Difference between pages "Nicaragua" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Cameroon"

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{{CountryboxAlternative
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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
|Countryname = Nicaragua
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==Communications==
|CountryCode = nu
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|status = [[ACTIVE]]
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|Map = Nu-map.gif
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|Welcomebooklink = http://www.peacecorps.gov/welcomebooks/niwb524.pdf
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|Region = [[Central America]]
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|CountryDirector = [[Carol Barrick]]
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|Sectors =  [[Small Business Development]]<br> ([[APCD]]: [[Georgia Narcisso]])<br> [[Health]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Pilar Garcia]])<br> [[Environment]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Maria - Antonia Mallona]])<br>[[Agriculture]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Bayardo Etienne]])<br>[[TEFL Education]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Joayne Larson]])<br>
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|ProgramDates = [[1968]] - [[1979]]<br>[[1991]] - [[Present]]
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|CurrentlyServing = 194
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|TotalVolunteers = 1716
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|Languages = [[Spanish]]
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|Flag = Flag_of_Nicaragua.svg
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|stagingdate= January 11 2011
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|stagingcity= Arlington, VA
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}}
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===Mail===
  
The Peace Corps program works to help Nicaraguans respond to these challenges and improve their quality of life through five projects: small business development, health, environment, agriculture, and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive and may take up to six weeks.  Some mail may simply not arrive, or may arrive with clipped edges because a postal worker has tried to see if any money was inside. The vast majority of letters arrive in decent time.  Advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.  
  
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During training (your first 10 weeks in Cameroon) letters and packages should be sent to:
  
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“Your name”
  
==Peace Corps History==
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Peace Corps Trainee
  
''Main article: [[History of the Peace Corps in Nicaragua]]''
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Corps de la Paix
  
The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Nicaragua in 1969. Between 1969 and 1978, the program ranged in size from 75 to 125 Volunteers. Volunteers provided assistance in areas such as education, vocational training, rural nutrition, rural waterworks, agricultural extension, cooperatives, and municipal development. After the earthquake of 1972, efforts were dedicated to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.
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B.P. 215
  
The Peace Corps program in Nicaragua was suspended in 1978 because of civil war. In 1982, the Peace Corps attempted to reestablish a program in Nicaragua but was unsuccessful because of the highly polarized political situation in the country. Four experienced Volunteers from other Spanish-speaking countries reinitiated the program in May 1991. The program has since grown to more than 160 Volunteers working in four projects throughout Nicaragua. In January 1995, Peace Corps/Nicaragua piloted community-based training (CBT), an innovative, experiential learning model that you will soon participate in firsthand. CBT helps trainees adapt to field situations while living with Nicaraguan families during the full training period.
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Yaoundé
  
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Cameroon
  
  
==Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle==
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Once you have finished training and are at your site, letters can be mailed directly to your new address there.
  
''Main article: [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Nicaragua]]''
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In the event of a serious problem, Peace Corps/Cameroon would notify the Office of Special Services at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, which would then contact your family. Advise your family members that in the case of a family emergency, they should contact the Office of Special Services in Washington. During normal business hours, the number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.
  
Housing options and site locations vary greatly depending upon your project. Business Volunteers tend to live in towns and cities throughout Nicaragua ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 residents. The location of health, environment, and TEFL assignments varies from medium-sized cities to remote rural communities. And agriculture Volunteers generally live in small, remote communities (as few as 200 residents) concentrated in the northern region of the country.  No volunteers are placed in the country's capital city, Managua, due to safety concerns.
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===Telephones===
  
Most (but not all) Volunteer homes have electricity, and most have running water. However, both electric and water service may be intermittent. A few homes even have telephones and, rarely, access to cable television. Volunteers in very rural sites may have to haul water to their home from a communal pump for their daily water supply. Your Volunteer assignment description provides greater detail about potential housing and site realities for your project.
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Cellular telephones are popular in Cameroon and can easily be purchased in all major cities from under $150. They do not function in all areas of the country, but service is spreading rapidly. Most trainees purchase a cellphone shortly after arrival in Cameroon. (Cellular telephones from the United States will not work in Cameroon unless they are GSM phones.) Some Volunteers bring satellite phones, which work well in most areas of the country. A few Volunteers have fixed-line phones in their homes.  
  
