Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Azerbaijan" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Bulgaria"

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==Communications==
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===Communications===
  
===Mail===
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====Mail====
  
The reliability of mail service in Azerbaijan is uneven. Letters might arrive in as few as 10 days, take as long as six weeks, or not arrive at all. Heavy fees are assessed on some packages, depending on what they contain, and you might find items missing. Accordingly, we strongly recommend that you ask family and friends to number their letters consecutively so you can determine what is and what is not reaching you. We also advise you to discourage people from sending you packages or valuable items through the mail. You will be responsible for paying any fees levied on packages.  
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S.  standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration.  Mail sent via airmail takes three to four weeks, and packages sent by surface mail take from two to six months. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately, this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Packages and letters arriving in Bulgaria are often checked by officials for dangerous items and sometimes for money or expensive items as well. The inspectors usually reseal the packages and letters and send them on, but some may never arrive at their destination.  Advise your family and friends to number their letters and include “Airmail” on their envelopes. (For letters, we recommend global airmail, available at U.S. post offices.)
  
===Mailing Address===
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It is also advisable to have your mail addressed to you in both Cyrillic and Latin script. While this is not necessary, it does make Bulgarian postal handlers less suspicious of incoming mail.  We don’t recommend that your friends and family declare large values for packages sent or insure them, as you may need to pay a tax to release packages of considerable value from customs.
  
During pre-service training, your friends and family can mail letters or packages to you at the following address:
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Despite these challenges, we encourage you to write to your family regularly (snail mail or email) and to number your own written letters. It is a good idea to advise family members that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Also advise them that in the case of a family emergency, they should contact the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C.
  
“Your Name,” PCT <br>
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After pre-service training, you will become a Volunteer and move to your site. Mail should then be addressed directly to you at your new residence. You can provide this information to family and friends toward the end of training prior to moving to your site. If your residence does not provide for a secure or private mailbox, it may be better to have your personal mail sent to you at your work address.
AZ 1000 <br>
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Main P.O. Box 77 <br>
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Peace Corps <br>
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Baku, Azerbaijan <br>
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Bulgarian postal and customs regulations for packages make it very impractical and expensive to receive anything except letter mail during training. Tell family and friends that they should NOT send packages until after you have completed training and are at your assigned site. At that time, you will be better able to assess what things from home you really need and how best to have them sent.
  
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====Telephones====
  
Your mail will be delivered to the training site at least once a week. Once you know your assigned site, you will be responsible for informing your family and friends of your permanent mailing address.  
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Your apartment may or may not have a landline telephone— many don’t. For in-country calling, most Volunteers use mobile phones, which they purchase themselves. However, fees associated with mobile phones are high and most Volunteers find that talking for long periods of time on the phone is out of their budget. Instead, Volunteers (and most Bulgarians) generally rely heavily on text messaging from cellphones for a small fee. All of the major Bulgarian cellular service providers also offer free text messaging from the Internet, allowing Volunteers to send quick messages free of charge.  
  
===Telephones===
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Standard long-distance telephone service is available but expensive. If you are calling on a landline from outside the capital, it may take longer to get a connection. Some calling cards from the United States (e.g., those issued by AT&T, MCI, and Sprint) can be used to call the United States.  However, these cards will not give you access to other countries because of a phone block in Bulgaria.
  
Volunteers can make international calls from the larger cities, but they are expensive (over $2 per minute for a cellphone call to the United States and about $6 per minute by land line). Several calling cards available in the United States offer much lower rates for calls to Azerbaijan (e.g., 15 to 20 cents a minute). In general, land lines are limited and reception is uneven.  
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Many Volunteers feel that the best method of calling the U.S. is to do so at an Internet club. Internet clubs often have phone booths where you can call internationally for mere cents per minute. Another cheap option is to use voice-over Internet protocol programs such as Skype or VOIPStunt from a computer. Even if you do not have a computer or a home Internet connection, most towns have Internet clubs where you can use these programs.  
  
You should not expect to find a telephone in your home.  However, a number of cellular telephone companies have sprung up in Baku and have effectively blanketed the country.  
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If these options are not available in your town, you can make international calls from a local public telephone or post office.  The country code for Bulgaria is 359 for family and friends calling from the U.S.
  
All of the systems use GSM (for global system mobile), so most U.S. cellphones will not work in Azerbaijan. You may bring your own cellphone, but you must ensure that your U.S. phone company has “unlocked” the phone so that an Azerbaijani SIM card can be inserted.
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====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
  
Some Volunteers will be asked to be wardens (i.e., points of contact for a small number of other Volunteers when they leave their sites or in the event of family or other emergencies). Peace Corps will issue cellphones to wardens for this purpose, but the Volunteer must reimburse the Peace Corps for personal use of these phones.  
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Some, but not all, Volunteers have access to computers at their work sites, which may or may not have Internet and e-mail capabilities. Work site equipment is intended to be used primarily for work-related activities, and you should not assume that it can be used for personal purposes.  Internet and e-mail access is becoming more widely available throughout Bulgaria, and Internet cafes can be found in most towns, although they are generally not found in the rural villages. While it is likely you will have Internet access not far from your site, you should not assume that you will have constant email access.  
  
In Azerbaijan, a cellular phone is a necessary item for communicating with staff members and fellow Volunteers and for ensuring your safety and security. If you do not arrive in-country with a cellular phone, the Peace Corps will issue one to you. You will keep this phone for your two years of service and be responsible for returning it to Peace Corps in approximately the same condition as it was issued to you. If the phone should become lost or stolen during your service, you will be held financially liable for its replacement. If you are in possession of a Peace Corps-issued phone or a personal phone, Peace Corps will pay for repairing your phone should it become damaged. In order to have your phone repaired, you can either bring it with you to Baku and we have the phone repaired and pay for this expense; or you may pay to repair the phone yourself, and we will reimburse you for this expense upon submission of a proper receipt. Unless you are making calls in your capacity as a warden or deputy warden while in Azerbaijan, the cost of using phones will be your responsibility and is presumed to be covered by your monthly living allowance.In the case of an emergency, your family can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C., and that office will immediately contact Peace Corps/Azerbaijan.  The relevant numbers are listed at the end of this book.  
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If you bring a laptop computer, the Peace Corps does not provide e-mail accounts or technical and repair support. While many Volunteers find computers extremely useful, the Peace Corps does not consider them to be essential and cannot replace them in the case of loss or theft. If you do bring computer equipment, insurance is highly recommended.  
  
