23 January 2007

Serving in Kiribati - Q&A

The following is a compiled list of questions and answers concerning Peace Corps service in Kiribati. The original postings can be found on the Kiribati yahoo group.

Q: What is it like getting to Kiribati?

A: Depends on your group's situation. K27 came through Australia and had to pay extra for their luggage (they were reimbursed). K28 (our group) went through Hawaii and Fiji, without a hitch. K29 went from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands in two batches, having to leave a lot of luggage in Hawaii. They were reunited with their luggage a few days later in Kiribati.

Staging, usually in San Francisco, is an afternoon-long process of paperwork and mental preparation for the trip. Ours was run by a woman contracted by the Peace Corps. We didn't meet anyone who had been to Kiribati, but somehow we didn't mind. We were up for an adventure, and that meant unpredictability. Most of our questions were answered soon enough when we got to the country. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Do I need to worry about vaccinations before staging?

A: In our experience, no. When we arrived in Kiribati, the Peace Corps nurse who is a fulltime employee of the Peace Corps office in Kiribati looked at our vaccination records and filled in the gaps: tetanus, measles-mumps-rubella, polio, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid are the ones I remember. Just be sure to have records of your vaccinations, or you risk getting the shots again. Ouch! Luckily there's not a lot of weird deadly stuff you can get here. No malaria, and no rabies, for example. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What is training like?

A: Peace Corps Volunteers everywhere get trained before they are sworn in. You'll be thankful for this when you start your service. Other volunteer organizations don't have much in the way of training. Peace Corps currently believes in community-based training, which means for 8 weeks or so you live with a local family. (This is in addition to a week or so staying with a volunteer, and a few more weeks in Tarawa learning your way around the governmental ministries and Peace Corps policies. About 12 weeks in all.) Homestay is where you begin to learn the culture and the language. It's hard. You eat new types of food, awake to the roosters at 3 a.m., get sick, sit on your tender rump for hours at a time on the ground, miss home, pray for mail, get wet when your little hut leaks. You get the picture. You might learn local dance, ways of getting fish, how to fetch water from a well—skills that will serve you well living on an outer island. Some people have a blast.

You might wonder, if your service is going to be in Tarawa, why you're being forced to endure this outer island boot camp. Well, it because it humbles you. It also shows you what kind of life most of those in Tarawa come from. And if you're doing work in Tarawa that will impact people on the outer islands, wouldn't it be helpful to know how those people tick? The alternative is the colonialist model which is more like: "I'm going to come in and show you poor people how to do things right." The community-based model says: "I'm going to live like you, understand you better, so we can do great things together." [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Is the work fulfilling? Will I learn new skills for future work?

A: The work varies tremendously from volunteer to volunteer, island to island. Work depends on local counterparts, resources, shared vision, and personal motivation. Some volunteers are very busy while others are not. Some decide to focus instead on the cultural exchange aspect of the Peace Corps mission, which is 2/3rds of your job description. One thing is certain: Work is treated differently in other countries. Learning how to adapt to that and still manage to get things done involves a complex set of personal skills that is bound to serve you well in whatever future work environment you find yourself. Or, it may drive you insane and cause you to end your service early with bitterness. It all depends on how you decide you're going to be. Will you change, or will you die trying to change everyone in your host country? [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Is life in Tarawa much different from the other 16 Gilbert Islands where volunteers are placed?

A: Some things are the same, like topography of land and the kindness of the people, but not much else. Tarawa is the city, while outer islands are the country. Think of Tarawa as having the stuff of a small town in America and the outer islands as small farming hamlets. Tarawa has a power plant and buses that travel at high speed. Outer islands have a bit of solar power at scattered homes, some small gas generators, and maybe a handful of trucks for transport. Drinking is, in general, more accepted in Tarawa, and there is a much larger population of Westerners. One can get most foods in Tarawa (and goods, tools, etc.) while the stock on outer islands is unpredictable. Tarawa has email and telephones, while most outer islands don’t have phones (as of now, two or three islands have solar-powered pay phones. Telcom is expanding phone service each year to new islands.) [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Is Kiribati safe for single females?