Peace Corps/Nicaragua’s site and housing policy guides the selection of safe and accessible locations for all assignments that have viable work options. All Volunteers are required to live with a host family throughout training and during their first six weeks at their project site. Due to remoteness, and/or few housing options, some sites will require Volunteers to live with families for the duration of their service. The Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers live with a family throughout their service, as it enriches Volunteers’ Peace Corps experience while enhancing their safety and acceptance by the community. When independent housing options are available, Volunteers are permitted to rent homes that meet the Peace Corps’ housing criteria. While some sites have two or more Volunteers, only married Volunteers can share housing during their service. Most Volunteers live within a one- to two-hour walk or bus ride from another Volunteer.
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The cost of calling the United States is very expensive (about a quarter a minute), several times more expensive than calling from the United States to Cameroon. Volunteers often make a short call to a friend or family member and have them return the call.
  
When you are sworn in as a Volunteer, you will be required to submit a site locator form that will enable Peace Corps to locate and communicate with you throughout your service. Peace Corps staff will periodically visit you at your site to provide personal, professional, and medical support and guidance.
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access===
  
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Over the past several years, Internet and e-mail services have sprung up throughout Cameroon.
  
==Training==
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At the Peace Corps office in Yaoundé, Volunteers have access to computers with high-speed Internet connections. Many people do bring laptop computers to Cameroon. If you do, you may spend a lot of time worrying about your equipment in transport and at home (not to mention the hassle of lugging it around), and parts may not be available. The choice is up to you. Peace Corps/Cameroon is unable to provide technical support to Volunteers who choose to bring a computer, nor will it reimburse you for any needed repairs. Computers and other high-value items also heighten your exposure to opportunistic theft. Make sure to have any high-value items insured as Peace Corps will not reimburse for loss or theft.
  
''Main article: [[Training in Nicaragua]]''
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==Housing and Site Location==
  
Upon your arrival in Nicaragua, you will participate in a three-day orientation that will provide you with basic, pertinent information on living in Nicaragua. You will find out about Peace Corps administrative issues as they pertain to Peace Corps training. Additionally, you will learn what the Peace Corps expects from you during training and what you can expect from the Peace Corps. You will have the opportunity to speak with current Volunteers in your project and ask questions about any initial medical concerns. After this orientation, you will begin living with a host family, spending Saturday night and Sunday with them before beginning pre-service training on Monday morning.
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During training, you will live with a Cameroonian family. After training, you are likely to have your own house in the community where you are posted. Volunteers are assigned to sites throughout Cameroon, which range in size from large cities to small villages. Your assignment will depend on the project, host country needs, housing availability, and your preferences. Cameroon’s development needs are the first priority in posting Volunteers.  
  
Peace Corps/Nicaragua uses a community-based training model that was pioneered in Nicaragua in January 1995. Many Peace Corps training programs worldwide have since adopted this model, in which most training activities take place in the community where one lives during training. This type of immersion has proven more successful than other methods in preparing Volunteers for the realities of serviceTrainees in the Small Business sector spend PST (pre-service training) in towns in the department of Masaya, trainees in the Agriculture sector spend PST in the department of Esteli, and trainees in the other sectors spend PST in towns in the department of either Masaya or Carazo.
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Arrangements for housing are made by the Peace Corps and depend on resources available in the community. You will have to be flexible in your housing expectations. The Peace Corps tries to ensure that Volunteers have lodging that allows for independence and privacy. You may, however, be lodged in a small, one-room hut within a family’s compound. Your house may have walls made of concrete or mud bricks and a tin or thatched roof. A typical Volunteer house has a sitting room, a bedroom, and a cooking area. Some houses have inside toilets/shower areas while others have nearby pit latrines.  About half of Volunteers have running water and/or electricityPeace Corps/Cameroon provides items such as an all-terrain bicycle and helmet, a mosquito net, and a water filter. Upon your swearing in as a Volunteer, the Peace Corps will give you a modest settling-in allowance to purchase household necessities and furniture.  
  
