Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Morocco" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Bolivia"

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===Communications===
  
==Communications ==
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====Telephones====
  
During pre-service training, you will receive mail at the Peace Corps/Morocco office, which will forward mail to the training site at least once a week. Please do not have packages sent to you during training. After you are assigned to your permanent site, you will receive mail at a local post office or at your workplace. Packages should be sent directly to your site after training. Depending on the distance to your site from Rabat, mail may take anywhere from three days to three weeks to get to you.  
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International phone service to and from Bolivia is relatively good in the major cities. Volunteers do not typically have telephones in their homes and may not have them in their work facilities. Most have access to a telephone company office at their sites or in their departmental capital where they can make and receive calls, as well as send faxes, when necessary. Collect calls can be made from most phones, and AT&T, MCI, and Sprint calling cards can be used from some phones. International long distance is expensive, however, and most Volunteers find it more convenient and reliable to communicate via electronic or regular mail.  
  
Your mailing address during training will be:
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More and more Volunteers are either bringing their own or purchasing cellular phones and service at their own expense when they come to Bolivia. Cellular service is generally available only in and near major cities, not in the rural areas where most Volunteers live and work. Peace Corps/Bolivia does not provide cellphones or service, as every site must be accessible by regular phone service or shortwave radio. Bolivia only uses cellphones with DSM or TDMA technology.
  
"Your Name", Trainee <br>
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===Housing and Site Location===
s/c Corps de la Paix <br>
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They live in houses with usually 3 or more people per bedroom.
2, rue Abou Marouane Essaadi <br>
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Agdal, Rabat 10100, MOROCCO <br>
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
It normally takes 10 to 12 days for an airmail letter to arrive from the United States. Surface mail takes from one to four months. Mail that goes through the Moroccan post office is subject to customs inspection, censorship, and currency control. Advise your friends and relatives that mail delivery is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Also, they should never send cash through the mail, as it will seldom reach you. Please check the U.S. Post Service website at www.usps.com for the latest updates on how best to send your letter or package. Currently, the USPS recommends air Parcel Post (not surface mail) for packages, or airmail for letters.  
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During training, your room and board will be provided by your host family. You will receive a small weekly “walk-around” stipend in local currency (bolivianos) to cover transportation expenses from your host community to scheduled training events and other basic expenses (an occasional restaurant meal, snacks, postage, Internet cafè fees, etc.).  
  
Although having packages sent from home is not recommended because of the unreliability of mail service and the customs fees, if you do have packages sent, brown padded envelopes work well. Make sure they have the green customs label and are marked as gifts, which should prevent the imposition of fees. It is best to wait to have packages sent until you know your permanent address. Again, please do not have your family send you packages during pre-service training.  
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You are expected to live at the same level as the Bolivian people in your community. After you swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, your monthly living allowance, which is provided in local currency, is intended to cover your housing, utilities, household and personal supplies, clothing, food, job supplies, transportation, recreation and entertainment, and miscellaneous items. The amount of the allowance you receive is based on the cost of living in the area or region to which you are assigned. If you receive free housing or food, your living allowance may be slightly reduced.  
  
===Telephones ===
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Peace Corps/Bolivia will open a savings account in your name at a bank near your site and provide you with an ATM card.  Your living allowance will be deposited in your account by the first working day of every month.
  
Telephone and telegraph services are available in all parts of the country. Volunteers in larger cities may have a telephone in their home. Many Volunteers purchase inexpensive cellphones in Morocco, an expense that is not covered by the Peace Corps. Public telephones (called teleboutiques) suitable for making direct-dial international calls exist in most towns. Collect calls can be made only at a post and telecommunications office, and you should anticipate a wait. AT&T and MCI calling cards work in Morocco.  
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Volunteers receive three additional allowances. First, you will receive a modest vacation allowance and two days of vacation leave for each month of service (excluding training). After taking the Volunteer oath, you will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance to cover the initial expenses of furnishing a house or room and purchasing basic supplies, which might include a cellphone. Finally, for each month of service, the U.S. government sets aside $225. This readjustment allowance is a lump sum, made available to Volunteers upon completion of their service, which permits them to resettle in the United States.  
  
