Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Senegal" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar"

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===Communications===
 
===Communications===
  
===Mail ===
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===Mail===
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration. Most mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Letters may arrive with clipped edges because someone has tried to see if any money was inside (again, this is rare, but it does happen). Advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.  
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Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards of mail service, you will be in for some frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive in Madagascar. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Packages take six to nine weeks by airmail and about six months by surface mail. If someone is sending you a package, it is a good idea to keep it small and to use a padded envelope; that way it will be treated as a letter.  
  
Despite the delays, we encourage you to write to your family  
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Despite these delays, we encourage you to write to your family regularly and to number your letters. Family and friends typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.xxxxxxxxx
  
regularly and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.  
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Volunteers in Madagascar may receive packages but are responsible for all duty fees, which may be imposed on food and cosmetics and are based on the items’ value. Also be aware that packages containing valuable items may occasionally get lost or held up.
  
Your address during training will be:  
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Your address during training will be:
  
PCT “Your Name”
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"Your Name", PCT Peace Corps
  
Corps de la Paix  
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Corps de la Paix
  
B.P. 299
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B.P. 12091
  
Thiès, Senegal
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Poste Zoom Ankorondrano
  
West Africa
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101 Antananarivo
  
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Madagascar
  
  
Once you have been sworn in as a Volunteer and are at your permanent site, you will need to send your new address to your family and friends.
 
  
===Telephones ===
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Once you have become a Volunteer, you will receive your mail directly at your assigned site.
  
Calls can be made from either businesses known as “telecenters” or cabines téléphoniques (phone booths). Volunteers' houses are not equipped with telephones, but a fortunate few live close to a telecenter or to a neighbor with a phone. Telecenters are usually easy to locate in towns but do not exist in small villages.
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===Telephones===
  
Cell phones are now common in many parts of Senegal, and many volunteers now have them.
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You will not have routine access to a telephone during training, although the training site does have telephones for emergency use. While international phone service is available in major cities, it is very expensive. Calling cards (such as those available from MCI, Sprint, and AT&T) do not work in Madagascar. So while calling the United States is possible, it can be a frustrating experience, and if you are calling from outside a major city, it will take longer to get a line. Writing letters is the best method of regular communication with family and friends.  
  
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
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Few Volunteers have phones in their houses although many are now buying personal cellphones so family and friends can call them. But, many of the Volunteer sites do not have cellphone service so these can only be used when the Volunteers go to a larger town.
  
Many Internet cafes have sprung up recently throughout Senegal, particularly in regional capitals. The cost varies from the equivalent of around $1.50 an hour to $3.50 an hour. Since most Volunteers live a good distance from a regional capital, however, few Volunteers have regular access to the Internet.
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===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access===
  
===Housing and Site Location ===
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Few Volunteer homes have electricity, so bringing a personal computer to Madagascar is not recommended. Computers are available for use by Volunteers at the Peace Corps office.  Although some of the major cities have Internet cafes, it is best to assume that, at best, you will have only limited access to the Internet and e-mail.
  
Most Volunteers live in rural areas, especially those who work in the agriculture, natural resources, and environmental education sectors. For safety and cultural reasons, Volunteers are usually housed in family compounds, where accommodations range from a cement-block room with a tin roof to a traditional hut with a thatched roof. The Peace Corps requires that all housing have screens to protect against mosquitoes and other insects, a lock, and a concrete floor. Additionally, bathing and toilet facilities must meet Peace Corps standards. Prospective Volunteers are encouraged to bring pictures and other decorations to “make their hut a home.
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The staff at your post in Madagascar would like to request that you set up a unique email address to use during your Peace Corps service. You can leave this address with all friends and family before you leave. And having the email address that we request will greatly facilitate communication with you once you are at your site.
  
Living Allowance and Money Management
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Please set up an email account at yahoo.com that looks like this: pcvfirstnamelastinitialmg@yahoo.com. So, for example, if your name in Samson Thomas, your e-mail address would be: pcvsamsontmg@yahoo.com. We appreciate your assistance in helping us communicate with you!
  