Training will consist of several components, including Spanish language, technical skills, cross-cultural awareness, the role of Volunteers in development, and health and safety issues. You will attend Spanish classes and carry out technical and cross-cultural tasks in your community Monday through Friday. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, the entire training group usually will come together for more formal training sessions. During training you will be regularly evaluated on your ability to acquire and demonstrate the language, technical, cross-cultural, and safety skills needed to be a Volunteer.  
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Some sites are very isolated (more than 50 kilometers from the next Volunteer), and traveling in and out can sometimes be difficult because of the poor quality of roads and infrequent public transportation. (Fifty kilometers can take anywhere from three to eight hours of travel time, depending on road conditions.) Other posts are short distances from one another and are near paved roads.  
  
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==Living Allowance and Money Management==
  
==Health Care and Safety==
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The local currency is the CFA franc, and the current exchange rate is approximately 515 CFA to the dollar. Volunteers receive a monthly living allowance of 160,000 CFA to cover their cost of living simply, but adequately, while serving overseas. The living allowance covers the cost of utilities, domestic help, household supplies, clothing, food, work-related transport and supplies, and modest entertainment and recreation expenditures. Housing is provided at no cost.  In addition to a living allowance, you will receive $24 each month as a vacation allowance. If you are requested by the Peace Corps to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and lodging.
  
''Main article: [[Health care and safety in Nicaragua]]''
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Volunteers open a bank account that is easily accessible from their site, and the living allowance is deposited quarterly into the account. Although credit cards can be used in large hotels in Yaoundé and Douala, they can rarely be used elsewhere in Cameroon. ATM machines that use the “Plus” network exist in nearly all provincial capitals. Identity theft, however, is a major problem in Cameroon, and an additional reason not to use credit, debit, or ATM cards in the country. For vacation travel outside of Cameroon, a credit card may be useful. Many Volunteers bring extra cash or traveler’s checks, which can be cashed for a fee at banks, for emergencies and vacation travel. A safe is available in the Peace Corps office for use by Volunteers. Note that the Peace Corps is not able to transfer personal funds from the United States to a Volunteer or trainee.
  
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Nicaragua maintains a clinic with two full-time and two part-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary health-care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are available at a local, American-standard hospital. If you become seriously ill, and adequate care is not available in country, you will be medically evacuated to the United States, or possibly Panama.
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==Food and Diet==
  
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If there is one country on the African continent that can be described as a land of plenty, Cameroon certainly deserves the title. Cameroon is the breadbasket for this region, and local foods such as millet, plantains, beans, cassava, cocoyams, sweet potatoes, and okra, together with meats, fish, poultry, and seasonal fruits and vegetables, provide the bulk of the diet.  However, food availability varies significantly by region—in the south and west of the country, a wide range of vegetables and fruits is always available. In the more arid north, variety is far more limited. Meats, fish, and poultry are generally available everywhere. Some of the villages in which Volunteers are posted have a weekly market, and others must depend on a neighboring market for various items. Some canned and imported Western foods and products will be available in towns where you live or in the larger provincial capitals, but they are expensive. Being a vegetarian should not pose a problem.  However, the stricter you are in a vegetarian diet, the more challenging it will be. Cameroon’s climate is generally favorable for vegetable gardening, and many Volunteers supplement what is available at the market with their own harvest. (Spices are among the few items not available in Cameroon, so you may want to bring some with you.).
  
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==Transportation ==
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Volunteers use trains, buses, bush taxis, motorcycle taxis, bikes and occasionally planes. Public transportation in Cameroon is relatively reliable. Trains run from Douala to Yaoundé to the East and Adamaoua provinces each day.  Bus routes run between Yaoundé, Douala, Bafoussam, and Bamenda. Planes are often late and frequently flights are canceled. Taxis are available and inexpensive in most major towns. Motorcycle taxis predominate in the Extreme North and North provinces and are increasing rapidly elsewhere in the country. Finally, minivans or “bush taxis” ply both paved and unpaved roads, bringing passengers and their belongings (including bunches of bananas, goats, pigs, etc.) to all but the tiniest villages.
  
==Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues==
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Although available, travel is not always easy. Because of lack of road maintenance and the fact that some major routes have yet to be paved, transportation can be difficult and time-consuming—especially in the rainy season. Since the transport infrastructure is limited, every means is used to its fullest capacity. This can mean squeezing six or more people into a city taxi or bush taxi or sharing seats on the train.
  
