Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Belize" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia"

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====Mail====
 
====Mail====
  
Peace Corps/Belize recommends sending letters via airmail, which generally arrive within two weeks. Surface mail can take months. During training, you will receive mail through the Peace Corps office.  
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The following information concerning mail service to Georgia should be left with your family and friends for sending mail and packages to you in a timely and secure manner. During pre-service training, your mail should be sent to the Peace Corps’ P.O. Box in Tbilisi at the following address:
  
When you become a Volunteer and are assigned to a site, you will be responsible for sending your new mailing address to family and friends.  
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“Your Name,” PCT
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P.O. Box 66
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Tbilisi 2, 0102
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Georgia
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Mail arriving for you at the P.O. Box will be delivered to the training site at least once a week. Once your permanent site has been identified, you will be responsible for informing your family and friends of your personal mailing address.
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Packages from home are subject to customs inspection and may be assessed heavy taxes, depending on the items sent.  You will be responsible for paying any taxes levied.
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Residents and Volunteers alike in Georgia report varying success with the postal service. Some have had letters disappear, while others report mail arriving only after a lengthy delay. Few have experienced the level of reliability in mail service that one might expect in the United States.  Packages tend to be a particular problem due to pilferage or theft along the way, and the Peace Corps does not recommend having items shipped to Georgia.  
  
During your first six months in Belize, any packages you receive will be exempt from duty fees. After this period, you will be responsible for paying any duty on packages.
 
  
There are other options for having items such as airline tickets or small items sent to you. Small, padded envelopes are best for items weighing less than two pounds, as they are less likely to be opened and taxed than boxes. In addition, people can ship you packages using express mail services such as FedEx and DHL. The Peace Corps office accepts international express mail for Volunteers.
 
  
 
====Telephones====
 
====Telephones====
  
International telephone service in Belize is good and covers most of the country. However, it is expensive, so Volunteers typically call the United States collect. Volunteers are not permitted to use telephones at the Peace Corps office to call family and friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.  
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International telephone calls can be made in the larger cities, but it can be expensive—as much as two lari (approximately $1) a minute for a call to the United States. However, in the event of an emergency during training or your service, your family can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. Peace Corps staff will immediately contact Peace Corps/Georgia. The emergency telephone number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After working hours and on weekends they may call 202.638.2574 to reach the duty officer.  
  
 
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
 
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
  
Some Volunteers bring laptop computers to Belize. Before deciding to bring your laptop, you should consider that satisfactory maintenance and repair services may not be available. Moreover, if you are assigned to a rural site, there may not be electricity. If the Belizean agency you work with owns a computer, you may be able to arrange access for work-related or personal use. The Peace Corps office in Belize City has two computers, one in its resource center and another in the Volunteer lounge, both with Internet access and both available for Volunteer use. In addition, Belize City and most of the district towns have Internet cafes. In general, Internet service is available wherever there is telephone service. So this is telling us that the Urban area is a better place to volunteer your service here in Belize.
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E-mail and Internet access throughout Georgia, while growing in popularity, is still very limited due mainly to frequent power interruptions. Most Volunteers will not have e-mail access at their sites. You may be able to gain access to the Internet in Tbilisi or in other larger towns.  
  
 
===Housing and Site Location===
 
===Housing and Site Location===
  
Once you have been assigned to a site, you will spend the first three months living with a host family. This will accelerate your language skills and provide a safe, welcoming environment to begin learning about Belizean culture. After three months, you may decide to stay with your host family or you may decide to move into an apartment or house of your own. Once you have identified safe and adequate housing that you can afford with the Peace Corps’ living allowance, Peace Corps staff will check your housing to ensure that it fulfills the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria (see the chapter on Health Care and Safety for further information). Volunteer housing ranges from one-room houses to small bungalows with bath and latrine facilities. Houses generally have electricity, but may or may not have running water and inside toilets. You will have to be very flexible in your housing expectations as there is no guarantee that electricity or running water will be available. Most Volunteers live in towns with populations of 4,000 to 20,000. A few Volunteers live in Belize City, and some live in small rural communities. Wherever you live, Peace Corps staff will visit you on occasion to provide personal, medical, and professional support.  
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Volunteers need to be very flexible about their housing expectations. Volunteers live in a variety of situations, including private rooms, shared houses, and small apartments.
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For the first six months of your service, you are required to live with a Georgian host family. After the first six months, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. For reasons of safety and security and for reasons of quality of life (especially during the winter months), most Volunteers opt to remain living with homestay families throughout their two years of service. In most areas of Georgia there are no guarantees of continuous electricity, running water, or phone service. Some villages and towns have only a few hours of electricity a day (or even none at all) in the winter months, and the natural gas supply is often cut off for periods of time. Without a central heating system, the inside of buildings is often colder in the winter than the outdoors.  You should be prepared to tolerate cold and discomfort, especially during the work day at school. The Peace Corps staff will do its best to help Volunteers adjust and succeed in this environment. Peace Corps/Georgia provides all Volunteers with sleeping bags for the winter. These sleeping bags have a synthetic filling and are rated at 0°F for warmth.  
  
