Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Armenia" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Azerbaijan"

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===Communications===
 
  
====Mail====
 
  
Few countries in the world offer mail service comparable to the United States and Armenia is no exception. Fortunately, there have been improvements over the past few years. At your pre-departure orientation (staging), you will be given a temporary mailing address to use during pre-service training.
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==Communications==
  
We suggest that people not send you packages while you are in training. There is a chance you will move to your permanent site before they arrive. You must pick up packages in person, which requires absence from training and payment of duty and/or storage fees. After you are sworn-in as a Volunteer, it will be easy to receive packages at your site, and you won’t have to pay duty fees for items sent through the U.S. Postal Service. (An agreement with the government exempts Volunteers from duty fees.) Please note, however, that items sent to Volunteers via DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc., are not exempt from customs fees and you are required to pay a fee of 20 percent on the declared value of any sent items.
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===Mail===
  
You and your family and friends should number your letters so you can ascertain what is and what is not arriving. In the past, letters have taken as few as 10 days and as long as six weeks to arrive. Do not send valuable items through the mail.  
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The reliability of mail service in Azerbaijan is uneven. Letters might arrive in as few as 10 days, take as long as six weeks, or not arrive at all. Heavy fees are assessed on some packages, depending on what they contain, and you might find items missing. Accordingly, we strongly recommend that you ask family and friends to number their letters consecutively so you can determine what is and what is not reaching you. We also advise you to discourage people from sending you packages or valuable items through the mail. You will be responsible for paying any fees levied on packages.  
  
We strongly encourage you to regularly write family and friends. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail can be slow and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, Peace Corps/Armenia would notify the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., which would then contact your family.
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===Mailing Address===
  
====Telephones====
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During pre-service training, your friends and family can mail letters or packages to you at the following address:
  
Long-distance telephone service is generally available but expensive. Do not expect to have constant access to a phone all of the time. You may have to use a neighbor’s phone or travel by bus to another village or town if phones in your area don’t work. If you call from outside the capital, it may take longer to get a line. The cost of a long-distance call is approximately $2.40 per minute, although many now use Internet or callback services at lower costs. Staff members have had success in using Sprint, MCI, and AT&T calling cards from local telephones. If you wish to use this option, obtain a card before you leave the United States. Inexpensive international calling cards are also available in most towns and in Yerevan.
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“Your Name,” PCT <br>
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AZ 1000 <br>
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Main P.O. Box 77 <br>
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Peace Corps <br>
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Baku, Azerbaijan <br>
  
Advise your family that in an emergency, they should contact the Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C. The daytime telephone number is 800.424.8580, extension 1470; the after-hours number is 202.638.2574. This office will then immediately contact Peace Corps/Armenia.
 
  
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
 
  
E-mail and Internet access is becoming more available, particularly in Yerevan and other large communities, but service tends to be slow. Peace Corps/Armenia suggests you obtain a free e-mail account with www.freenet.am; it is easier to access than other services. You will probably not have regular and easy access to the Internet. Please prepare family and friends for this reality and inform them that responses to e-mails may be delayed. Some Volunteers travel for hours to get to an Internet café.  
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Your mail will be delivered to the training site at least once a week. Once you know your assigned site, you will be responsible for informing your family and friends of your permanent mailing address.  
  
Smaller communities are also gaining Internet access through the school connectivity project. This project, managed by Project Harmony, will connect all Armenian schools over the next few years. The Peace Corps works closely with Project Harmony, and Volunteers are helping schools apply for connectivity and equipment. Volunteers also teach computer applications and Internet use at these schools.
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===Telephones===
  
===Housing and Site Location===
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Volunteers can make international calls from the larger cities, but they are expensive (over $2 per minute for a cellphone call to the United States and about $6 per minute by land line). Several calling cards available in the United States offer much lower rates for calls to Azerbaijan (e.g., 15 to 20 cents a minute). In general, land lines are limited and reception is uneven.
  
During pre-service training, all trainees are required to live with host families. After completing pre-service training and swearing-in, all Volunteers live with host families for a minimum of four months at their permanent site. Living with a host family provides several benefits including accelerated language acquisition; a deeper and more profound cross-cultural understanding; and an improved, in-depth community integration. Being a respected and equal member of a family not only provides strong personal and professional rewards, it can ensure your safety and security as well. Host family accommodations will vary depending on the community. Some may be apartments or separate detached houses; some may have European-style bathrooms while others might use "outhouses" or "squat" toilets. Regardless of the situation, trainees and Volunteers live as the members of their community do.  After the four-month period, Volunteers may remain with host families or change to another living situation in their communities depending on availability and personal preferences.  
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You should not expect to find a telephone in your home. However, a number of cellular telephone companies have sprung up in Baku and have effectively blanketed the country.  
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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All of the systems use GSM (for global system mobile), so most U.S. cellphones will not work in Azerbaijan. You may bring your own cellphone, but you must ensure that your U.S. phone company has “unlocked” the phone so that an Azerbaijani SIM card can be inserted.
  