''Main article: [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Nicaragua]]''
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You may have to rely on public transport to travel to major towns to do banking, post letters, use the Internet, etc. In doing this, you must take an active role in choosing the safest, most reliable transport. This means refusing to enter vehicles that are poorly maintained or driven by irresponsible chauffeurs and waiting for the “next car.”
  
In Nicaragua, 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 Nicaragua.
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==Geography and Climate ==
  
Outside of Nicaragua’s capital, 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. While the people of Nicaragua are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners, 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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Cameroon is a land of geographic and climatic diversity, with desert, rain forest, savanna, ancient and active volcanoes, and tropical beaches. The climate ranges from extremely hot and dry in the north, to cool in the central plateau, to humid and hot in the south.  
  
* Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
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It is best to bring clothing that will work in all these regions, as you will not know in advance where you will be posted.  Clothing—new, used, and custom-made—is widely available in Cameroon, the latter at very inexpensive prices, so you can have many of your clothes made locally.
* Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
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* Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
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* Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
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* Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
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* Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
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* Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
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==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior==
  
==Frequently Asked Questions==
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One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve. You will be working as a representative of a government ministry or a professional organization and as such you will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. Professional dress standards are high in Cameroon. Being neat and cleanly dressed is a sign of respect and pride.
  
{{Volunteersurvey2008
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A foreigner who wears unkempt or old clothes is likely to be considered an affront. Trousers (for men, and women in some regions), blouses/shirts, skirts (below the knee), and dresses are appropriate wear for work. If your dress is inappropriate (shorts, halter tops, short skirts, form-fitting or low-cut blouses, dirty or torn clothing), you may not be readily accepted in your job, and for women, inappropriate dress and behavior will attract unwanted attention. Cameroonians are not likely to directly comment on your dress, but they are likely to think that you either do not know what is culturally acceptable or do not care. You should certainly bring at least one dressy outfit for important or ceremonial occasions.  
|H1r=  41
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|H1s=  71.7
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|H2r=  46
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|H2s=  80.5
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|H3r=  28
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|H3s=  86
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|H4r=  35
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|H4s=  104.5
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|H5r=  12
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|H5s=  59
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|H6r=  23
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|H6s=  89.7
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}}
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''Main article: [[FAQs about Peace Corps in Nicaragua]]''
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The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to behave in a way that will foster respect within their community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on citizens of the United States.  You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest, and you should be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.
  
* How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Nicaragua?
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==Personal Safety ==
* What is the electric current in Nicaragua?
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Nicaragua uses the same electrical plugs as the USA.
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* How much money should I bring?
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* When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
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Once you are a volunteer you can travel AFTER the first three months in site and BEFORE your last three months.  You will accrue two vacation days per months and can take up to 21 days at a time. 
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* Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
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Yes, if you buy the insurance.
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* Do I need an international driver’s license?
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No, Peace Corps Nicaragua prohibits volunteers from driving during service.
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* What should I bring as gifts for Nicaraguan friends and my host family?
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* Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
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It depends on each site and each sector.  Most PCVs are no more than 2-4 hours away from another Volunteer.
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* How can my family contact me in an emergency?
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* Can I call home from Nicaragua?
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Calling home to the USA is cheap and easy now with the use of voice over internet. Most towns have internet cafes and calling centers that charge by the minute. In the internet cafe, you would dial 1+ area code, just like in the states. Also, most cellular plans have reasonable rates for calling the USA. 
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* Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
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Nicaraguan cell phones operate with "chips" in GSM phones. If you have an unlocked phone with a "chip" you can bring it and but a chip with a local number for about $15. Otherwise you may just want to buy a cheap phone in-country.  Most PCVs buy and use phones in their service, and almost all PCVs have service in their towns.
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* Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
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It depends on each site.  Surprisingly more and more towns are hooked up to internet.  It may be slow and expensive.  But all of the major towns have reliable and affordable service.
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==Packing List==
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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 overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (often alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as 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 Cameroon Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious 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 Cameroon. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.and everone farts.
  
