Comoros

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Mail from the U.S. takes a minimum of three to four weeks to arrive in Comoros. If someone is sending you a package, they may want to consider using padded envelopes or USPS flat-rate boxes. Sending electronics or other valuables is strongly discouraged.

Telephones

Cellphone service covers most of Grand Comore, but is more expensive compared to most other countries in East Africa. Smartphone use is becoming more common as 3G networks are available in Moroni and accessible on the northern part of Grand Comore. Smartphone users can use Skype or similar technologies.

Internet

Internet access is available in many communities and connections are available through USB dongles or smartphone connections; service can be very slow depending on where cellular towers are. You may be able to find internet cafes in larger towns, but you should prepare to have limited access throughout your service. Volunteers prefer to bring a laptop to facilitate completion of periodic required reports, but be aware that you may not be able to charge your laptop on a regular basis, depending on the reliability of electricity in your community. You may want to consider purchasing personal property insurance to guard against theft or damage to your electronic devices.

Housing and Site Location

Volunteers will stay in one of two housing options, depending on availability in the individual communities. Volunteers will live in either a modest house or with a homestay family, with an independent room of their own. Housing may have access to potable water inside the residence, and electricity is possible, but not guaranteed. Comoros operates on 220V electricity (50Hz cycles alternating current), whereas electricity in the U.S. operates on 110-120V electricity. Round two-pin plugs are seen most commonly. Volunteers living in more rural areas will have less access to homes with in-house plumbing and electricity.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, 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.

Food and Diet

A variety of fresh fish is widely available throughout Comoros. Chicken and, less often, beef are also available. Vegetarians who do not eat fish may have trouble finding adequate protein sources. Rice is the most common staple of all meals, often accompanied by cooked cassava (manioc) leaves. The islands offer a limited selection of other seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as plantains, taro, breadfruit, and jackfruit. Imported food items, though somewhat more expensive, can be found in larger towns. Your diet is likely to be somewhat repetitive, but quite fresh and nutritious. Some Volunteers may choose to eat meals with local families (perhaps contributing financially to the meals), while other Volunteers may prefer to cook for themselves. Culturally speaking, meals are important social events. Anyone showing up at lunchtime or dinnertime should be not only invited but also welcomed to partake of the food being served.

Transportation

Local public transport consists primarily of “taxi-brousses,” most frequently meaning 14-passenger minivans. There are also a few larger 20-passenger mini-buses operating. Pickup trucks have also been converted for use as passenger taxis, with benches and fabric covers being installed in the rear. Taxibrousses tend to operate only within a specific region, so a person might be required to make a number of transfers if traveling a long distance. Travel by public transport between outlying Volunteer sites on Grande Comore and the capital city would typically take four to six hours.

Most roads on the islands are paved, although they tend to be very narrow and are frequently in need of repair. It is not uncommon for vehicles to break down in transit. The only international airport is located in Hahaya, on the outskirts of Moroni on Grande Comore. Limited domestic flights operate between the islands, although flights are subject to cancellation on short notice. Volunteers may use local air transport with the prior approval of the country director. Passenger ferries also operate daily between the islands. Peace Corps Volunteers should consult with their in-country staff regarding approved transportation options.

Social Activities

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, subject to staff approval, can also be good stress-relief opportunities for Volunteers.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

You represent the Peace Corps 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While your official work may end on Friday, your responsibilities as a Volunteer do not end. In Comoros, great importance is usually attached to neatness and proper dress. Volunteers are expected to dress suitably both on and off the job and respect host country attitudes toward personal appearance. It is important to understand that in most cases you will not be treated as a professional by the Comorian people if your dress and appearance are unlike that of a professional. Volunteers can view their counterparts and supervisors as appropriate role models in these areas.

For men, this means nice pants and shirts. Women should wear professional-length (at minimum past the knee, but tea-length or ankle-length is preferred) skirts, dresses, or nice pants. Skirts and dresses should not be sheer and slips may need to be worn in order to prevent this. Most Comorian women cover their heads and shoulders with a scarf. While Volunteers will not necessarily be expected to cover their heads, female Volunteers may want to bring a loose scarf that they can wrap around their shoulders if need be in a more conservative environment.