Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Burkina Faso" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Ecuador"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
===Communications===
 
===Communications===
 
Despite Burkina Faso’s relatively good communications systems, you should be prepared for a significant reduction in the frequency and reliability of your communications with friends and family. It is important to begin to prepare yourself, as well as your family and friends, for the realities of lengthy delays between letters, the lack of nearby telephones, and uncertain access to e-mail.
 
  
 
====Mail====
 
====Mail====
  
The postal system in Burkina Faso is reliable by African standards. Few Volunteers report problems with receiving letters and packages sent from the United States by airmail.  Airmail letters and packages typically take three to four weeks to arrive, but can take longer if there are mail strikes or other disruptions. Surface mail is not currently available from the United States to Burkina Faso (and even when it was, it took six months or longer). Internal mail service is, for the most part, reliable, and mail is delivered within a reasonable amount of time (a few days to two weeks from one part of the country to another). Essential documents are best sent via a courier service such as DHL.
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Until you have your own address, you can receive mail at Peace Corps/Ecuador’s post office box:
  
You can choose to receive mail at the Peace Corps office or at your site. Most Volunteers obtain a local post box once they know their assignment. During pre-service training, you will receive mail in care of the Peace Corps office, which will forward mail to the training site once a week.
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“Your Name,” PCV (for Volunteer) or PCT (for trainee)
  
Your address during training will be:
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Cuerpo de Paz
  
“Your Name,” PCT
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Casilla 17-08-8624
  
S/c Corps de la Paix
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Quito, Ecuador
  
01 B.P. 6031
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South America
  
Ouagadougou 01, Burkina Faso
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It takes a week to 10 days for a letter from the United States to reach the Peace Corps office by international mail. Once you are living at your assigned site, mail may take from two to four weeks to reach you.
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Receiving packages through international mail can be difficult, since all packages must go through Ecuadorian customs and you may have to make a special trip to Quito to pick up the package. All packages are opened by customs, and there is usually a significant customs charge. If the package contains items that may not be imported, like chocolates, customs officials may confiscate the items. Although some Volunteers have received small packages at their sites without having the packages pass through customs, this method is unpredictable.
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Many Volunteers have had luck receiving items sent in padded envelopes. We therefore recommend that families and friends send only small items and try to keep the weight of any packages under two kilos (4.4 pounds), clearly marking the contents. They should not send anything via couriers such as DHL and Federal Express, which are more expensive than the Postal Service.
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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 funding, 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. This allows you time to understand the developmental needs of the community and begin to engage the community in project identification. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your project director and country director.
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The Peace Corps has a mechanism in place for you and the communities you work with to access U.S. private-sector funds. The Peace Corps Partnership Program, administered by the Office of Private Sector Initiatives, can help you obtain financial support from corporations, foundations, civic groups, individuals, faith-based groups, and schools for projects approved by the country director. To learn more about the Partnership Program, call 800.424.8580 (extension 2170); e-mail pcpp@peacecorps.gov; or visit www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.  volproj.
  
 
====Telephones====
 
====Telephones====
  
Telephone service in Burkina Faso, like the postal system, is relatively reliable. A number of Volunteers have access to phone service at their sites through land-line phones at telecenters (essentially expanded versions of the telephone booth, providing phone and perhaps fax services). Cellphone service is expanding rapidly and several Volunteer sites are now covered. Those Volunteers without phone coverage at site usually have access at least two times a month when they go to town for shopping, banking, etc.  
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Peace Corps/Ecuador’s office is located at the following address: Av. Granda Centeno # OE 4-250, y Baron de Carondelet, Quito, Ecuador. The telephone numbers of the office are 227.6300, 227.2824, 245.5007, or 800.723.282 (tollfree only within Ecuador); the fax number is 227.3763.  
  
Volunteers are not permitted to use the telephones at the Peace Corps office in Burkina Faso to call family or friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.  
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To use these numbers from the United States, you must first dial 011 for access to the international network, 593 for Ecuador (country code), and 2 for Quito. Note that after regular business hours and on weekends and holidays, the person answering the phone is not likely to speak English.
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To reach you in an emergency, your family should call the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., at 800.424.8580, extension 1470 (or 202.638.2574 during non-business hours). The Office of Special Services will then contact Peace Corps/Ecuador.  
  