''Main article: [[Packing list for Nicaragua]]''
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==Rewards and Frustrations==
  
This list has been complied by Volunteers serving in Nicaragua and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Nicaragua.
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You will certainly experience ups and downs during your time in Cameroon. One week, cultural and language differences will seem exotic, exciting, and inviting; the next week, you may see them as barriers to everything you want to experience and accomplish in Cameroon. You will need serious coping skills—humor, humility, and the ability to forge strong social connections—to get you through the difficult passes. You should expect hardship and difficulty to be part of your weekly routine and be aware that the Peace Corps staff will not always be there to help you through each cycle of ups and downs.  
  
==Peace Corps News==
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Particularly during the first year of service, many Volunteers feel very alone in their work because they lack the support one gets from working with people who share a common background. You may feel isolated by language and cultural barriers. Paradoxically, you also may feel that you are never alone, but are always on parade or under scrutiny. Even the few people who find this exhilarating at first eventually find it irritating and burdensome.
  
Current events relating to Peace Corps are also available by [[News | country of service]] or [[News by state|your home state]]
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Your initial reaction to a new country is likely to be one of delight and curiosity, but working in a country is another matter. “Flexible time,” where “soon” can mean anything from 20 minutes to the next day or week, can become very frustrating. But eventually you will learn to turn the burdens into tools in your work; combining your own cultural baggage with the new culture, you will learn to both live comfortably and accomplish your objectives. Learning to function well in a community so vastly different from anything you have known in the United States is part of the challenge and magic of being a Peace Corps Volunteer.
  
''The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.''<br><rss title=on desc=off>http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&scoring=n&q=%22peace+corps%22+%22nicaragua%22&output=rss|charset=UTF-8|short|date=M d</rss>
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It is not an exaggeration to state that every successful Peace Corps project begins by identifying a particular host country national who is competent, reliable, understanding, and dedicated. This can be a long, slow, arduous task requiring many months of frequently frustrated efforts. A deep conviction that you share a common humanity with your host that transcends the cultural differences will be a big help. In the end, these relationships are the ones that will add tremendous meaning to your time here.  
  
<br>'''[http://peacecorpsjournals.com PEACE CORPS JOURNALS]'''<br>''( As of {{CURRENTDAYNAME}} {{CURRENTMONTHNAME}} {{CURRENTDAY}}, {{CURRENTYEAR}} )''<rss title=off desc=off>http://peacecorpsjournals.com/rss/nu/blog/50.xml|charset=UTF-8|short|max=10</rss>
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One of the difficulties faced by some Volunteers is a lack of clarity in their role in development: To what extent are you an agent of change, and to what extent are you a respectful, conforming guest and fellow worker? The answer is not clear-cut because both motivations are relevant, and yet they are clearly contradictory. Whether you work in teaching or in community development, you will encounter an established traditional system, some of which may seem absurd, grossly inefficient, pointless, or superstitious. Do you oppose it or go along with it? If you oppose it, you will encounter resistance and hostility—often subtle, sometimes blatant. On the other hand, if you go along with the system, nothing changes and you feel useless. Volunteers who follow the latter course often rationalize their passivity with a statements like: “After all, we are not here to change things” or “Who is to say that the American way of life is any better than the host country’s?” There is no easy solution. Most Volunteers work out a flexible approach in which sometimes they oppose the system directly and sometimes they go along with it, hopefully without giving up the objective of imparting something of themselves in the process.  
  
==Country Fund==
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While it is possible that you will sail through every stressful situation without encountering any discomfort, that would be unusual. There are times for all Volunteers when the difficult conditions under which they live and work prove upsetting.
  
Contributions to the [https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=524-CFD Nicaragua Country Fund] will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Nicaragua. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
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Many experience intense feelings of discouragement and futility, especially during the first year of service. Things that seemed clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You do not feel in control of a situation or a problem, and this can be frightening. These are the times when coping skills and your social support system are critical.  
  
