Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Azerbaijan" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia"

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==Communications==
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===Communications ===
  
===Mail===
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People in Namibia communicate through a variety of means, including mail (called “post”), fax, e-mail, telephone or cellphone, and radio.
  
The reliability of mail service in Azerbaijan is uneven. Letters might arrive in as few as 10 days, take as long as six weeks, or not arrive at all. Heavy fees are assessed on some packages, depending on what they contain, and you might find items missing. Accordingly, we strongly recommend that you ask family and friends to number their letters consecutively so you can determine what is and what is not reaching you.  We also advise you to discourage people from sending you packages or valuable items through the mail. You will be responsible for paying any fees levied on packages.
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===Mail ===
  
===Mailing Address===
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The postal system is reliable, but service to the more remote communities is often slow. Mail from the United States to Windhoek, the capital, can take up to four weeks. From there, it could take two more weeks for mail to reach your village.  Keep in mind that many rural villages and towns do not have direct mail service; in order to receive mail in these locations, Volunteers must purchase post office boxes in their nearest urban area.
  
During pre-service training, your friends and family can mail letters or packages to you at the following address:  
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During pre-service training, you may use the Peace Corps office address:  
  
“Your Name,” PCT <br>
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“Your name,” PCT <br>
AZ 1000 <br>
 
Main P.O. Box 77 <br>
 
 
Peace Corps <br>
 
Peace Corps <br>
Baku, Azerbaijan <br>
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PO Box 6862 <br>
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Ausspannplatz, <br>
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Windhoek, Namibia <br>
  
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Your mail will be forwarded periodically to your training site.  Once you have moved to your permanent site, you will use the school’s address or get a private post office box.
  
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===Telephones ===
  
Your mail will be delivered to the training site at least once a week. Once you know your assigned site, you will be responsible for informing your family and friends of your permanent mailing address.  
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Telephones are accessible in most towns and villages, along or near main roads, and in most schools. No international telephone companies (e.g., MCI or AT&T) operate in Namibia, so you will be unable to make collect calls or use calling cards purchased in the United States. Calling cards are available in Namibia for use in-country and internationally. International service from the larger towns is good, but calls must be made from a telecommunications office or a private phone.  Cellphone usage and coverage is increasing throughout Namibia. Most Volunteers purchase their own cellphone during training or bring their own from home.  Text messaging (or "sms") is quickly becoming a preferred means of communication amongst Volunteers. The two major cellular companies are [http://www.mtc.com MTC] and [http://www.cellone.com.na Cell One].  MTC is the largest cellular company in Namibia and the preferred provider of most Namibians and Volunteers.  Volunteers are advised not to sign up for international plans with their U.S. cell providers, as these plans often do not work in Namibia.
  
===Telephones===
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
Volunteers can make international calls from the larger cities, but they are expensive (over $2 per minute for a cellphone call to the United States and about $6 per minute by land line). Several calling cards available in the United States offer much lower rates for calls to Azerbaijan (e.g., 15 to 20 cents a minute). In general, land lines are limited and reception is uneven.  
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Access to e-mail is available in Internet cafes in Windhoek and other larger towns.  Some teacher resource centers provide public access to e-mail but not the Internet, and junior and senior secondary schools throughout the country are increasingly setting up internet access in their computer labs. Internet access is also available through the cell phone companies with a GPRS capable GSM phone, as well as High Speed 3G service in larger towns.  The major cell phone companies sell 3G devices which connect via USB to a computer and allow the user to access the internet wherever there is cell service (including in rural areas). Check out the [http://www.mtc.com.na MTC Website]for more information.
  
You should not expect to find a telephone in your home.  However, a number of cellular telephone companies have sprung up in Baku and have effectively blanketed the country.
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===Housing and Site Location ===
  
All of the systems use GSM (for global system mobile), so most U.S. cellphones will not work in Azerbaijan. You may bring your own cellphone, but you must ensure that your U.S. phone company has “unlocked” the phone so that an Azerbaijani SIM card can be inserted.  
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Housing varies considerably. Your site might be a Western-style cement block house, usually with electricity and running water; an apartment attached to a student boarding facility (hostel); a traditional hut on a family compound; or a room with a local family. As the government has invited assistance from a variety of sources, you may also be asked to share a two- or three-bedroom house with one or two colleagues (either Namibian or Volunteers from other countries). Our expectation is that you will have a private bedroom, but remember that there is a shortage of housing for government staff in most areas in Namibia. The ministry or agency to which you are assigned is responsible for providing housing, as well as paying your monthly utilities and providing you with the basic furnishings (e.g., bed, chairs, table, stove or hot plate, and refrigerator). With the exception of extremely rural sites in the northern part of the country and the Caprivi, most Volunteers have electricity at home; in these areas, it is the norm for Volunteers (as well as their host country colleagues) to make use of electricity at the school or office to charge electronic devices (i.e. cellphones).
  
