Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in the Eastern Caribbean"

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===Communications ===
 
===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.
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===Mail ===
  
Your mailing address will be:
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you expect U.S.  standards for mail service, you will be disappointed. Mail takes anywhere from one to three weeks to travel in either direction. At times, some mail may get lost in transit. Some letters may arrive damaged or opened. Since communication with friends and family is a very sensitive issue for most Volunteers, we want to forewarn you about the reality of international mail service. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Air Mail” on the envelope.
  
Peace Corps/Suriname
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We strongly discourage having family or friends send you packages during the first phase of training in St. Lucia (which is your first three weeks in-country). If any packages sent to St. Lucia don’t arrive within that time, we will forward your mail to your island of assignment, but at your cost. You will be notified of the charges prior to any packages being sent by airmail to your island of assignment and will be asked to reimburse Peace Corps for the cost.
  
“Your Name”  itant is so very inmport
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If you absolutely need to receive mail during the initial three weeks of training, your address during training will be:
  
P.O. Box 9500
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“Your name,” PCT
  
Paramaribo-Zuid, Suriname
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Peace Corps
  
South America
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PO Box 123
  
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Castries, St. Lucia
  
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West Indies
  
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.
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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.  
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This address will only be valid for your first three weeks in the Eastern Caribbean. After that, you will be on your island of assignment.  
  
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.
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We strongly urge that mail be sent directly to your site once you have sworn-in as a Volunteer. Packages from family and friends are the responsibility of the individual Volunteer. The local post office will inform you that a package has arrived, and you will need to appear in person to collect it. Post office officials will open it in front of you. You may have to pay hefty customs duties. Due to the risk of packages getting lost in transit, don’t have valuable items sent to you.  
  
 
===Telephones ===
 
===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.  
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Generally, long-distance communication via telephone is available, but expensive. Most Volunteers find that they can easily make or receive calls from the United States.  Please note that “1-800” numbers are not accessible from the Caribbean. All other numbers can be dialed directly.  Calls to the United States from the islands range widely in cost depending upon locality and time of day. United States phone cards do not work here, so do not bring them. You can purchase the local “smart-phone” cards to call home or to make local calls. While a number of Volunteers have home telephones, recent competition in the cellular phone market has resulted in improved service and lower prices, making cellular phones a more favorable approach to phone service for many Volunteers. The Eastern Caribbean uses both the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)..  
 
 
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 ===
 
===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.  
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The Caribbean enjoys the latest technological advances, and computer technology is common. Each Peace Corps office has a computer that is dedicated for use by Volunteers and offers Internet access. If you currently use e-mail, you should bring important addresses with you. Use of the Internet and e-mail at the Peace Corps office will be difficult during your pre-service training, but Internet cafés are available in the capital as well as in some towns and villages.  
  
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.  
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Some Volunteers have e-mail and full Internet access in their home or work via providers in the Caribbean. The access is approximately $1.75 (U.S.) per hour. The service is fair and runs at 28.8 BPS, sometimes higher. Bringing a laptop computer and paying for Internet access may enhance your Peace Corps experience. The heat and humid weather may be extreme, but should not damage equipment. Power surges may be avoided with a good surge protector. Theft may also be an issue. As with all valuable personal property, bring a computer at your own risk and get it insured.  
  
 
===Housing and Site Location ===
 
===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.  
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During this time, you will begin to integrate and establish links with your host community. Your associate Peace Corps director will identify proper housing for you. It is very likely that all homes will have running water and electricity. The houses will also be fully furnished and a few may include a television set with cable service. Volunteer sites can be as close as 15 minutes and as far as 90 minutes from the capital and the Peace Corps office.  
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
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.  
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The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, and it is the same currency used on all islands where Volunteers live and work. The exchange rate in July 2006 was approximately $2.70 (EC) to one U.S. dollar. Travelers’ checks can be cashed at any bank. Credit cards are widely accepted. Personal checks from U.S. banks can be cashed, but it may take several weeks for the check to be cleared and for the funds to become available to you. All the banks have ATMs, so you can access cash most of the time.  
  
