Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Micronesia" and "FAQs about Peace Corps in Albania"

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In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years.  Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
 
  
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal, however, in other ways it poses challenges. In Micronesia, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Micronesia.
 
  
In Micronesia, residents of lagoon and outer islands 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.  Micronesians are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
 
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Micronesia, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual.  For example, female trainees and Volunteers will find that they do not have the same level of independence as they do in the United States, political discussions need to be handled with great care, and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
 
  
===Overview of Diversity in Micronesia===
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===How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Albania?===
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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 100 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.
  
The Peace Corps staff in Micronesia recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of cultures, religions, ethnic groups, ages, and sexual orientations and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.  
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Peace Corps Volunteers 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 fireworks, lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
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===What is the electric current in Albania?===
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The electric current is 220 volts, 50 hertz. Electrical outlets use round, two-pronged plugs that are standard in Europe, so most American appliances (e.g., hair dryers and CD players) will require transformers and plug adapters. It is best to buy these before leaving the United States. However, European-made electronics are becoming more widely available in Albania at somewhat reasonable prices, so if you do not already own an American item, you may want to wait until you get to Albania and buy one that does not need a transformer or plug adapter. Check out the website of Walkabout Travel Gear (www.walkabouttravelgear.com) for helpful products (converter plugs, small surge protectors, etc.) and tips on dealing with differences in electric current. Electricity can be very unreliable and of poor quality. Some areas of Albania experienced power outages for up to 18 hours per day during the winter of 2005–2006.  
  
===What Might a Volunteer Face?===
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===How much money should I bring?===
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Volunteers are expected to live at the same modest level as the people in their communities. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which covers their expenses. Often Volunteers bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash for such travel, but they cannot be used in most of Albania. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
  
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers====
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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. When you travel outside of Albania, weekends away are counted as leave days. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after you complete your first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended visits at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
  
Micronesia is a traditional and predominantly Christian society. Palau is probably the most modern of the five major islands, and female Volunteers posted there find that they may be able to jog and even wear shorts (long ones) without causing undue attention. In FSM, however, local women are more traditional and almost never wear shorts or pants. In addition, there are strict rules about dating, which are apt to be imposed on female Volunteers by their host families.  
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance?===
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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, the Peace Corps will provide you with insurance application forms, 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. Don’t bring something you aren’t willing to lose.  
  
Micronesians have had little experience with women who have professional roles or who live independently of their families.  Micronesian women, for the most part, support the strict gender role distinctions, and female Volunteers often find that they are expected to participate in family chores such as doing laundry. Most female Volunteers feel that serving in Micronesia is much more difficult for females than for males. Clearly, one of the larger challenges of living in Micronesia is coping effectively and constructively with the different status of women and men and the different standards of behavior to which they are held.  
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===Do I need an international driver’s license?===
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Volunteers in Albania do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles of any kind. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.
  
Depending on where they are placed, female Volunteers may find that being alone increases the possibility of being harassed. Besides receiving more unwanted and inappropriate attention from men in Micronesia than men in the United States, female Volunteers may have to work harder than male Volunteers to gain the professional respect of colleagues in the workplace. Female Volunteers may also experience resentment from Micronesian women for attitudes and behaviors that the women see as traditionally male.  
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===What should I bring as gifts for Albanian friends and my host family? ===
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This is not a requirement; a token of friendship is sufficient.  Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.
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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 assigned to individual sites about one-third of the way through pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s language and technical skills prior to assigning sites. The most important factor in assigning sites is making a workable match between your skills and knowledge and the needs of the community. This takes precedence over all other considerations. If feasible, you may be able to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions.  However, many factors influence site assignment and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placing you where you would most like to be. Current Volunteers live in cities, small towns, or rural villages in all parts of Albania, including coastal areas and in the mountainous interior. Most Volunteers are within a two-hour bus ride of another Volunteer. Some sites are an eight-hour mini-bus drive from Tirana. You should be prepared to live in any of these settings.
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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 non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, then extension 2421.  
  
