Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Tanzania" and "FAQs about Peace Corps in Malawi"

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{{FAQs by country}}
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 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. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Tanzania, 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 Tanzania.
 
  
Outside of Tanzania’s largest cities, 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.
 
  
 
  
The people of Tanzania 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. We expect you to be understanding of the limited experience with American diversity that Tanzanians may display.
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===How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Malawi? ===
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Tanzania, 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 may not be able to exercise the independence available to them 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 discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.  
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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 limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. 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 70 pounds for any one bag.  
  
===Overview of Diversity in Tanzania ===
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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 lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
  
The Peace Corps staff in Tanzania recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, 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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===What is the electric current in Malawi? ===
  
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Roughly 230 volt, 50 cycles. We say “roughly” because it may range from 190 volts to 260 volts when it is on. Less than half the Volunteers have electricity at work or at home. Batteries are available; “D” cells are more easily found than “C” cells.
  
===What Might a Volunteer Face? ===
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===How much money should I bring? ===
  
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
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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 and travelers checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs.
  
The notion of gender equality as Americans understand it has been slow to take hold in Tanzania. As an American woman, however, you may be viewed as having a higher status than a Tanzanian woman. You could view this as frustrating, or you could see it as an opportunity to help change people’s views.  It is possible to become a role model—if Tanzanian women see another woman being given respect and functioning in a position of authority, they may be inspired to seek the same.
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===When can I take vacation and have people visit me?===
  
Of course, American women may also be treated the same way Tanzanian women are. In Tanzanian culture, men are considered the head of the household—they speak for the other members. A woman who seems to have knowledge, skills, ideas, and opinions may be viewed as pushy or out of place, or may simply not be taken seriously. Volunteers have to develop their own strategies for addressing this challenge with sensitivity.  
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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.  Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.  
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance? ===
  
The average Tanzanian is not exposed to the diversity of people and cultures that exists in America. If you are black, you are likely to be called Mwafrika (African); if you are Asian, Mchina (Chinese); if you are South Asian, Muhindi (Indian), and if you are European or Hispanic, Mzungu (foreigner). Be prepared to tolerate terms that are considered derogatory in America (e.g., “half-caste” or “colored”), an unfortunate part of Western culture that some may have unwittingly adopted.  
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The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be given to you, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.  
  
African Americans are in a unique situation. While Tanzanians may voice their doubt as to whether you are “really American” (i.e., because you are not white, blond, and blue-eyed), you are likely to have an easier time integrating into the local culture than Caucasian Volunteers.  
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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 Malawi do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to a lot of walking.
  
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
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Volunteers sometimes drive while on annual leave during their service. For this reason, we recommend that you bring your U.S. driver’s license.
  
While Tanzanians generally have great reverence for age, Tanzania’s legal retirement age is 60, and there is the perception that those past middle age are getting ready to “rest”. Senior Volunteers will automatically be respected for their wisdom, which is a great advantage, but may be seen as oddities, especially as most Peace Corps Volunteers in Tanzania are young. Tanzanians are especially curious about older female Volunteers. They are puzzled as to why they apparently have no spouse or children (even if they have the pictures to prove otherwise) and why they would leave their extended family to volunteer in Africa.
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===What should I bring as gifts for Malawian friends and my host family? ===
  
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers ====
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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.
  
Tanzania is a very conservative society. Some Tanzanians deny that homosexuality exists in their culture, while others note that it is against the law. A law in Zanzibar makes homosexuality illegal, with prison sentences of 8-15 years.  Thus, any display of your sexual orientation will be severely frowned upon and may affect your acceptance at work and possibly even your legal status. While physical contact between two men or two women is not uncommon, it is not likely to be sexual in nature and you should not misinterpret its meaning. Previous gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers have had to be very discreet about their orientation to prevent adverse effects on their relationships with their community and co-workers. However, you are likely to find plenty of support and understanding among the Peace Corps staff and other Volunteers.
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===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be? ===
  
'''See also:''' Articles about Tanzania on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm
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Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed a portion of 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. 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 may be within one or two hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites may be a 10- to 12-hour drive or even multiple days from the capital.  
  
====Possible Issues for Married Volunteers ====
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===How can my family contact me in an emergency? ===
  
Most Peace Corps Volunteers are single, but some married couples join the Peace Corps together, and in other cases, one spouse stays in the United States. Each of these situations presents its own challenges and rewards.  
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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 1.800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.  
  