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.  
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Your Peace Corps living allowance is paid in Eastern Caribbean currency and is electronically deposited on/or about the 25th of every month to the account that you open at a local bank. Both checking and savings accounts are available. You will receive more information about banking facilities on your island of assignment during training. The living allowance will cover all regular expenses such as rent, food, utilities, and other essentials. The amount is enough to allow you to live at the level of other host country nationals; however, volunteers need to budget and there is not much room for "extras". The amount paid varies according to the cost of living on the island nation where you reside.
  
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.
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===Food and Diet ===
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
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There is a wide range of food choices available in the islands.  The Eastern Caribbean offers a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables, most of which can be purchased daily from fruit stalls and grocery stores. Many Volunteers have been pleasantly surprised to find one or more fruit trees in their back yards, and many have used yard space to grow such vegetables as tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, peas, and beans. All of the vegetables available in the United States are also grown here, and while a few are seasonal, one can find several different vegetables all year-round.
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Locally baked breads are available in bakeries, supermarkets, and home delivery vans. The local bakeries also supply a wide choice of cakes, scones, biscuits, cookies, and pastry.
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Volunteers who are vegetarians can buy produce and other items from the local markets, as well as from a number of vegetarian stores and shops that stock specialty foods.
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Fresh fish is always plentiful as is fresh meat and locally grown chicken. All Volunteers are given books on local foods that provide information on nutrition, preparation, and safety.
  
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.
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===Transportation ===
  
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.  
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Mini buses make travel from one place to another very easy and inexpensive (depending on the island). Volunteer homes and work sites are no more than half an hour to two hours away from the capital. The buses run up to about 8:00 p.m., although a few areas have service up to midnight. Volunteers are not allowed to drive automobiles or ride motorcycles because of the type of roads that exist and the number of fatal accidents related to these forms of transportation.  
  
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.  
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Most Volunteers rely on public transportation to get around.  Some Volunteers can request assistance from the Peace Corps in arranging alternative means of local transportation.  Volunteers on some islands can apply for and recieve limited funds to purchase a bicycle in the Eastern Caribbean . Peace Corps will also provide you with a helmet, which must be worn at all times while riding a bicycle. Failure to abide by this policy may result in termination of your Peace Corps service.
  
===Food and Diet ===
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===Geography and Climate ===
  
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.  
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The Eastern Caribbean, including Barbados and the Lesser Antilles, is the island chain that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. The Peace Corps places Volunteers on : (1) Antigua and Barbuda, (2) Dominica, (3) Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, (4) St Kitts and Nevis, (5) St. Lucia, and (6) St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  
  
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.  
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The islands are geographically divided into “inner and “outer” chains. The inner islands are volcanic in origin and are characterized by rugged, mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, lush fertile vegetation, and many rivers. Dominica alone has as many as 365 rivers. The inner islands include Grenada and its dependencies of Carriacou and the southern Grenadines, St. Vincent and its dependencies of the northern Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Dominica. The highest points of these islands are generally in the center, except for a few spectacular sheer slopes on some coastlines. Most roads go around rather than over. High points of elevation vary from 1,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level.Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis have a coral limestone base. They are relatively flat with less vegetation and rain than the inner islands.  
  
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.  
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The tourist brochures do not lie when they describe the islands of the Caribbean as lands of sunshine and beaches.  The first thing you must realize is that you are heading to two years of summer weather. The temperatures make history if they go above 90 degrees Farenheit or below 70 degrees.  The day-night range is usually about 10 degrees, from 80 to 90 degrees Farenheit in the summer months and 74 to 84 degrees in the winter. The sun is hot year-round, but gentle sea breezes from the northeast trade winds blow throughout the year and help to cool the air. The high humidity makes it is easy to work up a sweat anytime of the day or night.  
  
===Transportation ===
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The rainy season generally lasts from July to December, but the amount of rain varies widely in different locations. In addition, brief showers, sometimes downpours, are common in any month. Additionally, the Eastern Caribbean is prone to hurricanes during the months of June to November. The region can sometimes experience a dry season from March to May. Other environmental concerns, especially in the banana-producing countries, are deforestation, siltation, river pollution, and unplanned and inappropriate land use.
  
