Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Namibia" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa"

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===Communications ===
 
===Communications ===
  
People in Namibia communicate through a variety of means, including mail (called “post”), fax, e-mail, telephone or cellphone, and radio.  
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===Mail ===
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you come here expecting U.S. standards, you will be in for a lot of frustration.  Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive, often longer. Some mail may simply not arrive (this is rare, but it does happen). Although we do not want to sound too discouraging, communication can become a very sensitive issue when one is thousands of miles from family and friends.  We think it is best to forewarn you about mail service in this part of the world. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Airmail” on the envelopes.
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Packages sent via airmail can take from six to nine weeks; those sent by surface mail take around six months. If someone is sending you a package, a suggestion is to keep it small and use a padded envelope so it will be treated like a letter.  
  
===Mail ===
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Despite the potential delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly and to number your letters.  Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Volunteers in South Africa do not receive duty-free privileges, so be aware that you may be charged duty on items you mail to yourself before you arrive. Volunteers normally receive mail at the Peace Corps office during training, but obtain a local post office box once assigned to their sites.
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Packages received at the Peace Corps/South Africa office will be delivered to you only when staff is traveling in your area.  Letters will be forwarded to you once a month.
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Your address during training will be:
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“Your Name,” PCT
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Peace Corps
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PO Box 9536
  
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.
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Hatfield 0028
  
During pre-service training, you may use the Peace Corps office address:
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Pretoria, South Africa
  
“Your name,” PCT <br>
 
Peace Corps <br>
 
PO Box 6862 <br>
 
Ausspannplatz, <br>
 
Windhoek, Namibia <br>
 
  
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 ===
  
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.
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Do not expect to have e-mail or telephone access during training. Telephones are readily available in South Africa, but you may not have one at your training site. International phone service to South Africa is good, though expensive. AT&T, MCI, and other U.S. companies provide direct long-distance service to the United States. Using a calling card is cheaper than calling collect.
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Cellphones are widely available in South Africa. You will find that most people have cellphones, even in the remotest parts of the country. A cellphone purchased in the United States may not work here, and many Volunteers choose to purchase their own cellphones here.
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The Peace Corps office in South Africa can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. The number is 011.27.12.344.4255. The fax number is 011.27.12.343.7774.  Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the 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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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
 
===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 [http://www.mtc.com.na MTC Website]for more information.
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Computers are available in South Africa, but most Volunteers in rural areas will find few, if any computers. Your site may not have electricity, so the ability to use a personal computer is not guaranteed. More and more Volunteers find that their school or organization has a computer, but knowledge of how to use the computer is limited. The Peace Corps office in Pretoria has computers available in the Volunteer resource center for Volunteer use. (Peace Corps staff computers are not available for Volunteer use.) Volunteers normally use these computers for committee work and to complete service documents. We encourage Volunteers to use computers that may be available at district/circuit offices and sponsoring agencies for any grant or proposal writing to ensure that counterparts participate in the proposal-writing process. In most large cities and towns, Volunteers are able to access e-mail at Internet cafes. Volunteers’ monthly living allowance includes money to cover use of Internet cafes.  
  
 
===Housing and Site Location ===
 
===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).
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All Volunteers live with a host family at a site located anywhere from one hour to nine hours from Pretoria, the capital. Proximity to another Volunteer varies from site to site.  
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Your host agency will provide safe and adequate housing—in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria—that is likely to consist of a private room inside a family’s house or a room in an outside building within a family compound. Housing varies from mud houses with either thatch or tin roofs to brick homes with tin roofs. You need to be very flexible in your housing expectations because there is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity. If you do not, you will collect your water from a well or borehole and spend your evenings reading by candlelight or lantern.  
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The sponsoring agency or host family will provide you with basic items (i.e., a bed, mattress, desk/table, straight chair, and cupboard for hanging clothing or storage). Each Volunteer will receive an allowance in local currency to purchase needed settling-in items, as well as a water filter provided by the Peace Corps.  
  
 
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
 
===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.
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As a Volunteer, you will receive a modest living allowance, paid in rand, that will allow you to live on a par with your colleagues and co-workers. The amount of this allowance is based on regular surveys of Volunteers and the cost of living in South Africa. The living allowance is paid quarterly into Volunteer bank accounts, so the ability to manage funds wisely is important. The allowance is intended to cover the cost of food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 per month (standard in all Peace Corps countries) for the upcoming three months, paid in local currency, along with your living allowance each quarter.  
  
