The mail service in Indonesia is not as fast as the U.S. Postal Service; thus, it is important to be patient. It can take about two weeks for mail coming from Indonesia to arrive to the United States via the Indonesia postal system and usually takes about the same amount of time for mail to arrive in Indonesia from the Unites States. From a Volunteer’s site, mail might take several weeks to reach the United States. Sending a letter home costs about $2 apiece (relatively expensive).
Volunteers are highly encouraged to bring a GSM unlocked cell phone. If you do not bring an unlocked cell phone, Peace Corps will provide you with a basic phone that can be used throughout your service. Within your first week in-country, staff will provide support to ensure that you have a functioning phone throughout service. You will be given a SIM card and money to purchase either minutes or minutes and data depending on the phone you will be using.
While the Internet is widely available in the provinces where Volunteers serve, it can be difficult to access it in the more remote communities where Volunteers will be living and working. Even when the Internet is available, connection times can be slow. Though bringing a personal computer is not required, Peace Corps Indonesia highly encourages you to bring one since volunteers will need to access training materials on PC’s online learning platform. Computers can be also purchased here at prices comparable to those in the United States. Internet cafes and Wi-Fi areas are abundant, and some PCVs purchase a modem.
Housing and Site Location
All Volunteers in Indonesia are placed in one of three provinces: East Java, West Java or East Nusa Tenggara. Most Volunteers live in small towns or rural villages and are frequently within a few hours from another Volunteer, though distance from other Volunteers will vary depending on the specific community where each Volunteer lives. Electricity in Volunteer housing runs 220 V/230 V of current. Electrical outlets take two round pins. Keep in mind that Indonesia is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, so even areas that are considered to be rural are still likely to host a large population.
Volunteers will live with host families for the duration of their 27-months of service, starting during PST. Prior to the Volunteer’s arrival, the host family is identified by the assigned school and is visited by Peace Corps staff to ensure accommodations meet all health, safety, and security criteria. Volunteers have a private bedroom and share bathing and cooking facilities with a host family. Volunteers will have access to a basic squat-type toilet or a western style toilet. Trainees will be informed where their permanent community will be located toward the midpoint of pre-service training
Living with a host family is often a highlight for Volunteers around the world. Host families provide an immediate entry into the community, daily language practice and cultural exchange, and contribute to a Volunteer’s safety. They usually become an invaluable source of emotional support. You will be expected to make an effort to get to know your community, and not to wait for people to come to you.
Living Allowance and Money Management
Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in Indonesian rupiah 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.
Food and Diet
The staple food in Indonesia is rice. Across Indonesia, tastes differ. A popular traditional dish in East Java is Pecel which is steamed vegetables in peanut sauce. While in West Java, vegetables are commonly eaten raw in a dish called Lalapan. Another favorite dish there is Karedok, raw vegetables in peanut sauce. In East Nusa Tenggara, Jagung Bose is the typical dish. It is corn porridge with a mixture of coconut milk processed manually from shredded coconuts.
A wide range of fruits and vegetables are available in the markets, year round. White rice is most common; however, brown rice is usually available in large urban supermarkets, while oatmeal and cereals are generally available at local convenience stores. Many people consume tempeh and tofu as their main source of protein. However, chicken, fish, seafood, beef, and goat are usually available. Indonesian dishes tend to be spicy, fried, and oily. It is possible to maintain a vegetarian diet; however, eating in restaurants can be challenging for vegetarians because meat is often mixed in with dishes featuring tofu or vegetables. Eating the food provided by your host family, or cooking your own food, is cheaper and healthier than eating in restaurants.
Indonesia offers a variety of reliable modes of transportation in most areas of the country which include motorized and non-motorized three-wheel vehicles, vans, public and commercial buses, trains, boats, and planes.
Transport within towns is typically by minivans called angkot/mikrolet/bemo and by bicycle. Peace Corps Indonesia provides Volunteers with a helmet and allowance to buy a bicycle. However, the road conditions and busy road make cycling difficult in some areas. Volunteers are expected to use the safest transportation option available, travel at times and on routes that present the lowest risk, and be in accordance with their travel and living allowances. It is expected that Volunteers will draw upon their training and exercise sound judgment when traveling. In accordance with Peace Corps policy, Volunteers are prohibited from driving or riding as a passenger on any type of motorcycle for any reason. Volunteers are also not allowed to own automobiles or drive privately owned vehicles in Indonesia.
Indonesia is a large country with multiple cultures and languages. Customs vary from province to province, and from school to school. Generally speaking, you will find that Indonesians have a tolerance, curiosity, and sense of humor regarding behaviors and customs that are different than their own. You can expect your Indonesian community members to be curious about your background, customs, and religious beliefs and practices. Relationships are the most important thing in Indonesia and the responsibility for initiating, building, and nurturing them will fall to you. Social activities, while varying by location, will include family events, such as weddings and circumcision festivities, and community events, such as dedications and graduations. Religious events around holidays such as Idul Fitri, Idul Adha, Christmas and Easter present opportunities for Volunteers to become involved in community life. School schedules also include a number of social activities, including student competitions and trips, welcome and farewell celebrations, and activities for anniversaries and national holidays. On a day-to-day basis, many Volunteers enjoy the company of community members through visits to each other’s homes, short excursions to local sights, and simply spending time together. Volunteers also often comprise a tight-knit social network, and neighboring Volunteers may engage in social activities with each other’s communities.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Most Volunteers in Java are placed at schools and in communities with conservative Muslim values and Volunteers in East Nusa Tenggara are placed at schools and in communities with conservative Christian values. The importance of respect for local religious practices and cultural mores cannot be overstated. Indonesians value clean, neat, culturally appropriate dress as a measure of professionalism and respect. This is particularly true for teachers, including Volunteers, who are expected to wear neat, modest, “business-casual” attire. Some schools require teachers to wear uniforms, and in some cases these are provided to the Volunteer by the school. Tattoos have a negative connotation and have been associated with criminal activities, prisoners, and prostitutes. Please be prepared to cover tattoos whenever possible. Multiple-pierced ears, facial piercings on both men and women, and earrings on men are generally unacceptable in professional settings in Indonesia. While in training, you will be required to cover tattoos and additional piercings. Throughout training, you will receive advice and feedback regarding professionalism, dress and behavior. Once at site, you should observe local norms and seek feedback from principals and counterparts regarding appropriate dress at school and in the community.