Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Ecuador" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali"

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====Mail====
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You should be prepared for a significant reduction in the frequency and reliability of communications with friends and family. It is a good idea to prepare your family and friends for the reality of lengthy delays between letters, the lack of regular access to a telephone, and uncertain access to e-mail.
  
Until you have your own address, you can receive mail at Peace Corps/Ecuador’s post office box:
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===Mail ===
  
“Your Name,” PCV (for Volunteer) or PCT (for trainee)
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The postal system in Mali is relatively reliable by African standards. Few Volunteers report problems with receiving letters and packages sent from the United States by airmail, but the mail can take three to four weeks to arrive. Surface mail is slightly less reliable, significantly less expensive, and takes much longer—six months to a year or more. Mail within the country takes a few days to two weeks. Volunteers can have important documents sent from the U.S. via DHL.  Maintaining good relations with the staff at the local post office is can help to ensure timely receipt of the mail.
  
Cuerpo de Paz
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You can choose to receive mail at the Peace Corps office or at your site. Most Volunteers share a local post office box in their regional capital once they have moved to their sites. During pre-service training, mail should be sent to you at the Peace Corps office. Mail will be forwarded to the training site once a week.
  
Casilla 17-08-8624
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Your address at the Peace Corps office will be:
  
Quito, Ecuador
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“Your Name,” PCT
  
South America
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Corps de la Paix
  
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B.P. 85
  
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Bamako, Mali
  
It takes a week to 10 days for a letter from the United States to reach the Peace Corps office by international mail. Once you are living at your assigned site, mail may take from two to four weeks to reach you.
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===Telephones ===
  
Receiving packages through international mail can be difficult, since all packages must go through Ecuadorian customs and you may have to make a special trip to Quito to pick up the package. All packages are opened by customs, and there is usually a significant customs charge. If the package contains items that may not be imported, like chocolates, customs officials may confiscate the items. Although some Volunteers have received small packages at their sites without having the packages pass through customs, this method is unpredictable.  
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Telephone service in Mali, like the postal system, is relatively reliable. However, Volunteers do not have telephones in their homes, whether they live in small villages or large towns. An expanding cellphone network covers most cities and large towns, and some Volunteers have access to a phone at their workplace. However, it is not appropriate to make long-distance calls from these phones. Most towns have commercial phone centers that offer phone and fax services, but outgoing calls can be expensive. Many Volunteers arrange times to receive calls from home. Peace Corps regional and transit houses have telephones from which Volunteers can receive but not make calls.  
  
Many Volunteers have had luck receiving items sent in padded envelopes. We therefore recommend that families and friends send only small items and try to keep the weight of any packages under two kilos (4.4 pounds), clearly marking the contents. They should not send anything via couriers such as DHL and Federal Express, which are more expensive than the Postal Service.  
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Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the Peace Corps office to call family or friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.  
  
Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funding, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site. This allows you time to understand the developmental needs of the community and begin to engage the community in project identification. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your project director and country director.
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private-sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the country director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580 (extension 2170); e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov; or visit www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.  volproj.  
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Use and ownership of computers are rapidly expanding, but primarily among better-funded government offices and wealthy individuals and companies. There are Internet cafés in Bamako and the regional capitals. Connection speeds are slow, but improving with growing demand and more private-sector entrepreneurs. Some of the commercial phone centers offer computer and Internet access on an hourly basis (around 1,000 to 2,500 CFA francs per hour), and this is the route by which most Volunteers access the Internet. It is also possible to use a laptop computer in a staffed phone booth to connect via modem to service providers in Bamako, though not all phone booth staff will allow customers to do this.
  
====Telephones====
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Volunteers who served in Mali prior to the late 1990s had no access to email at all, and had to rely on the mail and expensive and unreliable telephone connections provided by the national telephone service.
  
