Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Azerbaijan" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Togo"

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In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years.  Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
 
  
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Azerbaijan, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Azerbaijan.
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==Communication==
  
Outside of Azerbaijan’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Azerbaijan are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
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===Mail ===
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Azerbaijan, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers will not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.  
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There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between the Peace Corps Office in Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers. Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.  
  
==Overview of Diversity in Azerbaijan==
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During your pre-service training and throughout your service you may receive letters and packages at the following address:
  
The Peace Corps staff in Azerbaijan recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
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PCT / PCV “your name”
  
==What Might a Volunteer Face?==
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Corps de la Paix
  
===Possible Issues for Female Volunteers===
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B.P. 3194
  
Although Azerbaijan’s culture is more secular than that of most Muslim countries, it remains largely patriarchal. Men are accorded more leeway than women in most supervisory and leadership roles. In schools, however, most language teachers are women. Volunteers find that, while on the surface
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Lomé, Togo
  
Azerbaijani culture seems to give women more freedom (in dress and some careers), women are carefully “protected” in that they don’t go out alone and don’t go to many places in town (e.g., teahouses, cafes, and certain parts of the baazar).  This often appears restrictive to Americans entering the culture.
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West Africa
  
Female Volunteers may find that Azerbaijanis think it is strange for a single woman to live alone. They will receive more unwanted and inappropriate attention from men than they do in the United States. Female Volunteers will not be able to have male visitors in their home-stay rooms or apartments in villages. They may have to work harder than male Volunteers to gain the respect of Azerbaijani counterparts in the workplace. And they will need to keep a low social profile and practice discretion in public (i.e., not smoke in public or drink in public) to avoid developing an undesirable reputation in the community.
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===Telephones ===
  
===Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color===
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Togo has a good communications system compared to neighboring countries. A telephone system links all the regional and district capitals, and these lines are fairly reliable (except during the rainy season when breakdowns do happen). The telephone systems in Lomé and within other urban areas are reliable, and there is work in progress to double the capacity of these systems.
  
Azerbaijan has an ethnically diverse population and a long history of interaction with peoples of Central Asia.  
+
Peace Corps Volunteers can easily communicate via telephone with their families. This does not mean that you will have a telephone available at your site, but all regional capitals offer good phone service to the U.S. Phone continues to improve as more and more “cabines” set up shop throughout the country. Volunteers generally arrange in advance to receive phone calls from people in the United States, which makes it much less expensive than calling the United States from Togo.  Volunteers are not permitted to make personal calls from the Peace Corps office in Lomé, but they may receive calls there.  Collect calls, or calls to 1-800 numbers, cannot be made from Togo to the United States. There is a five-hour time difference between Togo and the U.S. East Coast (four during Daylight Savings Time).  
  
Still, a person of color may be the only minority trainee or Volunteer in a particular program. You may work and live with individuals with no experience or understanding of your culture. You may not receive, or be able to receive, the necessary personal support from other Volunteers and may be questioned about socializing exclusively with other minority Volunteers. Finally, you may not find minority role models among the local Peace Corps staff.  
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Cell phone reception is expanding through Togo and most Volunteers end up buying cell phones while serving in Togo.  However, owning a cell phone is not required by Peace Corps and can sometimes be expensive on a Volunteer allowance. Furthermore, there is no guarantee of cell phone reception at individual Volunteer sites.  
  
African-American Volunteers may be evaluated as less professionally competent than nonblack Volunteers. They may be called “Negroes,” not necessarily in a derogatory sense but as the local word used to describe black people. They may be the focus of staring, pointing, or comments. Hispanic American Volunteers may not be perceived as being American or may be the subject of stereotyped perceptions of Hispanic cultures other than their own. Asian-American Volunteers may be the subject of stereotyped perceptions based on behavior observed in films. Like all Volunteers of color, they may be identified more by their cultural heritage than by their American citizenship.  
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There are fax lines linking Togo with other countries all over the world. Lomé has most of the fax capability, but some regional capitals have fax lines as well.  
  
===Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers===
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
Respect comes with age in Azerbaijan. Younger Volunteers may have to work harder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals. Older Volunteers may feel isolated within the Peace Corps community in Azerbaijan because the majority of Volunteers are in their 20s. In training, seniors may encounter frustration in not having their needs met for an effective learning environment in areas such as timing, presentation, and style. They may need to be assertive in developing an effective individual approach to language learning. During their service, seniors may work and live with individuals who have little understanding of, or respect for, the lives and experiences of senior Americans. Older Volunteers may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support. While some seniors find this to be very enjoyable, others choose not to fill this role.  
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Internet service providers operate in Togo and Internet cafés are becoming more readily available all over the country. Internet phone availability provides a cheaper option than landlines. Internet connections may be slow and prices vary.  
  
===Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers===
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==Housing and Site Location ==
  
In Azerbaijan, homosexuality is generally considered immoral for religious and cultural reasons. There are certainly homosexuals in Azerbaijan, but their level of acceptance is very low. While there is some evidence of gay culture in Baku, it is quite discreet and underground. However, in the regions where you will be placed, homosexuality is definitely not accepted. Even certain styles of hair and clothes, earrings on men, and certain mannerisms that are accepted in the United States may be viewed with suspicion or disdain in your community. Your basic civil liberties may be ignored, or you may be hassled in bars or on the street.  
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Volunteers in Togo are provided housing as part of the community’s contribution to their work. Most Togo Volunteers live in villages in a two or three-room house, most likely in a compound with a Togolese family. Some Volunteer houses have tin roofs; a few have straw roofs. It is unlikely that you will have running water or electricity although they are more common in larger city posts. Water sources in villages can be traditional wells, bore-holes equipped with pumps, cisterns, and natural water sources—in some cases, rivers. Whatever your source of drinking water, you will have to treat it before use.  
  
You may not find the support you desire within the Peace Corps community in Azerbaijan. Homosexual or bisexual Volunteers may serve for two years without meeting another homosexual or bisexual Volunteer. Relationships with homosexual host country nationals can happen, but as with all cross-cultural relationships, they are not likely to be easy.
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==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
  
Lesbians, like all women, may have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex. Wearing an “engagement ring” may help. Gay men, like all men, may have to deal with machismo: talk of conquests, girl watching, and dirty jokes.  
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As a Volunteer, you receive a monthly living allowance sufficient to live at a modest level in your community. You will also receive a settling-in allowance to defray the initial costs of setting up a household. Both allowances are paid in local currency. The living allowance is deposited into Volunteers’ bank accounts on a quarterly basis, which means that you have to manage your money well to avoid running out before the end of the quarter. Many Volunteers’ bank accounts are in one of the five regional capitals, which means that you will normally take at least one trip to the regional capital each month. It is inadvisable to keep large sums of money at home.  
  
===Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers===
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==Food and Diet ==
  
Azerbaijanis frequently ask Volunteers about their religious affiliation, but this is more out of curiosity than out of any challenge. Ninety-three percent of Azerbaijanis are Muslim, and mosque attendance and other religious observances are generally greater in rural areas. If you wish to visit a mosque, ask your host family or counterpart first, and be guided by their response. Azerbaijan has a long tradition of tolerance toward and coexistence with other faiths, with the exception of Armenian Orthodoxy, an outgrowth of the ongoing tensions between Azerbaijan and its western neighbor. Proselytizing of any kind by Volunteers is prohibited.  
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Your diet will consist of locally grown foods or a combination of local and imported tinned foods. A typical Togolese meal is a carbohydrate base (rice, yams, pâte (boiled corn meal or flour) or fufu (pounded white yams), accompanied by a variety of hot, spicy sauces. Rice and beans, usually eaten at breakfast, is another common meal. Meat is available throughout Togo but it is expensive; fresh fish is only available in larger towns.  
  
===Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities===
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Fruits and vegetables are seasonal, occasionally making it difficult for vegetarians to adhere to a sound diet, especially in the more remote areas. Sme Volunteers plant vegetable gardens to supplement their diet. If not, you can find most of your food in the nearest cities or weekly markets. Smaller villages often provide only basic food supplies. You may need to travel to larger towns for vegetables and specific items, especially during dry season.
  
As a disabled Volunteer in Azerbaijan, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. In Azerbaijan, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with disabilities and may discriminate against them. Some people may mistake you for a war veteran at first. In addition, there is very little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.
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==Transportation ==
  
As part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Azerbaijan without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/ Azerbaijan staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.  
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Togo’s main national highway runs the length of the country.  Most of the road is in good condition, but some parts are in poor repair. There are several other sections of paved road, some in good condition, others not. Most of the local roads in Togo are sand or dirt—very dusty in the dry season, very muddy in the rainy season.  
  
===Possible Issues for Married Volunteers===
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When traveling around the country, you will use varying types of transportation. Lomé has many private taxis. Taxis also travel frequently between Lomé and the larger towns in the interior. This taxi travel tends to be fairly irregular and uncomfortable, but always interesting. You will be given an all-terrain bicycle and helmet for your transportation needs at your site. Failure to wear a helmet can result in administrative separation from the Peace Corps.
  