Some Volunteers will be asked to be wardens (i.e., points of contact for a small number of other Volunteers when they leave their sites or in the event of family or other emergencies). Peace Corps will issue cellphones to wardens for this purpose, but the Volunteer must reimburse the Peace Corps for personal use of these phones.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
In Azerbaijan, a cellular phone is a necessary item for communicating with staff members and fellow Volunteers and for ensuring your safety and security. If you do not arrive in-country with a cellular phone, the Peace Corps will issue one to you. You will keep this phone for your two years of service and be responsible for returning it to Peace Corps in approximately the same condition as it was issued to you. If the phone should become lost or stolen during your service, you will be held financially liable for its replacement. If you are in possession of a Peace Corps-issued phone or a personal phone, Peace Corps will pay for repairing your phone should it become damaged. In order to have your phone repaired, you can either bring it with you to Baku and we have the phone repaired and pay for this expense; or you may pay to repair the phone yourself, and we will reimburse you for this expense upon submission of a proper receipt. Unless you are making calls in your capacity as a warden or deputy warden while in Azerbaijan, the cost of using phones will be your responsibility and is presumed to be covered by your monthly living allowance.In the case of an emergency, your family can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C., and that office will immediately contact Peace Corps/Azerbaijan.  The relevant numbers are listed at the end of this book.  
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The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a monthly living allowance for basic expenses, a leave allowance of $24 a month, and a quarterly travel allowance for in-country travel. All allowances are paid in local currency. The amounts are intended to allow a modest lifestyle, and most Volunteers find the allowances to be adequate. The last increase in the Volunteer living allowance in Namibia was in 2009, and annual surveys are conducted to assess the need for an increase in living allowance.
  
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access===
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Volunteers open accounts at the First National Bank of Namibia during pre-service training and are issued an ATM card. The Peace Corps deposits all allowances and reimbursements at the Windhoek branch, which Volunteers can then withdraw from the bank nearest to their site or through the use of their ATM card. For some, this involves a five-minute walk. For most, it requires planning ahead for a ride to town on a free day. Volunteers often travel to town with fellow teachers on payday.
  
The use of computers is growing rapidly throughout Azerbaijan, but because of frequent power interruptions, e-mail and Internet access is limited mainly to Baku and several other larger cities. Most Volunteers do not have e-mail access at their sites, but can send and receive e-mail at Internet cafes in the larger towns. (Currently, the charge is approximately 40 cents an hour.) A few schools to which Volunteers are assigned have computers, and development agencies are keen to link schools to the Internet. In fact, assisting schools in applying for funds for connectivity and equipment is an important secondary activity for Volunteers.
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===Food and Diet ===
  
==Housing and Site Location==
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Basic foods such as flour, rice, pasta, and root vegetables can be bought in most communities, and a wide variety of products are available in the larger town centers. Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly seasonal in rural areas and may have to be transported from quite a distance. Canned goods are widely available throughout Namibia.
  
As a Volunteer, you will live in a town or village outside of Baku. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan staff, with some consideration of your desires, selects your site carefully, its principal considerations being safety and security and matching the needs of the local community with your skills and aptitudes.  We want to ensure that your talents are as fully engaged during your tour of service as possible.  
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Although committed vegetarians and vegans have successfully maintained their diet and health in Namibia, obtaining the recommended daily allowances of vital food groups and micronutrients can be quite challenging. The Peace Corps medical office provides multivitamins, calcium, iron tablets, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12. Some Volunteers in Namibia grow their own gardens in order to have fresh vegetables when they want them. Maintenance of a healthy and balanced diet will be discussed extensively during pre-service training.  
  