Peace Corps/Ecuador’s office is located at the following address: Av. Granda Centeno # OE 4-250, y Baron de Carondelet, Quito, Ecuador. The telephone numbers of the office are 227.6300, 227.2824, 245.5007, or 800.723.282 (tollfree only within Ecuador); the fax number is 227.3763.  
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===Radio and Television===
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Radio is by far the most important source of information and entertainment for the majority of Malians, and local radio also serves as a kind of bulletin board for people sending messages about everything from recent deaths to lost children or animals.
  
To use these numbers from the United States, you must first dial 011 for access to the international network, 593 for Ecuador (country code), and 2 for Quito. Note that after regular business hours and on weekends and holidays, the person answering the phone is not likely to speak English.
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===Housing and Site Location ===
  
To reach you in an emergency, your family should call the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., at 800.424.8580, extension 1470 (or 202.638.2574 during non-business hours). The Office of Special Services will then contact Peace Corps/Ecuador.  
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The community to which you are assigned will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. Housing is typically a small house made of mud or cement bricks with a thatch roof. Some Volunteers in urban sites live in cement houses with two or three rooms. Most Volunteers do not have running water or electricity; water comes from a pump or a well, and light is provided by kerosene lanterns or candles. Nearly all Volunteers are within one hour of another Volunteer and most are within 10 hours of the Peace Corps office in Bamako via public transportation.  
  
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
Because Ecuador is a popular tourist destination, there are Internet cafes throughout the country. Almost all Volunteers in Ecuador have e-mail addresses and, except for those posted to the most remote sites, are able to check e-mail and access the Internet at least once a month. In addition, computers with Internet access are available for Volunteers to use at the Peace Corps office in Quito.  
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Volunteers’ living allowance is approximately 105,000 CFA francs per month, not including the vacation allowance equivalent to $24 per month. Volunteers also receive a quarterly work-travel allowance ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the location of their sites. All of these allowances are paid in local currency and deposited directly into a bank account that each Volunteer must establish at or near their sites. The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual survey of Volunteers’ financial needs. Most Volunteers report that they can live comfortably with this allowance and have extra money for regional travel as well as occasional nights on the town. You are expected to live at the level of your Malian counterparts, so you are discouraged from bringing or receiving extra money from home to spend in-country.  
  
===Housing and Site Location===
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===Food and Diet ===
  
All Volunteer housing is reviewed and approved by Peace Corps staff prior to occupancy. Some Volunteers live with a family for a month or so when they first move to their sites. This helps Volunteers get to know the community better before making a permanent housing decision. Volunteers in the youth and families project work in marginal urban neighborhoods and almost all are required to live with a family during their entire two years of service. For reasons of safety, security, and cultural integration, the Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers in all projects consider living with a host family.  
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Water generally needs to be treated through boiling, bleach treatment, or filtering to be potable. The availability of fruits and vegetables is somewhat limited, but Mali produces some of the best mangoes and papayas in the world. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a local type of eggplant are available year-round. Other fruits and vegetables, available seasonally, include oranges, grapefruits, bananas, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. Staple meals include rice and tô (a thick porridge made of millet, sorghum, corn, or yams), served with a sauce made from peanuts, okra, greens (i.e., spinach or baobab leaves), or tomatoes with meat or fish.  French bread is available in larger towns and villages.  
  
Housing varies greatly by site. Most Volunteers live and work in rural communities, but a few work in urban settings. Some live in buildings with up-to-date plumbing and electrical systems. Others may have a small adobe house with a pit latrine in the back and one or two bare light bulbs for illumination. A few Volunteers live in very isolated sites without electricity or running water.
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===Transportation ===
  
Volunteer sites are located throughout the country but generally are clustered in several regions so that Volunteers from all four project areas and from older and newer groups are located relatively close to one another. In most cases, you will be located, at most, within two or three hours of other Volunteers. There are some areas of the country where the Peace Corps does not place any Volunteers, either because the level of development is such that Volunteers are no longer needed or because of safety and security concerns (e.g., the jungle regions on the Colombian border).  
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llllllll connect regional capitals and large towns in Mali, and fairly well-maintained buses operate on a regular daily schedule. Smaller towns and villages are served by “bush taxis”—typically overcrowded and poorly maintained minibuses that do not run on a fixed schedule. Most Volunteers do not live near paved roads and thus do not have daily access to motorized transportation out of their villages.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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Volunteers can choose between receiving a transportation allowance or receiving a bike to use for work and recreation purposes. Bicycle helmets are required. If you plan to use a bike, we encourage you to purchase a high-quality helmet in the United States. Peace Corps/Mali will reimburse you for the cost if you provide the receipt. The quality and selection of helmets available in-country are limited.
  
