Difference between pages "FAQs about Peace Corps in Armenia" and "Anecdotes from China PCVs"

From Peace Corps Wiki
(Difference between pages)
Jump to: navigation, search
m (1 revision)
 
m (1 revision)
 
Line 1: Line 1:
{{FAQs by country}}
+
====General Cross Cultural Issues====
 +
My only recurring problems, for which I've not yet found a magic bullet, are these:
 +
1. People asking my salary.
 +
2. People taking my picture without saying a word -- people turning their webcams towards me in the internet cafe, also without a word.
 +
 +
Yesterday, I waited a whole morning for a man to come fix my lock who was supposed to arrive at my front door at 9 am. Instead he arrived at noon. Why get mad, stressed, and impatient over something I cannot control. Instead while waiting, I had a nice breakfast, a 40 minute walk around the playground, a nice hot berry tea, and read a good book.
  
 +
The absolute hardest thing for me here, other than being away from family and friends and not being able to speak Chinese very well, is not being able to tend to things myself.  I have not yet made my peace with having to make all communications through my counterpart, who may or may not understand what I am asking and who probably has no power to do anything about my request.
  
 +
====Diversity and Cross Cultural Issues====
  
 +
Here in China, walking around silent, [because I am Asian American] I am not unique unless I wear an African outfit [from my previous post], then I get stares like back in America when I shaved my head and dyed it pink. Walking around anonymous, part of the crowd I feel a sense of belonging, a sense of community rather than being an outsider. But as soon as I open my mouth, I become a curiosity and a center of attention. I become the outsider.
  
{{Countrybar
+
As a gay volunteer, I worried about how I would be perceived by Chinese nationals, fellow volunteers and Peace Corps staff. Though I am open about my sexuality at home in the States, I knew from the Peace Corps literature that Chinese culture is less tolerant of my lifestyle, so I chose early on to keep this particular bit of information mostly to myself. While I believe this was the correct choice, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that there are resources available to LGBT volunteers in China, and that the volunteers and staff I have trusted with this facet of my identity have been both open and helpful. Also, though I live in a remote area, I have been lucky enough to befriend a local gay HCN who has greatly advanced my awareness of sexuality-related issues in China. I should mention though that the first thing he told me was, “Don't tell your superiors at work; they can fire you for it.” This is true for HCN teachers, and it should be a concern for PCVs. This sometimes feels like a step backward into the closet, but the key for me has been finding just a few trustworthy and open-minded people with whom to confide.
|Countryname= Armenia
+
}}
+
  
 +
As a transfer, I think my experience in China has had some unique aspects to it, pertinent to my transfer-ness. . . . [In] China, with all the technology and ease of staying in touch with the US, I was actually trying to get back in touch with people from home. So all of my social energy was being poured into my friends and family in the US, as it was the first time I'd really had the option in 2 years. So, of course, I started really really missing all of them! Perhaps this is a pattern of homesickness or transition-stress that a lot of transfers go through.
  
===How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Armenia?===
+
“How many kids do you have? You're so fat!" was one of the first questions a student asked me. It was understood before I came here that I clearly did not have the physical stature to discretely blend in with the Chinese HCNs, and I also knew it would be called to my attention, as it is not considered rude in most cultures. However, it doesn't mean it makes me any less comfortable to hear from other teachers that I am known as the fat foreign teacher, and, with my further understanding of language, to know what people say as I walk by. Most of the time I just turn my iPod louder or laugh it off, but every person has their breaking point where certain comments just aren't excusable anymore. . . . I remind myself over and over that the only thing I can control is my own reaction, and sometimes its the only thing that helps me keep my cool.
 
+
[[Category:china]]
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those 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 should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.
+
 
+
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), 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.
+
 
+
Because of heightened security since the events of September 11, 2001, do not pack items such as scissors or pocketknives in your carry-on luggage.  
+
 
+
===What is the electric current in Armenia?===
+
 
+
It is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Because power surges and cuts can put a strain on voltage converters and appliances, make sure that what you bring is of good quality. The Peace Corps does not provide transformers. We recommend tape players that use “D” batteries because “C” batteries are a little harder to find. “AA” and watch and calculator batteries are easy to find.
+
 
+
===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 wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are not widely accepted in Armenia, but you can obtain cash (in dollars or drams) from ATM machines in the capital if your ATM card has a Visa logo. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
+
 
+
===When can I take vacation and have people visit me? ===
+
 
+
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work.  Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
+
 
+
===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 Armenia do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles. Urban and rural travel is by bus, van, or taxi.
+
 
+
===What should I bring as gifts for Armenian friends and my host family? ===
+
 
+
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient.  Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.
+
 
+
===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?===
+
 
+
Peace Corps trainees are assigned to individual sites during pre-service training. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages. Some live in a town with other Volunteers, and most are within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require an eight- to 10-hour drive from the capital.
+
 
