Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Philippines" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Malawi"

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{{Diversity_and_cross-cultural_issues_by_country}}
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In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
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{| cellpadding="1" cellspacing="5" style="border: 1px solid #9866FF; background-color: #f3f3ff" width="300"
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| align="center" | '''<big>Country Resources</big>'''
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|-
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| width="50%" |
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*[[Packing lists by country]]
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*[[Training by country]] 
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*[[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country]]
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*[[Health care and safety by country]]
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*[[Diversity and cross-cultural issues by country]]
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*[[FAQs by country]]
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*[[History of the Peace Corps by country]] 
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|}
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</div>
  
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In the Philippines, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in the Philippines.
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===Communications===
  
Outside of Manila, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The Filipino people are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
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===Mail ===
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in the Philippines, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.  
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phew countries in the world ofer the level of mail service we consider normal in the US. If you bring with you expectations for U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for much frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive, often longer. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). We do not want to sound discouraging, but when we are thousands of miles from our families and friends, communication becomes a very sensitive issue. We want <span class="plainlinks">[http://goo.gl/SpScT<span style="color:black;font-weight:normal; text-decoration:none!important;  background:none!important; text-decoration:none;">century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia</span>] you to be aware of the reality of mail service in developing countries. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Air Mail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Packages take six to nine weeks for airmail, and surface mail packages take around six months. If someone is sending you a package, it’s advisable to keep it small and use a padded envelope so it will be treated as a letter.  
  
===Overview of Diversity in the Philippines ===
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Despite delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly (perhaps weekly or bi-weekly) and to number your letters. Family members will typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so please advise your parents, friends, and relatives that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.
  
The Peace Corps staff in the Philippines recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.  
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Peace Corps Volunteers <span class="plainlinks">[http://goo.gl/SpScT<span style="color:black;font-weight:normal; text-decoration:none!important;  background:none!important; text-decoration:none;">century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia</span>] in Malawi may receive packages for six months after arrival without paying duty and customs taxes. This privilege is for work-related clothing and household items. Duty may be charged on food and cosmetics.  Also, valuable items should not be shipped since they sometimes get lost or held up. If duty is charged, the lower the value—the lower the duty.  
  
===What Might a Volunteer Face? ===
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Your address during training will be:
  
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
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“Your Name,” PCT
  
Many American women find Filipino society chauvinistic. Men are allowed much greater freedom than women. For example, Filipinos expect female but not male Volunteers to travel with a companion. Because of depictions in the media, some Filipinos assume American women are promiscuous. Behavior by women that is considered normal in the United States— such as jogging in shorts or wearing a swimsuit to swim—may reinforce this stereotype, especially in rural areas, and may lead to sexual harassment. Female Volunteers should not wear short skirts, halter-tops, or other revealing clothing. In addition, some Filipinos may have a hard time understanding what a single woman is doing away from her family. Female Volunteers used to being independent may feel overprotected and may resent encouragement from Filipinos to get married.  Despite these issues, the overwhelming majority of female Volunteers feel safe and happy in the Philippines.
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Peace Corps
  
 +
P. O. Box 208
  
 +
Lilongwe, Malawi
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
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Once you have become a Volunteer, you will have your mail sent directly to your new address at your site.
  
African-American Volunteers may experience racist attitudes but are more likely to face great curiosity from Filipinos about everything from intimate habits to food preferences.  All Volunteers can expect to be stared at, but African Americans may get more stares. African-American Volunteers may work or live with individuals who have no experience or understanding of black American culture. They may use offensive terms, although these are more likely to be used because of ignorance than because of malice.
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===Telephones ===
  
Asian-American Volunteers may be identified more by their ethnic background than by their American citizenship. They may have to deal with Filipinos’ stereotypical views about other Asian cultures (e.g., all Chinese are rich traders). Mistaken for Filipinos, on the other hand, Asian-American Volunteers may be given less assistance than other Volunteers. People may expect an Asian American to speak their language and to know local customs. By the same token, by blending in, Asian Americans may not be stared at as often as other Volunteers are.  
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Do not expect e-mail or telephone access during training, though the training site does have telephones for emergency use. Generally, long-distance communication via telephone is available but very expensive. Note that calling cards (MCI, Sprint, and AT&T) do not work in Malawi. Alternatively, many Volunteers buy a cellphone locally (if you bring one from the U.S., be sure it can function in Malawi). These also have disadvantages, as there is still not coverage countrywide, and most Volunteers do not have the electricity needed to recharge a cellphone. While telephone communication is possible for Volunteers in Malawi, calling the United States is often a very frustrating experience. Volunteers are encouraged to establish a system of writing letters as the best method of regular communication with family and friends and to schedule periodic calls from family as a special treat.  
  
