Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Ghana" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Turkmenistan"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
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===Communications ===
  
===Communications===
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====Mail ====
====Mail====
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we have in the United States. If you bring with you U.S. standards for mail service, you won't be in a mail frustration because because there are other mailing services here like fedex, dhl and it take just a week when you send it through the box mail which is normal. All packages are opened and inspected at the post office in Accra in the presence of a Peace Corps staff member.  
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Few countries in the world offer the level of postal service considered normal in the United States. Mail has taken as few as two or three weeks to arrive in Turkmenistan, but it can take longer, especially around holidays. Some mail may simply not arrive. However, postal service has improved immensely in the past couple of years.  
  
Your address during the 10-week pre-service training will be:  
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Your address while you are a trainee (your first three months in-country) will be:  
  
:“Your Name,” PCT
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“Your Name,” PCT  
:Peace Corps/Ghana
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:P.O. Box 5796
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:Accra-North, Ghana
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:West Africa 
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Once you have become a Volunteer and are at your site, give your friends and family your new address there, and ask them to send your letters to you directly. Many Volunteers live in a community without a post office. In this case, you will travel to a district or regional capital to pick up and send mail or just get it from one of the Peace Corps Offices (Accra, Kumasi, or Tamale)
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U.S. Peace Corps/Turkmenistan
  
====Care Packages====
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PO Box 258, Krugozor
  
Packages can be sent to the Peace Corps/Ghana Accra office address, where they will be held until either you pick them up or staff travel up-country. You can also have the package sent directly to the address at your site, if you have one, or the nearest Peace Corps office.  There is always a customs charge for the package, typically between 3-6 cedis, or $2 (U.S.). You will be responsible for reimbursing Peace Corps for the costs of obtaining your package from customs. Typically, it takes about '''one to three months to receive a package from America.'''
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Central Post Office
  
The address for Peace Corps is below:
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Ashgabat, 744000
  
:Jane Doe (PCV)
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TURKMENISTAN
:Peace Corps Ghana
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:P.O. Box 5796
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:Accra-North
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:Ghana, West Africa
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Here is the link for information about the [http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/fh_012.htm  United States Parcel Service in Ghana].
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"Via Istanbul"
Here is the link for information about [http://www.dhl.com.gh/en/express/shipping.html  DHL in Ghana].
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Preferred Gifts (Avoid liquids and chocolates as they tend to leak or melt in transit):
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It is a good idea to write Via Istanbul after Turkmenistan, otherwise the post can go through Moscow and this reportedly adds severe delays.
*Powdered Gatorade
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:When you receive it, you will understand why it is absolutely fabulous.
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*Candy
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*Coffee or tea packets
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*Dried food
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*'''Magazines'''
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:Virtually nonexistent here and perhaps the best way to keep up with current events because the internet is not always the swiftest.
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*Books
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====Telephones====
 
  
The Ghana telephone agency has offices located in major cities and some smaller towns with direct lines to the United States. You can call collect or use a calling card such as AT&T, MCI or Sprint. The calling card is generally a cheaper option than calling collect. Fax services are available at post offices. Once you are at your site, you can send the fax number to your friends and relatives for easy communication.  
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During training, your mail will arrive at the Peace Corps office and be delivered to you by the training staff. During your first few months in-country, the absence of mail may be discouraging, so you might want to suggest that family and friends write to you even before you leave the United States.  
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Once you are assigned to your permanent site, you may have mail sent directly there or you may continue to have mail sent to the Peace Corps office if you wish. For larger items, padded envelopes are safer than boxes. Note that it is standard procedure for packages to be opened and inspected at the  central post office. Therefore, we recommend that you not have irreplaceable or valuable items sent to you, as they can mysteriously disappear in transit.
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Volunteers and staff traveling back home often offer to hand-carry letters to be mailed once they arrive in the United States, so you may want to bring a supply of U.S. stamps.  While this is a great way to deal with the uncertainty of international mail service, you should not rely on this method, as it is a favor and your mail could sit for weeks in the Peace Corps office.
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We strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly.  Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from Volunteers, so advise your family and friends that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. would notify your family.
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Advise your family and friends to number their letters sequentially for tracking purposes (this will help you tell if letters are missing, though they may arrive out of order) and to write “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.
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====Telephones====
  
Please do not tell friends or family that you will call or e-mail them as soon as you arrive in Ghana. You will not be able to access phones or Internet until after the first couple of days.  
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Long-distance communication via telephone is available but can be unreliable and expensive. Although Turkmenistan has direct-dial overseas access in some areas, in most areas international calls (except those to other CIS countries) must be booked through an operator. If you are calling from outside Ashgabat, it may take longer to get a line and your conversation may be cut off after 15 minutes or so. The current rate for calls to America is approximately 20,000 manats (about $1) per minute. Communicating by phone within Turkmenistan may also be difficult at times, and sending a telegram, while not instant, may be more reliable.  It is important for your family and friends to know that they should not expect to be able to reach you by phone quickly.  
  