A: Kiribati has the reputation as a safe country overall. The people love Americans. They have a stable government and no civil unrest. Thievery happens but is rare. However, there have been a number of instances of sexual assault on PCV women over the years, including at least one rape. Usually the attacks have involved men who overdrink. There have been break-ins of homes at night and attacks on the road or in the bush. Almost always they have occurred when the woman is alone at home, on the beach, on the road, or in the bush. PCV women protect themselves by traveling with other PCVs or local female friends. Some single women sleep at a neighbor's house, keep a dog, or ask a trusted friend to sleep on a buia outside her house. It is rare that a woman taking these measures has any serious problems.

A single woman living alone is not familiar to the Kiribati culture. Women don't sunbathe on the beach alone, travel through the bush alone. Many PCV women have led very independent lives without a single problem, but others have experienced problems. A woman should have the freedom to travel alone without fear, but a corresponding reality is that there are some men in Kiribati who are violent--and Western women are very conspicuous targets. Likely this would go for most Peace Corps countries, of course. The nice thing is that women in Kiribati who believe in safety in numbers and allowing their neighbors to "protect" them are rarely refused help. Marian lives very conservatively. Sometimes it frustrates her that she can't do things alone like a guy can, but she is happy with her decision. To date, she has not experienced any violence directed at her. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Can you save enough money to travel? What about meeting family?

A: Most PCVs travel to other countries during their service. From Kiribati, Fiji perhaps is the most popular destination, followed by Vanuatu, Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific countries like Samoa and Marshall Islands. And, of course, many return to the States one time for Christmas after their first year.

At the moment, PCVs take in about $350AUS each month in various allowances. Tarawa volunteers take in a bit more, but costs are higher on Tarawa. We've managed to pay for a 12-day trip to Fiji (one night in a resort) and roughly half of a trip to Australia on Peace Corps dollars we've saved. We decided not to meet family in Fiji last year, as we worried flights might be delayed. But many volunteers do meet family, usually with no problem. And some PCVs have family visit them in Kiribati, almost always with good results. The people here are very generous and there is usually a week or two of things to do on an outer island before some people start to go stir crazy. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Just how isolated are you in terms of emergencies?

A: Living on Tarawa, you are near the Peace Corps medical officer, a hospital, and an international airport with regular service to Australia. On an outer island, you have only between one and three regular flights per week, and only a few islands are in close range for speedboat travel. In case of an emergency, the PCV or a friend would CB or use a satellite phone (some islands have them now, and all islands are due to have them in the very near future) to call the office and the medical officer might elect to hire one of Air Kiribati's two planes to come and get you. One problem is that none of the landing strips have lights for night flights, but conceivably villagers could light up the runway with flashlights (I'm not kidding). And the Marshall Islands has an American base with military craft that conceivably could be called on in an extreme emergency. Yes, it's remote and scary, especially in the case of a dreaded appendicitis. At the same time, were something to happen, everyone would be going well out of their way to help you. It's risky, but one we've decided we're willing to take for all the BENEFITS that come from being hard to reach. It's nice not to return home and automatically look for the answering machine. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What are the advantages or disadvantages to joining Peace Corps as a couple?

A: Having constant moral support is wonderful. Living in close quarters for two years can be very difficult, but if you can adjust, your relationship is all the stronger. Sharing experiences is priceless. Doing it by yourself I would assume is a huge confidence booster and something to be proud of. But it's hard enough with Marian's help; I wouldn't trade this decision for the world. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What's the food like?

A: Some of the food is quite amazingly good, especially the fresh seafood when you can get it. It all depends on what village you live in and whether you know people who fish, or if people sell fish. There are some coconut recipes that are very tasty. There is not too much in the way of veggies, but there have been vegetarians who have gotten by (though none would say it's been easy, and most give in and start eating fish.) There are a lot of canned foods, like canned meats, that are popular and very unhealthy. Lack of variety is a common complaint by PCVs, including us. We spend hours talking about food we miss. I miss food almost as much as I miss friends and family. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: How about your health?

