Tanzania

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Airmail can take up to a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Tanzania and sometimes can take two weeks or more to get to your site. Advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes and to include “Airmail” on envelopes. Once you begin your Volunteer service, you can have mail sent directly to your site or to the Peace Corps office in Dar es Salaam. During pre-service training, you will receive mail at the Peace Corps training site. Your address will be: 

“Your Name,” PCT
Peace Corps Training Site
PO Box 9123
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Telephones

International phone service from Tanzania to the United States is poor to good depending on the location. Cellphone service is growing in many, but not all, parts of the country. About 90 percent of Volunteers in Tanzania now have cellphones. Differences in technology make most U.S. cellphones incompatible with local service, so only phones purchased in Tanzania are likely to work. Cellphones are readily available in Tanzania.

Internet

Internet services are available for reasonable fees at cybercafes in all large towns and a growing number of smaller towns. Volunteers also have access to email at the Peace Corps office in Dar es Salaam. If bringing a computer or other devices, it is recommended to insure your electronics prior to your arrival in country.

Housing and Site Location

The determination of a Volunteer’s site is made during training, after staff members have had an opportunity to match an individual’s strengths and capabilities with the needs of the host community or school. Volunteer housing, which is usually similar to that of Tanzanians living in the same community, is generally modest but comfortable. Housing varies in size, but all houses are made of either cement block or fired brick with tin or tile roofs. Houses have at least two rooms and are sometimes furnished with a bed, a table, chairs, and possibly other items. Volunteers receive a settling-in allowance to assist them in obtaining basic household items and in purchasing a cellphone. Volunteers generally are placed alone and live alone, although having two Volunteers at one site, or sharing housing with a host country national is a possibility. The electric current in Tanzania is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Some Volunteers have electricity and running water, but the reliability of both is often poor. In rural areas, water may come from a community well or river and evening light is often limited to candles and lanterns. Whatever the circumstances, it is important you remain flexible while you adjust to your new lifestyle.

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 Tanzania is maize (corn), which is prepared as a thick porridge called ugali and eaten with vegetables or beans. Meat and chicken are almost always available, and fish is plentiful in the coastal and lake areas. Many fruits and vegetables grow in Tanzania (though not all items are available year round) and, with a little creativity, you should be able to enjoy a varied diet. Most Volunteers prepare their own food although, after becoming more familiar with their sites, some Volunteers hire someone to help with household work, including cooking. Volunteers who are vegetarian will be able to eat well in Tanzania after becoming familiar with local foods and their preparation. Vegans may have to be flexible to meet their nutritional needs. Most Tanzanians are not familiar with vegetarianism and normally will not be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal if you are a guest in their home. (It is a sign of good hospitality to serve meat to guests.) Volunteers who are vegetarians will often be asked why they do not eat meat. In any case, a sensitive explanation of your dietary preferences is likely to be accepted.

Transportation

Volunteers’ primary mode of long-distance transport is public buses. For shorter excursions, Volunteers use a daladala or a bicycle. A daladala is a minibus or small pickup truck that carries people and goods. (Yes, chickens could end up in your lap!) Buses and daladalas travel between or within towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel in Tanzania is never a predictable affair. Many Volunteers find that in-country travel options are one of the biggest difficulties they encounter. While there are more buses available every year, this can make roads even more crowded and dangerous for travel.

Social Activities

Larger towns often have discos and bars, which can become very lively on both weekdays and weekends. The most common form of entertainment is socializing with friends and neighbors. Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers on weekends and holidays. Although Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites as much as possible in order to develop relationships with people in their community, an occasional trip to the capital or to visit friends is important as well. Tanzania has several television stations that broadcast nationwide. These stations have limited programming, but they offer a few programs from South Africa, the United States, and Europe. Satellite television is available in many cities. Tanzanian radio is quite good if you are in an area that receives FM broadcasts. Volunteers placed in rural areas rely on shortwave radio broadcasts from the BBC, Voice of America, or Radio Deutsche Wella. There is one modern cinema in Dar es Salaam, and some hotels and bars show videos of American or European films.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Norms for dress are much more conservative in Tanzania than in the United States. In the United States, clothes are often an expression of one’s individuality; in Tanzania, people view one’s dress as a sign of respect for others. Tanzanians do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, are too revealing, or are too casual., unmended clothing, however, is likely to be considered an affront. Although considered fashionable in the United States, accessories like nose and tongue piercings and earrings on men are frowned upon in Tanzania. Whether you work as a teacher, health educator, or agricultural extension Volunteer, you will be perceived as a high-status professional. You will be “on duty” seven days a week, 24 hours a day and need to make every effort to conform to the behavior and dress expected of educated and high-status people in your school or community. One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional at the same time. It is not always an easy situation to resolve, but the Peace Corps will provide you with guidelines and recommendations.