The living allowance is deposited into Volunteers’ bank accounts (usually Crédit Agricole) on a quarterly basis and is intended to cover the cost of food, household supplies, and work-related travel. The amount varies from region to region and depends on whether the site is in an urban or rural area. As the funds are issued on a quarterly basis, it is important for Volunteers to keep track of their expenditures so their allowance will last until the next payment is issued.
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===Housing and Site Location===
  
===Food and Diet ===
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Volunteers are posted throughout the country. Housing conditions here vary from mud houses with thatched roofs to modern cement houses with running water and electricity.  Your project, the area of the country, and the availability of housing all have a role in the type of home you will have.  Many Volunteers have only a pit toilet and a thatched shed for taking bucket showers. Environmental Volunteers tend to live in more remote areas (near the national parks and protected areas), while education and health Volunteers generally live in areas of greater population density.
  
Senegalese cooking is unvaried by Western standards but delicious nonetheless. Rice and millet are the two staples, with millet being the traditional food crop in the peanut basin and rice being more prevalent in the river basins. Depending on your assignment and the relative wealth of the villagers with whom you live, you may end up eating millet or rice three times a day. Generally, rice is served at lunch and millet at dinner, both with seasonal vegetables, and fish when available.  
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During training, you will live with and have most of your meals with a host family. A homestay is considered one of the most important aspects of the training program and is required for this period. Trainees generally stay in a village with three or four other trainees and one or two staff members. Volunteers often form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
  
The national dish is thiéboudien (che-boo-jenn), a tasty concoction of fish and rice simmered in tomato sauce and spices, accompanied by various vegetables. Other popular dishes are mafé (rice and peanut sauce), yassa (rice, onions, and chicken, beef, or fish) and cere neex (millet and bean sauce). White bread, which, like rice, was introduced by the French during the colonial period, is also extremely popular. Bread is expensive for the average Senegalese, since all of its ingredients must be imported, but it has become a favorite breakfast in urban areas. On Muslim holidays, the standard fare is lamb. A wide variety of exotic fruits are also available at different seasons, including mangoes, papayas, watermelons, mandarin oranges, and passion fruit. Fruits are more widely available in the south, where heavier rainfall supports a large variety of fruit trees.
 
  
===Transportation ===
 
  
All Volunteers are issued bicycles for daily use. Another form of transportation available to village-based Volunteers consists of charrettes, or horse- or donkey-drawn carts. For intracity transportation, there are the omnipresent Peugeot 504 station wagons called sept-places or taxis-brousse. They are frequently unreliable, unsafe, crowded, and uncomfortable.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
There are also minibuses of various shapes and sizes, but they are even more unreliable, unsafe, crowded, and uncomfortable. The Peace Corps regularly reminds Volunteers to examine the condition of a vehicle and its driver before purchasing a ticket to board any intercity mode of transport. If you find yourself in a vehicle you believe to be unsafe, you should demand that the driver let you out immediately. The grim reality is that vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death of Americans in Africa.  
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As a Volunteer, you will receive a modest living allowance that will allow you to live on a par with your colleagues and co-workers. The amount of the allowance is based on regular surveys of Volunteers and the cost of living in Madagascar. The living allowance is usually deposited quarterly, in local currency, in Volunteers’ bank accounts, so an ability to manage funds wisely is important. The allowance is currently equivalent to approximately $128 per month. In addition, you receive a monthly travel allowance.
  
===Geography and Climate ===
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You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 per month, which is standard across all Peace Corps countries and paid in local currency along with your living allowance.
  
Senegal, a semiarid country with a population of more than 10 million, is one of America’s most important partners in sub-Saharan Africa. Occupying an area approximately the size of South Dakota, it shares borders with Mauritania, Mali, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and the Atlantic Ocean, and it is the westernmost country on the African continent. Because of its geographic location and deep-water port, Dakar, the capital, serves as the western gateway to the African continent.  
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Volunteers suggest you bring cash and credit cards for vacation travel. The amount depends on the amount of traveling you plan to do while serving in Madagascar. Some local banks offer ATM cards, but only for local accounts. Only a few Malagasy establishments accept credit cards, so they are mostly useful for travel to other countries.
  
The landscape consists of monotonous flat plains in the middle of the arid, sandy Sahel. The only significant elevations are in the far southeast along the Guinea border, the northern tip of the Fouta Djalon plateau, and farther east along the Malian border.  
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The local currency is the Malagasy ariary (MGA). The current exchange rate is approximately 2,150 ariary to the dollar.
  
