Guinea

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes, and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Note that nothing of great value should be sent via international mail, since packages sometimes arrive with items missing. You will be charged a customs and handling fee for all incoming packages, which varies depending on the contents of the package. While in Guinea, your address will be as follows:Volunteer Name, PCV, s/c Corps de la Paix B.P. 1927, Conakry, Guinée.

Telephones

Most Volunteers are able to call home at least once a week. In order to facilitate communication, Peace Corps/Guinea has signed a contract with a local telephone service provider (Orange) to create a cellphone network for all its staff members, as well as Volunteers. If you bring a cellphone, be sure that it will work on the GSM frequency, which is what is used in Guinea, and can accept local SIM cards.

Internet

The infrastructure needed for electronic communications has progressed in Guinea. Access to email and the Internet is getting better in most of the country, although connection speed is oftentimes slow. Some Volunteers are able to access the Internet at their sites through internet USB keys available from several cellphone service providers.

Housing and Site Location

Before Volunteers arrive, Peace Corps/Guinea staff, in collaboration with local partners, identify safe and secure Volunteer housing. Volunteer housing represents community or partner organizations’ contribution and, therefore, varies greatly depending on their means and norms. Your housing might be a two-room house made from cement with a corrugated tin roof or a mud hut with a thatch roof. Volunteers are generally located no more than 50 kilometers from the nearest Volunteer or regional capital. Although Volunteer housing does not typically have electricity, its pertinent to know that the current in Guinea runs 220 volts and approximately 50 hertz.

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

Guinea’s major food crops include rice, millet, maize (corn), manioc (cassava), groundnuts (peanuts), and palm oil. In addition, coffee, bananas, potatoes, and many other fruits and vegetables are cultivated for local consumption and export. Rice is the staple food, regardless of region. Most Guineans consider a meal without rice incomplete! Rice is served with a variety of sauces, such as peanut sauce, several different leaf sauces, and “soup.” If a family has the means, beef, chicken, or fish may be added to the sauce. The supply of fruits and vegetables varies according to the season and the region. Bananas are available year-round, but oranges, avocados, and pineapples are seasonal. Mangoes are plentiful during rainy season.

Transportation

Volunteers in Guinea primarily use public transportation, including taxis and buses, to get around. Volunteers are not allowed to drive motorized vehicles. Every Volunteer is issued a mountain bicycle (see the Packing List regarding bicycle equipment). Only those Volunteers with special authorization from the country director are permitted to ride as a passengers on their counterparts’ motorcycles for work-related reasons, and must wear a Peace Corps-issued helmet at all times.

Social Activities

You will be invited to the major celebrations in your community, such as marriages and baptisms, which usually feature music and a feast for all participants. Religious holidays such as Ramadan, Tabaski, and Christmas offer additional opportunities to socialize with your community and learn about local customs and ways of life. Some communities also have dance halls (discos). There may be organized sporting events between youth associations in your community, especially those involving football (soccer). The best opportunities for socializing will come when you have made friends at your site.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Dress and appearance in Guinea are of the utmost importance in the educational system; one is actually judged by the quality of his/her attire. Appropriate Volunteer conduct and dress are critical for the Peace Corps' reputation. The Volunteer is usually the only U.S. citizen in his/her community. As such, Volunteers have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner reflecting well, not only on themselves, but also on the Peace Corps and the United States as a whole. This also applies to your dress while at the Peace Corps Office and the U.S. embassy. Because these places are routinely visited by many different countries' government officials, your appearance takes on added importance. Appropriate dress for teachers includes clean, neat clothing, shirts covering the shoulders, and pants or long skirts (no shorts or short skirts are allowed in the classroom context). Remember that, as a Peace Corps representative in your community, you should be considered and treated as a professional. Thus, should you look as well as act accordingly in all circumstances.