Peace Corps/Ecuador will open a bank account for you and provide you with a bank book and an ATM card. Your monthly living allowance will be deposited into this account at the beginning of each month. Most Volunteers travel to a nearby commercial town every week or two to withdraw cash, check their mail, and shop for items not available in their communities. Many Volunteers bring a credit card, additional cash, or traveler’s checks for emergency expenses and travel, which can be kept in the safe at the Peace Corps office in Quito (up to a maximum of $1,000 in cash and traveler’s checks).  
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For safety reasons, Peace Corps/Mali prohibits Volunteers from driving motorized vehicles (such as a motorcycle) except in a life-threatening emergency. Moreover, Volunteers are not permitted to ride as a passenger on motorcycles.
  
The living allowance is calculated to allow you to live at the level of the general population. Volunteers who spend most of their time in their community find that they have adequate resources, while those who choose to travel often to the major cities tend to find their budgets stretched at the end of the month.
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===Geography and Climate ===
  
===Food and Diet===
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Mali stretches across three climatic zones: savanna, steppe, and desert. The savanna features wooded grasslands broken occasionally by cliff and rock formations and is watered by the Niger and Senegal rivers and their tributaries. This area lies south of a rough line drawn from Kayes in the west to a point just south of Mopti in the east. The steppe, or the Sahelian, zone is between the savanna and the desert, stretching north from Mopti to roughly 50 miles beyond the great bend of the Niger River. It consists of dry, sandy plains sparsely wooded by trees. The third zone, north of these plains, is part of the Sahara Desert and is characterized by rocky outcrops dotted by vegetation and small villages wherever water is close to the surface. The harshness, vastness, and romance of the desert exert an influence that is felt throughout the country and has helped shape the culture.
  
Wonderful fruits—including many you may never have tried-are plentiful throughout the country in season. Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas, and there are many varieties. Meat, especially pork, is commonly eaten by those who can afford it. Foods are often fried. Soy, peanut, and sunflower oils are available, but butter, vegetable oil, and pork fat are more commonly used.  
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Nomadic herdsmen and camel drivers inhabit the northern half of Mali, where they haul salt and other commodities from Taoudeni to Tombouctou and Gao.  
  
Some combination of rice, potatoes, bread, noodles, and bananas is included in most meals. Eggs, chicken, and dairy products will probably be your main sources of protein. A favorite local seasoning is aji (pronounced ah-hee), a spicy sauce that runs from mild to quite hot.  
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The Sahel provides grazing land for more than half of the country’s 5 million to 6 million cattle. The savanna is the most densely populated and most heavily cultivated area, furnishing most of the cereal, cotton, and peanuts produced in Mali. The richest farming area is in and around the Niger River basin.  
  
If you plan to cook for yourself, you may want to bring some spices with you. Caraway, dill, tarragon, chili powder, and spices used in Indian, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern dishes are difficult or impossible to find in Ecuador. Supermarkets in the large cities have most basic spices, however.  
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Mali’s climate is similar to that of Arizona. The rainy season extends from June to October in the south, but starts later and ends earlier as one goes north. The period between November and early March is characterized by moderate daytime temperatures, cool nights, and cloudless skies. In April and May, the humidity drops to about 10 percent, and temperatures rise to as high as 110 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. June brings rains that slowly ease the intensity of the heat. The climate becomes hotter and drier farther north.
  