Your housing might be a private room in a family’s dwelling, a shared house, or a small apartment. You will live with a host family during training as part of your language and cultural orientation. Upon being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will again live with an Azerbaijani host family in your assigned community for the first six months of your service. The Peace Corps will select your host family for this period, except that you may choose a different family for the last two months with prior approval by the Peace Corps. Just as we make every effort to select sites that will fully engage you, we expect that you will make every effort to absorb Azerbaijani culture by spending at least one-fourth of your service living directly with a host country family. After this six-month period, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. Many Volunteers remain in host family housing for their entire service. In some parts of Azerbaijan, appropriate independent housing is scarce; you should prepare for the possibility of living with a host family for your entire service.
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===Transportation ===
  
Keep in mind that there is no guarantee of continuous electricity, running water, or phone service. Some villages and towns have only a few hours of electricity a day (or none at all), especially in the winter. Heat may come from a wood stove. Although you will have access to a kitchen and bathing facilities (in some cases, bucket baths), hot water and running water may be a luxury and there is likely to be a squat-style toilet. Bathroom facilities may be outside the main house in a separate building. Thus, housing will not be glamorous, but the Peace Corps staff will do its utmost to help you adjust to the new environment.  
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Traveling by road is inherently dangerous in Namibia. People generally drive too fast and the level of driving skill and courtesy is often lower than you would encounter in the United States. The miles of unpaved roads and the poor state of many vehicles on the road, including those serving as informal taxis, present serious challenges to Volunteers trying to get around. Given the lack of public transport in many areas, Volunteers are often forced to utilize informal taxis or other forms of hitching a ride. The Peace Corps policies on transportation in Namibia urge Volunteers to limit their travel only to essential trips and to stay at site as much as possible. If a Volunteer has to travel by road, care must be taken to choose the safest route and means of transportation.  Given the paucity of transportation options available to Volunteers, this requires prior planning and flexibility on the part of the Volunteer. It will often be necessary to extend a trip or to put it off because the transportation options available are not safe. The ultimate responsibility for choosing the safest means of travel falls on the Volunteer.  
  
Note that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the cease-fire agreement in 1994, gave rise to a huge and persistent resettlement problem. The need to absorb these refugees and internally displaced persons has caused housing scarcities in some parts of Azerbaijan, and Volunteers will need to be flexible in their housing expectations.  
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Taxis are available in some more populated areas. Bus service is beginning to expand throughout the country, which should provide alternatives to hiking in certain areas.  
  
==Living Allowance and Money Management==
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===Geography and Climate ===
  
As a Volunteer in Azerbaijan, you will receive several types of allowances, which will be deposited into your own bank account.  
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Namibia borders the South Atlantic Ocean, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. It lies between latitudes 18 degrees to 28 degrees south and longitudes 12 degrees to 24 degrees east. It covers some 317,5000 square miles and has a population of about 1.8 million.  
  
You will receive a living allowance to cover your basic living expenses, disbursed on a monthly basis in manat, the local currency. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. It is meant to cover food, work-related transportation, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses, such as postage, film, reading materials, stationery, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. If you elect to use a cellphone or the Internet, their cost must also come out of the living allowance. You will also receive an amount for housing as part of the living allowance, based on the actual lease agreement between you and your landlord or a set amount to be paid to your host family.  
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Namibia’s generally hot and dry climate ranges from true desert to subtropical. As in other parts of southern Africa, temperatures are closely related to wind systems, ocean currents, and altitude. Except for the highest mountain areas, the lowest temperatures occur in the Namib Desert region and are affected greatly by the cold Benguela current from the South Atlantic. Daytime summer temperatures in the desert frequently exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime winter temperatures can drop below 32 degrees. Volunteers who accept an assignment to Namibia must be willing and medically able to live and work in this extreme climate.  
  
A one time settling-in allowance is also provided for the purchase of items necessary to set up housekeeping at your site. You will receive a travel allowance to cover transportation and lodging costs when traveling for official, medical, or programmatic reasons. You will receive a leave allowance of $24 per month of service, paid with the monthly living allowance.  
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In the mountainous Windhoek region, average temperatures for the warmest month, December, range from 63 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. In July, average temperatures range from 43 to 69 degrees. Annual rainfall averages 22 inches in the north, six inches in the south, and about two inches in the coastal region. Rain falls mostly during the summer (October through March), and the winter (July through September) is very dry. The most pleasant months are April, May, and June.  
  
Volunteers are also eligible for a tutor allowance to pay for continued language study after pre-service training.  
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Windhoek is the seat of the national government and the business and cultural center. Keetmanshoop is the center of the karakul (sheepskin) industry, Tsumeb is the headquarters of copper-mining operations, and Otjiwarongo is the center of the cattle farming area. Swakopmund is a coastal tourist center, Oranjemund is a diamond-mining town, and Arandis is the home of the Rossing uranium mine. Walvis Bay is an important port and fishing center west of Windhoek.  
  
Payments are made on a monthly basis upon presentation of a completed tutor reimbursement form. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan will cover tutoring in Russian, but only once you have demonstrated a certain level of competence in Azeri.
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===Social Activities ===
  
Most Volunteers will find that they can live comfortably in Azerbaijan with these allowances. Volunteers in all Peace Corps countries are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. Consistent with the philosophy that development and learning occur most effectively when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live modestly, by the standards of the people whom they serve. Your allowances will be deposited into a personal account at the International Bank of Azerbaijan and you will receive an ATM card from the Peace Corps to withdraw those funds.  
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Social activities vary depending on where your site is located. In more rural communities, social activities include visiting neighbors’ fields and cattle posts and, for men, drinking at local bars. Cultural festivals, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and socialize with community members and their extended families. Groups of teachers sometimes go to town to shop and relax on paydays before heading off to visit their families. Namibia’s rich geography provides many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, including national parks and conservation areas.  Volunteers sometimes visit each other or meet in larger towns for shopping, socializing, or going to a movie. Although the Peace Corps recognizes that periodic visits to towns are important for networking and moral support, Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites as much as possible.  
  
Traveler’s checks are not commonly used in Azerbaijan, so we discourage you from bringing them. Although use of credit cards is rare outside the capital, they can be useful for vacation travel. The International Bank of Azerbaijan ATMs also accept major U.S. bank cards. Azerbaijan is primarily a cash economy, so exchanging currency at official exchanges or banks is very easy.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
  
==Food and Diet==
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Namibians attach great importance to neatness and proper dress, particularly in professional situations. Volunteers are expected to dress appropriately both on and off the job and to show respect for Namibian attitudes concerning personal appearance. For work, male Volunteers usually wear slacks or khakis and a nice shirt, often with a tie. Female Volunteers usually wear a long dress, a long skirt with a nice top, or pants with a nice shirt. While floor-length skirts and dresses are not required, women generally do not wear skirts shorter than knee length.
  
Azerbaijan’s geographical location on the historic Silk Road is reflected in its cuisine, a mixture of Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian, with a dollop of Russian. Its fertile soils produce a huge variety of fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples, cherries, grapes, olives, lemons, persimmons, melons, watermelons, raspberries, strawberries, currants, plums, peaches, pears, quince, pomegranates, tomatoes, beans, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, chickpeas, cucumbers, carrots, eggplants, lentils, lettuce, potatoes, squashes, and onions), as well as a variety of nuts, spices, and teas. You will immediately notice the delicious taste of Azerbaijani produce in fresh salads. During the winter, however, the availability and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables decreases, so many families in small towns and villages have extensive gardens and preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter.  
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Excessive drinking is widespread in Namibia. Volunteers come under social pressure from colleagues or other Volunteers to drink, often to excess. Because of the Volunteers’ unique status in the community and as a representative of the American people, they are “on duty” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As such, Volunteers are expected to comport themselves in a professional and culturally sensitive manner at all times. Peace Corps/Namibia has strict regulations concerning the excessive consumption of alcohol and these rules are enforced.
  
The traditional diet leans toward a variety of stews or soups made with lamb, one or more vegetables, and potatoes. Also ubiquitous are shashlik, skewers of barbecued lamb. Beef and edible innards are widely available, though they are not as popular as lamb or mutton. Chicken and fish are widely available along the coast, in the south, and in major towns, but less so elsewhere. One of the special treats in Azerbaijan is caviar. Bread is served at almost every meal, and “breaking bread” with people is taken literally.
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===Personal Safety ===
  
Although meat is central to the Azerbaijani diet, it is possible for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet throughout their service. In addition to the fruits and vegetables mentioned above, dairy products (cheese, eggs, milk, sour cream, and yogurt) and grains are widely available. It may seem strange to your host family that you prefer not to eat meat, but they are likely to respect that decision and accommodate your needs accordingly.  
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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 most Namibia 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 Namibia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
Typical drinks include bottled water and soft drinks, fruit juices, beer, and vodka. The traditional drink of choice is tea (chai), offered as a sign of hospitality. It is sweetened with either jam or sugar and drunk from glasses. Coffee is available, but outside of the capital, expect to receive a packet of instant Nescafé. In rural areas, alcoholic beverages are less widely available, and drinking them is frowned upon (in keeping with the Muslim culture).
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===Rewards and Frustrations ===
  
==Transportation==
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Invariably, former Namibia Volunteers speak of the relationships they established as the highlight of their service.
  