As a Volunteer, you will receive a number of allowances in local currency. A one-time settling-in allowance is provided in order to buy basic household items when you move to your site. You will also receive a one-time allowance to cover heating-related expenses (e.g., to purchase of a wood stove and wood or installation of adequate electrical wire for electric heater use or to offset increased electricity costs in winter).  
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Some Volunteers will be asked to be wardens (i.e., points of contact for a small number of other Volunteers when they leave their sites or in the event of family or other emergencies). Peace Corps will issue cellphones to wardens for this purpose, but the Volunteer must reimburse the Peace Corps for personal use of these phones.  
  
Your monthly living and travel allowances, which are paid directly to your account here every month, are intended to cover food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. Costs related to the living allowance are reviewed annually (generally in February). You will also receive a housing allowance based on the lease agreement signed between you and your landlord. The housing allowance is provided at the same time as the living allowance.  
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In Azerbaijan, a cellular phone is a necessary item for communicating with staff members and fellow Volunteers and for ensuring your safety and security. If you do not arrive in-country with a cellular phone, the Peace Corps will issue one to you. You will keep this phone for your two years of service and be responsible for returning it to Peace Corps in approximately the same condition as it was issued to you. If the phone should become lost or stolen during your service, you will be held financially liable for its replacement. If you are in possession of a Peace Corps-issued phone or a personal phone, Peace Corps will pay for repairing your phone should it become damaged. In order to have your phone repaired, you can either bring it with you to Baku and we have the phone repaired and pay for this expense; or you may pay to repair the phone yourself, and we will reimburse you for this expense upon submission of a proper receipt. Unless you are making calls in your capacity as a warden or deputy warden while in Azerbaijan, the cost of using phones will be your responsibility and is presumed to be covered by your monthly living allowance.In the case of an emergency, your family can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C., and that office will immediately contact Peace Corps/Azerbaijan.  The relevant numbers are listed at the end of this book.  
  
Volunteers are also eligible for a tutor allowance to pay for continuing language study. Payments are made monthly upon presentation of a completed tutor reimbursement form.
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access===
  
A leave allowance is provided with the living allowance. If you are asked by Peace Corps to travel for official, medical, or programmatic reasons, you will be given additional money for transportation and lodging.  
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The use of computers is growing rapidly throughout Azerbaijan, but because of frequent power interruptions, e-mail and Internet access is limited mainly to Baku and several other larger cities. Most Volunteers do not have e-mail access at their sites, but can send and receive e-mail at Internet cafes in the larger towns. (Currently, the charge is approximately 40 cents an hour.) A few schools to which Volunteers are assigned have computers, and development agencies are keen to link schools to the Internet. In fact, assisting schools in applying for funds for connectivity and equipment is an important secondary activity for Volunteers.  
  
The Peace Corps sets up a bank account in local currency for each Volunteer and deposits all the allowances and other payments into these bank accounts. Volunteers can set up personal accounts in dollars if they choose.
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==Housing and Site Location==
  
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Armenia with these allowances. You are strongly discouraged from supplementing your income with money brought from homeConsistent with the philosophy that development and learning are most effectively achieved when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live at the same standard as the people whom they serve.  
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As a Volunteer, you will live in a town or village outside of Baku. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan staff, with some consideration of your desires, selects your site carefully, its principal considerations being safety and security and matching the needs of the local community with your skills and aptitudesWe want to ensure that your talents are as fully engaged during your tour of service as possible.  
  
Nevertheless, many Volunteers do bring extra money (in cash, traveler’s checks, or credit cards) for vacations. Credit cards can be used only in some of the more expensive hotels and a few big stores in the capital, but are handy for travel outside the country. They can also be used at ATMs in Yerevan to obtain cash (in drams). Retail outfits in Armenia do not accept traveler’s checks, but they can be cashed for a fee at some banks.  
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Your housing might be a private room in a family’s dwelling, a shared house, or a small apartment. You will live with a host family during training as part of your language and cultural orientation. Upon being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will again live with an Azerbaijani host family in your assigned community for the first six months of your service. The Peace Corps will select your host family for this period, except that you may choose a different family for the last two months with prior approval by the Peace Corps. Just as we make every effort to select sites that will fully engage you, we expect that you will make every effort to absorb Azerbaijani culture by spending at least one-fourth of your service living directly with a host country family. After this six-month period, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. Many Volunteers remain in host family housing for their entire service. In some parts of Azerbaijan, appropriate independent housing is scarce; you should prepare for the possibility of living with a host family for your entire service.  
  
===Food and Diet===
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Keep in mind that there is no guarantee of continuous electricity, running water, or phone service. Some villages and towns have only a few hours of electricity a day (or none at all), especially in the winter. Heat may come from a wood stove. Although you will have access to a kitchen and bathing facilities (in some cases, bucket baths), hot water and running water may be a luxury and there is likely to be a squat-style toilet. Bathroom facilities may be outside the main house in a separate building. Thus, housing will not be glamorous, but the Peace Corps staff will do its utmost to help you adjust to the new environment.
  
Much of Armenian social life revolves around food, music, singing, and dancing. Typical meals include bean and beet salads, cabbage, lavash (thin bread), sliced cold cuts (e.g., salami and bologna), cheese, and potatoes or pilaf.  
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Note that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the cease-fire agreement in 1994, gave rise to a huge and persistent resettlement problem. The need to absorb these refugees and internally displaced persons has caused housing scarcities in some parts of Azerbaijan, and Volunteers will need to be flexible in their housing expectations.  
  
