Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Romania" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname"

From Peace Corps Wiki
(Difference between pages)
Jump to: navigation, search
m (1 revision imported)
 
(Mail)
 
Line 6: Line 6:
 
===Mail ===
 
===Mail ===
  
Mail service in Romania is quite reliable. Mail from the United States takes a minimum of one to two weeks to arrive. Advise your family and friends to write “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.  
+
Mail typically takes three weeks to a month to travel between the United States and Suriname by air. A package sent by surface mail can take up to six months to arrive.  
  
Your mailing address during pre-service training (for letters only) will be:
+
Mail for Peace Corps/Suriname is received at a post office box in Paramaribo. During pre-service training, your mail will be picked up and delivered by staff to your training site once a week. Once training is completed, mail is picked up by Peace Corps staff at the central post office and distributed to Volunteers’ mailboxes in the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo. Volunteers are encouraged to establish networks in their communities to facilitate receiving mail directly at their sites. This may involve making arrangements with a teacher, counterpart, colleague, missionary, medical worker, or villager who travels to the capital regularly and agrees to pick up your mail for you. The alternative is to retrieve your mail from the Peace Corps office yourself.
  
“Your Name” <BR>
+
Your mailing address will be:
Peace Corps/Romania <BR>
 
Str. Negustori, Nr. 16 <BR>
 
Sector 2, Bucharest <BR>
 
023954 Romania
 
  
Do not have packages sent to you during the 10-week training period. All packages go to a central post office in Bucharest, and you must pick them up personally to prove who you are and pay the customs fees. This will be virtually impossible for you to do during training and the Peace Corps cannot do it for you, so you could lose anything that is sent. The Peace Corps will forward letters sent to the Peace Corps office in Bucharest to the training site on a regular basis. Once you have been sworn-in as a Volunteer, you will have your own mailing address at your new site. Express mail from the United States is becoming more common, and DHL, UPS, and World Express all offer services in Romania.
+
Peace Corps/Suriname
  
===Alternatives to Mail ===
+
“Your Name”  itant is so very inmport
  
Since the U.S. Postal Service ceased the surface shipping service worldwide in May 2007, sending goods overseas can seem prohibitively expensive. However, viable, economical options do exist to Romania. 
+
P.O. Box 9500
  
Romanian-born Americans have a very strong tradition of sending parcels back to family and friends in Romania. Because of the high volumes involved, a number of independent small shipping companies have cropped up in areas of the United States with concentrations of Romanian immigrants. Particularly strong in Chicago and Detroit, such agents also exist in other places.
+
Paramaribo-Zuid, Suriname
  
The cost is in the range of $0.80 to $1.20 per pound. An additional advantage is that because the duties are paid in advance by the sender there is no need for the recipients to go to the vama (customs office) to claim the packages. They are therefore delivered directly to the home/work site in Romania without further cost.
+
South America
  
The most recent list of known shippers is contained in the [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PeaceCorpsRomania/files/ Files Section] of the "peacecorpsromania" Yahoo Group.
+
 
 +
 
 +
Mail can be sent from the central post office (Surpost) in Paramaribo, satellite post offices in districts, or a few stores in the capital. Packages to the United States can only be mailed from one post office located two kilometers from the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo.
 +
 
 +
Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funds, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site so that you have time to integrate into the community and help members identify possible projects. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your program manager and the country director.
 +
 
 +
The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the Country Director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580, extension 2170, e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov, or visit www.peacecorps.gov/ index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.volproj.
  
 
===Telephones ===
 
===Telephones ===
  
Telephone service in Romania is not as reliable as what you are accustomed to in the United States, although it is improving in most places, especially as mobile phone services increase. Sprint, MCI, and AT&T provide international long-distance services in Romania, and you can access such services from public phones or post office phones. Regular long-distance calls from private phones are possible but expensive. Many Volunteers purchase their own mobile phones as the best option for making calls. Prepaid cards that offer a variety of discounts for both telephone and Internet access are available locally.
+
Public telephones are available in the capital city and surrounding suburbs. To make a call from a land-line phone, you will need to purchase a telephone card. Telephone cards are readily available in small corner stores, at gas stations, and at any of the Telesur offices in Paramaribo. It is possible to place international calls using these cards.  
  