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
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For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 1.800.424.8580.
  
You are likely to be asked to share in religious observances, whether it is going to church, breaking the fast during Ramadan, burying an elder in a traditional ceremony, or simply giving thanks to God by saying “Namshukuru Mungu” or “Al-ham D’ililah” as part of your morning greetings. You do not have to participate in regular religious services to be a successful Volunteer in Tanzania, but participation in the religious life of your town or village will provide increased credibility and a sense of community for any Volunteer who is so inclined. Religion is deeply ingrained in the culture, which you will notice just by walking down a city street, where signs for churches, mosques, and madarasat (religious schools) and stickers proclaiming thoughts like, “This car is protected by the blood of Jesus!” abound. When meeting someone for the first time, Tanzanians often ask what his or her religion is.
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===Can I call home from Malawi? ===
  
The religious makeup of the country is roughly split into thirds—Muslims, Christians, and traditionalists. Muslims are the predominant group on Zanzibar (i.e., Pemba and Unguja islands) and along the coast because of the influence of Arab traders and the Omani dynasties, which lasted until the 1800s. Christians (largely Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and Anglicans) predominate in the interior, although Christian missionaries travel and live throughout Tanzania. Traditional religions are practiced mostly in the northern half of the country by seminomadic tribes such as the Masai, Hadza, and Barabaig.  
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Yes, but generally only from larger towns. Calls from Malawi to the United States are very expensive. We recommend writing letters and setting up periodic calls from home on special occasions. Phone cards do not work in Malawi, and  it is no longer possible to make a reverse charge (collect) call.
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities ====
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===Should I bring a cellular phone with me? ===
  
Tanzanians with physical disabilities generally are treated no differently from other Tanzanians, but there is little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States. That being said, 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, of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Tanzania without reasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/ Tanzania 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.  
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No. The systems are different from those used in the United States. Many Volunteers buy a cellphone in Malawi. However, the costs are very high for service, and the coverage area for cellular phones is limited. Key Peace Corps staff members carry cellular phones to ensure availability at all times for emergency contact.  
  
[[Category:Tanzania]]
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===Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer? ===
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There are now cyber-cafés in the three major towns that provide both e-mail and Internet access. At the Peace Corps office in Lilongwe, there is e-mail and Internet access for programmatic needs (finding resources for your work).  It is not recommended that you bring a computer, as few Volunteer sites have a stable electrical supply, surges are common, and maintenance and repair options are extremely limited. Also, due to the high value of a computer, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime.
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[[Category:Malawi]]

Revision as of 03:22, 16 June 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 will I be allowed to bring to Malawi?

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 limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. 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 70 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 lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

What is the electric current in Malawi?

Roughly 230 volt, 50 cycles. We say “roughly” because it may range from 190 volts to 260 volts when it is on. Less than half the Volunteers have electricity at work or at home. Batteries are available; “D” cells are more easily found than “C” cells.

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 and travelers checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal 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. 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. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be given to you, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.

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.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Malawi do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to a lot of walking.

Volunteers sometimes drive while on annual leave during their service. For this reason, we recommend that you bring your U.S. driver’s license.

What should I bring as gifts for Malawian 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 not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed a portion of 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. 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 may be within one or two hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites may be a 10- to 12-hour drive or even multiple days from the capital.

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 1.800.424.8580, 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 1.800.424.8580.

Can I call home from Malawi?

Yes, but generally only from larger towns. Calls from Malawi to the United States are very expensive. We recommend writing letters and setting up periodic calls from home on special occasions. Phone cards do not work in Malawi, and it is no longer possible to make a reverse charge (collect) call.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

No. The systems are different from those used in the United States. Many Volunteers buy a cellphone in Malawi. However, the costs are very high for service, and the coverage area for cellular phones is limited. Key Peace Corps staff members carry cellular phones to ensure availability at all times for emergency contact.

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

There are now cyber-cafés in the three major towns that provide both e-mail and Internet access. At the Peace Corps office in Lilongwe, there is e-mail and Internet access for programmatic needs (finding resources for your work). It is not recommended that you bring a computer, as few Volunteer sites have a stable electrical supply, surges are common, and maintenance and repair options are extremely limited. Also, due to the high value of a computer, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime.