Difference between pages "FAQs about Peace Corps in Botswana" and "Anecdotes from China PCVs"

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{{FAQs by country}}
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====General Cross Cultural Issues====
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My only recurring problems, for which I've not yet found a magic bullet, are these:
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1. People asking my salary.
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2. People taking my picture without saying a word -- people turning their webcams towards me in the internet cafe, also without a word.
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Yesterday, I waited a whole morning for a man to come fix my lock who was supposed to arrive at my front door at 9 am. Instead he arrived at noon. Why get mad, stressed, and impatient over something I cannot control. Instead while waiting, I had a nice breakfast, a 40 minute walk around the playground, a nice hot berry tea, and read a good book.
  
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The absolute hardest thing for me here, other than being away from family and friends and not being able to speak Chinese very well, is not being able to tend to things myself.  I have not yet made my peace with having to make all communications through my counterpart, who may or may not understand what I am asking and who probably has no power to do anything about my request.
  
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====Diversity and Cross Cultural Issues====
  
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Here in China, walking around silent, [because I am Asian American] I am not unique unless I wear an African outfit [from my previous post], then I get stares like back in America when I shaved my head and dyed it pink. Walking around anonymous, part of the crowd I feel a sense of belonging, a sense of community rather than being an outsider. But as soon as I open my mouth, I become a curiosity and a center of attention. I become the outsider.
  
===How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Botswana?===
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As a gay volunteer, I worried about how I would be perceived by Chinese nationals, fellow volunteers and Peace Corps staff. Though I am open about my sexuality at home in the States, I knew from the Peace Corps literature that Chinese culture is less tolerant of my lifestyle, so I chose early on to keep this particular bit of information mostly to myself. While I believe this was the correct choice, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that there are resources available to LGBT volunteers in China, and that the volunteers and staff I have trusted with this facet of my identity have been both open and helpful. Also, though I live in a remote area, I have been lucky enough to befriend a local gay HCN who has greatly advanced my awareness of sexuality-related issues in China. I should mention though that the first thing he told me was, “Don't tell your superiors at work; they can fire you for it.” This is true for HCN teachers, and it should be a concern for PCVs. This sometimes feels like a step backward into the closet, but the key for me has been finding just a few trustworthy and open-minded people with whom to confide.
  
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.  
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As a transfer, I think my experience in China has had some unique aspects to it, pertinent to my transfer-ness. . . . [In] China, with all the technology and ease of staying in touch with the US, I was actually trying to get back in touch with people from home. So all of my social energy was being poured into my friends and family in the US, as it was the first time I'd really had the option in 2 years. So, of course, I started really really missing all of them! Perhaps this is a pattern of homesickness or transition-stress that a lot of transfers go through.
  
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
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“How many kids do you have? You're so fat!" was one of the first questions a student asked me. It was understood before I came here that I clearly did not have the physical stature to discretely blend in with the Chinese HCNs, and I also knew it would be called to my attention, as it is not considered rude in most cultures. However, it doesn't mean it makes me any less comfortable to hear from other teachers that I am known as the fat foreign teacher, and, with my further understanding of language, to know what people say as I walk by. Most of the time I just turn my iPod louder or laugh it off, but every person has their breaking point where certain comments just aren't excusable anymore. . . . I remind myself over and over that the only thing I can control is my own reaction, and sometimes its the only thing that helps me keep my cool.
 