Cell phones purchased in the US '''may''' work in Romania, provided they are unlocked to accept out-of-network SIMM cards and are tri-/quad-band phones
+
Some villages in the interior of the country have telephone service, usually one phone at a local store that serves the entire village. Other villages have only high-frequency radios for communication. Because the possibilities of making calls from the interior are so limited, most Volunteers call home when they are in the capital.  
compatible with Romanian frequencies. Many volunteers with internet access find [[Media:http://www.skype.com]] (also available in netcafes) to be a superior option.
 
  
 
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
 
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
Many Volunteers find having their own laptop computer very useful. Access to the Internet is available at some organizations, though some will have older, slower systems.  
+
Three computers are available for Volunteers’ project-related work at the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo. Volunteers have initiated a sign-up system to ensure that those who wish to use the computers have equal access.  
  
If you decide to bring a laptop, we advise you to insure it against breakage and theft. The Peace Corps will not reimburse any expenses for repairs or lost or stolen equipment; nor does it provide technical support to Volunteers. If you choose to obtain Internet service where you live, you will have to pay for it out of your living allowance. Refurbished desktop computers with warranties can be bought in some Romanian cities for $200 to $300. There are also cybercafes at which you can access the Internet (at varying connection speeds).
+
Internet connections in Suriname are not as fast as what you may be used to in the United States. Connections are typically slower in the afternoon, when people leave work or school and head for one of the many Internet cafés in Paramaribo. Prices are reasonable ($1.50 to $2 per half-hour). Funds for Internet fees are included in your living allowance. Most Volunteers do not have Internet or e-mail access in their communities. Some Volunteers bring a laptop (or have it sent to them), however, it is not encouraged since not all sites in the interior have reliable electricity.  
  
 
===Housing and Site Location ===
 
===Housing and Site Location ===
  
You will live with a Romanian family in your assigned site for one to two months after being sworn-in as a Volunteer. Living with a family will give you an anchor in your new community.  
+
Trainees are placed with a host family for most of pre-service training. After swearing-in as Volunteers, they typically live in their own homes within their communities. Volunteers are located at sites in the interior, in districts or in the capital.  
  
The connection to a family will help ensure your safety and security as well as integrate you into the community.  
+
The sites in the interior are along the Suriname and Marowijne rivers or in the savanna region. Interior villages often do not have running water or electricity, or have those services for a limited number of hours each day. Houses are rustic, consisting of a thatch or tin roof and wood-plank walls.  
  
Through this experience, you will improve your language skills and gain a better understanding of Romanian culture and the norms of your local community. After your initial months at site with a Romanian family, you and your host organization will locate appropriate permanent housing for you.  
+
Because villages are asked to furnish housing for Volunteers, the size, condition, and style of housing can vary widely. A few sites are located in the southern part of the country. The houses in the far south generally have zinc roofs, running water, and electricity.  
  
Your host organization will identify housing for you that meets Peace Corps standards for safety, privacy, a healthy environment, and proximity to shopping and work. The Peace Corps asks host organizations to provide housing, but contributes part of or even the entire rental cost, if necessary. The populations of towns and cities where Volunteers live range from 5,000 to 300,000, and the type and availability of housing varies accordingly. Volunteers serve throughout Romania except in Bucharest, and there are regional differences in housing as well. The most common accommodation is a small, one-room apartment in a large building.  
+
Some Volunteers are placed in District sites best characterized as small towns; or they may work in the capital city, Paramaribo. Volunteers living in these areas generally have access to running water and electricity day and night and other conveniences.  
  
In rural communities, there are often only single-floor houses and privacy can become a difficult matter. If assigned to a rural community, you may need to live with a host family for the entire two years of your service.
+
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
In the winter, you may lack central heating, hot water, and perhaps cooking gas, which are controlled by the governmentElectricity is usually reliable. The availability of hot water depends upon the town in which you live. Many towns have hot water every other day for two to three hours. The Peace Corps supplies electric space heaters to Volunteers who need them.  
+
Volunteers receive a living allowance in the local currency (Suriname Dollars—SRD), which is deposited into a bank account in Paramaribo once every three months. Volunteers based outside of Paramaribo receive a transportation allowance, which pays for one trip to the capital per quarterThis allowance is also deposited into the bank account and is intended to cover one trip per quarter for Volunteers to come to the capital to take care of banking and other needs. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of additional trips. Volunteers who need to pay rent also receive a housing allowance.  
  
