Your mailing address in Paraguay will be:
“Your Name,” PCT [for trainee] or PCV [for Volunteer]
Cuerpo de Paz
162 Chaco Boreal c/Mcal. López
Asunción 1580, Paraguay
Letters usually take two to three weeks to reach Paraguay. Packages and other types of correspondence are delayed much longer and may take several weeks to several months.
International phone service to and from Paraguay is fairly reliable and accessible to most Volunteers. Volunteers are provided with a cellular phone and a basic calling plan. Peace Corps/Paraguay also has a corporate calling plan for these telephones (all PCVs and staff) where the first 10 minutes are free. If you still desire to bring a cellphone, make sure that it supports GSM 850/1900. Although these happen to be the same frequencies used in the U.S., make sure that your phone is not “locked” by your carrier.
Volunteers use a laptop/tablet regularly during Pre-service Training, as some of our sessions are on-line and most of our manuals and handouts are electronic documents. Additionally, once in site, all Volunteer activity reporting is done on-line. We will offer printed versions of anything you request, but in general, we are on-line here at Peace Corps Paraguay and a laptop/tablet is essential. In fairness, some Volunteers get by with their smart phone, but if you can bring one, you’ll get your money’s worth out of a laptop. The internet service that Peace Corps Paraguay provides is through cell phones. Once in site, volunteers will have the option to obtain internet plans that can be covered by the living allowance. Regarding to 3G and 4G/LTE networks, in rural areas of the country there is more coverage of 3G network which makes Internet browsing challenging, meanwhile 4G/LTE network has better coverage in urban areas.
Housing and Site Location
About 80 percent of Volunteers live in small towns or villages with fewer than 5,000 people, and some of these campo (countryside) sites have fewer than 200 inhabitants. Generally, streets in the campo towns are unpaved, and there is no running water or indoor toilets. The voltage is 220 volts—any electrical appliance of 110 volts will require a transformer. Few people in these towns have traveled outside Paraguay, and many have never even been to Asunción. The only people with cars are likely to be the doctor, the priest, and a few business people, government officials, and ranchers. Horses, motorcycles, bicycles, and ox carts make up the majority of local traffic, with children playing freely alongside roaming cows, pigs, and chickens. For both rural and urban Volunteers, housing in Paraguay is basic. After living with a host family during the 11 weeks of pre-service training, Volunteers are required to live with another Paraguayan family during their initial two months of service in site. Some Volunteers then choose to live alone in one- or two-room wood or brick homes; others choose to live with a Paraguayan family for their entire two years of service. Peace Corps/Paraguay strongly recommends that Volunteers, especially single women, consider this option. Living with a family not only helps with community integration, but also decreases personal security risks.
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
Paraguayans tend to eat more simple meals than people do in the United States. Dietary habits and the limited access to diversified agricultural products often limit meals to beans, rice, noodles, meat (when available), corn, onions, tomatoes, and manioc. Manioc, or mandioca (more commonly known in other countries as yucca or cassava), is the staple food in rural Paraguay and is as ubiquitous at the table as bread is in other countries. Paraguayan food is not spicy and is quite different from Mexican food (for instance, in Paraguay, a tortilla is a kind of fritter). Most Paraguayans are exceptionally generous and will insist on sharing their food, no matter how little they have. Volunteers who choose to maintain a vegetarian diet are able to do so with varying degrees of difficulty, as it is a challenge not only to find the variety of foods necessary to remain healthy, but to get Paraguayans to understand such a decision. A vegetarian diet is much easier to follow if one incorporates eggs and dairy products, and some Volunteers choose to add fish and chicken.
Most Volunteers live in communities served by a simple dirt road, which may or may not be close to a paved road. Inexpensive bus service is available to almost all communities, although heavy rain can unexpectedly close dirt roads to bus traffic for an unpredictable length of time. While a community may not be a great distance from the capital in miles, getting there may involve a trip of several hours because of the condition of unpaved roads. You will receive assistance in identifying alternative forms of transportation (i.e., a private vehicle, taxi, or truck) from your site in the event of an emergency. Volunteers may, upon request, be issued a mountain bicycle and helmet. Peace Corps/Paraguay, as mandated by Peace Corps/Washington, prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding as a passenger on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicle (such as a motorcycle) for any reason. Moreover, Volunteers are not allowed to own or drive private vehicles in Paraguay. These prohibitions are in response to serious safety concerns, and violation of the policy will result in the administrative separation of the Volunteer from Peace Corps service.
Recreation in smaller towns often centers on the family, with an occasional dance, soccer game, or horse race to attend. In the evening, many families gather with friends for volleyball games. The losers pay for drinks, which might be soft drinks (gaseosas) or beer. People frequently sit in clusters (often limited to one gender or age group) to drink the ubiquitous yerba mate, a common local drink made from the leaves of a shrub native to the region, either cold (tereré) or hot (mate) in the early morning or wintertime. During the hot summer, an important social activity is likely to be bathing in the local stream (arroyo). The electrification of the countryside has increased the popularity of “boomboxes,” TVs, DVDs, etc. Volunteers often participate in organized groups, such as ecology clubs or youth groups, that meet occasionally for selected activities. In Asunción and larger towns, there is a wider variety of options for social activities, including movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants, and sporting events. Volunteers usually take advantage of their rare weekends in the capital to see the latest movies and enjoy some night life. Volunteers also have access to the swimming pool at the U.S. Embassy while in Asunción.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Establishing and maintaining your credibility via your appearance and dress is extremely important. Peace Corps Paraguay staff, trainees and volunteers all follow the same standards of professional attire in the Training communities and in the Peace Corps offices. The following guidelines are followed during Pre-Service Training in Paraguay. If you have any questions regarding culturally appropriate dress in different settings, please check with the Training Staff.
- No shorts, except after hours in your house or places of recreation, and never during work hours in the Training Center, on field trips or at the Asunción office.
- Footwear should always be in good shape, clean, and adequate to the situation; rubber flip-flops or casual beach sandals are considered leisure wear of for use in the shower.
- Jeans may be worn, but like all clothes they should be clean, hemmed, and not be torn or have holes unless neatly mended.
- We recommend removing facial or visible body piercings and covering tattoos (when feasible) until the people you work with get to know you, and then only if it does not detract from a professional image.
- Capri shorts that cover the knees are acceptable day-to-day work clothes for professional women in Paraguay; however, long pants or a longer skirt/dress (below the knees) are more common when giving a formal presentation or expecting an important visitor. Collared, button-up shirts, blouses or polos are common as well.
- Comfortable dress pants with collared, button-up shirts or polos are the norm for professional men in Paraguay; ironed and clean tee shirts are acceptable day-to-day work clothes as well; however, a dress shirt is more common when giving a formal presentation or expecting an important visitor.
- Beards are not the norm but you will see Paraguayan professionals with short and trimmed beards or facial hair.
- Neat, short hair is the norm for professional men in Paraguay; it is very unusual to see men using pony-tails, dreadlocks, or braids in Paraguay.
For more information on all these topics, Invitees can access the “Bridge to Paraguay” document.