 
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
 
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
As a Volunteer in Belize, you will receive four types of allowances: a living allowance, a one-time settling-in allowance (for setting up your household when you move to your site), a travel allowance, and a leave allowance. The country director reviews the allowances at least once a year through a Volunteer survey to ensure that they reasonably cover Volunteers’ expenses. Most Volunteers find that they can live comfortably in Belize with these allowances.  
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As a Volunteer in Georgia, you will receive four types of allowances.  
  
The Peace Corps strongly discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with money from home because Volunteers are expected to live at the same economic level as their Belizean neighbors and colleagues. However, many Volunteers bring money (in U.S. dollars or traveler’s checks) for out-of-country travel. Belizeans increasingly are using credit cards, so they are useful for vacations, especially if there is a reliable person back home who can make payments for you.  
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A living allowance is paid to cover your basic living expenses.  The living allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. This allowance is disbursed on a monthly basis in the local currency, the Georgian lari (abbreviated as GEL). One GEL is equivalent to approximately 50 cents. The living allowance is meant to cover food, work-related transportation, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses such as postage, film, reading material, stationery, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. The current monthly living allowance for Georgia is 418 GEL, which includes 170 GEL per month to be paid to your host family.  
  
===Food and Diet===
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A leave allowance, equivalent to $24 per month of Volunteer service, is paid monthly with the living allowance. The leave allowance is paid using the Bank of Georgia official rate of exchange. Conversion to U.S. dollars is available at any bank or exchange bureau.
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A settling-in allowance of 300 GEL is also provided to newly assigned Volunteers for the purchase of items necessary to set up housekeeping at site.
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A quarterly travel allowance is also provided to help defray the costs of pre-approved, program-related travel. This travel allowance is paid every three months and is deposited into your bank account along with the monthly living allowance.
  
The diet in Belize is composed mainly of carbohydrates (i.e., rice) and protein (i.e., beans and meat). Belize also produces a variety of fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cabbages, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bananas, and oranges are inexpensive and readily available year-round. Imported produce, such as cauliflower, broccoli, beets, Brussel sprouts, nectarines, and peaches, are typically more expensive. You will find a wider variety of vegetables in cities than in rural areas.  
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Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Georgia with these four allowances. All Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. The living allowance is adequate, and Volunteers should be living at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues.  
  
The main meats in Belize are chicken, beef, and pork. Many Belizeans also eat fish, which can be purchased at local markets and supermarkets. Lobster and shrimp are also available but are expensive. Canned meats, crab, salmon, and sardines are sold at local grocery stores.  
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Traveler’s checks or credit cards are not commonly used in Georgia, but a few banks in the larger cities will cash them.  Currently, American Express and Visa/Mastercard traveler’s checks are the easiest to cash. Credit card use is discouraged as few establishments accept them and the possibility for theft is very high. Changing U.S. dollars to GELs is very easy and can be done at any official currency exchange or bank.  
  
Depending on the size of your community, you should be able to purchase basic foods such as butter, eggs, cheese, vegetable oil, and milk locally. Imported cheeses, yogurt, and other perishable items may only be available in cities.
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===Food and Diet===
  
Most Belizean housewives bake their own Creole bread, a tasty and rich white bread that is often served with tea. Breads, biscuits, and pastries are also available in supermarkets. Because Belizeans are only now becoming aware of the nutritional value of whole-wheat baked goods, these products are just becoming available and tend to be costly.  
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The basic Georgian diet consists of meat, vegetables, and fruits. Vegetables are mostly limited to potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Fresh vegetables and fruits are available in the summer and, sometimes, in winter. During the long winter months, cabbage, potatoes, and meat are the mainstays. Volunteers placed in smaller villages may not have access to as wide a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as those closer to district centers. However, the fruits and vegetables that are available are delicious. In addition, many host families have extensive gardens and make their own wine, cheese, honey, and more.  
  
