“Your Name,” PCT, Peace Corps
Corps de la Paix
Poste, Zoom Ankorondrano
TelephonesVolunteers can bring unlocked smartphones or purchase a cellphone when they arrive in-country. Although it is free to receive incoming calls, it is extremely expensive to call home to the United States. Most Volunteers have their friends and family call their local number using Skype or another VOIP service. If you prefer to bring a phone from the U.S., note that your phone must have a SIM card slot so a local provider can activate your phone line.
InternetAlthough not every Volunteer’s house will have electricity, Volunteers without electricity usually bring their computers with them when they travel to larger towns to charge their batteries. Volunteers can plan on being able to get online at least once a month, either by using a USB modem or using an Internet cafe.
Housing and Site LocationVolunteers are posted throughout the country and are usually clustered in certain regions. Housing conditions vary from palm huts to modern cement houses with running water and electricity. The electrical outlets in Madagascar are of the “European” style, so you will need round, two-prong outlet adapters suited for 230 volts/50 cycles of electricity. Agriculture and Health Volunteers tend to live in more remote areas, while Education Volunteers generally live in areas of greater population density. Most Volunteers have only a pit toilet and an outdoor shed for taking bucket showers. During the first two-thirds of training, you will live with and have most of your meals with a host family. A homestay is considered one of the most important aspects of the training program and is required for this period. All trainees stay in a town close to the training center, so you will not be far from your fellow trainees. And although the homestay experience can be challenging at first, it is an invaluable resource for language and cultural learning. Volunteers often form strong and lasting friendships with their host families, and many continue to visit their host families during their service. During the last third of training, you will live and attend training sessions at the Peace Corps training center, located on beautiful Lake Mantasoa.
Living Allowance and Money ManagementVolunteers 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
The staple food in Madagascar is rice, which is eaten with vegetables, beans, or meat. In fact, rice consumption per capita in Madagascar is the highest in the world. Many fruits and vegetables grow in Madagascar, and the coastal regions boast an abundance of delicious, inexpensive tropical fruit and seafood. Most Volunteers prepare their own food. Some Volunteers, after becoming more familiar with their site, hire someone to help with cooking, or eat with a local family and share in the grocery buying. Meat and dairy products are available in the larger towns, but they can be expensive. Beans, lentils, eggs, and peanuts are all widely available, even in small towns, so getting enough protein won’t be an issue if you shop and cook correctly. Some Malagasy are not familiar with vegetarianism and will not be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home. However, a sensitive explanation of your preferences will be accepted. Most vegetarian Volunteers have no difficulty after an initial adjustment period, although they may find it difficult eating out in hotelys (small local restaurants), where often even the beans are cooked with animal fat.