Mobile phones are growing in popularity throughout Africa and Ghana is no exception. A Growing number of Ghanaian mobile phone companies provide services that cover most of the country’s major cities and secondary towns. Most Volunteers choose to purchase a mobile phone in Ghana. AT this time most everyone has mobile service in or near their site; while some PCV's do not have coverage in their communities they use the phone when they travel to a larger town. If you choose to bring your own phone be sure that it is a GSM phone and can operate on the systems (900 and 1900 mhz) available in Africa. You can also buy a cheap mobile phone during training for about $50. SIM cards for the various networks around Ghana are readily available and inexpensive. Everyone uses the "pay as you go" option of buying credit from the ubiquitous kiosks selling "scratch cards". Peace Corps will not pay for mobile phones but know that if your site has service it will be expected by your community members that you have a phone.
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Cellphone availability is extremely limited and very expensive for a Peace Corps Volunteer. In addition, most of the people Volunteers live and work with do not have cellular phones.  
  
*mobile/cell phone
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====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ====
**Cheap cell phones (about $30) can be purchased in Ghana but most phones are knock-offs. Check out the links below to decide if you can use your current phone in Ghana or if you want to buy a new one that is compatible with the frequency in both Ghana and the US. Furthermore, '''there are no cell phone contracts''' or locked phones here. You simply buy a chip and pay prepaid minutes as you go, and you can switch chips at any time depending on phone rates and cell phone coverage.
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**[http://thetravelinsider.info/roadwarriorcontent/quadbandphones.htm  The Travel Insider] discusses the different frequency bands around the world.
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Peace Corps/Turkmenistan has three computers with Internet access solely for use by Volunteers and limited use by trainees. Prior to being given access, Volunteers must sign a statement agreeing to abide by all rules and regulations governing the use of Peace Corps computers. Although the Peace Corps does not provide e-mail accounts for Volunteers, you can set up free accounts with providers such as Yahoo! and Hotmail.  
**[http://www.mobileworldlive.com/maps/network.php?cid=134&cname=Ghana Mobile World Live / Ghana] discusses the frequency bands specific to the companies in Ghana.
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====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
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Most Volunteers do not have access to e-mail on a routine basis. It is a good idea to explain this to your family and friends so that they do not worry if they do not hear from you often.
  
There is e-mail access in all major cities and in some towns.  These are usually at communications centers (known as com centers). The cost varies, and equipment and connections can be slow.  Many people purchase a 3G USB modem.  The data packages and pricing vary from company to company.
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===Housing and Site Location ===
  
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Peace Corps/Turkmenistan requires that Volunteers live with host families for the first three months of service to better understand the cultural context within which they are living and working. Host families receive training in safety and security support for Volunteers and in issues of American diversity and values. Any change in host family or move to an apartment or home after the required host family stay must meet Peace Corps safety and security standards and be approved by your program manager in advance. In some communities, it may not be culturally appropriate to live alone, particularly for women (of any age).
  
===Housing and Site Location===
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The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is based on the premise that Volunteers are safest and most effective when they are fully integrated into their communities and have gained the trust and respect of the local people. Before making site assignments, the Peace Corps considers site-specific information, input from host country sponsors (i.e., local schools, hospitals, or health facility directors), and trainees’ skills, abilities, and special concerns (e.g., medical, health, and safety). This careful matching process aims to place Volunteers at the sites most in need of their type of assistance in the hope that this will result in a positive, rewarding experience for both Volunteers and the people of Turkmenistan. The program manager and program assistant are responsible for finding initial housing for Volunteers in coordination with host country site supervisors.
  
Housing varies by region, district, community, and by sector.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
There are few generalities about housing or site location.  Peace Corps Volunteers are placed at the request of the government, Volunteers go where they are needed. Peace Corps/Ghana requires that the community contribute housing and that it meet the minimum standard of at least two rooms (or one room with a porch/sitting area). Housing must be adequately ventilated with a leak-proof roof, a solid floor and walls, access to year-round water supply, latrine, bathing facilities (often a bucket bath), and secure doors and windows. Some Volunteers find their housing goes way beyond these minimums, while others barely meet them.  
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Volunteers receive four types of allowances. When you become a Volunteer, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance in local currency that is roughly equal to one month’s living allowance. It covers the cost of buying basic household items for your permanent site.  
  
Peace Corps/Ghana has Volunteers in all 10 regions of the country. Some sites are very remote, while others are in sizable towns or cities. Once you arrive in Ghana, you will be interviewed by the associate Peace Corps director for your project to help guide the final placement decision.  
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You will also receive a living allowance in local currency, deposited regularly in a local bank account, to cover food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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The amount of the living allowance is based on the local economy at your site and may vary by region. The amount is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. You are likely to find that you receive more remuneration than your host country counterpart or supervisor.
  
