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2 years, 3 months
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Living Conditions in Eswatini

Communications

Mail

Postal rates in Eswatini are reasonable, and airmail to the United States generally takes two to three weeks. Aerogrammes (foldable and gummed paper for writing a letter for transit via airmail) and other mailing supplies can be purchased at post offices. During pre-service Training, you will receive mail at the training location. The Peace Corps office will require you to leave a deposit so that your packages are processed expediently. During Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site.

Telephones

Peace Corps/Eswatini provides Volunteers with funds to purchase a cellular phone after completion of pre-service Training. If you have an unlocked smart phone that operates on a 3G network and is capable of using a SIM card, it may be useful to consider this. The phone must be unlocked and capable of switching SIM cards to function on a GSM 900 network. If you can, we recommend that recommend that you bring a cell phone that can support duel sim cards so that you can have a phone that will support the two mobile networks in Eswatini.

Internet

Many Volunteers bring a laptop if they already own one, but we do not recommend buying a new one. If you decide to bring a laptop or tablet, you will be responsible for insuring and maintaining it. Internet access is available at Internet cafés in Mbabane and other large towns. You should not expect to have access to the Internet and email during pre-service Training. Many Swazis purchase data bundles through the two major cell service providers in which to connect to the internet. Creating a “hot spot” via a cell phone for computer internet access can be very costly.

Housing and utilities

Your community or host organization will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. However, you need to be very flexible in your housing expectations. Housing will vary and may reflect: living with a host family via an attached apartment to the main home; a stand-alone/non-shared grass thatched hut that resides within a family homestead; a single room dorm room via a university or nurses housing; or a single bedroom/ one-room flat or apartment with an iron sheet roof. Furnishings might include none or minimal essential furniture for “simple or minimal living.” Peace Corps Eswatini provides a settling in allowance in local currency at the end of pre-service training for purchasing basic furniture and necessary household items. The electrical current in Eswatini is 220 volts, 50 cycles and electricity can be very expensive for many Swazis. Therefore, volunteers will receive a small utilities allocation via the monthly living allowance in which to use for host family/landlord utilities. There is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity. If you do not, you will collect your water from a community tap and spend evenings reading by candlelight or lantern. Most rural families utilize a “pit latrine” toilet and heat water via a gas stove for bathing. Volunteers may be expected to bathe, cook, and sleep in their “room.”

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, and within the Peace Corps provided living stipend. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often bring money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards (that don’t charge foreign transaction fee) and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. Post staff will establish a local bank account for all volunteers before the end of pre-service training. The monthly living allowance stipend will be directly deposited into the local bank account. Each volunteer will receive a debit card in which to withdraw local currency. ATM machines are available within most cities and communities.

Food and diet

The staple food in Eswatini is maize (corn), prepared as a thick porridge and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Common vegetables include tomatoes, greens, potatoes, cabbage, and onions. Various fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means that some things will not be in markets year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products are also available with chicken and beef being the most popular. You are likely to find canned goods and basic food items throughout Eswatini. Vegetarians will be able to maintain a healthy diet in Eswatini after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. However, being a vegetarian will require some compromises and a willingness to continually explain your dietary needs to others. As there are not a lot of “pre-made” or processed/ fast foods, volunteers will be taught how to cook local dishes using common items found in most food markets during pre-service training. Volunteers will receive a gas two-burner table-top range to use for cooking and a water filtration system with storage containers during pre-service training for bathing, drinking, and cooking.

Transportation

The primary modes of transportation in Eswatini are public buses and minivans. Minivans travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel via this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in remote, rural areas. Roads generally are in good condition in the larger towns and cities. Poorly maintained vehicles, livestock wandering into the road, and intoxicated drivers are the main causes of road accidents in Eswatini. Eswatini Volunteers assess their need for a bike in their community during integration and submit a request and rationale in writing to the Peace Corps Eswatini office no later than their reconnect in-service training (IST). Response Volunteers can assess their need for a bike any time after their swearing in. If approved, the Volunteers purchase a bike and helmet of their choice and are reimbursed in cash for the purchase up to a specified amount set by the administrative officer. Some Volunteers use a bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate transportation to and from their work. Peace Corps policy requires that helmets be worn when riding a bike. Volunteers are not allowed to own or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles. Furthermore, Volunteers are not allowed to ride or be a passenger on a motorcycle. For work related travel, some partner organizations may arrange the use of an agency vehicle with driver or “car-pool” arrangement with an employee. All trainees will receive a copy of Peace Corps Eswatini's transportation policy during pre-service training. Violation of this policy will result in termination from Peace Corps service.

Social activities

Community Gatherings – People in Eswatini often gather in communal spaces such as community centers, churches, or homesteads to socialize and connect with one another. Visiting friends and family members in their homesteads is also a common social activity which often involves sharing meals.

Traditional ceremonies – These include weddings, paying of dowry and gifting ceremonies are important social events that bring families and communities together.

Sports Events – Sports, particularly soccer (football), is popular in many communities in Eswatini. Communities often organize friendly matches and tournaments where individuals of all ages and backgrounds can participate and enjoy friendly competition together.

Cultural Festivals – Eswatini hosts numerous cultural festivals throughout the year, including the Reed Dance, Incwala and Marula Festival. These festivals are distinguishable through traditional attire and traditional dance. Easter holidays are also celebrated with most communities gathering in praise and song in local churches and at National level.

Professionalism, dress, and behavior

Professionalism in the Peace Corps requires an awareness of the host community workplace culture, community values, and your self-presentation. To maintain a positive, culturally appropriate professional standing within a host community or workplace, Volunteers may need to adjust their style of dress, hair style, facial hair, make-up, piercings, manner of greeting others, etc. to demonstrate respect for local culture and customs. How you present yourself, in both informal and professional settings, is a reflection of you as an individual and of you as a representative of Peace Corps and the United States. In the U.S., dress (and other elements of personal appearance) may be seen as an expression of personal freedom and identity. In many host countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, the way you dress and present yourself may be interpreted as an expression of regard – or disregard – for those host community members around you.

Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities, to develop their language skills, and to get to know the individual members of their community to better understand their traditions, culture, and local norms. As mutual trust is established over time, there may be opportunities for Volunteers to adjust their personal appearance and dress outside of the more rigid local standards. Volunteers are encouraged to discuss these potential adjustments with staff and other cultural mentors.

In Eswatini, modest dress is appreciated, with conservative clothing choices being preferred, especially in professional settings. Shorts, flipflops, and tank tops are not considered appropriate dress in an office or school environment. Traditional attire, such as the Swazi attire for formal occasions or community events, may be expected and highly respected.

It's customary to greet others with respect, using appropriate titles and gestures, such as the siSwati greeting "Sawubona" or "Yebo, babe/make/sisi" (yes, sir/ma'am) when addressing elders or authority figures. NB: You will learn these skills during Pre-Service Training

Demonstrating humility and a willingness to learn about local customs and traditions is essential for building positive relationships within the community. Additionally, Volunteers should embrace and respect the diverse belief systems present in Eswatini, understanding that discussions about religion or spirituality should be approached with sensitivity and respect for the local cultural context.

While tattoos and piercings may be common among Volunteers, it's important to recognize that in Eswatini, tattoos may carry specific religious meanings, and piercings beyond earrings for women might draw unwanted attention. Therefore, it's advisable to keep tattoos covered in professional settings and limit visible piercings, especially in professional environments or when interacting with elders and community leaders.

Engaging in community activities and events with an open mind and a willingness to participate in local traditions can help foster strong bonds and mutual respect within the community.