Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Moldova" and "FAQs about Peace Corps in Lesotho"

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{{FAQs by country}}
In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
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Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Moldova, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Moldova.
 
  
Outside of Moldova’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Moldova are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
 
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Moldova, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
 
  
===Overview of Diversity in Moldova ===
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You will receive reporting instructions from the Office of Staging approximately two weeks before your staging. In the meantime, here are some answers to questions frequently asked by new trainees.
  
The Peace Corps staff in Moldova recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
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I have just been accepted for an assignment in Lesotho; is there anything I should be doing to get ready?
  
===What Might a Volunteer Face? ===
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Submit an updated copy of your résumé to the country desk (send e-mail to lesotho@peacecorps.gov) along with your personal statement as requested in the invitation kit.  Complete and submit your passport application to SATO Travel. Be sure you have completed all of your medical and dental requirements. You must be medically cleared before you arrive at the staging! If you are not sure of your clearance status, contact the Office of Medical Services.
  
The comments below are intended to stimulate thought and discussion. They come from a cross-section of Volunteers who have served in Moldova. The issues discussed may or may not be relevant to your own Volunteer experience; they are here simply to make all Volunteers aware of issues that various groups may have to deal with.  
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We strongly encourage you to take advantage of the resources suggested in this Welcome Book. You will receive several weeks of intensive instruction in-country, but the more familiar you are with Lesotho before arriving there, the less difficulty you will have adjusting to the new culture.  
  
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
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===How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Lesotho? ===
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Refer to your welcome packet before you go.
  
Traditional or stereotyped gender roles are more prevalent in Moldova than they are in the United States. One estimate stated that Moldovan women do 300 percent more work in the home than men do. And it is common for a man to enter a room and shake every other man’s hand while completely ignoring the women who are present. Although Americans are often bothered by such behavior, women do not have a subordinate role in Moldova. Historically, they have been a vital part of the workforce, taking on both managerial and supervisory positions. Moldovan women work as school administrators, business owners, doctors, local government officials, and members of Parliament.  
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Lesotho is designated a winter country... and it does get cold. So it gets Peace Corps winter country allowance for bags.
  
Female Volunteers should not expect, however, to be able to continue all of their American practices in Moldova. Adapting to local mores and customs is a necessity for Peace Corps Volunteers wherever they are. Moldovan women generally lead more restricted lifestyles than American women do. For instance, Moldovan women do not go out alone at night, and jogging or walking alone for exercise is uncommon. Women in villages do not usually smoke in public, and all Moldovans tend to speak more quietly than Americans do in public places. While these activities are not forbidden for Volunteers, sometimes they have to make compromises and alter their behavior. Female Volunteers are advised to avoid eye contact with men who are strangers, especially on buses and in the street.  
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Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits.  
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
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The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.
  
African-American Volunteers often express frustration and disappointment at being asked where they are from because when they answer “African American” or “black American,” some Moldovans react with surprise or disbelief. Although they may be the subject of constant stares and questions as well as occasional insults, most African-American Volunteers say they are well accepted in their communities after an initial settling-in period. There is a small population of students and businesspeople from Africa in Chisinau, and some African Americans are assigned to the U.S. Embassy.  
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Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave receivers are permitted, and are a good source of news), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
  
Hispanic American Volunteers have found that some Moldovans stereotype them as similar to the characters they watch in the popular Latin American soap operas on TV.  Because there is a small population of Romany (Gypsies) in Moldova, some Volunteers have been misidentified and have been the subjects of verbal harassment.
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===What is the electric current in Lesotho? ===
  
Asian-American Volunteers often find that they stand out more than Caucasians, as there are relatively few East Asians (i.e., Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asians) in Moldova. People often assume that such Volunteers are from China, and may be skeptical that they are Americans and speak English. While much of this extra attention is not intended to be negative, it can be tiresome. The situation soon goes away in your host village, but may recur when you visit other cities and towns. Several Asian-American Volunteers have been stopped by police to check identification papers much more frequently than their counterpart Caucasian Volunteers.  
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Electrical appliances run on 240 volts. Your laptop should be able to handle it. Check the adapter. There is a distinct possibility that you will not have electricity at your site, we recommend that you wait to purchase any electrical appliances you may need until you have seen your particular living situation. That being said, nearly all recent groups have brought laptops and found ways to charge them. Most shops, or at least shops in district capital cities, will have ways to charge your laptop and cell phone. For the most rural volunteers - the longer the battery life the better.
  
