Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Turkmenistan" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Ukraine"

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===Communications ===
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==Communication==
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===Mail ===
  
====Mail ====
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S.  standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration.  Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Ukraine.
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of postal service considered normal in the United States. Mail has taken as few as two or three weeks to arrive in Turkmenistan, but it can take longer, especially around holidays. Some mail may simply not arrive. However, postal service has improved immensely in the past couple of years.  
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During training, mail for trainees received at the Peace Corps office in Kyiv will be forwarded to the training site once or twice each week. Once you become a Volunteer and move to your permanent site, you will receive mail there, either at a post office box or at your office. Peace Corps/Ukraine uses the Ukrainian postal network to mail routine, nonurgent items, including a weekly packet sent to each Volunteer.  
  
Your address while you are a trainee (your first three months in-country) will be:
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Family and friends should not send you valuable items through the mail, as packages sometimes arrive opened, with items missing, or do not arrive at all. We recommend the use of padded envelopes instead of boxes, as they usually arrive unopened. Airmail is more reliable, but more expensive, than surface mail.
  
“Your Name,” PCT
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A number of international mail services operate in Ukraine, including UPS and DHL. Volunteers report that the most reliable and inexpensive service is MEEST, whose address in the United States is 609 Commerce Road, Linden, NJ 07036 (phone: 908.474.1100; website: www.meest.net).
  
U.S. Peace Corps/Turkmenistan
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Your address during training will be:
  
PO Box 258, Krugozor
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“Your Name”, PCT <br>
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c/o Peace Corps/Ukraine  <br>
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PO Box 298  <br>
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01030  <br>
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Kyiv, Ukraine  <br>
  
Central Post Office
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===Telephones ===
  
Ashgabat, 744000
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Telecommunications in Ukraine lags far behind that in the United States. Phone lines are often busy, and connections can be poor. Many Ukrainians in small towns and villages do not have their own land lines, and it is possible that you will not have one. Not all cities have the capability to process calling card calls, and many Ukrainians, including Volunteers’ host families, may be unaware of how such calls are billed. Although most host families during training will have phones, you may not be able to make long-distance calls.  Calls, however, can be made from the town post office for a per-minute charge. It is best to inform family members and friends that you’ll need a few days to become acquainted with the telephone system before getting in touch with them. The Peace Corps will ensure that you have access to a phone once you are at your permanent site, through either your place of employment or a neighbor.
  
TURKMENISTAN
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More and more Ukrainians use cellular phones. The Peace Corps staff uses cellphones to supplement land lines and ensure better contact with Volunteers. Peace Corps/Ukraine discourages you from bringing a cellphone because even though a few cellular companies operate in Ukraine, it is highly unlikely that a cellular plan in the United States will cover Ukraine and the surrounding region. It is much cheaper to buy a cellphone here in Ukraine (around $100) and then give the number to your family/friends to call you.  All incoming calls are free of charge. About 90 percent of Volunteers in-country have cellphones.
  
"Via Istanbul"
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
It is a good idea to write Via Istanbul after Turkmenistan, otherwise the post can go through Moscow and this reportedly adds severe delays.
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While Peace Corps/Ukraine makes no recommendation regarding whether to bring a personal computer, it could be useful during your service. Computers (as well as printers, paper, and peripheral devices) may not be generally available at your workplace, and many Volunteers find that having their own is helpful. Although some Volunteers have bought laptops in Ukraine, the selection is limited and generally more expensive than in the U.S. If you decide to bring a computer (and perhaps a small printer), make sure you bring the necessary power converter, surge protection, and plug adapter. (Note that the small, inexpensive converters made for things like alarm clocks are not suitable, and are even dangerous, for computer equipment.) The Peace Corps encourages you to insure your computer against theft.  
  
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While almost all Volunteers in Ukraine have e-mail addresses, many of them have only limited access to e-mail via an Internet cafe at their site or in a nearby city. In all cases, Volunteers should be prepared for poor phone lines that result in slow connection speeds and unpredictable interruptions.
  