Vegetarians will have to be creative to maintain a balanced diet because of the limited number of fruits and vegetables available year-round. They will also face limited choices in local homes and restaurants. Belizeans tend to incorporate meat into their dishes, and therefore may find catering to a vegetarian challenging. We encourage vegetarians to bring a cookbook with their favorite recipes.  
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While meat is an important element of the Georgian diet, it is possible for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet throughout their service. During pre-service training, you will stay with a host family. While it may seem strange to your host family that you would refuse to eat meat on a daily basis, in time they will respect that decision and accommodate your needs accordingly. During the winter, fresh produce is not as readily available as it is in the spring and summer. For this reason, you may find the need to prepare preserves during the summer and fall months. Cabbage, carrots, and potatoes are available throughout winter, but other produce must be preserved ahead of time or purchased in the capital city. Some prior planning will need to be done in order to ensure that a healthy alternative diet can be maintained.  
  
 
===Transportation===
 
===Transportation===
  
Most Volunteers use bicycles to get around in their communities. You will receive funds to purchase a bicycle and helmet as part of the settling-in allowance. Volunteers must wear helmets whenever they ride on bicycles. The Peace Corps prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicles and from owning or driving private cars. Violation of these policies can result in the termination of your Volunteer service. Most Volunteers travel around the country on commercial bus lines.  
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Georgia has a dense transportation system. Most freight is carried by truck, but railways are also an important means of transportation. Tbilisi is connected by rail with both Sukhumi and Batumi on the Black Sea, Baku on the Caspian, as well as Yerevan in Armenia. Most people travel by bus or vans between cities, and fares are relatively cheap. Taxis are widely available but tend to be much more expensive. Georgia’s international airport is in Tbilisi.  
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Riding a bicycle is not a common practice in Georgia, and for safety and security reasons, Peace Corps/Georgia does not recommend that you purchase or use one. Volunteers and trainees are prohibited from owning or operating motor vehicles (i.e., automobiles, motorcycles, or three-wheeled cycles) or riding on motorcycles or in motorcycle sidecars as a passenger. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.  
  
 
===Geography and Climate===
 
===Geography and Climate===
  
Belize’s typical weather report is “hot, humid, and a chance of thunderstorms,” but Volunteers generally adjust to the climate quickly. Since Belize is a small country—at 8,866 square miles, it is about the size of New Hampshire—there is little variation in temperature or humidity. The rainy season usually occurs from June to January, while the dry season lasts from February to May.  
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The northern Caucasian mountains protect Georgia from cold air intrusions from the north, while the country is open to the constant influence of warm, moist air from the Black Sea. Western Georgia has a humid, subtropical, maritime climate, while eastern Georgia’s climate ranges from moderately humid to dry, subtropical conditions.  
  
Belize remains largely undeveloped and unspoiled. More than 50 percent of its land is designated as nature reserves. While much of the wildlife population in neighboring countries has long since been lost, the dense forest of Belize remains a refuge for jaguars, tapirs, crocodiles, and birds. The land is mostly flat, with the exception of Maya Mountain, which rises to 3,630 feet (1,100 meters) at its highest point in the south-central region along the Guatemalan border.  
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There also are marked elevation zones. The Kolkhida Lowland, for example, has a subtropical climate up to about 2,000 feet, with a moist, moderately warm climate lying just above. Still higher is a belt of cold, wet winters and cool summers. Above about 7,200 feet, there is an alpine climatic zone, lacking any true summer, and above 11,500 feet, snow and ice are present year-round. In eastern Georgia, farther inland, temperatures are lower than in the western portions at the same altitude.
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Western Georgia has heavy precipitation throughout the year, totaling 40 to 100 inches. Winter in this region is mild and warm; in regions below about 2,000 feet, the average January temperature never falls below 32°F (0°C). Relatively warm, sunny winter weather persists in the coastal regions, where temperatures average about 41°F (5°C). Summer temperatures average about 71°F (22°C).
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In eastern Georgia, rainfall decreases with distance from the sea, reaching 16 to 28 inches in the plains and foothills but increasing to double this amount in the mountains. The southeastern regions are the driest areas, and winter is the driest season. The end of spring is the rainiest season. The highest lowland temperatures occur in July (about 77°F or 25°C), while average January temperatures over most of the region range from 32° to 37°F (0° to 3°C).  
  