 
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
 
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
  
Use and ownership of computers in Burkina Faso are rapidly expanding, but are still limited to better-funded government offices and wealthy individuals and companies. There is a growing number of private and governmental Internet service providers in the larger towns and cities.  
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Because Ecuador is a popular tourist destination, there are Internet cafes throughout the country. Almost all Volunteers in Ecuador have e-mail addresses and, except for those posted to the most remote sites, are able to check e-mail and access the Internet at least once a month. In addition, computers with Internet access are available for Volunteers to use at the Peace Corps office in Quito.  
  
 
===Housing and Site Location===
 
===Housing and Site Location===
  
The government ministry to which you are assigned or your community will provide you with safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. The majority of health Volunteers live in small rural villages, while education Volunteers tend to live in larger villages and towns.  Volunteer housing is typically a small house made of mud or cement bricks with a thatch or tin roof. Many Volunteers do not have running water or electricity; they draw their water from a well and obtain light through kerosene lanterns. Nearly all Volunteers are within one hour of a neighboring Volunteer and eight hours of the Peace Corps office in Ouagadougou by public transport.  
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All Volunteer housing is reviewed and approved by Peace Corps staff prior to occupancy. Some Volunteers live with a family for a month or so when they first move to their sites.  This helps Volunteers get to know the community better before making a permanent housing decision. Volunteers in the youth and families project work in marginal urban neighborhoods and almost all are required to live with a family during their entire two years of service. For reasons of safety, security, and cultural integration, the Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers in all projects consider living with a host family.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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Housing varies greatly by site. Most Volunteers live and work in rural communities, but a few work in urban settings. Some live in buildings with up-to-date plumbing and electrical systems. Others may have a small adobe house with a pit latrine in the back and one or two bare light bulbs for illumination. A few Volunteers live in very isolated sites without electricity or running water.
  
Peace Corps/Burkina Faso covers the cost of Volunteers’ basic living and professional expenses, including a vacation allowance equivalent to $24 a month (paid in local currency). The Peace Corps opens a checking account for each Volunteer that can be accessed at several post offices around the country.  
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Volunteer sites are located throughout the country but generally are clustered in several regions so that Volunteers from all four project areas and from older and newer groups are located relatively close to one another. In most cases, you will be located, at most, within two or three hours of other Volunteers. There are some areas of the country where the Peace Corps does not place any Volunteers, either because the level of development is such that Volunteers are no longer needed or because of safety and security concerns (e.g., the jungle regions on the Colombian border).  
  
The current living allowance is approximately $240 per month. The Peace Corps also gives Volunteers a quarterly allowance for work-related travel of approximately $60. All of these allowances are paid in the local currency, the CFA franc.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual survey of Volunteers’ financial needs. Most Volunteers report that they have no trouble living comfortably on this allowance, which even provides for occasional “nights on the town.” Because you are expected to live at the level of your host country counterparts, the Peace Corps discourages you from bringing extra money or receiving money from home to spend in-country.  
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Peace Corps/Ecuador will open a bank account for you and provide you with a bank book and an ATM card. Your monthly living allowance will be deposited into this account at the beginning of each month. Most Volunteers travel to a nearby commercial town every week or two to withdraw cash, check their mail, and shop for items not available in their communities. Many Volunteers bring a credit card, additional cash, or traveler’s checks for emergency expenses and travel, which can be kept in the safe at the Peace Corps office in Quito (up to a maximum of $1,000 in cash and traveler’s checks).  
  
If the Peace Corps asks you to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and meals. The amount is established by the administrative officer based on the cost of transportation and lodging.  
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The living allowance is calculated to allow you to live at the level of the general population. Volunteers who spend most of their time in their community find that they have adequate resources, while those who choose to travel often to the major cities tend to find their budgets stretched at the end of the month.  
  
