FAQs about Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan
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|FAQs about Peace Corps|
For information see Welcomebooks
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to the Kyrgyz Republic?
Your carry-on luggage should weigh no more than 11 pounds in total, and your checked luggage—a maximum of two pieces—should weigh no more than 100 pounds in total. The combined dimensions should not exceed 107 inches (length width + height = 107) for checked pieces and 45 inches for carry-on bags. Adherence to these guidelines is necessary to minimize baggage-related problems during international travel. If you choose to ignore them, any charges for excess baggage will be solely your responsibility.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/ permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.
What is the electric current in the Kyrgyz Republic?
The Kyrgyz Republic uses 220 volts, 50 cycles, and if you plug a 110-volt (the U.S. standard) appliance or radio into a 220-volt socket, it will be damaged and possibly destroyed. All 110-volt electronics equipment must be plugged into a 220volt to 110-volt wire-wound transformer. Transformers come in sizes from 50 to 2,000 watts and are rated for continuous or intermittent use. Most audio equipment will work with a small 50-watt transformer, but an intermittent-rated transformer may not last a long time with a CD or tape player. For equipment with a heating element, such as a hair dryer, you can probably use a solid-state voltage reducer, which is small and lightweight and has a capacity of 1,600 watts. Some electronics equipment may also work with a voltage reducer. If in doubt, ask the equipment’s manufacturer if you need a transformer or can use a voltage reducer.
Your laptop will only need an adapter, which is a small piece of metal and plastic designed to plug your computer directly into the wall. Anything else will need a voltage converter to actually change the power to American current. Both of these items are in great quantity here, so don't stress about forgetting them.
- Hint: If one side of the plug to your appliance is fatter than the other that means you need a voltage converter, if the two plugs are of the same width (like your laptop) then you only need an adapter. However you should always double check that your electronics will work properly before you leave!
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in the Kyrgyz Republic. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. However, many volunteers feel they actually need to spend more of their own money. If you are placed in a city, want to have a somewhat well rounded diet all year, and ever go to cafes or purchase alcohol, then the 5,000 com (roughly $117) they give you a month, will probably not be enough.
That being said, there are enough ATMs here so that you don't have to bring a lot of cash with you. Bringing lots of cash is a really, really bad idea; if you do, its safekeeping is your responsibility. Better to bring your debit card so you can access cash if you need it and never have too much lying around. A small 1% transaction fee usually applies but is tolerable. However, there are many pick pockets on buses and at bazaars in the capitol so keep a close eye on your money!
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
Note: The only thing left out here (and it is kinda important) is that you can take all 48 days of accrued vacation the second your first 6 months are over. Someone who is 18 months into service has just as much vacation time available to him/her as someone only 7 months into service.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave.
If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the insurance company directly. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in the Kyrgyz Republic do not need an international driver’s license. Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to drive cars or drive or ride on motorcycles while in the country. Any Volunteer who chooses to own or ride a bicycle or a horse must wear a Peace Corps-issued helmet while riding.
What should I bring as gifts for Kyrgyz friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
The Peace Corps’ priority is to place you where there is the most need and where you can use your skills to the utmost and be effective and productive in your work. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour of another Volunteer. Most sites are located several hours from the regional capital. Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until the last few weeks of pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites and to finalize site selections with their community partners. You will have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.
Can I call home from the Kyrgyz Republic?
International phone service to and from the Kyrgyz Republic is good relative to that of other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Telekom, the Kyrgyz telephone company, has offices in towns and cities throughout the country. However, international calls are very expensive (about $2 per minute), so some Volunteers make collect calls via an international operator. Many of the host families have telephones in their homes. If not, there is access to phones at hotels or post offices in all of the training communities. International calling is also available from local Internet cafes at very reasonable prices though the connection is sometimes spotty and calling hours awkward.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
The Kyrgyz Republic has cellular phone service, and key Peace Corps staff members have cellphones to attend to emergency calls. But because of the mountainous terrain, cellular service can be spotty. In addition, differences in technology make most U.S. cell phones incompatible with the Kyrgyz system. Local communication methods are reliable enough and are more compatible with the Peace Corps’ belief that Volunteers should live modestly at the level of their local colleagues.
Cell phones with sim cards, such as those from Cingular, will work in the Kyrgyz republic, provided you switch to a local service provider. Verizon phones are rumored to work on the same network as Fonex since they are both GSM.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Don't arrive with out a notebook. With out a computer you have no way of saving pictures you take with a digital camera, no way to watch movies, no way to work on grants at home, nothing to keep you entertained in the long winter months when the power goes out. In short, bring the laptop, don't even think about it. As the part below recommends however, keep a close eye on it. Your laptop is worth more than half the yearly salary for the average Kyrgyz person.
As for internet access, many places have dial up access through cards which you can buy at Telekom, and any place that gets cell phone coverage is a possible spot for CDMA internet access, if you are tech savvy enough to set it up. Generally any village/city with more than 10,000 people will have internet, it may be slow and expensive but they'll have it.
Don't let your desire to "rough it" cause you to shy away from technology. E-mail is the best way to contact and stay in touch with donor organizations most of whom are very far away from Kyrgyzstan.
Last note on technology: make sure to bring a digital camera too, and same thing goes as with the lap top, keep a VERY close eye on it.
Most Volunteers are at sites that do not have Internet access. However, many businesses and individuals in the capital and in some larger cities and towns have Internet access, and there are a growing number of Internet cafés. Due to the weaker telephone and electrical infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers in rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to the capital or regional hubs. Before leaving the United States, many Volunteers establish free e-mail accounts, which they can access worldwide.
Some Volunteers bring laptop computers with them and are happy that they did so. Laptops can serve as a valuable resource in successfully meeting the needs of your Volunteer assignment and provide a means of watching movies and listening to music; many Volunteers maintain their exercise routine by working out with videos 7played on their laptops.
However, the Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring a computer to get personal property insurance. Because of the high value of laptops, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming victims of crime. Moreover, you probably will not find the same level of technical assistance and service in the Kyrgyz Republic that you would in the United States and any replacement parts could take months to arrive. Also note that gaining Internet access via your laptop is only a remote possibility—very few Volunteers have adequate telephone lines in their home or workplace. If you bring a laptop, be sure to buy a high-quality surge protector, as electrical lapses and surges are common. The Peace Corps is not obligated to provide you a site with Internet connection.