“Your Name,” Peace Corps
Private Mail Bag
Apia, (Western) Samoa
Tell family and friends to include “Western” or “Independent” in front of Samoa as U.S. postal workers often assume “Samoa” is American Samoa and try to send it there by adding a zip code. Mail transit between the U.S. and Samoa averages three weeks but can take up to two months.
TelephonesWhen Volunteers arrive in-country, they are provided funds to purchase a basic cellphone. Many phones, even ones that claim to be the appropriate GSM for Samoa, will not work in-country (including iPhones). As your phone will most likely disappear or break at least once during service, it is a bad idea to bring an expensive phone from home. The Peace Corps pays for a service that allows all Volunteers and staff to call each other without charge. Most Volunteers can call home easily on their mobile telephones, although they might have to walk a short distance in their village or slightly outside it to reach a spot with the best coverage. Increasingly, many Volunteers are calling home using Internet phone services, such as Skype, from local Internet.
InternetNearly every Volunteer chooses to bring a computer, as it can be a valuable asset, so computers are highly recommended. Apia and a few of the larger villages on Savai’i have Internet cafes and wireless hotspots. Internet access in many places on the islands is generally available via a cellular data plan. Nearly every Volunteer brings a laptop computer. It is highly recommended that you purchase personal articles insurance for your computer and any other items of value.
Housing and Site LocationVolunteers normally live in a private room in a family house though occasionally a Volunteer may have his or her own small, traditional thatched or cement house close to the host family’s home. For cultural integration and safety, it’s vital for Volunteers to be associated with a host family. Although most Volunteers prefer their own house, the supply from villages is never enough to meet the demand, so you must be prepared for the probability of living in a private room in a family house. This arrangement offers a safer environment for Volunteers and also greatly enhances Volunteers’ ability to become more fluent in Samoan and more integrated into the culture and their village. You will likely develop a love and respect for your Samoan family and an appreciation for having a second family away from home. While facilities are fairly modest, all villages have reliable electricity (240 volts, 50 hertz). There will be access to running water, either in the house or from a tap outdoors. Most homes have flush toilets, but a few will have water-seal latrines. Toilets and showers may be inside, but many are outside of the house. Some family villages still use separate cooking houses (umukuka) for cooking food.
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.