 
===Food and Diet===
 
===Food and Diet===
  
Your drinking water is likely to be of poor quality and thus will require boiling and filtering (the Peace Corps will provide you with filters). The variety of fruits and vegetables is somewhat limited, with only one fruit or vegetable often available during any given season. Burkina Faso produces some of the best mangoes and papayas in the world, but they are seasonal. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a local variety of eggplant are available year-round in many locations. Other fruits and vegetables grown in the country, depending upon the season and location, include oranges, grapefruits, bananas, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, beets, lettuce, cauliflowers, and cucumbers.  
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Wonderful fruits—including many you may never have tried-are plentiful throughout the country in season. Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas, and there are many varieties. Meat, especially pork, is commonly eaten by those who can afford it. Foods are often fried. Soy, peanut, and sunflower oils are available, but butter, vegetable oil, and pork fat are more commonly used.  
  
Burkinabé meals are simple but tasty and nutritious. A typical dish consists of a staple food like rice, millet, yams, sorghum, or maize (referred to as tô) served with a sauce made from okra, various greens (e.g., spinach), tomatoes, or peanuts. Sauces may contain fish or meat. French bread is available in larger towns and villages.  
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Some combination of rice, potatoes, bread, noodles, and bananas is included in most meals. Eggs, chicken, and dairy products will probably be your main sources of protein. A favorite local seasoning is aji (pronounced ah-hee), a spicy sauce that runs from mild to quite hot.
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If you plan to cook for yourself, you may want to bring some spices with you. Caraway, dill, tarragon, chili powder, and spices used in Indian, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern dishes are difficult or impossible to find in Ecuador. Supermarkets in the large cities have most basic spices, however.
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If you are a vegetarian, follow a low-fat or low-cholesterol diet, or have food allergies, you will have to be patient and inventive to satisfy your needs. Most vegetarian Volunteers have been able to adjust to the Ecuadorian diet without major problems.
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When offered food as a guest or as a member of a host family’s household, you may have difficulty convincing people of your need for a special diet. You may also encounter difficulty in turning down alcoholic beverages, especially if you are male. If you refuse what is offered when you are a visitor in someone’s home, you may offend your host. Strategies for dealing with these types of situations will be discussed during pre-service training.  
  
 
===Transportation===
 
===Transportation===
  
Paved roads connect the largest towns and cities in Burkina Faso, and fairly well-maintained buses service these routes on a regular schedule. Smaller towns and villages are served by “bush taxis”—typically overcrowded and poorly maintained minibuses that do not run on a fixed schedule. Most Volunteers do not live near paved roads and thus do not have daily access to motorized transportation out of their villages.  
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Your job may require occasional or frequent travel within the area where you are assigned. Although you may be able to travel in your host agency’s vehicle, riding a bicycle or a horse, and/or walking is often the only way to reach small communities or distant farms. The Peace Corps provides mountain bikes (and helmets, which must be used) to Volunteers who require them for their work.  
  
All Volunteers are issued basic mountain bikes with bicycle helmets for work purposes. For safety reasons, Peace Corps/ Burkina Faso prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicles (such as a motorcycle) except in a life-threatening emergency. Some Volunteers receive special authorization to ride as a passenger on a motorbike when necessary for work purposes. Please note that Volunteers are not allowed to own or drive any type of motorized vehicle in Burkina Faso.  
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Most of your long-distance travel will be by crowded public bus. A number of reliable bus lines with modern equipment run throughout the country. One-way travel using domestic airlines is an option for Volunteers in the southernmost provinces of the country.  
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Volunteers are not authorized to operate any type of motorized vehicle in Ecuador. Motorcycle riding (as driver or passenger) is prohibited.  
  
 
===Geography and Climate===
 
===Geography and Climate===
  
Burkina Faso is slightly larger than Colorado. Its topography has little variation, consisting mainly of grassland with sparse forests. Many of the ecosystems found in West Africa are represented in Burkina Faso, from the forest zone in the south of the country to savannah to the Sahara Desert in the north. Burkina Faso is generally greener in the south because of its higher annual precipitation. The combination of population pressures and prolonged dry cycles has contributed to widespread environmental degradation as indicated by declining vegetation cover, soil fertility, and land productivity.  
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The four main areas of Ecuador have different climates. Because the country is on the equator, the temperature depends on the altitude, not the season. There are only two seasons—rainy and dry.  
  
There is a rainy season from June to October, when most staple crops are grown, and a long dry season from November through May. The harmattan winds blowing off the Sahara last from November through March, a period characterized by dry, dusty conditions. Temperatures range from a cool and dry 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10º Celsius) in November to a humid 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40°C) before the rains begin in June.  
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The highlands area, or sierra, is warm during the day (60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and cool at night (35 to 55 degrees).  Several layers of clothing may be necessary. The dry season tends to be warm and dusty. In the rainy season, temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler.
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The coastal area, or costa, is generally hot and humid. The rainy season, January through April, is hot (80 to 95 degrees), and mold is sometimes a problem. The dry season, May through December, is slightly cooler (70 to 85 degrees).  
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The Amazon Basin region, or oriente, is usually warm and muggy. Temperatures fluctuate greatly during the day, ranging from 60 to 90 degrees. Although there are dry and rainy seasons, it rains year-round and mold is a constant problem.
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The Galápagos Islands are hot and dry most of the time, but the pleasant ocean breezes make the temperatures more comfortable.  
  
 
===Social Activities===
 
===Social Activities===
  
Social activities will vary according to where you are located.  They might include relaxing and talking with friends and neighbors, going to the market, or taking part in local festivals. The cultural diversity of Burkina Faso means that there is always something of interest taking place nearby that you can learn from, be it drumming and dancing or planting peanuts.  
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Ecuadorian entertainment, especially in small towns, centers on drinking, dancing, and talking. Movies are also popular in Ecuador, although recent releases from the United States (with Spanish subtitles) are usually delayed by several months. The movies shown are often martial arts, horror, or Mexican slapstick films. Large towns usually have at least one movie theater, and many also have video/DVD stores. Small cities have a public library and cultural activities at the local Casa de la Cultura.  
  
Many Volunteers meet periodically in regional market towns to share ideas and experiences. But in keeping with its goal of cross-cultural exchange, the Peace Corps expects Volunteers to establish social networks with Burkinabé friends and colleagues at their sites rather than seek out other Volunteers for social activities. Such networks enhance Volunteers’ ability to be effective in their work.  
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Ecuadorians love music and love to dance, and many Volunteers enjoy learning salsa, cumbia, and merengue from Ecuadorian friends. Radio stations play a variety of music, including some American rock and pop. Many Volunteers make their own music, bringing or purchasing a guitar, violin, flute, harmonica, and so forth. Ecuadorian craftsmen make very good guitars that are not expensive.
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Sports are very popular in Ecuador, especially soccer,
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basketball, and volleyball. Soccer is a national—indeed, Latin
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American—passion, similar to baseball in the United States but more so. Volunteers will have many opportunities to play sports informally in their communities. Occasionally, Volunteers even coach local teams.
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Volunteers spend a lot of time reading. Although local bookstores carry books in English, prices are higher than in the United States. Volunteers who learn Spanish well enough will, of course, find many books and magazines available. The Peace Corps office has an extensive library, and Volunteers often trade books with one another. Although you will probably want to bring some paperback books with you, it is a good idea to ask your family and friends to send you a book occasionally.
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Alcohol plays a big role in social activities, and Volunteers are advised to use their best judgment when consuming alcohol.  There is a high correlation between alcohol use and crimes committed against Volunteers ranging from petty theft to physical assault and rape.  
  