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.  
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Most credit cards and ATM cards are widely accepted in South Africa. Current Volunteers suggest that you bring cash and credit cards for vacation travel. The amount of cash depends on the amount of traveling you plan to do while serving in South Africa.  
  
 
===Food and Diet ===
 
===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.
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The staple food in communities where Volunteers live and work is maize (corn), prepared as a thick porridge called pap and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are available in South Africa, and with a little creativity, you can enjoy a varied diet even in rural areas.  Volunteers either prepare their own food or share meals with their host family. You can determine what the best arrangement is for you once you have been assigned a site. Fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means some things will not be in the market year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products are also available. Though most South Africans are meat-eaters, vegetarians are able to eat well here after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. Most South Africans do not understand vegetarianism and will not normally be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home. However, a sensitive explanation of your preferences will be accepted.  Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty after an initial adjustment period.  
 
 
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 ===
 
===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.  
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Volunteers’ primary modes of transportation in South Africa are public buses and combies (minivans) loaded with people and goods. Combies travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel on this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in some rural areas.  
  
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.  
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Many Volunteers receive an all-terrain bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate their work. It is Peace Corps’ policy that helmets be worn when riding. Note that these bikes are men’s bikes, which can be difficult for women to ride when wearing a skirt. Many female Volunteers wear shorts under their skirt to solve this problem.  
  
===Geography and Climate ===
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Volunteers are not allowed to drive, own, or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles (two- or three-wheeled).  Violation of this policy can result in your being terminated from Volunteer service.
  
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.
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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.
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===Geography and 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.  
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Most world maps give a poor idea of how large South Africa actually is. At 472,276 square miles, it is five times the size of the United Kingdom and one-eighth the size of the United States. Kruger National Park alone is as big as Wales, and the distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town is the same as that from London to Rome. The country’s 1,835 miles of coastline border the Atlantic and Indian oceans, which meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.  
  
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.  
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South Africa is south of the equator, so its seasons will be the opposite of what you are accustomed to. January is midsummer and July is midwinter. Johannesburg, Pretoria, and the rest of the eastern Highveld have a dry, sunny climate, with maximum winter temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and crisp nights, with temperatures dropping to around 40 degrees. Between October and April, the daytime temperature can rise into the 80s, with frequent late-afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures can get hotter in the Great Karroo, the semidesert heart of the three Cape provinces; in the Kalahari region; and in the Lowveld of the Eastern and Northern Transvaal. The terrain ranges in altitude from sea level to South Africa’s highest peak, Injasuti (11,178 feet), in the Drakensberg, near the border with Lesotho, and contains ecosystems from tropical forest to desert dunes. Almost every known crop can be grown somewhere in the country.  
  
 
===Social Activities ===
 
===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.  
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Your social life will vary depending on where you are located, but is likely to include taking part in various community festivities and celebrations. The most common form of entertainment is socializing with friends and neighbors. There are three television stations, which broadcast both South African and American productions, and several radio stations that play popular music. In communities with electricity, watching TV is a major pastime.
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Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers on weekends and during holidays. However, we encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites in order to develop relationships in their community and promote the second goal of the Peace Corps, cultural exchange. Most regional towns have movies, Internet cafes, and restaurants that Volunteers can take advantage of when in town for shopping or other business.  
  
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
 
===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.  
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South Africans place an importance on professional dress in the workplace. Dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in the major cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In South Africa, your clothes are seen as a sign of your respect for those around you. South Africans do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing them will reduce the amount of respect given to you and therefore your effectiveness. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses, skirts, or slacks with blouses or shirts. South Africans generally do not hesitate to voice their opinions when they consider someone’s dress to be embarrassing or inappropriate.  
  
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.
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The Peace Corps is still a young organization in South Africa, and as a Volunteer you will be expected to behave in a way that fosters respect within your community and reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well the agency is received. You will have the status of an invited guest, and thus you will have to be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. If you have reservations about your ability or willingness to do so, you should reevaluate your decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Volunteering to work effectively in another culture requires a level of sacrifice and flexibility that can be difficult for some people. Behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps program or your personal safety in South Africa cannot be tolerated and may lead to administrative separation—a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.  
  
 
===Personal Safety ===
 
===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.  
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter of this Welcome Book and in Peace Corps/South Africa’s Volunteer Safety Manual, 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 South Africa 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 South Africa. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS.  Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.  
  