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Having a phone in your house as a Volunteer is very unlikely due to the rural location of Volunteer sites. The Volunteer respite houses in Blantyre and Mzuzu have phones where many Volunteers receive calls from family.
  
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
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Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
  
During training and at their sites, older Volunteers may face challenges solely due to age. Since the majority of Volunteers are in their 20s, they may work and live with individuals in the Peace Corps community who are not able to provide them with adequate personal support. Older Volunteers may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support. While some seniors find this an enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, others choose not to fill this role. In addition, difficult issues may arise if your host “parents” are even younger than your children at home.  
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Personal computers/laptops are not needed or recommended, since only a few Volunteers have electricity in their homes.  Computers with Word and Excel are available at the Peace Corps office and the two Volunteer respite houses. The three major cities also have Internet cafés.  
  
There are also benefits to being an older Volunteer. For instance, older people are shown great respect in the Philippines. But while this will open many doors, senior Volunteers may also find that they are perceived as unapproachable by younger Filipino counterparts. Service in the Philippines may also be physically harder for senior Volunteers, who may, for instance, find riding in motorized, three-wheel bicycles, jeepneys, or minibuses uncomfortable or have difficulty hauling water and other supplies.
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===Housing and Site Location ===
  
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers ====
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Volunteers in Malawi are posted from the far north in Chitipa to the far south in Nsanje. Volunteers are almost exclusively posted to rural areas—at health centers, community secondary schools, or in communities surrounding forest or game reserves. Site placement is made during the training period after the staff has had an opportunity to evaluate individual capabilities and strengths. Site placements are determined primarily by work-related needs.
  
It is not uncommon to encounter gay men (and to a lesser extent, gay women) in the Philippines. But Volunteers will find that an openly gay lifestyle is not acceptable in all sectors of Filipino society. Volunteers who are open about their sexual orientation in their community may limit their effectiveness as Volunteers. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers need to know that there may or may not be support for their sexual orientation and that they may serve for two years without meeting another gay or bisexual Volunteer. Lesbians will have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex (as do all women). Wearing an “engagement ring” may help. Men and women of any orientation must deal with machismo: talk of conquest(s), girl watching, and dirty jokes.
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Housing can vary from mud houses with either thatch or tin roofs to fired-brick houses with tin roofs. Most likely, a Volunteer’s house will be comparable to their co-worker’s dwelling. Housing will include basics such as a bed, table, and chairs, but possibly not much more. Each Volunteer will receive an allowance to purchase needed settling-in items. Housing is organized and provided by the hosting site, either by the school, health center, or community. Volunteers do not generally live with families during their two years of service following training, though this is a possibility.  
  
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
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Volunteers might be located anywhere from a half hour to three days from the capital city. Closeness to another Volunteer varies from site to site. Your nearest Volunteer neighbor may be a VSO (British) or JICA (Japanese) Volunteer.
  
The Philippines is the only country in Asia with a predominantly Christian population—more than 90 percent (about 80 percent of these are Roman Catholic). Of minority religious groups, about 8 percent are Muslim and 4 percent belong to the Philippine Independent Church—a nationalist Catholic Church. The Iglesia ni Kristo (Church of Christ) is the largest Protestant denomination with 4 percent, while Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other denominations make up about 2 percent. Although Volunteers are free to exercise their personal religious beliefs, they may not engage in religious proselytizing or other activities that are against the law or would impair their effectiveness as a Volunteer.  
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Most Volunteers do not have electricity or running water.  Water will likely come from a well, and your evenings will be spent reading by lantern and candlelight. Your flexibility and adaptability will be important as you adjust to these new conditions.  
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities ====
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During the training period, trainees stay with a host family and share most meals with their host family. Homestay is considered one of the most important aspects of the training program and is required for this period. Generally, trainees will be placed in a village with three to four other trainees and one to two staff members.
  
The Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in the Philippines without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/ Philippines staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
Buildings in the Philippines generally are not suited for disabled people. Only a few hotels and other establishments are equipped with wheelchair ramps, although some movie houses in big cities now have toilets with big doors. These deficits are largely made up for by the sheer humanity of the people. When they see a disabled person, Filipinos behave perfectly naturally, without ingratiating themselves in an embarrassing way. And there is always someone around with a helping hand.  
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As a Volunteer, you will receive a modest living allowance, paid in local currency, which allows you to live on par with your colleagues and co-workers. The amount for this allowance is based on regular surveys of Volunteers and costs of living in Malawi. The living allowance is paid quarterly into Volunteer bank accounts up-country, so the ability to manage funds wisely is important. Currently, the living allowance is equivalent to approximately $120 per month.  Your living allowance is for your food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, reading materials, and other incidentals. Included in the quarterly allowance is a travel allowance, which should be sufficient for necessary trips to and from Lilongwe from your site for official workshops, medical appointments, and so forth. Like Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide, those in Malawi are expected to live at a level commensurate with that of their Malawian co-workers. You may find that you will be receiving more remuneration than your counterpart or supervisor.  
  
 +
You will also receive a leave allowance (standard in all Peace Corps countries) of $24 per month. This allowance is paid in local currency along with your living allowance.
  
[[Category:Philippines]]
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Volunteers suggest you bring traveler’s checks, cash, and credit cards for vacation travel. Note that it is now possible to access a U.S. bank account with a VISA card at some ATMs in major urban areas (you may draw only kwacha, not dollars).  The amount of cash or traveler’s checks that you will need will depend on the amount of traveling you plan to do while serving in Malawi. Only a few local establishments accept credit cards, so they are mostly useful for travel to other countries.
 +
 
 +
The local currency is Malawi kwacha. The current exchange rate is approximately 135.465 kwacha to the U.S. dollar.
 +
 
 +
===Food and Diet ===
 +
 
 +
The staple food in Malawi is maize (corn) prepared as a thick porridge called nsima and eaten with vegetables or beans.  Many fruits and vegetables grow in Malawi, and with a little creativity, you can enjoy a widely varied diet. Most Volunteers prepare their own food, although after becoming more familiar with their site assignment, many Volunteers hire someone to help with household work, including cooking. Fruits and vegetables are available “in season,” which means some things will not be available at the market year round. Meat and dairy products are available in the towns, though they can be expensive.
 +
 
 +
Trainees and Volunteers who are vegetarians will be able to eat well in Malawi after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. Most Malawians do not understand vegetarianism and will not normally be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home (even if they themselves do not regularly eat meat because of the expense). However, a sensitive explanation about your preferences will be accepted. Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty once the initial adjustment is accomplished.
 +
 
 +
===Transportation===
 +
 
 +
Volunteers’ primary mode of transport is public buses and matolas, usually small pickup trucks loaded with people and goods. Buses and mini-buses travel among towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel in Malawi is never a timed affair.
 +
 
 +
Many Volunteers receive a mountain bike to facilitate their ability to do their work. If you ride a bicycle, helmets are required (and provided by the Peace Corps). The bikes we issue are usually men’s-style bikes that can be difficult for females to ride wearing a skirt. Many females wear shorts under their skirt to solve this problem.
 +
 
 +
Volunteers are not allowed to drive and/or operate motor vehicles or motorcycles (two- or three-wheeled).
 +
 
 +
===Geography and Climate ===
 +
 
 +
Malawi is south of the equator, so the seasons will be opposite of those in the United States. In June, July, and August the temperatures will range from 35 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in the higher elevations to 60 to 70 degrees F near the shore of Lake Malawi. The hottest months are October, November, and December. Temperatures will range from 70 degrees F in the high elevations to around 90 to 95 degrees F in the lower elevations. In the cool season, sweaters or jackets are practical. In the hot season, loose-fitting cotton clothes are best. The rainy season starts in November or December and lasts through April. The rest of the year is quite dry, although rain showers are possible throughout the year. At certain times of the year, temperatures can drop to a chilly low.
 +
 
