Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Niger" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Armenia"

From Peace Corps Wiki
(Difference between pages)
Jump to: navigation, search
(Transportation)
 
 
Line 1: Line 1:
{{Living_conditions_and_volunteer_lifestyles_by_country}}
+
<div style="float: right; font-size:90%; background-color: white; min-width:20%;" margin: 0 0 1em 1em">
 +
{| cellpadding="1" cellspacing="5" style="border: 1px solid #9866FF; background-color: #f3f3ff" width="300"
 +
| align="center" | '''<big>Country Resources</big>'''
 +
|-
 +
| width="50%" |
 +
*[[Packing lists by country]]
 +
*[[Training by country]] 
 +
*[[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country]]
 +
*[[Health care and safety by country]]
 +
*[[Diversity and cross-cultural issues by country]]
 +
*[[FAQs by country]]
 +
*[[History of the Peace Corps by country]] 
 +
|}
 +
</div>
 +
===Communications===
  
 +
====Mail====
  
===Communications === not ture
+
Few countries in the world offer mail service comparable to the United States and Armenia is no exception. Fortunately, there have been improvements over the past few years. At your pre-departure orientation (staging), you will be given a temporary mailing address to use during pre-service training.
  
===Mail ===
+
We suggest that people not send you packages while you are in training. There is a chance you will move to your permanent site before they arrive. You must pick up packages in person, which requires absence from training and payment of duty and/or storage fees. After you are sworn-in as a Volunteer, it will be easy to receive packages at your site, and you won’t have to pay duty fees for items sent through the U.S. Postal Service. (An agreement with the government exempts Volunteers from duty fees.) Please note, however, that items sent to Volunteers via DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc., are not exempt from customs fees and you are required to pay a fee of 20 percent on the declared value of any sent items.
  
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. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately, this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen).  
+
You and your family and friends should number your letters so you can ascertain what is and what is not arriving. In the past, letters have taken as few as 10 days and as long as six weeks to arrive. Do not send valuable items through the mail.  
  
Mail service in Niger is relatively good compared with that in other African countries. Letters and packages mailed from the United States by air (or from Niger to America) usually take two to six weeks to arrive. Packages mailed by surface typically take six months or more, so this method is not recommended. Note that incoming packages are subject to customs duties (generally small).  
+
We strongly encourage you to regularly write family and friends. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail can be slow and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, Peace Corps/Armenia would notify the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., which would then contact your family.  
  
Despite the delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. You might also suggest that family and friends number their letters for tracking purposes and write “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on the envelopes. You should bring a supply of U.S. stamps for sending mail to the United States via travelers. DHL service is available in Niger, and though it is very expensive, this is the best way to mail valuable or time-sensitive items such as airplane tickets.
+
====Telephones====
  
 +
Long-distance telephone service is generally available but expensive. Do not expect to have constant access to a phone all of the time. You may have to use a neighbor’s phone or travel by bus to another village or town if phones in your area don’t work. If you call from outside the capital, it may take longer to get a line. The cost of a long-distance call is approximately $2.40 per minute, although many now use Internet or callback services at lower costs. Staff members have had success in using Sprint, MCI, and AT&T calling cards from local telephones. If you wish to use this option, obtain a card before you leave the United States. Inexpensive international calling cards are also available in most towns and in Yerevan.
  
 +
Advise your family that in an emergency, they should contact the Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. The daytime telephone number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470; the after-hours number is 202.638.2574. This office will then immediately contact Peace Corps/Armenia.
  
Your mailing address in Niger will be:
+
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
  
Name of Trainee/Volunteer
+
E-mail and Internet access is becoming more available, particularly in Yerevan and other large communities, but service tends to be slow. Peace Corps/Armenia suggests you obtain a free e-mail account with www.freenet.am; it is easier to access than other services. You will probably not have regular and easy access to the Internet. Please prepare family and friends for this reality and inform them that responses to e-mails may be delayed. Some Volunteers travel for hours to get to an Internet café.
  
Corps de la Paix
+
Smaller communities are also gaining Internet access through the school connectivity project. This project, managed by Project Harmony, will connect all Armenian schools over the next few years. The Peace Corps works closely with Project Harmony, and Volunteers are helping schools apply for connectivity and equipment. Volunteers also teach computer applications and Internet use at these schools.
  