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.
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===Social Activities===
  
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.  
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There are a variety of ways to enjoy social activities in the Eastern Caribbean. Since you live on islands where people are friendly and hospitable, the more friends you make and the more you join in the local activities, the more you will enjoy your two years here.  
  
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.  
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All islands have local festivals of which Carnival is the biggest. There are plenty of shows, house and street parties, and steel band concerts. Also, most islands have a jazz or a Creole-music festival once a year, and these are big cultural treats.  
  
Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to operate any motorized vehicles or ride on the back of motorcycles or mopeds.  
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Outdoor sports are also popular among Volunteers and host country nationals. The islands have good hiking trails, mountains for mountain climbing, and thick rain forests that you can visit, preferably with a certified guide. The islands also offer wonderful snorkeling and a lot of warm sandy beaches, good for swimming or just relaxation. For sporting enthusiasts, there are several cricket, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and running clubs. Many Volunteers have initiated sporting groups or clubs in their host communities.  
  
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.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
  
===Geography and Climate ===
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One of the challenges of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is immersing yourself into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity. It is not an easy thing to resolve, but we will guide you through the process.
  
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.  
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The way you dress is important. You may feel inclined to wear shorts and tank tops because they keep you cool. However, as long as you are at any place other than the beach or the privacy of your home, it is imperative that you dress in a manner that does not resemble that of a tourist. It will become more apparent to you later in your service that “setting the tone” early on and dressing with care are very important for your image. You may be working as a representative of a government ministry, and, as such, you would be expected to dress and behave accordingly. A foreigner wearing unmended or informal clothing is more likely to be considered an affront. This topic is extensively addressed during training. Wearing appropriate attire also helps you avoid harassment.   Most women wear suits (hand-tailored on island), or a blouse and slacks or skirt to work.  Dress sandals or dress shoes are appropriate, but sporty sandals are not. Men wear suits, or dress shirts and slacks. Dress shoes or dressy leather sandals are work by men to work, but flip flops and other causal sandals are not appropriate.
  
===Social Activities ===
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Integrating into your new community will be hard enough.  A new Volunteer needs as few “distractions” as possible as they establish themselves. For that reason Volunteers are asked not to display body piercings or tattoos during the first months of their service. This includes nose rings, tongue bolts, and navel rings. Men are not allowed to wear earrings or have long hair or ponytails during that same timeframe.  Tattoos should remain covered to the greatest extent possible throughout your service. If you do not remove your body rings and cut your hair before you arrive in the Eastern Caribbean, you will be asked to do so before you move in with a host family during training. If you have reservations about this policy and the degree of sacrifice and flexibility required to be a successful Volunteer, you should reevaluate your decision to accept the invitation to Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean.
  
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.
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===Personal Safety ===
  
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.  
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Your safety is our first priority and it must be yours as well. To this end, we have an emergency action plan that we continuously test and revise. The plan provides you with information on how to respond to a crisis situation.  
  
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
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The section on Health Care and Safety in this Welcome Book provides tips on how to keep safe. Being a stranger in a foreign environment is, in itself, a safety hazard, and Volunteers must take their own safety precautions by being very vigilant and avoiding unsafe places or events. As a foreigner and an American, you may become a target for muggings or other forms of physical and verbal assaults.  Environmental risks such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions are also a possibility in the Eastern Caribbean. The Peace Corps is cognizant of these risks and has implemented policies and measures to enhance your safety and security.
  
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.  
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By joining the Peace Corps, you have become part of a unique organization whose membership is predicated on the belief that every Peace Corps Volunteer will serve successfully and go home safe and sound. Your experience in the Peace Corps takes up only a short period in your life and you should expect to go home enhanced—not diminished; stronger— not weaker; enlightened—not confused, and certainly not physically or emotionally harmed.  
  