 +
The geography of Malawi is dominated by Lake Malawi, which stretches down most of the eastern side of the country. The lake is a beautiful setting for many activities and also provides approximately 85 percent of the fresh-water tropical aquarium fish in the world.
 +
 
 +
===Social Activities ===
 +
 
 +
Malawi’s first television station began broadcasting relatively recently, and it now offers a few local news segments and programming from South Africa and Europe. There are several radio stations, some of which play popular music.  Many Volunteers bring shortwave radios so that they can listen to international broadcasts (BBC, Voice of America, Radio Deuschewella, etc.). Malawi has no cinemas.
 +
 
 +
The most common form of entertainment is social interactions among friends and neighbors. Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers on weekends and during holidays. We encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites in order to develop relationships with their community, but we also recognize that an occasional trip to the capital and to visit friends is needed as well.
 +
 
 +
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
 +
 
 +
Malawians value appearance, and norms for dress here are much more conservative than in the United States. In the United States, we view our clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In Malawi, your dress is seen as a sign of your respect to those around you. Clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are “too revealing” are not appreciated by Malawians. Wearing them will reduce the amount of respect given to you and your effectiveness. If you need to choose between T-shirts and blouses, choose blouses. Pants and shorts for women, while now legal, are not appropriate at work or in public. Men also prefer to wear nicer pants, shirts, and even neckties for teaching school or working in an office.
 +
 
 +
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines. You will be working as a representative of a government ministry, and as such you are expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this will be due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing ragged, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront.
 +
 
 +
Adhering to appropriate dress is important in Malawi, and if you have reservations about your ability or willingness to do so, you should evaluate your decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Volunteering to work effectively in another culture requires a certain level of sacrifice and flexibility that can be difficult for some people. We expect you to behave in a manner that will foster respect within your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps. You need to be aware that because certain behavior may jeopardize the Peace Corps program and your personal safety, it cannot be tolerated, and could lead to administrative separation, a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.
 +
 
 +
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
 +
 
 +
Although the potential for job satisfaction is very high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations.  Perceptions of time are very different from the United States, the lack of basic infrastructure can become very tiring, the host agencies do not always provide expected support in a timely manner, and Malawians generally perceive all Americans as very rich. These are all very common frustrations that Malawi Volunteers experience. The Peace Corps experience is often described as an intense series of emotional peaks and valleys that occur while you adapt to the new culture.
 +
 
 +
As a Volunteer, you will be given a great deal of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you will ever have. Often you will need to motivate yourself and others with little guidance. You may work for months with little visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a s-l-o-w process.  You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.
 +
 
 +
To approach and overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness.  Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Malawi feeling they have gained more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, your service could be a truly life-altering experience.
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 +
===Personal Safety ===
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 +
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety problems.  The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Malawi. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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 +
[[Category:Malawi]]

Revision as of 08:44, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications

Mail

phew countries in the world ofer the level of mail service we consider normal in the US. If you bring with you expectations for U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for much frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive, often longer. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). We do not want to sound discouraging, but when we are thousands of miles from our families and friends, communication becomes a very sensitive issue. We want century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia you to be aware of the reality of mail service in developing countries. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Air Mail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Packages take six to nine weeks for airmail, and surface mail packages take around six months. If someone is sending you a package, it’s advisable to keep it small and use a padded envelope so it will be treated as a letter.

Despite delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly (perhaps weekly or bi-weekly) and to number your letters. Family members will typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so please advise your parents, friends, and relatives that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.

Peace Corps Volunteers century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia in Malawi may receive packages for six months after arrival without paying duty and customs taxes. This privilege is for work-related clothing and household items. Duty may be charged on food and cosmetics. Also, valuable items should not be shipped since they sometimes get lost or held up. If duty is charged, the lower the value—the lower the duty.

Your address during training will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Peace Corps

P. O. Box 208

Lilongwe, Malawi

Once you have become a Volunteer, you will have your mail sent directly to your new address at your site.