If you choose to move into your own housing, Peace Corps must ensure that it meets our housing criteria. This includes safety, private space, healthy environment, proximity to shopping and work, basic furniture with cooking space, and a private bathroom.  
+
It is important to manage your money so that it lasts for the entire three months. Setting up a system of budgeting will be important. The living allowance is determined by annual market surveys to ensure the amount is sufficient to meet basic expenses. In the interior, there is little to spend money on other than food and beverages. However, things tend to be more expensive in the interior, so most Volunteers buy a supply of food to take to their sites when they are visiting the capital. Transportation between interior sites can be expensive. All Volunteers receive three additional allowances: a monthly vacation allowance; a one-time settling-in allowance to cover the initial expenses of furnishing a house or room and purchasing basic supplies; and a readjustment allowance of $225 set aside by the U.S. government for each month of service. Available to Volunteers upon completion of service, this allowance permits returning Volunteers to resettle in the United States without undue burden.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
+
Volunteers are expected to live within the means of the living allowance. Peace Corps discourages use of outside funds brought or sent from home as it prevents you from living at the same level as the people in your community. You may, however, want to bring a small amount of money for travel in Suriname and surrounding countries during your vacation time. Very few places in Suriname accept credit cards, and those that do only accept American Express, MasterCard or Visa; likewise, a few ATMs accept major credit cards. Bank fees between 1 percent and 5 percent are not uncommon when using a credit card in Suriname.
  
You will receive a monthly living allowance in Romanian lei, which the Peace Corps will transfer by wire directly into your bank account. The exchange rate in February 2008 was approximately 2.51 RON (Romanian New Lei) to the dollar. The living allowance is intended to cover the costs of food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, local transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. The Peace Corps discourages you from supplementing your living allowance with additional money from home. You are expected to live in an unpretentious manner in order to fit in with your community.
+
===Food and Diet ===
 
 
Credit cards can be used on a limited basis in Bucharest and other large cities—usually only at expensive restaurants, shops, and hotels (do not let them out of your sight, accompany the clerk/waiter to the machine to scan the card). Bank ATMs are quite common throughout Romania and most of them support withdrawals from stateside bank accounts, but checkwith the issuing bank before going. Personal checks cannot be cashed in Romania, so it is advisable to bring some pristine American currency (worn or old notes or those with marks of any kind may not be accepted) in $10 and $20 denominations for vacation travel. Exchange bureaus in Romania will not change $1 bills and may not change $5 bills.  Traveler’s checks are another option for vacation travel, yet are not commonly accepted in Eastern Europe.
 
  
===Food and Diet ===
+
Because of the diversity of cultures represented in Suriname, there is a variety of food options. In rural villages, rice is a staple of the diet. Meals usually consist of a large quantity of rice served with a small piece of meat and a small serving of vegetables. Most people in the interior also grow their own cassavas and other vegetables to sell at markets. Volunteers are encouraged to plant their own gardens for a steady supply of fresh vegetables.
  
The variety of food in Romania is steadily increasing, especially in larger towns. In the summer, fresh vegetables and fruits of very good quality are widely available. In the winter, apples, oranges, and bananas are likely to be available, but there are fewer fresh vegetables. Meat and bread are the predominant foods in the Romanian diet and are usually eaten at every meal. As the Romanian economy moves toward a free market, the availability of imported foods is increasing dramatically, although the imports are more expensive than locally produced items. American and local fast-food restaurants also exist in many parts of the country.  
+
Vegetarians can maintain a healthy diet in Suriname. Adequate levels of protein are available locally in texturized vegetable protein products, and in a variety of beans, lentils, and nuts. Many vegetarians find that the greatest difficulty lies in explaining vegetarianism to members of their community, where meat is highly valued and served at many social gatherings.  
  
Vegetarians may have a difficult time in Romania during the winter months when fewer fresh vegetables are available.  They may need to adjust their diet to stay healthy. In addition, being offered meals heavy on meat will be a challenge when visiting Romanian families.  
+
Learning to prepare local cuisine can be rewarding. Suriname has many of the spices and ingredients needed to prepare the foods you are accustomed to in the United States. Chinese, Indonesian, Creole, Indian, and American food is available at restaurants in the capital.  
  
 
===Transportation ===
 
===Transportation ===
  
Getting around via train, bus, or “maxi-taxi” is usually quite easy and reliable, albeit often slow, and the costs are reasonable. Some Volunteers may have a 12- to 14-hour train ride to travel to the Peace Corps office in Bucharest. Volunteers in Romania are not allowed to own or drive cars or motorcycles, or to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle, for any reason.  
+
Most Surinamese in the city and district use public transportation, usually small buses that accommodate 15 to 26 people. These buses run on regular routes and are regulated by the government. Each route has a name or number and an established fare (generally 1 SRD to 2 SRD). After 9 p.m., fares increase and some routes are not available. Most Volunteers rely on buses. There are also several reputable taxi companies.  
  