The Senegal River originates in the Fouta Djalon and forms the border with Mauritania. St. Louis, an old colonial city, is at the river’s mouth. The wide flood plains, cultivated with peanuts and millet, are among the country’s most productive areas. Senegal is very important to migrating birds, particularly waterfowl, which return in large numbers each winter from Europe. Djoudj Park, one of the most important bird reserves in the world, is to the north of St. Louis. Senegal is the most biologically diverse country in the Sahel, with over 550 animal species. Certain species of wildlife, however, such as giraffes, have disappeared altogether. A greater problem is the increasing desertification of the northern part of the country.
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===Food and Diet===
  
===Social Activities ===
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The staple food in Madagascar is rice, which is eaten with vegetables, beans, or meat. Many fruits and vegetables grow in Madagascar, and with a little creativity one can enjoy a varied diet. Most Volunteers prepare their own food. Some, after becoming more familiar with their site, hire someone to help with household work, including cooking. Meat and dairy products are available in the larger towns, but they can be expensive.
  
Social activities vary from region to region, but baptisms and weddings are big events in all areas. Some of the best-known West African popular musicians are from Senegal. Soccer, called football in Senegal, is a major preoccupation of boys throughout the country, and traditional wrestling tournaments and the ceremonies surrounding them continue to be important sources of entertainment.
 
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
 
  
Senegalese, with rare exception, appear in public neatly dressed. While an unkempt or sloppy appearance may be an expression of individuality in the United States, in Senegal it is viewed as demeaning and disrespectful. Thus Volunteers are expected to dress neatly and be well groomed at all times. Male Volunteers who wear shorts risk being treated as schoolboys, since generally only schoolboys wear shorts in Senegal.  
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If you are a vegetarian, you will be able to eat well in Madagascar after you learn about local foods and their preparation. Some Malagasy are not familiar with vegetarianism and will not be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home. However, a sensitive explanation of your preferences will be accepted. Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty after an initial adjustment period.
  
Female Volunteers should not wear anything above the knee, including shorts, in public. These recommendations for dress are consistent with Peace Corps policies established to ensure the safety and well-being of Volunteers and with the wishes of the Senegalese government. As guests of the government, Volunteers must not abuse the hospitality of their host by disregard for local norms. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to set good examples for the young people of Senegal in addition to providing technical assistance. The respect they earn by virtue of their education, relative affluence, and status as representatives of the United States is easily lost by improper behavior or dress. Note that the use of drugs, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, and participation of any kind in Senegalese political affairs by Volunteers are strictly forbidden and will result in immediate termination from the Peace Corps.
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===Transportation===
  
===Personal Safety ===
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Volunteers’ primary mode of transport is public buses and taxi brousses (small vans usually loaded with people and goods). Buses and minibuses travel among towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel in Madagascar is never a timed affair.
  
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Senegal Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Senegal. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
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Many Volunteers use mountain bikes. If you plan to ride a bicycle, wearing a helmet is required, and we ask that you bring one with you from the United States. If you do not have one when you come, Peace Corps will provide you a helmet, but it will likely be one that was used by former Volunteers. The Peace Corps issues men’s bikes to Volunteers, which can be difficult for a woman in a skirt to ride. Many female Volunteers wear shorts under their skirts to solve this problem. Volunteers are not allowed to drive or operate motor vehicles or motorcycles (two- or three-wheeled) in Madagascar.
  
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
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===Geography and Climate===
  
The cultural adaptation Volunteers must undertake while serving in Senegal is substantial. Customs and practices such as polygamous marriages, reliance on extended families, and subsistence farming require Volunteers to reevaluate their own attitudes. The slower pace may be a pleasant contrast to the American rush at breakneck speed but can also be a source of frustration when things do not get done as quickly as one is accustomed to.  
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Madagascar is south of the equator, so its seasons will be the opposite of what you are accustomed to. At the winter solstice, for example, when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, the weather is warm. Conversely, at the time of the summer solstice in June, the weather is cool.
  
In addition, Volunteers are considered rich by Senegalese, an image that is hard for Volunteers to accept, particularly when beggars or representatives of charitable causes constantly approach them. It is important to remember that even though Volunteers work without a salary, in actuality their living allowance is far more than the income of the average village family. You will have to learn how to say no with discretion.
 