A: Some people never get sick, but they are the exception. Marian and/or I have had the following: giardia, salmonella, something like dengue (blood test being processed), food poisoning, fish poisoning (a mild version, not ciguatera, thank God), 24-fever, common cold, heat rash, diarrhea, and just plain feeling tired, low energy. I'd say we've been sicker than most in our group, however. I've lost 40 pounds, Marian 10. It's nice to have year-round sunshine and a place to swim to make up for feeling cruddy sometimes. I've probably only lost about 3 weeks of work due to sickness, however. Somehow you make it. The physical challenge is something I was looking for. Though 12 of our original 32 group members have left, only one left due to a medical condition. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: What happens in case of a family emergency back in the States?

A: If you have a satellite phone, your family can simply call you. If not, Peace Corps Kiribati keeps trying by CB until they get hold of you, and you can then go into Tarawa to speak with your family by phone. There is free email at the dorm that is currently working, and there is an Internet café in Tarawa that costs $8AUS per hour. Peace Corps has strict policy as to when you can return to the States on their dime. Consult the maroon handbook for this one. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: When does your service end?A: Most Peace Corps terms of service around the world are 27 months. Currently PCV groups arrive in Kiribati in October and leave 26 months later, in December, before Christmas. This is because there is a long school break December and January in which very little work gets done, so there's often little point in sticking around. Some health volunteers leave even a bit earlier, with special permission. Others get permission to stay beyond the 26 months, and some extend for a third year. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Can I have a pet?

A: Cats are great for mice, and there are plenty of both in Kiribati. There are plenty of dogs here, too, and many PCVs adopt one or more. Then comes the question of what to do with them when you leave. We're researching on how to bring ours home, but most elect to pass them on to other PCVs (when possible), make them dorm pets (when there's not one already), or let them fend for themselves (they don't always survive.) It's a very difficult issue that has no clear answers. Take note: If you get a pet pig, it will certainly be eaten. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: How easy is it to go swimming? Snorkeling? Diving? Surfing?

A: Most PCVs swim, even in Tarawa where it's hard to find places that aren't polluted. Getting past the breakers to snorkel is harder on some islands than on others. There are wonderful places to dive (unfortunately the latest word is that the dive school on North Tarawa is going out of business in June 2003), and there is some good surfing. People do bring surfboards and find opportunity to use them. (Remember if you are a single woman that getting to water might mean traveling alone, as water is almost never used recreationally by locals and most beaches are deserted. See the above statement on safety for women.) We believe in the buddy system and never swim alone. We have seen sharks, lionfish, Portuguese man-o-war, and a few other prickly sea critters, but we're alive to tell the tale. Everything's pretty well fed and has very little use for a starved PCV. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: Do many PCVs travel after their service?

A: The ones in Kiribati certainly do. When you leave, instead of letting the Peace Corps buy your ticket home you can take the cash equivalent and purchase around the world tickets at good prices. We're going straight home, but most of our friends are doing at least a couple months of travel on their way home. Some travel for a year or more, and some even go to Holland. [posted by Eric and Marian Larson]

Q: The PCT has been told that she will be teaching teachers how to teach English to the natives. She has not been told on which island she will be doing this. Might anyone have an idea as to whether this would be on South Tarawa? Obviously this would have a significant impact as S. Tarawa has electricity etc.

A: My best guess is that she will remain on South Tarawa, as that is where Teacher Training College is. [posted by tisarunner] She probably will be on an outer island, as people who are going to be stationed on South Tarawa are given advanced notice. [posted by Hannah]

Q: She has been told that she will stay with a host family initially.
Then what? What are the PC dorms, do you live in these afterwords? Are there PC dorms on every island?