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access===
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===Housing and Site Location===
  
The use of computers is growing rapidly throughout Azerbaijan, but because of frequent power interruptions, e-mail and Internet access is limited mainly to Baku and several other larger cities. Most Volunteers do not have e-mail access at their sites, but can send and receive e-mail at Internet cafes in the larger towns. (Currently, the charge is approximately 40 cents an hour.) A few schools to which Volunteers are assigned have computers, and development agencies are keen to link schools to the Internet. In fact, assisting schools in applying for funds for connectivity and equipment is an important secondary activity for Volunteers.  
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Housing is generally provided by a Volunteer’s sponsoring organization. Most Volunteers live in a modest studio or one-bedroom apartment with plumbing, heating, and electricity. The range of available housing may vary greatly between Volunteers and sites. If you live in a town or city, you will likely live in an apartment in a communist-style housing “block,” that, from the exterior, resembles the high-rises in public housing projects in U.S. cities.  
  
==Housing and Site Location==
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Volunteers assigned to smaller communities should be prepared for the possibility that they may live in a private room in the home of a Bulgarian family. This can offer huge advantages in terms of being accepted into a local family and being “taken care of.” Note that Bulgarian standards of privacy differ from those in the U.S. It is also common that landlords may leave some of their personal items in an apartment that they are renting out.
  
As a Volunteer, you will live in a town or village outside of Baku. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan staff, with some consideration of your desires, selects your site carefully, its principal considerations being safety and security and matching the needs of the local community with your skills and aptitudes.  We want to ensure that your talents are as fully engaged during your tour of service as possible.  
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Your heat source could be either one or more portable heaters, central heat, or wood-burning stoves in some rural areas. Heat and electricity are very expensive, and Bulgarians usually only heat the room they are currently in. They usually only turn on their hot water boiler when they are planning to take a shower. Expect for it to be cold inside during the winter, and for it to be very hot during the summer. Indoor climate control concepts differ from what you are likely used to in the U.S.  
  
Your housing might be a private room in a family’s dwelling, a shared house, or a small apartment. You will live with a host family during training as part of your language and cultural orientation. Upon being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will again live with an Azerbaijani host family in your assigned community for the first six months of your service. The Peace Corps will select your host family for this period, except that you may choose a different family for the last two months with prior approval by the Peace Corps. Just as we make every effort to select sites that will fully engage you, we expect that you will make every effort to absorb Azerbaijani culture by spending at least one-fourth of your service living directly with a host country family. After this six-month period, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. Many Volunteers remain in host family housing for their entire service. In some parts of Azerbaijan, appropriate independent housing is scarce; you should prepare for the possibility of living with a host family for your entire service.  
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The Peace Corps staff uses an involved and thorough process to identify Volunteers’ host organizations and towns. Potential host organizations fill out an in-depth application in which they state their reasons for wanting to work with a Volunteer, their organizational goals, how they see a Volunteer fitting into their organization, what specific work the Volunteer will assist with, desired skills, and available resources. Staff visits each site and discusses these items with the potential hosts, and ultimately uses a methodical system of evaluating potential sites based on their strengths and the potential for a Volunteer to be successful at those sites.  
  
Keep in mind that there is no guarantee of continuous electricity, running water, or phone service. Some villages and towns have only a few hours of electricity a day (or none at all), especially in the winter. Heat may come from a wood stove. Although you will have access to a kitchen and bathing facilities (in some cases, bucket baths), hot water and running water may be a luxury and there is likely to be a squat-style toilet. Bathroom facilities may be outside the main house in a separate building. Thus, housing will not be glamorous, but the Peace Corps staff will do its utmost to help you adjust to the new environment.  
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Toward the middle of your 11-week pre-service training (PST), the Peace Corps office and training staff match trainees and sites, and trainees learn where they will live and work for the next two years. Education, professional experience, and level of Bulgarian language ability are considered in matching individual Volunteers’ skills with the needs of each site. Volunteers should be prepared to serve in any region of Bulgaria.  
  
Note that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the cease-fire agreement in 1994, gave rise to a huge and persistent resettlement problem. The need to absorb these refugees and internally displaced persons has caused housing scarcities in some parts of Azerbaijan, and Volunteers will need to be flexible in their housing expectations.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
==Living Allowance and Money Management==
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You will receive a monthly living allowance that will enable you to maintain a modest lifestyle similar to that of your host community counterpart. This allowance will be deposited in your bank account every month by Peace Corps/Bulgaria.  It is intended to cover food, household supplies, local transportation, recreation, entertainment, and incidental expenses such as postage, film, reading material, stationery, and toiletries. In most cases, rent and utilities are paid by the sponsoring organization, but the Peace Corps assists with these expenses in some circumstances.
  
As a Volunteer in Azerbaijan, you will receive several types of allowances, which will be deposited into your own bank account.  
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Most Volunteers in Bulgaria find their living allowance to be sufficient for their needs, as long as they live a frugal lifestyle. The lifestyle you adopt while serving in Bulgaria will determine how far your living allowance goes. These days in Bulgaria, there are many things to spend money on, and if you choose to eat daily in restaurants, travel a significant portion of your weekends, and buy imported food and toiletries, your living allowance likely will not last through each month. You may also have a harder time becoming a part of your community if you live at a higher level than the average Bulgarian. If you adopt a more typical Bulgarian lifestyle, cook frequently, and choose primarily from the ample selections of local goods, your living allowance should be more than adequate. It is important to live at the same economic level as your Bulgarian counterparts.  
  