B.P. 10537
+
===Housing and Site Location===
  
Niamey, Niger
+
During pre-service training, all trainees are required to live with host families. After completing pre-service training and swearing-in, all Volunteers live with host families for a minimum of four months at their permanent site. Living with a host family provides several benefits including accelerated language acquisition; a deeper and more profound cross-cultural understanding; and an improved, in-depth community integration. Being a respected and equal member of a family not only provides strong personal and professional rewards, it can ensure your safety and security as well. Host family accommodations will vary depending on the community. Some may be apartments or separate detached houses; some may have European-style bathrooms while others might use "outhouses" or "squat" toilets. Regardless of the situation, trainees and Volunteers live as the members of their community do.  After the four-month period, Volunteers may remain with host families or change to another living situation in their communities depending on availability and personal preferences.
  
 +
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
 +
As a Volunteer, you will receive a number of allowances in local currency. A one-time settling-in allowance is provided in order to buy basic household items when you move to your site. You will also receive a one-time allowance to cover heating-related expenses (e.g., to purchase of a wood stove and wood or installation of adequate electrical wire for electric heater use or to offset increased electricity costs in winter).
  
===Telephones ===
+
Your monthly living and travel allowances, which are paid directly to your account here every month, are intended to cover food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. Costs related to the living allowance are reviewed annually (generally in February). You will also receive a housing allowance based on the lease agreement signed between you and your landlord. The housing allowance is provided at the same time as the living allowance.
  
Cellphone service is becoming increasingly more available throughout the country; many Volunteer villages have cellphone coverage, however, your relatives and friends should be prepared for significant changes in the regularity, reliability, and speed of communication you currently enjoy.  
+
Volunteers are also eligible for a tutor allowance to pay for continuing language study. Payments are made monthly upon presentation of a completed tutor reimbursement form.  
  
===Computers, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
+
A leave allowance is provided with the living allowance. If you are asked by Peace Corps to travel for official, medical, or programmatic reasons, you will be given additional money for transportation and lodging.
  
There are increasing numbers of private telecenters and Internet cafes in larger towns. These generally work well for e-mail, but Internet access is both slow and expensive. Volunteers can access e-mail at the Peace Corps office in Niamey and at regional Peace Corps offices, but not at the training center.  
+
The Peace Corps sets up a bank account in local currency for each Volunteer and deposits all the allowances and other payments into these bank accounts. Volunteers can set up personal accounts in dollars if they choose.  
  
===Housing and Site Location ===
+
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Armenia with these allowances. You are strongly discouraged from supplementing your income with money brought from home.  Consistent with the philosophy that development and learning are most effectively achieved when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live at the same standard as the people whom they serve.
  
Most agriculture, environment, and community health Volunteers live in villages of 200 to 1,000 people within a few miles of other Volunteers and roads served by public transportation. You may be anywhere from 60 to 750 miles (100 to 1,200 kilometers) from Niamey. You are likely to be one of only a handful of people—perhaps the only person—in the village with anything beyond the equivalent of a sixth-grade education. Many sites have a rural health clinic or a primary school, but some do not. Housing is provided by each village and consists of a traditional one- or two-room house of adobe brick with an adobe or thatch roof. Most Volunteer houses have a small yard surrounded by an adobe or thatch enclosure. The Peace Corps pays for the cementing of the floor of your house and bath/toilet area and provides screens for doors and windows.  
+
Nevertheless, many Volunteers do bring extra money (in cash, traveler’s checks, or credit cards) for vacations. Credit cards can be used only in some of the more expensive hotels and a few big stores in the capital, but are handy for travel outside the country. They can also be used at ATMs in Yerevan to obtain cash (in drams). Retail outfits in Armenia do not accept traveler’s checks, but they can be cashed for a fee at some banks.  
  