A: The PC dorms are located on South Tarawa, and are used mainly as a temporary-stay when volunteers come in from outer islands for conference, on school breaks, etc...You live with a host family for the entire 12 weeks of training. When I was there in 1996 we stayed on south Tarawa with a family, then spent two weeks on an outer island -as a group-each staying with a host family there [posted by tisarunner]

The training is a little different now, in that we go to North Tarawa, where it's more like an outer island, for the bulk of the training, with just a few weeks spent on South. In North you stay with a host family in your own kiakia, or small enclosed raised room. Once you go to your site, you will have your own house, made usually from local materials. The PC dorm is where volunteers stay when they come to visit South for whatever reason. [posted by Hannah]

Q: What is the cooking situation? We see that she is to bring some cooking utensils. What does one cook on? Is everyone pretty much responsible for their own meals?

A: It really depends. If she is on south Tarawa she will most likely cook her own meals. However, the I-Kiribati don't like to see people eat alone, and will often bring plates over, fish, bread, etc....or a lot of the time she will have lots of invites over to other family's meals. I lived on the island of Nikunau, one of the furthest south, and I ate with the teacher's families nearly every night. The I-Kiribati are extremely generous people! [posted by tisarunner]

Outer island volunteers cook on kerosene stoves. You can buy kitchen utensils here, but I've never seen measuring spoons or hot pads, so bring them. You may also want to bring a good lightweight frying pan, as sometimes they can be hard to find. Everything else is available on Tarawa. Many volunteers eat some or most or all of their meals with a host family. If you want to cook, you can; it's up to you how much you want to cook for yourself, because there are always people who will feed you if you don't want to. [posted by Hannah]

Q: I've read that many PCV's still boil their water after it has been filtered. Do you need to bring something to boil the water in? Does this mean you should not wash your food in unboiled water? Should one bring plenty of Imodium?

A: Imodium may help, although a lot of those things will be supplied by the PC medical office. You can purchase a large metal teapot on Tarawa, and that is what everyone boils their water in! No need for purification systems, etc....the boiling works! The hardest part is being offered a drink and not knowing if the water has been boiled! You end up drinking a lot of HOT beverages just to be safe!! [posted by tisarunner]

PC provides all vols with a water filter. Boiling is not necessary, but depending on your immune system and preferences, you may want to boil and filter your water. [posted by Hannah]

Q: What are the sleeping conditions? We see that it is recommended to bring like a camping pad, but does that go on top of an existing mattress, wood, the floor, what?

A: Well, once again, if she is in Tarawa she will have more "modern" conditions, and can buy a piece of foam there. Most outer-islanders sleep on buias, raised platforms, with mats piled on them. I brought a therma-rest and it served its purpose! Also doubled as a floatie for the ocean!! [posted by tisarunner]

Q: I bought a Thermarest inflatable sleeping pad. It's going to take up considerable space in my luggage. Instead, would it be a better idea to buy a pad in Tarawa? What are they like in Tarawa?

A: Definitely wait and get one if you need it. you can get a foam pad if you want it, but most people end up not using anything. you'll get a sleeping mat free your first day of training, and before that you'll be on hotel beds. [posted by Gina]

If you need a pad, a thermarest is probably a good idea... they can make it hotter when you sleep. Most people sleep on mats that are made locally & seem to adjust to it fairly quickly. I did during training and was comfortable. If you have a hard time sleeping generally, you may want a thermarest. As far as pads in Tarawa, yeah, they're not too bad, kinda expensive and would be hard to get it around. [posted by Lindsey]

Q: Most postings I've read seem to think a hammock is an important item to bring. Why? Do you sleep in it? Where do you hang them?

A: There aren't many choices for furniture, most people sit on the ground there. I bought a small hammock, nothing fancy, from the Campmor catalog, and LIVED in it! It's just a nice place to read a book once in a while! I never slept in mine. I hung mine right inside my hut. They are constructed with large posts, so you hang them there. [posted by tisarunner]

Hammocks are nice because of the laid back lifestyle, and the lack of chairs to sit in here. They are very relaxing and an absolute essential for the free time when you just want to relax. Highly recommended. [posted by Hannah]

Q: How bad are the insects? Do you need to bring repellents? Do you need to bring your own netting, or is it supplied?

