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

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
  
===Communications===
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===Communications ===
  
====Mail====
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====Mail ====
The postal system in Cambodia is somewhat unreliable and varies greatly from province to province. Peace Corps/Cambodia will set up a system for Volunteers to receive packages at the office mailing address below throughout your service, although the Peace Corps will only be responsible for packages and other mail that actually arrives at our office.
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You will be able to receive mail at the following address throughout your service:
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Mail typically takes three weeks to a month to travel between the United States and Suriname by air. A package sent by surface mail can take up to six months to arrive.
  
PCT [your name]<br>
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Mail for Peace Corps/Suriname is received at a post office box in Paramaribo. During pre-service training, your mail will be picked up and delivered by staff to your training site once a week. Once training is completed, mail is picked up by Peace Corps staff at the central post office and distributed to Volunteers’ mailboxes in the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo. Volunteers are encouraged to establish networks in their communities to facilitate receiving mail directly at their sites. This may involve making arrangements with a teacher, counterpart, colleague, missionary, medical worker, or villager who travels to the capital regularly and agrees to pick up your mail for you. The alternative is to retrieve your mail from the Peace Corps office yourself.  
P.O. Box 2453<br>
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Phnom Penh<br>
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Cambodia<br>
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====Telephones====
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Your mailing address will be:
  
Volunteers will be issued cellphones during pre-service training and be responsible for the subsequent usage. Cellphone service is widely available even in rural areas and is commonly used. You will be able to receive domestic and international calls and SMS text messages on these phones. Because it is expensive for Volunteers to make international calls from their cellphones, many Volunteers' families have purchased international phone cards online.
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Peace Corps/Suriname
  
====Computer, Internet, and Email Access====
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“Your Name”  itant is so very inmport
  
Internet access is available in Phnom Penh and in most provincial capitals, although price and speed vary considerably. A majority of the Volunteers currently serving in Cambodia have daily or even weekly access to computers or the Internet.
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P.O. Box 9500
  
Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have offices at the provincial level in Cambodia. Some have wifi  Internet access to their headquarters in Phnom Penh. You may be able to barter your Internet usage by helping these organizations. In addition, some NGOs have started to put computer labs in district schools. However, since schools generally do not have electricity or phone service, these labs must be run on a generator and do not have Internet access.
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Paramaribo-Zuid, Suriname
  
At the Peace Corps Office in Phnom Penh, there is a Volunteer Resource Room with computers (and free access to the Internet), as well as a printer, and a resource library for Volunteers' use. Whenever Volunteers are in Phnom Penh, they are welcome to use the Volunteer Resource Room, which is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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South America
  
===Housing and Site Location===
 
  
Peace Corps/Cambodia Volunteers will live with host families throughout their service. Since most high schools are at the district level, most education Volunteers live in provincial and district towns. Health centers are located at the commune or village level, so health education Volunteers will be in smaller towns. In the district towns, some homes have electricity and indoor plumbing, including toilets and cold water showers. Electricity is not available at every site. Drinking water must be boiled,filtered, or purchased. Other basic amenities such as soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, lotion, stationery, sodas, and instant coffee should be available in provincial or district centers.
 
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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Mail can be sent from the central post office (Surpost) in Paramaribo, satellite post offices in districts, or a few stores in the capital. Packages to the United States can only be mailed from one post office located two kilometers from the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo.
  
As a Volunteer, you will receive a monthly living allowance, which will be transferred directly to your Peace Corps bank account on a regular basis. The living allowance will be based on what Volunteers need to live comfortably. An annual survey determines whether your living allowance is appropriate. Like Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide, those in Cambodia are expected to live at a level commensurate with that of their Cambodian co-workers. Expensive dinners out at Phnom Penh tourist restaurants will be possible only rarely for you as a Volunteer. However, the allowance is certainly enough to enable you to purchase basic necessities and have a night out occasionally.
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Peace Corps regulations prohibit Volunteers from accepting gifts of property, money, or voluntary services directly. Such gifts can cause confusion about the role of the Volunteer, who might be perceived as a facilitator of goods and funds, rather than as a person who is working to build a community’s capacity to identify local resources. You are not permitted to solicit materials or funds for your community during your first six months at site so that you have time to integrate into the community and help members identify possible projects. To ensure that any request for funding or donations is appropriate for your project and your community, you must have prior authorization from your program manager and the country director.
  
===Food and Diet===
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====Telephones ====
  
The food in Cambodia is excellent. Khmers like to eat three meals a day, as well as snacks between meals. The staple food is rice, so you can expect to eat a lot of it. Rice is extremely important to Khmer culture, and Volunteers may be surprised by the amount of rice they are expected to eat. It is important to remember that the offering of rice is an intrinsic part of Cambodian hospitality. That said, noodles and bread are widely available, and no two families have the same eating habits. For example, you might have rice with some type of meat for breakfast, fried rice or noodles with or without meat for lunch and rice with curry or stir-fried vegetables for dinner. District towns usually have a market that will serve the surrounding villages, so you should be able to get your basic necessities easily. Provincial towns also have small supermarkets, where you can purchase cheese and other more Western foods.
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Public telephones are available in the capital city and surrounding suburbs. To make a call from a land-line phone, you will need to purchase a telephone card. Telephone cards are readily available in small corner stores, at gas stations, and at any of the Telesur offices in Paramaribo. It is possible to place international calls using these cards.  
  
An amazing variety of fruits and vegetables (many that you have never seen before) are available in season. Food stalls in district towns offer reasonably priced cooked food and are open from early morning until evening. Many Khmers eat at these noodle shops during the day, rather than going home for lunch.
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Some villages in the interior of the country have telephone service, usually one phone at a local store that serves the entire village. Other villages have only high-frequency radios for communication. Because the possibilities of making calls from the interior are so limited, most Volunteers call home when they are in the capital.  
  
Vegetarians can survive in Cambodia, but some may find it difficult to maintain a strict diet, especially in some social contexts. In some areas, it may also be difficult to get enough protein without eating meat or fish.
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====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ====
  
===Transportation===
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Three computers are available for Volunteers’ project-related work at the Peace Corps office in Paramaribo. Volunteers have initiated a sign-up system to ensure that those who wish to use the computers have equal access.
  
Transportation in Phnom Penh is predominantly by motorbike (moto), tuk-tuk (a small carriage pulled by a moto), cyclo (a bike with a chair in front), bicycle (known as a pushbike) or on foot. The central part of Phnom Penh is relatively small, and walking is quite pleasant, especially along the river. Most Cambodians ride on the back of a moto (called a motodop or moto taxi). As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you are not allowed to ride on motos, so you will have to use other safe and affordable alternatives.
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Internet connections in Suriname are not as fast as what you may be used to in the United States. Connections are typically slower in the afternoon, when people leave work or school and head for one of the many Internet cafés in Paramaribo. Prices are reasonable ($1.50 to $2 per half-hour). Funds for Internet fees are included in your living allowance. Most Volunteers do not have Internet or e-mail access in their communities. Some Volunteers bring a laptop (or have it sent to them), however, it is not encouraged since not all sites in the interior have reliable electricity.  
  
The intercity transportation system in Cambodia is good. One can travel between provincial towns and Phnom Penh via air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses on paved roads. Between provincial towns and district towns and villages, Cambodians travel by van or pickup truck. These smaller conveyances are less well-organized and likely to be crowded. Additionally, the roads are sometimes very bad, especially during the rainy season. Within towns, people ride motos or bikes, take moto taxis or walk. Finding a consistent means of transportation to and from your site may be a challenge, especially in the early months of service.
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===Housing and Site Location ===
  
Peace Corps/Cambodia provides a bike and bicycle helmet to each Volunteer for travel to work, for errands, and pleasure. You will have a bike during pre-service training and will receive training in bike maintenance and repair. You will rely heavily on your bike to get around in and near your site.
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Trainees are placed with a host family for most of pre-service training. After swearing-in as Volunteers, they typically live in their own homes within their communities. Volunteers are located at sites in the interior, in districts or in the capital.  
  