Azerbaijanis welcome married couples, so being married per se should not cause any problems. Difficulties for married Volunteers do sometimes arise, however, in the areas of language training, living with a host family, and placement.  
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Use of motorcycles by Peace Corps Volunteers is generally prohibited. However, there is a new transportation policy in Togo, allowing a few specific Volunteers in isolated posts to ride as passengers on motorcycles while traveling to their sites. These Volunteers must wear motorcycle helmets, provided by Peace Corps. More details on this policy will be provided upon arrival in Togo.  
  
If one spouse has superior language learning skills, the other spouse may not work as hard at learning the language or come to rely on his or her partner’s language skills. But to integrate into the host community it is essential that both learn Azerbaijani. Furthermore, everyone must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer.  
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Distance from the villages to the prefectoral and regional capitals could be anywhere from 10 to 60 kilometers. While some Volunteers like biking these distances, others prefer taking local public transportation, such as bush taxis, to the nearest mail point, bank, or shopping location. There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers. Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.  
  
Couples may find that the privacy they have become accustomed to is in short supply when living with an Azerbaijani family. You will be expected to participate in the family’s life, especially during and after dinners. Arranging for private time and space in a culturally acceptable manner may require some sensitivity and flexibility on your part.
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The bottom line, and unfortunately the reality of life in Togo, is that travel is inherently more risky here than what one would experience using public transportation in the United States. Peace Corps Volunteers find that their bikes are sufficient for most work-related travel. In addition, Volunteers are clustered so that most are within a bike ride of another Volunteer. It is usually necessary, however, to use local transport (e.g., bush taxis) when traveling long distances. By and large, the vehicles (usually mini-buses or Toyota station wagons) are old and poorly maintained, and it is unlikely that many of the drivers will win safe-driving awards anytime soon!
  
Spouses should expect to be separated during pre-service training, especially if spouses are placed in different programmatic sectors.  
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Peace Corps/Togo provides a shuttle bus service, the Lomé Limo, that runs from the north of the country to the capital and back once a month. Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to limit transport via bush taxi. When it is necessary to use bush taxis, you are encouraged to select what appears to be the safest vehicle available and to go with drivers whose driving habits are known and reasonable. When you find yourself in what you consider an unsafe situation (e.g., a driver traveling too fast despite having been asked to slow down), you should demand to be let out of the vehicle immediately. The best strategy, however, is to minimize travel via public transport and to avoid all nighttime travel.  
  
[[Category:Azerbaijan]]
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==Geography and Climate ==
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 +
Togo is a small country on the West African Coast. Only 50 kilometers wide in sections, it stretches 600 kilometers inland from the Gulf of Guinea to the savanna of Burkina Faso in the north. Situated between Ghana to the west and Benin to the east, it is roughly the size of West Virginia. Togo supports a diverse population of nearly 5 million and has more than 40 ethnic groups and languages.
 +
 
 +
Togo’s geography is mainly savanna-like, although some areas in the center of the country are fairly hilly. The rainy season lasts from June to September in the North and from May to October in the South. The rest of the year is dry and dominated by dry harmattan winds coming off the Sahara.  Temperatures range from the seventies and eighties in the south, to the eighties and nineties in the north. In the months before the rains, the temperatures can be higher, reaching the low hundreds in the north.
 +
 
 +
==Social Activities ==
 +
 
 +
Togolese are extremely social, and most social activities center around community events. Various ceremonies and fêtes are held throughout the year and Volunteer attendance is always well appreciated. In addition, Volunteers get together on different occasions, even if it is just for a regional meeting. Your social life will be as busy as you care to make it.
 +
 
 +
==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
 +
 
 +
Togolese, like people everywhere, will make judgments about you in terms of how you act and how you dress. Dress in the West African context is a sign of respect and professionalism – one shows respect for colleagues by how they dress. While appropriate dress and behavior will be discussed during pre-service training, you will also take your cues from your colleagues once you are at your site. Togolese business attire—at least outside Lomé—tends to be more casual than in the United States. You will find, however, that your Togolese counterparts are invariably well groomed and wear pressed, clean clothing. Tight, form-fitting clothing for women or clothing exposing the stomach, back, or shoulders is almost never appropriate. The same is true for shorts for both men and women during professional meetings, be they in your village or in the regional capital.
 +
 
 +
==Personal Safety ==
 +
 
 +
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their 2 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 Togo. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
 +
 