Azerbaijanis typically travel by train, bus, or taxi. Trains tend to be cheap but slow. Electrichka are bare-bones trains with wooden benches, but more comfortable overnight express trains link the major cities. Large, comfortable, modern buses run by the Camel and Somnez companies travel among the larger cities. Most people, however, use public transportation or marshrutkas, private eight- to 10-seat minibuses that link virtually all villages with towns and cities. The private companies, while more expensive than the public ones, are still relatively cheap. Taxis are widely available, but tend to be much more expensive.  
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Many speak of how they learned to value a more family- and community-centered way of life, and of how they grew in patience and understanding. Most are able to pinpoint specific contributions they made to Namibia’s development (i.e., improving the levels of English proficiency of their students, teachers, and community colleagues; seeing students pick up science and math concepts; watching teachers try new ideas in the classroom; helping a community organize an important development project; and fostering a dialogue about HIV/AIDS).  
  
Riding a bicycle is not a common practice in Azerbaijan, and for safety and security reasons, Peace Corps/Azerbaijan does not recommend that you purchase or use one. Volunteers and trainees are prohibited from owning or operating motor vehicles (e.g., automobiles, motorcycles, or three-wheeled cycles) or riding on motorcycles or in motorcycle sidecars as a passenger. Except inside their own community, Volunteers are also prohibited from riding motorized vehicles after dark due to the bad conditions of roads. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.  
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The positive reflections are the endpoint of a series of highs and lows that are part and parcel of the process of leaving the United States, arriving in Namibia, and adapting to the practices and pace of life in a new culture. You are likely to have less guidance and direction than you would get in a new job in the United States. You may have to motivate yourself and your colleagues without receiving any feedback on your work. You will need flexibility, maturity, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness to overcome difficulties. If you are willing to respect and become integrated into your community, to work hard at your assignment, and to be open to all that Namibia has to offer, you will be a successful Volunteer. You, too, will be able to look back positively on the relationships you have built and the small differences you have made by virtue of those relationships.  
  
==Geography and Climate==
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[[Category:Namibia]]
 
 
The easternmost country in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan is bordered by the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the northeast, the Caspian Sea in the east, Russia (Daghestan) and Georgia in the north, Armenia in the west, and Iran in the south.
 
 
 
Azerbaijan’s climate is generally dry and continental, but with great regional variations. Baku, for example, has some 300 days of sunshine but, like Chicago, is famous for the strong winds that periodically blow off the Caspian Sea. Its summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and its wind-chill factors can dramatically lower winter temperatures from their usual 40-degree levels. Inland, winter temperatures are much colder. Snow in the mountains is frequent, and villages can be completely cut off. Spring brings snowmelt and the possibility of flooding. Central Azerbaijan, by comparison, is dry and semidesert-like. The forested south experiences an atypical autumn, with October rains, while the orchards near Quba in the northeast get occasionally heavy rainfall in the spring. March, April, May, October, and November, on the whole, tend to be wonderful times for parents and friends to visit.
 
 
 
==Social Activities==
 
 
 
Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in local festivals, parties, storytelling, family events, and dances. Many of the larger towns have outdoor cafés, small museums, and movie theaters (though the movies tend to be foreign and dubbed). Baku has a wide array of entertainment possibilities, including theater, opera, ballet, art galleries, museums, restaurants, beaches, and sports facilities. Baku’s Ichari Shahar, or Old City, is a medieval district of narrow alleys and winding cobblestone passages, featuring antiques and carpet shops, restaurants, mosques, caravansaries, and mausoleums. Outside of Baku, Quba is especially beautiful in the spring, when its apple orchards are in full bloom. It is also well-known for its carpet weaving. Lahij, to the west of Baku, is an attractive ancient village famous for its copperware, and Sheki, nestled on the edge of the Caucasus range, has both spectacular scenery and numerous ruins. Hikers are rewarded with views of waterfalls, snow-covered mountains, and fields of wildflowers. Horseback riding is also a possibility.
 