===Geography and Climate===
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The sites in the interior are along the Suriname and Marowijne rivers or in the savanna region. Interior villages often do not have running water or electricity, or have those services for a limited number of hours each day. Houses are rustic, consisting of a thatch or tin roof and wood-plank walls.
  
Cambodia is in Southeast Asia, in the southern part of Indochina. It covers an area of 181,035 square kilometers and has a population of slightly over 13 million people (2003). Cambodia's climate is warm, humid, and tropical. The country experiences tropical monsoons from May to October, causing flooding in large portions of this mostly flat country. Cambodia has four seasons: Cool and wet, cool and dry, hot and dry, and hot and wet. April is particularly hot and muggy, just before the monsoons start.
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Because villages are asked to furnish housing for Volunteers, the size, condition, and style of housing can vary widely. A few sites are located in the southern part of the country. The houses in the far south generally have zinc roofs, running water, and electricity.  
  
The most significant geological feature of Cambodia is the Tonle Sap Lake. During the rainy season, as the Mekong River reaches flood stage, it forces the Tonle Sap River to flow backwards. The water of the Mekong flows northwest to fill the huge Tonle Sap Lake to many times its normal size and volume. When the Mekong flood has peaked and the lake reaches capacity, which usually occurs in late September, the river changes direction once again to flow southeast into the Mekong and south to Vietnam.
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Some Volunteers are placed in District sites best characterized as small towns; or they may work in the capital city, Paramaribo.  Volunteers living in these areas generally have access to running water and electricity day and night and other conveniences.  
  
===Social Activities===
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===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
  
You will spend much of your free time socializing with your Cambodian colleagues and neighbors, eating, attending Cambodian festivals, weddings, and other cultural events. Your ability to adjust to and enjoy this kind of social life will be an important aspect of your success as a Volunteer.
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Volunteers receive a living allowance in the local currency (Suriname Dollars—SRD), which is deposited into a bank account in Paramaribo once every three months. Volunteers based outside of Paramaribo receive a transportation allowance, which pays for one trip to the capital per quarter.  This allowance is also deposited into the bank account and is intended to cover one trip per quarter for Volunteers to come to the capital to take care of banking and other needs. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of additional trips. Volunteers who need to pay rent also receive a housing allowance.  
Cambodians spend a lot of time socializing with their families. As most houses in rural areas are built on stilts, you will see many families passing the time under the house during the hottest part of the day. Cambodian women generally socialize in and around the home. Cambodian men often socialize outside the home, playing sports, shooting pool, drinking, and playing cards or chess in cafés. Many of the activities that are popular with men are associated with gambling, and are therefore not appropriate activities for Volunteers to participate in with students.
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Volunteers may meet periodically in provincial market towns to share ideas and experiences. In keeping with its goal of cross-cultural exchange, the Peace Corps expects Volunteers to establish social networks with Cambodian 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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It is important to manage your money so that it lasts for the entire three months. Setting up a system of budgeting will be important. The living allowance is determined by annual market surveys to ensure the amount is sufficient to meet basic expenses. In the interior, there is little to spend money on other than food and beverages. However, things tend to be more expensive in the interior, so most Volunteers buy a supply of food to take to their sites when they are visiting the capital. Transportation between interior sites can be expensive. All Volunteers receive three additional allowances: a monthly vacation allowance; a one-time settling-in allowance to cover the initial expenses of furnishing a house or room and purchasing basic supplies; and a readjustment allowance of $225 set aside by the U.S. government for each month of service. Available to Volunteers upon completion of service, this allowance permits returning Volunteers to resettle in the United States without undue burden.  
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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Volunteers are expected to live within the means of the living allowance. Peace Corps discourages use of outside funds brought or sent from home as it prevents you from living at the same level as the people in your community. You may, however, want to bring a small amount of money for travel in Suriname and surrounding countries during your vacation time. Very few places in Suriname accept credit cards, and those that do only accept American Express, MasterCard or Visa; likewise, a few ATMs accept major credit cards. Bank fees between 1 percent and 5 percent are not uncommon when using a credit card in Suriname.
  