 +
==Rewards and Frustrations ==
 +
 
 +
What is considered a challenge or a reward varies from person to person, but certainly you will find yourself having to adapt to a different perception of time and productivity. Female Volunteers will have to deal with the reality that Togo is very much a patriarchal society, meaning that men are generally accorded more power and respect than women simply because of their gender. You may spend a lot of the time being totally baffled as to why things are turning out as they are.
 +
 
 +
The potential rewards, however, far outweigh any challenges.  You will almost inevitably find yourself part of a close-knit community unlike anything you have experienced in America.  You will receive the satisfaction of being able to share your good fortune with those less fortunate and knowing that you are participating in the most pressing development issues that Togo faces: including the fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty.  By the end of your 2 years of service, you will find that you have grown immeasurably and have become a citizen of the world.
 +
 
 +
[[Category:Togo]]

Revision as of 08:55, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communication

Mail

There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between the Peace Corps Office in Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers. Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.

During your pre-service training and throughout your service you may receive letters and packages at the following address:

PCT / PCV “your name”

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 3194

Lomé, Togo

West Africa

Telephones

Togo has a good communications system compared to neighboring countries. A telephone system links all the regional and district capitals, and these lines are fairly reliable (except during the rainy season when breakdowns do happen). The telephone systems in Lomé and within other urban areas are reliable, and there is work in progress to double the capacity of these systems.

Peace Corps Volunteers can easily communicate via telephone with their families. This does not mean that you will have a telephone available at your site, but all regional capitals offer good phone service to the U.S. Phone continues to improve as more and more “cabines” set up shop throughout the country. Volunteers generally arrange in advance to receive phone calls from people in the United States, which makes it much less expensive than calling the United States from Togo. Volunteers are not permitted to make personal calls from the Peace Corps office in Lomé, but they may receive calls there. Collect calls, or calls to 1-800 numbers, cannot be made from Togo to the United States. There is a five-hour time difference between Togo and the U.S. East Coast (four during Daylight Savings Time).

Cell phone reception is expanding through Togo and most Volunteers end up buying cell phones while serving in Togo. However, owning a cell phone is not required by Peace Corps and can sometimes be expensive on a Volunteer allowance. Furthermore, there is no guarantee of cell phone reception at individual Volunteer sites.

There are fax lines linking Togo with other countries all over the world. Lomé has most of the fax capability, but some regional capitals have fax lines as well.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Internet service providers operate in Togo and Internet cafés are becoming more readily available all over the country. Internet phone availability provides a cheaper option than landlines. Internet connections may be slow and prices vary.

Housing and Site Location

Volunteers in Togo are provided housing as part of the community’s contribution to their work. Most Togo Volunteers live in villages in a two or three-room house, most likely in a compound with a Togolese family. Some Volunteer houses have tin roofs; a few have straw roofs. It is unlikely that you will have running water or electricity although they are more common in larger city posts. Water sources in villages can be traditional wells, bore-holes equipped with pumps, cisterns, and natural water sources—in some cases, rivers. Whatever your source of drinking water, you will have to treat it before use.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer, you receive a monthly living allowance sufficient to live at a modest level in your community. You will also receive a settling-in allowance to defray the initial costs of setting up a household. Both allowances are paid in local currency. The living allowance is deposited into Volunteers’ bank accounts on a quarterly basis, which means that you have to manage your money well to avoid running out before the end of the quarter. Many Volunteers’ bank accounts are in one of the five regional capitals, which means that you will normally take at least one trip to the regional capital each month. It is inadvisable to keep large sums of money at home.

Food and Diet

Your diet will consist of locally grown foods or a combination of local and imported tinned foods. A typical Togolese meal is a carbohydrate base (rice, yams, pâte (boiled corn meal or flour) or fufu (pounded white yams), accompanied by a variety of hot, spicy sauces. Rice and beans, usually eaten at breakfast, is another common meal. Meat is available throughout Togo but it is expensive; fresh fish is only available in larger towns.

Fruits and vegetables are seasonal, occasionally making it difficult for vegetarians to adhere to a sound diet, especially in the more remote areas. Sme Volunteers plant vegetable gardens to supplement their diet. If not, you can find most of your food in the nearest cities or weekly markets. Smaller villages often provide only basic food supplies. You may need to travel to larger towns for vegetables and specific items, especially during dry season.

Transportation

Togo’s main national highway runs the length of the country. Most of the road is in good condition, but some parts are in poor repair. There are several other sections of paved road, some in good condition, others not. Most of the local roads in Togo are sand or dirt—very dusty in the dry season, very muddy in the rainy season.

