Indonesia

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

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 from seven days to a few weeks for mail coming from Indonesia to arrive to the United States via the Indonesia postal system. 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).

Telephones

Within your first week in-country, training staff will provide support you as you purchase a mobile phone. All Volunteers are provided funds to buy mobile phones and data packages. Most cellphones in Indonesia can receive and make international calls, and you only pay for outgoing calls. You may also bring an “unlocked” phone from the U.S. for use here with a local SIM card.

Internet

While the Internet is widely available in East and West Java, it can be difficult to access in the more remote communities. Even when the Internet is available, connection times can be slow. While you don’t need to bring a computer from home, many Volunteers appreciate having one with them. Computers can be purchased at prices comparable to those in the United States. Internet cafes are abundant, and some PCVs purchase a modem. Many use Skype with a headset or with video.

Housing and Site Location

All Volunteers in Indonesia are placed in one of two provinces: East Java or West Java. Most Volunteers live in small towns or rural villages and are frequently within a few hours from another Volunteer, though some Volunteers are placed further apart from each other. Electricity in Volunteer housing runs 220 V/230 V of current. Electrical outlets take two or three round pins. Keep in mind that Java is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, so even areas that are considered to be rural are still likely to host a large population. Volunteers live with host families throughout their service, as well as during pre-service training. 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. Most Volunteers live in typical Javanese homes, which are often one-story and made of concrete or another solid, permanent building material. Site placements are made toward the midpoint of training. Once Peace Corps staff has gotten to know you better, they are in a better position to make decisions about where your skills and abilities would fit best. To the extent possible, Peace Corps staff takes into account some preferences you may have regarding your placement.

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

It may be no surprise that the staple food in Indonesia is rice. Across Java, 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. A favorite dish there is karedok, raw vegetables in peanut sauce. A wide range of vegetables are available in the markets, year round. Fruits that are generally available year around include bananas, papayas, oranges, watermelon, melon, and apples. 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, fish is usually available, and cows, goats, and chicken are raised locally. Javanese dishes tend to be oily and spicy. 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.

Transportation

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. Volunteers are expected to use the safest transportation option available and in accordance with their travel and living allowances. Because the transportation systems available in Indonesia present specific challenges and hazards, Volunteers are strongly advised to choose the safest transportation option available and should travel at times and on routes that present the lowest risk. Out of all transportation modes, trains tend to be the safest means of transportation in Java. It is expected that Volunteers will draw upon their training and exercise sound judgment when traveling.

Social Activities

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 “coin of the realm,” 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 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 comprise a tight-knit social network, and neighboring Volunteers engage in social activities with each other’s communities.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Indonesia is a large country with multiple cultures and languages. Customs vary from province to province, and 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. That said, most Volunteers are placed at schools and in communities with conservative Muslim values, and the importance of respect for local religious practices and cultural mores cannot be overstated. The Javanese value clean, neat, culturally appropriate dress as a measure of professionalism and respect. This is particularly true for teachers. Indonesian teachers, including Volunteers, 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. While in training, you will receive advice and feedback (as needed) regarding appropriate dress, but ultimately your principal and counterparts will provide specific guidance about what you should and shouldn’t wear to school. Please see the Cultural Attitudes and Customs in the Workplace and Dress Code sections in the Volunteer Assignment Description for additional information.