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
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===How much money should I bring? ===
  
Respect comes with age in Moldova. Younger Volunteers may have to work harder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals. It is not uncommon for younger Volunteers to look to older Volunteers for advice and support. Some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, while others choose not to fill this role.  Overall, senior Volunteers are highly valued for the wealth of experience they bring to their communities and counterparts.  
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Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.  
  
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Volunteers ====
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===When can I take vacation?===
  
Homosexuality is misunderstood and generally not accepted by most Moldovans, and discussing the issue of sexual orientation may be problematic. It is advisable to use discretion because you may experience difficulties if your community becomes aware of your sexual orientation, compromising your ability to be effective. The Peace Corps staff in Moldova can provide you with information on organizations in Moldova that are working on issues concerning sexual orientation. Additionally, there is a Volunteer gender work group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and supportive straight Volunteers; its coordinator can provide you with information. You may also find helpful information on serving in the Peace Corps as a gay or lesbian from a group of returned Volunteers affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association (for more information, go to www.lgbrpcv.org; for country-specific information, go to www.gay.md).  
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Each Volunteer begins accruing two vacation days per month of service after being sworn in. During your nine-week training period, the first three months of service, and the last three months of service, you are not eligible to take vacation.  
  
Gay and lesbian Volunteers can (and do) have a very productive service and a positive experience here in Moldova. However, there are some issues you will face in Moldova that may be quite different from what you were used to in the States. There is a small community of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Moldovans in Chisinau, which is becoming increasingly active and hosts social events, but there are few other social activities or meeting places. As a result, many gays and lesbians experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is especially true for those who choose closeted lives in communities outside of Chisinau. As a result, you will encounter bias and prejudice about gays and lesbians. You will need to be cautious about who you come out to amongst your Moldovan friends. However, you are encouraged to be out with Peace Corps staff and Volunteers to lessen the feeling of isolation. Peace Corps/Moldova is committed to ensuring an environment that is safe, secure, and accepting of all forms of diversity, and gays, lesbians and bisexuals should feel comfortable talking about whatever issues they are facing. You will find staff and your Volunteer peers to be very supportive.  
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These first months in your site are important for establishing good relations with the community and host agency. For this reason, you are encouraged to remain at your site. Volunteers often state an interest in traveling and learning about other cultures as one of the reasons for joining the Peace Corps. Therefore, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to use their vacation time to travel around Lesotho and other countries in the region, rather than vacationing in the United States.  
  
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance? ===
  
There are no official or societal restrictions with regard to religious belief in Moldova. The primary religion is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is divided between those affiliated with the Romanian Orthodox Church and those affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church. There are also congregations of Jews, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and others. Religion is an important part of life for many, but by no means all, Moldovans. Most towns and villages have at least one Orthodox church, and some also have small Baptist churches.  
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The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.  
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities ====
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===Do I need an international driver’s license? ===
  
As a disabled Volunteer in Moldova, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. In Moldova, as in other parts of the world, some people may hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with disabilities and may discriminate against them. In addition, there is little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.  
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Volunteers in Lesotho do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and crowded minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a vehicle. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.
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Bring your US drivers license if you plan to travel outside of Lesotho during vacations. A plain U.S. License will be accepted in all of the countries in Southern Africa. Again, Lesotho Volunteers are typically prohibited from driving in Lesotho.
  
Nonetheless, as part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, of serving in Moldova without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/Moldova staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
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===Should I bring gifts for friends and my host family? ===
  
[[Category:Moldova]]
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While this is not required, some Volunteers have brought gifts to share. A token of friendship is sufficient; do not get carried away. Some gift suggestions include household items (sheets or tablecloths in American styles); knickknacks for the house; photos, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; pens, crayons and colored pencils for children, or photos to give away. You will live with a host family during part of your training, and it is a common practice to bring them small gifts.
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===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training? ===
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This is the most common question asked of the Lesotho desk by trainees. Peace Corps/Lesotho staff will make site assignments after they get to know each trainee, usually during the last few weeks of training. This reflects our desire to make the best match possible between an individual’s skills, experience, and interests and the specific needs at each site.
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===Can I call home from Lesotho? ===
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Most phone service is cellular, and landlines are rare to non-existent outside of Masseru. Cell phones with sim cards (pay as you go) are readily available for purchase and affordable on a living allowance. Calls to America are not cheap, so look for cheap ways for your families to call you. International phone service, by cell phone, to and from Lesotho is reasonably good in the cities and most sites have cell service with limited cellular internet. Calling cards may be used from some telephones—check with your international long-distance company to see if it provides services in Lesotho. You can buy international calling cards in the capital city and use a "public phone" or a land line at Peace Corps Lesotho headquarters but this is inconvenient. Depending on your assignment, You may not be able to receive calls from home while at your site. (Most sites are covered but not all, and cellular service for regions can be dropped for frustratingly long periods. However, in general, most volunteers buy a pay-as-you-go cell phone, and are able to make and receive calls.  Calling America gets expensive very quickly (read: pay-as-you-go), but text messaging is the way of the future! Make sure your family members at home have international text message options on their phones.
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[[Category:Lesotho]]