During training, your mail will arrive at the Peace Corps office and be delivered to you by the training staff. During your first few months in-country, the absence of mail may be discouraging, so you might want to suggest that family and friends write to you even before you leave the United States.
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==Housing and Site Location ==
  
Once you are assigned to your permanent site, you may have mail sent directly there or you may continue to have mail sent to the Peace Corps office if you wish. For larger items, padded envelopes are safer than boxes. Note that it is standard procedure for packages to be opened and inspected at the central post office. Therefore, we recommend that you not have irreplaceable or valuable items sent to you, as they can mysteriously disappear in transit.  
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Although you will find a Western-looking environment in Ukraine, living conditions are not the same as in the United States, and you will have to make some adjustments in your lifestyle. Volunteers in Ukraine live in a wide range of sites, from large, European-style cities (up to 20 percent of the Volunteer population) to small towns or villages with few modern amenities (up to 80 percent of the Volunteer population).  Generally, housing is in short supply; space is at a premium and accommodations will be cramped.  
  
Volunteers and staff traveling back home often offer to hand-carry letters to be mailed once they arrive in the United States, so you may want to bring a supply of U.S. stamps. While this is a great way to deal with the uncertainty of international mail service, you should not rely on this method, as it is a favor and your mail could sit for weeks in the Peace Corps office.  
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For your first three months as a trainee, you will live with a host family. This homestay is a part of pre-service training and will help you to learn about the Ukrainian culture, improve your language skills, and enhance your safety.  
  
We strongly encourage you to write to your family regularlyFamily members typically become worried when they do not hear from Volunteers, so advise your family and friends that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. would notify your family.  
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After swearing-in, you will move to your permanent siteYou may stay with a host family, roommate, or you may immediately move into an independent living arrangement in a house, apartment, or dormitory. Your situation will depend on what your hosting organization (school or non-profit) has found for you.  Formerly, volunteers in Ukraine stayed up to 3 months with a second host family after moving to site.  This is no longer the case, however.
  
Advise your family and friends to number their letters sequentially for tracking purposes (this will help you tell if letters are missing, though they may arrive out of order) and to write “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.
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If you choose to move to an apartment or dormitory at that time, you will be provided with most of the furnishings you need, along with a settling-in allowance for additional necessary items. If what you need is not immediately available, your regional manager will work with you and your Ukrainian coordinator to ensure that you can obtain any necessities.  
  
====Telephones====
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Note that many towns have to ration water and electricity, and hot water may not be available where you live. Ukrainians usually keep buckets of water and candles at the ready. Heat in towns and cities is centrally controlled and is turned on and off according to finances and the calendar, not the weather.  Volunteers are issued space heaters when they move to their sites. There are some communities where Volunteers are expected to heat their houses using a wood or coal-burning stove.
  
Long-distance communication via telephone is available but can be unreliable and expensive. Although Turkmenistan has direct-dial overseas access in some areas, in most areas international calls (except those to other CIS countries) must be booked through an operator. If you are calling from outside Ashgabat, it may take longer to get a line and your conversation may be cut off after 15 minutes or so. The current rate for calls to America is approximately 20,000 manats (about $1) per minute. Communicating by phone within Turkmenistan may also be difficult at times, and sending a telegram, while not instant, may be more reliable.  It is important for your family and friends to know that they should not expect to be able to reach you by phone quickly.
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==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
  
Cellphone availability is extremely limited and very expensive for a Peace Corps Volunteer. In addition, most of the people Volunteers live and work with do not have cellular phones.  
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As a Volunteer in Ukraine, you will receive three types of allowances. The first, a monthly living allowance, is intended to cover your basic living expenses; that is, food, household supplies, clothing, official travel, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading material, and other incidentals. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. At the time of this writing, the living allowance is roughly equivalent to $200, which is transferred directly into each Volunteer’s local bank account at the beginning of each month. You will probably find that you receive more remuneration than your Ukrainian coordinator or supervisor.  
  
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ====
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The second allowance, a vacation allowance of $24 per month, is added to your living allowance and paid in U.S.  dollars. Finally, when you move into your apartment or house following your three-month homestay at site, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance, paid in local currency, to buy basic household items.
  
Peace Corps/Turkmenistan has three computers with Internet access solely for use by Volunteers and limited use by trainees. Prior to being given access, Volunteers must sign a statement agreeing to abide by all rules and regulations governing the use of Peace Corps computers. Although the Peace Corps does not provide e-mail accounts for Volunteers, you can set up free accounts with providers such as Yahoo!  and Hotmail.  
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Although most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Ukraine with these allowances, some bring money from home for out-of-country travel. The Peace Corps strongly discourages you from supplementing your income with money brought from home while you are in Ukraine. The living allowance is adequate and Volunteers are expected to live at the same economic level as their neighbors and colleagues.  
  