Telephones

Do not expect e-mail or telephone access during training, though the training site does have telephones for emergency use. Generally, long-distance communication via telephone is available but very expensive. Note that calling cards (MCI, Sprint, and AT&T) do not work in Malawi. Alternatively, many Volunteers buy a cellphone locally (if you bring one from the U.S., be sure it can function in Malawi). These also have disadvantages, as there is still not coverage countrywide, and most Volunteers do not have the electricity needed to recharge a cellphone. While telephone communication is possible for Volunteers in Malawi, calling the United States is often a very frustrating experience. Volunteers are encouraged to establish a system of writing letters as the best method of regular communication with family and friends and to schedule periodic calls from family as a special treat.

Having a phone in your house as a Volunteer is very unlikely due to the rural location of Volunteer sites. The Volunteer respite houses in Blantyre and Mzuzu have phones where many Volunteers receive calls from family.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Personal computers/laptops are not needed or recommended, since only a few Volunteers have electricity in their homes. Computers with Word and Excel are available at the Peace Corps office and the two Volunteer respite houses. The three major cities also have Internet cafés.

Housing and Site Location

Volunteers in Malawi are posted from the far north in Chitipa to the far south in Nsanje. Volunteers are almost exclusively posted to rural areas—at health centers, community secondary schools, or in communities surrounding forest or game reserves. Site placement is made during the training period after the staff has had an opportunity to evaluate individual capabilities and strengths. Site placements are determined primarily by work-related needs.

Housing can vary from mud houses with either thatch or tin roofs to fired-brick houses with tin roofs. Most likely, a Volunteer’s house will be comparable to their co-worker’s dwelling. Housing will include basics such as a bed, table, and chairs, but possibly not much more. Each Volunteer will receive an allowance to purchase needed settling-in items. Housing is organized and provided by the hosting site, either by the school, health center, or community. Volunteers do not generally live with families during their two years of service following training, though this is a possibility.

Volunteers might be located anywhere from a half hour to three days from the capital city. Closeness to another Volunteer varies from site to site. Your nearest Volunteer neighbor may be a VSO (British) or JICA (Japanese) Volunteer.

Most Volunteers do not have electricity or running water. Water will likely come from a well, and your evenings will be spent reading by lantern and candlelight. Your flexibility and adaptability will be important as you adjust to these new conditions.

During the training period, trainees stay with a host family and share most meals with their host family. Homestay is considered one of the most important aspects of the training program and is required for this period. Generally, trainees will be placed in a village with three to four other trainees and one to two staff members.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer, you will receive a modest living allowance, paid in local currency, which allows you to live on par with your colleagues and co-workers. The amount for this allowance is based on regular surveys of Volunteers and costs of living in Malawi. The living allowance is paid quarterly into Volunteer bank accounts up-country, so the ability to manage funds wisely is important. Currently, the living allowance is equivalent to approximately $120 per month. Your living allowance is for your food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, reading materials, and other incidentals. Included in the quarterly allowance is a travel allowance, which should be sufficient for necessary trips to and from Lilongwe from your site for official workshops, medical appointments, and so forth. Like Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide, those in Malawi are expected to live at a level commensurate with that of their Malawian co-workers. You may find that you will be receiving more remuneration than your counterpart or supervisor.

You will also receive a leave allowance (standard in all Peace Corps countries) of $24 per month. This allowance is paid in local currency along with your living allowance.

Volunteers suggest you bring traveler’s checks, cash, and credit cards for vacation travel. Note that it is now possible to access a U.S. bank account with a VISA card at some ATMs in major urban areas (you may draw only kwacha, not dollars). The amount of cash or traveler’s checks that you will need will depend on the amount of traveling you plan to do while serving in Malawi. Only a few local establishments accept credit cards, so they are mostly useful for travel to other countries.

The local currency is Malawi kwacha. The current exchange rate is approximately 135.465 kwacha to the U.S. dollar.

Food and Diet

The staple food in Malawi is maize (corn) prepared as a thick porridge called nsima and eaten with vegetables or beans. Many fruits and vegetables grow in Malawi, and with a little creativity, you can enjoy a widely varied diet. Most Volunteers prepare their own food, although after becoming more familiar with their site assignment, many Volunteers hire someone to help with household work, including cooking. Fruits and vegetables are available “in season,” which means some things will not be available at the market year round. Meat and dairy products are available in the towns, though they can be expensive.