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[[Category:china]]
===What is the electric current in Botswana?===
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It is 220 volts, 50 hertz. Plugs/outlets consist of both three prong round and three prong square shapes.
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===How much money should I bring?===
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Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and bank cards are preferable to cash. Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted by businesses in Botswana and are redeemable only at certain banks. However, they can be useful for travel to other countries during vacations. Note, too, that ATM machines are widely available and linked to the banking network in the States. Only VISA cards and cards stamped with the “PLUS” logo on the back are useable. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
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===When can I take vacation and have people visit me?===
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Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. All vacation plans must be approved by the Volunteer’s Batswana supervisor before being submitted to the Peace Corps for approval. Extended stays (those that require more leave than you have accrued) away from your site are not encouraged and must be reviewed by your Peace Corps supervisor before being submitted to the Peace Corps country director for a final decision.
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The Peace Corps cannot provide Volunteers with vacation planning assistance. You are responsible for making reservations, purchasing tickets, and procuring the appropriate visas. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance?===
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The Peace Corps does not insure personal effects. Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
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===Do I need an international driver’s license? ===
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Volunteers in Botswana are not allowed to drive except during an approved vacation. Many Volunteers in southern Africa find it economically advantageous to rent a car, either alone or as a group, while traveling in the region. In such cases, it is helpful to have an international driver’s license. As with other personal travel arrangements, the Peace Corps does not assist in the procurement of international driver’s licenses.  
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===What should I bring as gifts for Batswana friends and my host family? ===
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The Peace Corps does not encourage you to bring gifts for your family and friends during training. The provision of such gifts is an issue to be discussed and decided by the entire group of trainees, since it is precedent-setting and may have ramifications outside the gift giver’s original intent.  For instance, expectations may arise in host families if some people provide gifts but others do not. Should you feel moved to provide a small token of appreciation to your host family, a wide range of suitable items are available locally.
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One of the greatest gifts you can provide to your host family and friends is information about yourself and your life in the United States. For this reason, we encourage you to bring photos of the people and things that are important in your life.
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===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be? ===
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Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until approximately six weeks into their pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. The Botswana program has a wide variety of sites, ranging from urban to periurban to rural, and Volunteers should be prepared to accept any of them, including housing in a range of options from one room for kitchen, sleeping, and pit latrine to the other extreme of two bedroom brick homes with hot water heaters.
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===How can my family contact me in an emergency? ===
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The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.  
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===Can I call home from Botswana?===
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Yes. Most telephones in the country can be used for international calls. Volunteers often call home and ask to be called back or prearrange a time to be called at a private phone or pay phone.
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===Should I bring a cellular phone with me?===
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While cellular phone services are widely available in Botswana, it is not advisable to bring a cellphone from the United States unless you check with the manufacturer and confirm that the phone will work in Botswana. In all cases, these phones are the type with SIM cards that can be changed in and out. SIM cards in Botswana cost about $15. The cost of a new cellphone in Botswana is approximately $50. Costs of phones can be covered by your moving-in allowance which Volunteers near the end of pre-service training.  Yet, you will likely want to have a cell phone upon arrival so you will probably need to put money up-front and use your moving in allowance later to cover the expense.  Peace Corps does not provide cellphones to Volunteers.
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Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
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Internet service is widely available in Botswana; most larger villages and towns have Internet cafes. The choice about whether to bring a computer is an individual one. Those who decide to bring a personal computer should be aware that Botswana’s climate can be tough on sensitive equipment. In addition, peripherals like printer cartridges and disks are very expensive locally. Those who bring computers or other valuable equipment should consider purchasing personal property insurance as laptops make you a target for theft.
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[[Category:Botswana]]
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Revision as of 19:07, 2 May 2010

General Cross Cultural Issues

My only recurring problems, for which I've not yet found a magic bullet, are these: 1. People asking my salary. 2. People taking my picture without saying a word -- people turning their webcams towards me in the internet cafe, also without a word.

Yesterday, I waited a whole morning for a man to come fix my lock who was supposed to arrive at my front door at 9 am. Instead he arrived at noon. Why get mad, stressed, and impatient over something I cannot control. Instead while waiting, I had a nice breakfast, a 40 minute walk around the playground, a nice hot berry tea, and read a good book.

The absolute hardest thing for me here, other than being away from family and friends and not being able to speak Chinese very well, is not being able to tend to things myself. I have not yet made my peace with having to make all communications through my counterpart, who may or may not understand what I am asking and who probably has no power to do anything about my request.

Diversity and Cross Cultural Issues

Here in China, walking around silent, [because I am Asian American] I am not unique unless I wear an African outfit [from my previous post], then I get stares like back in America when I shaved my head and dyed it pink. Walking around anonymous, part of the crowd I feel a sense of belonging, a sense of community rather than being an outsider. But as soon as I open my mouth, I become a curiosity and a center of attention. I become the outsider.

As a gay volunteer, I worried about how I would be perceived by Chinese nationals, fellow volunteers and Peace Corps staff. Though I am open about my sexuality at home in the States, I knew from the Peace Corps literature that Chinese culture is less tolerant of my lifestyle, so I chose early on to keep this particular bit of information mostly to myself. While I believe this was the correct choice, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that there are resources available to LGBT volunteers in China, and that the volunteers and staff I have trusted with this facet of my identity have been both open and helpful. Also, though I live in a remote area, I have been lucky enough to befriend a local gay HCN who has greatly advanced my awareness of sexuality-related issues in China. I should mention though that the first thing he told me was, “Don't tell your superiors at work; they can fire you for it.” This is true for HCN teachers, and it should be a concern for PCVs. This sometimes feels like a step backward into the closet, but the key for me has been finding just a few trustworthy and open-minded people with whom to confide.

As a transfer, I think my experience in China has had some unique aspects to it, pertinent to my transfer-ness. . . . [In] China, with all the technology and ease of staying in touch with the US, I was actually trying to get back in touch with people from home. So all of my social energy was being poured into my friends and family in the US, as it was the first time I'd really had the option in 2 years. So, of course, I started really really missing all of them! Perhaps this is a pattern of homesickness or transition-stress that a lot of transfers go through.

“How many kids do you have? You're so fat!" was one of the first questions a student asked me. It was understood before I came here that I clearly did not have the physical stature to discretely blend in with the Chinese HCNs, and I also knew it would be called to my attention, as it is not considered rude in most cultures. However, it doesn't mean it makes me any less comfortable to hear from other teachers that I am known as the fat foreign teacher, and, with my further understanding of language, to know what people say as I walk by. Most of the time I just turn my iPod louder or laugh it off, but every person has their breaking point where certain comments just aren't excusable anymore. . . . I remind myself over and over that the only thing I can control is my own reaction, and sometimes its the only thing that helps me keep my cool.