Most Volunteers do not have access to e-mail on a routine basis. It is a good idea to explain this to your family and friends so that they do not worry if they do not hear from you often.  
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Traveler’s checks are virtually unknown in Ukraine, although ATM machines are becoming widespread and are generally safe as long as common sense is used (e.g., avoid using it in crowded areas).  Credit cards are becoming more common in cities and large towns. If you bring cash, be advised that bills that have writing on them may not be accepted and older bills will be hard to exchange for local currency outside of Kyiv.
  
===Housing and Site Location ===
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==Food and Diet ==
  
Peace Corps/Turkmenistan requires that Volunteers live with host families for the first three months of service to better understand the cultural context within which they are living and working. Host families receive training in safety and security support for Volunteers and in issues of American diversity and values. Any change in host family or move to an apartment or home after the required host family stay must meet Peace Corps safety and security standards and be approved by your program manager in advance. In some communities, it may not be culturally appropriate to live alone, particularly for women (of any age).  
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Your host families will provide you with most meals, so you will have plenty of opportunities to become familiar with eating (and cooking) Ukrainian food. As in many countries, the availability of certain foods is dependent on the season, with a wider range of vegetables and fruits available in the spring and summer. Many Volunteers enjoy learning how to preserve and can food for the winter, as many Ukrainians do. The Ukrainian diet relies heavily on meat, potatoes, beets, onions, and cabbages in the winter.  
  
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is based on the premise that Volunteers are safest and most effective when they are fully integrated into their communities and have gained the trust and respect of the local people. Before making site assignments, the Peace Corps considers site-specific information, input from host country sponsors (i.e., local schools, hospitals, or health facility directors), and trainees’ skills, abilities, and special concerns (e.g., medical, health, and safety). This careful matching process aims to place Volunteers at the sites most in need of their type of assistance in the hope that this will result in a positive, rewarding experience for both Volunteers and the people of Turkmenistan. The program manager and program assistant are responsible for finding initial housing for Volunteers in coordination with host country site supervisors.
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The traditional diet can be high in fat and cholesterol.  Vegetarians may find it challenging to maintain their usual diet because of the lack of fruits and vegetables at certain times of the year. Although your host families may be able to cook vegetarian foods for you, a soup described as “vegetarian” may be made with a meat-based stock. Still, there are many types of Ukrainian salads, consisting of cabbage, beets, carrots, and other seasonal and year-round vegetables. In addition, an increasing number of soy products are being imported from Poland.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
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==Transportation ==
  
Volunteers receive four types of allowances. When you become a Volunteer, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance in local currency that is roughly equal to one month’s living allowance. It covers the cost of buying basic household items for your permanent site.  
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Most cities in Ukraine have a comprehensive public transportation system of buses and trolleys. Some cities have trams, and Kyiv and Kharkov have subways. In addition to official and unofficial taxi services, most cities have direct-route taxis that look like vans (known as Marshrutkas). In cities and towns without public transportation, people get around on foot.  
  
You will also receive a living allowance in local currency, deposited regularly in a local bank account, to cover food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals.  
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An extensive train network connects cities throughout Ukraine, with buses operating between shorter distances.  
  
The amount of the living allowance is based on the local economy at your site and may vary by region. The amount is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. You are likely to find that you receive more remuneration than your host country counterpart or supervisor.  
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Many of the trains are overnight trains, so Volunteers can leave their site at night and arrive at their destination in the morning. An alternative that is gaining popularity is a luxury bus network, which also provides overnight service to many cities.
  
You will receive a vacation allowance of $24 per month of service. Finally, you will receive a quarterly travel allowance to cover the cost of transportation, lodging, and meals while traveling for official purposes (including program-related travel, medical travel, and travel to required trainings and Peace Corps events). The amount is established by the administrative officer and is site-specific. Extraordinary expenses above this allowance will be reimbursed on an individual basis.
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==Geography and Climate ==
  
Most Volunteers live comfortably in Turkmenistan with these four allowances. Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home, as they are expected to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues. However, many Volunteers do bring money to spend while they are on vacation and as there are many interesting places to visit in the region, you may want to consider this.  
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Ukraine has a continental climate, with the exception of the southern coast of Crimea, which is in a subtropical zone. Although many people imagine Ukraine as a country of snow and ice, it has four distinct seasons, with summer temperatures averaging in the 70s and 80s.  
  