The Peace Corps office in Morocco can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. During normal working hours, the office number (from most states) is 011.212.3.768-3780, and a duty officer monitors calls for emergencies after office hours. Volunteers are not permitted to use telephones at the Peace Corps/Morocco office to call family or friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.  
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The Peace Corps highly discourages you from relying on gifts or savings from home to supplement your monthly living allowance. The effectiveness and quality of your experience depend, in some measure, on living at the level of the majority of the people in your community. However, we encourage you to use vacation time to visit other areas of Bolivia and South America, and you may want to use personal funds for such travel. We recommend that you bring a credit card or traveler’s checks in lieu of cash. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted throughout South America.  
  
===Computer, E-mail, and Internet Access ===
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Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funding, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to help itself and to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site so that you have time to engage the community in project identification. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your project director and country director.
  
Volunteers, typically, are able to access e-mail and the Internet at cybercafes. Cybercafes are affordable, generally reliable and can be found in increasing numbers in just about any town or city. Most Volunteers do not have a cyber café at their site, but most are within a few hours’ travel from one. The Volunteer lounge at the Peace Corps office in Rabat is equipped with two computers, both with Internet access, and a printer reserved for Volunteer use. Volunteers are not allowed to use staff computers.  
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The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private-sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Peace Corps’ Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the country director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580 (extension 2170), e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov, or visit www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.volproj
  
Some Volunteers bring their laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining the computers themselves. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance.
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===Food and Diet===
  
==Housing and Site Location ==
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As a Volunteer you may choose to prepare your own meals or arrange for board with your host family, a neighbor, or a local eating establishment. Your diet will vary according to your site location, as every region has its traditional foods and specialties. Rice, potatoes, and pasta are available almost everywhere. Meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables may be scarce depending on the season and your site location.
  
You will be assigned to your permanent site towards the end of pre-service training. After your site announcement, you will visit your assigned site to meet your counterparts and other members of your community. Once you move to the site, you will spend your first two months living with a host family that has been chosen by the Peace Corps. This family has prepared for your arrival and will provide you with a safe and secure place to live while you continue to learn the language and adapt to the culture. An additional objective of this period is to help you integrate more effectively into the community.  
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It is challenging, but not impossible, to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet in Bolivia because of the seasonal and regional variations in the availability of certain foods and local customs. Most Volunteers find that exercising flexibility in their dietary preferences simplifies and enriches their experience.  
  
After the mandatory two-month stay with a Moroccan family, you are free to change your housing, in accordance with the Peace Corps’ safety and security criteria (see the chapter on Health Care and Safety). The Peace Corps will give you a modest settling-in allowance to purchase household necessities such as a stove, dishes, and furniture. Peace Corps will provide additional items, such as a carbon monoxide detector and water filter, if necessary. Volunteers in areas that experience unbearably cold winters can be reimbursed for the purchase of an appropriate heater. Depending on the site, Volunteer housing generally consists of two or more rooms and private bath and latrine facilities. Some Volunteers live in family compounds with one or two private rooms for their use.
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===Transportation===
  
While many Volunteers in Morocco have running water and electricity, you may not have these amenities and may collect your water from an outside faucet or well and spend your evenings reading by candle or lantern. You need to be very flexible in your housing expectations, as there are no guarantees of continuous electricity or water.  
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As a Volunteer, you will be responsible for arranging your personal and work-related travel and for transporting personal belongings, supplies, and project-related equipment to and from your site. All Volunteers are required to use public transportation when available. Public transportation varies widely; while taxis, minivans, and buses may be available at some sites, some Volunteers may have access only to local cargo trucks. Some sites have daily public transportation to and from major cities, while others have access only once or twice a week. We urge Volunteers to always choose transportation with safety in mind.
  
Depending on your program and assignment, you may be placed in a community that ranges from a large, semi-urban town to a very small rural village. Some Volunteers share a site, while others are quite a distance from other Volunteers. Peace Corps staff members visit all sites to ensure that they meet the Peace Corps’ safety and security criteria. Staff also visit all Volunteers intermittently to provide personal, medical, and professional support.  
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Conditions for bicycle riders are very poor in Bolivia.  Roads are often bumpy and narrow, shoulders are rare, and unexpected hazards (potholes, uncovered manholes, etc.) are commonplace. Also, motor vehicle operators tend to show little respect to bicycle riders.
  