If you are a vegetarian, follow a low-fat or low-cholesterol diet, or have food allergies, you will have to be patient and inventive to satisfy your needs. Most vegetarian Volunteers have been able to adjust to the Ecuadorian diet without major problems.
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===Social Activities ===
  
When offered food as a guest or as a member of a host family’s household, you may have difficulty convincing people of your need for a special diet. You may also encounter difficulty in turning down alcoholic beverages, especially if you are male. If you refuse what is offered when you are a visitor in someone’s home, you may offend your host. Strategies for dealing with these types of situations will be discussed during pre-service training.  
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Social activities vary according to where you are located. They might include relaxing and talking with friends and neighbors, going to the market, or taking part in local festivals. The cultural diversity of Mali means that there is always something of interest taking place nearby from which you can learn, be it drumming and dancing or planting peanuts. Many Volunteers meet periodically in regional market towns to share ideas and experiences. But in keeping with its goal of cross-cultural exchange, the Peace Corps expects Volunteers to establish social networks with Malian friends and colleagues at their sites rather than seek out other Volunteers for social activities. Such networks enhance Volunteers’ ability to be effective in their work.  
  
===Transportation===
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
  
Your job may require occasional or frequent travel within the area where you are assigned. Although you may be able to travel in your host agency’s vehicle, riding a bicycle or a horse, and/or walking is often the only way to reach small communities or distant farms. The Peace Corps provides mountain bikes (and helmets, which must be used) to Volunteers who require them for their work.  
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One of the biggest challenges faced by Volunteers in Mali is defining their role as professionals in the Malian context while maintaining a sense of their own work ethic and cultural identity. The tendency of Malian counterparts to blur (from a Western perspective) the distinction between professional and personal time and space adds another layer of complexity to the challenge of establishing yourself as a professional in this context. Cultivating work relationships is not something that happens only during working hours; behavior and activities outside the work setting will have an impact on your professional relationships.  
  
Most of your long-distance travel will be by crowded public bus. A number of reliable bus lines with modern equipment run throughout the country. One-way travel using domestic airlines is an option for Volunteers in the southernmost provinces of the country.  
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Malians generally consider it important to dress appropriately whenever they are going to be seen in public—whether at work, in the market, or at a bar. It is almost unheard of, for example, for an urban Malian man or woman to wear shorts unless he or she is taking part in some kind of sporting event. Nor would a professional man or woman ever be seen in public wearing dirty, disheveled, wrinkled, or torn clothing, but for rural farmers this is not at all uncommon because expensive dress clothing would be easily ruined during a normal work day. Dressing appropriately - as a professional Malian would - will greatly enhance your credibility, improve your ability to integrate into your community, and increase your odds of having a safe Peace Corps service. Aside from following Malian norms for dress, however, Volunteers need to be aware of other unwritten rules of the culture, such as the fact that Malian women never go to a bar on their own.  Serving in the Peace Corps often requires sacrificing personal preferences regarding dress and behavior. There will be ample discussion of this subject during cross-cultural sessions in pre-service training, but ultimately these are personal choices that the volunteer must make on a daily basis.  
  
Volunteers are not authorized to operate any type of motorized vehicle in Ecuador. Motorcycle riding (as driver or passenger) is prohibited.  
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Peace Corps/Mali has instituted a dress code that must be followed by Volunteers, trainees, and staff at the Bamako office, the Tubani So training center, and at any function where a staff member, Volunteer, or trainee could reasonably be considered to be representing the Peace Corps. The code is also suggested for any Volunteer with an office-type work assignment, anyone attending a professional meeting, or attending a meeting with someone to whom one is expected (as per Malian mores) to show deference.  
  
===Geography and Climate===
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* Shirts with buttons, sleeves, and collars for men (must cover midriff)
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* Shirts with sleeves for women (must cover midriff)
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* Any kind of shoes or sandals (except rubber/plastic shower flip-flops)
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* Long pants for men and at least mid-calf length for women (if worn by women they should never be tight or transparent and best accompanied by a long shirt)
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* Skirts (opaque and at least knee length), dresses, veils (dampe), Malian-style outfits for men and women), or boubous (robes worn by local men or women)
  
The four main areas of Ecuador have different climates.  Because the country is on the equator, the temperature depends on the altitude, not the season. There are only two seasons—rainy and dry.
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===Personal Safety ===
  