* 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).
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The rules are different in the Peace Corps and each of us— trainees, Volunteers, and staff—must take full responsibility for our own behavior, safety, and welfare. We must also look out for the behavior, safety, and welfare of each other. It is our responsibility to do all that we can to encourage the appropriate behavior and ensure the safety of everyone elseThis simple commitment may make the difference between someone who is enhanced by their Peace Corps experience and someone who is harmed.  
* 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 codeMen 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.)
 
  
   
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You must take responsibility for yourself and not depend on others to make decisions for you. It is okay to tell others that you are worried about them. Work with them to avoid or reduce inappropriate and/or potentially dangerous behavior. Please speak to staff when you feel that additional assistance is needed to have someone stay safe, secure, and productive.
  
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.
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
===Personal Safety ===
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Life as a Volunteer has its rewards, particularly as you begin your work. Your projects will start to flourish, and your partners will learn and grow. By the same token, you will feel the frustrations when things take too long to happen or do not turn out as you expect. People may not always show the level of interest and enthusiasm that you anticipate, or they may not be prepared to make the changes that you think are good for them. Therefore, you must approach everything with an open mind, be willing to accept change, and, most of all, be flexible.
  
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.  
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Volunteers are expected to observe the same work schedules, reporting procedures, leave-of-absence policies, and access to agency resources as their co-workers. You may feel alone and that no one appreciates your efforts. The way to overcome this is by setting your own personal goals and remaining focused on them, even when progress seems slow and remote. Peace Corps life has its ups and downs, good times and bad. Learn to enjoy the gains and look forward to these moments rather than dwell on the losses.  
  
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
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It is also important not to interpret “Volunteer” in the way that some volunteer service is viewed in the United States.  Your assignment will involve being on the job day in and day out, following the same schedules and protocols as your host country colleagues. You will not be able to casually take a few days off to travel to another island or go off on a trip to visit family. There are opportunities for taking annual leave and vacation, but the associated application procedures and scheduling requirements must be observed. Failure to abide by these and other policies and procedures could be cause for disciplinary action.
  
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.  
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Being a Volunteer in the Caribbean involves a high degree of commitment. Projects are designed and assignments are made with the idea that Volunteers will honor their commitment and work for two years. Host agencies, sponsoring ministries, and local community members or students are counting on you to remain in your position for a full term. Do not accept this invitation to service if you are not willing to make such a commitment.  
  
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.  
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Whatever frustrations and limitations may exist, Peace Corps Volunteers who serve in the Eastern Caribbean consistently find the experience to be uniquely rewarding. There is a special kind of satisfaction that comes from learning to live and work effectively in another culture. It soon becomes apparent that the experience effectively contributes to your own personal and professional development, and to the development of the host country.  
  
[[Category:Suriname]]
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[[Category:Eastern Caribbean]]

Revision as of 23:54, 12 March 2009



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

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

For information see Welcomebooks

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Communications

Mail

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards for mail service, you will be disappointed. Mail takes anywhere from one to three weeks to travel in either direction. At times, some mail may get lost in transit. Some letters may arrive damaged or opened. Since communication with friends and family is a very sensitive issue for most Volunteers, we want to forewarn you about the reality of international mail service. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Air Mail” on the envelope.

We strongly discourage having family or friends send you packages during the first phase of training in St. Lucia (which is your first three weeks in-country). If any packages sent to St. Lucia don’t arrive within that time, we will forward your mail to your island of assignment, but at your cost. You will be notified of the charges prior to any packages being sent by airmail to your island of assignment and will be asked to reimburse Peace Corps for the cost.

If you absolutely need to receive mail during the initial three weeks of training, your address during training will be:

“Your name,” PCT

Peace Corps

PO Box 123

Castries, St. Lucia

West Indies


This address will only be valid for your first three weeks in the Eastern Caribbean. After that, you will be on your island of assignment.

We strongly urge that mail be sent directly to your site once you have sworn-in as a Volunteer. Packages from family and friends are the responsibility of the individual Volunteer. The local post office will inform you that a package has arrived, and you will need to appear in person to collect it. Post office officials will open it in front of you. You may have to pay hefty customs duties. Due to the risk of packages getting lost in transit, don’t have valuable items sent to you.