Credit cards generally cannot be used in Turkmenistan (except, for instance, when purchasing airline tickets from foreign carriers or for getting a cash advance at the Turkmen Central Bank), but they are handy for vacation travel outside Turkmenistan. Another option to consider is a pre-paid debit card for use during travel. Traveler’s checks cannot be cashed in Turkmenistan at this time.  
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Winters in Ukraine are long and cold, and as a result of its northern latitude, daylight in the winter is limited. Some Volunteers with a history of seasonal affective disorder or depression have found the limited exposure to sunlight an added challenge of service in Ukraine.  
  
All Volunteers set up local bank accounts either in the capital or at the branch nearest to their site.
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==Social Activities ==
  
===Food and Diet ===
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The life of a Volunteer is filled with learning and networking 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having a cup of tea with a Ukrainian neighbor is as much a part of the Volunteer experience as is teaching a class or seminar. Social activities will vary depending on where you live and might include taking part in local festivals, parties, and dances. In addition, although the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites as an essential strategy for integrating into their communities, some Volunteers occasionally visit nearby Volunteers on weekends. Most towns and cities have cafes and restaurants for evenings out, and many Volunteers have televisions and VCRs in their apartments.
  
Staple foods are available throughout the year. Imported foods are increasingly common, though they may not be the American or European brands you are used to and they are expensive.
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==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
  
Chicken, eggs, and milk are available but somewhat expensive. Meat can always be found, and fish is fairly common. Sour cream and locally made white cheese are available in most markets. Imported cheeses are becoming more widely available but are costly.  
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Ukrainians pay a lot of attention to their appearance, and they will judge your professionalism based on what you wear. Ukrainians in general, but women especially, dress more formally than do Americans on most occasions. The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that will foster respect toward you in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and thus must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your Ukrainian hosts. You need to be aware that behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Ukraine or your personal safety cannot be tolerated and could lead to administrative separation, a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.  
  
You will find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as melons, grapes, pomegranates, and the ubiquitous eggplants, in the summer and fall. In the winter, you can generally find potatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions, spinach, garlic, apples, mandarins, oranges, and peanuts. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and bananas are also available in the winter, but they are expensive. Grains, nuts, and dried fruits (e.g., apricots and raisins) are always available, as are fresh herbs like red basil, mint, chives, dill, cilantro, and parsley. Markets in more rural areas tend to offer fewer items year-round than do markets in cities.
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==Personal Safety ==
  
The traditional Turkmen and Russian diets rely heavily on rice, meat, and fat. Dinner is usually the largest meal of the day. Schools serve inexpensive snacks to students and faculty.  
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More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Ukraine Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. You will learn about these procedures and policies during safety training in Ukraine. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
Commonly served beverages include hot tea (both black and green), mineral water, compote (boiled and preserved fruit juice), and alcohol (i.e., vodka, cognac, beer, and locally produced wine). Champagne is often served on festive occasions. Western-style beverages such as Coca-Cola, Fanta, and boxed juices are available.
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==Rewards and Frustrations ==
  
Strict vegetarians may have difficulties adhering to their diet while in Turkmenistan because of the heavy reliance on animal products in the local diet and because of the constant social pressure to eat—and eat a lot. Your host family, for example, may be hurt if you refuse to eat their food. In addition, the meaning of vegetarianism often is not understood. Do not be surprised to hear someone say, for example, that a soup is “vegetarian” even though it was made with a meat broth or that a rice dish is suitable because it was prepared with less meat on top.  
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It may take time for your Ukrainian counterparts to understand your role as a Volunteer and for you to determine your appropriate responsibilities. You may not be stepping into a well-defined situation. You will need to remember that you are part of a long-term development project. A challenge throughout your assignment will be helping your counterparts develop their capacity to continue to perform similar work after your departure.  
  
