Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Tonga" and "FAQs about Peace Corps in Cameroon"

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In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years.  Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
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Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Tonga, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Tonga.
 
  
What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misperception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Tonga are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
 
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Tonga, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual.  For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States, political discussions need to be handled with great care, and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
 
  
===Overview of Diversity in Tonga ===
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===How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Cameroon?===
  
The Peace Corps staff in Tonga recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.  
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Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits.  The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website has a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items. Go to: http://www.tsa.gov/ travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.  
  
===What Might a Volunteer Face? ===
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Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution. In addition, do not pack important documents or valuables in your checked luggage; luggage may be delayed on the way to Cameroon, so make sure any essentials are in your carry-on bags.
  
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
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===What is the electric current in Cameroon?===
  
Tonga has a traditional, patriarchal culture. Although women have achieved high rank in government ministries, people at the community level have not had much experience with women who take on professional roles or who live independently of their families. Most women in Tonga do very little on their own and generally travel with at least one other person. This does not mean that female Volunteers cannot live or do things on their own, but they need to be aware that the community in which they live may view their behavior as strange at first.  
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In Cameroon, all appliances are powered with 220 volts (as is the case in most of Europe). However, there may be large fluctuations in power, and most appliances should be protected with a voltage regulator. These can be purchased throughout Cameroon.  
  
Many Tongans have large, robust figures, which are considered desirable in many cases, although perceptions are changing.  Slender women may be told they are too skinny, while larger women may be told that they are fat in what is intended as a compliment.
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===How much money should I bring?===
  
Female Volunteers in Tonga often receive an inordinate amount of attention from Tongan men. Flirting, ogling, catcalls, and a certain amount of protective behavior by host family and community members are common. Females are often asked about their marital status and whether they would like to marry someone locally. Most of the attention is good-natured and can be fended off with humorous replies.  
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Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a "settling-in allowance" and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money to purchase a cell phone or for use during vacation travels to other countries. Though it's not entirely safe to keep a large amount of cash in your house or on your person, it is preferable to traveler's checks and credit cards. Identity theft is quickly on the rise in Cameroon, and incidents happen even when paying with them at established places like the Hilton. Most volunteers who bring traveler's checks end up never using them because they are rarely accepted and expensive to cash. If you are bringing extra money to spend within Cameroon, then bring cash. You can convert it to local currency (Fcfa) and deposit it in your bank, or store it in your own envelope in the administrative safe in the Peace Corps Headquarters in Yaoundé. ATM cards are coming into much wider use in Africa and may also be beneficial while traveling. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
  
Tongans traditionally do not engage in friendships with members of the opposite sex, so it is culturally inappropriate for a female Volunteer to entertain a man (or men) alone in her home, whether the man is a Tongan or another Volunteer.  Her community is apt to see such a situation as a romantic or sexual relationship. Female Volunteers in Tonga have occasionally had people peep in their windows or appear in their homes without warning.
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===When can I take vacation and have people visit me?===
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
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Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
  
Some African-American and Asian-American Volunteers have been annoyed or frustrated when Tongans tell them that they “just look like we do.” An Asian American may be called mata’i Siapani (“Japanese eyes”) or mata’i Siaina (“Chinese eyes”). Increasing immigration of Chinese to Tonga has created some social tension. However, when Volunteers become known to their communities, being of color has not negatively affected their ability to serve effectively. African-American Volunteers are sometimes referred to by Tongans as “Nika”. The word "nika" is a direct translation of the word "nigger", a term that was brought to Tonga by American soldiers during the 1950s. Most Tongans will also assume that Black volunteers are from Fiji and will have a hard time believing that Blacks are American. This can be very frustrating but Black volunteers must be prepared to explain their nationality on a regular basis.
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance?===
  
Some Asian Americans may hear "Siaina" mixed with some mock Chinese words called out to them from across the street. They might also hear "Siapani" or mock Japanese whispered to a friend standing two feet away. To Americans, this is rude, obnoxious, and is a sign of ignorance. The name calling can be ignored, but the deeper issue is a sign of ignorance. There is a problem with racial prejudice in Tonga against the Chinese immigrants. This problem has been exacerbated in recent years by certain Tongan private business interests, culminating in the arson and looting of Chinese businesses and home, during the Nuku'alofa riot on November 16, 2006. Most Tongans cannot distinguish between the Chinese immigrants and Asians from other countries, so all Asians, including Asian-Americans, tend to be grouped with the Chinese immigrants.  This makes them potential targets for racially motivated crimes. Bars that might be acceptable for other Volunteers might be more unsafe for you. Above all, use common sense.  
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The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.  
  