There will be no running water or electricity. You will obtain your water from a well and rely on a kerosene lamp or candles for light in the evening. Most of the year, you will sleep outside, with only a mosquito net, which the Peace Corps provides, between you and the stars. You will become adept at using a squat latrine and taking a bucket bath—pouring water over yourself from a bucket. Although it may sound like a two-year camping trip (and in some ways it is), your site will become your home. With time, you will find ways to make yourself comfortable, and soon enough, you will forget how strange some of these conditions once seemed.
+
===Food and Diet===
  
Education Volunteers are posted in small towns of 10,000 to 100,000 people, located near clusters of rural-based Volunteers. Housing consists of a small mud brick or cement house or an apartment provided by the government of Niger.  The towns have the education infrastructure and partners you will need in your assignment. Some of the towns have Peace Corps regional offices, headed by a Volunteer regional representative. There may also be Volunteers working with international and nongovernmental organizations such as UNICEF and CARE. Most of these sites are on the main road that crosses the country from east to west.  
+
Much of Armenian social life revolves around food, music, singing, and dancing. Typical meals include bean and beet salads, cabbage, lavash (thin bread), sliced cold cuts (e.g., salami and bologna), cheese, and potatoes or pilaf.  
  
Although running water and electricity are available in most towns, there may be limited hours of electricity use and frequent power failures.  
+
Some of the best fresh vegetables and fruits found anywhere are available in Armenia during the summer. The apricots and tomatoes are of extremely high quality. During the long winter months, cabbage, potatoes, and meat are mainstays.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
+
It is possible but difficult for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet. The Middle Eastern influence in Armenia has brought vegetarian food, but this is more readily available in Yerevan and larger cities. Although your refusal to eat meat may seem strange to your host family, they are likely to respect your decision and accommodate your needs accordingly. Although cabbages, carrots, and potatoes are widely available throughout the winter, you may want to prepare preserves during the summer and fall to avoid having to purchase other produce in the capital. With a little planning, you should be able to maintain a healthy alternative diet.
  
As a Volunteer in Niger, you will receive four types of allowances. The first is a living allowance to cover your basic living expenses. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a survey of Volunteer expenses to ensure that it is adequate. The living allowance is paid in local currency (CFA francs) and is intended to cover the cost of food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. Volunteers typically find that this allowance is more than adequate for maintaining their health and wellbeing, and you are therefore discouraged from supplementing the allowance with money from home. You will find that you receive more remuneration than your Nigerien counterpart or supervisor.  
+
Typical drinks are tan (made of yogurt, water, and salt), homemade fruit juices, Armenian and Georgian wine, and Armenian brandy and vodka. Armenians are noted for their endless toasts, but you should not feel compelled to drink a large quantity of alcohol just to appease your host. Armenians respect self-control, and most will respect yours if you drink moderately or not at all.  
  
You will also receive a vacation allowance of $24 per month, paid quarterly in CFA francs along with your living allowance.  After you are sworn-in as a Volunteer, you will receive a onetime settling-in allowance to purchase items you need to set up your house, such as a bed, pots, and dishes. The Peace Corps will supply you with a tabletop gas stove for cooking, a mosquito net, a water filter, a basic medical kit, and a bicycle and helmet.
+
===Transportation===
  
If the Peace Corps requires you to travel, you will also be given additional money for transportation and meals. This amount is established by the administrative officer based on the actual cost of transportation and lodging.  
+
Most Volunteers travel in the country in public buses, vans, or taxis. Peace Corps/Armenia prohibits Volunteers from owning or driving vehicles in Armenia for any reason. Violation of this policy will result in termination of your Volunteer service.  
  
Although most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Niger with these four allowances, many Volunteers bring money (in U.S. traveler’s checks) or credit cards for out-of-country travel. You are strongly discouraged from supplementing your income with money from home. The living allowance is adequate, and it is important for Peace Corps Volunteers to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues.  
+
Although the Peace Corps provides Volunteers with transportation home at the end of their service, some choose to remain in-country on their own or to travel to other countries on their way home. If you choose to do this, you can obtain a cash payment in lieu of the government-rate airplane ticket to your home of record. This benefit is not available to Volunteers who terminate their service early.  
  
Retail stores in Niger do not accept credit cards. For safekeeping, you can store money, passports, and other valuables in the Peace Corps office safe in Niamey.
+
===Geography and Climate===
  
===Food and Diet ===
+
Armenia lies in the mountainous Caucasus region. The landlocked country is bordered by Turkey in the west, Iran in the south, Azerbaijan in the east, and Georgia in the north.
  