Peace Corps/Micronesia encourages female Volunteers to keep a low social profile and practice discretion in public (e.g., not smoking or drinking) to help avoid unwanted attention and an undesirable reputation.  
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===Can I call home from Albania?===
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Yes, but you will need to pay for all personal calls from your living allowance, and their cost can be substantial. All Volunteers have access to a phone in their communities, but it may be in a post office some distance away. Some host families may have a phone in their home that you may use to make local calls and receive local or international calls.  Telephone service in Albania is generally poor, and it is best not to expect to make calls easily. Cellular service is one bright spot as prices drop and coverage increases. Volunteers receive a cellphone during training that can be used to call home if they wish to pay the fees. While the Peace Corps provides funds for phone time each month for safety and security purposes, it will not be enough to call home. You can receive calls on your cellphone at no charge, however.  
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color====
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===Should I bring a cellular phone with me?===
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Not unless it is a European GSM (global system mobile) phone that accepts SIM (subscriber identity module) cards.  Though the most common U.S. cellphones will not work in Albania, there are GSM/SIM card phones in the U.S. that will (usually called tri-bands).
  
Because America has been involved with the affairs of Micronesia for more than half a century, Micronesians are somewhat used to Americans and the complexity and diversity of American society. That is not to say that you will not find prejudice toward people of color here. Because of the long and complex relationships between Micronesia and Asian nations, Volunteers of Asian heritage often report feeling less welcome than other Volunteers.  
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===Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer? ===
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Internet and e-mail access is becoming more available in larger towns but remains relatively rare in rural villages.  Although new Internet cafes are opening all the time, you may have to travel quite a distance to find one in your region. If you already have a laptop and do not bring it with you, you will probably wish you had. It is unlikely that you can set up a connection to the Internet, but you could use a laptop for personal and professional word processing. If you do bring a computer, you are responsible for insuring and maintaining it. Powering your laptop may be challenge. Most communities have electricity only on a schedule and power outages are common throughout the country.  
  
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers====
 
  
Age is greatly respected in Micronesia, and older Volunteers are likely to be taken more seriously and given greater leeway.  Although seniors are in the minority among Volunteers, they find that their age is a definite plus in Micronesia. However, the loss of personal privacy and independence associated with living with a host family may be particularly difficult.
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[[Category:Albania]]
 
 
It is not uncommon for younger Volunteers to look to older Volunteers for advice and support. Some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, while others choose not to fill this role. Overall, senior Volunteers are highly valued for the wealth of experience they bring to their communities and counterparts.
 
 
 
Pre-service training may present special challenges for older trainees. You may encounter frustration in having your specific needs met in areas such as timing, presentation, and style, and you may need to be assertive in developing an effective individual approach to language learning.
 
 
 
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers====
 
 
 
Many local churches view homosexuality as going against Christian norms, and many Micronesians believe that gay and lesbian relationships do not exist among Micronesians.  Homosexual or bisexual behavior is not likely to be accepted in your host community and you may be hassled in public places or in the workplace if you are open about your sexual orientation. That being said, there are certainly gay and lesbian Micronesians, and some of them are well integrated into Micronesian society. You may serve for two years without meeting another gay Volunteer. Lesbians may have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex (as do all women). Wearing an “engagement ring” may help. Gay men may have to deal with talk of conquests, girl watching, and dirty jokes.
 
 
 
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers====
 
 
 
Half of the population in Micronesia is Roman Catholic and half belongs to a variety of Protestant denominations. Volunteers are required to live with a host family, so many will be expected to attend religious services with their family. In Kosrae, no activities are permitted on Sunday except those associated with the Sabbath. Most Volunteers find effective ways to deal with this issue and come to feel quite at home in Micronesia.
 