You will have to take charge of your diet within the context of your host family’s expectations. (This applies to all Volunteers, since most Turkmen do not share American views of what constitutes a healthy diet.) The Peace Corps/Turkmenistan staff can help explain your situation to your host family and can help you develop a strategy for maintaining your diet.  
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You will be frustrated at times by not being able to communicate easily in the local language, even after the preparation provided during pre-service training. While your coordinator may have a fairly strong command of English, most of your colleagues will not. Learning Ukrainian or Russian, will make a major difference in your work, in your ability to adapt to living in Ukraine, and in your appreciation of Ukrainian society and culture.  
  
===Transportation ===
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Attitudes about racial differences and public expression of racism are generally different in Ukraine from those typically found in the United States. Incidents involving disrespect for and harassment against minority Volunteers occur and it is important for people to consider this fact and how this might affect them.
  
Traveling within Turkmenistan can be challenging. There are inexpensive daily flights to most regional capitals, but it can be difficult to get a ticket. Most Volunteers take trains, taxis, buses, or marshrutkas (minivans) to travel from one city to another. On the whole, public buses are adequate and inexpensive. Likewise, taxis are affordable and readily available. For your safety, Peace Corps recommends that you carefully determine the safety of the vehicles in which you ride as many vehicles are old and in disrepair. Guidance will be provided during training on how to do this.  
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To have a successful experience as a Volunteer, you must be motivated, flexible, and willing to work hard. You will need to take the initiative to identify local resources and institutions with which you can cooperate. To be effective in your work, you might need to “unlearn” practices and principles that you have developed on the basis of prior experiences. Despite these challenges—or perhaps because of them—Volunteers in Ukraine find satisfaction in demonstrating to their colleagues that every individual can make a difference in the creation of a civil society. As it has in the past, Ukraine is poised to play a pivotal role in the future of Europe and the world. Volunteers have a unique opportunity to impact the nature of that role.  
  
===Geography and Climate ===
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[[Category:Ukraine]]
 