Although the local diet is heavy on starches (millet, sorghum, and rice), Volunteers use creativity, home gardens, and provisions from stores in larger towns to maintain an adequately diverse diet. The limited supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and their extreme seasonality make it difficult to maintain a strict vegetarian diet. During the hot season, it is often difficult to find fresh vegetables in villages. Nonetheless, there are Volunteers who are strict vegetarians and who remain healthy by making an extra effort to ensure adequate nutrition. Others become meat eaters during their service in Niger. Meat is sometimes difficult to find in villages, but it is always available in larger towns. Bread is available in towns and larger villages, and there are small stores where you can usually find imported foods such as pasta, tuna, cornflakes, and so on.  
+
Because of its protected position and generally high elevation, Armenia’s climate is mostly dry and continental, although there are regional variations, such as hot, dry summers in the Araks Valley and cooler, more humid summers in the more elevated areas. Intense sunshine occurs for many days of the year, and the summer is long and hot (except at the highest elevations), with an average July temperature in Yerevan of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which can rise as high as 108 degrees. Winters tend to be moderately severe, with an average temperature in Yerevan of 26 degrees. Autumn is generally mild, sunny, and long, while spring is usually short and wet.  
  
===Transportation ===
+
===Social Activities===
  
The villages in which rural-based Volunteers live are typically located within nine or so miles (15 kilometers), usually less, of a road serviced by public transportation. Volunteers must walk or bike from their village to wherever there is regular road traffic. Depending on the region, the available vehicle for which the generic term is “bush taxi” might be anything from a station wagon to a Land Rover to a minibus, varying in age from nearly new (very rare) to older than you are. Vehicles are usually crowded and uncomfortable and are subject to frequent breakdowns. On the two major highways (eastwest and north-south), large buses provide regular service.  Volunteers are often able to hitch rides with Peace Corps staff members, who visit Volunteers frequently, and with vehicles operated by various foreign aid projects.There are also regular monthly shuttles to and from the transit houses by Peace Corps vehicles. In larger towns, taxis are available for local transportation.  
+
On weekends and in the evening, Armenians love to stroll with their families and friends. In summer months, in some of the larger cities throughout Armenia, sidewalk cafés appear on every corner and in every shady spot. Armenians enjoy relaxing at these cafés late into the evening.  
  
All Volunteers are issued good-quality bicycles and are given training in their maintenance. They are also issued helmets, which are required for riding at all times. If the area is not too sandy, Volunteers often use bicycles for transportation from their villages to regional transit houses or to visit neighboring Volunteers.
+
In smaller towns and villages, activities tend to focus on spending time with family. Chess and backgammon (called nardi) are popular, and Armenian boys and girls play basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. In addition to participating in these activities, Volunteers enjoy hiking and exploring local historical sites.  
  
===Geography and Climate ===
+
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
Except for a mountainous area in the northern Sahara, Niger is mostly flat, with some low hills, ridges, and rainy-season riverbeds. The Niger is the only major river. The climate is harsh, ranging from extremely hot (over 120 degrees Fahrenheit and rarely below 90 degrees) in April and May to dry and cool between November and February when the nights are cool enough (as low as 40 degrees in northern areas) to require a blanket and the days cool enough to require warm clothes. Winds off the Sahara sometimes make the air very dusty. The rainy season, from June through late September, is characterized by periods of increasing heat and humidity punctuated by violent, brief downpours. Rain is very unlikely at other times of the year.  
+
Outside the capital, Armenians tend to be conservative in both dress and behavior. One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. Peace Corps will provide you with guidelines we hope will prove helpful as you make this transition.  
  
===Social Activities ===
+
You will be serving as a representative of the Peace Corps and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is because of economics rather than by choice.  The likelihood is that they are wearing their best clothes. A foreigner who wears ragged, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront. For men, professional dress calls for collared shirts, slacks, and occasionally suit jackets and ties. For women, professional dress calls for dresses or skirts (knee- or mid-calf length,) modest blouses or tops, and dress slacks. Women should be prepared to occasionally wear suits or formal wear for presentations or other business-related events.
  