Some of the best fresh vegetables and fruits found anywhere are available in Armenia during the summer. The apricots and tomatoes are of extremely high quality. During the long winter months, cabbage, potatoes, and meat are mainstays.
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==Living Allowance and Money Management==
  
It is possible but difficult for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet. The Middle Eastern influence in Armenia has brought vegetarian food, but this is more readily available in Yerevan and larger cities. Although your refusal to eat meat may seem strange to your host family, they are likely to respect your decision and accommodate your needs accordingly. Although cabbages, carrots, and potatoes are widely available throughout the winter, you may want to prepare preserves during the summer and fall to avoid having to purchase other produce in the capital. With a little planning, you should be able to maintain a healthy alternative diet.  
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As a Volunteer in Azerbaijan, you will receive several types of allowances, which will be deposited into your own bank account.  
  
Typical drinks are tan (made of yogurt, water, and salt), homemade fruit juices, Armenian and Georgian wine, and Armenian brandy and vodka. Armenians are noted for their endless toasts, but you should not feel compelled to drink a large quantity of alcohol just to appease your host. Armenians respect self-control, and most will respect yours if you drink moderately or not at all.  
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You will receive a living allowance to cover your basic living expenses, disbursed on a monthly basis in manat, the local currency. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. It is meant to cover food, work-related transportation, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses, such as postage, film, reading materials, stationery, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. If you elect to use a cellphone or the Internet, their cost must also come out of the living allowance. You will also receive an amount for housing as part of the living allowance, based on the actual lease agreement between you and your landlord or a set amount to be paid to your host family.  
  
===Transportation===
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A one time settling-in allowance is also provided for the purchase of items necessary to set up housekeeping at your site. You will receive a travel allowance to cover transportation and lodging costs when traveling for official, medical, or programmatic reasons. You will receive a leave allowance of $24 per month of service, paid with the monthly living allowance.
  
Most Volunteers travel in the country in public buses, vans, or taxis. Peace Corps/Armenia prohibits Volunteers from owning or driving vehicles in Armenia for any reason. Violation of this policy will result in termination of your Volunteer service.  
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Volunteers are also eligible for a tutor allowance to pay for continued language study after pre-service training.  
  
Although the Peace Corps provides Volunteers with transportation home at the end of their service, some choose to remain in-country on their own or to travel to other countries on their way home. If you choose to do this, you can obtain a cash payment in lieu of the government-rate airplane ticket to your home of record. This benefit is not available to Volunteers who terminate their service early.  
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Payments are made on a monthly basis upon presentation of a completed tutor reimbursement form. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan will cover tutoring in Russian, but only once you have demonstrated a certain level of competence in Azeri.  
  
===Geography and Climate===
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Most Volunteers will find that they can live comfortably in Azerbaijan with these allowances. Volunteers in all Peace Corps countries are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. Consistent with the philosophy that development and learning occur most effectively when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live modestly, by the standards of the people whom they serve. Your allowances will be deposited into a personal account at the International Bank of Azerbaijan and you will receive an ATM card from the Peace Corps to withdraw those funds.
  
Armenia lies in the mountainous Caucasus region. The landlocked country is bordered by Turkey in the west, Iran in the south, Azerbaijan in the east, and Georgia in the north.  
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Traveler’s checks are not commonly used in Azerbaijan, so we discourage you from bringing them. Although use of credit cards is rare outside the capital, they can be useful for vacation travel. The International Bank of Azerbaijan ATMs also accept major U.S. bank cards. Azerbaijan is primarily a cash economy, so exchanging currency at official exchanges or banks is very easy.  
  
Because of its protected position and generally high elevation, Armenia’s climate is mostly dry and continental, although there are regional variations, such as hot, dry summers in the Araks Valley and cooler, more humid summers in the more elevated areas. Intense sunshine occurs for many days of the year, and the summer is long and hot (except at the highest elevations), with an average July temperature in Yerevan of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which can rise as high as 108 degrees.  Winters tend to be moderately severe, with an average temperature in Yerevan of 26 degrees. Autumn is generally mild, sunny, and long, while spring is usually short and wet.
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==Food and Diet==
  
===Social Activities===
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Azerbaijan’s geographical location on the historic Silk Road is reflected in its cuisine, a mixture of Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian, with a dollop of Russian. Its fertile soils produce a huge variety of fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples, cherries, grapes, olives, lemons, persimmons, melons, watermelons, raspberries, strawberries, currants, plums, peaches, pears, quince, pomegranates, tomatoes, beans, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, chickpeas, cucumbers, carrots, eggplants, lentils, lettuce, potatoes, squashes, and onions), as well as a variety of nuts, spices, and teas. You will immediately notice the delicious taste of Azerbaijani produce in fresh salads. During the winter, however, the availability and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables decreases, so many families in small towns and villages have extensive gardens and preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter.
  
On weekends and in the evening, Armenians love to stroll with their families and friends. In summer months, in some of the larger cities throughout Armenia, sidewalk cafés appear on every corner and in every shady spot. Armenians enjoy relaxing at these cafés late into the evening.  
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The traditional diet leans toward a variety of stews or soups made with lamb, one or more vegetables, and potatoes. Also ubiquitous are shashlik, skewers of barbecued lamb. Beef and edible innards are widely available, though they are not as popular as lamb or mutton. Chicken and fish are widely available along the coast, in the south, and in major towns, but less so elsewhere. One of the special treats in Azerbaijan is caviar. Bread is served at almost every meal, and “breaking bread” with people is taken literally.  
  