A: LOTS of maninnaras (insects)!!! PC provides stick repellent, and you can purchase mosquito coils there.....PC also supplied one single-size mosquito net, however a lot of volunteers went to the seamstress and had larger ones made very inexpensively there. [posted by tisarunner]

Mosquitoes vary depending on location, weather, wind, etc. But yes, they are here, and yes they can be annoying. PC gives you as much repellent as you want, and a mosquito net that is plenty big enough to sleep in comfortably.

Q: I assume one should bring lots of 50 Sunblock?

A: YES!! [posted by tisarunner] Again, PC provides this, so it's not necessary to bring it. You may want to bring a little to get through Fiji (the stop before Kiribati on the trip over), and the initial few days before meeting the medical officer. But other than that, it's free through PC. [posted by Hannah]

Q: The PCT would like us to ship to her a small portable typewriter. I've heard that it can take quite a while to receive such large packages - so is this feasible?
A: Feasible, though expensive, but yes, it will take a while....you may even want to ship it now! Regardless of US postal service, everything arrives very slowly. There is really no such thing as priority, express, etc....Definitely do AIRMAIL, though....I had a few packages sent ground and received them six months later, rat-eaten from being on a ship!! [posted by tisarunner]

Mail is extremely slow and sometimes unreliable, so yes it's possible but would be very pricey and time consuming. [posted by Hannah]

Q: Is metal degradation a serious problem such that electronics need to be kept in a ziplock bag when not in use?

A: The salty air tends to affect electronic equipment more so there than anywhere I have seen. I would highly advise against brining very expensive items, with the exception of a camera, which you will be glad to have. Ziplocs can only do so much. [posted by tisarunner]

Q: What is the sitting situation, on the ground alot? Is bringing a chair an important consideration for an "older" person?

A: Most everyone sits on the ground, and it can get darn near uncomfortable having to sit for hours on end at a botaki. I brought a Crazy Creek foldable camping chair that served its purpose there! [posted by tisarunner]

Q: It appears that there is access to the receipt of emails, just \not the sending of them - is that correct? How does that work?

A: There was no internet when I was there, it's a fairly new \arrival...so I imagine lots of glitches still. [posted by tisarunner]

Volunteers have access to email and internet through the PC office in South Tarawa. There is no email access on outer islands, so it's a once-every-three-months deal. It's fairly consistent though. [posted by Hannah]

Q: Just how hot does it get? I've seen that the avg. temperature is in the 80's, but read some saying it gets as high as 122 F. Is bringing a personal fan an important consideration?

A: I have lived in Arizona, and now in Texas, and I can attest that it is no hotter than the hottest places in the US....you usually have a nice breeze being near the water. It is humid, though, and that can make it seem unbearable....122 degerees sounds a bit high. Maybe some of those hand-held fans would help? There are some large handmade native fans made in Kiribati that work well! They are thick and made out of pandanus leaves. [posted by tisarunner]

Temps are usually 80s and 90s. [posted by Hannah]

Q: How often does one get off the island they are assigned to and travel to either S. Tarawa, or elsewhere where they can purchase needed items?

A: Depending on your island...Nikunau was one of the farthest, hence one flight a week IF WE WERE LUCKY!! Based on the PCT's age I think they will not place her so far away...so the likelihood of her getting in to Tarawa is very good. We had three school breaks, though, which were about 3 weeks each. The Christmas break was around 7 weeks. That's when most PCVs would come in, and often we had conferences in Tarawa to come in for anyway. [posted by tisarunner]

Q: About how long does it take for small packages, up to 2lbs, to arrive to and from Kiribati to the US?

A: On the faster side-2 weeks, slower up to 4 weeks....all AIRMAIL. [posted by tisarunner]

Lately, it's been more like 3 - 6 weeks. It's tempermental. [posted by Hannah]

Q: How do you mail letters home? Do you need US stamps? Do you use Kiribati stamps? Do we need friends and family to send us stamps?