You will receive a living allowance to cover your basic living expenses, disbursed on a monthly basis in manat, the local currency. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. It is meant to cover food, work-related transportation, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses, such as postage, film, reading materials, stationery, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. If you elect to use a cellphone or the Internet, their cost must also come out of the living allowance.  You will also receive an amount for housing as part of the living allowance, based on the actual lease agreement between you and your landlord or a set amount to be paid to your host family.
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===Food and Diet===
  
A one time settling-in allowance is also provided for the purchase of items necessary to set up housekeeping at your site. You will receive a travel allowance to cover transportation and lodging costs when traveling for official, medical, or programmatic reasons. You will receive a leave allowance of $24 per month of service, paid with the monthly living allowance.  
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It is possible to eat a very healthy and natural diet in Bulgaria, if you prepare many of your own meals and use local foods. Larger towns and cities offer many of the same basic staples that you can find in the United States, with the exception of pre-prepared and instant foods. Volunteers in smaller towns sometimes experience shortages of certain items, especially in the winter, but there is typically an ample food supply if you are flexible about cooking with what is currently available.  If you live in a small village, you may choose to occasionally shop in larger towns in your region, to fill in your food supplies and get items unavailable at your site.  
  
Volunteers are also eligible for a tutor allowance to pay for continued language study after pre-service training.  
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Grilled meat and potatoes or salads best capture the essence of Bulgarian cuisine. Meals served in a family setting are heavy, oily, filling, and take hours to finish (after a big Bulgarian meal, you may have to lie down and rest a while!).  Many dishes are overly salty by American standards and Bulgarians cook with lots of sunflower oil. Pork and chicken are the most popular meats—served roasted, breaded and fried, or grilled. The selection of seafood is limited, and it is advisable to refrain from eating it unless you know its origin.  Seafood from the Danube or the Black Sea should generally not be eaten, while trout from mountain streams and fish raised on farms is generally safe to eat.  
  
Payments are made on a monthly basis upon presentation of a completed tutor reimbursement form. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan will cover tutoring in Russian, but only once you have demonstrated a certain level of competence in Azeri.  
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Vegetarians may get weary of eating breaded cheese, fried potatoes, or salad every time they go out for a meal or visit Bulgarian friends, but the abundance and low prices of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables in season make it possible to prepare delicious meals at home. Prices of produce fluctuate greatly according to the season. Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, cabbages, eggplants, zucchinis, and carrots are almost always available. However, in the winter, depending on your community, you may have to rely mostly on potatoes, cabbages, carrots, dried beans, and canned items. Locally-grown fruits are available from late spring to late fall. During the winter, you may have to make do with canned fruits and fruit juice and imported fruits such as bananas, apples, and oranges.  
  
Most Volunteers will find that they can live comfortably in Azerbaijan with these allowances. Volunteers in all Peace Corps countries are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. Consistent with the philosophy that development and learning occur most effectively when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live modestly, by the standards of the people whom they serve. Your allowances will be deposited into a personal account at the International Bank of Azerbaijan and you will receive an ATM card from the Peace Corps to withdraw those funds.  
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Cereal and grains are available, although breakfast cereals can be expensive, as Bulgarians typically do not eat cereal for breakfast. The typical Bulgarian breakfast is “banitza” a delicious pastry made from filo dough and cheese—which is made fresh daily in most towns and villages and costs around 35 cents. Bulgarians eat bread with every meal, and even the smallest town has a place where you can buy freshly-baked bread on a daily basis. Rice, pasta, and all-purpose white flour can also be purchased easily, but you will have to search extensively for whole-wheat flour. Various types of beans are widely available, and lentils are widely used. Dried soybean product was used in the past as a cheaper substitute for meat, and is available in specialty stores in the larger towns and cities. Boxed, long-life pasteurized milk is readily available. Milk packaged in plastic bags is not pasteurized and should be boiled before drinking. The two types of local cheese are delicious and always available. Imported cheese is also available but expensive. Bulgarian yogurt, made primarily from cow and sheep milk, is a staple of the Bulgarian, and is well-known world wide.  
  
Traveler’s checks are not commonly used in Azerbaijan, so we discourage you from bringing them. Although use of credit cards is rare outside the capital, they can be useful for vacation travel. The International Bank of Azerbaijan ATMs also accept major U.S. bank cards. Azerbaijan is primarily a cash economy, so exchanging currency at official exchanges or banks is very easy.  
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A cookbook of recipes to help you make the most of products available in Bulgaria will be given to you during training. You will be making a lot of things from scratch here, and if you do not already know how to cook, you will learn. Don’t worry, before long you will be sharing your favorite recipes with other Volunteers.  
  
==Food and Diet==
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===Transportation===
  
Azerbaijan’s geographical location on the historic Silk Road is reflected in its cuisine, a mixture of Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian, with a dollop of Russian. Its fertile soils produce a huge variety of fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples, cherries, grapes, olives, lemons, persimmons, melons, watermelons, raspberries, strawberries, currants, plums, peaches, pears, quince, pomegranates, tomatoes, beans, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, chickpeas, cucumbers, carrots, eggplants, lentils, lettuce, potatoes, squashes, and onions), as well as a variety of nuts, spices, and teas. You will immediately notice the delicious taste of Azerbaijani produce in fresh salads. During the winter, however, the availability and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables decreases, so many families in small towns and villages have extensive gardens and preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter.  
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Bulgaria has a large network of bus and train routes, which makes it possible to travel to practically all destinations by public transportation. Many Volunteers have experienced thefts while traveling, however, so you must be vigilant in protecting your valuables while using public transportation.  Traveling on trams in Sofia requires extra vigilance.  
  