Telephones

Generally, long-distance communication via telephone is available, but expensive. Most Volunteers find that they can easily make or receive calls from the United States. Please note that “1-800” numbers are not accessible from the Caribbean. All other numbers can be dialed directly. Calls to the United States from the islands range widely in cost depending upon locality and time of day. United States phone cards do not work here, so do not bring them. You can purchase the local “smart-phone” cards to call home or to make local calls. While a number of Volunteers have home telephones, recent competition in the cellular phone market has resulted in improved service and lower prices, making cellular phones a more favorable approach to phone service for many Volunteers. The Eastern Caribbean uses both the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)..

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

The Caribbean enjoys the latest technological advances, and computer technology is common. Each Peace Corps office has a computer that is dedicated for use by Volunteers and offers Internet access. If you currently use e-mail, you should bring important addresses with you. Use of the Internet and e-mail at the Peace Corps office will be difficult during your pre-service training, but Internet cafés are available in the capital as well as in some towns and villages.

Some Volunteers have e-mail and full Internet access in their home or work via providers in the Caribbean. The access is approximately $1.75 (U.S.) per hour. The service is fair and runs at 28.8 BPS, sometimes higher. Bringing a laptop computer and paying for Internet access may enhance your Peace Corps experience. The heat and humid weather may be extreme, but should not damage equipment. Power surges may be avoided with a good surge protector. Theft may also be an issue. As with all valuable personal property, bring a computer at your own risk and get it insured.

Housing and Site Location

During this time, you will begin to integrate and establish links with your host community. Your associate Peace Corps director will identify proper housing for you. It is very likely that all homes will have running water and electricity. The houses will also be fully furnished and a few may include a television set with cable service. Volunteer sites can be as close as 15 minutes and as far as 90 minutes from the capital and the Peace Corps office.

Living Allowance and Money Management

The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, and it is the same currency used on all islands where Volunteers live and work. The exchange rate in July 2006 was approximately $2.70 (EC) to one U.S. dollar. Travelers’ checks can be cashed at any bank. Credit cards are widely accepted. Personal checks from U.S. banks can be cashed, but it may take several weeks for the check to be cleared and for the funds to become available to you. All the banks have ATMs, so you can access cash most of the time.

Your Peace Corps living allowance is paid in Eastern Caribbean currency and is electronically deposited on/or about the 25th of every month to the account that you open at a local bank. Both checking and savings accounts are available. You will receive more information about banking facilities on your island of assignment during training. The living allowance will cover all regular expenses such as rent, food, utilities, and other essentials. The amount is enough to allow you to live at the level of other host country nationals; however, volunteers need to budget and there is not much room for "extras". The amount paid varies according to the cost of living on the island nation where you reside.

Food and Diet

There is a wide range of food choices available in the islands. The Eastern Caribbean offers a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables, most of which can be purchased daily from fruit stalls and grocery stores. Many Volunteers have been pleasantly surprised to find one or more fruit trees in their back yards, and many have used yard space to grow such vegetables as tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, peas, and beans. All of the vegetables available in the United States are also grown here, and while a few are seasonal, one can find several different vegetables all year-round.

Locally baked breads are available in bakeries, supermarkets, and home delivery vans. The local bakeries also supply a wide choice of cakes, scones, biscuits, cookies, and pastry.

Volunteers who are vegetarians can buy produce and other items from the local markets, as well as from a number of vegetarian stores and shops that stock specialty foods.

Fresh fish is always plentiful as is fresh meat and locally grown chicken. All Volunteers are given books on local foods that provide information on nutrition, preparation, and safety.

Transportation

Mini buses make travel from one place to another very easy and inexpensive (depending on the island). Volunteer homes and work sites are no more than half an hour to two hours away from the capital. The buses run up to about 8:00 p.m., although a few areas have service up to midnight. Volunteers are not allowed to drive automobiles or ride motorcycles because of the type of roads that exist and the number of fatal accidents related to these forms of transportation.