Nigeriens are very social people, and individuals who are not social may be viewed suspiciously. Hanging out, talking, and laughing are desirable. Even if you do not talk a lot, hanging out quietly with Nigeriens is viewed as being social. Privacy and solitude, on the other hand, are viewed as undesirable by most Nigeriens, and your friends and neighbors will attempt to ensure that you are never alone (except, of course, when going to the latrine, taking a bath, getting dressed, etc.). In many cases, this is because they have never encountered someone of such a different background—they are only trying to be good hosts and friends. But if you establish your personal limits early on, you will find that with time and patience you and your neighbors will reach a comfortable understanding.  
+
Volunteers need to continually strive to maintain neat and clean clothing and hair. This may be an on-going challenge, as water is rationed in many regions and it can be difficult to heat water when you have it.  
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
+
Since Armenia is fairly conservative when it comes to personal appearance, long hair and/or ponytails on men are considered unacceptable. (However, the hair you cut off could go to a good cause and get you a free haircut! Locks of Love (www.  locksoflove.org) is a not-for-profit organization that provides hair prosthetics for children that have developed long-term medical hair loss. It is a great way to begin demonstrating your cultural sensitivity and at the same time helping children in need.) Nose rings and other facial piercings, in both men and women, are also unacceptable. Throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union, tattoos have a negative connotation and historically have been associated with the underworld, mafia, and prisons. When dressing, every effort should be made to ensure that large obvious tattoos are covered by clothing.
  
Being well dressed with clean clothes is important in Niger.  Though their country is hot, dusty, and poor, Nigeriens take a lot of pride in their personal appearance. It can be insulting, even to people you know well, to wear clothing that is torn, dirty, or too revealing in any setting other than your house or while performing hard physical labor. This is not to imply that you need dress clothes for work. Collared shirts and casual slacks or jeans for men, and blouses and below-the-knee skirts or dresses for women, are acceptable. (Pants for women are also acceptable in some areas.) Lightweight cotton or other fabrics made for the tropics are best. Tank or sleeveless tops, shorts, and tight-fitting clothes (e.g., items made of Lycra, tight jeans) are not acceptable for men or women. You can have appropriate, inexpensive clothing made by local tailors.  
+
Personal identity and individuality is very important in American culture and hair, piercings, and tattoos are some of the ways that Americans express that individuality. The challenge lies in balancing that expression and acceptance into your community and understanding of the culture. In the end, your hair will grow back, your nose can be re-pierced, and a T-shirt instead of a tank top can easily cover your tattoo.  
  
Although officially secular, Niger is an Islamic country, and most people—especially in the countryside—are devout and conservative in dress and behavior. Alcohol is available in larger towns, but public drinking and boisterous behavior are considered inappropriate. Drugs are illegal and socially taboo, as well as strictly prohibited by Peace Corps regulations.  Public display of affection between the sexes is considered improper.
+
===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
===Personal Safety===
+
The living conditions of Peace Corps service affect Volunteers differently. Do you need a lot of privacy or very little? Are you oblivious to dirt or fairly sensitive? Nearly all Volunteers, at some point, find the conditions under which they live and work to be difficult or challenging. Most experience feelings of discouragement and futility–usually during the first year of service. Things that seemed clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You may often feel that you are not in control, and this can be frightening. When this happens, you may wonder whether you are really up to the job, whether you may have caused the problem, whether it is really possible to accomplish anything, or whether what you are doing is really worthwhile. You may feel fatigued although you have been working no harder than usual. You may find yourself short-tempered or annoyed with yourself and others.
  
Information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety section, 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 Niger 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 Niger. However, you are expected to take significant responsibility for your own safety and well-being.  
+
There is no magical or easy method for overcoming these feelings but, fortunately, they are usually short-lived. Bear in mind that the frustration of “not getting anything done” usually derives from the realities of the country, not from your own inadequacies. It is often helpful to break up a problem into smaller units and work at it one step at a time. If you can step back and try to assess the problem afresh, you will feel more positive about the headway you have made and are making. Without a doubt, when you have completed your service, you will recall your time here with fondness, and you will be amazed by the personal change that has resulted from overcoming the challenges.
  