The local currency, the Ghanaian Cedi(GHS), is freely convertible. The exchange rate is determined by market forces and is 1.50 Ghana Cedis to the US Dollar as of February 2011. [http://www.exchange-rates.org/Rate/USD/GHS Check here] for the current exchange rate.
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You will receive a vacation allowance of $24 per month of service. Finally, you will receive a quarterly travel allowance to cover the cost of transportation, lodging, and meals while traveling for official purposes (including program-related travel, medical travel, and travel to required trainings and Peace Corps events). The amount is established by the administrative officer and is site-specific. Extraordinary expenses above this allowance will be reimbursed on an individual basis.  
  
Volunteers are expected to live modestly. Do not bring flashy or expensive equipment. Volunteers can live comfortably on the living allowance provided. There is no reason or obligation to bring additional money. Some Volunteers choose to bring about $100 or $200 USD for post-service or vacation travel, or to purchase gifts. Traveler's checks are also a good idea (use American Express, they don't expire).  Some volunteers also bring ATM cards but make sure: it has the Visa logo, you've notified the card issuer of your travels, and verify the expiry date does not fall within your time of service.
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Most Volunteers live comfortably in Turkmenistan with these four allowances. Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home, as they are expected to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues. However, many Volunteers do bring money to spend while they are on vacation and as there are many interesting places to visit in the region, you may want to consider this.  
  
As a Volunteer in Ghana, you will receive four types of allowances:
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Credit cards generally cannot be used in Turkmenistan (except, for instance, when purchasing airline tickets from foreign carriers or for getting a cash advance at the Turkmen Central Bank), but they are handy for vacation travel outside Turkmenistan. Another option to consider is a pre-paid debit card for use during travel. Traveler’s checks cannot be cashed in Turkmenistan at this time.
  
* A living allowance (paid monthly) in Cedis to cover your basic living expenses.
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All Volunteers set up local bank accounts either in the capital or at the branch nearest to their site.
* A vacation allowance of $24 (U.S.) per month for the upcoming three months is added to your living allowance each quarter. The vacation allowance is converted into Cedis at the prevailing rate on the date the money is ordered.
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* A one-time settling-in allowance in Cedis is given after training to buy basic household items when you move into your house at your site.
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* If you are requested by the Peace Corps to travel, you will be provided with additional money for transportation, lodging, and meals.
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Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Ghana with these four allowances. Volunteers are not permitted to supplement their income with dollars brought from home.  The living allowance is adequate, and all Volunteers should have no difficulty living modestly. Credit cards are worthless in a rural setting but can be used in a limited number of establishments in Accra and for travel outside of Ghana.  Credit card fraud is high throughout West Africa.
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===Food and Diet ===
  
===Food and Diet===
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Staple foods are available throughout the year. Imported foods are increasingly common, though they may not be the American or European brands you are used to and they are expensive.
  
Ghana has a diverse and flavorful cuisine. You will find yourself cooking creatively with items from Ghanaian marketsMany Volunteers take their meals with friends and neighbors; others enjoy inventive cooking for a fusion of American and Ghanaian flavors.  
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Chicken, eggs, and milk are available but somewhat expensiveMeat can always be found, and fish is fairly common. Sour cream and locally made white cheese are available in most markets. Imported cheeses are becoming more widely available but are costly.  
  
What food is available to you will vary greatly by region/site location. Common meats and other protein include: chicken and eggs, fish (smoked and dried), beef, pork, goat, grass cutter (small wild animal), beans (bambara, red, and white), and ground nuts (peanuts). Common vegetables include: tomatoes (fresh and canned paste), okra, garden eggs (like small eggplant), onions, kontomire (like spinach), hot peppers, red peppers (very hot), and cabbage. Fruits (in season) include: mango, banana, orange, avocado , pawpaw (papaya), coconut, pineapple, and watermelon. Staple foods include: Bread, coco yam, rice, plantain, pasta, sweet potato, yams, cassava, and oatmeal. Spices include: red pepper (not black), curry pepper, salt, cloves, bay leaves, sugar, fresh ginger, and fresh garlic. Also readily available are: white flour, popcorn, oils, corn flour, dry whole milk, soft drinks, coffee, tea, baking powder, vinegar, crackers, cookies, canned whole milk, and maggie cubes (like beef bouillon). Lettuce, potatoes, apples, cucumbers, cheese, and green peppers, are sometimes available but expensive. At or very near site you will have the basic minimum market of tomatoes, onions, pepe, and some basic starch, with quality varying by season.
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You will find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as melons, grapes, pomegranates, and the ubiquitous eggplants, in the summer and fall. In the winter, you can generally find potatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions, spinach, garlic, apples, mandarins, oranges, and peanuts. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and bananas are also available in the winter, but they are expensive. Grains, nuts, and dried fruits (e.g., apricots and raisins) are always available, as are fresh herbs like red basil, mint, chives, dill, cilantro, and parsley. Markets in more rural areas tend to offer fewer items year-round than do markets in cities.  
  
Bring recipes that include these items. It is very unlikely that you will have an oven, but you can make a Dutch oven and bake almost as well as with a conventional oven.
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The traditional Turkmen and Russian diets rely heavily on rice, meat, and fat. Dinner is usually the largest meal of the day. Schools serve inexpensive snacks to students and faculty.  
  