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
  
One of the biggest challenges faced by Volunteers in Burkina Faso is defining their role as professionals in the Burkinabé context while maintaining a sense of their own work ethic and cultural identity. The tendency of Burkinabé counterparts to blur (from a Western perspective) the distinction between professional and personal time and space adds another layer of complexity to the challenge of establishing oneself as a professional in this context. Cultivating work relationships is not something that happens only during working hours; behavior and activities outside the work setting will have an impact on your professional relationships.  
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“Neat and modest” sums up the dress code for Volunteers in Ecuador. Since most Volunteers are assigned to rural or marginally developed urban sites, there is rarely a need for more formal attire. You will be working as a professional development worker, however, and inappropriate dress may make Ecuadorians less receptive to you. When you visit the office of a counterpart agency, you should wear clothing that is slightly more formal than what you wear daily. For such visits, skirts or dress slacks for women and slacks and button-down shirts with collars for men are appropriate. During training, and less often as a Volunteer, there will be a few occasions, such as the swearing-in ceremony or a wedding, when men will want to wear jackets and ties and women will want to wear dresses.  
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Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and any other attire that could be considered revealing. While young Ecuadorian women in the larger lowland cities do wear such items, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are only exacerbated by revealing attire, sometimes leading to unwanted attention or harassment. Ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, shorts, and body piercings (other than pierced ears) are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Ecuador.  
  
The Burkinabé, like many other Africans, put a great deal of emphasis upon dressing well in public, whether at work, in the market, or at a night spot. It is almost unheard of, for example, for a Burkinabé man or woman to wear shorts in public unless he or she is taking part in some kind of sporting event. Nor would a professional man or woman ever be seen wearing dirty, disheveled, wrinkled, or torn clothing.  Volunteers need to be aware of other unwritten rules of the culture, such as the fact that Burkinabé women never go to a bar on their own. Exposed body piercings on men and women, and long hair on men, may elicit stares and, possibly, rude questions or comments, so they are not advisable.  
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Earrings are acceptable for women but generally not for men.  Younger men in large cities occasionally wear earrings, but, as foreigners, male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times. Since dreadlocks are associated with the use of illegal drugs, Volunteers may not wear them.  
  
Serving in the Peace Corps often requires sacrificing personal preferences regarding dress and behavior. There will be ample discussion of this subject during cross-cultural sessions in pre-service training.  
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Most of the indigenous populations live in the highlands, where the cold and rain often keep people indoors for days at a time. People in the highlands tend to be more reserved and formal, and many still retain their traditional dress and languages. Life in the lowland and coastal regions is often less formal, with loud music and people conversing in the streets—a common feature of everyday life. Even in these regions, however, business and social interactions have a greater degree of formality than what Americans are accustomed to. The rituals of greeting and acknowledgment are an important part of doing business, and failure to adhere to these customs may be viewed negatively. You will learn a great deal about these customs during pre-service training.  
  
 
===Personal Safety===
 
===Personal Safety===
  
More 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 the local language and culture, and being perceived as rich 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 Burkina Faso 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 Burkina Faso. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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More 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 Ecuador 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 Ecuador. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
  
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction in Burkina Faso is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial constraints, inefficient management, and an often contradictory incentive system, 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. 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.  
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The total time of your commitment to Peace Corps/Ecuador is 27 months—which includes approximately three months of pre-service training and 24 months of Peace Corps service upon successful completion of training. Peace Corps service is not for everyone. Requiring greater dedication and commitment than most jobs, it is for confident, self-starting, and concerned individuals who are interested in helping other countries and increasing understanding across cultural barriers. Your willingness to serve in smaller towns and cities and to give up U.S. standards of space and privacy in your living accommodations will be greatly appreciated by Ecuadorians.  
  
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 co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development anywhere in the world—including disadvantaged areas in the United States—is slow work that requires perseverance.  You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
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The key to satisfying work as a Peace Corps Volunteer is the ability to establish successful relationships at all levels, which requires patience, sensitivity, and a positive professional attitude. It is essential that you work with Ecuadorian counterparts to ensure that tasks begun during your service will continue after your departure. It is also important to realize that while you may have a lot of energy and motivation, you will be in Ecuador for only two years. Your colleagues will probably continue to work in the same job after you leave—for little money—and may not possess quite the same level of motivation. Often you will find yourself in situations that require the ability to motivate both yourself and your colleagues and to solve problems with little or no guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact from, and without receiving feedback on, your work. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results. Nevertheless, you will have a sense of accomplishment when small projects are rendered effective as a result of your efforts. Acceptance into a foreign culture and the acquisition of a second or even a third language are also significant rewards.  
  