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
+
[[Category:Armenia]]
  
WHATS 9 + 10            after reading this book, that serving as a Volunteer in Niger is an extraordinarily difficult assignment. Living in a mud hut in an isolated village with no electricity or running water, learning new languages, functioning in a culture far different from your own, being face-to-face with grinding poverty, lacking a structured work environment—these are just a few of the challenges you will face. Work will proceed at an excruciatingly slow pace from the Western perspective, and there will be times when you will wonder if change is taking place at all.
+
[[Category:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles]]
 
+
Impatience and overexcitement due to frustration are viewed by Nigeriens as personality weaknesses and will rarely, if ever, produce a favorable result. Rather than losing your cool, you are better off making fun of the situation with a couple of wry comments or a proverb in a local language.
+
 
+
Despite these frustrations and bouts of doubt, with patience and perseverance you will ultimately make a significant contribution to your assigned community in Niger. Moreover, you will have considerable flexibility and the opportunity to exercise your initiative and creativity. Along the way, you will learn a great deal—about Nigeriens, about living in a developing country, about poverty, about who you are, and about what it means to be an American in the global context.  You will make close friends and be amazed by their hospitality and ability to cope with extreme adversity. When your assignment is over, you will join 3,000 returned Volunteers from Niger who view their service here as one of the most interesting, formative, and worthwhile periods in their lives.  And your service will continue for the rest of your life as you share what you have learned with others.
+
 
+
The Peace Corps, particularly in Niger, is not for everyone.  The level of motivation and commitment required to successfully serve here exceeds that needed in most other work environments. If you are up to the challenge, we look forward to working with you.
+
 
+
How will living and working in communities affected by HIV/AIDS affect me?
+
 
+
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.
+
 
+
In Niger, unlike many other African countries, AIDS has not yet reached pandemic proportions, and other killer diseases, notably malaria, are much more common. The rate of HIV prevalence is about 1 percent, and victims are mostly concentrated in larger cities. Volunteers in Niger are unlikely to encounter AIDS victims unless they seek them out.
+
 
+
[[Category:Niger]]
+

Revision as of 09:31, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications

Mail

Few countries in the world offer mail service comparable to the United States and Armenia is no exception. Fortunately, there have been improvements over the past few years. At your pre-departure orientation (staging), you will be given a temporary mailing address to use during pre-service training.

We suggest that people not send you packages while you are in training. There is a chance you will move to your permanent site before they arrive. You must pick up packages in person, which requires absence from training and payment of duty and/or storage fees. After you are sworn-in as a Volunteer, it will be easy to receive packages at your site, and you won’t have to pay duty fees for items sent through the U.S. Postal Service. (An agreement with the government exempts Volunteers from duty fees.) Please note, however, that items sent to Volunteers via DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc., are not exempt from customs fees and you are required to pay a fee of 20 percent on the declared value of any sent items.

You and your family and friends should number your letters so you can ascertain what is and what is not arriving. In the past, letters have taken as few as 10 days and as long as six weeks to arrive. Do not send valuable items through the mail.

We strongly encourage you to regularly write family and friends. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail can be slow and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, Peace Corps/Armenia would notify the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., which would then contact your family.

Telephones

Long-distance telephone service is generally available but expensive. Do not expect to have constant access to a phone all of the time. You may have to use a neighbor’s phone or travel by bus to another village or town if phones in your area don’t work. If you call from outside the capital, it may take longer to get a line. The cost of a long-distance call is approximately $2.40 per minute, although many now use Internet or callback services at lower costs. Staff members have had success in using Sprint, MCI, and AT&T calling cards from local telephones. If you wish to use this option, obtain a card before you leave the United States. Inexpensive international calling cards are also available in most towns and in Yerevan.

Advise your family that in an emergency, they should contact the Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. The daytime telephone number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470; the after-hours number is 202.638.2574. This office will then immediately contact Peace Corps/Armenia.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

E-mail and Internet access is becoming more available, particularly in Yerevan and other large communities, but service tends to be slow. Peace Corps/Armenia suggests you obtain a free e-mail account with www.freenet.am; it is easier to access than other services. You will probably not have regular and easy access to the Internet. Please prepare family and friends for this reality and inform them that responses to e-mails may be delayed. Some Volunteers travel for hours to get to an Internet café.