 
 
==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 situation to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines that show respect for your professional colleagues and that reflect positively not only on you but also on your fellow Volunteers, your host family, and on the Peace Corps as an assistance organization. Maintaining your personal style while presenting a professional appearance according to Azerbaijani cultural standards may be challenging. Professional dress means clean and conservative clothing, not necessarily dressy suits or coats and ties, though many male teachers wear shirt, ties and occasionally coats to class. Female teachers must wear skirts to class. Dress for organizations varies from professional to business casual. In general, Azerbaijanis dress more formally than Americans do and take great pride in their appearance.  Outside of the house, Azerbaijani men often wear suits, even while farming.  Although it is not uncommon to see fashionable young women in Baku wearing short skirts and tight pants, this mode of dress is not acceptable for Volunteers. Foreign women are already generally seen as less conservative in behavior, so clothing that is too short or revealing will attract unwanted attention. In the towns and villages where Volunteers are posted, conservative Islamic values prevail, so longer skirts and blouses, pants that are not too tight, and sweaters that cover the shoulders are appropriate for female Volunteers.
 
 
 
The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you but also reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. For example, the possession or use of illegal drugs, or even a rumor of the use of drugs, can have such a damaging effect on the Peace Corps program that there is zero tolerance in its regard.
 
 
 
Ninety-three percent of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim and Islam forbids alcohol at all times and in all circumstances.  Although many Azerbaijanis do not observe this ban, some do refrain from drinking, especially during Orujlug (the Muslim fast) and Ashura (the religious mourning period of the Shiites). NOTE:  Azerbaijanis views towards religion and practices like abstaining from alcohol are as varied as they are in the U.S.  For every Azerbaijani male that doesn't drink alcohol for religious reasons, there seems to be at least two or three who do.  Even with that, women are almost never allowed to drink.
 
 
 
Teachers, especially need to be models to their students; this profession commands tremendous respect in Azerbaijan.  Teacher Volunteers should always look neat and tidy and should never be seen drinking (if a female) or drunk (if a male).
 
 
 
You need to be aware that any behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission and reputation in Azerbaijan or your personal safety may lead to administrative separation— a decision on the part of the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook has more information on the grounds for administrative separation.
 
 
 
==Personal Safety==
 
 
 
More detailed 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 uncommon, but not unheard of, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur.
 
 
 
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 Azerbaijan. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
 
 
 
Among the more important set of policies and procedures is your responsibility to obtain the permission of your local supervisor and/or Peace Corps program manager when you wish to leave your site. Volunteers must also provide advance notification of their departure and return to their sites. Distinct from annual leave (which accrues at the rate of two days for every month of service and then take at times approved by your local supervisor, program manager and the country director if you leave Azerbaijan), “out-of-site” leave on weekends or at other times during your service is not a right, but a privilege, and it is administered in accordance to polices established by the country director and approved by the regional director. These can be revoked at the country director’s discretion. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan’s out-of-site policy essentially provides for one out-of-site weekend per month. Although this policy is grounded in your program responsibilities to your community, it is also necessary so that the Peace Corps can reach you at a moment’s notice in the event of family or other emergencies. These policies are taken so seriously that lack of compliance can, and usually will, lead to administrative separation from the Peace Corps.
 
 
 
==Rewards and Frustrations==
 
 
 
The conditions of life for Volunteers affect them differently. Do you need a lot of privacy or very little? Are you oblivious to dirt or fairly sensitive to it? Nearly all Volunteers, at some point, find the conditions under which they live and work to be difficult or challenging. Most experience feelings of discouragement and futility—usually during the first year of service. Things that were clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You may not feel in control of a situation, which can be frightening. When this happens, you may wonder whether you are really up to the job, whether you may have caused the problem, or whether what you are doing is really worthwhile. You may feel unusually fatigued, even though you have been working no harder than usual.  You may find yourself short-tempered and annoyed at yourself and others.
 
 
 
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 have. 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 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, knowing that the frustration of “not getting anything done” usually derives from the realities of the situation rather than from your own inadequacies.
 
 
 
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Azerbaijanis 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. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
 
 
 
[[Category:Azerbaijan]]
 

Revision as of 12:13, 26 December 2010



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |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.
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  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia| |8}}]]
See also:

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

For information see Welcomebooks

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Communications

People in Namibia communicate through a variety of means, including mail (called “post”), fax, e-mail, telephone or cellphone, and radio.

Mail

The postal system is reliable, but service to the more remote communities is often slow. Mail from the United States to Windhoek, the capital, can take up to four weeks. From there, it could take two more weeks for mail to reach your village. Keep in mind that many rural villages and towns do not have direct mail service; in order to receive mail in these locations, Volunteers must purchase post office boxes in their nearest urban area.