===Transportation===
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Commonly served beverages include hot tea (both black and green), mineral water, compote (boiled and preserved fruit juice), and alcohol (i.e., vodka, cognac, beer, and locally produced wine). Champagne is often served on festive occasions. Western-style beverages such as Coca-Cola, Fanta, and boxed juices are available.
  
The main mode of transportation within and around your site is by bicycle. It is very likely that you will ride a bike on a daily basis. Volunteers are provided cash to purchase a bicycle. You must bring a bike helmet with you. Peace Corps/Ghana will reimburse you up to $50 when you arrive for this helmet. Wearing helmets is a requirement. Peace Corps/Ghana prohibits the driving of, or riding on, any two or three-wheeled motorized vehicle. Violation of either of these regulations can be grounds for administrative separation.  Volunteers are not allowed to drive cars without the approval of the country director.  
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Strict vegetarians may have difficulties adhering to their diet while in Turkmenistan because of the heavy reliance on animal products in the local diet and because of the constant social pressure to eat—and eat a lot. Your host family, for example, may be hurt if you refuse to eat their food. In addition, the meaning of vegetarianism often is not understood. Do not be surprised to hear someone say, for example, that a soup is “vegetarian” even though it was made with a meat broth or that a rice dish is suitable because it was prepared with less meat on top.  
  
For longer distances Volunteers travel by local taxis and tro tros (vans). Longer trips around the country are on large “Greyhound-type” buses. Internal airline service between Accra, Kumasi, and Tamale is provided by two airlines but the cost is out of the range of a Volunteer’s living allowance. For family and friends, many major airlines fly in and out of Accra daily and to other parts of Africa and the world.  
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You will have to take charge of your diet within the context of your host family’s expectations. (This applies to all Volunteers, since most Turkmen do not share American views of what constitutes a healthy diet.) The Peace Corps/Turkmenistan staff can help explain your situation to your host family and can help you develop a strategy for maintaining your diet.  
  
===Geography and Climate===
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===Transportation ===
  
Ghana, located on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, extends about 450 miles from north to south, and 250 miles from east to west (roughly the size of Oregon). Geographically, the country can be divided into three zones: the southern narrow coastal strip of savanna; a broad tropical rain forest extending 150-200 miles north; and the northern savanna area. Lake Volta, formed by the construction of the Akosombo Dam, is the largest manmade lake in the world and is an important geographical feature of the country.  
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Traveling within Turkmenistan can be challenging. There are inexpensive daily flights to most regional capitals, but it can be difficult to get a ticket. Most Volunteers take trains, taxis, buses, or marshrutkas (minivans) to travel from one city to another. On the whole, public buses are adequate and inexpensive. Likewise, taxis are affordable and readily available. For your safety, Peace Corps recommends that you carefully determine the safety of the vehicles in which you ride as many vehicles are old and in disrepair. Guidance will be provided during training on how to do this.  
  
The climate of Ghana is tropical with two main seasons, the dry season from November through March, and the rainy season from May through August. It is hot and dry along the southeast coast. It is hot and humid in the southwest, and dry in the north. During the dry season, the Harmattan affects the northern and southern regions with days of continual cool air, haze, and fine dust.
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===Geography and Climate ===
  
===Social Activities===
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Turkmenistan is situated in the southwest of Central Asia.  It is located north of the Kopet Dag Mountains, between the Caspian Sea in the west and the Amu Darya River in the east. Turkmenistan borders Uzbekistan in the north and east, Kazakhstan in the northwest, Iran in the south, and Afghanistan in the southeast. Slightly larger than California, the country has an area of 195,200 square miles (488,100 square kilometers).
  
Volunteers immerse themselves in their communities and take part in the various festivities, weddings, funerals, parties, story telling, local dances, and other interesting activities.  Many Volunteers pay special attention to youth and use informal time with them to read, color, play games, sing songs, and do household chores together. Volunteers are encouraged to explore the areas around their community and visit nearby interesting sites during the weekends. Visiting and spending time with people is a primary form of socializing. You will find yourself socializing with friends in their compounds, under a tree, or on a bench for hours on end. Being present is a critical factor in relationship building.  
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The entire central region (four-fifths of the country) consists of the Kara Kum Desert, one of the largest sand deserts in the world. Its major rivers are the Amu Darya (aka Oxus), which flows north through the eastern region of the republic and empties into the Aral Sea; and the Murghap, which flows south into Afghanistan. The Kara Kum Canal, whose construction began in 1954, carries water from the Amu Darya to arid central and western regions that have no significant natural waterways. The canal is one of the main factors contributing to low water levels in the Aral Sea.  
  