Cambodians, even if very poor, dress neatly and take great personal pride in appearances. Following this example as a Volunteer will increase your effectiveness and credibility in the community. First impressions in Cambodia are extremely important. Throughout your Volunteer service in Cambodia, from the moment you step off the plane at the start of training to your arrival at your work site, you will be expected to dress professionally. Cambodian staff, host families, colleagues, community members, and local officials will pay very close attention to how you present yourself.
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===Food and Diet ===
  
Peace Corps Volunteers, especially teachers, will be seen as role models. Appropriate professional dress for men includes slacks and collared short-sleeved shirts and neat shoes (no flip-flops). For women, blouses (with collars) and long skirts are appropriate for work, with closed shoes or shoes/sandals with back straps (no flip-flops). You will find that colleagues may wear more open sandals or shoes (mules, slides) as well, but Volunteers should bring both and take time to observe what is most appropriate. Sleeveless, transparent, tight and/or low-cut tops, as well as going bra-less, is inappropriate. Shorts can be worn around the house and to play sports, but they are not worn by either professional men or women at work.
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Because of the diversity of cultures represented in Suriname, there is a variety of food options. In rural villages, rice is a staple of the diet. Meals usually consist of a large quantity of rice served with a small piece of meat and a small serving of vegetables. Most people in the interior also grow their own cassavas and other vegetables to sell at markets. Volunteers are encouraged to plant their own gardens for a steady supply of fresh vegetables.  
  
Male Volunteers should be aware that long hair, beards, moustaches and earrings are generally not worn by Cambodian teachers and are considered to be inappropriate, particularly in the rural provinces. Multiple-pierced ears and visible body piercings or tattoos are also not appropriate for either gender. If you have tattoos, be prepared to wear clothing that will cover them. Additionally, shaved heads may cause unwanted attention; in Cambodia, a shaved head means you are becoming a monk.
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Vegetarians can maintain a healthy diet in Suriname. Adequate levels of protein are available locally in texturized vegetable protein products, and in a variety of beans, lentils, and nuts. Many vegetarians find that the greatest difficulty lies in explaining vegetarianism to members of their community, where meat is highly valued and served at many social gatherings.  
  
===Personal Safety===
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Learning to prepare local cuisine can be rewarding. Suriname has many of the spices and ingredients needed to prepare the foods you are accustomed to in the United States. Chinese, Indonesian, Creole, Indian, and American food is available at restaurants in the capital.
  
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 Cambodia 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 Cambodia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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===Transportation ===
  
Each staff member at the Peace Corps is committed to providing Volunteers with the support they need to successfully meet the challenges they will face to have a safe, healthy, and productive service. We encourage Volunteers and families to look at our safety and security information on the Peace Corps website at www.peacecorps.gov/safety.
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Most Surinamese in the city and district use public transportation, usually small buses that accommodate 15 to 26 people. These buses run on regular routes and are regulated by the government. Each route has a name or number and an established fare (generally 1 SRD to 2 SRD). After 9 p.m., fares increase and some routes are not available. Most Volunteers rely on buses. There are also several reputable taxi companies.  
  
Information on these pages gives messages on Volunteer health and Volunteer safety. A video message from the Director is on this page, as well as a section titled “Safety and Security in Depth.” This page lists topics ranging from the risks of serving as a Volunteer to posts’ safety support systems to emergency planning and communications.
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Roads to the interior are dirt and bauxite and receive little maintenance. During the rainy seasons, mud holes and erosion are common. In the dry seasons, roads become dusty washboards. Travel on rural roads can be rough, to say the least.  
  
