Ethiopia

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Packages normally take three to four weeks to reach Ethiopia via airmail. Flat-rate boxes (available through the United States postal system) are a good deal, allowing the sender to send several things without having to worry about the weight. Your address during training will be as follows: Your Name/PCT U.S. Peace Corps/Ethiopia P.O. Box 7788 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Telephones

Almost all sites have telecom centers with international long distance. Peace Corps/Ethiopia provides a telecommunications allowance. Cellphones are widespread in Ethiopia, although coverage varies across the country. You will have the option of purchasing a SIM card and phone during pre-service training (PST).

Internet

Typically, Internet is available at Internet cafes in many towns and cities, but there are still several sites and Volunteers without access to Internet connection options. Designated computers in the resource center at the Peace Corps office have Internet access, and you are welcome to use these when in Addis Ababa or at a Peace Corps regional office. Many Volunteers bring laptops for research and entertainment, and it is advised to look into personal property insurance for your devices.

Housing and Site Location

All trainees stay with Ethiopian host families during the initial 12-week pre-service training. Peace Corps/Ethiopia places Volunteers in four regions: Amhara, Oromiya, Tigray, and Southern Nations. Due to its wide range of altitudes, Ethiopia experiences extremely varied climate conditions, including cold mountains, temperate highlands, and hot deserts. Volunteers should be prepared for a placement in any of these regions. During service, Volunteers live in accommodations identified by the Peace Corps in coordination with local representatives from the host organization.

All Volunteer housing meets Peace Corps/Ethiopia's safety and security standards and is approved by Peace Corps staff prior to the Volunteer’s arrival at site. Some Volunteer sites are remote and the standard of living is at a basic level (e.g., a mud house with an occasionally unreliable supply of water or electricity). Other Volunteers may be placed in a rural town and live in a cement structure with electricity and running water. The electricity is wired to carry 220 volts of current, as compared to the U.S. standard of 110. Rural sites can be isolated with the closest shopping town being anywhere from 20–150 miles away. Volunteers must be prepared to accept the living conditions to which they are assigned as they will be living under the same conditions as the people with and for whom they work.

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

In most parts of Ethiopia there is a regular, although limited, selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Butcher shops sell beef and lamb; live chickens can be purchased at the market; and, in areas near lakes, fresh fish is available. With a little creativity, you can enjoy a varied diet. Fruits and vegetables are seasonal, which means some items may not be available at all times. Vegetarian Volunteers will have little difficulty continuing their diets, as Orthodox Christians “fast” by eating a vegan diet on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. Vegetarianism, however, is not common, so be prepared to explain your habits. Meat is eaten during special occasions and holidays, so it may be prudent to discuss your vegetarianism with host families early to avoid embarrassing or offending them.

Transportation

All Volunteers will be expected to travel in Ethiopia using local transportation (i.e., foot, bicycle, public buses, and minivans—called “line taxis”). Volunteers may not own or operate motorized vehicles in Ethiopia. The Peace Corps will provide a stipend for Volunteers wishing to purchase a bicycle at their site. Volunteers are required to always wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

Social Activities

Volunteers find it easy to make friends in their communities and to participate in weddings, funerals, birthday celebrations, holiday celebrations, and other social events. It is impossible to overemphasize the rewards of establishing rapport with supervisors, co-workers, and other community members. A sincere effort to learn the local language will greatly facilitate these interactions.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Accommodating Ethiopian norms in dress and grooming will greatly facilitate your own professional credibility and effectiveness in your assignment. In the workplace or when conducting activities in your community, you will be expected to dress professionally and maintain a neat appearance. Men wear trousers such as chinos and button-down shirts in work settings. Jackets and ties are occasional requirements. Women wear dresses, skirts, or trouser suits with tunic style tops in both work and leisure environments. For women, please note that long leggings or opaque tights should not be worn as a form of pants in any setting, professional or casual. Short, low-cut, or sleeveless garments are also not considered appropriate for women in professional settings. Volunteers with visible body piercings or tattoos may need strategies to conceal them. In Ethiopia, tattoos may be associated with criminal activity or invite unwanted attention. For men, long hair and untrimmed beards are unusual. As Volunteers, you are outsiders striving to become participating members of the local culture, and keeping your dress and appearance consistent with the relatively conservative and modest cultural conventions enables you to earn people’s respect far more readily than to challenge what they consider as appropriate within their context.