There is a continually changing repository of books at the main Peace Corps office in Accra and at the offices in Tamale and Kumasi.  
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The average temperature in January is 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius). The average temperature in July is 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), and can reach as high as 130 degrees F (50 degrees C) in the southeastern Kara Kum.  Precipitation is slight throughout much of the country, with average rainfall ranging from only 3.2 inches (80 mm) in the northwest to about 12 inches (300 mm) in mountainous regions. Most rain falls in the winter and spring, so the hot summer months are dry.  
  
When you join Peace Corps, you expect it to be difficult.
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===Social Activities ===
  
That’s why you join; to challenge yourself, to give and to grow. You will choose what kind of Volunteer you will be. Will you be the kind who gravitates only to other Volunteers or will you be the kind that goes out of your way to develop strong friendships with Ghanaians? Will Ghana be the backdrop to your American adventure in Africa or w[http://www.example.com link title]ill Ghana be in the forefront of your experience?
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Social life is quiet in Turkmenistan, though there are many bars, cafes, and restaurants in Ashgabat. While the places frequented by the small expatriate community in the capital are well above the means of Peace Corps Volunteers, local establishments are reasonably priced. There are a few theaters in the capital that present live plays and folklore productions. A few cinemas and a few DVD bars exist in Ashgabat and some other cities, and they sometimes show Western films dubbed into Russian. While drinking is permitted in Turkmenistan, public drunkenness is illegal.  Some Volunteers will find the issue of alcohol consumption to be one of the most difficult to come to terms with during their time here. The people of Turkmenistan lose respect for those who become loud and obnoxious under the influence of alcohol. The Peace Corps also has strict policies about alcohol consumption.
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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Outside the capital, night life is more limited. The people of Turkmenistan find entertainment mostly through private parties in their homes. Their hospitality is genuine, and you will be invited to many homes after you become known in your community. Special occasions such as birthdays are often celebrated with lavish dinners. Some Volunteers have found it challenging dealing with the constant pressure to consume food and alcohol (usually vodka or cognac) at social events, including meetings with work supervisors and counterparts.
  
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines.  
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Because of the lack of Western-style diversions, many Volunteers become prolific readers or take up hobbies.  The Peace Corps/Turkmenistan office has a large library of English-language books left by past Volunteers, and book exchanges and referrals are a Volunteer tradition.  
  
You will be working as a representative of multiple organizations, and as such you are expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your Ghanaian counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or old clothes, this will be due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing ragged, un-mended clothing is likely to be considered an affront.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
  
Ghanaians are very meticulous about their dress in the workplace and wear their good clothes. They are particular about their personal hygiene (a real accomplishment in communities of mud-brick houses and no running water), and cleanliness is a sign of respect. Shorts are acceptable around your house after work, but Peace Corps Volunteers must never wear them in public. Above-the-knee length skirts are seen in the cities, but not in small communities. Besides, they are not practical, comfortable, or appropriate when traveling in a crowded bus. Although it is hot here, you can only wear tank tops with small neck and sleeve openings. Tops with “spaghetti-string” straps are only appropriate at the beach, so do not bring too many of these.
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The people of Turkmenistan take pride in their personal appearance. To gain the acceptance, respect, and confidence of Turkmen co-workers, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally, whether at your workplace or visiting the Peace Corps office. Dress standards for foreign aid workers are generally conservative and modest. Women are expected to wear casual skirts or dresses at work (except during physical labor), and men are expected to wear long trousers for activities other than sports or labor.  
  
You will find that some volunteers adopt the Ghanian attitude about dress and personal appearance while others do not. It is helpful to understand that how you dress on a daily basis will depend on the work you are doing (Environment volunteers are not expected to "go to farm" in their best while Teacher PCV's are expected to dress smartly to school). In addition, cultural attitudes about dress vary from community to community; some villages will be very formal about dress and some will not. However, on the whole, you should realize you will be treated more as a leader if you dress well in your community, no matter the work you are doing and how important that is to you is an individual choice. During travel on public transport, especially in the North, it is especially important to dress well in order to be treated with respect.
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Out of respect for the Turkmen people and culture, Volunteers are not allowed to display body piercings (including nose, tongue, eyebrow, and navel rings) and tattoos during their service. Men are not allowed to wear earrings or have long hair or ponytails. If you do not remove your body rings and cut your hair before you arrive in Turkmenistan, you will be asked to do so before we place you with a host family during training. Adhering to these rules is a test of your motivation and commitment to adapting to your new environment. If you have reservations about adhering to them, you should consider the level of flexibility required to be successful Volunteer and reevaluate your decision to serve in Turkmenistan.  
  
===Personal Safety===
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We do not mean to be unduly harsh. We simply want you to understand that how you behave and dress will not only influence the local people’s attitude toward you but reflect on both the United States and the Peace Corps. You can lose respect in the workplace by acting or dressing inappropriately.
  
Peace Corps’ approach to safety and security is called the acceptance model. You are safest when your neighbors, friends and colleagues look out for you, when you are accepted into the community. 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 over-emphasized. 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.  
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And because the culture tends to be an indirect one, Turkmen are unlikely to tell you when they think you are doing something wrong. Their reactions may come in more subtle ways, such as lack of consideration for your ideas, mistrust of your professional abilities, or excluding you from certain activities.  
  