A: To send letters from Kiribati you will need to just buy Kiribati stamps at the post office there (and they are available on the outer islands at the government centers as well). But also bring a supply of US stamps for those going back stateside (which, surprisingly, you find more than you think!) so that they can drop off letters from you in the US that will be received much faster! Mostly everyone obliges, as they understand what a great opportunity it is! [posted by tisarunner]

Q: Sheets are recommended to take. Being a couple, can we expect to sleep in a "double" size bed or two "twin" size beds? Any suggestions on sheet size would be great. (posted by a PCT couple)

A: You will most likely get a double kie,(floor mat-don't worry they're actually quite comfy! You will probably NOT have a bed!), both with your host families and once at your assignment location. Therefore I would bring a larger sheet for the two of you. When I went I had sewn a double sheet in half, resembling a sleeping bag (as per the recommendation of another volunteer, to keep out dirt, critters, etc....) I ended up pulling out the stitches to make one sheet! At the PC office there are twin beds, but better to have a larger size sheet, then you can just fold it in half....and actually I remember in the past they provided the sheets there, anyway.... [posted by tisarunner]

Q: What's the best way to get to the money you need while abroad? Is it better to open up an account in Kiribati? Do you really not need that much and is it better just to bring some travelers checks? What would you recommend?

A: You will get enough money from the Peace Corps to cover all of your expenses. During your training every volunteer opens an account in Kiribati, so you will definately have one there but dont worry about it until you get there. There is a place on S Tarawa with an ATM, and I would reccommend bringing a debit card because that what gives the best exchange rate if you really need to withdraw money. Not many places accept travellers checks. However, once training officially begins in LA you are completely on the government's dime. [posted by hiddenflaw]

All the money you'll need for in-country expenses will be provided by the PC. I actually saved money while in Kiribati because there wasn't really a wayfor me to effectively spend all the money I was given in daily allowance. Even after food, gifts at botakis, etc., there was just too much to spend. I was anouter-island volunteer, however -- I recall that S. Tarawa volunteers had towatch their money more closely as there are many more things to buy on S.Tarawa.

For larger expenses (such as vacations, etc.), the PC kept cash/traveler's checks in a lock-box for us. I brought a few hundred dollars in cash when I first went to Kiribati and brought it all back home as well. Didn't spend a centof it because I had so much from my PC daily allowance. Then again, I didn'tleave the country during my time there so I didn't have to pay for airfare, etc.However, I did use my credit card once to pay for a few night's stay at the Otintaai Hotel on Tarawa when I had visitors.

If possible, I would recommend you provide power of attorney to someone youtrust in the states, or simply set up an automatic payment plan for your creditcard. Leave a chunk of change in your bank account here and use a credit card(make sure the expiration is good for the full time you'll be in Kiribati) tocharge airfare, hotel, etc if you decide to vacation to Fiji, etc. When I was in Kiribati, there was a Aus$15.00 surcharge on anything purchased via credit card (because it cost so much for the vendor to call to make the funds transfer), so you'd only use it in limited circumstances. But -- if a ticket overseas costs several hundred bucks or more, a small surcharge is worth it so you don't have to keep so much cash on hand. Then again, only a very select few places accepted credit cards (the only western hotel, the travel agent, etc.) -- so it's wise to have some cash on hand if you need it in a pinch. [posted by stu]

Q: What is the process of washing clothes like? Can I buy a bucket, detergent, and any other items used in the process?

A: Washing clothes is , as you said, in a bucket. you can get plenty of buckets in kiribati, and detergent. in fact, our training director gave us each one when we first got there. you hand wash your clothes, and line dry them. it's actually not that bad, as you are often bored. also, other people may offer to wash them for you, like your host mom or sister, so you can let them if you want. that'll be up to you. [posted by Gina]

Q: In general, how secure is your "stuff" when you go out for the day? I assume that the doors of the homes have no locks; is theft not an issue, or do you have to be protective of your things?