Trainees and Volunteers who are vegetarians will be able to eat well in Malawi after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. Most Malawians do not understand vegetarianism and will not normally be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home (even if they themselves do not regularly eat meat because of the expense). However, a sensitive explanation about your preferences will be accepted. Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty once the initial adjustment is accomplished.

Transportation

Volunteers’ primary mode of transport is public buses and matolas, usually small pickup trucks loaded with people and goods. Buses and mini-buses travel among towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel in Malawi is never a timed affair.

Many Volunteers receive a mountain bike to facilitate their ability to do their work. If you ride a bicycle, helmets are required (and provided by the Peace Corps). The bikes we issue are usually men’s-style bikes that can be difficult for females to ride wearing a skirt. Many females wear shorts under their skirt to solve this problem.

Volunteers are not allowed to drive and/or operate motor vehicles or motorcycles (two- or three-wheeled).

Geography and Climate

Malawi is south of the equator, so the seasons will be opposite of those in the United States. In June, July, and August the temperatures will range from 35 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in the higher elevations to 60 to 70 degrees F near the shore of Lake Malawi. The hottest months are October, November, and December. Temperatures will range from 70 degrees F in the high elevations to around 90 to 95 degrees F in the lower elevations. In the cool season, sweaters or jackets are practical. In the hot season, loose-fitting cotton clothes are best. The rainy season starts in November or December and lasts through April. The rest of the year is quite dry, although rain showers are possible throughout the year. At certain times of the year, temperatures can drop to a chilly low.

The geography of Malawi is dominated by Lake Malawi, which stretches down most of the eastern side of the country. The lake is a beautiful setting for many activities and also provides approximately 85 percent of the fresh-water tropical aquarium fish in the world.

Social Activities

Malawi’s first television station began broadcasting relatively recently, and it now offers a few local news segments and programming from South Africa and Europe. There are several radio stations, some of which play popular music. Many Volunteers bring shortwave radios so that they can listen to international broadcasts (BBC, Voice of America, Radio Deuschewella, etc.). Malawi has no cinemas.

The most common form of entertainment is social interactions among friends and neighbors. Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers on weekends and during holidays. We encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites in order to develop relationships with their community, but we also recognize that an occasional trip to the capital and to visit friends is needed as well.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Malawians value appearance, and norms for dress here are much more conservative than in the United States. In the United States, we view our clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In Malawi, your dress is seen as a sign of your respect to those around you. Clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are “too revealing” are not appreciated by Malawians. Wearing them will reduce the amount of respect given to you and your effectiveness. If you need to choose between T-shirts and blouses, choose blouses. Pants and shorts for women, while now legal, are not appropriate at work or in public. Men also prefer to wear nicer pants, shirts, and even neckties for teaching school or working in an office.

One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines. You will be working as a representative of a government ministry, and as such you are expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this will be due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing ragged, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront.

Adhering to appropriate dress is important in Malawi, and if you have reservations about your ability or willingness to do so, you should evaluate your decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Volunteering to work effectively in another culture requires a certain level of sacrifice and flexibility that can be difficult for some people. We expect you to behave in a manner that will foster respect within your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps. You need to be aware that because certain behavior may jeopardize the Peace Corps program and your personal safety, it cannot be tolerated, and could lead to administrative separation, a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.

Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction is very high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Perceptions of time are very different from the United States, the lack of basic infrastructure can become very tiring, the host agencies do not always provide expected support in a timely manner, and Malawians generally perceive all Americans as very rich. These are all very common frustrations that Malawi Volunteers experience. The Peace Corps experience is often described as an intense series of emotional peaks and valleys that occur while you adapt to the new culture.

As a Volunteer, you will be given a great deal of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you will ever have. Often you will need to motivate yourself and others with little guidance. You may work for months with little visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a s-l-o-w process. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

To approach and overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Malawi feeling they have gained more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, your service could be a truly life-altering experience.

Personal Safety

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