All 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 Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal safety problems. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Ghana. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and thus must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. You need to be aware that any behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Turkmenistan or your personal safety cannot be tolerated and can lead to “administrative separation,” which is a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook contains more information about the grounds for administrative separation.  
  
Unfortunately, as elsewhere, crime does exist in Ghana.  Because you are a foreigner and considered “rich,” your new home may be more prone to break-ins than those of your neighbors. Normal precautions such as not leaving your belongings in plain site will usually reduce most risks.  Ghanaians are fastidious about locking up their belongings and you must also be careful. Crime at the village or town level is much less frequent, but risks increase in proportion to population size. In urban areas, you must be security conscious.  Fortunately, violent crime is not a severe problem. Ghana is considered comparably safe, although in some situations women should be escorted at night or travel in groups.
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===Personal Safety ===
  
===Rewards and Frustrations===
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Turkmenistan. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
  
Many Americans never have the opportunity to live in a place where families and the life of the community are literally the most important things. Many people never truly understand how much people can do with seemingly so little, and what a difference just a little help can make in someone’s life.  With their familiar habits and routines gone, Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana learn to develop new routines and relationships, and in doing so, have life changing experiences.  What could be more rewarding?
+
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
  
Most Americans coming to Ghana find the pace of life much slower, and for some this is difficult to adjust to. It is especially difficult when you are trying to meet deadlines that you believe are important while everyone around you seems to be on a different schedule. Relying on unpredictable transport rather than just picking up and leaving when you want to, not being able to make yourself clear when communicating, and finding that you really are responsible for making this experience what it turns out to be, can be overwhelming. At the end of two years however, when you realize what you gained and how you adjusted to a new environment, you will see why it was the experience of a lifetime.  
+
Although the potential for job satisfaction in Turkmenistan is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. Some of the factors that contribute to the low level of motivation on the part of the counterparts involve difficulties with the government, which tends to view foreigners with suspicion. Even simple projects can be difficult to get permission for and counterparts may be hesitant to be seen as contributing too eagerly to projects of which their supervisors may disapprove. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.  
  
 +
You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your counterparts with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.
  
 +
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. However, Turkmen are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. 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 Turkmenistan feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
  
[[Category:Ghana]]
+
[[Category:Turkmenistan]]

Latest revision as of 12:32, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

Few countries in the world offer the level of postal service considered normal in the United States. Mail has taken as few as two or three weeks to arrive in Turkmenistan, but it can take longer, especially around holidays. Some mail may simply not arrive. However, postal service has improved immensely in the past couple of years.

Your address while you are a trainee (your first three months in-country) will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

U.S. Peace Corps/Turkmenistan

PO Box 258, Krugozor

Central Post Office

Ashgabat, 744000

TURKMENISTAN

"Via Istanbul"

It is a good idea to write Via Istanbul after Turkmenistan, otherwise the post can go through Moscow and this reportedly adds severe delays.


During training, your mail will arrive at the Peace Corps office and be delivered to you by the training staff. During your first few months in-country, the absence of mail may be discouraging, so you might want to suggest that family and friends write to you even before you leave the United States.

Once you are assigned to your permanent site, you may have mail sent directly there or you may continue to have mail sent to the Peace Corps office if you wish. For larger items, padded envelopes are safer than boxes. Note that it is standard procedure for packages to be opened and inspected at the central post office. Therefore, we recommend that you not have irreplaceable or valuable items sent to you, as they can mysteriously disappear in transit.

Volunteers and staff traveling back home often offer to hand-carry letters to be mailed once they arrive in the United States, so you may want to bring a supply of U.S. stamps. While this is a great way to deal with the uncertainty of international mail service, you should not rely on this method, as it is a favor and your mail could sit for weeks in the Peace Corps office.

We strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from Volunteers, so advise your family and friends that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. would notify your family.

Advise your family and friends to number their letters sequentially for tracking purposes (this will help you tell if letters are missing, though they may arrive out of order) and to write “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.

Telephones[edit]

Long-distance communication via telephone is available but can be unreliable and expensive. Although Turkmenistan has direct-dial overseas access in some areas, in most areas international calls (except those to other CIS countries) must be booked through an operator. If you are calling from outside Ashgabat, it may take longer to get a line and your conversation may be cut off after 15 minutes or so. The current rate for calls to America is approximately 20,000 manats (about $1) per minute. Communicating by phone within Turkmenistan may also be difficult at times, and sending a telegram, while not instant, may be more reliable. It is important for your family and friends to know that they should not expect to be able to reach you by phone quickly.

Cellphone availability is extremely limited and very expensive for a Peace Corps Volunteer. In addition, most of the people Volunteers live and work with do not have cellular phones.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access[edit]

Peace Corps/Turkmenistan has three computers with Internet access solely for use by Volunteers and limited use by trainees. Prior to being given access, Volunteers must sign a statement agreeing to abide by all rules and regulations governing the use of Peace Corps computers. Although the Peace Corps does not provide e-mail accounts for Volunteers, you can set up free accounts with providers such as Yahoo! and Hotmail.