+
===How can my family contact me in an emergency?===
+
 
+
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2423.
+
 
+
===Can I call home from Armenia?===
+
 
+
International phone service to and from Armenia is good relative to that of other developing countries. However, at times (especially on weekends and holidays) the phone system is easily overwhelmed, and phone service may be disrupted. You may want to bring AT&T, MCI, or Sprint calling cards to minimize costs of international calls. You can purchase international calling cards in Yerevan and in towns/cities.
+
 
+
===Should I bring a cellular phone with me?===
+
 
+
You may, if your mobile device is not locked to any specific network and it supports Armenia's GSM band frequencies (900 and 1800). If it is locked to a network prior to arrival in Armenia, it will not be able to connect to Armenian networks. This may be circumvented by visiting Armenian shops that offer unlocking services that cost money. However, if the cellphone is incompatible with 900/1800 GSM band frequencies, it will not function.
+
 
+
===Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer? ===
+
 
+
A growing number of businesses offer Internet access in the capital and some of the larger cities. Because of the weaker infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers posted to rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to the capital or regional hubs. Before leaving the United States, many people sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, which they can access worldwide. Peace Corps/Armenia suggests that you obtain a free e-mail account with www.freenet.am, as it is easier to access in Armenia than other services.
+
 
+
Some people bring laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining the computers themselves. Note that you probably will not find the same level of technical assistance here as you would at home and that replacement parts can take months to arrive. Also note that having Internet access via your laptop is only a remote possibility because very few Volunteers have adequate telephone lines in their homes or in their place of work. The Peace Corps office in Yerevan has three computers available for Volunteers to conduct project research. If you bring a laptop, be sure to buy a high-quality surge protector; power lapses and surges are common. Volunteers who have computers also significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance.
+
 
+
[[Category:Armenia]]
+
[[Category:FAQs about Peace Corps]]
+

Latest revision as of 09:18, 21 May 2014

General Cross Cultural Issues[edit]

My only recurring problems, for which I've not yet found a magic bullet, are these: 1. People asking my salary. 2. People taking my picture without saying a word -- people turning their webcams towards me in the internet cafe, also without a word.

Yesterday, I waited a whole morning for a man to come fix my lock who was supposed to arrive at my front door at 9 am. Instead he arrived at noon. Why get mad, stressed, and impatient over something I cannot control. Instead while waiting, I had a nice breakfast, a 40 minute walk around the playground, a nice hot berry tea, and read a good book.

The absolute hardest thing for me here, other than being away from family and friends and not being able to speak Chinese very well, is not being able to tend to things myself. I have not yet made my peace with having to make all communications through my counterpart, who may or may not understand what I am asking and who probably has no power to do anything about my request.

Diversity and Cross Cultural Issues[edit]

Here in China, walking around silent, [because I am Asian American] I am not unique unless I wear an African outfit [from my previous post], then I get stares like back in America when I shaved my head and dyed it pink. Walking around anonymous, part of the crowd I feel a sense of belonging, a sense of community rather than being an outsider. But as soon as I open my mouth, I become a curiosity and a center of attention. I become the outsider.

As a gay volunteer, I worried about how I would be perceived by Chinese nationals, fellow volunteers and Peace Corps staff. Though I am open about my sexuality at home in the States, I knew from the Peace Corps literature that Chinese culture is less tolerant of my lifestyle, so I chose early on to keep this particular bit of information mostly to myself. While I believe this was the correct choice, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that there are resources available to LGBT volunteers in China, and that the volunteers and staff I have trusted with this facet of my identity have been both open and helpful. Also, though I live in a remote area, I have been lucky enough to befriend a local gay HCN who has greatly advanced my awareness of sexuality-related issues in China. I should mention though that the first thing he told me was, “Don't tell your superiors at work; they can fire you for it.” This is true for HCN teachers, and it should be a concern for PCVs. This sometimes feels like a step backward into the closet, but the key for me has been finding just a few trustworthy and open-minded people with whom to confide.

As a transfer, I think my experience in China has had some unique aspects to it, pertinent to my transfer-ness. . . . [In] China, with all the technology and ease of staying in touch with the US, I was actually trying to get back in touch with people from home. So all of my social energy was being poured into my friends and family in the US, as it was the first time I'd really had the option in 2 years. So, of course, I started really really missing all of them! Perhaps this is a pattern of homesickness or transition-stress that a lot of transfers go through.

“How many kids do you have? You're so fat!" was one of the first questions a student asked me. It was understood before I came here that I clearly did not have the physical stature to discretely blend in with the Chinese HCNs, and I also knew it would be called to my attention, as it is not considered rude in most cultures. However, it doesn't mean it makes me any less comfortable to hear from other teachers that I am known as the fat foreign teacher, and, with my further understanding of language, to know what people say as I walk by. Most of the time I just turn my iPod louder or laugh it off, but every person has their breaking point where certain comments just aren't excusable anymore. . . . I remind myself over and over that the only thing I can control is my own reaction, and sometimes its the only thing that helps me keep my cool.