 
===Social Activities===
 
===Social Activities===
  
Social activities will vary depending on where you are located.  They might include taking part in local festivities, storytelling, and dances. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers on weekends or make an occasional trip to Belize City. In addition to the snorkeling and diving opportunities at nearby islands and at the world’s second largest barrier reef, the country offers Mayan ruins and wildlife reserves to explore.  In spite of these attractions, Peace Corps/Belize encourages Volunteers to spend as much time as they can at their sites to accomplish the Peace Corps’ second goal of cultural exchange.  
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Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in festivals, parties, storytelling, and local dances. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers during the weekends or make an occasional trip to the capital, although we encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites in order to accomplish the second goal of the Peace Corps: cultural exchange. Most regional capitals have cinemas or theaters, and movie videos are often available for a small fee.  
  
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
The people of Belize take pride in their personal appearance. To gain the acceptance, respect, and confidence of rural, urban, and government workers, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself properly. Inappropriate dress, like inappropriate behavior, is something that sets a Volunteer unnecessarily apart from his or her community. Women should wear modest skirts, nice slacks or dresses for professional activities (except for physical labor), and men should wear slacks for most activities.  
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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, and we can only provide you with guidelines. Maintaining your personal style while presenting a professional appearance according to Georgian cultural standards may be challenging. Professional dress at your site means clean and conservative. For NGO Volunteers, this means dress suits or coats and ties, dress shirts and slacks for men; and dresses, dress slacks and blouses and suits for women. For education Volunteers, this means casual dressy clothes (dresses and dress slacks for women; and slacks and button-down shirts for men). Many male Georgian teachers wear a suit coat. In general, Georgians tend to dress more formally and conservatively than Americans, and they take great pride in their appearance.
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In Tbilisi, it is not uncommon to see fashionable young women wearing short skirts and tight pants. However, this mode of dress is not recommended for Volunteers. Foreign women are generally seen as less conservative in behavior, so inappropriate displays of dress (such as anything too short or revealing) will attract unwanted attention. Use common sense and be aware that you may be judged by what you are wearing. For men, earrings, braided hair or dread locks are unacceptable in the workplace and may cause physical confrontations.  
  
The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that will foster respect for you in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the citizens of the United States. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. You need to be aware that behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Belize or your personal safety cannot be tolerated by the Peace Corps and may result in the termination of your service. Pre-service training will include an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity.  
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Georgians, like many of their European counterparts, like to dress well. Many Georgians have very little in terms of clothing, but they take great effort to care for what they have.  The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to behave in a way that will foster respect within your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and the United States. You will receive an orientation about 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. Certain behavior may jeopardize the Peace Corps’ mission in Georgia and your personal safety. It cannot be tolerated by the Peace Corps and may lead to administrative separation—a decision on the part of the Peace Corps to terminate your service. Please refer to your Volunteer Handbook for more information about grounds for administrative separation.  
  
 
===Personal Safety===
 
===Personal Safety===
  
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained 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 (oftentimes 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 Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents.  The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Belize. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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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 (oftentimes 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 many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety problems.  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 Georgia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction in Belize is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change their practices and traditions. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.  
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Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers you will encounter numerous frustrations. Due to financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support promised, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and many people are hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys that occur while you adapt to a new culture and environment.  
  
You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
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You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will ever experience. Often you will find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your counterparts with little guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress is often seen only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
  
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Belizeans are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success.  Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Belize feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
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To approach and overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. However, Georgians are hospitable, friendly, and warm people.  The Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenges as well as in moments of success. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.  
  
  
[[Category:Belize]]
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[[Category:Georgia]]

Revision as of 00:08, 13 March 2009



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
As a Peace Corps Volunteers, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping — may take significantly different forms in the context of the host country. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]
See also:

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles by Country Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

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[[Category:{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Georgia| |8}}]]


Communications

Mail

The following information concerning mail service to Georgia should be left with your family and friends for sending mail and packages to you in a timely and secure manner. During pre-service training, your mail should be sent to the Peace Corps’ P.O. Box in Tbilisi at the following address:

“Your Name,” PCT

P.O. Box 66

Tbilisi 2, 0102

Georgia

Mail arriving for you at the P.O. Box will be delivered to the training site at least once a week. Once your permanent site has been identified, you will be responsible for informing your family and friends of your personal mailing address.