Most Volunteers rely on public transportation to get around. Some Volunteers can request assistance from the Peace Corps in arranging alternative means of local transportation. Volunteers on some islands can apply for and recieve limited funds to purchase a bicycle in the Eastern Caribbean . Peace Corps will also provide you with a helmet, which must be worn at all times while riding a bicycle. Failure to abide by this policy may result in termination of your Peace Corps service.

Geography and Climate

The Eastern Caribbean, including Barbados and the Lesser Antilles, is the island chain that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. The Peace Corps places Volunteers on : (1) Antigua and Barbuda, (2) Dominica, (3) Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, (4) St Kitts and Nevis, (5) St. Lucia, and (6) St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The islands are geographically divided into “inner and “outer” chains. The inner islands are volcanic in origin and are characterized by rugged, mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, lush fertile vegetation, and many rivers. Dominica alone has as many as 365 rivers. The inner islands include Grenada and its dependencies of Carriacou and the southern Grenadines, St. Vincent and its dependencies of the northern Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Dominica. The highest points of these islands are generally in the center, except for a few spectacular sheer slopes on some coastlines. Most roads go around rather than over. High points of elevation vary from 1,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level.Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis have a coral limestone base. They are relatively flat with less vegetation and rain than the inner islands.

The tourist brochures do not lie when they describe the islands of the Caribbean as lands of sunshine and beaches. The first thing you must realize is that you are heading to two years of summer weather. The temperatures make history if they go above 90 degrees Farenheit or below 70 degrees. The day-night range is usually about 10 degrees, from 80 to 90 degrees Farenheit in the summer months and 74 to 84 degrees in the winter. The sun is hot year-round, but gentle sea breezes from the northeast trade winds blow throughout the year and help to cool the air. The high humidity makes it is easy to work up a sweat anytime of the day or night.

The rainy season generally lasts from July to December, but the amount of rain varies widely in different locations. In addition, brief showers, sometimes downpours, are common in any month. Additionally, the Eastern Caribbean is prone to hurricanes during the months of June to November. The region can sometimes experience a dry season from March to May. Other environmental concerns, especially in the banana-producing countries, are deforestation, siltation, river pollution, and unplanned and inappropriate land use.

Social Activities

There are a variety of ways to enjoy social activities in the Eastern Caribbean. Since you live on islands where people are friendly and hospitable, the more friends you make and the more you join in the local activities, the more you will enjoy your two years here.

All islands have local festivals of which Carnival is the biggest. There are plenty of shows, house and street parties, and steel band concerts. Also, most islands have a jazz or a Creole-music festival once a year, and these are big cultural treats.

Outdoor sports are also popular among Volunteers and host country nationals. The islands have good hiking trails, mountains for mountain climbing, and thick rain forests that you can visit, preferably with a certified guide. The islands also offer wonderful snorkeling and a lot of warm sandy beaches, good for swimming or just relaxation. For sporting enthusiasts, there are several cricket, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and running clubs. Many Volunteers have initiated sporting groups or clubs in their host communities.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

One of the challenges of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is immersing yourself into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity. It is not an easy thing to resolve, but we will guide you through the process.

The way you dress is important. You may feel inclined to wear shorts and tank tops because they keep you cool. However, as long as you are at any place other than the beach or the privacy of your home, it is imperative that you dress in a manner that does not resemble that of a tourist. It will become more apparent to you later in your service that “setting the tone” early on and dressing with care are very important for your image. You may be working as a representative of a government ministry, and, as such, you would be expected to dress and behave accordingly. A foreigner wearing unmended or informal clothing is more likely to be considered an affront. This topic is extensively addressed during training. Wearing appropriate attire also helps you avoid harassment. Most women wear suits (hand-tailored on island), or a blouse and slacks or skirt to work. Dress sandals or dress shoes are appropriate, but sporty sandals are not. Men wear suits, or dress shirts and slacks. Dress shoes or dressy leather sandals are work by men to work, but flip flops and other causal sandals are not appropriate.