==See also==
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Having said all that, the rewards of Peace Corps service are immense. The very tangible rewards are the acquisition of language, technical, and cross-cultural skills that improve your ability to make your way anywhere in the world. In addition, your two years of overseas work experience gives you a significant advantage for future international work, as well as for many jobs based in the United States.
* [[Volunteers who served in Nicaragua]]
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* [[Amigos de Nicaragua]]
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* [[Pre-Departure Checklist]]
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* [[List of resources for Nicaragua]]
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* [[Inspector General Reports]]
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==External links==
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But it is the intangible rewards that are most gratifying to Volunteers—the cross-cultural understanding you gain from integration into a community for a long period of time and the deep relationships that surely come of that. Even for the veteran world traveler, these experiences will be deeper and more profound than any other travel adventure you have had. You cannot help leaving the Peace Corps with a broader worldview and a deeper understanding of the realities experienced by others around the globe. And you will never be understimulated by your environment. More important, while having this incredible experience, you will also have the profound satisfaction of making some small difference to an individual, a community, and a country.
* [http://www.peacecorpsjournals.com/nu.html Peace Corps Journals - Nicaragua]
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[[Category:Nicaragua]] [[Category:Central America and Mexico]]
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[[Category:Country]]
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[[Category:Cameroon]]

Latest revision as of 17:14, 4 January 2016

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive and may take up to six weeks. Some mail may simply not arrive, or may arrive with clipped edges because a postal worker has tried to see if any money was inside. The vast majority of letters arrive in decent time. Advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.

During training (your first 10 weeks in Cameroon) letters and packages should be sent to:

“Your name”

Peace Corps Trainee

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 215

Yaoundé

Cameroon


Once you have finished training and are at your site, letters can be mailed directly to your new address there.

In the event of a serious problem, Peace Corps/Cameroon would notify the Office of Special Services at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, which would then contact your family. Advise your family members that in the case of a family emergency, they should contact the Office of Special Services in Washington. During normal business hours, the number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.

Telephones[edit]

Cellular telephones are popular in Cameroon and can easily be purchased in all major cities from under $150. They do not function in all areas of the country, but service is spreading rapidly. Most trainees purchase a cellphone shortly after arrival in Cameroon. (Cellular telephones from the United States will not work in Cameroon unless they are GSM phones.) Some Volunteers bring satellite phones, which work well in most areas of the country. A few Volunteers have fixed-line phones in their homes.

The cost of calling the United States is very expensive (about a quarter a minute), several times more expensive than calling from the United States to Cameroon. Volunteers often make a short call to a friend or family member and have them return the call.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access[edit]

Over the past several years, Internet and e-mail services have sprung up throughout Cameroon.

At the Peace Corps office in Yaoundé, Volunteers have access to computers with high-speed Internet connections. Many people do bring laptop computers to Cameroon. If you do, you may spend a lot of time worrying about your equipment in transport and at home (not to mention the hassle of lugging it around), and parts may not be available. The choice is up to you. Peace Corps/Cameroon is unable to provide technical support to Volunteers who choose to bring a computer, nor will it reimburse you for any needed repairs. Computers and other high-value items also heighten your exposure to opportunistic theft. Make sure to have any high-value items insured as Peace Corps will not reimburse for loss or theft.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

During training, you will live with a Cameroonian family. After training, you are likely to have your own house in the community where you are posted. Volunteers are assigned to sites throughout Cameroon, which range in size from large cities to small villages. Your assignment will depend on the project, host country needs, housing availability, and your preferences. Cameroon’s development needs are the first priority in posting Volunteers.

Arrangements for housing are made by the Peace Corps and depend on resources available in the community. You will have to be flexible in your housing expectations. The Peace Corps tries to ensure that Volunteers have lodging that allows for independence and privacy. You may, however, be lodged in a small, one-room hut within a family’s compound. Your house may have walls made of concrete or mud bricks and a tin or thatched roof. A typical Volunteer house has a sitting room, a bedroom, and a cooking area. Some houses have inside toilets/shower areas while others have nearby pit latrines. About half of Volunteers have running water and/or electricity. Peace Corps/Cameroon provides items such as an all-terrain bicycle and helmet, a mosquito net, and a water filter. Upon your swearing in as a Volunteer, the Peace Corps will give you a modest settling-in allowance to purchase household necessities and furniture.

Some sites are very isolated (more than 50 kilometers from the next Volunteer), and traveling in and out can sometimes be difficult because of the poor quality of roads and infrequent public transportation. (Fifty kilometers can take anywhere from three to eight hours of travel time, depending on road conditions.) Other posts are short distances from one another and are near paved roads.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

The local currency is the CFA franc, and the current exchange rate is approximately 515 CFA to the dollar. Volunteers receive a monthly living allowance of 160,000 CFA to cover their cost of living simply, but adequately, while serving overseas. The living allowance covers the cost of utilities, domestic help, household supplies, clothing, food, work-related transport and supplies, and modest entertainment and recreation expenditures. Housing is provided at no cost. In addition to a living allowance, you will receive $24 each month as a vacation allowance. If you are requested by the Peace Corps to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and lodging.