International train and air service is readily available. The Peace Corps encourages you to travel within Romania or to other countries in eastern and central Europe on your vacations to enhance your understanding of the country and the region.
+
Roads to the interior are dirt and bauxite and receive little maintenance. During the rainy seasons, mud holes and erosion are common. In the dry seasons, roads become dusty washboards. Travel on rural roads can be rough, to say the least.  
  
Some transportation websites in Romania include the following:
+
Most Volunteers make a portion of the journey to their sites in mini-vans or “DAF trucks.” DAF trucks are essentially semitrailers filled with old airline seats or wooden benches. The ride is rarely comfortable, and the trucks are typically filled to capacity with people and their cargo. Some Volunteers must then transfer to a dugout canoe or a small airplane from the DAF truck to reach their site. The average travel time from the capital to a Volunteer’s site is about six hours. For some, travel time may be twice that.
  
[http://www.cdy.ro/home.php C&I Personal Transportation (Minibus)]
+
Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to operate any motorized vehicles or ride on the back of motorcycles or mopeds.  
  
[http://cfr.ro Mersul Ternurilor (Train Schedule)]
+
Part of the Volunteer settling-in allowance may be used to buy a locally appropriate form of transportation, whether that be a bicycle or a dugout canoe. Volunteers who purchase bicycles are given funds to buy bicycle helmets. Life vests are issued to those using boats for transportation. Helmets must be worn when riding a bicycle; a life vest must be worn whenever traveling on any waterway.  
  
 
===Geography and Climate ===
 
===Geography and Climate ===
  
Romania is the largest central European country after Ukraine. The Danube River forms its southern border, and the U-shaped Transylvanian Alps and Carpathian Mountains extend through much of the central and northern regions. An eroded plateau with hills and valleys occupies the center of the U, while the Moldavian plateau lies to the east. Mountains account for about a third of Romania, with alpine pastures in the higher regions and thick forests below. Another third is covered by lower hills dotted with orchards and vineyards. The final third, mostly in the south and east, is an agricultural plain.  
+
Suriname is in the tropics, and much of the country is covered in rainforest. Sites located in the savanna region are drier, but still experience high humidity. The average temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 80 percent humidity. During the dry seasons, temperatures climb higher and rain may not fall for up to three months. The rainy seasons provide a brief respite from the heat and bring a lot of moisture. Clothing is subject to mildew in the rainy seasons. The country’s red clay soil and mud from the roads will stain clothes.  
 +
 
 +
===Social Activities ===
  
Romania has long winters (lasting from mid-November through March), a delightful spring (April through May), a hot summer (June through August), and a beautiful autumn (September through mid-November). The winter months can be extremely cold and windy, especially in the mountains and the northern part of the country. The summer months can be very hot and humid, especially in the lowland areas. Rainfall is heaviest from April through July, averaging five inches in June.  
+
Establishing relationships with members of your community is vital for almost every aspect of life as a Volunteer. Not only will you feel more connected, but the more community contact you have, the easier it will be to access information and resources to develop projects. Birthdays and local holidays are celebrated with food, dancing, and sometimes fireworks. Work parties provide social interaction, as does involvement in the daily activities of life. Men hunt and fish in small groups and work together on their farms. Women may share daily chores and wash together at the river.  
  
===Social Activities ===
+
In the capital, Volunteers enjoy spending time with their counterparts or fellow Volunteers at restaurants, pubs, or one of the few dance clubs. Nightlife is generally safe in groups.
 +
 