Smaller communities are also gaining Internet access through the school connectivity project. This project, managed by Project Harmony, will connect all Armenian schools over the next few years. The Peace Corps works closely with Project Harmony, and Volunteers are helping schools apply for connectivity and equipment. Volunteers also teach computer applications and Internet use at these schools.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training, all trainees are required to live with host families. After completing pre-service training and swearing-in, all Volunteers live with host families for a minimum of four months at their permanent site. Living with a host family provides several benefits including accelerated language acquisition; a deeper and more profound cross-cultural understanding; and an improved, in-depth community integration. Being a respected and equal member of a family not only provides strong personal and professional rewards, it can ensure your safety and security as well. Host family accommodations will vary depending on the community. Some may be apartments or separate detached houses; some may have European-style bathrooms while others might use "outhouses" or "squat" toilets. Regardless of the situation, trainees and Volunteers live as the members of their community do. After the four-month period, Volunteers may remain with host families or change to another living situation in their communities depending on availability and personal preferences.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer, you will receive a number of allowances in local currency. A one-time settling-in allowance is provided in order to buy basic household items when you move to your site. You will also receive a one-time allowance to cover heating-related expenses (e.g., to purchase of a wood stove and wood or installation of adequate electrical wire for electric heater use or to offset increased electricity costs in winter).

Your monthly living and travel allowances, which are paid directly to your account here every month, are intended to cover food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. Costs related to the living allowance are reviewed annually (generally in February). You will also receive a housing allowance based on the lease agreement signed between you and your landlord. The housing allowance is provided at the same time as the living allowance.

Volunteers are also eligible for a tutor allowance to pay for continuing language study. Payments are made monthly upon presentation of a completed tutor reimbursement form.

A leave allowance is provided with the living allowance. If you are asked by Peace Corps to travel for official, medical, or programmatic reasons, you will be given additional money for transportation and lodging.

The Peace Corps sets up a bank account in local currency for each Volunteer and deposits all the allowances and other payments into these bank accounts. Volunteers can set up personal accounts in dollars if they choose.

Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Armenia with these allowances. You are strongly discouraged from supplementing your income with money brought from home. Consistent with the philosophy that development and learning are most effectively achieved when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live at the same standard as the people whom they serve.

Nevertheless, many Volunteers do bring extra money (in cash, traveler’s checks, or credit cards) for vacations. Credit cards can be used only in some of the more expensive hotels and a few big stores in the capital, but are handy for travel outside the country. They can also be used at ATMs in Yerevan to obtain cash (in drams). Retail outfits in Armenia do not accept traveler’s checks, but they can be cashed for a fee at some banks.

Food and Diet

Much of Armenian social life revolves around food, music, singing, and dancing. Typical meals include bean and beet salads, cabbage, lavash (thin bread), sliced cold cuts (e.g., salami and bologna), cheese, and potatoes or pilaf.

Some of the best fresh vegetables and fruits found anywhere are available in Armenia during the summer. The apricots and tomatoes are of extremely high quality. During the long winter months, cabbage, potatoes, and meat are mainstays.

It is possible but difficult for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet. The Middle Eastern influence in Armenia has brought vegetarian food, but this is more readily available in Yerevan and larger cities. Although your refusal to eat meat may seem strange to your host family, they are likely to respect your decision and accommodate your needs accordingly. Although cabbages, carrots, and potatoes are widely available throughout the winter, you may want to prepare preserves during the summer and fall to avoid having to purchase other produce in the capital. With a little planning, you should be able to maintain a healthy alternative diet.

Typical drinks are tan (made of yogurt, water, and salt), homemade fruit juices, Armenian and Georgian wine, and Armenian brandy and vodka. Armenians are noted for their endless toasts, but you should not feel compelled to drink a large quantity of alcohol just to appease your host. Armenians respect self-control, and most will respect yours if you drink moderately or not at all.

Transportation

Most Volunteers travel in the country in public buses, vans, or taxis. Peace Corps/Armenia prohibits Volunteers from owning or driving vehicles in Armenia for any reason. Violation of this policy will result in termination of your Volunteer service.