The traditional diet leans toward a variety of stews or soups made with lamb, one or more vegetables, and potatoes. Also ubiquitous are shashlik, skewers of barbecued lamb. Beef and edible innards are widely available, though they are not as popular as lamb or mutton. Chicken and fish are widely available along the coast, in the south, and in major towns, but less so elsewhere. One of the special treats in Azerbaijan is caviar. Bread is served at almost every meal, and “breaking bread” with people is taken literally.  
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When traveling on trains, it is best to travel in a compartment with a baba (grandmother) as a protection against crime. If possible, put your heavier baggage on the shelf above your head (not above someone else’s) so that you will notice if someone tries to take it down. Put smaller luggage underneath your feet. Although people may warn you against this (a Bulgarian superstition says you will lose money), it is a relatively safe option.  
  
Although meat is central to the Azerbaijani diet, it is possible for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet throughout their service. In addition to the fruits and vegetables mentioned above, dairy products (cheese, eggs, milk, sour cream, and yogurt) and grains are widely available. It may seem strange to your host family that you prefer not to eat meat, but they are likely to respect that decision and accommodate your needs accordingly.
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===Geography and Climate===
  
Typical drinks include bottled water and soft drinks, fruit juices, beer, and vodka. The traditional drink of choice is tea (chai), offered as a sign of hospitality. It is sweetened with either jam or sugar and drunk from glasses. Coffee is available, but outside of the capital, expect to receive a packet of instant Nescafé. In rural areas, alcoholic beverages are less widely available, and drinking them is frowned upon (in keeping with the Muslim culture).  
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Bulgaria is located in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The country is bordered by the Black Sea in the east, Turkey and Greece in the south, Macedonia and Serbia in the west, and Romania in the north. Although slightly larger than Tennessee, Bulgaria stands out as a land of great geographic and environmental diversity. The average elevation is 480 meters (1,584 feet) above sea level.  
  
==Transportation==
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The country has four major geographic regions. The most northerly is the Danube plateau, which rises from the shores of the Danube River to the foothills in the east. Its climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The second region is the Balkan Mountains (or “Old Mountains” to the Bulgarians), which extends across the center of the country and blocks cold winds from the plains of Russia. The third region, the valley drained by the Maritsa River in the south, has a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. South of the Maritsa Valley is the fourth region, the Rhodope Mountains, which forms the border between Bulgaria and Greece.
  
Azerbaijanis typically travel by train, bus, or taxi. Trains tend to be cheap but slow. Electrichka are bare-bones trains with wooden benches, but more comfortable overnight express trains link the major cities. Large, comfortable, modern buses run by the Camel and Somnez companies travel among the larger cities. Most people, however, use public transportation or marshrutkas, private eight- to 10-seat minibuses that link virtually all villages with towns and cities. The private companies, while more expensive than the public ones, are still relatively cheap. Taxis are widely available, but tend to be much more expensive.  
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Bulgaria has a Mediterranean climate with four distinct seasons. As in the United States, weather patterns have been changing in recent years, so it is difficult to describe a “typical” year. Spring generally brings frequent rain. Spring and fall are temperate and feature beautiful flora. Summer temperatures average about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius); but in July and August, they can reach the 90- to 100-degree Fahrenheit range for a two-week period or longer. The highlands in the northeast are cooler than the more Mediterranean climate of the southwest. Bulgaria can get cold and gray in the winter, with temperatures averaging around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).  
  
Riding a bicycle is not a common practice in Azerbaijan, and for safety and security reasons, Peace Corps/Azerbaijan does not recommend that you purchase or use one. Volunteers and trainees are prohibited from owning or operating motor vehicles (e.g., automobiles, motorcycles, or three-wheeled cycles) or riding on motorcycles or in motorcycle sidecars as a passenger. Except inside their own community, Volunteers are also prohibited from riding motorized vehicles after dark due to the bad conditions of roads. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.
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===Social Activities===
  
==Geography and Climate==
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There are a multitude of activities you can explore, however, if you are open to trying new activities that you may have not previously thought of as social/recreational activities. You may find out that you enjoy hanging out with the local babas (grandmothers) and learning to can food, that you get used to spending hours on end at a local coffee shop (this is likely to be the most popular social activity in your town!), and that you are not comfortable spending much time at the local disco, as it may be full of your high school students. The trick is to find things that give you satisfaction and enjoyment. It is up to you to make the most of your leisure time, and there is plenty to do if you just go out and look for it.
  
The easternmost country in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan is bordered by the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the northeast, the Caspian Sea in the east, Russia (Daghestan) and Georgia in the north, Armenia in the west, and Iran in the south.  
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Bulgaria has museums, concerts, town festivals, theaters, athletic events, hot springs, outdoor markets, historical and ethnographic centers, coffee shops, bars, discos, and cinemas (in bigger towns and cities) for you to enjoy. The most recently released American films are shown in English with Bulgarian subtitles but are usually dubbed by the time they make it to the video rental shops.  
  
Azerbaijan’s climate is generally dry and continental, but with great regional variations. Baku, for example, has some 300 days of sunshine but, like Chicago, is famous for the strong winds that periodically blow off the Caspian Sea. Its summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and its wind-chill factors can dramatically lower winter temperatures from their usual 40-degree levels. Inland, winter temperatures are much colder. Snow in the mountains is frequent, and villages can be completely cut off. Spring brings snowmelt and the possibility of flooding. Central Azerbaijan, by comparison, is dry and semidesert-like. The forested south experiences an atypical autumn, with October rains, while the orchards near Quba in the northeast get occasionally heavy rainfall in the spring. March, April, May, October, and November, on the whole, tend to be wonderful times for parents and friends to visit.  
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Bulgaria boasts some of the most magnificent natural areas in Eastern Europe, with a great diversity of flora and fauna. Opportunities for outdoor recreation include hiking, camping, rock climbing, and birdwatching. Many of the towns in mountain regions have local hiking clubs. During the winter, Bulgarian ski resorts attract skiers from the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and the Nordic countries.
  