  
West Africa is known for its friendly and generous people, and the Senegalese are no exception. Volunteers are likely to attract attention wherever they go and be stared at simply because they are the strangest, if not the most interesting, people many Senegalese have ever seen. Most Senegalese want to be friends with Volunteers and visit them continually.  The American desire for privacy seems strange to Senegalese, and Volunteers may find it difficult to have times of solitude.  Seeking privacy is viewed as antisocial behavior in Senegalese culture.
 
  
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Madagascar has a tropical climate with rainy and dry seasons.  During the rainy season (November to March), southwest tradewinds drop their moisture on the eastern mountain slopes and blow hot and dry in the west. North and northwest monsoon air currents bring heavy rains in summer, decreasing as one moves southward, so that, for example, the rainfall in Fort Dauphin is half that in Tamatave. During February and March, eastern Madagascar can be hit by cyclones, which may impact other areas, particularly in the north. The dry season runs from April to October.
  
[[Category:Senegal]]
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Seasonal changes in temperature in Madagascar are also influenced by altitude and latitude. From December to April, the coastal regions are very hot and dry in the west but very hot and wet in the east. Average midday temperatures in the dry season are 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30°C) on the coast.
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From December to April (summer), the central plateau is warm, with periods of rain. In June, July, and August (winter), the central plateau gets very chilly, while the west coast is warm and dry and the east coast is warm with occasional showers.
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===Social Activities===
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There are several radio stations in Madagascar, some of which play popular music. Many Volunteers bring shortwave radios so they can listen to international broadcasts (BBC, Voice of America, Radio Nederlands, etc.). Madagascar has no cinemas.
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The most common form of entertainment is socializing with friends and neighbors. Music is very important to the Malagasy, and singing together can be a lot of fun. While Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites to develop relationships with people in their community, the Peace Corps recognizes that occasional trips to the capital or to visit friends are also a necessity. Vacation time is allotted for non-work-related and approved absences from one’s site.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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One of the challenges all Peace Corps Volunteers have is attempting to fit into the local culture and act like a professional while at the same time maintaining one’s own cultural identity. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines. You will be working as a representative of a government ministry and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly, whether you are in training, traveling, or on the job. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is undoubtedly due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their best. A foreigner who wears ragged, unmended clothing, however, is likely to be considered an affront.
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Malagasy regard one’s dress as an expression of one’s respect for others. Neatness of appearance is valued more than being stylish. Unfortunately, just one inappropriately dressed Volunteer could cause a Malagasy host agency to form a negative opinion about the Peace Corps and share it with other officials at national and regional meetings. Volunteers are therefore expected to dress appropriately to avoid jeopardizing the credibility of the entire program.
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Following are Peace Corps/Madagascar’s guidelines for Volunteers’ dress. (They have been formalized in response to advice from people in Madagascar and other countries where the Peace Corps works and are meant to inform, not to offend.)
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* Women’s dresses and skirts should fall to or below the knees.
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* Men and women should wear shorts only at home, when exercising, or when doing work for which Malagasy counterparts are also wearing shorts. If shorts are worn in public, they should be of walking length for both men and women.
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* Hair should be clean and combed. Men’s hair should not be longer than shirt-collar length, and beards should be neatly trimmed.
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* Men should not wear a hat indoors.
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* Flip-flops should not be worn as professional footwear.
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* Female Volunteers should wear appropriate undergarments, including bras and slips.
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* Excessive body piercing or tattoos should not be visible.
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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 not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Madagascar Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Madagascar. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
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Although the potential for job satisfaction is very high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations.
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Perceptions of time are very different from those in America.  The lack of basic infrastructure can become tiring. Host agencies do not always provide expected support in a timely manner. The Malagasy generally perceive Americans as very rich. Adapting to a new culture as a Peace Corps Volunteer is often described as an intense series of emotional peaks and valleys.
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As a Volunteer, you will be given a great deal of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you will ever have. Often you will need to motivate yourself and others with little guidance. You might work for months with little visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.
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The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities.
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As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV positive people and working with training staff, office staff and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength, so that you can continue to be of service to your community.
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To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Madagascar feeling they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, your service could be a truly life-altering experience.
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[[Category:Madagascar]]

Revision as of 06:56, 21 October 2013



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
As a Peace Corps Volunteers, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping — may take significantly different forms in the context of the host country. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]
See also:

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles by Country Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

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[[Category:{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Madagascar| |8}}]]


Communications

Mail

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards of mail service, you will be in for some frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive in Madagascar. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Packages take six to nine weeks by airmail and about six months by surface mail. If someone is sending you a package, it is a good idea to keep it small and to use a padded envelope; that way it will be treated as a letter.

