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.
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.
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 PST 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 PC 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 PST. 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 PST. Volunteers will receive a gas two-burner table-top range to use for cooking and a water filtration system with storage containers during PST for bathing, drinking, and cooking.
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.
Your social life will vary depending on where you are located. In more rural communities, the major pastime is visiting with neighbors and friends. Cultural festivities, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and catch up with community members and their extended families. Although Volunteers often want to visit other Volunteers on weekends or holidays, Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites to develop relationships with members in their community and to engage in the second goal of the Peace Corps, cultural exchange. Also, in accordance with the Peace Corps’ philosophy of full community integration, Volunteers are deemed to be on duty seven days a week, 24/7 except on national or local holidays. For entertainment, Eswatini has a few television stations and several radio stations that play popular music. Many volunteers will not have access to a TV in their “room” therefore, some Returned Peace Corps volunteers have recommended bringing a selection of downloaded American programs via an external drive with them to enjoy during their service term.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Swazis value professional dress in the workplace, and dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In Eswatini, dressing well is seen as a sign of your respect for others and a sign of your professional standing in a community. How you dress will be evaluated by your local colleagues and community members. Swazis do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing such clothes will reduce the amount of respect given to you and, therefore, your effectiveness and may invite un-wanted attention. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses, skirts, or slacks with blouses or shirts. During the 11 week PST and Response Orientation, trainees will be expected to wear professional to business-casual clothing during the week and casual on the weekends. Most volunteer trainings will be a mix of business casual to casual. Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you, but reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well Peace Corps is received in a community. As an invited guest, you must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.