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Turkmenistan is situated in the southwest of Central Asia.  It is located north of the Kopet Dag Mountains, between the Caspian Sea in the west and the Amu Darya River in the east. Turkmenistan borders Uzbekistan in the north and east, Kazakhstan in the northwest, Iran in the south, and Afghanistan in the southeast. Slightly larger than California, the country has an area of 195,200 square miles (488,100 square kilometers).
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The entire central region (four-fifths of the country) consists of the Kara Kum Desert, one of the largest sand deserts in the world. Its major rivers are the Amu Darya (aka Oxus), which flows north through the eastern region of the republic and empties into the Aral Sea; and the Murghap, which flows south into Afghanistan. The Kara Kum Canal, whose construction began in 1954, carries water from the Amu Darya to arid central and western regions that have no significant natural waterways. The canal is one of the main factors contributing to low water levels in the Aral Sea.
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The average temperature in January is 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius). The average temperature in July is 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), and can reach as high as 130 degrees F (50 degrees C) in the southeastern Kara Kum.  Precipitation is slight throughout much of the country, with average rainfall ranging from only 3.2 inches (80&nbsp;mm) in the northwest to about 12 inches (300&nbsp;mm) in mountainous regions. Most rain falls in the winter and spring, so the hot summer months are dry.
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===Social Activities ===
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Social life is quiet in Turkmenistan, though there are many bars, cafes, and restaurants in Ashgabat. While the places frequented by the small expatriate community in the capital are well above the means of Peace Corps Volunteers, local establishments are reasonably priced. There are a few theaters in the capital that present live plays and folklore productions. A few cinemas and a few DVD bars exist in Ashgabat and some other cities, and they sometimes show Western films dubbed into Russian. While drinking is permitted in Turkmenistan, public drunkenness is illegal.  Some Volunteers will find the issue of alcohol consumption to be one of the most difficult to come to terms with during their time here. The people of Turkmenistan lose respect for those who become loud and obnoxious under the influence of alcohol. The Peace Corps also has strict policies about alcohol consumption.
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Outside the capital, night life is more limited. The people of Turkmenistan find entertainment mostly through private parties in their homes. Their hospitality is genuine, and you will be invited to many homes after you become known in your community. Special occasions such as birthdays are often celebrated with lavish dinners. Some Volunteers have found it challenging dealing with the constant pressure to consume food and alcohol (usually vodka or cognac) at social events, including meetings with work supervisors and counterparts.
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Because of the lack of Western-style diversions, many Volunteers become prolific readers or take up hobbies.  The Peace Corps/Turkmenistan office has a large library of English-language books left by past Volunteers, and book exchanges and referrals are a Volunteer tradition.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
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The people of Turkmenistan take pride in their personal appearance. To gain the acceptance, respect, and confidence of Turkmen co-workers, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally, whether at your workplace or visiting the Peace Corps office. Dress standards for foreign aid workers are generally conservative and modest. Women are expected to wear casual skirts or dresses at work (except during physical labor), and men are expected to wear long trousers for activities other than sports or labor.
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Out of respect for the Turkmen people and culture, Volunteers are not allowed to display body piercings (including nose, tongue, eyebrow, and navel rings) and tattoos during their service. Men are not allowed to wear earrings or have long hair or ponytails. If you do not remove your body rings and cut your hair before you arrive in Turkmenistan, you will be asked to do so before we place you with a host family during training. Adhering to these rules is a test of your motivation and commitment to adapting to your new environment. If you have reservations about adhering to them, you should consider the level of flexibility required to be successful Volunteer and reevaluate your decision to serve in Turkmenistan.
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We do not mean to be unduly harsh. We simply want you to understand that how you behave and dress will not only influence the local people’s attitude toward you but reflect on both the United States and the Peace Corps. You can lose respect in the workplace by acting or dressing inappropriately.
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And because the culture tends to be an indirect one, Turkmen are unlikely to tell you when they think you are doing something wrong. Their reactions may come in more subtle ways, such as lack of consideration for your ideas, mistrust of your professional abilities, or excluding you from certain activities.
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You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and thus must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. You need to be aware that any behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Turkmenistan or your personal safety cannot be tolerated and can lead to “administrative separation,” which is a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook contains more information about the grounds for administrative separation.
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===Personal Safety ===
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Turkmenistan. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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===Rewards and Frustrations ===
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Although the potential for job satisfaction in Turkmenistan is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, 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, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. Some of the factors that contribute to the low level of motivation on the part of the counterparts involve difficulties with the government, which tends to view foreigners with suspicion. Even simple projects can be difficult to get permission for and counterparts may be hesitant to be seen as contributing too eagerly to projects of which their supervisors may disapprove. 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.
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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 counterparts with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.
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To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. However, Turkmen are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. The Peace Corps staff, your 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 Turkmenistan feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
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[[Category:Turkmenistan]]
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Revision as of 09:37, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communication

Mail

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Ukraine.

During training, mail for trainees received at the Peace Corps office in Kyiv will be forwarded to the training site once or twice each week. Once you become a Volunteer and move to your permanent site, you will receive mail there, either at a post office box or at your office. Peace Corps/Ukraine uses the Ukrainian postal network to mail routine, nonurgent items, including a weekly packet sent to each Volunteer.

Family and friends should not send you valuable items through the mail, as packages sometimes arrive opened, with items missing, or do not arrive at all. We recommend the use of padded envelopes instead of boxes, as they usually arrive unopened. Airmail is more reliable, but more expensive, than surface mail.

A number of international mail services operate in Ukraine, including UPS and DHL. Volunteers report that the most reliable and inexpensive service is MEEST, whose address in the United States is 609 Commerce Road, Linden, NJ 07036 (phone: 908.474.1100; website: www.meest.net).

Your address during training will be:

“Your Name”, PCT
c/o Peace Corps/Ukraine
PO Box 298
01030
Kyiv, Ukraine

Telephones

Telecommunications in Ukraine lags far behind that in the United States. Phone lines are often busy, and connections can be poor. Many Ukrainians in small towns and villages do not have their own land lines, and it is possible that you will not have one. Not all cities have the capability to process calling card calls, and many Ukrainians, including Volunteers’ host families, may be unaware of how such calls are billed. Although most host families during training will have phones, you may not be able to make long-distance calls. Calls, however, can be made from the town post office for a per-minute charge. It is best to inform family members and friends that you’ll need a few days to become acquainted with the telephone system before getting in touch with them. The Peace Corps will ensure that you have access to a phone once you are at your permanent site, through either your place of employment or a neighbor.