Revision as of 02:32, 9 September 2013

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

For information see Welcomebooks



You will receive reporting instructions from the Office of Staging approximately two weeks before your staging. In the meantime, here are some answers to questions frequently asked by new trainees.

I have just been accepted for an assignment in Lesotho; is there anything I should be doing to get ready?

Submit an updated copy of your résumé to the country desk (send e-mail to lesotho@peacecorps.gov) along with your personal statement as requested in the invitation kit. Complete and submit your passport application to SATO Travel. Be sure you have completed all of your medical and dental requirements. You must be medically cleared before you arrive at the staging! If you are not sure of your clearance status, contact the Office of Medical Services.

We strongly encourage you to take advantage of the resources suggested in this Welcome Book. You will receive several weeks of intensive instruction in-country, but the more familiar you are with Lesotho before arriving there, the less difficulty you will have adjusting to the new culture.

How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Lesotho?

Refer to your welcome packet before you go.

Lesotho is designated a winter country... and it does get cold. So it gets Peace Corps winter country allowance for bags.

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits.

The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave receivers are permitted, and are a good source of news), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

What is the electric current in Lesotho?

Electrical appliances run on 240 volts. Your laptop should be able to handle it. Check the adapter. There is a distinct possibility that you will not have electricity at your site, we recommend that you wait to purchase any electrical appliances you may need until you have seen your particular living situation. That being said, nearly all recent groups have brought laptops and found ways to charge them. Most shops, or at least shops in district capital cities, will have ways to charge your laptop and cell phone. For the most rural volunteers - the longer the battery life the better.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

When can I take vacation?

Each Volunteer begins accruing two vacation days per month of service after being sworn in. During your nine-week training period, the first three months of service, and the last three months of service, you are not eligible to take vacation.

These first months in your site are important for establishing good relations with the community and host agency. For this reason, you are encouraged to remain at your site. Volunteers often state an interest in traveling and learning about other cultures as one of the reasons for joining the Peace Corps. Therefore, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to use their vacation time to travel around Lesotho and other countries in the region, rather than vacationing in the United States.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

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

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Lesotho do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and crowded minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a vehicle. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case. Bring your US drivers license if you plan to travel outside of Lesotho during vacations. A plain U.S. License will be accepted in all of the countries in Southern Africa. Again, Lesotho Volunteers are typically prohibited from driving in Lesotho.

Should I bring gifts for friends and my host family?

While this is not required, some Volunteers have brought gifts to share. A token of friendship is sufficient; do not get carried away. Some gift suggestions include household items (sheets or tablecloths in American styles); knickknacks for the house; photos, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; pens, crayons and colored pencils for children, or photos to give away. You will live with a host family during part of your training, and it is a common practice to bring them small gifts.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training?

This is the most common question asked of the Lesotho desk by trainees. Peace Corps/Lesotho staff will make site assignments after they get to know each trainee, usually during the last few weeks of training. This reflects our desire to make the best match possible between an individual’s skills, experience, and interests and the specific needs at each site.

Can I call home from Lesotho?

Most phone service is cellular, and landlines are rare to non-existent outside of Masseru. Cell phones with sim cards (pay as you go) are readily available for purchase and affordable on a living allowance. Calls to America are not cheap, so look for cheap ways for your families to call you. International phone service, by cell phone, to and from Lesotho is reasonably good in the cities and most sites have cell service with limited cellular internet. Calling cards may be used from some telephones—check with your international long-distance company to see if it provides services in Lesotho. You can buy international calling cards in the capital city and use a "public phone" or a land line at Peace Corps Lesotho headquarters but this is inconvenient. Depending on your assignment, You may not be able to receive calls from home while at your site. (Most sites are covered but not all, and cellular service for regions can be dropped for frustratingly long periods. However, in general, most volunteers buy a pay-as-you-go cell phone, and are able to make and receive calls. Calling America gets expensive very quickly (read: pay-as-you-go), but text messaging is the way of the future! Make sure your family members at home have international text message options on their phones.