 +
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
  
The cultural and social life of Romania is one of its most enjoyable aspects. You will have opportunities to attend inexpensive concerts, operas, and ballets, some of which are outstanding. The works of Shakespeare are performed alongside those of contemporary foreign authors and classic Romanian writers such as Ion Luca Caragiale. Cinemas in larger towns often show English-language films with Romanian subtitles. Entertainment at your site will depend on the town’s size. Some sites have a cinema and various sporting activities. Soccer, basketball, handball, tennis, and karate are the most popular. Dance clubs and discos also exist in most sizable towns. For winter activities, you can ski in the mountains or ice skate at local rinks. During the summer, visiting the Black Sea coast and hiking in the mountains are favorite forms of recreation. Many social activities center around the family, and you will be invited to many family events at your site.  
+
It is important for Volunteers to maintain a professional image within their communities and in the capital. The behavior of Volunteers reflects not only on the Peace Corps program and other Volunteers in Suriname but also on North Americans in general. Each Volunteer’s interaction with the public has an effect on current and future Volunteers in Suriname and helps to shape perceptions of North Americans. Professional attire is also required when coming to the Peace Corps office.  
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
+
* Attire for men: In the capital at the work place, men dress in casual business attire: short-sleeved collared shirts, trousers, and closed-toe shoes. Male Volunteers are not permitted to wear earrings, nose rings, or other apparent piercings, even though some Surinamese men do. Nor are they permitted to display tattoos or wear long hair (including ponytails).
 +
* Attire for women: Women’s attire tends to vary more, but skirts or slacks with a T-shirt or blouse and nice sandals or closed-toe shoes are common. Women rarely wear their hair loose, so bring some hair ties or clips. Some Volunteers spend most of their time in a village setting where attire may follow norms specific to that community. However, you should bring clothing appropriate for professional meetings and to wear while in the city. It is necessary to wear proper business attire when doing business in the capital city. Keep Suriname’s hot climate in mind when selecting business attire.
 +
* Attire during training: Pre-service training will feature guest speakers and government officials. All trainees are expected to adhere to a professional dress code.  Men should wear cotton trousers, a collared shirt and close-toed shoes. Women should wear skirts, dresses or cotton slacks (no jeans) with blouses or T-shirts. In all cases, clothes must be clean and well-maintained.  Trainees should also bring one outfit appropriate for their formal swearing-in ceremony. (See the suggested packing list later in this book.)
  
One of the challenges for you as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting as a professional all at the same time. Your appearance at work can help set the appropriate tone and make your adjustment to your site easier. Romanians tend to dress up more for the office than Americans do, partly because it’s a luxury to be able to do so after so many years of communist rule. Because of this, they may react negatively to the equally extreme casualness of some American dress, such as baggy jeans. While you are at work, you will demonstrate respect and win credibility if you dress in a professional manner, as they do. Most of the people you work with will not have expensive clothes, or large quantities of clothes. For Volunteers, in most cases, pressed shirts, slacks, skirts and sweaters are fine. A suit or sports jacket or a dressy dress or skirt will be needed for special occasions.
+
  
Observing what your co-workers wear is the best way to identify the appropriate dress code for different situations. As in the United States, people in larger cities tend to dress more formally than those in smaller cities and towns. Your program sector may also influence how you dress. Environment Volunteers can wear more casual clothes at work but still need some formal clothes for meetings with agencies and certain school activities. Community economic development and institutional development Volunteers dress in business-casual or business clothes, the latter meaning jackets and ties for men and dresses, skirts or pants with tops, or suits for women. In some organizations, particularly in smaller cities, jeans for men and women are the norm, except when meeting with authorities or attending special events. TEFL Volunteers work in schools, where women wear dresses and skirts or pants with tops and men wear slacks with shirts and sweaters (and sometimes ties). Younger Volunteers will boost their professional demeanor by dressing somewhat more conservatively than they might in the States.  
+
The people of Suriname are generally friendly. Greetings are very important. Handshakes are appropriate for both men and women. In some settings, one is expected to greet each person at the gathering. When meeting someone for the first time, handshakes and names are exchanged, surname first. You will receive more information on Surinamese cultural norms during training.  
  
 
===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 Romania Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The most common crime reported by many foreigners and tourists in Romania is pickpocketing. The next most common street crime involves the non-existent "Tourist Police." No plainclothes police officers will ever approach you on the streets. 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 reviewed once you arrive in Romania. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
+
Information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter. These issues 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 rich or 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. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Suriname. At the same time, you are expected to take primary responsibility for your own safety and well-being.  
  