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your Burkinabé 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 Burkina Faso feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed 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.  
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Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the valleys, and most Volunteers leave Ecuador feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. Indeed, many former Volunteers will readily tell you that their Peace Corps service was the most significant experience of their lives.  
  
  
[[Category:Burkina Faso]]
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[[Category:Ecuador]]

Latest revision as of 12:33, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

Until you have your own address, you can receive mail at Peace Corps/Ecuador’s post office box:

“Your Name,” PCV (for Volunteer) or PCT (for trainee)

Cuerpo de Paz

Casilla 17-08-8624

Quito, Ecuador

South America


It takes a week to 10 days for a letter from the United States to reach the Peace Corps office by international mail. Once you are living at your assigned site, mail may take from two to four weeks to reach you.

Receiving packages through international mail can be difficult, since all packages must go through Ecuadorian customs and you may have to make a special trip to Quito to pick up the package. All packages are opened by customs, and there is usually a significant customs charge. If the package contains items that may not be imported, like chocolates, customs officials may confiscate the items. Although some Volunteers have received small packages at their sites without having the packages pass through customs, this method is unpredictable.

Many Volunteers have had luck receiving items sent in padded envelopes. We therefore recommend that families and friends send only small items and try to keep the weight of any packages under two kilos (4.4 pounds), clearly marking the contents. They should not send anything via couriers such as DHL and Federal Express, which are more expensive than the Postal Service.

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 funding, 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. This allows you time to understand the developmental needs of the community and begin to engage the community in project identification. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your project director and country director.

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

Telephones[edit]

Peace Corps/Ecuador’s office is located at the following address: Av. Granda Centeno # OE 4-250, y Baron de Carondelet, Quito, Ecuador. The telephone numbers of the office are 227.6300, 227.2824, 245.5007, or 800.723.282 (tollfree only within Ecuador); the fax number is 227.3763.

To use these numbers from the United States, you must first dial 011 for access to the international network, 593 for Ecuador (country code), and 2 for Quito. Note that after regular business hours and on weekends and holidays, the person answering the phone is not likely to speak English.

To reach you in an emergency, your family should call the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., at 800.424.8580, extension 1470 (or 202.638.2574 during non-business hours). The Office of Special Services will then contact Peace Corps/Ecuador.

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

Because Ecuador is a popular tourist destination, there are Internet cafes throughout the country. Almost all Volunteers in Ecuador have e-mail addresses and, except for those posted to the most remote sites, are able to check e-mail and access the Internet at least once a month. In addition, computers with Internet access are available for Volunteers to use at the Peace Corps office in Quito.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

All Volunteer housing is reviewed and approved by Peace Corps staff prior to occupancy. Some Volunteers live with a family for a month or so when they first move to their sites. This helps Volunteers get to know the community better before making a permanent housing decision. Volunteers in the youth and families project work in marginal urban neighborhoods and almost all are required to live with a family during their entire two years of service. For reasons of safety, security, and cultural integration, the Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers in all projects consider living with a host family.

Housing varies greatly by site. Most Volunteers live and work in rural communities, but a few work in urban settings. Some live in buildings with up-to-date plumbing and electrical systems. Others may have a small adobe house with a pit latrine in the back and one or two bare light bulbs for illumination. A few Volunteers live in very isolated sites without electricity or running water.

Volunteer sites are located throughout the country but generally are clustered in several regions so that Volunteers from all four project areas and from older and newer groups are located relatively close to one another. In most cases, you will be located, at most, within two or three hours of other Volunteers. There are some areas of the country where the Peace Corps does not place any Volunteers, either because the level of development is such that Volunteers are no longer needed or because of safety and security concerns (e.g., the jungle regions on the Colombian border).

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

Peace Corps/Ecuador will open a bank account for you and provide you with a bank book and an ATM card. Your monthly living allowance will be deposited into this account at the beginning of each month. Most Volunteers travel to a nearby commercial town every week or two to withdraw cash, check their mail, and shop for items not available in their communities. Many Volunteers bring a credit card, additional cash, or traveler’s checks for emergency expenses and travel, which can be kept in the safe at the Peace Corps office in Quito (up to a maximum of $1,000 in cash and traveler’s checks).