In smaller towns and villages, activities tend to focus on spending time with family. Chess and backgammon (called nardi) are popular, and Armenian boys and girls play basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. In addition to participating in these activities, Volunteers enjoy hiking and exploring local historical sites.  
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Although meat is central to the Azerbaijani diet, it is possible for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet throughout their service. In addition to the fruits and vegetables mentioned above, dairy products (cheese, eggs, milk, sour cream, and yogurt) and grains are widely available. It may seem strange to your host family that you prefer not to eat meat, but they are likely to respect that decision and accommodate your needs accordingly.  
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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Typical drinks include bottled water and soft drinks, fruit juices, beer, and vodka. The traditional drink of choice is tea (chai), offered as a sign of hospitality. It is sweetened with either jam or sugar and drunk from glasses. Coffee is available, but outside of the capital, expect to receive a packet of instant Nescafé. In rural areas, alcoholic beverages are less widely available, and drinking them is frowned upon (in keeping with the Muslim culture).
  
Outside the capital, Armenians tend to be conservative in both dress and behavior. One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. Peace Corps will provide you with guidelines we hope will prove helpful as you make this transition.
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==Transportation==
  
You will be serving as a representative of the Peace Corps and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is because of economics rather than by choice.  The likelihood is that they are wearing their best clothes. A foreigner who wears ragged, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront. For men, professional dress calls for collared shirts, slacks, and occasionally suit jackets and ties. For women, professional dress calls for dresses or skirts (knee- or mid-calf length,) modest blouses or tops, and dress slacks. Women should be prepared to occasionally wear suits or formal wear for presentations or other business-related events.  
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Azerbaijanis typically travel by train, bus, or taxi. Trains tend to be cheap but slow. Electrichka are bare-bones trains with wooden benches, but more comfortable overnight express trains link the major cities. Large, comfortable, modern buses run by the Camel and Somnez companies travel among the larger cities. Most people, however, use public transportation or marshrutkas, private eight- to 10-seat minibuses that link virtually all villages with towns and cities. The private companies, while more expensive than the public ones, are still relatively cheap. Taxis are widely available, but tend to be much more expensive.  
  
Volunteers need to continually strive to maintain neat and clean clothing and hair. This may be an on-going challenge, as water is rationed in many regions and it can be difficult to heat water when you have it.  
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Riding a bicycle is not a common practice in Azerbaijan, and for safety and security reasons, Peace Corps/Azerbaijan does not recommend that you purchase or use one. Volunteers and trainees are prohibited from owning or operating motor vehicles (e.g., automobiles, motorcycles, or three-wheeled cycles) or riding on motorcycles or in motorcycle sidecars as a passenger. Except inside their own community, Volunteers are also prohibited from riding motorized vehicles after dark due to the bad conditions of roads. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.  
  
Since Armenia is fairly conservative when it comes to personal appearance, long hair and/or ponytails on men are considered unacceptable. (However, the hair you cut off could go to a good cause and get you a free haircut! Locks of Love (www.  locksoflove.org) is a not-for-profit organization that provides hair prosthetics for children that have developed long-term medical hair loss. It is a great way to begin demonstrating your cultural sensitivity and at the same time helping children in need.) Nose rings and other facial piercings, in both men and women, are also unacceptable. Throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union, tattoos have a negative connotation and historically have been associated with the underworld, mafia, and prisons. When dressing, every effort should be made to ensure that large obvious tattoos are covered by clothing.
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==Geography and Climate==
  
Personal identity and individuality is very important in American culture and hair, piercings, and tattoos are some of the ways that Americans express that individuality. The challenge lies in balancing that expression and acceptance into your community and understanding of the culture. In the end, your hair will grow back, your nose can be re-pierced, and a T-shirt instead of a tank top can easily cover your tattoo.  
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The easternmost country in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan is bordered by the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the northeast, the Caspian Sea in the east, Russia (Daghestan) and Georgia in the north, Armenia in the west, and Iran in the south.  
  
===Rewards and Frustrations===
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Azerbaijan’s climate is generally dry and continental, but with great regional variations. Baku, for example, has some 300 days of sunshine but, like Chicago, is famous for the strong winds that periodically blow off the Caspian Sea. Its summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and its wind-chill factors can dramatically lower winter temperatures from their usual 40-degree levels. Inland, winter temperatures are much colder. Snow in the mountains is frequent, and villages can be completely cut off. Spring brings snowmelt and the possibility of flooding. Central Azerbaijan, by comparison, is dry and semidesert-like. The forested south experiences an atypical autumn, with October rains, while the orchards near Quba in the northeast get occasionally heavy rainfall in the spring. March, April, May, October, and November, on the whole, tend to be wonderful times for parents and friends to visit.
  