 
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
 
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
  
The Peace Corps experience can be described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys that occur as you adapt to a new culture and environment. The potential for being productive and satisfied with your service is high, but so is the probability of being frustrated. Your school or organization may not always provide the support that you want, or it may not be sure about what it wants you to do. The pace and focus of life and work may be different from what you expect, and many people will be reluctant to change age-old practices.
+
The lack of infrastructure in Suriname, as in many developing countries, can cause frustration with travel, communications, and Volunteers’ ability to help their community complete tasks quickly. The pace of life in Suriname is slower than what you may be used to in the U.S. People do not follow strict times for meetings or gatherings. Functions may be canceled because of rain or some other seemingly minor reason. In Maroon communities, where people live close together, privacy is not a strong value. People here have a different sense of personal space and think nothing of touching what you may consider your personal belongings. In Amerindian villages, you may have more personal space and privacy, but you may also experience feelings of isolation. Houses are farther apart, and there is less emphasis on visiting daily with other members of the community. Members of both cultures are quick to observe physical characteristics and comment on them. Volunteers sometimes are the subject of comments such as, “You got fat!” or “You have a big butt!” In most cases, these comments are meant as a complement! Overall, Americans are well-received, but they are automatically viewed as wealthy. It is not uncommon to be asked for one’s possessions. All of these things can take a physical and emotional toll on Volunteers. On the other hand, Peace Corps Volunteers learn more about the local cultures than most other outsiders do. They also learn about themselves and their own culture. Being accepted into a community and culture, learning about differences, discovering commonalities, and sharing your knowledge while you learn from them make the frustrations worth it.  
 
 
On the positive side, you will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had. You will find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little support or guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving any supportive 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 overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Romanians are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success.  Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Romania feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service. If you make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful and satisfied Volunteer.  
+
Peace Corps service offers you opportunities you may never find elsewhere. You are likely to leave the Peace Corps a stronger person than you ever thought you could be.  
  
[[Category:Romania]]
+
[[Category:Suriname]]

Revision as of 12:33, 18 October 2011



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

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

For information see Welcomebooks

[[Image:Flag_of_{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |6}}{{#if:{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |7}}|_{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |7}}|}}{{#if:{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |8}}|_{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |8}}|}}.svg|100px|none]]
[[Category:{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname| |8}}]]


Communications

Mail

Mail typically takes three weeks to a month to travel between the United States and Suriname by air. A package sent by surface mail can take up to six months to arrive.

Mail for Peace Corps/Suriname is received at a post office box in Paramaribo. During pre-service training, your mail will be picked up and delivered by staff to your training site once a week. Once training is completed, mail is picked up by Peace Corps staff at the central post office and distributed to Volunteers’ mailboxes in the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo. Volunteers are encouraged to establish networks in their communities to facilitate receiving mail directly at their sites. This may involve making arrangements with a teacher, counterpart, colleague, missionary, medical worker, or villager who travels to the capital regularly and agrees to pick up your mail for you. The alternative is to retrieve your mail from the Peace Corps office yourself.

Your mailing address will be:

Peace Corps/Suriname

“Your Name” itant is so very inmport

P.O. Box 9500

Paramaribo-Zuid, Suriname

South America


Mail can be sent from the central post office (Surpost) in Paramaribo, satellite post offices in districts, or a few stores in the capital. Packages to the United States can only be mailed from one post office located two kilometers from the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo.

Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funds, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site so that you have time to integrate into the community and help members identify possible projects. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your program manager and the country director.

The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the Country Director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580, extension 2170, e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov, or visit www.peacecorps.gov/ index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.volproj.

Telephones

Public telephones are available in the capital city and surrounding suburbs. To make a call from a land-line phone, you will need to purchase a telephone card. Telephone cards are readily available in small corner stores, at gas stations, and at any of the Telesur offices in Paramaribo. It is possible to place international calls using these cards.

Some villages in the interior of the country have telephone service, usually one phone at a local store that serves the entire village. Other villages have only high-frequency radios for communication. Because the possibilities of making calls from the interior are so limited, most Volunteers call home when they are in the capital.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Three computers are available for Volunteers’ project-related work at the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo. Volunteers have initiated a sign-up system to ensure that those who wish to use the computers have equal access.

Internet connections in Suriname are not as fast as what you may be used to in the United States. Connections are typically slower in the afternoon, when people leave work or school and head for one of the many Internet cafés in Paramaribo. Prices are reasonable ($1.50 to $2 per half-hour). Funds for Internet fees are included in your living allowance. Most Volunteers do not have Internet or e-mail access in their communities. Some Volunteers bring a laptop (or have it sent to them), however, it is not encouraged since not all sites in the interior have reliable electricity.

Housing and Site Location

Trainees are placed with a host family for most of pre-service training. After swearing-in as Volunteers, they typically live in their own homes within their communities. Volunteers are located at sites in the interior, in districts or in the capital.