The living allowance is calculated to allow you to live at the level of the general population. Volunteers who spend most of their time in their community find that they have adequate resources, while those who choose to travel often to the major cities tend to find their budgets stretched at the end of the month.

Food and Diet[edit]

Wonderful fruits—including many you may never have tried-are plentiful throughout the country in season. Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas, and there are many varieties. Meat, especially pork, is commonly eaten by those who can afford it. Foods are often fried. Soy, peanut, and sunflower oils are available, but butter, vegetable oil, and pork fat are more commonly used.

Some combination of rice, potatoes, bread, noodles, and bananas is included in most meals. Eggs, chicken, and dairy products will probably be your main sources of protein. A favorite local seasoning is aji (pronounced ah-hee), a spicy sauce that runs from mild to quite hot.

If you plan to cook for yourself, you may want to bring some spices with you. Caraway, dill, tarragon, chili powder, and spices used in Indian, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern dishes are difficult or impossible to find in Ecuador. Supermarkets in the large cities have most basic spices, however.

If you are a vegetarian, follow a low-fat or low-cholesterol diet, or have food allergies, you will have to be patient and inventive to satisfy your needs. Most vegetarian Volunteers have been able to adjust to the Ecuadorian diet without major problems.

When offered food as a guest or as a member of a host family’s household, you may have difficulty convincing people of your need for a special diet. You may also encounter difficulty in turning down alcoholic beverages, especially if you are male. If you refuse what is offered when you are a visitor in someone’s home, you may offend your host. Strategies for dealing with these types of situations will be discussed during pre-service training.

Transportation[edit]

Your job may require occasional or frequent travel within the area where you are assigned. Although you may be able to travel in your host agency’s vehicle, riding a bicycle or a horse, and/or walking is often the only way to reach small communities or distant farms. The Peace Corps provides mountain bikes (and helmets, which must be used) to Volunteers who require them for their work.

Most of your long-distance travel will be by crowded public bus. A number of reliable bus lines with modern equipment run throughout the country. One-way travel using domestic airlines is an option for Volunteers in the southernmost provinces of the country.

Volunteers are not authorized to operate any type of motorized vehicle in Ecuador. Motorcycle riding (as driver or passenger) is prohibited.

Geography and Climate[edit]

The four main areas of Ecuador have different climates. Because the country is on the equator, the temperature depends on the altitude, not the season. There are only two seasons—rainy and dry.

The highlands area, or sierra, is warm during the day (60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and cool at night (35 to 55 degrees). Several layers of clothing may be necessary. The dry season tends to be warm and dusty. In the rainy season, temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler.

The coastal area, or costa, is generally hot and humid. The rainy season, January through April, is hot (80 to 95 degrees), and mold is sometimes a problem. The dry season, May through December, is slightly cooler (70 to 85 degrees).

The Amazon Basin region, or oriente, is usually warm and muggy. Temperatures fluctuate greatly during the day, ranging from 60 to 90 degrees. Although there are dry and rainy seasons, it rains year-round and mold is a constant problem.

The Galápagos Islands are hot and dry most of the time, but the pleasant ocean breezes make the temperatures more comfortable.

Social Activities[edit]

Ecuadorian entertainment, especially in small towns, centers on drinking, dancing, and talking. Movies are also popular in Ecuador, although recent releases from the United States (with Spanish subtitles) are usually delayed by several months. The movies shown are often martial arts, horror, or Mexican slapstick films. Large towns usually have at least one movie theater, and many also have video/DVD stores. Small cities have a public library and cultural activities at the local Casa de la Cultura.

Ecuadorians love music and love to dance, and many Volunteers enjoy learning salsa, cumbia, and merengue from Ecuadorian friends. Radio stations play a variety of music, including some American rock and pop. Many Volunteers make their own music, bringing or purchasing a guitar, violin, flute, harmonica, and so forth. Ecuadorian craftsmen make very good guitars that are not expensive.