Despite these delays, we encourage you to write to your family regularly and to number your letters. Family and friends typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.xxxxxxxxx

Volunteers in Madagascar may receive packages but are responsible for all duty fees, which may be imposed on food and cosmetics and are based on the items’ value. Also be aware that packages containing valuable items may occasionally get lost or held up.

Your address during training will be:

"Your Name", PCT Peace Corps

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 12091

Poste Zoom Ankorondrano

101 Antananarivo

Madagascar


Once you have become a Volunteer, you will receive your mail directly at your assigned site.

Telephones

You will not have routine access to a telephone during training, although the training site does have telephones for emergency use. While international phone service is available in major cities, it is very expensive. Calling cards (such as those available from MCI, Sprint, and AT&T) do not work in Madagascar. So while calling the United States is possible, it can be a frustrating experience, and if you are calling from outside a major city, it will take longer to get a line. Writing letters is the best method of regular communication with family and friends.

Few Volunteers have phones in their houses although many are now buying personal cellphones so family and friends can call them. But, many of the Volunteer sites do not have cellphone service so these can only be used when the Volunteers go to a larger town.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

Few Volunteer homes have electricity, so bringing a personal computer to Madagascar is not recommended. Computers are available for use by Volunteers at the Peace Corps office. Although some of the major cities have Internet cafes, it is best to assume that, at best, you will have only limited access to the Internet and e-mail.

The staff at your post in Madagascar would like to request that you set up a unique email address to use during your Peace Corps service. You can leave this address with all friends and family before you leave. And having the email address that we request will greatly facilitate communication with you once you are at your site.

Please set up an email account at yahoo.com that looks like this: pcvfirstnamelastinitialmg@yahoo.com. So, for example, if your name in Samson Thomas, your e-mail address would be: pcvsamsontmg@yahoo.com. We appreciate your assistance in helping us communicate with you!

Housing and Site Location

Volunteers are posted throughout the country. Housing conditions here vary from mud houses with thatched roofs to modern cement houses with running water and electricity. Your project, the area of the country, and the availability of housing all have a role in the type of home you will have. Many Volunteers have only a pit toilet and a thatched shed for taking bucket showers. Environmental Volunteers tend to live in more remote areas (near the national parks and protected areas), while education and health Volunteers generally live in areas of greater population density.

During training, you will live with and have most of your meals with a host family. A homestay is considered one of the most important aspects of the training program and is required for this period. Trainees generally stay in a village with three or four other trainees and one or two staff members. Volunteers often form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.


Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer, you will receive a modest living allowance that will allow you to live on a par with your colleagues and co-workers. The amount of the allowance is based on regular surveys of Volunteers and the cost of living in Madagascar. The living allowance is usually deposited quarterly, in local currency, in Volunteers’ bank accounts, so an ability to manage funds wisely is important. The allowance is currently equivalent to approximately $128 per month. In addition, you receive a monthly travel allowance.

You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 per month, which is standard across all Peace Corps countries and paid in local currency along with your living allowance.

Volunteers suggest you bring cash and credit cards for vacation travel. The amount depends on the amount of traveling you plan to do while serving in Madagascar. Some local banks offer ATM cards, but only for local accounts. Only a few Malagasy establishments accept credit cards, so they are mostly useful for travel to other countries.

The local currency is the Malagasy ariary (MGA). The current exchange rate is approximately 2,150 ariary to the dollar.

Food and Diet

The staple food in Madagascar is rice, which is eaten with vegetables, beans, or meat. Many fruits and vegetables grow in Madagascar, and with a little creativity one can enjoy a varied diet. Most Volunteers prepare their own food. Some, after becoming more familiar with their site, hire someone to help with household work, including cooking. Meat and dairy products are available in the larger towns, but they can be expensive.


If you are a vegetarian, you will be able to eat well in Madagascar after you learn about local foods and their preparation. Some Malagasy are not familiar with vegetarianism and will not be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home. However, a sensitive explanation of your preferences will be accepted. Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty after an initial adjustment period.

Transportation

Volunteers’ primary mode of transport is public buses and taxi brousses (small vans usually loaded with people and goods). Buses and minibuses travel among towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel in Madagascar is never a timed affair.