===Rewards and Frustrations===
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Most Volunteers make a portion of the journey to their sites in mini-vans or “DAF trucks.” DAF trucks are essentially semitrailers filled with old airline seats or wooden benches. The ride is rarely comfortable, and the trucks are typically filled to capacity with people and their cargo. Some Volunteers must then transfer to a dugout canoe or a small airplane from the DAF truck to reach their site. The average travel time from the capital to a Volunteer’s site is about six hours. For some, travel time may be twice that.
  
Cambodia is a study in contradictions. It is an ancient culture that has existed for more than 1,000 years that, at times, is frustrated from a pace of development that is lagging behind that of its neighbors. From another perspective, Cambodia has only recently emerged from decades of terror and turmoil. In spite of this tremendous setback, Cambodia has made remarkable progress in a short time and is continuing to develop rapidly.
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Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to operate any motorized vehicles or ride on the back of motorcycles or mopeds.  
The development needs in Cambodia are huge. The education and health systems are still emerging from a state of complete collapse, the agricultural systems that support most of the population are still quite primitive, and infrastructure gaps can still make completing simple bureaucratic tasks difficult. Corruption is endemic in all government systems, including education and health care. Legal systems are also fragile, and many laws relating to basic human rights are not enforced.
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At the same time, the potential for impact as a development worker in Cambodia is enormous. Cambodian people are kind and friendly, eager to learn so as to improve their conditions. Everyone is aware of the problems and most are willing to discuss solutions openly. The countryside is beautiful, the food is delicious and nutritious, and Cambodians are proud of their ancient history.
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Part of the Volunteer settling-in allowance may be used to buy a locally appropriate form of transportation, whether that be a bicycle or a dugout canoe. Volunteers who purchase bicycles are given funds to buy bicycle helmets. Life vests are issued to those using boats for transportation. Helmets must be worn when riding a bicycle; a life vest must be worn whenever traveling on any waterway.  
  
Cambodians, especially those over 30, can tell you stories of horror and loss. Everyone has lost family members and friends under the Khmer Rouge regime. Yet, as a largely Buddhist society, people get along peacefully and without visible rancor or competition.
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===Geography and Climate ===
  
Although the potential for job satisfaction in Cambodia is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. 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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Suriname is in the tropics, and much of the country is covered in rainforest. Sites located in the savanna region are drier, but still experience high humidity. The average temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 80 percent humidity. During the dry seasons, temperatures climb higher and rain may not fall for up to three months. The rainy seasons provide a brief respite from the heat and bring a lot of moisture. Clothing is subject to mildew in the rainy seasons. The country’s red clay soil and mud from the roads will stain clothes.  
  
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 may work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback (positive or negative) 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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===Social Activities ===
  
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, resourcefulness and, above all, patience. The Peace Corps staff, your Cambodian 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 around the world, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave feeling they have gained much more than they have 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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Establishing relationships with members of your community is vital for almost every aspect of life as a Volunteer. Not only will you feel more connected, but the more community contact you have, the easier it will be to access information and resources to develop projects. Birthdays and local holidays are celebrated with food, dancing, and sometimes fireworks. Work parties provide social interaction, as does involvement in the daily activities of life. Men hunt and fish in small groups and work together on their farms. Women may share daily chores and wash together at the river.  
  
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In the capital, Volunteers enjoy spending time with their counterparts or fellow Volunteers at restaurants, pubs, or one of the few dance clubs. Nightlife is generally safe in groups.
  