During pre-service training, you may use the Peace Corps office address:

“Your name,” PCT
Peace Corps
PO Box 6862
Ausspannplatz,
Windhoek, Namibia

Your mail will be forwarded periodically to your training site. Once you have moved to your permanent site, you will use the school’s address or get a private post office box.

Telephones

Telephones are accessible in most towns and villages, along or near main roads, and in most schools. No international telephone companies (e.g., MCI or AT&T) operate in Namibia, so you will be unable to make collect calls or use calling cards purchased in the United States. Calling cards are available in Namibia for use in-country and internationally. International service from the larger towns is good, but calls must be made from a telecommunications office or a private phone. Cellphone usage and coverage is increasing throughout Namibia. Most Volunteers purchase their own cellphone during training or bring their own from home. Text messaging (or "sms") is quickly becoming a preferred means of communication amongst Volunteers. The two major cellular companies are MTC and Cell One. MTC is the largest cellular company in Namibia and the preferred provider of most Namibians and Volunteers. Volunteers are advised not to sign up for international plans with their U.S. cell providers, as these plans often do not work in Namibia.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Access to e-mail is available in Internet cafes in Windhoek and other larger towns. Some teacher resource centers provide public access to e-mail but not the Internet, and junior and senior secondary schools throughout the country are increasingly setting up internet access in their computer labs. Internet access is also available through the cell phone companies with a GPRS capable GSM phone, as well as High Speed 3G service in larger towns. The major cell phone companies sell 3G devices which connect via USB to a computer and allow the user to access the internet wherever there is cell service (including in rural areas). Check out the MTC Websitefor more information.

Housing and Site Location

Housing varies considerably. Your site might be a Western-style cement block house, usually with electricity and running water; an apartment attached to a student boarding facility (hostel); a traditional hut on a family compound; or a room with a local family. As the government has invited assistance from a variety of sources, you may also be asked to share a two- or three-bedroom house with one or two colleagues (either Namibian or Volunteers from other countries). Our expectation is that you will have a private bedroom, but remember that there is a shortage of housing for government staff in most areas in Namibia. The ministry or agency to which you are assigned is responsible for providing housing, as well as paying your monthly utilities and providing you with the basic furnishings (e.g., bed, chairs, table, stove or hot plate, and refrigerator). With the exception of extremely rural sites in the northern part of the country and the Caprivi, most Volunteers have electricity at home; in these areas, it is the norm for Volunteers (as well as their host country colleagues) to make use of electricity at the school or office to charge electronic devices (i.e. cellphones).

Living Allowance and Money Management

The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a monthly living allowance for basic expenses, a leave allowance of $24 a month, and a quarterly travel allowance for in-country travel. All allowances are paid in local currency. The amounts are intended to allow a modest lifestyle, and most Volunteers find the allowances to be adequate. The last increase in the Volunteer living allowance in Namibia was in 2009, and annual surveys are conducted to assess the need for an increase in living allowance.

Volunteers open accounts at the First National Bank of Namibia during pre-service training and are issued an ATM card. The Peace Corps deposits all allowances and reimbursements at the Windhoek branch, which Volunteers can then withdraw from the bank nearest to their site or through the use of their ATM card. For some, this involves a five-minute walk. For most, it requires planning ahead for a ride to town on a free day. Volunteers often travel to town with fellow teachers on payday.

Food and Diet

Basic foods such as flour, rice, pasta, and root vegetables can be bought in most communities, and a wide variety of products are available in the larger town centers. Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly seasonal in rural areas and may have to be transported from quite a distance. Canned goods are widely available throughout Namibia.

Although committed vegetarians and vegans have successfully maintained their diet and health in Namibia, obtaining the recommended daily allowances of vital food groups and micronutrients can be quite challenging. The Peace Corps medical office provides multivitamins, calcium, iron tablets, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12. Some Volunteers in Namibia grow their own gardens in order to have fresh vegetables when they want them. Maintenance of a healthy and balanced diet will be discussed extensively during pre-service training.

Transportation

Traveling by road is inherently dangerous in Namibia. People generally drive too fast and the level of driving skill and courtesy is often lower than you would encounter in the United States. The miles of unpaved roads and the poor state of many vehicles on the road, including those serving as informal taxis, present serious challenges to Volunteers trying to get around. Given the lack of public transport in many areas, Volunteers are often forced to utilize informal taxis or other forms of hitching a ride. The Peace Corps policies on transportation in Namibia urge Volunteers to limit their travel only to essential trips and to stay at site as much as possible. If a Volunteer has to travel by road, care must be taken to choose the safest route and means of transportation. Given the paucity of transportation options available to Volunteers, this requires prior planning and flexibility on the part of the Volunteer. It will often be necessary to extend a trip or to put it off because the transportation options available are not safe. The ultimate responsibility for choosing the safest means of travel falls on the Volunteer.