The living conditions of Peace Corps service affect Volunteers differently. Do you need a lot of privacy or very little? Are you oblivious to dirt or fairly sensitive? Nearly all Volunteers, at some point, find the conditions under which they live and work to be difficult or challenging. Most experience feelings of discouragement and futility–usually during the first year of service. Things that seemed clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You may often feel that you are not in control, and this can be frightening. When this happens, you may wonder whether you are really up to the job, whether you may have caused the problem, whether it is really possible to accomplish anything, or whether what you are doing is really worthwhile. You may feel fatigued although you have been working no harder than usual. You may find yourself short-tempered or annoyed with yourself and others.
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==Social Activities==
  
There is no magical or easy method for overcoming these feelings but, fortunately, they are usually short-lived. Bear in mind that the frustration of “not getting anything done” usually derives from the realities of the country, not from your own inadequacies. It is often helpful to break up a problem into smaller units and work at it one step at a time. If you can step back and try to assess the problem afresh, you will feel more positive about the headway you have made and are making. Without a doubt, when you have completed your service, you will recall your time here with fondness, and you will be amazed by the personal change that has resulted from overcoming the challenges.
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Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in local festivals, parties, storytelling, family events, and dances. Many of the larger towns have outdoor cafés, small museums, and movie theaters (though the movies tend to be foreign and dubbed). Baku has a wide array of entertainment possibilities, including theater, opera, ballet, art galleries, museums, restaurants, beaches, and sports facilities. Baku’s Ichari Shahar, or Old City, is a medieval district of narrow alleys and winding cobblestone passages, featuring antiques and carpet shops, restaurants, mosques, caravansaries, and mausoleums. Outside of Baku, Quba is especially beautiful in the spring, when its apple orchards are in full bloom. It is also well-known for its carpet weaving. Lahij, to the west of Baku, is an attractive ancient village famous for its copperware, and Sheki, nestled on the edge of the Caucasus range, has both spectacular scenery and numerous ruins. Hikers are rewarded with views of waterfalls, snow-covered mountains, and fields of wildflowers. Horseback riding is also a possibility.  
  
[[Category:Armenia]]
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==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior==
  
[[Category:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles]]
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One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy situation to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines that show respect for your professional colleagues and that reflect positively not only on you but also on your fellow Volunteers, your host family, and on the Peace Corps as an assistance organization. Maintaining your personal style while presenting a professional appearance according to Azerbaijani cultural standards may be challenging. Professional dress means clean and conservative clothing, not necessarily dressy suits or coats and ties, though many male teachers wear shirt, ties and occasionally coats to class. Female teachers must wear skirts to class. Dress for organizations varies from professional to business casual. In general, Azerbaijanis dress more formally than Americans do and take great pride in their appearance.  Outside of the house, Azerbaijani men often wear suits, even while farming.  Although it is not uncommon to see fashionable young women in Baku wearing short skirts and tight pants, this mode of dress is not acceptable for Volunteers. Foreign women are already generally seen as less conservative in behavior, so clothing that is too short or revealing will attract unwanted attention. In the towns and villages where Volunteers are posted, conservative Islamic values prevail, so longer skirts and blouses, pants that are not too tight, and sweaters that cover the shoulders are appropriate for female Volunteers.
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The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you but also reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. For example, the possession or use of illegal drugs, or even a rumor of the use of drugs, can have such a damaging effect on the Peace Corps program that there is zero tolerance in its regard.
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Ninety-three percent of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim and Islam forbids alcohol at all times and in all circumstances.  Although many Azerbaijanis do not observe this ban, some do refrain from drinking, especially during Orujlug (the Muslim fast) and Ashura (the religious mourning period of the Shiites). NOTE: Azerbaijanis views towards religion and practices like abstaining from alcohol are as varied as they are in the U.S.  For every Azerbaijani male that doesn't drink alcohol for religious reasons, there seems to be at least two or three who do.  Even with that, women are almost never allowed to drink.
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Teachers, especially need to be models to their students; this profession commands tremendous respect in Azerbaijan.  Teacher Volunteers should always look neat and tidy and should never be seen drinking (if a female) or drunk (if a male).
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You need to be aware that any behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission and reputation in Azerbaijan or your personal safety may lead to administrative separation— a decision on the part of the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook has more information on the grounds for administrative separation.
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==Personal Safety==
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are uncommon, but not unheard of, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur.
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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 Azerbaijan. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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Among the more important set of policies and procedures is your responsibility to obtain the permission of your local supervisor and/or Peace Corps program manager when you wish to leave your site. Volunteers must also provide advance notification of their departure and return to their sites. Distinct from annual leave (which accrues at the rate of two days for every month of service and then take at times approved by your local supervisor, program manager and the country director if you leave Azerbaijan), “out-of-site” leave on weekends or at other times during your service is not a right, but a privilege, and it is administered in accordance to polices established by the country director and approved by the regional director. These can be revoked at the country director’s discretion. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan’s out-of-site policy essentially provides for one out-of-site weekend per month. Although this policy is grounded in your program responsibilities to your community, it is also necessary so that the Peace Corps can reach you at a moment’s notice in the event of family or other emergencies. These policies are taken so seriously that lack of compliance can, and usually will, lead to administrative separation from the Peace Corps.
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==Rewards and Frustrations==
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The conditions of life for Volunteers affect them differently. Do you need a lot of privacy or very little? Are you oblivious to dirt or fairly sensitive to it? Nearly all Volunteers, at some point, find the conditions under which they live and work to be difficult or challenging. Most experience feelings of discouragement and futility—usually during the first year of service. Things that were clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You may not feel in control of a situation, which can be frightening. When this happens, you may wonder whether you are really up to the job, whether you may have caused the problem, or whether what you are doing is really worthwhile. You may feel unusually fatigued, even though you have been working no harder than usual.  You may find yourself short-tempered and annoyed at yourself and others.
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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 is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results, knowing that the frustration of “not getting anything done” usually derives from the realities of the situation rather than from your own inadequacies.
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To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Azerbaijanis are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
 +
 