==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
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That said, Volunteers in some rural sites may request a bicycle for work-related transportation. If the request is approved, the Peace Corps provides a one-time allowance for the purchase of a bicycle and a helmet, which you are required to wear at all times when riding. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of all ongoing bicycle maintenance and repair. Volunteers in cities are not eligible to receive bicycles because they have access to reliable public transportation.
  
As a Volunteer in Morocco, you will receive four types of allowances. The first is a one-time settling-in allowance, currently five thousand Moroccan dirhams (MAD 5000), that is used to buy basic household items when you move to your site. This amount is reviewed once a year through a “settling-in survey” to ensure that the allowance is sufficient. You will receive a monthly living allowance, currently MAD 2000, to cover your basic expenses, i.e., food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, communications costs (e.g., cell phone cards, internet access), transportation, reading material, and other incidentals. Your monthly rent will be covered separately by the Peace Corps. The living allowance is paid in local currency and is sent to Volunteers during the third week of each month for the following month. The living allowance is reviewed once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate.  You may find that you receive more remuneration than your counterpart or supervisor.  
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Bolivia is a physically demanding country. Travel is usually long and arduous. Twelve-hour or longer bus trips on dusty roads and great temperature fluctuations (due to extreme elevation changes) are not uncommon. Volunteers must be willing and able to adjust to difficult physical conditions.
  
You will also receive a vacation allowance of $24 (currently MAD 220) per month and a travel allowance to cover the cost of work-related trips (pre-approved work-related leave, official Peace Corps events, etc.). The current travel allowance policy is under review.
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===Geography and Climate===
  
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Morocco with these 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. Nevertheless, credit cards are handy for vacations and travel and can be used in several establishments in the larger cities. Traveler’s checks can be cashed for a small percentage fee. ATMs can be found at most major banks in large cities.
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About the size of Texas and California combined, Bolivia boasts outstanding biological and geographic diversity, ranging from the frigid treeless plains of the altiplano (12,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level) to the temperate and fertile valleys to the stark and unforgiving desert of the Chaco to the tropical jungle lowlands a few hundred feet above sea level.  
  
==Food and Diet ==
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At nearly 12,000 feet, La Paz is the highest national capital in the world. While some visitors experience problems related to the altitude, most Volunteers adapt to the altiplano’s heights within several months.
  
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are available year-round, and all meats except pork are readily available. Dairy products like yogurt and milk can usually be obtained.  Although maintaining a vegetarian diet should not be difficult, you will be confronted with cultural issues when visiting Moroccan families, as they will offer you, and expect you to accept, traditional foods. Thus vegetarians need to be flexible about sharing the Moroccan diet when visiting friends and neighbors.  
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The altiplano’s alternating hills and flatlands are punctuated with breathtaking, snow-covered mountain peaks that reach nearly 21,500 feet. The highland valleys, such as Cochabamba, are generally temperate and contain some of the most fertile soil in the country. The hot, dry expanses of the Chaco are reminiscent of the high desert plains of the Western United States. Bolivia’s lowlands feature steamy forests and swamps, along with the bugs, high humidity, and relentless downpours characteristic of the tropics.  
  
Fresh bread is widely available and is an important part of the Moroccan diet. Pastries are available in larger towns, and pasta is available in almost any small shop.  
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Seasonal changes in weather are marked more by the amount of rainfall than by extremes in temperature. Generally, during the rainy summer season (November to March), altiplano temperatures are cool, valley temperatures moderate during the day and cool at night, and lowland temperatures very hot and humid. There can be severe flooding at this time of year that washes out roads, making transportation to and from Volunteer sites difficult. The climate is generally drier during the winter season (May through September), with less extreme weather in all zones (i.e., mild days and cool nights in the altiplano and high valleys and less intense heat and humidity in the lowlands).  
  
Mint tea is a Moroccan's favorite drink. It is traditionally very sweet and is served throughout the day. The numerous cafes in Morocco, which are mostly frequented by men, also serve coffee and fresh orange juice. Because Morocco is a Muslim country, beer and wine are not usually available in rural areas.
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===Social Activities===
  
==Transportation ==
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Most social activities revolve around daily and special community events. Volunteers are often invited to share family and community events such as birthday parties, local holidays and festivals, sports activities, or just chatting over tea. Integrating into your community is the key to an enjoyable and rich experience as a Volunteer. By spending time in your community and building solid relationships-through both your work assignment and interaction with Bolivian neighbors, shop owners, and other community members—you will have greater opportunities to participate in social activities.
  