Taxis are available in some more populated areas. Bus service is beginning to expand throughout the country, which should provide alternatives to hiking in certain areas.

Geography and Climate

Namibia borders the South Atlantic Ocean, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. It lies between latitudes 18 degrees to 28 degrees south and longitudes 12 degrees to 24 degrees east. It covers some 317,5000 square miles and has a population of about 1.8 million.

Namibia’s generally hot and dry climate ranges from true desert to subtropical. As in other parts of southern Africa, temperatures are closely related to wind systems, ocean currents, and altitude. Except for the highest mountain areas, the lowest temperatures occur in the Namib Desert region and are affected greatly by the cold Benguela current from the South Atlantic. Daytime summer temperatures in the desert frequently exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime winter temperatures can drop below 32 degrees. Volunteers who accept an assignment to Namibia must be willing and medically able to live and work in this extreme climate.

In the mountainous Windhoek region, average temperatures for the warmest month, December, range from 63 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. In July, average temperatures range from 43 to 69 degrees. Annual rainfall averages 22 inches in the north, six inches in the south, and about two inches in the coastal region. Rain falls mostly during the summer (October through March), and the winter (July through September) is very dry. The most pleasant months are April, May, and June.

Windhoek is the seat of the national government and the business and cultural center. Keetmanshoop is the center of the karakul (sheepskin) industry, Tsumeb is the headquarters of copper-mining operations, and Otjiwarongo is the center of the cattle farming area. Swakopmund is a coastal tourist center, Oranjemund is a diamond-mining town, and Arandis is the home of the Rossing uranium mine. Walvis Bay is an important port and fishing center west of Windhoek.

Social Activities

Social activities vary depending on where your site is located. In more rural communities, social activities include visiting neighbors’ fields and cattle posts and, for men, drinking at local bars. Cultural festivals, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and socialize with community members and their extended families. Groups of teachers sometimes go to town to shop and relax on paydays before heading off to visit their families. Namibia’s rich geography provides many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, including national parks and conservation areas. Volunteers sometimes visit each other or meet in larger towns for shopping, socializing, or going to a movie. Although the Peace Corps recognizes that periodic visits to towns are important for networking and moral support, Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites as much as possible.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Namibians attach great importance to neatness and proper dress, particularly in professional situations. Volunteers are expected to dress appropriately both on and off the job and to show respect for Namibian attitudes concerning personal appearance. For work, male Volunteers usually wear slacks or khakis and a nice shirt, often with a tie. Female Volunteers usually wear a long dress, a long skirt with a nice top, or pants with a nice shirt. While floor-length skirts and dresses are not required, women generally do not wear skirts shorter than knee length.

Excessive drinking is widespread in Namibia. Volunteers come under social pressure from colleagues or other Volunteers to drink, often to excess. Because of the Volunteers’ unique status in the community and as a representative of the American people, they are “on duty” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As such, Volunteers are expected to comport themselves in a professional and culturally sensitive manner at all times. Peace Corps/Namibia has strict regulations concerning the excessive consumption of alcohol and these rules are enforced.

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 most Namibia 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 Namibia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

Invariably, former Namibia Volunteers speak of the relationships they established as the highlight of their service.

Many speak of how they learned to value a more family- and community-centered way of life, and of how they grew in patience and understanding. Most are able to pinpoint specific contributions they made to Namibia’s development (i.e., improving the levels of English proficiency of their students, teachers, and community colleagues; seeing students pick up science and math concepts; watching teachers try new ideas in the classroom; helping a community organize an important development project; and fostering a dialogue about HIV/AIDS).

The positive reflections are the endpoint of a series of highs and lows that are part and parcel of the process of leaving the United States, arriving in Namibia, and adapting to the practices and pace of life in a new culture. You are likely to have less guidance and direction than you would get in a new job in the United States. You may have to motivate yourself and your colleagues without receiving any feedback on your work. You will need flexibility, maturity, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness to overcome difficulties. If you are willing to respect and become integrated into your community, to work hard at your assignment, and to be open to all that Namibia has to offer, you will be a successful Volunteer. You, too, will be able to look back positively on the relationships you have built and the small differences you have made by virtue of those relationships.