Swaziland

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Postal rates in Swaziland are reasonable, and airmail to the United States generally takes two to three weeks. Aerogrammes (foldable and gummed paper for writing a letter for transit via airmail) and other mailing supplies can be purchased at post offices. During pre-service training, you will receive mail at the training location. During Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site.

Telephones

Peace Corps/Swaziland provides Volunteers with funds to purchase a cellular phone after completion of pre-service training. If you have an unlocked smart phone that operates on a 3G network and is capable of using a SIM card, it may be useful to consider this. The phone must be unlocked and capable of switching SIM cards to function on a GSM 900 network.

Internet

Many Volunteers bring a laptop if they already own one, but do not recommend buying a new one to bring. If you decide to bring a laptop computer, you will be responsible for insuring and maintaining it. access is available at Internet cafés in Mbabane and other large towns. You should not expect to have access to the Internet and email during pre-service training.

Housing and Site Location

Your community will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. However, you need to be very flexible in your housing expectations. Housing will vary from a mud house with a thatch or tin roof, to a cement block house, to a room with a local family in a traditional homestead. Most Volunteers live on rural homesteads with Swazi host families. The electrical current in Swaziland is 220 volts, 50 cycles. There is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity; if you do not, you will collect your water from a community tap and spend evenings reading by candlelight or lantern. You will receive a settling-in allowance in local currency to purchase necessary household items.

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

The staple food in Swaziland is maize (corn), prepared as a thick porridge and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Common vegetables include tomatoes, greens, potatoes, cabbage, and onions. Various fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means that some things will not be in markets year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products are also available. You are likely to find canned goods and basic food items throughout Swaziland. Vegetarians will be able to maintain a healthy diet in Swaziland after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. However, being a vegetarian will require some compromises and a willingness to continually explain your diet to others.

Transportation

The primary modes of transportation in Swaziland are public buses and minivans. Minivans travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel via this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in remote, rural areas. Roads generally are in good condition in the larger towns and cities. Poorly maintained vehicles, livestock wandering into the road, and intoxicated drivers are the main causes of road accidents in Swaziland. Swaziland Volunteers assess their need for a bike in their community during integration and submit a request and rationale in writing to the Peace Corps/Swaziland office no later than their reconnect in-service training (IST). If approved, the Volunteers purchase a bike and helmet of their choice and are reimbursed in cash for the purchase up to a specified amount set by the administrative officer. Some Volunteers use a bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate transportation to and from their work. Peace Corps policy requires that helmets be worn when riding a bike. Volunteers are not allowed to own or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles. Furthermore, Volunteers are not allowed to ride or be a passenger on a motorcycle. All trainees will receive a copy of Peace Corps/Swaziland’s transportation policy during pre-service training. Violation of this policy will result in your being terminated from Volunteer service.

Social Activities

Your social life will vary depending on where you are located. In more rural communities, the major pastime is visiting with neighbors and friends. Cultural festivities, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and catch up with community members and their extended families. Although Volunteers often want to visit other Volunteers on weekends or holidays, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites to develop relationships in their community and to promote the second goal of the Peace Corps (i.e., cultural exchange). Also, in accordance with the Peace Corps’ philosophy of full community integration, Volunteers are deemed to be on duty seven days a week, except on national or local holidays. Swaziland has a few television stations and several radio stations that play popular music.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Swazis value professional dress in the workplace, and dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In Swaziland, dressing well is seen as a sign of your respect for others, and how you are viewed by your local colleagues will be highly dependent on the way you present yourself. Swazis do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing such clothes will reduce the amount of respect given to you and, therefore, your effectiveness. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses, skirts, or slacks with blouses or shirts. The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you, but reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well the agency is received. As an invited guest, you must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.