==Social Activities==
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in local festivals, parties, storytelling, family events, and dances. Many of the larger towns have outdoor cafés, small museums, and movie theaters (though the movies tend to be foreign and dubbed). Baku has a wide array of entertainment possibilities, including theater, opera, ballet, art galleries, museums, restaurants, beaches, and sports facilities. Baku’s Ichari Shahar, or Old City, is a medieval district of narrow alleys and winding cobblestone passages, featuring antiques and carpet shops, restaurants, mosques, caravansaries, and mausoleums. Outside of Baku, Quba is especially beautiful in the spring, when its apple orchards are in full bloom. It is also well-known for its carpet weaving. Lahij, to the west of Baku, is an attractive ancient village famous for its copperware, and Sheki, nestled on the edge of the Caucasus range, has both spectacular scenery and numerous ruins. Hikers are rewarded with views of waterfalls, snow-covered mountains, and fields of wildflowers. Horseback riding is also a possibility.  
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One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to do successfully, and we can only provide you with guidelines. As a representative of a Bulgarian organization, you will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. “Business casual” is the catchall term for appropriate professional attire as a Volunteer in Bulgaria.  
  
==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior==
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Bulgarians dress very stylishly and take great pride in their appearance. They commonly, however, only have a few outfits that they wear repeatedly. While there is no hard-and-fast rule, a foreigner who wears ragged or dirty clothing is likely to be considered disrespectful and possibly unreliable. Improper attire creates difficulties in gaining the respect and acceptance of your Bulgarian colleagues. At the same time, Volunteers who outdress the Bulgarians they work with may find they have difficulty fitting in. In general, Volunteers should dress to match their colleagues. Sometimes this can mean nice jeans and a casual, button-up shirt; other times this can mean wearing a tie daily. In an ethnic Bulgarian community, colorful and stylish attire is likely very appropriate, while in some minority communities, more modest dress is important. Keep in mind that you can purchase most clothing you would want for day-to-day use for reasonable prices throughout Bulgaria, so you may want to bring minimal clothing from the U.S.
  
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy situation to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines that show respect for your professional colleagues and that reflect positively not only on you but also on your fellow Volunteers, your host family, and on the Peace Corps as an assistance organization. Maintaining your personal style while presenting a professional appearance according to Azerbaijani cultural standards may be challenging. Professional dress means clean and conservative clothing, not necessarily dressy suits or coats and ties, though many male teachers wear shirt, ties and occasionally coats to class. Female teachers must wear skirts to class. Dress for organizations varies from professional to business casual. In general, Azerbaijanis dress more formally than Americans do and take great pride in their appearance.  Outside of the house, Azerbaijani men often wear suits, even while farming.  Although it is not uncommon to see fashionable young women in Baku wearing short skirts and tight pants, this mode of dress is not acceptable for Volunteers. Foreign women are already generally seen as less conservative in behavior, so clothing that is too short or revealing will attract unwanted attention. In the towns and villages where Volunteers are posted, conservative Islamic values prevail, so longer skirts and blouses, pants that are not too tight, and sweaters that cover the shoulders are appropriate for female Volunteers.  
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You will also have semi-regular occasions to dress up for weddings and other special events, so bring some more formal attire in addition to professional clothes for everyday wear in the office or classroom. Casual clothes like jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and tank tops are also appropriate in some situations, but almost always outside of the professional environment.  
  
The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you but also reflects well on both the Peace Corps and 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 must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. For example, the possession or use of illegal drugs, or even a rumor of the use of drugs, can have such a damaging effect on the Peace Corps program that there is zero tolerance in its regard.
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===Personal Safety===
  
Ninety-three percent of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim and Islam forbids alcohol at all times and in all circumstances. Although many Azerbaijanis do not observe this ban, some do refrain from drinking, especially during Orujlug (the Muslim fast) and Ashura (the religious mourning period of the Shiites). NOTE:  Azerbaijanis views towards religion and practices like abstaining from alcohol are as varied as they are in the U.S.  For every Azerbaijani male that doesn't drink alcohol for religious reasons, there seems to be at least two or three who do. Even with that, women are almost never allowed to drink.
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon; Volunteers may be at the highest risk for pickpocketing when they are in cities with other Volunteers and are speaking English on the street. It is obvious then that they are foreigners, and they are less attentive because they are distracted by conversation. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Bulgaria 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 Bulgaria. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well being.  
  
Teachers, especially need to be models to their students; this profession commands tremendous respect in Azerbaijan.  Teacher Volunteers should always look neat and tidy and should never be seen drinking (if a female) or drunk (if a male).
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
You need to be aware that any behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission and reputation in Azerbaijan or your personal safety may lead to administrative separation— a decision on the part of the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook has more information on the grounds for administrative separation.
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Volunteers in Bulgaria must demonstrate a great deal of flexibility, patience, and maturity. Counterparts may sometimes feel threatened by your different methods, your energy, and your drive to work. When you first arrive at your site, you will need to focus on building relationships and gaining the trust of your colleagues and community. Then, you will be in a much stronger position to get things done. Many Volunteers find that once they are accepted by a community, they are “in” and are both embraced the their communities and are well-respected. It takes considerable time and effort to get to this point. Although earlier groups of Volunteers in Bulgaria have made the Peace Corps known to many in the community, you may have to explain your role as a development worker. The concept of volunteerism is a bit odd to most Bulgarians. In spite of your modest stipend, you may be perceived as a rich foreigner. You should expect frequent and lengthy delays in almost everything you are engaged in.  
  
==Personal Safety==
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All Volunteers are expected to be highly motivated and proactive, flexible, professional, and committed to the Peace Corps’ ideals and goals. The Peace Corps staff and current Volunteers take their commitment to serve the people of Bulgaria seriously. We invite you to join us in this effort, but only if you are confident that you can commit yourself to completing your two-year assignment.
  
