use and ownership of computers are rapidly expanding, but primarily among better-funded government offices and wealthy individuals and companies. There are Internet cafés in Bamako and the regional capitals. Connection speeds are slow, but improving with growing demand and more private-sector entrepreneurs. Some of the commercial phone centers offer computer and Internet access on an hourly basis (around 1,000 to 2,500 CFA francs per hour), and this is the route by which most Volunteers access the Internet. It is also possible to use a laptop computer in a staffed phone booth to connect via modem to service providers in Bamako, though not all phone booth staff will allow customers to do this.

Volunteers who served in Mali prior to the late 1990s had no access to email at all, and had to rely on the mail and expensive and unreliable telephone connections provided by the national telephone service.

Radio and Television

Radio is by far the most important source of information and entertainment for the majority of Malians, and local radio also serves as a kind of bulletin board for people sending messages about everything from recent deaths to lost children or animals.

Housing and Site Location

The community to which you are assigned will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. Housing is typically a small house made of mud or cement bricks with a thatch roof. Some Volunteers in urban sites live in cement houses with two or three rooms. Most Volunteers do not have running water or electricity; water comes from a pump or a well, and light is provided by kerosene lanterns or candles. Nearly all Volunteers are within one hour of another Volunteer and most are within 10 hours of the Peace Corps office in Bamako via public transportation.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers’ living allowance is approximately 105,000 CFA francs per month, not including the vacation allowance equivalent to $24 per month. Volunteers also receive a quarterly work-travel allowance ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the location of their sites. All of these allowances are paid in local currency and deposited directly into a bank account that each Volunteer must establish at or near their sites. The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual survey of Volunteers’ financial needs. Most Volunteers report that they can live comfortably with this allowance and have extra money for regional travel as well as occasional nights on the town. You are expected to live at the level of your Malian counterparts, so you are discouraged from bringing or receiving extra money from home to spend in-country.

Food and Diet

Water generally needs to be treated through boiling, bleach treatment, or filtering to be potable. The availability of fruits and vegetables is somewhat limited, but Mali produces some of the best mangoes and papayas in the world. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a local type of eggplant are available year-round. Other fruits and vegetables, available seasonally, include oranges, grapefruits, bananas, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. Staple meals include rice and tô (a thick porridge made of millet, sorghum, corn, or yams), served with a sauce made from peanuts, okra, greens (i.e., spinach or baobab leaves), or tomatoes with meat or fish. French bread is available in larger towns and villages.

Transportation

llllllll connect regional capitals and large towns in Mali, and fairly well-maintained buses operate on a regular daily schedule. Smaller towns and villages are served by “bush taxis”—typically overcrowded and poorly maintained minibuses that do not run on a fixed schedule. Most Volunteers do not live near paved roads and thus do not have daily access to motorized transportation out of their villages.

Volunteers can choose between receiving a transportation allowance or receiving a bike to use for work and recreation purposes. Bicycle helmets are required. If you plan to use a bike, we encourage you to purchase a high-quality helmet in the United States. Peace Corps/Mali will reimburse you for the cost if you provide the receipt. The quality and selection of helmets available in-country are limited.

For safety reasons, Peace Corps/Mali prohibits Volunteers from driving motorized vehicles (such as a motorcycle) except in a life-threatening emergency. Moreover, Volunteers are not permitted to ride as a passenger on motorcycles.

Geography and Climate

Mali stretches across three climatic zones: savanna, steppe, and desert. The savanna features wooded grasslands broken occasionally by cliff and rock formations and is watered by the Niger and Senegal rivers and their tributaries. This area lies south of a rough line drawn from Kayes in the west to a point just south of Mopti in the east. The steppe, or the Sahelian, zone is between the savanna and the desert, stretching north from Mopti to roughly 50 miles beyond the great bend of the Niger River. It consists of dry, sandy plains sparsely wooded by trees. The third zone, north of these plains, is part of the Sahara Desert and is characterized by rocky outcrops dotted by vegetation and small villages wherever water is close to the surface. The harshness, vastness, and romance of the desert exert an influence that is felt throughout the country and has helped shape the culture.

Nomadic herdsmen and camel drivers inhabit the northern half of Mali, where they haul salt and other commodities from Taoudeni to Tombouctou and Gao.

The Sahel provides grazing land for more than half of the country’s 5 million to 6 million cattle. The savanna is the most densely populated and most heavily cultivated area, furnishing most of the cereal, cotton, and peanuts produced in Mali. The richest farming area is in and around the Niger River basin.

Mali’s climate is similar to that of Arizona. The rainy season extends from June to October in the south, but starts later and ends earlier as one goes north. The period between November and early March is characterized by moderate daytime temperatures, cool nights, and cloudless skies. In April and May, the humidity drops to about 10 percent, and temperatures rise to as high as 110 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. June brings rains that slowly ease the intensity of the heat. The climate becomes hotter and drier farther north.

Social Activities

Social activities vary according to where you are located. They might include relaxing and talking with friends and neighbors, going to the market, or taking part in local festivals. The cultural diversity of Mali means that there is always something of interest taking place nearby from which you can learn, be it drumming and dancing or planting peanuts. Many Volunteers meet periodically in regional market towns to share ideas and experiences. But in keeping with its goal of cross-cultural exchange, the Peace Corps expects Volunteers to establish social networks with Malian friends and colleagues at their sites rather than seek out other Volunteers for social activities. Such networks enhance Volunteers’ ability to be effective in their work.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

One of the biggest challenges faced by Volunteers in Mali is defining their role as professionals in the Malian context while maintaining a sense of their own work ethic and cultural identity. The tendency of Malian counterparts to blur (from a Western perspective) the distinction between professional and personal time and space adds another layer of complexity to the challenge of establishing yourself as a professional in this context. Cultivating work relationships is not something that happens only during working hours; behavior and activities outside the work setting will have an impact on your professional relationships.

Malians generally consider it important to dress appropriately whenever they are going to be seen in public—whether at work, in the market, or at a bar. It is almost unheard of, for example, for an urban Malian man or woman to wear shorts unless he or she is taking part in some kind of sporting event. Nor would a professional man or woman ever be seen in public wearing dirty, disheveled, wrinkled, or torn clothing, but for rural farmers this is not at all uncommon because expensive dress clothing would be easily ruined during a normal work day. Dressing appropriately - as a professional Malian would - will greatly enhance your credibility, improve your ability to integrate into your community, and increase your odds of having a safe Peace Corps service. Aside from following Malian norms for dress, however, Volunteers need to be aware of other unwritten rules of the culture, such as the fact that Malian women never go to a bar on their own. Serving in the Peace Corps often requires sacrificing personal preferences regarding dress and behavior. There will be ample discussion of this subject during cross-cultural sessions in pre-service training, but ultimately these are personal choices that the volunteer must make on a daily basis.

Peace Corps/Mali has instituted a dress code that must be followed by Volunteers, trainees, and staff at the Bamako office, the Tubani So training center, and at any function where a staff member, Volunteer, or trainee could reasonably be considered to be representing the Peace Corps. The code is also suggested for any Volunteer with an office-type work assignment, anyone attending a professional meeting, or attending a meeting with someone to whom one is expected (as per Malian mores) to show deference.

  • Shirts with buttons, sleeves, and collars for men (must cover midriff)
  • Shirts with sleeves for women (must cover midriff)
  • Any kind of shoes or sandals (except rubber/plastic shower flip-flops)
  • Long pants for men and at least mid-calf length for women (if worn by women they should never be tight or transparent and best accompanied by a long shirt)
  • Skirts (opaque and at least knee length), dresses, veils (dampe), Malian-style outfits for men and women), or boubous (robes worn by local men or women)

Personal Safety

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Peace Corps 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 the local language and culture, and being perceived as rich 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 in Mali complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Mali. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

How will living and working in communities affected by HIV/AIDS affect me?

The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.

Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction in Mali is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial constraints, inefficient management, and an often contradictory incentive system, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.

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 have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development anywhere in the world—including disadvantaged areas in the United States—is slow work that requires perseverance. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your Malian co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge 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 Mali 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.