 +
[[Category:Azerbaijan]]

Revision as of 09:31, 8 December 2015

Country Resources


Communications

Mail

The reliability of mail service in Azerbaijan is uneven. Letters might arrive in as few as 10 days, take as long as six weeks, or not arrive at all. Heavy fees are assessed on some packages, depending on what they contain, and you might find items missing. Accordingly, we strongly recommend that you ask family and friends to number their letters consecutively so you can determine what is and what is not reaching you. We also advise you to discourage people from sending you packages or valuable items through the mail. You will be responsible for paying any fees levied on packages.

Mailing Address

During pre-service training, your friends and family can mail letters or packages to you at the following address:

“Your Name,” PCT
AZ 1000
Main P.O. Box 77
Peace Corps
Baku, Azerbaijan


Your mail will be delivered to the training site at least once a week. Once you know your assigned site, you will be responsible for informing your family and friends of your permanent mailing address.

Telephones

Volunteers can make international calls from the larger cities, but they are expensive (over $2 per minute for a cellphone call to the United States and about $6 per minute by land line). Several calling cards available in the United States offer much lower rates for calls to Azerbaijan (e.g., 15 to 20 cents a minute). In general, land lines are limited and reception is uneven.

You should not expect to find a telephone in your home. However, a number of cellular telephone companies have sprung up in Baku and have effectively blanketed the country.

All of the systems use GSM (for global system mobile), so most U.S. cellphones will not work in Azerbaijan. You may bring your own cellphone, but you must ensure that your U.S. phone company has “unlocked” the phone so that an Azerbaijani SIM card can be inserted.

Some Volunteers will be asked to be wardens (i.e., points of contact for a small number of other Volunteers when they leave their sites or in the event of family or other emergencies). Peace Corps will issue cellphones to wardens for this purpose, but the Volunteer must reimburse the Peace Corps for personal use of these phones.

In Azerbaijan, a cellular phone is a necessary item for communicating with staff members and fellow Volunteers and for ensuring your safety and security. If you do not arrive in-country with a cellular phone, the Peace Corps will issue one to you. You will keep this phone for your two years of service and be responsible for returning it to Peace Corps in approximately the same condition as it was issued to you. If the phone should become lost or stolen during your service, you will be held financially liable for its replacement. If you are in possession of a Peace Corps-issued phone or a personal phone, Peace Corps will pay for repairing your phone should it become damaged. In order to have your phone repaired, you can either bring it with you to Baku and we have the phone repaired and pay for this expense; or you may pay to repair the phone yourself, and we will reimburse you for this expense upon submission of a proper receipt. Unless you are making calls in your capacity as a warden or deputy warden while in Azerbaijan, the cost of using phones will be your responsibility and is presumed to be covered by your monthly living allowance.In the case of an emergency, your family can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C., and that office will immediately contact Peace Corps/Azerbaijan. The relevant numbers are listed at the end of this book.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

The use of computers is growing rapidly throughout Azerbaijan, but because of frequent power interruptions, e-mail and Internet access is limited mainly to Baku and several other larger cities. Most Volunteers do not have e-mail access at their sites, but can send and receive e-mail at Internet cafes in the larger towns. (Currently, the charge is approximately 40 cents an hour.) A few schools to which Volunteers are assigned have computers, and development agencies are keen to link schools to the Internet. In fact, assisting schools in applying for funds for connectivity and equipment is an important secondary activity for Volunteers.

Housing and Site Location

As a Volunteer, you will live in a town or village outside of Baku. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan staff, with some consideration of your desires, selects your site carefully, its principal considerations being safety and security and matching the needs of the local community with your skills and aptitudes. We want to ensure that your talents are as fully engaged during your tour of service as possible.

Your housing might be a private room in a family’s dwelling, a shared house, or a small apartment. You will live with a host family during training as part of your language and cultural orientation. Upon being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will again live with an Azerbaijani host family in your assigned community for the first six months of your service. The Peace Corps will select your host family for this period, except that you may choose a different family for the last two months with prior approval by the Peace Corps. Just as we make every effort to select sites that will fully engage you, we expect that you will make every effort to absorb Azerbaijani culture by spending at least one-fourth of your service living directly with a host country family. After this six-month period, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. Many Volunteers remain in host family housing for their entire service. In some parts of Azerbaijan, appropriate independent housing is scarce; you should prepare for the possibility of living with a host family for your entire service.

Keep in mind that there is no guarantee of continuous electricity, running water, or phone service. Some villages and towns have only a few hours of electricity a day (or none at all), especially in the winter. Heat may come from a wood stove. Although you will have access to a kitchen and bathing facilities (in some cases, bucket baths), hot water and running water may be a luxury and there is likely to be a squat-style toilet. Bathroom facilities may be outside the main house in a separate building. Thus, housing will not be glamorous, but the Peace Corps staff will do its utmost to help you adjust to the new environment.