The highlands area, or sierra, is warm during the day (60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and cool at night (35 to 55 degrees). Several layers of clothing may be necessary. The dry season tends to be warm and dusty. In the rainy season, temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler.  
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Peace Corps 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 the local language and culture, and being perceived as rich are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers in Mali complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. 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 Mali. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
The coastal area, or costa, is generally hot and humid. The rainy season, January through April, is hot (80 to 95 degrees), and mold is sometimes a problem. The dry season, May through December, is slightly cooler (70 to 85 degrees).
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How will living and working in communities affected by HIV/AIDS affect me?
  
The Amazon Basin region, or oriente, is usually warm and muggy. Temperatures fluctuate greatly during the day, ranging from 60 to 90 degrees. Although there are dry and rainy seasons, it rains year-round and mold is a constant problem.  
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The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS.  Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.  
  
The Galápagos Islands are hot and dry most of the time, but the pleasant ocean breezes make the temperatures more comfortable.
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===Rewards and Frustrations ===
  
===Social Activities===
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Although the potential for job satisfaction in Mali is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations.  Because of financial constraints, inefficient management, and an often contradictory incentive system, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.
  
Ecuadorian entertainment, especially in small towns, centers on drinking, dancing, and talking. Movies are also popular in Ecuador, although recent releases from the United States (with Spanish subtitles) are usually delayed by several months. The movies shown are often martial arts, horror, or Mexican slapstick films. Large towns usually have at least one movie theater, and many also have video/DVD stores. Small cities have a public library and cultural activities at the local Casa de la Cultura.  
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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 anywhere in the world—including disadvantaged areas in the United States—is slow work that requires perseverance. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
  
Ecuadorians love music and love to dance, and many Volunteers enjoy learning salsa, cumbia, and merengue from Ecuadorian friends. Radio stations play a variety of music, including some American rock and pop. Many Volunteers make their own music, bringing or purchasing a guitar, violin, flute, harmonica, and so forth. Ecuadorian craftsmen make very good guitars that are not expensive.  
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To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your Malian co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Mali feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
  
Sports are very popular in Ecuador, especially soccer,
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[[Category:Mali]]
 