See also: [[Cambodia]]
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Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
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It is important for Volunteers to maintain a professional image within their communities and in the capital. The behavior of Volunteers reflects not only on the Peace Corps program and other Volunteers in Suriname but also on North Americans in general. Each Volunteer’s interaction with the public has an effect on current and future Volunteers in Suriname and helps to shape perceptions of North Americans. Professional attire is also required when coming to the Peace Corps office.
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*Attire for men: In the capital at the work place, men dress in casual business attire: short-sleeved collared shirts, trousers, and closed-toe shoes. Male Volunteers are not permitted to wear earrings, nose rings, or other apparent piercings, even though some Surinamese men do. Nor are they permitted to display tattoos or wear long hair (including ponytails).
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*Attire for women: Women’s attire tends to vary more, but skirts or slacks with a T-shirt or blouse and nice sandals or closed-toe shoes are common. Women rarely wear their hair loose, so bring some hair ties or clips. Some Volunteers spend most of their time in a village setting where attire may follow norms specific to that community. However, you should bring clothing appropriate for professional meetings and to wear while in the city. It is necessary to wear proper business attire when doing business in the capital city. Keep Suriname’s hot climate in mind when selecting business attire.
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*Attire during training: Pre-service training will feature guest speakers and government officials. All trainees are expected to adhere to a professional dress code.  Men should wear cotton trousers, a collared shirt and close-toed shoes. Women should wear skirts, dresses or cotton slacks (no jeans) with blouses or T-shirts. In all cases, clothes must be clean and well-maintained.  Trainees should also bring one outfit appropriate for their formal swearing-in ceremony. (See the suggested packing list later in this book.)
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The people of Suriname are generally friendly. Greetings are very important. Handshakes are appropriate for both men and women. In some settings, one is expected to greet each person at the gathering. When meeting someone for the first time, handshakes and names are exchanged, surname first.  You will receive more information on Surinamese cultural norms during training.
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===Personal Safety ===
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Information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter. These issues cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as rich or well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk.  Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Suriname. At the same time, you are expected to take primary responsibility for your own safety and well-being.
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===Rewards and Frustrations ===
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The lack of infrastructure in Suriname, as in many developing countries, can cause frustration with travel, communications, and Volunteers’ ability to help their community complete tasks quickly. The pace of life in Suriname is slower than what you may be used to in the U.S. People do not follow strict times for meetings or gatherings. Functions may be canceled because of rain or some other seemingly minor reason. In Maroon communities, where people live close together, privacy is not a strong value. People here have a different sense of personal space and think nothing of touching what you may consider your personal belongings. In Amerindian villages, you may have more personal space and privacy, but you may also experience feelings of isolation. Houses are farther apart, and there is less emphasis on visiting daily with other members of the community. Members of both cultures are quick to observe physical characteristics and comment on them. Volunteers sometimes are the subject of comments such as, “You got fat!” or “You have a big butt!” In most cases, these comments are meant as a complement! Overall, Americans are well-received, but they are automatically viewed as wealthy. It is not uncommon to be asked for one’s possessions. All of these things can take a physical and emotional toll on Volunteers. On the other hand, Peace Corps Volunteers learn more about the local cultures than most other outsiders do. They also learn about themselves and their own culture. Being accepted into a community and culture, learning about differences, discovering commonalities, and sharing your knowledge while you learn from them make the frustrations worth it.
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Peace Corps service offers you opportunities you may never find elsewhere. You are likely to leave the Peace Corps a stronger person than you ever thought you could be.
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[[Category:Suriname]]

Revision as of 12:33, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communications

Mail

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

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

Your mailing address will be:

Peace Corps/Suriname

“Your Name” itant is so very inmport

P.O. Box 9500

Paramaribo-Zuid, Suriname

South America


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

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

Telephones

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

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

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

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

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

Housing and Site Location

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

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

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

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

Living Allowance and Money Management

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

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

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

Food and Diet

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

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

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

Transportation

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

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

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

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

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

Geography and Climate

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

Social Activities

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

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

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

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

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


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

Personal Safety

Information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter. These issues cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as rich or well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Suriname. At the same time, you are expected to take primary responsibility for your own safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

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

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