Packages from home are subject to customs inspection and may be assessed heavy taxes, depending on the items sent. You will be responsible for paying any taxes levied.

Residents and Volunteers alike in Georgia report varying success with the postal service. Some have had letters disappear, while others report mail arriving only after a lengthy delay. Few have experienced the level of reliability in mail service that one might expect in the United States. Packages tend to be a particular problem due to pilferage or theft along the way, and the Peace Corps does not recommend having items shipped to Georgia.


Telephones

International telephone calls can be made in the larger cities, but it can be expensive—as much as two lari (approximately $1) a minute for a call to the United States. However, in the event of an emergency during training or your service, your family can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. Peace Corps staff will immediately contact Peace Corps/Georgia. The emergency telephone number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After working hours and on weekends they may call 202.638.2574 to reach the duty officer.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

E-mail and Internet access throughout Georgia, while growing in popularity, is still very limited due mainly to frequent power interruptions. Most Volunteers will not have e-mail access at their sites. You may be able to gain access to the Internet in Tbilisi or in other larger towns.

Housing and Site Location

Volunteers need to be very flexible about their housing expectations. Volunteers live in a variety of situations, including private rooms, shared houses, and small apartments.

For the first six months of your service, you are required to live with a Georgian host family. After the first six months, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. For reasons of safety and security and for reasons of quality of life (especially during the winter months), most Volunteers opt to remain living with homestay families throughout their two years of service. In most areas of Georgia there are no guarantees of continuous electricity, running water, or phone service. Some villages and towns have only a few hours of electricity a day (or even none at all) in the winter months, and the natural gas supply is often cut off for periods of time. Without a central heating system, the inside of buildings is often colder in the winter than the outdoors. You should be prepared to tolerate cold and discomfort, especially during the work day at school. The Peace Corps staff will do its best to help Volunteers adjust and succeed in this environment. Peace Corps/Georgia provides all Volunteers with sleeping bags for the winter. These sleeping bags have a synthetic filling and are rated at 0°F for warmth.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer in Georgia, you will receive four types of allowances.

A living allowance is paid to cover your basic living expenses. The living allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. This allowance is disbursed on a monthly basis in the local currency, the Georgian lari (abbreviated as GEL). One GEL is equivalent to approximately 50 cents. The living allowance is meant to cover food, work-related transportation, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses such as postage, film, reading material, stationery, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. The current monthly living allowance for Georgia is 418 GEL, which includes 170 GEL per month to be paid to your host family.

A leave allowance, equivalent to $24 per month of Volunteer service, is paid monthly with the living allowance. The leave allowance is paid using the Bank of Georgia official rate of exchange. Conversion to U.S. dollars is available at any bank or exchange bureau.

A settling-in allowance of 300 GEL is also provided to newly assigned Volunteers for the purchase of items necessary to set up housekeeping at site.

A quarterly travel allowance is also provided to help defray the costs of pre-approved, program-related travel. This travel allowance is paid every three months and is deposited into your bank account along with the monthly living allowance.

Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Georgia with these four allowances. All Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. The living allowance is adequate, and Volunteers should be living at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues.

Traveler’s checks or credit cards are not commonly used in Georgia, but a few banks in the larger cities will cash them. Currently, American Express and Visa/Mastercard traveler’s checks are the easiest to cash. Credit card use is discouraged as few establishments accept them and the possibility for theft is very high. Changing U.S. dollars to GELs is very easy and can be done at any official currency exchange or bank.

Food and Diet

The basic Georgian diet consists of meat, vegetables, and fruits. Vegetables are mostly limited to potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Fresh vegetables and fruits are available in the summer and, sometimes, in winter. During the long winter months, cabbage, potatoes, and meat are the mainstays. Volunteers placed in smaller villages may not have access to as wide a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as those closer to district centers. However, the fruits and vegetables that are available are delicious. In addition, many host families have extensive gardens and make their own wine, cheese, honey, and more.

While meat is an important element of the Georgian diet, it is possible for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet throughout their service. During pre-service training, you will stay with a host family. While it may seem strange to your host family that you would refuse to eat meat on a daily basis, in time they will respect that decision and accommodate your needs accordingly. During the winter, fresh produce is not as readily available as it is in the spring and summer. For this reason, you may find the need to prepare preserves during the summer and fall months. Cabbage, carrots, and potatoes are available throughout winter, but other produce must be preserved ahead of time or purchased in the capital city. Some prior planning will need to be done in order to ensure that a healthy alternative diet can be maintained.

Transportation

Georgia has a dense transportation system. Most freight is carried by truck, but railways are also an important means of transportation. Tbilisi is connected by rail with both Sukhumi and Batumi on the Black Sea, Baku on the Caspian, as well as Yerevan in Armenia. Most people travel by bus or vans between cities, and fares are relatively cheap. Taxis are widely available but tend to be much more expensive. Georgia’s international airport is in Tbilisi.

Riding a bicycle is not a common practice in Georgia, and for safety and security reasons, Peace Corps/Georgia does not recommend that you purchase or use one. Volunteers and trainees are prohibited from owning or operating motor vehicles (i.e., automobiles, motorcycles, or three-wheeled cycles) or riding on motorcycles or in motorcycle sidecars as a passenger. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.

Geography and Climate

The northern Caucasian mountains protect Georgia from cold air intrusions from the north, while the country is open to the constant influence of warm, moist air from the Black Sea. Western Georgia has a humid, subtropical, maritime climate, while eastern Georgia’s climate ranges from moderately humid to dry, subtropical conditions.

There also are marked elevation zones. The Kolkhida Lowland, for example, has a subtropical climate up to about 2,000 feet, with a moist, moderately warm climate lying just above. Still higher is a belt of cold, wet winters and cool summers. Above about 7,200 feet, there is an alpine climatic zone, lacking any true summer, and above 11,500 feet, snow and ice are present year-round. In eastern Georgia, farther inland, temperatures are lower than in the western portions at the same altitude.

Western Georgia has heavy precipitation throughout the year, totaling 40 to 100 inches. Winter in this region is mild and warm; in regions below about 2,000 feet, the average January temperature never falls below 32°F (0°C). Relatively warm, sunny winter weather persists in the coastal regions, where temperatures average about 41°F (5°C). Summer temperatures average about 71°F (22°C).

In eastern Georgia, rainfall decreases with distance from the sea, reaching 16 to 28 inches in the plains and foothills but increasing to double this amount in the mountains. The southeastern regions are the driest areas, and winter is the driest season. The end of spring is the rainiest season. The highest lowland temperatures occur in July (about 77°F or 25°C), while average January temperatures over most of the region range from 32° to 37°F (0° to 3°C).

Social Activities

Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in festivals, parties, storytelling, and local dances. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers during the weekends or make an occasional trip to the capital, although we encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites in order to accomplish the second goal of the Peace Corps: cultural exchange. Most regional capitals have cinemas or theaters, and movie videos are often available for a small fee.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

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, and we can only provide you with guidelines. Maintaining your personal style while presenting a professional appearance according to Georgian cultural standards may be challenging. Professional dress at your site means clean and conservative. For NGO Volunteers, this means dress suits or coats and ties, dress shirts and slacks for men; and dresses, dress slacks and blouses and suits for women. For education Volunteers, this means casual dressy clothes (dresses and dress slacks for women; and slacks and button-down shirts for men). Many male Georgian teachers wear a suit coat. In general, Georgians tend to dress more formally and conservatively than Americans, and they take great pride in their appearance.

In Tbilisi, it is not uncommon to see fashionable young women wearing short skirts and tight pants. However, this mode of dress is not recommended for Volunteers. Foreign women are generally seen as less conservative in behavior, so inappropriate displays of dress (such as anything too short or revealing) will attract unwanted attention. Use common sense and be aware that you may be judged by what you are wearing. For men, earrings, braided hair or dread locks are unacceptable in the workplace and may cause physical confrontations.

Georgians, like many of their European counterparts, like to dress well. Many Georgians have very little in terms of clothing, but they take great effort to care for what they have. The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to behave in a way that will foster respect within your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and the United States. You will receive an orientation about 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. Certain behavior may jeopardize the Peace Corps’ mission in Georgia and your personal safety. It cannot be tolerated by the Peace Corps and may lead to administrative separation—a decision on the part of the Peace Corps to terminate your service. Please refer to your Volunteer Handbook for more information about grounds for administrative separation.

Personal Safety

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 (oftentimes 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 many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety problems. 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 Georgia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers you will encounter numerous frustrations. Due to financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support promised, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and many people are hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys that occur while you adapt to a new culture and environment.

You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will ever experience. Often you will find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your counterparts with little guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress is often seen only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

To approach and overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. However, Georgians are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. The Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenges as well as in moments of success. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.