Note that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the cease-fire agreement in 1994, gave rise to a huge and persistent resettlement problem. The need to absorb these refugees and internally displaced persons has caused housing scarcities in some parts of Azerbaijan, and Volunteers will need to be flexible in their housing expectations.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer in Azerbaijan, you will receive several types of allowances, which will be deposited into your own bank account.

You will receive a living allowance to cover your basic living expenses, disbursed on a monthly basis in manat, the local currency. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. It is meant to cover food, work-related transportation, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses, such as postage, film, reading materials, stationery, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. If you elect to use a cellphone or the Internet, their cost must also come out of the living allowance. You will also receive an amount for housing as part of the living allowance, based on the actual lease agreement between you and your landlord or a set amount to be paid to your host family.

A one time settling-in allowance is also provided for the purchase of items necessary to set up housekeeping at your site. You will receive a travel allowance to cover transportation and lodging costs when traveling for official, medical, or programmatic reasons. You will receive a leave allowance of $24 per month of service, paid with the monthly living allowance.

Volunteers are also eligible for a tutor allowance to pay for continued language study after pre-service training.

Payments are made on a monthly basis upon presentation of a completed tutor reimbursement form. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan will cover tutoring in Russian, but only once you have demonstrated a certain level of competence in Azeri.

Most Volunteers will find that they can live comfortably in Azerbaijan with these allowances. Volunteers in all Peace Corps countries are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. Consistent with the philosophy that development and learning occur most effectively when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live modestly, by the standards of the people whom they serve. Your allowances will be deposited into a personal account at the International Bank of Azerbaijan and you will receive an ATM card from the Peace Corps to withdraw those funds.

Traveler’s checks are not commonly used in Azerbaijan, so we discourage you from bringing them. Although use of credit cards is rare outside the capital, they can be useful for vacation travel. The International Bank of Azerbaijan ATMs also accept major U.S. bank cards. Azerbaijan is primarily a cash economy, so exchanging currency at official exchanges or banks is very easy.

Food and Diet

Azerbaijan’s geographical location on the historic Silk Road is reflected in its cuisine, a mixture of Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian, with a dollop of Russian. Its fertile soils produce a huge variety of fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples, cherries, grapes, olives, lemons, persimmons, melons, watermelons, raspberries, strawberries, currants, plums, peaches, pears, quince, pomegranates, tomatoes, beans, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, chickpeas, cucumbers, carrots, eggplants, lentils, lettuce, potatoes, squashes, and onions), as well as a variety of nuts, spices, and teas. You will immediately notice the delicious taste of Azerbaijani produce in fresh salads. During the winter, however, the availability and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables decreases, so many families in small towns and villages have extensive gardens and preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter.

The traditional diet leans toward a variety of stews or soups made with lamb, one or more vegetables, and potatoes. Also ubiquitous are shashlik, skewers of barbecued lamb. Beef and edible innards are widely available, though they are not as popular as lamb or mutton. Chicken and fish are widely available along the coast, in the south, and in major towns, but less so elsewhere. One of the special treats in Azerbaijan is caviar. Bread is served at almost every meal, and “breaking bread” with people is taken literally.

Although meat is central to the Azerbaijani diet, it is possible for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet throughout their service. In addition to the fruits and vegetables mentioned above, dairy products (cheese, eggs, milk, sour cream, and yogurt) and grains are widely available. It may seem strange to your host family that you prefer not to eat meat, but they are likely to respect that decision and accommodate your needs accordingly.

Typical drinks include bottled water and soft drinks, fruit juices, beer, and vodka. The traditional drink of choice is tea (chai), offered as a sign of hospitality. It is sweetened with either jam or sugar and drunk from glasses. Coffee is available, but outside of the capital, expect to receive a packet of instant Nescafé. In rural areas, alcoholic beverages are less widely available, and drinking them is frowned upon (in keeping with the Muslim culture).

Transportation

Azerbaijanis typically travel by train, bus, or taxi. Trains tend to be cheap but slow. Electrichka are bare-bones trains with wooden benches, but more comfortable overnight express trains link the major cities. Large, comfortable, modern buses run by the Camel and Somnez companies travel among the larger cities. Most people, however, use public transportation or marshrutkas, private eight- to 10-seat minibuses that link virtually all villages with towns and cities. The private companies, while more expensive than the public ones, are still relatively cheap. Taxis are widely available, but tend to be much more expensive.

Riding a bicycle is not a common practice in Azerbaijan, and for safety and security reasons, Peace Corps/Azerbaijan does not recommend that you purchase or use one. Volunteers and trainees are prohibited from owning or operating motor vehicles (e.g., automobiles, motorcycles, or three-wheeled cycles) or riding on motorcycles or in motorcycle sidecars as a passenger. Except inside their own community, Volunteers are also prohibited from riding motorized vehicles after dark due to the bad conditions of roads. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.

Geography and Climate

The easternmost country in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan is bordered by the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the northeast, the Caspian Sea in the east, Russia (Daghestan) and Georgia in the north, Armenia in the west, and Iran in the south.