Most Volunteers do not have access to e-mail on a routine basis. It is a good idea to explain this to your family and friends so that they do not worry if they do not hear from you often.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

Peace Corps/Turkmenistan requires that Volunteers live with host families for the first three months of service to better understand the cultural context within which they are living and working. Host families receive training in safety and security support for Volunteers and in issues of American diversity and values. Any change in host family or move to an apartment or home after the required host family stay must meet Peace Corps safety and security standards and be approved by your program manager in advance. In some communities, it may not be culturally appropriate to live alone, particularly for women (of any age).

The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is based on the premise that Volunteers are safest and most effective when they are fully integrated into their communities and have gained the trust and respect of the local people. Before making site assignments, the Peace Corps considers site-specific information, input from host country sponsors (i.e., local schools, hospitals, or health facility directors), and trainees’ skills, abilities, and special concerns (e.g., medical, health, and safety). This careful matching process aims to place Volunteers at the sites most in need of their type of assistance in the hope that this will result in a positive, rewarding experience for both Volunteers and the people of Turkmenistan. The program manager and program assistant are responsible for finding initial housing for Volunteers in coordination with host country site supervisors.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

Volunteers receive four types of allowances. When you become a Volunteer, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance in local currency that is roughly equal to one month’s living allowance. It covers the cost of buying basic household items for your permanent site.

You will also receive a living allowance in local currency, deposited regularly in a local bank account, to cover food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals.

The amount of the living allowance is based on the local economy at your site and may vary by region. The amount is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. You are likely to find that you receive more remuneration than your host country counterpart or supervisor.

You will receive a vacation allowance of $24 per month of service. Finally, you will receive a quarterly travel allowance to cover the cost of transportation, lodging, and meals while traveling for official purposes (including program-related travel, medical travel, and travel to required trainings and Peace Corps events). The amount is established by the administrative officer and is site-specific. Extraordinary expenses above this allowance will be reimbursed on an individual basis.

Most Volunteers live comfortably in Turkmenistan with these four allowances. Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home, as they are expected to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues. However, many Volunteers do bring money to spend while they are on vacation and as there are many interesting places to visit in the region, you may want to consider this.

Credit cards generally cannot be used in Turkmenistan (except, for instance, when purchasing airline tickets from foreign carriers or for getting a cash advance at the Turkmen Central Bank), but they are handy for vacation travel outside Turkmenistan. Another option to consider is a pre-paid debit card for use during travel. Traveler’s checks cannot be cashed in Turkmenistan at this time.

All Volunteers set up local bank accounts either in the capital or at the branch nearest to their site.

Food and Diet[edit]

Staple foods are available throughout the year. Imported foods are increasingly common, though they may not be the American or European brands you are used to and they are expensive.

Chicken, eggs, and milk are available but somewhat expensive. Meat can always be found, and fish is fairly common. Sour cream and locally made white cheese are available in most markets. Imported cheeses are becoming more widely available but are costly.

You will find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as melons, grapes, pomegranates, and the ubiquitous eggplants, in the summer and fall. In the winter, you can generally find potatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions, spinach, garlic, apples, mandarins, oranges, and peanuts. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and bananas are also available in the winter, but they are expensive. Grains, nuts, and dried fruits (e.g., apricots and raisins) are always available, as are fresh herbs like red basil, mint, chives, dill, cilantro, and parsley. Markets in more rural areas tend to offer fewer items year-round than do markets in cities.

The traditional Turkmen and Russian diets rely heavily on rice, meat, and fat. Dinner is usually the largest meal of the day. Schools serve inexpensive snacks to students and faculty.

Commonly served beverages include hot tea (both black and green), mineral water, compote (boiled and preserved fruit juice), and alcohol (i.e., vodka, cognac, beer, and locally produced wine). Champagne is often served on festive occasions. Western-style beverages such as Coca-Cola, Fanta, and boxed juices are available.

Strict vegetarians may have difficulties adhering to their diet while in Turkmenistan because of the heavy reliance on animal products in the local diet and because of the constant social pressure to eat—and eat a lot. Your host family, for example, may be hurt if you refuse to eat their food. In addition, the meaning of vegetarianism often is not understood. Do not be surprised to hear someone say, for example, that a soup is “vegetarian” even though it was made with a meat broth or that a rice dish is suitable because it was prepared with less meat on top.

You will have to take charge of your diet within the context of your host family’s expectations. (This applies to all Volunteers, since most Turkmen do not share American views of what constitutes a healthy diet.) The Peace Corps/Turkmenistan staff can help explain your situation to your host family and can help you develop a strategy for maintaining your diet.