Most Volunteers travel within the country in commercial buses or long-distance taxis (grand taxi). Local taxis (petit taxis) are available in all medium and large cities. If required for their work, Volunteers are issued bicycles with bicycle helmets. To reduce safety risks, Peace Corps/Morocco prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicle (such as a motorcycle) for any reason. Nor are Volunteers allowed to own or drive private cars. Violation of these policies may result in termination of your Volunteer service.  
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While extensive training will prepare you, you will need to develop a keen awareness of Bolivian culture and customs. Many social events include alcohol consumption. Volunteers are expected to avoid excessive use of alcohol, which is often the determining factor in Volunteer safety incidents. You have to exercise continual, careful judgment under sometimes difficult circumstances, including social pressure to drink to excess.  
  
==Geography and Climate ==
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The Peace Corps prohibits the use of all illegal drugs, including marijuana, and any form of coca ingestion by Peace Corps Volunteers and trainees. Any use thereof is grounds for termination of Peace Corps service. The government of Bolivia, with the support of the United States, has taken a strong stand against the illegal cultivation of coca and the use of illegal drugs. Bolivia’s stringent antidrug law mandates stiff prison sentences and does not differentiate between using and dealing drugs. Any invitee who uses illegal substances should not accept an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
  
Morocco is sometimes referred to as the cold country with the hot sun. The sun shines most of the year, but the cold can penetrate straight to your bones. The country has a varied geography, with beaches, mountains, desert, and agricultural land. The north tends to receive more rain than the south, so the majority of agriculture occurs in the north.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
Moving southward, the landscape changes to desert, turning into the Sahara in the deep southeast. Morocco boasts a popular ski resort in the Atlas Mountains outside Marrakech, and on either side of the mountains are flat, hot, and dry plains. Summer is hot all over Morocco, with coastal areas experiencing greater relative humidity than inland areas.  
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Dress in Bolivia is more conservative and more formal than in the United States, and Volunteers should follow the example of Bolivians in attire at their work site and in their community. You will be working as a development professional in Bolivia, and inappropriate dress may make Bolivians less receptive to you.  
  
==Social Activities ==
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During training, and as a Volunteer, there will be very few occasions for men to wear jackets and ties and for women to wear dresses. In classroom and office settings in cities and larger rural communities, attire should be conservative to casual: khakis, dockers or nice blue jeans, button-down shirts with collars, polo shirts, casual skirts (knee length or longer), blouses, etc. Also bring plenty of casual clothes that you would wear in nonformal settings (e.g., jeans, T-shirts, work boots) for use after work or while in the field. Clothes should always be untorn, neat and clean.
  
Morocco is more tolerant than many other Muslim nations toward Western cultural norms. But while people in large cities tend to dress in Western clothing, those in rural communities are still very traditional. Most Volunteers live in small towns or rural settings and need to conform to local customs. Men have more external freedom than women do in that they can circulate freely outside the home. Cultural norms do not allow men and women to mix freely outside the home, and women tend to spend more time in the home, taking care of domestic affairs and socializing with other women. Moroccans are known for their hospitality, and you should expect invitations to dinner, weddings, and other social functions.  
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Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and other revealing attire. While young Bolivian women in the larger lowland cities do wear such clothing, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are exacerbated by revealing attire and oftentimes this leads to unwanted attention or harassment. This is especially true outside of major cities like La Paz and Santa Cruz. Similarly, ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, and shorts are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Bolivia.  
  
==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
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Pierced ears are acceptable for women. Younger Bolivian men in the larger cities occasionally wear earrings. Male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities.  Other body piercing is not appropriate for Volunteers in Bolivia. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times.
  
The people of Morocco take pride in their personal appearance. To gain their acceptance, respect, and confidence, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally. Dress standards for Volunteers are generally conservative. Women may wear pants with long-sleeved shirts for normal work-related activity, but are expected to wear long, casual skirts or dresses for more professional activities (e.g., meetings and/or workshops with Ministry representatives). Men are expected to wear long trousers for most activities.
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===Personal Safety===
  
Adhering to the conservative dress codes in Morocco is a test of your motivation and commitment to adapt to your new environment. If you have reservations about this, you should consider the amount of sacrifice and flexibility required to be successful and reevaluate your decision to become a Volunteer.  
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More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter. It is an important issue that 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 Bolivia 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 continual safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Bolivia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. It is your responsibility to inform Peace Corps/Bolivia of your whereabouts. For some independent adults this may be frustrating, but is of utmost importance.  
  