 
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
 
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
  
Invariably, former Namibia Volunteers speak of the relationships they established as the highlight of their service.  
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Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Perceptions of time that are very different from those in the United States, financial or other challenges of collaborating agencies, lack of expected support in a timely manner, and being perceived as very rich can be challenging. Peace Corps Volunteers often describe their experience of adapting to a new culture and environment as an intense series of emotional peaks and valleys. You will be given a great deal of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you ever have. Often you will need to motivate yourself and others with little to no guidance. You might work for months with little visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
  
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).  
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To deal with these difficulties you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, compassion, and resourcefulness. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave South Africa feeling that they gained more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community, work hard, and revel in small accomplishments, you will have a truly life-altering experience. it will be hard.
  
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.
 
  
[[Category:Namibia]]
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[[Category:South Africa]]

Revision as of 10:56, 24 February 2010



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |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 South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |8}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |8}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |8}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |8}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |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 South Africa| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in South Africa| |8}}]]


Communications

Mail

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you come here expecting U.S. standards, you will be in for a lot of frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive, often longer. Some mail may simply not arrive (this is rare, but it does happen). Although we do not want to sound too discouraging, communication can become a very sensitive issue when one is thousands of miles from family and friends. We think it is best to forewarn you about mail service in this part of the world. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Airmail” on the envelopes.

Packages sent via airmail can take from six to nine weeks; those sent by surface mail take around six months. If someone is sending you a package, a suggestion is to keep it small and use a padded envelope so it will be treated like a letter.

Despite the potential delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Volunteers in South Africa do not receive duty-free privileges, so be aware that you may be charged duty on items you mail to yourself before you arrive. Volunteers normally receive mail at the Peace Corps office during training, but obtain a local post office box once assigned to their sites.




Packages received at the Peace Corps/South Africa office will be delivered to you only when staff is traveling in your area. Letters will be forwarded to you once a month.

Your address during training will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Peace Corps

PO Box 9536

Hatfield 0028

Pretoria, South Africa


Telephones

Do not expect to have e-mail or telephone access during training. Telephones are readily available in South Africa, but you may not have one at your training site. International phone service to South Africa is good, though expensive. AT&T, MCI, and other U.S. companies provide direct long-distance service to the United States. Using a calling card is cheaper than calling collect.

Cellphones are widely available in South Africa. You will find that most people have cellphones, even in the remotest parts of the country. A cellphone purchased in the United States may not work here, and many Volunteers choose to purchase their own cellphones here.

The Peace Corps office in South Africa can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. The number is 011.27.12.344.4255. The fax number is 011.27.12.343.7774. Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the office to call family and friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.


Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Computers are available in South Africa, but most Volunteers in rural areas will find few, if any computers. Your site may not have electricity, so the ability to use a personal computer is not guaranteed. More and more Volunteers find that their school or organization has a computer, but knowledge of how to use the computer is limited. The Peace Corps office in Pretoria has computers available in the Volunteer resource center for Volunteer use. (Peace Corps staff computers are not available for Volunteer use.) Volunteers normally use these computers for committee work and to complete service documents. We encourage Volunteers to use computers that may be available at district/circuit offices and sponsoring agencies for any grant or proposal writing to ensure that counterparts participate in the proposal-writing process. In most large cities and towns, Volunteers are able to access e-mail at Internet cafes. Volunteers’ monthly living allowance includes money to cover use of Internet cafes.

Housing and Site Location

All Volunteers live with a host family at a site located anywhere from one hour to nine hours from Pretoria, the capital. Proximity to another Volunteer varies from site to site.

Your host agency will provide safe and adequate housing—in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria—that is likely to consist of a private room inside a family’s house or a room in an outside building within a family compound. Housing varies from mud houses with either thatch or tin roofs to brick homes with tin roofs. You need to be very flexible in your housing expectations because there is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity. If you do not, you will collect your water from a well or borehole and spend your evenings reading by candlelight or lantern.


The sponsoring agency or host family will provide you with basic items (i.e., a bed, mattress, desk/table, straight chair, and cupboard for hanging clothing or storage). Each Volunteer will receive an allowance in local currency to purchase needed settling-in items, as well as a water filter provided by the Peace Corps.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer, you will receive a modest living allowance, paid in rand, that will allow you to live on a par with your colleagues and co-workers. The amount of this allowance is based on regular surveys of Volunteers and the cost of living in South Africa. The living allowance is paid quarterly into Volunteer bank accounts, so the ability to manage funds wisely is important. The allowance is intended to cover the cost of food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 per month (standard in all Peace Corps countries) for the upcoming three months, paid in local currency, along with your living allowance each quarter.

Most credit cards and ATM cards are widely accepted in South Africa. Current Volunteers suggest that you bring cash and credit cards for vacation travel. The amount of cash depends on the amount of traveling you plan to do while serving in South Africa.