Many Volunteers use mountain bikes. If you plan to ride a bicycle, wearing a helmet is required, and we ask that you bring one with you from the United States. If you do not have one when you come, Peace Corps will provide you a helmet, but it will likely be one that was used by former Volunteers. The Peace Corps issues men’s bikes to Volunteers, which can be difficult for a woman in a skirt to ride. Many female Volunteers wear shorts under their skirts to solve this problem. Volunteers are not allowed to drive or operate motor vehicles or motorcycles (two- or three-wheeled) in Madagascar.

Geography and Climate

Madagascar is south of the equator, so its seasons will be the opposite of what you are accustomed to. At the winter solstice, for example, when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, the weather is warm. Conversely, at the time of the summer solstice in June, the weather is cool.


Madagascar has a tropical climate with rainy and dry seasons. During the rainy season (November to March), southwest tradewinds drop their moisture on the eastern mountain slopes and blow hot and dry in the west. North and northwest monsoon air currents bring heavy rains in summer, decreasing as one moves southward, so that, for example, the rainfall in Fort Dauphin is half that in Tamatave. During February and March, eastern Madagascar can be hit by cyclones, which may impact other areas, particularly in the north. The dry season runs from April to October.

Seasonal changes in temperature in Madagascar are also influenced by altitude and latitude. From December to April, the coastal regions are very hot and dry in the west but very hot and wet in the east. Average midday temperatures in the dry season are 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30°C) on the coast.

From December to April (summer), the central plateau is warm, with periods of rain. In June, July, and August (winter), the central plateau gets very chilly, while the west coast is warm and dry and the east coast is warm with occasional showers.

Social Activities

There are several radio stations in Madagascar, some of which play popular music. Many Volunteers bring shortwave radios so they can listen to international broadcasts (BBC, Voice of America, Radio Nederlands, etc.). Madagascar has no cinemas.

The most common form of entertainment is socializing with friends and neighbors. Music is very important to the Malagasy, and singing together can be a lot of fun. While Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites to develop relationships with people in their community, the Peace Corps recognizes that occasional trips to the capital or to visit friends are also a necessity. Vacation time is allotted for non-work-related and approved absences from one’s site.


Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

One of the challenges all Peace Corps Volunteers have is attempting to fit into the local culture and act like a professional while at the same time maintaining one’s own cultural identity. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines. You will be working as a representative of a government ministry and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly, whether you are in training, traveling, or on the job. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is undoubtedly due to economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their best. A foreigner who wears ragged, unmended clothing, however, is likely to be considered an affront.

Malagasy regard one’s dress as an expression of one’s respect for others. Neatness of appearance is valued more than being stylish. Unfortunately, just one inappropriately dressed Volunteer could cause a Malagasy host agency to form a negative opinion about the Peace Corps and share it with other officials at national and regional meetings. Volunteers are therefore expected to dress appropriately to avoid jeopardizing the credibility of the entire program.

Following are Peace Corps/Madagascar’s guidelines for Volunteers’ dress. (They have been formalized in response to advice from people in Madagascar and other countries where the Peace Corps works and are meant to inform, not to offend.)

  • Women’s dresses and skirts should fall to or below the knees.
  • Men and women should wear shorts only at home, when exercising, or when doing work for which Malagasy counterparts are also wearing shorts. If shorts are worn in public, they should be of walking length for both men and women.
  • Hair should be clean and combed. Men’s hair should not be longer than shirt-collar length, and beards should be neatly trimmed.
  • Men should not wear a hat indoors.
  • Flip-flops should not be worn as professional footwear.
  • Female Volunteers should wear appropriate undergarments, including bras and slips.
  • Excessive body piercing or tattoos should not be visible.


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 not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Madagascar Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Madagascar. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction is very high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations.

Perceptions of time are very different from those in America. The lack of basic infrastructure can become tiring. Host agencies do not always provide expected support in a timely manner. The Malagasy generally perceive Americans as very rich. Adapting to a new culture as a Peace Corps Volunteer is often described as an intense series of emotional peaks and valleys.

As a Volunteer, you will be given a great deal of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you will ever have. Often you will need to motivate yourself and others with little guidance. You might work for months with little visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. Development is a slow process. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV positive people and working with training staff, office staff and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength, so that you can continue to be of service to your community.

To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Madagascar feeling they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, your service could be a truly life-altering experience.