 
 
====Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities====
 
 
 
As a Volunteer with a special need or disability, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. In Micronesia, as in other parts of the world, some people may hold prejudicial attitudes toward individuals with special needs and may discriminate against them. But Micronesia has stringent laws against such discrimination and receives federal funds from the United States for various social and educational programs that support the disabled. Still, there is very little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.
 
 
 
As part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Micronesia without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/Micronesia staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
 
 
 
 
 
[[Category:Micronesia]]
 

Revision as of 01:12, 13 March 2009

FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • How much money should I bring?
  • When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
  • Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
  • Do I need an international driver’s license?
  • What should I bring as gifts for my host family?
  • Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
  • How can my family contact me in an emergency?
  • Can I call home?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks



How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Albania?

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 100 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.

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 fireworks, lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

What is the electric current in Albania?

The electric current is 220 volts, 50 hertz. Electrical outlets use round, two-pronged plugs that are standard in Europe, so most American appliances (e.g., hair dryers and CD players) will require transformers and plug adapters. It is best to buy these before leaving the United States. However, European-made electronics are becoming more widely available in Albania at somewhat reasonable prices, so if you do not already own an American item, you may want to wait until you get to Albania and buy one that does not need a transformer or plug adapter. Check out the website of Walkabout Travel Gear (www.walkabouttravelgear.com) for helpful products (converter plugs, small surge protectors, etc.) and tips on dealing with differences in electric current. Electricity can be very unreliable and of poor quality. Some areas of Albania experienced power outages for up to 18 hours per day during the winter of 2005–2006.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same modest level as the people in their communities. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which covers their expenses. Often Volunteers bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash for such travel, but they cannot be used in most of Albania. 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?

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. When you travel outside of Albania, weekends away are counted as leave days. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after you complete your first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended visits at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

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, the Peace Corps will provide you with insurance application forms, 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. Don’t bring something you aren’t willing to lose.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Albania do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles of any kind. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.

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

This is not a requirement; a token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.

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

Peace Corps trainees are assigned to individual sites about one-third of the way through pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s language and technical skills prior to assigning sites. The most important factor in assigning sites is making a workable match between your skills and knowledge and the needs of the community. This takes precedence over all other considerations. If feasible, you may be able to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, many factors influence site assignment and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placing you where you would most like to be. Current Volunteers live in cities, small towns, or rural villages in all parts of Albania, including coastal areas and in the mountainous interior. Most Volunteers are within a two-hour bus ride of another Volunteer. Some sites are an eight-hour mini-bus drive from Tirana. You should be prepared to live in any of these settings.

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, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, then extension 2421.

Can I call home from Albania?

Yes, but you will need to pay for all personal calls from your living allowance, and their cost can be substantial. All Volunteers have access to a phone in their communities, but it may be in a post office some distance away. Some host families may have a phone in their home that you may use to make local calls and receive local or international calls. Telephone service in Albania is generally poor, and it is best not to expect to make calls easily. Cellular service is one bright spot as prices drop and coverage increases. Volunteers receive a cellphone during training that can be used to call home if they wish to pay the fees. While the Peace Corps provides funds for phone time each month for safety and security purposes, it will not be enough to call home. You can receive calls on your cellphone at no charge, however.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Not unless it is a European GSM (global system mobile) phone that accepts SIM (subscriber identity module) cards. Though the most common U.S. cellphones will not work in Albania, there are GSM/SIM card phones in the U.S. that will (usually called tri-bands).

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

Internet and e-mail access is becoming more available in larger towns but remains relatively rare in rural villages. Although new Internet cafes are opening all the time, you may have to travel quite a distance to find one in your region. If you already have a laptop and do not bring it with you, you will probably wish you had. It is unlikely that you can set up a connection to the Internet, but you could use a laptop for personal and professional word processing. If you do bring a computer, you are responsible for insuring and maintaining it. Powering your laptop may be challenge. Most communities have electricity only on a schedule and power outages are common throughout the country.