Food and Diet

The staple food in communities where Volunteers live and work is maize (corn), prepared as a thick porridge called pap and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are available in South Africa, and with a little creativity, you can enjoy a varied diet even in rural areas. Volunteers either prepare their own food or share meals with their host family. You can determine what the best arrangement is for you once you have been assigned a site. Fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means some things will not be in the market year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products are also available. Though most South Africans are meat-eaters, vegetarians are able to eat well here after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. Most South Africans do not understand vegetarianism and will not normally be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home. However, a sensitive explanation of your preferences will be accepted. Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty after an initial adjustment period.

Transportation

Volunteers’ primary modes of transportation in South Africa are public buses and combies (minivans) loaded with people and goods. Combies travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel on this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in some rural areas.

Many Volunteers receive an all-terrain bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate their work. It is Peace Corps’ policy that helmets be worn when riding. Note that these bikes are men’s bikes, which can be difficult for women to ride when wearing a skirt. Many female Volunteers wear shorts under their skirt to solve this problem.

Volunteers are not allowed to drive, own, or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles (two- or three-wheeled). Violation of this policy can result in your being terminated from Volunteer service.


Geography and Climate

Most world maps give a poor idea of how large South Africa actually is. At 472,276 square miles, it is five times the size of the United Kingdom and one-eighth the size of the United States. Kruger National Park alone is as big as Wales, and the distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town is the same as that from London to Rome. The country’s 1,835 miles of coastline border the Atlantic and Indian oceans, which meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.

South Africa is south of the equator, so its seasons will be the opposite of what you are accustomed to. January is midsummer and July is midwinter. Johannesburg, Pretoria, and the rest of the eastern Highveld have a dry, sunny climate, with maximum winter temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and crisp nights, with temperatures dropping to around 40 degrees. Between October and April, the daytime temperature can rise into the 80s, with frequent late-afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures can get hotter in the Great Karroo, the semidesert heart of the three Cape provinces; in the Kalahari region; and in the Lowveld of the Eastern and Northern Transvaal. The terrain ranges in altitude from sea level to South Africa’s highest peak, Injasuti (11,178 feet), in the Drakensberg, near the border with Lesotho, and contains ecosystems from tropical forest to desert dunes. Almost every known crop can be grown somewhere in the country.

Social Activities

Your social life will vary depending on where you are located, but is likely to include taking part in various community festivities and celebrations. The most common form of entertainment is socializing with friends and neighbors. There are three television stations, which broadcast both South African and American productions, and several radio stations that play popular music. In communities with electricity, watching TV is a major pastime.

Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers on weekends and during holidays. However, we encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites in order to develop relationships in their community and promote the second goal of the Peace Corps, cultural exchange. Most regional towns have movies, Internet cafes, and restaurants that Volunteers can take advantage of when in town for shopping or other business.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

South Africans place an importance on professional dress in the workplace. Dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in the major cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In South Africa, your clothes are seen as a sign of your respect for those around you. South Africans do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing them will reduce the amount of respect given to you and therefore your effectiveness. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses, skirts, or slacks with blouses or shirts. South Africans generally do not hesitate to voice their opinions when they consider someone’s dress to be embarrassing or inappropriate.

The Peace Corps is still a young organization in South Africa, and as a Volunteer you will be expected to behave in a way that fosters respect within your community and reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well the agency is received. You will have the status of an invited guest, and thus you will have to be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. If you have reservations about your ability or willingness to do so, you should reevaluate your decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Volunteering to work effectively in another culture requires a level of sacrifice and flexibility that can be difficult for some people. Behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps program or your personal safety in South Africa cannot be tolerated and may lead to administrative separation—a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.

Personal Safety

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter of this Welcome Book and in Peace Corps/South Africa’s Volunteer Safety Manual, 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 South Africa 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 South Africa. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.


The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.

Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Perceptions of time that are very different from those in the United States, financial or other challenges of collaborating agencies, lack of expected support in a timely manner, and being perceived as very rich can be challenging. Peace Corps Volunteers often describe their experience of adapting to a new culture and environment as an intense series of emotional peaks and valleys. You will be given a great deal of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you ever have. Often you will need to motivate yourself and others with little to no guidance. You might work for months with little visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

To deal with these difficulties you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, compassion, and resourcefulness. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave South Africa feeling that they gained more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community, work hard, and revel in small accomplishments, you will have a truly life-altering experience. it will be hard.