When traveling around the country, you will use varying types of transportation. Lomé has many private taxis. Taxis also travel frequently between Lomé and the larger towns in the interior. This taxi travel tends to be fairly irregular and uncomfortable, but always interesting. You will be given an all-terrain bicycle and helmet for your transportation needs at your site. Failure to wear a helmet can result in administrative separation from the Peace Corps.

Use of motorcycles by Peace Corps Volunteers is generally prohibited. However, there is a new transportation policy in Togo, allowing a few specific Volunteers in isolated posts to ride as passengers on motorcycles while traveling to their sites. These Volunteers must wear motorcycle helmets, provided by Peace Corps. More details on this policy will be provided upon arrival in Togo.

Distance from the villages to the prefectoral and regional capitals could be anywhere from 10 to 60 kilometers. While some Volunteers like biking these distances, others prefer taking local public transportation, such as bush taxis, to the nearest mail point, bank, or shopping location. There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers. Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.

The bottom line, and unfortunately the reality of life in Togo, is that travel is inherently more risky here than what one would experience using public transportation in the United States. Peace Corps Volunteers find that their bikes are sufficient for most work-related travel. In addition, Volunteers are clustered so that most are within a bike ride of another Volunteer. It is usually necessary, however, to use local transport (e.g., bush taxis) when traveling long distances. By and large, the vehicles (usually mini-buses or Toyota station wagons) are old and poorly maintained, and it is unlikely that many of the drivers will win safe-driving awards anytime soon!

Peace Corps/Togo provides a shuttle bus service, the Lomé Limo, that runs from the north of the country to the capital and back once a month. Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to limit transport via bush taxi. When it is necessary to use bush taxis, you are encouraged to select what appears to be the safest vehicle available and to go with drivers whose driving habits are known and reasonable. When you find yourself in what you consider an unsafe situation (e.g., a driver traveling too fast despite having been asked to slow down), you should demand to be let out of the vehicle immediately. The best strategy, however, is to minimize travel via public transport and to avoid all nighttime travel.

Geography and Climate

Togo is a small country on the West African Coast. Only 50 kilometers wide in sections, it stretches 600 kilometers inland from the Gulf of Guinea to the savanna of Burkina Faso in the north. Situated between Ghana to the west and Benin to the east, it is roughly the size of West Virginia. Togo supports a diverse population of nearly 5 million and has more than 40 ethnic groups and languages.

Togo’s geography is mainly savanna-like, although some areas in the center of the country are fairly hilly. The rainy season lasts from June to September in the North and from May to October in the South. The rest of the year is dry and dominated by dry harmattan winds coming off the Sahara. Temperatures range from the seventies and eighties in the south, to the eighties and nineties in the north. In the months before the rains, the temperatures can be higher, reaching the low hundreds in the north.

Social Activities

Togolese are extremely social, and most social activities center around community events. Various ceremonies and fêtes are held throughout the year and Volunteer attendance is always well appreciated. In addition, Volunteers get together on different occasions, even if it is just for a regional meeting. Your social life will be as busy as you care to make it.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Togolese, like people everywhere, will make judgments about you in terms of how you act and how you dress. Dress in the West African context is a sign of respect and professionalism – one shows respect for colleagues by how they dress. While appropriate dress and behavior will be discussed during pre-service training, you will also take your cues from your colleagues once you are at your site. Togolese business attire—at least outside Lomé—tends to be more casual than in the United States. You will find, however, that your Togolese counterparts are invariably well groomed and wear pressed, clean clothing. Tight, form-fitting clothing for women or clothing exposing the stomach, back, or shoulders is almost never appropriate. The same is true for shorts for both men and women during professional meetings, be they in your village or in the regional capital.

Personal Safety

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their 2 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 Togo. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

What is considered a challenge or a reward varies from person to person, but certainly you will find yourself having to adapt to a different perception of time and productivity. Female Volunteers will have to deal with the reality that Togo is very much a patriarchal society, meaning that men are generally accorded more power and respect than women simply because of their gender. You may spend a lot of the time being totally baffled as to why things are turning out as they are.

The potential rewards, however, far outweigh any challenges. You will almost inevitably find yourself part of a close-knit community unlike anything you have experienced in America. You will receive the satisfaction of being able to share your good fortune with those less fortunate and knowing that you are participating in the most pressing development issues that Togo faces: including the fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty. By the end of your 2 years of service, you will find that you have grown immeasurably and have become a citizen of the world.