Azerbaijan’s climate is generally dry and continental, but with great regional variations. Baku, for example, has some 300 days of sunshine but, like Chicago, is famous for the strong winds that periodically blow off the Caspian Sea. Its summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and its wind-chill factors can dramatically lower winter temperatures from their usual 40-degree levels. Inland, winter temperatures are much colder. Snow in the mountains is frequent, and villages can be completely cut off. Spring brings snowmelt and the possibility of flooding. Central Azerbaijan, by comparison, is dry and semidesert-like. The forested south experiences an atypical autumn, with October rains, while the orchards near Quba in the northeast get occasionally heavy rainfall in the spring. March, April, May, October, and November, on the whole, tend to be wonderful times for parents and friends to visit.

Social Activities

Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in local festivals, parties, storytelling, family events, and dances. Many of the larger towns have outdoor cafés, small museums, and movie theaters (though the movies tend to be foreign and dubbed). Baku has a wide array of entertainment possibilities, including theater, opera, ballet, art galleries, museums, restaurants, beaches, and sports facilities. Baku’s Ichari Shahar, or Old City, is a medieval district of narrow alleys and winding cobblestone passages, featuring antiques and carpet shops, restaurants, mosques, caravansaries, and mausoleums. Outside of Baku, Quba is especially beautiful in the spring, when its apple orchards are in full bloom. It is also well-known for its carpet weaving. Lahij, to the west of Baku, is an attractive ancient village famous for its copperware, and Sheki, nestled on the edge of the Caucasus range, has both spectacular scenery and numerous ruins. Hikers are rewarded with views of waterfalls, snow-covered mountains, and fields of wildflowers. Horseback riding is also a possibility.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy situation to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines that show respect for your professional colleagues and that reflect positively not only on you but also on your fellow Volunteers, your host family, and on the Peace Corps as an assistance organization. Maintaining your personal style while presenting a professional appearance according to Azerbaijani cultural standards may be challenging. Professional dress means clean and conservative clothing, not necessarily dressy suits or coats and ties, though many male teachers wear shirt, ties and occasionally coats to class. Female teachers must wear skirts to class. Dress for organizations varies from professional to business casual. In general, Azerbaijanis dress more formally than Americans do and take great pride in their appearance. Outside of the house, Azerbaijani men often wear suits, even while farming. Although it is not uncommon to see fashionable young women in Baku wearing short skirts and tight pants, this mode of dress is not acceptable for Volunteers. Foreign women are already generally seen as less conservative in behavior, so clothing that is too short or revealing will attract unwanted attention. In the towns and villages where Volunteers are posted, conservative Islamic values prevail, so longer skirts and blouses, pants that are not too tight, and sweaters that cover the shoulders are appropriate for female Volunteers.

The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you but also reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. For example, the possession or use of illegal drugs, or even a rumor of the use of drugs, can have such a damaging effect on the Peace Corps program that there is zero tolerance in its regard.

Ninety-three percent of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim and Islam forbids alcohol at all times and in all circumstances. Although many Azerbaijanis do not observe this ban, some do refrain from drinking, especially during Orujlug (the Muslim fast) and Ashura (the religious mourning period of the Shiites). NOTE: Azerbaijanis views towards religion and practices like abstaining from alcohol are as varied as they are in the U.S. For every Azerbaijani male that doesn't drink alcohol for religious reasons, there seems to be at least two or three who do. Even with that, women are almost never allowed to drink.

Teachers, especially need to be models to their students; this profession commands tremendous respect in Azerbaijan. Teacher Volunteers should always look neat and tidy and should never be seen drinking (if a female) or drunk (if a male).

You need to be aware that any behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission and reputation in Azerbaijan or your personal safety may lead to administrative separation— a decision on the part of the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook has more information on the grounds for administrative separation.

Personal Safety

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 uncommon, but not unheard of, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur.

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

Among the more important set of policies and procedures is your responsibility to obtain the permission of your local supervisor and/or Peace Corps program manager when you wish to leave your site. Volunteers must also provide advance notification of their departure and return to their sites. Distinct from annual leave (which accrues at the rate of two days for every month of service and then take at times approved by your local supervisor, program manager and the country director if you leave Azerbaijan), “out-of-site” leave on weekends or at other times during your service is not a right, but a privilege, and it is administered in accordance to polices established by the country director and approved by the regional director. These can be revoked at the country director’s discretion. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan’s out-of-site policy essentially provides for one out-of-site weekend per month. Although this policy is grounded in your program responsibilities to your community, it is also necessary so that the Peace Corps can reach you at a moment’s notice in the event of family or other emergencies. These policies are taken so seriously that lack of compliance can, and usually will, lead to administrative separation from the Peace Corps.

Rewards and Frustrations

The conditions of life for Volunteers affect them differently. Do you need a lot of privacy or very little? Are you oblivious to dirt or fairly sensitive to it? Nearly all Volunteers, at some point, find the conditions under which they live and work to be difficult or challenging. Most experience feelings of discouragement and futility—usually during the first year of service. Things that were clear become unclear. The direction to take seems obscured. You may not feel in control of a situation, which can be frightening. When this happens, you may wonder whether you are really up to the job, whether you may have caused the problem, or whether what you are doing is really worthwhile. You may feel unusually fatigued, even though you have been working no harder than usual. You may find yourself short-tempered and annoyed at yourself and others.

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 is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results, knowing that the frustration of “not getting anything done” usually derives from the realities of the situation rather than from your own inadequacies.

To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Azerbaijanis are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.