Integrating into your new community will be hard enough. A new Volunteer needs as few “distractions” as possible as they establish themselves. For that reason Volunteers are asked not to display body piercings or tattoos during the first months of their service. This includes nose rings, tongue bolts, and navel rings. Men are not allowed to wear earrings or have long hair or ponytails during that same timeframe. Tattoos should remain covered to the greatest extent possible throughout your service. If you do not remove your body rings and cut your hair before you arrive in the Eastern Caribbean, you will be asked to do so before you move in with a host family during training. If you have reservations about this policy and the degree of sacrifice and flexibility required to be a successful Volunteer, you should reevaluate your decision to accept the invitation to Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean.

Personal Safety

Your safety is our first priority and it must be yours as well. To this end, we have an emergency action plan that we continuously test and revise. The plan provides you with information on how to respond to a crisis situation.

The section on Health Care and Safety in this Welcome Book provides tips on how to keep safe. Being a stranger in a foreign environment is, in itself, a safety hazard, and Volunteers must take their own safety precautions by being very vigilant and avoiding unsafe places or events. As a foreigner and an American, you may become a target for muggings or other forms of physical and verbal assaults. Environmental risks such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions are also a possibility in the Eastern Caribbean. The Peace Corps is cognizant of these risks and has implemented policies and measures to enhance your safety and security.

By joining the Peace Corps, you have become part of a unique organization whose membership is predicated on the belief that every Peace Corps Volunteer will serve successfully and go home safe and sound. Your experience in the Peace Corps takes up only a short period in your life and you should expect to go home enhanced—not diminished; stronger— not weaker; enlightened—not confused, and certainly not physically or emotionally harmed.

The rules are different in the Peace Corps and each of us— trainees, Volunteers, and staff—must take full responsibility for our own behavior, safety, and welfare. We must also look out for the behavior, safety, and welfare of each other. It is our responsibility to do all that we can to encourage the appropriate behavior and ensure the safety of everyone else. This simple commitment may make the difference between someone who is enhanced by their Peace Corps experience and someone who is harmed.

You must take responsibility for yourself and not depend on others to make decisions for you. It is okay to tell others that you are worried about them. Work with them to avoid or reduce inappropriate and/or potentially dangerous behavior. Please speak to staff when you feel that additional assistance is needed to have someone stay safe, secure, and productive.

Rewards and Frustrations

Life as a Volunteer has its rewards, particularly as you begin your work. Your projects will start to flourish, and your partners will learn and grow. By the same token, you will feel the frustrations when things take too long to happen or do not turn out as you expect. People may not always show the level of interest and enthusiasm that you anticipate, or they may not be prepared to make the changes that you think are good for them. Therefore, you must approach everything with an open mind, be willing to accept change, and, most of all, be flexible.

Volunteers are expected to observe the same work schedules, reporting procedures, leave-of-absence policies, and access to agency resources as their co-workers. You may feel alone and that no one appreciates your efforts. The way to overcome this is by setting your own personal goals and remaining focused on them, even when progress seems slow and remote. Peace Corps life has its ups and downs, good times and bad. Learn to enjoy the gains and look forward to these moments rather than dwell on the losses.

It is also important not to interpret “Volunteer” in the way that some volunteer service is viewed in the United States. Your assignment will involve being on the job day in and day out, following the same schedules and protocols as your host country colleagues. You will not be able to casually take a few days off to travel to another island or go off on a trip to visit family. There are opportunities for taking annual leave and vacation, but the associated application procedures and scheduling requirements must be observed. Failure to abide by these and other policies and procedures could be cause for disciplinary action.

Being a Volunteer in the Caribbean involves a high degree of commitment. Projects are designed and assignments are made with the idea that Volunteers will honor their commitment and work for two years. Host agencies, sponsoring ministries, and local community members or students are counting on you to remain in your position for a full term. Do not accept this invitation to service if you are not willing to make such a commitment.

Whatever frustrations and limitations may exist, Peace Corps Volunteers who serve in the Eastern Caribbean consistently find the experience to be uniquely rewarding. There is a special kind of satisfaction that comes from learning to live and work effectively in another culture. It soon becomes apparent that the experience effectively contributes to your own personal and professional development, and to the development of the host country.