More and more Ukrainians use cellular phones. The Peace Corps staff uses cellphones to supplement land lines and ensure better contact with Volunteers. Peace Corps/Ukraine discourages you from bringing a cellphone because even though a few cellular companies operate in Ukraine, it is highly unlikely that a cellular plan in the United States will cover Ukraine and the surrounding region. It is much cheaper to buy a cellphone here in Ukraine (around $100) and then give the number to your family/friends to call you. All incoming calls are free of charge. About 90 percent of Volunteers in-country have cellphones.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

While Peace Corps/Ukraine makes no recommendation regarding whether to bring a personal computer, it could be useful during your service. Computers (as well as printers, paper, and peripheral devices) may not be generally available at your workplace, and many Volunteers find that having their own is helpful. Although some Volunteers have bought laptops in Ukraine, the selection is limited and generally more expensive than in the U.S. If you decide to bring a computer (and perhaps a small printer), make sure you bring the necessary power converter, surge protection, and plug adapter. (Note that the small, inexpensive converters made for things like alarm clocks are not suitable, and are even dangerous, for computer equipment.) The Peace Corps encourages you to insure your computer against theft.

While almost all Volunteers in Ukraine have e-mail addresses, many of them have only limited access to e-mail via an Internet cafe at their site or in a nearby city. In all cases, Volunteers should be prepared for poor phone lines that result in slow connection speeds and unpredictable interruptions.

Housing and Site Location

Although you will find a Western-looking environment in Ukraine, living conditions are not the same as in the United States, and you will have to make some adjustments in your lifestyle. Volunteers in Ukraine live in a wide range of sites, from large, European-style cities (up to 20 percent of the Volunteer population) to small towns or villages with few modern amenities (up to 80 percent of the Volunteer population). Generally, housing is in short supply; space is at a premium and accommodations will be cramped.

For your first three months as a trainee, you will live with a host family. This homestay is a part of pre-service training and will help you to learn about the Ukrainian culture, improve your language skills, and enhance your safety.

After swearing-in, you will move to your permanent site. You may stay with a host family, roommate, or you may immediately move into an independent living arrangement in a house, apartment, or dormitory. Your situation will depend on what your hosting organization (school or non-profit) has found for you. Formerly, volunteers in Ukraine stayed up to 3 months with a second host family after moving to site. This is no longer the case, however.

If you choose to move to an apartment or dormitory at that time, you will be provided with most of the furnishings you need, along with a settling-in allowance for additional necessary items. If what you need is not immediately available, your regional manager will work with you and your Ukrainian coordinator to ensure that you can obtain any necessities.

Note that many towns have to ration water and electricity, and hot water may not be available where you live. Ukrainians usually keep buckets of water and candles at the ready. Heat in towns and cities is centrally controlled and is turned on and off according to finances and the calendar, not the weather. Volunteers are issued space heaters when they move to their sites. There are some communities where Volunteers are expected to heat their houses using a wood or coal-burning stove.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer in Ukraine, you will receive three types of allowances. The first, a monthly living allowance, is intended to cover your basic living expenses; that is, food, household supplies, clothing, official travel, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading material, and other incidentals. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. At the time of this writing, the living allowance is roughly equivalent to $200, which is transferred directly into each Volunteer’s local bank account at the beginning of each month. You will probably find that you receive more remuneration than your Ukrainian coordinator or supervisor.

The second allowance, a vacation allowance of $24 per month, is added to your living allowance and paid in U.S. dollars. Finally, when you move into your apartment or house following your three-month homestay at site, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance, paid in local currency, to buy basic household items.

Although most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Ukraine with these allowances, some bring money from home for out-of-country travel. The Peace Corps strongly discourages you from supplementing your income with money brought from home while you are in Ukraine. The living allowance is adequate and Volunteers are expected to live at the same economic level as their neighbors and colleagues.

Traveler’s checks are virtually unknown in Ukraine, although ATM machines are becoming widespread and are generally safe as long as common sense is used (e.g., avoid using it in crowded areas). Credit cards are becoming more common in cities and large towns. If you bring cash, be advised that bills that have writing on them may not be accepted and older bills will be hard to exchange for local currency outside of Kyiv.