The sites in the interior are along the Suriname and Marowijne rivers or in the savanna region. Interior villages often do not have running water or electricity, or have those services for a limited number of hours each day. Houses are rustic, consisting of a thatch or tin roof and wood-plank walls.

Because villages are asked to furnish housing for Volunteers, the size, condition, and style of housing can vary widely. A few sites are located in the southern part of the country. The houses in the far south generally have zinc roofs, running water, and electricity.

Some Volunteers are placed in District sites best characterized as small towns; or they may work in the capital city, Paramaribo. Volunteers living in these areas generally have access to running water and electricity day and night and other conveniences.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a living allowance in the local currency (Suriname Dollars—SRD), which is deposited into a bank account in Paramaribo once every three months. Volunteers based outside of Paramaribo receive a transportation allowance, which pays for one trip to the capital per quarter. This allowance is also deposited into the bank account and is intended to cover one trip per quarter for Volunteers to come to the capital to take care of banking and other needs. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of additional trips. Volunteers who need to pay rent also receive a housing allowance.

It is important to manage your money so that it lasts for the entire three months. Setting up a system of budgeting will be important. The living allowance is determined by annual market surveys to ensure the amount is sufficient to meet basic expenses. In the interior, there is little to spend money on other than food and beverages. However, things tend to be more expensive in the interior, so most Volunteers buy a supply of food to take to their sites when they are visiting the capital. Transportation between interior sites can be expensive. All Volunteers receive three additional allowances: a monthly vacation allowance; a one-time settling-in allowance to cover the initial expenses of furnishing a house or room and purchasing basic supplies; and a readjustment allowance of $225 set aside by the U.S. government for each month of service. Available to Volunteers upon completion of service, this allowance permits returning Volunteers to resettle in the United States without undue burden.

Volunteers are expected to live within the means of the living allowance. Peace Corps discourages use of outside funds brought or sent from home as it prevents you from living at the same level as the people in your community. You may, however, want to bring a small amount of money for travel in Suriname and surrounding countries during your vacation time. Very few places in Suriname accept credit cards, and those that do only accept American Express, MasterCard or Visa; likewise, a few ATMs accept major credit cards. Bank fees between 1 percent and 5 percent are not uncommon when using a credit card in Suriname.

Food and Diet

Because of the diversity of cultures represented in Suriname, there is a variety of food options. In rural villages, rice is a staple of the diet. Meals usually consist of a large quantity of rice served with a small piece of meat and a small serving of vegetables. Most people in the interior also grow their own cassavas and other vegetables to sell at markets. Volunteers are encouraged to plant their own gardens for a steady supply of fresh vegetables.

Vegetarians can maintain a healthy diet in Suriname. Adequate levels of protein are available locally in texturized vegetable protein products, and in a variety of beans, lentils, and nuts. Many vegetarians find that the greatest difficulty lies in explaining vegetarianism to members of their community, where meat is highly valued and served at many social gatherings.

Learning to prepare local cuisine can be rewarding. Suriname has many of the spices and ingredients needed to prepare the foods you are accustomed to in the United States. Chinese, Indonesian, Creole, Indian, and American food is available at restaurants in the capital.

Transportation

Most Surinamese in the city and district use public transportation, usually small buses that accommodate 15 to 26 people. These buses run on regular routes and are regulated by the government. Each route has a name or number and an established fare (generally 1 SRD to 2 SRD). After 9 p.m., fares increase and some routes are not available. Most Volunteers rely on buses. There are also several reputable taxi companies.

Roads to the interior are dirt and bauxite and receive little maintenance. During the rainy seasons, mud holes and erosion are common. In the dry seasons, roads become dusty washboards. Travel on rural roads can be rough, to say the least.

Most Volunteers make a portion of the journey to their sites in mini-vans or “DAF trucks.” DAF trucks are essentially semitrailers filled with old airline seats or wooden benches. The ride is rarely comfortable, and the trucks are typically filled to capacity with people and their cargo. Some Volunteers must then transfer to a dugout canoe or a small airplane from the DAF truck to reach their site. The average travel time from the capital to a Volunteer’s site is about six hours. For some, travel time may be twice that.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to operate any motorized vehicles or ride on the back of motorcycles or mopeds.

Part of the Volunteer settling-in allowance may be used to buy a locally appropriate form of transportation, whether that be a bicycle or a dugout canoe. Volunteers who purchase bicycles are given funds to buy bicycle helmets. Life vests are issued to those using boats for transportation. Helmets must be worn when riding a bicycle; a life vest must be worn whenever traveling on any waterway.