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are uncommon, but not unheard of, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur.  
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Because of the many economic and political difficulties and changes Bulgaria faces, the atmosphere in the country is one of uncertainty. The changes occurring in Bulgaria today are some of the most significant in its history, and Bulgarians from all walks of life are sacrificing time and comfort to make a new Bulgaria, that is part of the global world. Being a part of this historic moment in Europe should be both fascinating and immensely satisfying to any Volunteer who is willing to work hard and give generously of his or her time.  
  
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 Azerbaijan. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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[[Category:Bulgaria]]
 
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Among the more important set of policies and procedures is your responsibility to obtain the permission of your local supervisor and/or Peace Corps program manager when you wish to leave your site. Volunteers must also provide advance notification of their departure and return to their sites. Distinct from annual leave (which accrues at the rate of two days for every month of service and then take at times approved by your local supervisor, program manager and the country director if you leave Azerbaijan), “out-of-site” leave on weekends or at other times during your service is not a right, but a privilege, and it is administered in accordance to polices established by the country director and approved by the regional director. These can be revoked at the country director’s discretion. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan’s out-of-site policy essentially provides for one out-of-site weekend per month. Although this policy is grounded in your program responsibilities to your community, it is also necessary so that the Peace Corps can reach you at a moment’s notice in the event of family or other emergencies. These policies are taken so seriously that lack of compliance can, and usually will, lead to administrative separation from the Peace Corps.
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==Rewards and Frustrations==
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The conditions of life for Volunteers affect them differently. Do you need a lot of privacy or very little? Are you oblivious to dirt or fairly sensitive to it? 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 were clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You may not feel in control of a situation, which can be frightening. When this happens, you may wonder whether you are really up to the job, whether you may have caused the problem, or whether what you are doing is really worthwhile. You may feel unusually fatigued, even though you have been working no harder than usual.  You may find yourself short-tempered and annoyed at yourself and others.
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You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes 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, knowing that the frustration of “not getting anything done” usually derives from the realities of the situation rather than from your own inadequacies.
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To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Azerbaijanis are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. 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:Azerbaijan]]
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Revision as of 09:31, 8 December 2015

Country Resources


Communications

Mail

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration. Mail sent via airmail takes three to four weeks, and packages sent by surface mail take from two to six months. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately, this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Packages and letters arriving in Bulgaria are often checked by officials for dangerous items and sometimes for money or expensive items as well. The inspectors usually reseal the packages and letters and send them on, but some may never arrive at their destination. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and include “Airmail” on their envelopes. (For letters, we recommend global airmail, available at U.S. post offices.)

It is also advisable to have your mail addressed to you in both Cyrillic and Latin script. While this is not necessary, it does make Bulgarian postal handlers less suspicious of incoming mail. We don’t recommend that your friends and family declare large values for packages sent or insure them, as you may need to pay a tax to release packages of considerable value from customs.

Despite these challenges, we encourage you to write to your family regularly (snail mail or email) and to number your own written letters. It is a good idea to advise family members that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Also advise them that in the case of a family emergency, they should contact the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C.

After pre-service training, you will become a Volunteer and move to your site. Mail should then be addressed directly to you at your new residence. You can provide this information to family and friends toward the end of training prior to moving to your site. If your residence does not provide for a secure or private mailbox, it may be better to have your personal mail sent to you at your work address.

Bulgarian postal and customs regulations for packages make it very impractical and expensive to receive anything except letter mail during training. Tell family and friends that they should NOT send packages until after you have completed training and are at your assigned site. At that time, you will be better able to assess what things from home you really need and how best to have them sent.

Telephones

Your apartment may or may not have a landline telephone— many don’t. For in-country calling, most Volunteers use mobile phones, which they purchase themselves. However, fees associated with mobile phones are high and most Volunteers find that talking for long periods of time on the phone is out of their budget. Instead, Volunteers (and most Bulgarians) generally rely heavily on text messaging from cellphones for a small fee. All of the major Bulgarian cellular service providers also offer free text messaging from the Internet, allowing Volunteers to send quick messages free of charge.

Standard long-distance telephone service is available but expensive. If you are calling on a landline from outside the capital, it may take longer to get a connection. Some calling cards from the United States (e.g., those issued by AT&T, MCI, and Sprint) can be used to call the United States. However, these cards will not give you access to other countries because of a phone block in Bulgaria.

Many Volunteers feel that the best method of calling the U.S. is to do so at an Internet club. Internet clubs often have phone booths where you can call internationally for mere cents per minute. Another cheap option is to use voice-over Internet protocol programs such as Skype or VOIPStunt from a computer. Even if you do not have a computer or a home Internet connection, most towns have Internet clubs where you can use these programs.

If these options are not available in your town, you can make international calls from a local public telephone or post office. The country code for Bulgaria is 359 for family and friends calling from the U.S.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Some, but not all, Volunteers have access to computers at their work sites, which may or may not have Internet and e-mail capabilities. Work site equipment is intended to be used primarily for work-related activities, and you should not assume that it can be used for personal purposes. Internet and e-mail access is becoming more widely available throughout Bulgaria, and Internet cafes can be found in most towns, although they are generally not found in the rural villages. While it is likely you will have Internet access not far from your site, you should not assume that you will have constant email access.

If you bring a laptop computer, the Peace Corps does not provide e-mail accounts or technical and repair support. While many Volunteers find computers extremely useful, the Peace Corps does not consider them to be essential and cannot replace them in the case of loss or theft. If you do bring computer equipment, insurance is highly recommended.

Housing and Site Location

Housing is generally provided by a Volunteer’s sponsoring organization. Most Volunteers live in a modest studio or one-bedroom apartment with plumbing, heating, and electricity. The range of available housing may vary greatly between Volunteers and sites. If you live in a town or city, you will likely live in an apartment in a communist-style housing “block,” that, from the exterior, resembles the high-rises in public housing projects in U.S. cities.