Although the Peace Corps provides Volunteers with transportation home at the end of their service, some choose to remain in-country on their own or to travel to other countries on their way home. If you choose to do this, you can obtain a cash payment in lieu of the government-rate airplane ticket to your home of record. This benefit is not available to Volunteers who terminate their service early.

Geography and Climate

Armenia lies in the mountainous Caucasus region. The landlocked country is bordered by Turkey in the west, Iran in the south, Azerbaijan in the east, and Georgia in the north.

Because of its protected position and generally high elevation, Armenia’s climate is mostly dry and continental, although there are regional variations, such as hot, dry summers in the Araks Valley and cooler, more humid summers in the more elevated areas. Intense sunshine occurs for many days of the year, and the summer is long and hot (except at the highest elevations), with an average July temperature in Yerevan of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which can rise as high as 108 degrees. Winters tend to be moderately severe, with an average temperature in Yerevan of 26 degrees. Autumn is generally mild, sunny, and long, while spring is usually short and wet.

Social Activities

On weekends and in the evening, Armenians love to stroll with their families and friends. In summer months, in some of the larger cities throughout Armenia, sidewalk cafés appear on every corner and in every shady spot. Armenians enjoy relaxing at these cafés late into the evening.

In smaller towns and villages, activities tend to focus on spending time with family. Chess and backgammon (called nardi) are popular, and Armenian boys and girls play basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. In addition to participating in these activities, Volunteers enjoy hiking and exploring local historical sites.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Outside the capital, Armenians tend to be conservative in both dress and behavior. One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. Peace Corps will provide you with guidelines we hope will prove helpful as you make this transition.

You will be serving as a representative of the Peace Corps and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is because of economics rather than by choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their best clothes. A foreigner who wears ragged, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront. For men, professional dress calls for collared shirts, slacks, and occasionally suit jackets and ties. For women, professional dress calls for dresses or skirts (knee- or mid-calf length,) modest blouses or tops, and dress slacks. Women should be prepared to occasionally wear suits or formal wear for presentations or other business-related events.

Volunteers need to continually strive to maintain neat and clean clothing and hair. This may be an on-going challenge, as water is rationed in many regions and it can be difficult to heat water when you have it.

Since Armenia is fairly conservative when it comes to personal appearance, long hair and/or ponytails on men are considered unacceptable. (However, the hair you cut off could go to a good cause and get you a free haircut! Locks of Love (www. locksoflove.org) is a not-for-profit organization that provides hair prosthetics for children that have developed long-term medical hair loss. It is a great way to begin demonstrating your cultural sensitivity and at the same time helping children in need.) Nose rings and other facial piercings, in both men and women, are also unacceptable. Throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union, tattoos have a negative connotation and historically have been associated with the underworld, mafia, and prisons. When dressing, every effort should be made to ensure that large obvious tattoos are covered by clothing.

Personal identity and individuality is very important in American culture and hair, piercings, and tattoos are some of the ways that Americans express that individuality. The challenge lies in balancing that expression and acceptance into your community and understanding of the culture. In the end, your hair will grow back, your nose can be re-pierced, and a T-shirt instead of a tank top can easily cover your tattoo.

Rewards and Frustrations

The living conditions of Peace Corps service affect Volunteers differently. Do you need a lot of privacy or very little? Are you oblivious to dirt or fairly sensitive? Nearly all Volunteers, at some point, find the conditions under which they live and work to be difficult or challenging. Most experience feelings of discouragement and futility–usually during the first year of service. Things that seemed clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You may often feel that you are not in control, and this can be frightening. When this happens, you may wonder whether you are really up to the job, whether you may have caused the problem, whether it is really possible to accomplish anything, or whether what you are doing is really worthwhile. You may feel fatigued although you have been working no harder than usual. You may find yourself short-tempered or annoyed with yourself and others.

There is no magical or easy method for overcoming these feelings but, fortunately, they are usually short-lived. Bear in mind that the frustration of “not getting anything done” usually derives from the realities of the country, not from your own inadequacies. It is often helpful to break up a problem into smaller units and work at it one step at a time. If you can step back and try to assess the problem afresh, you will feel more positive about the headway you have made and are making. Without a doubt, when you have completed your service, you will recall your time here with fondness, and you will be amazed by the personal change that has resulted from overcoming the challenges.