Geography and Climate

Suriname is in the tropics, and much of the country is covered in rainforest. Sites located in the savanna region are drier, but still experience high humidity. The average temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 80 percent humidity. During the dry seasons, temperatures climb higher and rain may not fall for up to three months. The rainy seasons provide a brief respite from the heat and bring a lot of moisture. Clothing is subject to mildew in the rainy seasons. The country’s red clay soil and mud from the roads will stain clothes.

Social Activities

Establishing relationships with members of your community is vital for almost every aspect of life as a Volunteer. Not only will you feel more connected, but the more community contact you have, the easier it will be to access information and resources to develop projects. Birthdays and local holidays are celebrated with food, dancing, and sometimes fireworks. Work parties provide social interaction, as does involvement in the daily activities of life. Men hunt and fish in small groups and work together on their farms. Women may share daily chores and wash together at the river.

In the capital, Volunteers enjoy spending time with their counterparts or fellow Volunteers at restaurants, pubs, or one of the few dance clubs. Nightlife is generally safe in groups.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

It is important for Volunteers to maintain a professional image within their communities and in the capital. The behavior of Volunteers reflects not only on the Peace Corps program and other Volunteers in Suriname but also on North Americans in general. Each Volunteer’s interaction with the public has an effect on current and future Volunteers in Suriname and helps to shape perceptions of North Americans. Professional attire is also required when coming to the Peace Corps office.

  • Attire for men: In the capital at the work place, men dress in casual business attire: short-sleeved collared shirts, trousers, and closed-toe shoes. Male Volunteers are not permitted to wear earrings, nose rings, or other apparent piercings, even though some Surinamese men do. Nor are they permitted to display tattoos or wear long hair (including ponytails).
  • Attire for women: Women’s attire tends to vary more, but skirts or slacks with a T-shirt or blouse and nice sandals or closed-toe shoes are common. Women rarely wear their hair loose, so bring some hair ties or clips. Some Volunteers spend most of their time in a village setting where attire may follow norms specific to that community. However, you should bring clothing appropriate for professional meetings and to wear while in the city. It is necessary to wear proper business attire when doing business in the capital city. Keep Suriname’s hot climate in mind when selecting business attire.
  • Attire during training: Pre-service training will feature guest speakers and government officials. All trainees are expected to adhere to a professional dress code. Men should wear cotton trousers, a collared shirt and close-toed shoes. Women should wear skirts, dresses or cotton slacks (no jeans) with blouses or T-shirts. In all cases, clothes must be clean and well-maintained. Trainees should also bring one outfit appropriate for their formal swearing-in ceremony. (See the suggested packing list later in this book.)


The people of Suriname are generally friendly. Greetings are very important. Handshakes are appropriate for both men and women. In some settings, one is expected to greet each person at the gathering. When meeting someone for the first time, handshakes and names are exchanged, surname first. You will receive more information on Surinamese cultural norms during training.

Personal Safety

Information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter. These issues 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 rich or 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. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Suriname. At the same time, you are expected to take primary responsibility for your own safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

The lack of infrastructure in Suriname, as in many developing countries, can cause frustration with travel, communications, and Volunteers’ ability to help their community complete tasks quickly. The pace of life in Suriname is slower than what you may be used to in the U.S. People do not follow strict times for meetings or gatherings. Functions may be canceled because of rain or some other seemingly minor reason. In Maroon communities, where people live close together, privacy is not a strong value. People here have a different sense of personal space and think nothing of touching what you may consider your personal belongings. In Amerindian villages, you may have more personal space and privacy, but you may also experience feelings of isolation. Houses are farther apart, and there is less emphasis on visiting daily with other members of the community. Members of both cultures are quick to observe physical characteristics and comment on them. Volunteers sometimes are the subject of comments such as, “You got fat!” or “You have a big butt!” In most cases, these comments are meant as a complement! Overall, Americans are well-received, but they are automatically viewed as wealthy. It is not uncommon to be asked for one’s possessions. All of these things can take a physical and emotional toll on Volunteers. On the other hand, Peace Corps Volunteers learn more about the local cultures than most other outsiders do. They also learn about themselves and their own culture. Being accepted into a community and culture, learning about differences, discovering commonalities, and sharing your knowledge while you learn from them make the frustrations worth it.

Peace Corps service offers you opportunities you may never find elsewhere. You are likely to leave the Peace Corps a stronger person than you ever thought you could be.