Volunteers open a bank account that is easily accessible from their site, and the living allowance is deposited quarterly into the account. Although credit cards can be used in large hotels in Yaoundé and Douala, they can rarely be used elsewhere in Cameroon. ATM machines that use the “Plus” network exist in nearly all provincial capitals. Identity theft, however, is a major problem in Cameroon, and an additional reason not to use credit, debit, or ATM cards in the country. For vacation travel outside of Cameroon, a credit card may be useful. Many Volunteers bring extra cash or traveler’s checks, which can be cashed for a fee at banks, for emergencies and vacation travel. A safe is available in the Peace Corps office for use by Volunteers. Note that the Peace Corps is not able to transfer personal funds from the United States to a Volunteer or trainee.

Food and Diet[edit]

If there is one country on the African continent that can be described as a land of plenty, Cameroon certainly deserves the title. Cameroon is the breadbasket for this region, and local foods such as millet, plantains, beans, cassava, cocoyams, sweet potatoes, and okra, together with meats, fish, poultry, and seasonal fruits and vegetables, provide the bulk of the diet. However, food availability varies significantly by region—in the south and west of the country, a wide range of vegetables and fruits is always available. In the more arid north, variety is far more limited. Meats, fish, and poultry are generally available everywhere. Some of the villages in which Volunteers are posted have a weekly market, and others must depend on a neighboring market for various items. Some canned and imported Western foods and products will be available in towns where you live or in the larger provincial capitals, but they are expensive. Being a vegetarian should not pose a problem. However, the stricter you are in a vegetarian diet, the more challenging it will be. Cameroon’s climate is generally favorable for vegetable gardening, and many Volunteers supplement what is available at the market with their own harvest. (Spices are among the few items not available in Cameroon, so you may want to bring some with you.).

Transportation[edit]

Volunteers use trains, buses, bush taxis, motorcycle taxis, bikes and occasionally planes. Public transportation in Cameroon is relatively reliable. Trains run from Douala to Yaoundé to the East and Adamaoua provinces each day. Bus routes run between Yaoundé, Douala, Bafoussam, and Bamenda. Planes are often late and frequently flights are canceled. Taxis are available and inexpensive in most major towns. Motorcycle taxis predominate in the Extreme North and North provinces and are increasing rapidly elsewhere in the country. Finally, minivans or “bush taxis” ply both paved and unpaved roads, bringing passengers and their belongings (including bunches of bananas, goats, pigs, etc.) to all but the tiniest villages.

Although available, travel is not always easy. Because of lack of road maintenance and the fact that some major routes have yet to be paved, transportation can be difficult and time-consuming—especially in the rainy season. Since the transport infrastructure is limited, every means is used to its fullest capacity. This can mean squeezing six or more people into a city taxi or bush taxi or sharing seats on the train.

You may have to rely on public transport to travel to major towns to do banking, post letters, use the Internet, etc. In doing this, you must take an active role in choosing the safest, most reliable transport. This means refusing to enter vehicles that are poorly maintained or driven by irresponsible chauffeurs and waiting for the “next car.”

Geography and Climate[edit]

Cameroon is a land of geographic and climatic diversity, with desert, rain forest, savanna, ancient and active volcanoes, and tropical beaches. The climate ranges from extremely hot and dry in the north, to cool in the central plateau, to humid and hot in the south.

It is best to bring clothing that will work in all these regions, as you will not know in advance where you will be posted. Clothing—new, used, and custom-made—is widely available in Cameroon, the latter at very inexpensive prices, so you can have many of your clothes made locally.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve. You will be working as a representative of a government ministry or a professional organization and as such you will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. Professional dress standards are high in Cameroon. Being neat and cleanly dressed is a sign of respect and pride.