To be an effective Asian-American Volunteer, it is necessary to integrate yourself into the community. Let people know what a Peace Corps Volunteer is, that you come from America, and what your Volunteer work is. Adopting the native attire will also immediately identify you as not being a Chinese immigrant (Chinese immigrants typically do not wear tupenus, ta'ovalas or kiekies).
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===Do I need an international driver’s license?===
  
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
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Volunteers in Cameroon do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.
  
Respect and courtesy are extended to both male and female seniors in Tonga, and senior Volunteers are likely to be given places of high honor. However, senior Volunteers may find that they are one of the few Volunteers, if not the only Volunteer, of their age in their training group.
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===What should I bring as gifts for Cameroonian friends and my host family? ===
  
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers ====
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This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient.  Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; maps of the world or Africa; souvenirs from your area; or photos to give away.
  
Tongan sexual mores are fairly strict. In Tonga, there is a concept called Fakaleiti, whereby boys are raised as girls and take on the appearance and social responsibilities of women. You will learn more about this cultural phenomenon during pre-service training.  Generally, this issue is not associated with homosexuality. [This section is grossly misinformed and in need of a serious edit by a knowledgeable person. Beneath the layer of public appearance there is a whole other Tongan sexual reality and volunteers should be made aware of this.]
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===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be? ===
  
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
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Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until mid-way through pre-service training (PST), and are not actually posted at that site until they successfully complete PST. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts.  If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10-to-12 hour drive from the provincial capital.
  
The overwhelming majority of Tongans are Christian, and attending church and observing holy days are important activities in every community. On Sundays, for example, recreation is forbidden by law. Regardless of their own faith, many Volunteers choose to attend church to show respect for local customs and to develop relationships in their community.  The Peace Corps encourages Volunteers of every religious persuasion to recognize the church as an important community institution and to participate accordingly. Volunteers who are worried about the religious/spiritual nature of this participation can consult with their peers or Volunteers from previous groups on how to tactfully work in a church-dominant society while maintaining one’s own religious/spiritual beliefs.
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===How can my family contact me in an emergency?===
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities ====
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The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can call the country desk staff at the Peace Corps at 800.424.8580.
  
Tongans generally treat people with disabilities with respect.  The main challenge will be that the accommodations you are accustomed to having in the United States may not be available locally. Nevertheless, the Peace Corps/Tonga staff will work with you to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, and job sites to enable you to serve safely and effectively.
 
  
[[Category:Tonga]]
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[[Category:Cameroon]]

Revision as of 00:10, 13 March 2009

FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • How much money should I bring?
  • When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
  • Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
  • Do I need an international driver’s license?
  • What should I bring as gifts for my host family?
  • Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
  • How can my family contact me in an emergency?
  • Can I call home?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks



How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Cameroon?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website has a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items. Go to: http://www.tsa.gov/ travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution. In addition, do not pack important documents or valuables in your checked luggage; luggage may be delayed on the way to Cameroon, so make sure any essentials are in your carry-on bags.

What is the electric current in Cameroon?

In Cameroon, all appliances are powered with 220 volts (as is the case in most of Europe). However, there may be large fluctuations in power, and most appliances should be protected with a voltage regulator. These can be purchased throughout Cameroon.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a "settling-in allowance" and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money to purchase a cell phone or for use during vacation travels to other countries. Though it's not entirely safe to keep a large amount of cash in your house or on your person, it is preferable to traveler's checks and credit cards. Identity theft is quickly on the rise in Cameroon, and incidents happen even when paying with them at established places like the Hilton. Most volunteers who bring traveler's checks end up never using them because they are rarely accepted and expensive to cash. If you are bringing extra money to spend within Cameroon, then bring cash. You can convert it to local currency (Fcfa) and deposit it in your bank, or store it in your own envelope in the administrative safe in the Peace Corps Headquarters in Yaoundé. ATM cards are coming into much wider use in Africa and may also be beneficial while traveling. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Cameroon do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

What should I bring as gifts for Cameroonian friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; maps of the world or Africa; souvenirs from your area; or photos to give away.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until mid-way through pre-service training (PST), and are not actually posted at that site until they successfully complete PST. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10-to-12 hour drive from the provincial capital.

How can my family contact me in an emergency?

The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can call the country desk staff at the Peace Corps at 800.424.8580.