Volunteers assigned to smaller communities should be prepared for the possibility that they may live in a private room in the home of a Bulgarian family. This can offer huge advantages in terms of being accepted into a local family and being “taken care of.” Note that Bulgarian standards of privacy differ from those in the U.S. It is also common that landlords may leave some of their personal items in an apartment that they are renting out.

Your heat source could be either one or more portable heaters, central heat, or wood-burning stoves in some rural areas. Heat and electricity are very expensive, and Bulgarians usually only heat the room they are currently in. They usually only turn on their hot water boiler when they are planning to take a shower. Expect for it to be cold inside during the winter, and for it to be very hot during the summer. Indoor climate control concepts differ from what you are likely used to in the U.S.

The Peace Corps staff uses an involved and thorough process to identify Volunteers’ host organizations and towns. Potential host organizations fill out an in-depth application in which they state their reasons for wanting to work with a Volunteer, their organizational goals, how they see a Volunteer fitting into their organization, what specific work the Volunteer will assist with, desired skills, and available resources. Staff visits each site and discusses these items with the potential hosts, and ultimately uses a methodical system of evaluating potential sites based on their strengths and the potential for a Volunteer to be successful at those sites.

Toward the middle of your 11-week pre-service training (PST), the Peace Corps office and training staff match trainees and sites, and trainees learn where they will live and work for the next two years. Education, professional experience, and level of Bulgarian language ability are considered in matching individual Volunteers’ skills with the needs of each site. Volunteers should be prepared to serve in any region of Bulgaria.

Living Allowance and Money Management

You will receive a monthly living allowance that will enable you to maintain a modest lifestyle similar to that of your host community counterpart. This allowance will be deposited in your bank account every month by Peace Corps/Bulgaria. It is intended to cover food, household supplies, local transportation, recreation, entertainment, and incidental expenses such as postage, film, reading material, stationery, and toiletries. In most cases, rent and utilities are paid by the sponsoring organization, but the Peace Corps assists with these expenses in some circumstances.

Most Volunteers in Bulgaria find their living allowance to be sufficient for their needs, as long as they live a frugal lifestyle. The lifestyle you adopt while serving in Bulgaria will determine how far your living allowance goes. These days in Bulgaria, there are many things to spend money on, and if you choose to eat daily in restaurants, travel a significant portion of your weekends, and buy imported food and toiletries, your living allowance likely will not last through each month. You may also have a harder time becoming a part of your community if you live at a higher level than the average Bulgarian. If you adopt a more typical Bulgarian lifestyle, cook frequently, and choose primarily from the ample selections of local goods, your living allowance should be more than adequate. It is important to live at the same economic level as your Bulgarian counterparts.

Food and Diet

It is possible to eat a very healthy and natural diet in Bulgaria, if you prepare many of your own meals and use local foods. Larger towns and cities offer many of the same basic staples that you can find in the United States, with the exception of pre-prepared and instant foods. Volunteers in smaller towns sometimes experience shortages of certain items, especially in the winter, but there is typically an ample food supply if you are flexible about cooking with what is currently available. If you live in a small village, you may choose to occasionally shop in larger towns in your region, to fill in your food supplies and get items unavailable at your site.

Grilled meat and potatoes or salads best capture the essence of Bulgarian cuisine. Meals served in a family setting are heavy, oily, filling, and take hours to finish (after a big Bulgarian meal, you may have to lie down and rest a while!). Many dishes are overly salty by American standards and Bulgarians cook with lots of sunflower oil. Pork and chicken are the most popular meats—served roasted, breaded and fried, or grilled. The selection of seafood is limited, and it is advisable to refrain from eating it unless you know its origin. Seafood from the Danube or the Black Sea should generally not be eaten, while trout from mountain streams and fish raised on farms is generally safe to eat.

Vegetarians may get weary of eating breaded cheese, fried potatoes, or salad every time they go out for a meal or visit Bulgarian friends, but the abundance and low prices of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables in season make it possible to prepare delicious meals at home. Prices of produce fluctuate greatly according to the season. Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, cabbages, eggplants, zucchinis, and carrots are almost always available. However, in the winter, depending on your community, you may have to rely mostly on potatoes, cabbages, carrots, dried beans, and canned items. Locally-grown fruits are available from late spring to late fall. During the winter, you may have to make do with canned fruits and fruit juice and imported fruits such as bananas, apples, and oranges.

Cereal and grains are available, although breakfast cereals can be expensive, as Bulgarians typically do not eat cereal for breakfast. The typical Bulgarian breakfast is “banitza” a delicious pastry made from filo dough and cheese—which is made fresh daily in most towns and villages and costs around 35 cents. Bulgarians eat bread with every meal, and even the smallest town has a place where you can buy freshly-baked bread on a daily basis. Rice, pasta, and all-purpose white flour can also be purchased easily, but you will have to search extensively for whole-wheat flour. Various types of beans are widely available, and lentils are widely used. Dried soybean product was used in the past as a cheaper substitute for meat, and is available in specialty stores in the larger towns and cities. Boxed, long-life pasteurized milk is readily available. Milk packaged in plastic bags is not pasteurized and should be boiled before drinking. The two types of local cheese are delicious and always available. Imported cheese is also available but expensive. Bulgarian yogurt, made primarily from cow and sheep milk, is a staple of the Bulgarian, and is well-known world wide.

A cookbook of recipes to help you make the most of products available in Bulgaria will be given to you during training. You will be making a lot of things from scratch here, and if you do not already know how to cook, you will learn. Don’t worry, before long you will be sharing your favorite recipes with other Volunteers.

Transportation

Bulgaria has a large network of bus and train routes, which makes it possible to travel to practically all destinations by public transportation. Many Volunteers have experienced thefts while traveling, however, so you must be vigilant in protecting your valuables while using public transportation. Traveling on trams in Sofia requires extra vigilance.

