Namibia

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

The postal system is reliable, but service to the more remote villages is often slow. Mail from the United States can take from 2-4 weeks, During pre-service training (PST) you may use the Peace Corps office address:

“Your name,” PCT
Peace Corps
PO Box 6862
Ausspannplatz
Windhoek, Namibia

Your mail will be forwarded periodically to your training site. Once you have moved to your permanent site, you will use the school’s address or get a private post office box. 

Telephones

Volunteers are able to place international cards with no issues. Cellular phone service is growing in Namibia and is available in most rural areas where Volunteers serve. Fewer than 5 percent of currently serving Volunteers live in areas with no or poor cell phone coverage. Cell phones purchased in the United States are not likely to operate in country unless they are unlocked and are dual band. PC provides funds for you to purchase a local cellphone in Namibia as a safety measure.

Internet

Internet cafes can be found in Windhoek and other larger towns. Volunteers tend to bring their own laptops or tablets into country with them. The harsh climate, heat, dust, and erratic electricity tend to age IT equipment faster than in the United States, so most volunteers will bring older IT as opposed to purchasing a new computer or smartphone.

Housing and Site Location

Housing varies considerably. Your site may be a Western-style cement block house, usually with electricity (current is 220 volts, 50 cycles) and running water; an apartment attached to a health facility (nurses dorm); or, in the case of more rural areas, a mud hut with a local family in a traditional homestead. As the government has invited assistance from a variety of sources, you may also be asked to share a two- or three-bedroom house with one or two colleagues (either Namibian colleagues or PC Volunteers of the same sex). Our expectation is that you will have a private bedroom, but remember that there is a shortage of housing for government staff in most areas in Namibia. In most circumstances, the ministry/hosting agency to which you are assigned is responsible for paying your monthly utilities and providing you with the basic furnishings (e.g., bed, mattress, chairs, table, stove).

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

Basic food such as corn, millet, and greens can be bought in most communities, and a wide variety of products are available in the larger town centers. Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly seasonal in rural areas and may have to be transported from quite a distance. Canned goods are widely available throughout Namibia. Although committed vegetarians and vegans have successfully maintained their diet and health in Namibia, obtaining the recommended daily allowances of vital food groups and nutrients can be quite challenging. The Peace Corps medical office provides multivitamins, calcium, iron tablets, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12. Some Volunteers in Namibia grow their own gardens in order to have fresh vegetables when they want them. Maintenance of a healthy and balanced diet will be discussed extensively during pre-service training.

Transportation

The Peace Corps policies on transportation in Namibia urge Volunteers to limit their travel to essential trips and to stay at site as much as possible. If a Volunteer has to travel by road, care must be taken to choose the safest route and means of transportation. Given the limited number of transportation options available to Volunteers, this requires prior planning and flexibility on the part of the Volunteer. It will occasionally be necessary to extend or put off a trip because safe transportation options are not available. The ultimate responsibility for choosing the safest means of travel falls on the Volunteer. Traveling by road can be dangerous in Namibia, because of excessive speed and the lack of defensive driving skills. The level of driving skill and courtesy is often lower than one would encounter in the United States. The miles of unpaved roads and the poor state of many vehicles on the road, including those serving as informal taxis, present challenges to Volunteers trying to get around. Given the lack of public transport in many areas, Volunteers are often forced to utilize informal bush taxis or other forms of hitching a ride. The number of taxis available in populated areas continues to grow, and bus service is beginning to expand throughout the country, and train service travels north and south of Windhoek each week. Volunteers will be provided with information on the safest modes of travel during training.

Social Activities

Social activities vary depending on where your site is located. In more rural communities, social activities include visiting neighbors’ fields and cattle posts and, for men, drinking at local bars. Cultural festivals, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and socialize with community members and their extended families. Groups of teachers sometimes go to town to shop and relax on paydays before heading off to visit their families. Namibia’s rich geography provides many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, including national parks and conservation areas. Volunteers sometimes visit each other or meet in larger towns for shopping, socializing, or going to a movie. Although the Peace Corps recognizes that periodic visits to towns are important for networking and moral support, Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites as much as possible, to develop language competency and ensure integration in their communities.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Namibians attach great importance to neatness and proper dress, particularly in professional situations. Volunteers are expected to dress appropriately both on and off the job and to show respect for Namibian attitudes concerning personal appearance. For work, male Volunteers usually wear slacks or khakis and a nice shirt, often with a tie. Female Volunteers usually wear below-the-knee dresses or skirts with a nice top, or pants with a shirt. Excessive drinking is widespread in Namibia. Volunteers may come under social pressure from colleagues or other Volunteers to drink, often to excess. Because of the Volunteers’ unique status in the community and as a representative of the American people, they are “on duty” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As such, Volunteers are expected to comport themselves in a professional and culturally sensitive manner at all times. Peace Corps/Namibia has strict regulations concerning the excessive consumption of alcohol and these rules are enforced. We look to PCVs to model alternative behaviors, particularly for youth, as they work in Namibian society.