The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to behave in a way that will foster respect within their communities 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 you need to be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
Certain behaviors can jeopardize the Peace Corps’ mission in Morocco as well as your personal safety and thus cannot be tolerated by the Peace Corps. Engaging in these behaviors may lead to administrative separation, a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook provides more information on the grounds for administrative separation.  
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Volunteers in Bolivia must demonstrate a great deal of flexibility and maturity. It takes considerable sensitivity and effort to establish your credibility both as a professional and as a member of your community. With most Bolivians, you will need to develop friendly social relations before you can proceed with satisfactory work relations.  
  
==Personal Safety ==
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The challenges and rewards of Peace Corps service depend in large part on an individual’s attitude and commitment, and each person’s situation is different. Still, there are some common occurrences that you are likely to find annoying or frustrating at some point, such as having to repeatedly explain your role as a Volunteer to people, lack of technical support from your counterpart or supervisor, numerous delays during the course of your work and daily life, lack of privacy, gossip about you, and perceptions that you are a wealthy foreigner.
  
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (often alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as wealthy 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. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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Other frustrations faced by Volunteers result from inadequate infrastructure, including poor roads, infrequent and unreliable public transportation and communications, and lack of access to water and sanitation facilities. Volunteers also occasionally get impatient with or bothered by uninformed community health and hygiene practices, antiquated educational approaches, an inappropriate dependence on external resources, and lack of community organization.  
  
==Rewards and Frustrations ==
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Successful Volunteers demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, a willingness to make personal sacrifices, and the ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. An optimistic attitude and a sense of humor are also essential characteristics of successful Volunteers.
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrationsBecause of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support promised. Moreover, 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. 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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There are few more enriching experiences than living and working in a new culture, interacting with people different from you, and developing an awareness of diverse valuesMost Volunteers find that the rewards of Peace Corps service far outweigh the challenges. Volunteers in Bolivia report strong gratification from developing new technical and language skills, discovering formerly untapped personal strengths and abilities, broadening their global perspective, deepening their cultural understanding, and helping others live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.  
  
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. Often you will find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development 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.
 
  
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. 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 Morocco feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
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[[Category:Bolivia]]
 
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[[Category:Morocco]]
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Revision as of 09:39, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications

Telephones

International phone service to and from Bolivia is relatively good in the major cities. Volunteers do not typically have telephones in their homes and may not have them in their work facilities. Most have access to a telephone company office at their sites or in their departmental capital where they can make and receive calls, as well as send faxes, when necessary. Collect calls can be made from most phones, and AT&T, MCI, and Sprint calling cards can be used from some phones. International long distance is expensive, however, and most Volunteers find it more convenient and reliable to communicate via electronic or regular mail.

More and more Volunteers are either bringing their own or purchasing cellular phones and service at their own expense when they come to Bolivia. Cellular service is generally available only in and near major cities, not in the rural areas where most Volunteers live and work. Peace Corps/Bolivia does not provide cellphones or service, as every site must be accessible by regular phone service or shortwave radio. Bolivia only uses cellphones with DSM or TDMA technology.

Housing and Site Location

They live in houses with usually 3 or more people per bedroom.

Living Allowance and Money Management

During training, your room and board will be provided by your host family. You will receive a small weekly “walk-around” stipend in local currency (bolivianos) to cover transportation expenses from your host community to scheduled training events and other basic expenses (an occasional restaurant meal, snacks, postage, Internet cafè fees, etc.).

You are expected to live at the same level as the Bolivian people in your community. After you swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, your monthly living allowance, which is provided in local currency, is intended to cover your housing, utilities, household and personal supplies, clothing, food, job supplies, transportation, recreation and entertainment, and miscellaneous items. The amount of the allowance you receive is based on the cost of living in the area or region to which you are assigned. If you receive free housing or food, your living allowance may be slightly reduced.