Transportation[edit]

Traveling within Turkmenistan can be challenging. There are inexpensive daily flights to most regional capitals, but it can be difficult to get a ticket. Most Volunteers take trains, taxis, buses, or marshrutkas (minivans) to travel from one city to another. On the whole, public buses are adequate and inexpensive. Likewise, taxis are affordable and readily available. For your safety, Peace Corps recommends that you carefully determine the safety of the vehicles in which you ride as many vehicles are old and in disrepair. Guidance will be provided during training on how to do this.

Geography and Climate[edit]

Turkmenistan is situated in the southwest of Central Asia. It is located north of the Kopet Dag Mountains, between the Caspian Sea in the west and the Amu Darya River in the east. Turkmenistan borders Uzbekistan in the north and east, Kazakhstan in the northwest, Iran in the south, and Afghanistan in the southeast. Slightly larger than California, the country has an area of 195,200 square miles (488,100 square kilometers).

The entire central region (four-fifths of the country) consists of the Kara Kum Desert, one of the largest sand deserts in the world. Its major rivers are the Amu Darya (aka Oxus), which flows north through the eastern region of the republic and empties into the Aral Sea; and the Murghap, which flows south into Afghanistan. The Kara Kum Canal, whose construction began in 1954, carries water from the Amu Darya to arid central and western regions that have no significant natural waterways. The canal is one of the main factors contributing to low water levels in the Aral Sea.

The average temperature in January is 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius). The average temperature in July is 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), and can reach as high as 130 degrees F (50 degrees C) in the southeastern Kara Kum. Precipitation is slight throughout much of the country, with average rainfall ranging from only 3.2 inches (80 mm) in the northwest to about 12 inches (300 mm) in mountainous regions. Most rain falls in the winter and spring, so the hot summer months are dry.

Social Activities[edit]

Social life is quiet in Turkmenistan, though there are many bars, cafes, and restaurants in Ashgabat. While the places frequented by the small expatriate community in the capital are well above the means of Peace Corps Volunteers, local establishments are reasonably priced. There are a few theaters in the capital that present live plays and folklore productions. A few cinemas and a few DVD bars exist in Ashgabat and some other cities, and they sometimes show Western films dubbed into Russian. While drinking is permitted in Turkmenistan, public drunkenness is illegal. Some Volunteers will find the issue of alcohol consumption to be one of the most difficult to come to terms with during their time here. The people of Turkmenistan lose respect for those who become loud and obnoxious under the influence of alcohol. The Peace Corps also has strict policies about alcohol consumption.

Outside the capital, night life is more limited. The people of Turkmenistan find entertainment mostly through private parties in their homes. Their hospitality is genuine, and you will be invited to many homes after you become known in your community. Special occasions such as birthdays are often celebrated with lavish dinners. Some Volunteers have found it challenging dealing with the constant pressure to consume food and alcohol (usually vodka or cognac) at social events, including meetings with work supervisors and counterparts.

Because of the lack of Western-style diversions, many Volunteers become prolific readers or take up hobbies. The Peace Corps/Turkmenistan office has a large library of English-language books left by past Volunteers, and book exchanges and referrals are a Volunteer tradition.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

The people of Turkmenistan take pride in their personal appearance. To gain the acceptance, respect, and confidence of Turkmen co-workers, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally, whether at your workplace or visiting the Peace Corps office. Dress standards for foreign aid workers are generally conservative and modest. Women are expected to wear casual skirts or dresses at work (except during physical labor), and men are expected to wear long trousers for activities other than sports or labor.

Out of respect for the Turkmen people and culture, Volunteers are not allowed to display body piercings (including nose, tongue, eyebrow, and navel rings) and tattoos during their service. Men are not allowed to wear earrings or have long hair or ponytails. If you do not remove your body rings and cut your hair before you arrive in Turkmenistan, you will be asked to do so before we place you with a host family during training. Adhering to these rules is a test of your motivation and commitment to adapting to your new environment. If you have reservations about adhering to them, you should consider the level of flexibility required to be successful Volunteer and reevaluate your decision to serve in Turkmenistan.

We do not mean to be unduly harsh. We simply want you to understand that how you behave and dress will not only influence the local people’s attitude toward you but reflect on both the United States and the Peace Corps. You can lose respect in the workplace by acting or dressing inappropriately.

And because the culture tends to be an indirect one, Turkmen are unlikely to tell you when they think you are doing something wrong. Their reactions may come in more subtle ways, such as lack of consideration for your ideas, mistrust of your professional abilities, or excluding you from certain activities.

You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and thus must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. You need to be aware that any behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Turkmenistan or your personal safety cannot be tolerated and can lead to “administrative separation,” which is a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook contains more information about the grounds for administrative separation.

Personal Safety[edit]

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Turkmenistan. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

Although the potential for job satisfaction in Turkmenistan is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. Some of the factors that contribute to the low level of motivation on the part of the counterparts involve difficulties with the government, which tends to view foreigners with suspicion. Even simple projects can be difficult to get permission for and counterparts may be hesitant to be seen as contributing too eagerly to projects of which their supervisors may disapprove. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.

You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your counterparts with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. However, Turkmen are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. 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 Turkmenistan feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.