Sports are very popular in Ecuador, especially soccer,

basketball, and volleyball. Soccer is a national—indeed, Latin

American—passion, similar to baseball in the United States but more so. Volunteers will have many opportunities to play sports informally in their communities. Occasionally, Volunteers even coach local teams.

Volunteers spend a lot of time reading. Although local bookstores carry books in English, prices are higher than in the United States. Volunteers who learn Spanish well enough will, of course, find many books and magazines available. The Peace Corps office has an extensive library, and Volunteers often trade books with one another. Although you will probably want to bring some paperback books with you, it is a good idea to ask your family and friends to send you a book occasionally.

Alcohol plays a big role in social activities, and Volunteers are advised to use their best judgment when consuming alcohol. There is a high correlation between alcohol use and crimes committed against Volunteers ranging from petty theft to physical assault and rape.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

“Neat and modest” sums up the dress code for Volunteers in Ecuador. Since most Volunteers are assigned to rural or marginally developed urban sites, there is rarely a need for more formal attire. You will be working as a professional development worker, however, and inappropriate dress may make Ecuadorians less receptive to you. When you visit the office of a counterpart agency, you should wear clothing that is slightly more formal than what you wear daily. For such visits, skirts or dress slacks for women and slacks and button-down shirts with collars for men are appropriate. During training, and less often as a Volunteer, there will be a few occasions, such as the swearing-in ceremony or a wedding, when men will want to wear jackets and ties and women will want to wear dresses.

Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and any other attire that could be considered revealing. While young Ecuadorian women in the larger lowland cities do wear such items, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are only exacerbated by revealing attire, sometimes leading to unwanted attention or harassment. Ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, shorts, and body piercings (other than pierced ears) are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Ecuador.

Earrings are acceptable for women but generally not for men. Younger men in large cities occasionally wear earrings, but, as foreigners, male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times. Since dreadlocks are associated with the use of illegal drugs, Volunteers may not wear them.

Most of the indigenous populations live in the highlands, where the cold and rain often keep people indoors for days at a time. People in the highlands tend to be more reserved and formal, and many still retain their traditional dress and languages. Life in the lowland and coastal regions is often less formal, with loud music and people conversing in the streets—a common feature of everyday life. Even in these regions, however, business and social interactions have a greater degree of formality than what Americans are accustomed to. The rituals of greeting and acknowledgment are an important part of doing business, and failure to adhere to these customs may be viewed negatively. You will learn a great deal about these customs during pre-service training.

Personal Safety[edit]

More 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 Ecuador 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 Ecuador. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

The total time of your commitment to Peace Corps/Ecuador is 27 months—which includes approximately three months of pre-service training and 24 months of Peace Corps service upon successful completion of training. Peace Corps service is not for everyone. Requiring greater dedication and commitment than most jobs, it is for confident, self-starting, and concerned individuals who are interested in helping other countries and increasing understanding across cultural barriers. Your willingness to serve in smaller towns and cities and to give up U.S. standards of space and privacy in your living accommodations will be greatly appreciated by Ecuadorians.

The key to satisfying work as a Peace Corps Volunteer is the ability to establish successful relationships at all levels, which requires patience, sensitivity, and a positive professional attitude. It is essential that you work with Ecuadorian counterparts to ensure that tasks begun during your service will continue after your departure. It is also important to realize that while you may have a lot of energy and motivation, you will be in Ecuador for only two years. Your colleagues will probably continue to work in the same job after you leave—for little money—and may not possess quite the same level of motivation. Often you will find yourself in situations that require the ability to motivate both yourself and your colleagues and to solve problems with little or no guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact from, and without receiving feedback on, your work. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results. Nevertheless, you will have a sense of accomplishment when small projects are rendered effective as a result of your efforts. Acceptance into a foreign culture and the acquisition of a second or even a third language are also significant rewards.

Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the valleys, and most Volunteers leave Ecuador feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. Indeed, many former Volunteers will readily tell you that their Peace Corps service was the most significant experience of their lives.