When traveling on trains, it is best to travel in a compartment with a baba (grandmother) as a protection against crime. If possible, put your heavier baggage on the shelf above your head (not above someone else’s) so that you will notice if someone tries to take it down. Put smaller luggage underneath your feet. Although people may warn you against this (a Bulgarian superstition says you will lose money), it is a relatively safe option.

Geography and Climate

Bulgaria is located in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The country is bordered by the Black Sea in the east, Turkey and Greece in the south, Macedonia and Serbia in the west, and Romania in the north. Although slightly larger than Tennessee, Bulgaria stands out as a land of great geographic and environmental diversity. The average elevation is 480 meters (1,584 feet) above sea level.

The country has four major geographic regions. The most northerly is the Danube plateau, which rises from the shores of the Danube River to the foothills in the east. Its climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The second region is the Balkan Mountains (or “Old Mountains” to the Bulgarians), which extends across the center of the country and blocks cold winds from the plains of Russia. The third region, the valley drained by the Maritsa River in the south, has a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. South of the Maritsa Valley is the fourth region, the Rhodope Mountains, which forms the border between Bulgaria and Greece.

Bulgaria has a Mediterranean climate with four distinct seasons. As in the United States, weather patterns have been changing in recent years, so it is difficult to describe a “typical” year. Spring generally brings frequent rain. Spring and fall are temperate and feature beautiful flora. Summer temperatures average about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius); but in July and August, they can reach the 90- to 100-degree Fahrenheit range for a two-week period or longer. The highlands in the northeast are cooler than the more Mediterranean climate of the southwest. Bulgaria can get cold and gray in the winter, with temperatures averaging around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).

Social Activities

There are a multitude of activities you can explore, however, if you are open to trying new activities that you may have not previously thought of as social/recreational activities. You may find out that you enjoy hanging out with the local babas (grandmothers) and learning to can food, that you get used to spending hours on end at a local coffee shop (this is likely to be the most popular social activity in your town!), and that you are not comfortable spending much time at the local disco, as it may be full of your high school students. The trick is to find things that give you satisfaction and enjoyment. It is up to you to make the most of your leisure time, and there is plenty to do if you just go out and look for it.

Bulgaria has museums, concerts, town festivals, theaters, athletic events, hot springs, outdoor markets, historical and ethnographic centers, coffee shops, bars, discos, and cinemas (in bigger towns and cities) for you to enjoy. The most recently released American films are shown in English with Bulgarian subtitles but are usually dubbed by the time they make it to the video rental shops.

Bulgaria boasts some of the most magnificent natural areas in Eastern Europe, with a great diversity of flora and fauna. Opportunities for outdoor recreation include hiking, camping, rock climbing, and birdwatching. Many of the towns in mountain regions have local hiking clubs. During the winter, Bulgarian ski resorts attract skiers from the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and the Nordic countries.

Professionalism, 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 own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to do successfully, and we can only provide you with guidelines. As a representative of a Bulgarian organization, you will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. “Business casual” is the catchall term for appropriate professional attire as a Volunteer in Bulgaria.

Bulgarians dress very stylishly and take great pride in their appearance. They commonly, however, only have a few outfits that they wear repeatedly. While there is no hard-and-fast rule, a foreigner who wears ragged or dirty clothing is likely to be considered disrespectful and possibly unreliable. Improper attire creates difficulties in gaining the respect and acceptance of your Bulgarian colleagues. At the same time, Volunteers who outdress the Bulgarians they work with may find they have difficulty fitting in. In general, Volunteers should dress to match their colleagues. Sometimes this can mean nice jeans and a casual, button-up shirt; other times this can mean wearing a tie daily. In an ethnic Bulgarian community, colorful and stylish attire is likely very appropriate, while in some minority communities, more modest dress is important. Keep in mind that you can purchase most clothing you would want for day-to-day use for reasonable prices throughout Bulgaria, so you may want to bring minimal clothing from the U.S.

You will also have semi-regular occasions to dress up for weddings and other special events, so bring some more formal attire in addition to professional clothes for everyday wear in the office or classroom. Casual clothes like jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and tank tops are also appropriate in some situations, but almost always outside of the professional environment.

Personal Safety

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon; Volunteers may be at the highest risk for pickpocketing when they are in cities with other Volunteers and are speaking English on the street. It is obvious then that they are foreigners, and they are less attentive because they are distracted by conversation. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Bulgaria 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 Bulgaria. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well being.

Rewards and Frustrations

Volunteers in Bulgaria must demonstrate a great deal of flexibility, patience, and maturity. Counterparts may sometimes feel threatened by your different methods, your energy, and your drive to work. When you first arrive at your site, you will need to focus on building relationships and gaining the trust of your colleagues and community. Then, you will be in a much stronger position to get things done. Many Volunteers find that once they are accepted by a community, they are “in” and are both embraced the their communities and are well-respected. It takes considerable time and effort to get to this point. Although earlier groups of Volunteers in Bulgaria have made the Peace Corps known to many in the community, you may have to explain your role as a development worker. The concept of volunteerism is a bit odd to most Bulgarians. In spite of your modest stipend, you may be perceived as a rich foreigner. You should expect frequent and lengthy delays in almost everything you are engaged in.

All Volunteers are expected to be highly motivated and proactive, flexible, professional, and committed to the Peace Corps’ ideals and goals. The Peace Corps staff and current Volunteers take their commitment to serve the people of Bulgaria seriously. We invite you to join us in this effort, but only if you are confident that you can commit yourself to completing your two-year assignment.

Because of the many economic and political difficulties and changes Bulgaria faces, the atmosphere in the country is one of uncertainty. The changes occurring in Bulgaria today are some of the most significant in its history, and Bulgarians from all walks of life are sacrificing time and comfort to make a new Bulgaria, that is part of the global world. Being a part of this historic moment in Europe should be both fascinating and immensely satisfying to any Volunteer who is willing to work hard and give generously of his or her time.