Food and Diet

Your host families will provide you with most meals, so you will have plenty of opportunities to become familiar with eating (and cooking) Ukrainian food. As in many countries, the availability of certain foods is dependent on the season, with a wider range of vegetables and fruits available in the spring and summer. Many Volunteers enjoy learning how to preserve and can food for the winter, as many Ukrainians do. The Ukrainian diet relies heavily on meat, potatoes, beets, onions, and cabbages in the winter.

The traditional diet can be high in fat and cholesterol. Vegetarians may find it challenging to maintain their usual diet because of the lack of fruits and vegetables at certain times of the year. Although your host families may be able to cook vegetarian foods for you, a soup described as “vegetarian” may be made with a meat-based stock. Still, there are many types of Ukrainian salads, consisting of cabbage, beets, carrots, and other seasonal and year-round vegetables. In addition, an increasing number of soy products are being imported from Poland.

Transportation

Most cities in Ukraine have a comprehensive public transportation system of buses and trolleys. Some cities have trams, and Kyiv and Kharkov have subways. In addition to official and unofficial taxi services, most cities have direct-route taxis that look like vans (known as Marshrutkas). In cities and towns without public transportation, people get around on foot.

An extensive train network connects cities throughout Ukraine, with buses operating between shorter distances.

Many of the trains are overnight trains, so Volunteers can leave their site at night and arrive at their destination in the morning. An alternative that is gaining popularity is a luxury bus network, which also provides overnight service to many cities.

Geography and Climate

Ukraine has a continental climate, with the exception of the southern coast of Crimea, which is in a subtropical zone. Although many people imagine Ukraine as a country of snow and ice, it has four distinct seasons, with summer temperatures averaging in the 70s and 80s.

Winters in Ukraine are long and cold, and as a result of its northern latitude, daylight in the winter is limited. Some Volunteers with a history of seasonal affective disorder or depression have found the limited exposure to sunlight an added challenge of service in Ukraine.

Social Activities

The life of a Volunteer is filled with learning and networking 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having a cup of tea with a Ukrainian neighbor is as much a part of the Volunteer experience as is teaching a class or seminar. Social activities will vary depending on where you live and might include taking part in local festivals, parties, and dances. In addition, although the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites as an essential strategy for integrating into their communities, some Volunteers occasionally visit nearby Volunteers on weekends. Most towns and cities have cafes and restaurants for evenings out, and many Volunteers have televisions and VCRs in their apartments.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Ukrainians pay a lot of attention to their appearance, and they will judge your professionalism based on what you wear. Ukrainians in general, but women especially, dress more formally than do Americans on most occasions. The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that will foster respect toward you in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and thus must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your Ukrainian hosts. You need to be aware that behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Ukraine or your personal safety cannot be tolerated and could lead to administrative separation, a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.

Personal Safety

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Ukraine Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. You will learn about these procedures and policies during safety training in Ukraine. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

It may take time for your Ukrainian counterparts to understand your role as a Volunteer and for you to determine your appropriate responsibilities. You may not be stepping into a well-defined situation. You will need to remember that you are part of a long-term development project. A challenge throughout your assignment will be helping your counterparts develop their capacity to continue to perform similar work after your departure.

You will be frustrated at times by not being able to communicate easily in the local language, even after the preparation provided during pre-service training. While your coordinator may have a fairly strong command of English, most of your colleagues will not. Learning Ukrainian or Russian, will make a major difference in your work, in your ability to adapt to living in Ukraine, and in your appreciation of Ukrainian society and culture.

Attitudes about racial differences and public expression of racism are generally different in Ukraine from those typically found in the United States. Incidents involving disrespect for and harassment against minority Volunteers occur and it is important for people to consider this fact and how this might affect them.

To have a successful experience as a Volunteer, you must be motivated, flexible, and willing to work hard. You will need to take the initiative to identify local resources and institutions with which you can cooperate. To be effective in your work, you might need to “unlearn” practices and principles that you have developed on the basis of prior experiences. Despite these challenges—or perhaps because of them—Volunteers in Ukraine find satisfaction in demonstrating to their colleagues that every individual can make a difference in the creation of a civil society. As it has in the past, Ukraine is poised to play a pivotal role in the future of Europe and the world. Volunteers have a unique opportunity to impact the nature of that role.