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basketball, and volleyball. Soccer is a national—indeed, Latin
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American—passion, similar to baseball in the United States but more so. Volunteers will have many opportunities to play sports informally in their communities. Occasionally, Volunteers even coach local teams.
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Volunteers spend a lot of time reading. Although local bookstores carry books in English, prices are higher than in the United States. Volunteers who learn Spanish well enough will, of course, find many books and magazines available. The Peace Corps office has an extensive library, and Volunteers often trade books with one another. Although you will probably want to bring some paperback books with you, it is a good idea to ask your family and friends to send you a book occasionally.
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Alcohol plays a big role in social activities, and Volunteers are advised to use their best judgment when consuming alcohol.  There is a high correlation between alcohol use and crimes committed against Volunteers ranging from petty theft to physical assault and rape.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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“Neat and modest” sums up the dress code for Volunteers in Ecuador. Since most Volunteers are assigned to rural or marginally developed urban sites, there is rarely a need for more formal attire. You will be working as a professional development worker, however, and inappropriate dress may make Ecuadorians less receptive to you. When you visit the office of a counterpart agency, you should wear clothing that is slightly more formal than what you wear daily. For such visits, skirts or dress slacks for women and slacks and button-down shirts with collars for men are appropriate. During training, and less often as a Volunteer, there will be a few occasions, such as the swearing-in ceremony or a wedding, when men will want to wear jackets and ties and women will want to wear dresses.
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Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and any other attire that could be considered revealing. While young Ecuadorian women in the larger lowland cities do wear such items, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are only exacerbated by revealing attire, sometimes leading to unwanted attention or harassment. Ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, shorts, and body piercings (other than pierced ears) are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Ecuador.
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Earrings are acceptable for women but generally not for men.  Younger men in large cities occasionally wear earrings, but, as foreigners, male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times. Since dreadlocks are associated with the use of illegal drugs, Volunteers may not wear them.
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Most of the indigenous populations live in the highlands, where the cold and rain often keep people indoors for days at a time. People in the highlands tend to be more reserved and formal, and many still retain their traditional dress and languages. Life in the lowland and coastal regions is often less formal, with loud music and people conversing in the streets—a common feature of everyday life. Even in these regions, however, business and social interactions have a greater degree of formality than what Americans are accustomed to. The rituals of greeting and acknowledgment are an important part of doing business, and failure to adhere to these customs may be viewed negatively. You will learn a great deal about these customs during pre-service training.
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===Personal Safety===
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More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Ecuador 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 Ecuador. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
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The total time of your commitment to Peace Corps/Ecuador is 27 months—which includes approximately three months of pre-service training and 24 months of Peace Corps service upon successful completion of training. Peace Corps service is not for everyone. Requiring greater dedication and commitment than most jobs, it is for confident, self-starting, and concerned individuals who are interested in helping other countries and increasing understanding across cultural barriers. Your willingness to serve in smaller towns and cities and to give up U.S. standards of space and privacy in your living accommodations will be greatly appreciated by Ecuadorians.
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The key to satisfying work as a Peace Corps Volunteer is the ability to establish successful relationships at all levels, which requires patience, sensitivity, and a positive professional attitude. It is essential that you work with Ecuadorian counterparts to ensure that tasks begun during your service will continue after your departure. It is also important to realize that while you may have a lot of energy and motivation, you will be in Ecuador for only two years. Your colleagues will probably continue to work in the same job after you leave—for little money—and may not possess quite the same level of motivation. Often you will find yourself in situations that require the ability to motivate both yourself and your colleagues and to solve problems with little or no guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact from, and without receiving feedback on, your work. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results. Nevertheless, you will have a sense of accomplishment when small projects are rendered effective as a result of your efforts. Acceptance into a foreign culture and the acquisition of a second or even a third language are also significant rewards.
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Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the valleys, and most Volunteers leave Ecuador feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. Indeed, many former Volunteers will readily tell you that their Peace Corps service was the most significant experience of their lives.
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[[Category:Ecuador]]
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Revision as of 14:35, 6 June 2011



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
As a Peace Corps Volunteers, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping — may take significantly different forms in the context of the host country. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mali| |8}}]]
See also:

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles by Country Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

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Communications

You should be prepared for a significant reduction in the frequency and reliability of communications with friends and family. It is a good idea to prepare your family and friends for the reality of lengthy delays between letters, the lack of regular access to a telephone, and uncertain access to e-mail.

Mail

The postal system in Mali is relatively reliable by African standards. Few Volunteers report problems with receiving letters and packages sent from the United States by airmail, but the mail can take three to four weeks to arrive. Surface mail is slightly less reliable, significantly less expensive, and takes much longer—six months to a year or more. Mail within the country takes a few days to two weeks. Volunteers can have important documents sent from the U.S. via DHL. Maintaining good relations with the staff at the local post office is can help to ensure timely receipt of the mail.

You can choose to receive mail at the Peace Corps office or at your site. Most Volunteers share a local post office box in their regional capital once they have moved to their sites. During pre-service training, mail should be sent to you at the Peace Corps office. Mail will be forwarded to the training site once a week.

Your address at the Peace Corps office will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 85

Bamako, Mali

Telephones

Telephone service in Mali, like the postal system, is relatively reliable. However, Volunteers do not have telephones in their homes, whether they live in small villages or large towns. An expanding cellphone network covers most cities and large towns, and some Volunteers have access to a phone at their workplace. However, it is not appropriate to make long-distance calls from these phones. Most towns have commercial phone centers that offer phone and fax services, but outgoing calls can be expensive. Many Volunteers arrange times to receive calls from home. Peace Corps regional and transit houses have telephones from which Volunteers can receive but not make calls.

Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the Peace Corps office to call family or friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Use and ownership of computers are rapidly expanding, but primarily among better-funded government offices and wealthy individuals and companies. There are Internet cafés in Bamako and the regional capitals. Connection speeds are slow, but improving with growing demand and more private-sector entrepreneurs. Some of the commercial phone centers offer computer and Internet access on an hourly basis (around 1,000 to 2,500 CFA francs per hour), and this is the route by which most Volunteers access the Internet. It is also possible to use a laptop computer in a staffed phone booth to connect via modem to service providers in Bamako, though not all phone booth staff will allow customers to do this.

Volunteers who served in Mali prior to the late 1990s had no access to email at all, and had to rely on the mail and expensive and unreliable telephone connections provided by the national telephone service.

Radio and Television

Radio is by far the most important source of information and entertainment for the majority of Malians, and local radio also serves as a kind of bulletin board for people sending messages about everything from recent deaths to lost children or animals.

Housing and Site Location

The community to which you are assigned will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. Housing is typically a small house made of mud or cement bricks with a thatch roof. Some Volunteers in urban sites live in cement houses with two or three rooms. Most Volunteers do not have running water or electricity; water comes from a pump or a well, and light is provided by kerosene lanterns or candles. Nearly all Volunteers are within one hour of another Volunteer and most are within 10 hours of the Peace Corps office in Bamako via public transportation.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers’ living allowance is approximately 105,000 CFA francs per month, not including the vacation allowance equivalent to $24 per month. Volunteers also receive a quarterly work-travel allowance ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the location of their sites. All of these allowances are paid in local currency and deposited directly into a bank account that each Volunteer must establish at or near their sites. The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual survey of Volunteers’ financial needs. Most Volunteers report that they can live comfortably with this allowance and have extra money for regional travel as well as occasional nights on the town. You are expected to live at the level of your Malian counterparts, so you are discouraged from bringing or receiving extra money from home to spend in-country.

Food and Diet

Water generally needs to be treated through boiling, bleach treatment, or filtering to be potable. The availability of fruits and vegetables is somewhat limited, but Mali produces some of the best mangoes and papayas in the world. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a local type of eggplant are available year-round. Other fruits and vegetables, available seasonally, include oranges, grapefruits, bananas, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. Staple meals include rice and tô (a thick porridge made of millet, sorghum, corn, or yams), served with a sauce made from peanuts, okra, greens (i.e., spinach or baobab leaves), or tomatoes with meat or fish. French bread is available in larger towns and villages.

Transportation

llllllll connect regional capitals and large towns in Mali, and fairly well-maintained buses operate on a regular daily schedule. Smaller towns and villages are served by “bush taxis”—typically overcrowded and poorly maintained minibuses that do not run on a fixed schedule. Most Volunteers do not live near paved roads and thus do not have daily access to motorized transportation out of their villages.

Volunteers can choose between receiving a transportation allowance or receiving a bike to use for work and recreation purposes. Bicycle helmets are required. If you plan to use a bike, we encourage you to purchase a high-quality helmet in the United States. Peace Corps/Mali will reimburse you for the cost if you provide the receipt. The quality and selection of helmets available in-country are limited.

For safety reasons, Peace Corps/Mali prohibits Volunteers from driving motorized vehicles (such as a motorcycle) except in a life-threatening emergency. Moreover, Volunteers are not permitted to ride as a passenger on motorcycles.

Geography and Climate

Mali stretches across three climatic zones: savanna, steppe, and desert. The savanna features wooded grasslands broken occasionally by cliff and rock formations and is watered by the Niger and Senegal rivers and their tributaries. This area lies south of a rough line drawn from Kayes in the west to a point just south of Mopti in the east. The steppe, or the Sahelian, zone is between the savanna and the desert, stretching north from Mopti to roughly 50 miles beyond the great bend of the Niger River. It consists of dry, sandy plains sparsely wooded by trees. The third zone, north of these plains, is part of the Sahara Desert and is characterized by rocky outcrops dotted by vegetation and small villages wherever water is close to the surface. The harshness, vastness, and romance of the desert exert an influence that is felt throughout the country and has helped shape the culture.

