Difference between revisions of "FAQs about Peace Corps in East Timor"

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Revision as of 16:17, 31 March 2008

How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to East Timor?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. 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 authorized baggage 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 allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag. Since travel requirements may change because of circumstances beyond the Peace Corps’ control, you should remain alert for additional information regarding luggage allowances before you arrive for staging and check with the airline a few days prior to your departure.

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.

What is the electric current in East Timor?

The current is 220 volts. Any electrical appliance you bring will require a transformer, and these are readily available in Dili. Because of the varied outlets, universal plug adapters, also available in Dili, will come in handy. Power surges are common in East Timor and can cause irreversible damage to your appliances or laptops.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards are rarely accepted in East Timor, but are preferable to cash for out-ofcountry travel. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the

amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Volunteers often state an interest in traveling and learning about other cultures as a main reason for wanting to join the Peace Corps. You are encouraged to use your vacation time to travel around East Timor and to other countries in the region. Each Volunteer accumulates 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. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance, nor can it provide health care in the case of a visitor’s accident or illness.

Extended stays at your site by visitors are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. Consistent with the Peace Corps’ worldwide policy of not permitting nonmarried couples to serve together, Peace Corps/East Timor does not permit non-Volunteer “significant others” to establish permanent residence with Volunteers during their service.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for 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 are cautioned not to 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.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in East Timor do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of motorized vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by minibus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.

What should I bring as gifts for East Timorese friends and my host family?

While this is not a requirement, bringing a small token of friendship is certainly acceptable. Lavish gifts are discouraged. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; photos to give away; or hard candies or biscuits, which can be purchased locally.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until several weeks into their pre-service training. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites and to finalize site selections with their counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages, but will usually be within a few hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites will require a six- to 12-hour drive from Dili.

How can my family contact me in an emergency?

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; select option 2, then 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; select option 2, then extension 2502 or 2522.

Can I call home from East Timor?

Cellular phones, rather than fixed-line phones, are the norm in East Timor. While cellphones do not reach most areas outside the capital, overseas calls are easy to make from Dili with cellphones. The cost of calls to the U.S. varies but averages about $1 per minute.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

A cellphone from the United States will not work in East Timor because of different programming protocols. However, cellphones are readily available for purchase in East Timor at a cost of $100 to $200. The phone cards used to charge the phones for use are regularly sold in the capital.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

While there is limited Internet and e-mail access in East Timor, it is very unlikely that e-mail access will be available at your site. Currently, there are computers available for limited Volunteer use in the Volunteer office. There are a few Internet cafes in Dili, but they are expensive ($8 per hour). Volunteers may bring computers if they wish, but the Peace Corps cannot reimburse Volunteers for damage to or loss of computers. Many sites have no access to electricity and others have electricity for only a few hours each day. Breakdowns are frequent because of inconsistent electrical currents. Maintenance and repair of electronic equipment is difficult and quite costly in East Timor. Volunteers should insure items such as computers and expensive cameras, audio equipment, and the like before leaving the United States.