Peace Corps/Bolivia will open a savings account in your name at a bank near your site and provide you with an ATM card. Your living allowance will be deposited in your account by the first working day of every month.

Volunteers receive three additional allowances. First, you will receive a modest vacation allowance and two days of vacation leave for each month of service (excluding training). After taking the Volunteer oath, you will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance to cover the initial expenses of furnishing a house or room and purchasing basic supplies, which might include a cellphone. Finally, for each month of service, the U.S. government sets aside $225. This readjustment allowance is a lump sum, made available to Volunteers upon completion of their service, which permits them to resettle in the United States.

The Peace Corps highly discourages you from relying on gifts or savings from home to supplement your monthly living allowance. The effectiveness and quality of your experience depend, in some measure, on living at the level of the majority of the people in your community. However, we encourage you to use vacation time to visit other areas of Bolivia and South America, and you may want to use personal funds for such travel. We recommend that you bring a credit card or traveler’s checks in lieu of cash. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted throughout South America.

Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funding, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to help itself and to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site so that you have time to engage the community in project identification. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your project director and country director.

The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private-sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Peace Corps’ Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the country director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580 (extension 2170), e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov, or visit www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.volproj

Food and Diet

As a Volunteer you may choose to prepare your own meals or arrange for board with your host family, a neighbor, or a local eating establishment. Your diet will vary according to your site location, as every region has its traditional foods and specialties. Rice, potatoes, and pasta are available almost everywhere. Meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables may be scarce depending on the season and your site location.

It is challenging, but not impossible, to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet in Bolivia because of the seasonal and regional variations in the availability of certain foods and local customs. Most Volunteers find that exercising flexibility in their dietary preferences simplifies and enriches their experience.

Transportation

As a Volunteer, you will be responsible for arranging your personal and work-related travel and for transporting personal belongings, supplies, and project-related equipment to and from your site. All Volunteers are required to use public transportation when available. Public transportation varies widely; while taxis, minivans, and buses may be available at some sites, some Volunteers may have access only to local cargo trucks. Some sites have daily public transportation to and from major cities, while others have access only once or twice a week. We urge Volunteers to always choose transportation with safety in mind.

Conditions for bicycle riders are very poor in Bolivia. Roads are often bumpy and narrow, shoulders are rare, and unexpected hazards (potholes, uncovered manholes, etc.) are commonplace. Also, motor vehicle operators tend to show little respect to bicycle riders.

That said, Volunteers in some rural sites may request a bicycle for work-related transportation. If the request is approved, the Peace Corps provides a one-time allowance for the purchase of a bicycle and a helmet, which you are required to wear at all times when riding. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of all ongoing bicycle maintenance and repair. Volunteers in cities are not eligible to receive bicycles because they have access to reliable public transportation.

Bolivia is a physically demanding country. Travel is usually long and arduous. Twelve-hour or longer bus trips on dusty roads and great temperature fluctuations (due to extreme elevation changes) are not uncommon. Volunteers must be willing and able to adjust to difficult physical conditions.

Geography and Climate

About the size of Texas and California combined, Bolivia boasts outstanding biological and geographic diversity, ranging from the frigid treeless plains of the altiplano (12,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level) to the temperate and fertile valleys to the stark and unforgiving desert of the Chaco to the tropical jungle lowlands a few hundred feet above sea level.

At nearly 12,000 feet, La Paz is the highest national capital in the world. While some visitors experience problems related to the altitude, most Volunteers adapt to the altiplano’s heights within several months.

The altiplano’s alternating hills and flatlands are punctuated with breathtaking, snow-covered mountain peaks that reach nearly 21,500 feet. The highland valleys, such as Cochabamba, are generally temperate and contain some of the most fertile soil in the country. The hot, dry expanses of the Chaco are reminiscent of the high desert plains of the Western United States. Bolivia’s lowlands feature steamy forests and swamps, along with the bugs, high humidity, and relentless downpours characteristic of the tropics.

Seasonal changes in weather are marked more by the amount of rainfall than by extremes in temperature. Generally, during the rainy summer season (November to March), altiplano temperatures are cool, valley temperatures moderate during the day and cool at night, and lowland temperatures very hot and humid. There can be severe flooding at this time of year that washes out roads, making transportation to and from Volunteer sites difficult. The climate is generally drier during the winter season (May through September), with less extreme weather in all zones (i.e., mild days and cool nights in the altiplano and high valleys and less intense heat and humidity in the lowlands).