A foreigner who wears unkempt or old clothes is likely to be considered an affront. Trousers (for men, and women in some regions), blouses/shirts, skirts (below the knee), and dresses are appropriate wear for work. If your dress is inappropriate (shorts, halter tops, short skirts, form-fitting or low-cut blouses, dirty or torn clothing), you may not be readily accepted in your job, and for women, inappropriate dress and behavior will attract unwanted attention. Cameroonians are not likely to directly comment on your dress, but they are likely to think that you either do not know what is culturally acceptable or do not care. You should certainly bring at least one dressy outfit for important or ceremonial occasions.

The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to behave in a way that will foster respect within their community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on citizens of the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest, and you should be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.

Personal Safety[edit]

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (often alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as 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 Cameroon Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious 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 Cameroon. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.and everone farts.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

You will certainly experience ups and downs during your time in Cameroon. One week, cultural and language differences will seem exotic, exciting, and inviting; the next week, you may see them as barriers to everything you want to experience and accomplish in Cameroon. You will need serious coping skills—humor, humility, and the ability to forge strong social connections—to get you through the difficult passes. You should expect hardship and difficulty to be part of your weekly routine and be aware that the Peace Corps staff will not always be there to help you through each cycle of ups and downs.

Particularly during the first year of service, many Volunteers feel very alone in their work because they lack the support one gets from working with people who share a common background. You may feel isolated by language and cultural barriers. Paradoxically, you also may feel that you are never alone, but are always on parade or under scrutiny. Even the few people who find this exhilarating at first eventually find it irritating and burdensome.

Your initial reaction to a new country is likely to be one of delight and curiosity, but working in a country is another matter. “Flexible time,” where “soon” can mean anything from 20 minutes to the next day or week, can become very frustrating. But eventually you will learn to turn the burdens into tools in your work; combining your own cultural baggage with the new culture, you will learn to both live comfortably and accomplish your objectives. Learning to function well in a community so vastly different from anything you have known in the United States is part of the challenge and magic of being a Peace Corps Volunteer.

It is not an exaggeration to state that every successful Peace Corps project begins by identifying a particular host country national who is competent, reliable, understanding, and dedicated. This can be a long, slow, arduous task requiring many months of frequently frustrated efforts. A deep conviction that you share a common humanity with your host that transcends the cultural differences will be a big help. In the end, these relationships are the ones that will add tremendous meaning to your time here.

One of the difficulties faced by some Volunteers is a lack of clarity in their role in development: To what extent are you an agent of change, and to what extent are you a respectful, conforming guest and fellow worker? The answer is not clear-cut because both motivations are relevant, and yet they are clearly contradictory. Whether you work in teaching or in community development, you will encounter an established traditional system, some of which may seem absurd, grossly inefficient, pointless, or superstitious. Do you oppose it or go along with it? If you oppose it, you will encounter resistance and hostility—often subtle, sometimes blatant. On the other hand, if you go along with the system, nothing changes and you feel useless. Volunteers who follow the latter course often rationalize their passivity with a statements like: “After all, we are not here to change things” or “Who is to say that the American way of life is any better than the host country’s?” There is no easy solution. Most Volunteers work out a flexible approach in which sometimes they oppose the system directly and sometimes they go along with it, hopefully without giving up the objective of imparting something of themselves in the process.

While it is possible that you will sail through every stressful situation without encountering any discomfort, that would be unusual. There are times for all Volunteers when the difficult conditions under which they live and work prove upsetting.

Many experience intense feelings of discouragement and futility, especially during the first year of service. Things that seemed clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You do not feel in control of a situation or a problem, and this can be frightening. These are the times when coping skills and your social support system are critical.

Having said all that, the rewards of Peace Corps service are immense. The very tangible rewards are the acquisition of language, technical, and cross-cultural skills that improve your ability to make your way anywhere in the world. In addition, your two years of overseas work experience gives you a significant advantage for future international work, as well as for many jobs based in the United States.

But it is the intangible rewards that are most gratifying to Volunteers—the cross-cultural understanding you gain from integration into a community for a long period of time and the deep relationships that surely come of that. Even for the veteran world traveler, these experiences will be deeper and more profound than any other travel adventure you have had. You cannot help leaving the Peace Corps with a broader worldview and a deeper understanding of the realities experienced by others around the globe. And you will never be understimulated by your environment. More important, while having this incredible experience, you will also have the profound satisfaction of making some small difference to an individual, a community, and a country.