Eastern Caribbean

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Mail takes from two to four weeks to travel in either direction. Some mail may get lost in transit. Some letters may arrive damaged or opened. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “Air Mail” on the envelope. Post office officials and customs officers may open packages in front of you. You may have to pay hefty customs duties, although you may get your packages duty free at the discretion of the postal official. Due to the risk of packages getting lost in transit, it is recommended that you not have valuable items sent to you.

Telephones

You may bring your cellphone as long as it is compatible with the Eastern Caribbean system. This means it must be either GSM or TDMA. It may be easier to buy the phone and service together in-country once you are assigned to an island in the Eastern Caribbean. You are encouraged to purchase a cellphone plan that services your island of assignment. United States phone cards do not work here.

Internet

Each Peace Corps office has a computer with Internet access for use by Volunteers. Internet cafes are available in the capital, as well as in some towns and villages. Some Volunteers have email and full Internet access in their home or work via providers in the Caribbean. Insuring your laptop and bringing an external or thumb drive is strongly recommended.

Housing and Site Location

During training, you will begin to integrate and establish links with your host community. Your associate Peace Corps director (APCD) will identify proper housing following your homestay. All homes will have running water, either through a rain catchment system or delivered by pipes through WASCO, and electricity. The current is 220 volts, although some of the newer homes have both 220- and 110-volt outlets. If you have items that operate on 110 volts only in a 220-volt house, then you must use a step-down converter. The islands experience power surges and occasional power cuts, so bring along a good surge protector. Homes will also be fully furnished and may even include a television set. Volunteer sites can be as close as 15 minutes and as far as 2 hours from the capital and the Peace Corps office. Volunteers will receive a settling-in allowance to supplement other basic items to get started.

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

There is a wide range of food choices available in the islands. The Eastern Caribbean offers a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables, most of which can be purchased daily from fruit stalls and grocery stores. Many Volunteers have been pleasantly surprised to find one or more fruit trees in their backyards, and many have used yard space to grow such vegetables as tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, peas, and beans. Many of the vegetables available in the United States are also grown here and, while a few are seasonal, one can find several different vegetables all year-round. Volunteers who are vegetarians or vegans can buy produce and other items from the local markets. Fresh fish is always plentiful, as is fresh meat and locally grown chicken. Volunteers are provided information on the nutrition, preparation, and safety of local foods.

Transportation

Mini buses make travel easy and inexpensive. Volunteer homes and worksites are no more than a 30-minute to two-hour drive from the capital. The buses may run until about 8 p.m., although a few areas have service until midnight. For safety reasons, Volunteers are not allowed to drive automobiles or ride motorcycles.

Social Activities

There are a variety of ways to enjoy social activities in the Eastern Caribbean. Since you live on islands where people are friendly and hospitable, the more friends you make and the more you join in the local activities, the more you will enjoy your two years here. All islands have local festivals, with Carnival being the biggest. There are plenty of shows, house and street parties, and steel band concerts. Also, most islands have an annual jazz or Creole-music festival, which are big cultural treats. Outdoor sports are also popular among Volunteers and host country nationals. The islands have good hiking trails, mountains for climbing, and dense rain forests you can visit, preferably with a certified guide. The islands also offer wonderful snorkeling and a lot of warm sandy beaches for swimming and relaxation. For sporting enthusiasts, there are several cricket, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and running clubs. Many Volunteers have initiated sporting groups or clubs in their host communities.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Though you may be inclined to wear shorts and tank tops, it is imperative that you dress in a manner that is professional and representative of your role as a development worker in the community. While living and working in your community, you are not a tourist and should not look like one. Casual clothing is only acceptable in your home and at the beach. Visible body piercings and tattoos are not considered professional in Eastern Caribbean, particularly in schools. As all Volunteers are placed in schools, visible tattoos and piercings are not permitted. In addition, Volunteers cannot display body piercings during their service. This includes any facial piercings (including tongue piercings) and navel rings, as well as earrings for men. Male Volunteers are expected to wear lightweight slacks or khakis with a button-down shirt or polo shirt. The same would be appropriate for women, in addition to modest skirts and dresses. Please note that shorts, tank tops, half-shirts, tube tops, flip-flops, tops with spaghetti straps, T-shirts, strapless blouses and dresses, and low-cut tops are not acceptable items of professional dress, whether your community work is in an office or in an outdoor setting.