Social Activities

Most social activities revolve around daily and special community events. Volunteers are often invited to share family and community events such as birthday parties, local holidays and festivals, sports activities, or just chatting over tea. Integrating into your community is the key to an enjoyable and rich experience as a Volunteer. By spending time in your community and building solid relationships-through both your work assignment and interaction with Bolivian neighbors, shop owners, and other community members—you will have greater opportunities to participate in social activities.

While extensive training will prepare you, you will need to develop a keen awareness of Bolivian culture and customs. Many social events include alcohol consumption. Volunteers are expected to avoid excessive use of alcohol, which is often the determining factor in Volunteer safety incidents. You have to exercise continual, careful judgment under sometimes difficult circumstances, including social pressure to drink to excess.

The Peace Corps prohibits the use of all illegal drugs, including marijuana, and any form of coca ingestion by Peace Corps Volunteers and trainees. Any use thereof is grounds for termination of Peace Corps service. The government of Bolivia, with the support of the United States, has taken a strong stand against the illegal cultivation of coca and the use of illegal drugs. Bolivia’s stringent antidrug law mandates stiff prison sentences and does not differentiate between using and dealing drugs. Any invitee who uses illegal substances should not accept an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Dress in Bolivia is more conservative and more formal than in the United States, and Volunteers should follow the example of Bolivians in attire at their work site and in their community. You will be working as a development professional in Bolivia, and inappropriate dress may make Bolivians less receptive to you.

During training, and as a Volunteer, there will be very few occasions for men to wear jackets and ties and for women to wear dresses. In classroom and office settings in cities and larger rural communities, attire should be conservative to casual: khakis, dockers or nice blue jeans, button-down shirts with collars, polo shirts, casual skirts (knee length or longer), blouses, etc. Also bring plenty of casual clothes that you would wear in nonformal settings (e.g., jeans, T-shirts, work boots) for use after work or while in the field. Clothes should always be untorn, neat and clean.

Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and other revealing attire. While young Bolivian women in the larger lowland cities do wear such clothing, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are exacerbated by revealing attire and oftentimes this leads to unwanted attention or harassment. This is especially true outside of major cities like La Paz and Santa Cruz. Similarly, ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, and shorts are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Bolivia.

Pierced ears are acceptable for women. Younger Bolivian men in the larger cities occasionally wear earrings. Male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities. Other body piercing is not appropriate for Volunteers in Bolivia. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times.

Personal Safety

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter. It is an important issue that 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 Bolivia 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 continual safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Bolivia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. It is your responsibility to inform Peace Corps/Bolivia of your whereabouts. For some independent adults this may be frustrating, but is of utmost importance.

Rewards and Frustrations

Volunteers in Bolivia must demonstrate a great deal of flexibility and maturity. It takes considerable sensitivity and effort to establish your credibility both as a professional and as a member of your community. With most Bolivians, you will need to develop friendly social relations before you can proceed with satisfactory work relations.

The challenges and rewards of Peace Corps service depend in large part on an individual’s attitude and commitment, and each person’s situation is different. Still, there are some common occurrences that you are likely to find annoying or frustrating at some point, such as having to repeatedly explain your role as a Volunteer to people, lack of technical support from your counterpart or supervisor, numerous delays during the course of your work and daily life, lack of privacy, gossip about you, and perceptions that you are a wealthy foreigner.

Other frustrations faced by Volunteers result from inadequate infrastructure, including poor roads, infrequent and unreliable public transportation and communications, and lack of access to water and sanitation facilities. Volunteers also occasionally get impatient with or bothered by uninformed community health and hygiene practices, antiquated educational approaches, an inappropriate dependence on external resources, and lack of community organization.

Successful Volunteers demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, a willingness to make personal sacrifices, and the ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. An optimistic attitude and a sense of humor are also essential characteristics of successful Volunteers.

There are few more enriching experiences than living and working in a new culture, interacting with people different from you, and developing an awareness of diverse values. Most Volunteers find that the rewards of Peace Corps service far outweigh the challenges. Volunteers in Bolivia report strong gratification from developing new technical and language skills, discovering formerly untapped personal strengths and abilities, broadening their global perspective, deepening their cultural understanding, and helping others live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.