Nomadic herdsmen and camel drivers inhabit the northern half of Mali, where they haul salt and other commodities from Taoudeni to Tombouctou and Gao.

The Sahel provides grazing land for more than half of the country’s 5 million to 6 million cattle. The savanna is the most densely populated and most heavily cultivated area, furnishing most of the cereal, cotton, and peanuts produced in Mali. The richest farming area is in and around the Niger River basin.

Mali’s climate is similar to that of Arizona. The rainy season extends from June to October in the south, but starts later and ends earlier as one goes north. The period between November and early March is characterized by moderate daytime temperatures, cool nights, and cloudless skies. In April and May, the humidity drops to about 10 percent, and temperatures rise to as high as 110 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. June brings rains that slowly ease the intensity of the heat. The climate becomes hotter and drier farther north.

Social Activities

Social activities vary according to where you are located. They might include relaxing and talking with friends and neighbors, going to the market, or taking part in local festivals. The cultural diversity of Mali means that there is always something of interest taking place nearby from which you can learn, be it drumming and dancing or planting peanuts. Many Volunteers meet periodically in regional market towns to share ideas and experiences. But in keeping with its goal of cross-cultural exchange, the Peace Corps expects Volunteers to establish social networks with Malian friends and colleagues at their sites rather than seek out other Volunteers for social activities. Such networks enhance Volunteers’ ability to be effective in their work.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

One of the biggest challenges faced by Volunteers in Mali is defining their role as professionals in the Malian context while maintaining a sense of their own work ethic and cultural identity. The tendency of Malian counterparts to blur (from a Western perspective) the distinction between professional and personal time and space adds another layer of complexity to the challenge of establishing yourself as a professional in this context. Cultivating work relationships is not something that happens only during working hours; behavior and activities outside the work setting will have an impact on your professional relationships.

Malians generally consider it important to dress appropriately whenever they are going to be seen in public—whether at work, in the market, or at a bar. It is almost unheard of, for example, for an urban Malian man or woman to wear shorts unless he or she is taking part in some kind of sporting event. Nor would a professional man or woman ever be seen in public wearing dirty, disheveled, wrinkled, or torn clothing, but for rural farmers this is not at all uncommon because expensive dress clothing would be easily ruined during a normal work day. Dressing appropriately - as a professional Malian would - will greatly enhance your credibility, improve your ability to integrate into your community, and increase your odds of having a safe Peace Corps service. Aside from following Malian norms for dress, however, Volunteers need to be aware of other unwritten rules of the culture, such as the fact that Malian women never go to a bar on their own. Serving in the Peace Corps often requires sacrificing personal preferences regarding dress and behavior. There will be ample discussion of this subject during cross-cultural sessions in pre-service training, but ultimately these are personal choices that the volunteer must make on a daily basis.

Peace Corps/Mali has instituted a dress code that must be followed by Volunteers, trainees, and staff at the Bamako office, the Tubani So training center, and at any function where a staff member, Volunteer, or trainee could reasonably be considered to be representing the Peace Corps. The code is also suggested for any Volunteer with an office-type work assignment, anyone attending a professional meeting, or attending a meeting with someone to whom one is expected (as per Malian mores) to show deference.

  • Shirts with buttons, sleeves, and collars for men (must cover midriff)
  • Shirts with sleeves for women (must cover midriff)
  • Any kind of shoes or sandals (except rubber/plastic shower flip-flops)
  • Long pants for men and at least mid-calf length for women (if worn by women they should never be tight or transparent and best accompanied by a long shirt)
  • Skirts (opaque and at least knee length), dresses, veils (dampe), Malian-style outfits for men and women), or boubous (robes worn by local men or women)

Personal Safety

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Peace Corps 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 the local language and culture, and being perceived as rich are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers in Mali complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. 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 Mali. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

How will living and working in communities affected by HIV/AIDS affect me?

The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.

Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction in Mali is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial constraints, inefficient management, and an often contradictory incentive system, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.

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 anywhere in the world—including disadvantaged areas in the United States—is slow work that requires perseverance. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your Malian co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Mali feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.