A: Peace corps provides you with a lock and chain that you can use on your door in training and then bring to your site. you may want to bring a combination lock, as keys get lost (if you're like me:). it is a requirement that your house has a door. in general, security is not a big issue because people look out for your stuff. just keep all your valuables locked in your house--people won't generally break in. that being said, it has happened, so don't show off anything of finacial value, like a cd player. some people lock their bikes up too, but i never did. you'll have to evaluate your site's safety when you get there, but in general theft is not a major issue, but a random drunk guy can easily ruin that. [posted by Gina]

Q: I have heard that many PCVs take a break after the first year mark. Is this true? Are you able to take shorter breaks? How much freedom do you have to take breaks as you please? Do your breaks have to coincide with breaks during the school year.

A: Many people do take vacations--you get like two days of vacation per month. the new rules around it will depend on the new country director. you'll have to get those specifics during training. [posted by Gina]

Q: When you travel back to Tarawa every so often are there times when you're not able to get back to your island for a while, since the planes are so erratic? What do you do if you're "stuck" there for a few days?

A: When you are stuck on your island or tarawa, that's about it. you just hang out till the plane comes. i personally alomost missed my parents visit when they came because of a plane problem. luckily i was able to get on a ship that was going to tarawa just before they came. there is also a new passenger boat called the "super cat" that goes to alot of the northern and central islands that you are allowed to travel on if it goes to your island. but inter-island transportation is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of kiribati as a peace corps post. like i said before, you just haveto "go with the flow". and yes, as an education volunteer you will only be allowed to take vacation during school breaks. [posted by Gina]

Q: Has anyone had a friend or family member visit them on their outer island? If so, how did it go?

A: Quite a few people had parents visit outer islands. it's a great thing to do because they will be such honored guests in your community. it does require some pre-planning. my parents used a travel agent, so that took care of everything like visa's, etc., but you can probably do it cheaper on your own. it's better to wait to plan that until you've been in kiribati a few months. [posted by Gina]

Q: My aunt bought me a steripen, which is a UV light water purifier that de-natures the DNA of bacteria in water. Is this unneccesary in addition to what is given by peace corps, or would it b a good supplement/backup?

A: This is unneccesary--the PC will give you a good one for your personal use, and boiled water will get you through training. just don't forget your nalgene (bring a few)! [posted by Gina]

Q: Many of the shorts at camping stores that have UV protection and are conducive for hot, humid weather are fairly short; well above the knee. I remember reading a lot about wearing shorts that are below the knee. How culturally important is this to the Kiribati?

A: It is VERY important your shorts cover your knees. you won't actually be in the sun that much--it's too hot, so you stay in the shade, as will Kiribati people. I would say don't bother. [posted by Gina]

Q: I bought a sun shower that holds 5 gallons of water. Is this a good idea?

A: Frankly, no. it is hot enough in kiribati that you won't need a warm shower--a cold bath is refreshing, and you also won't have room in your "bathroom" for it, so you'd have to use it outside, and it would bring weird attention, and you won't be wanting extra attention. [posted by Gina]

Q: Is the Peace Corps-issued sunblock and insect repellent of a good quality or should I bring my own?

A: The PC stuff is fine. maybe bring some insect repellent without Deet. [posted by Gina]

I'd say bring a bit of your own to start. The sunblock isn't waterproof,which I find a bit annoying & like using my own. The insect repellentworks, but smells. I'd bring some with you, but not too much... someone can always send you some more later. [posted by Lindsey]

Q: What recommendations do you have for the bags/luggage with which I bring all of my stuff to Kiribati? How many carry-on bags are permitted? Do things get complicated with baggage when transferring to the smaller planes?

A: bring suitcases with good, sturdy wheels. You won't be backpacking or anything, so standard suitcases are the best to carry heavy stuff. You will also use them to store your clothes when you get there. I think you are allowed up to 80lbs, and like 15 for your carry on. Don't push the limit because the airport in fiji has been known to enforce the rules. Don't worry about small planes--you won't deal with them till after training, and you'll get tips and advice from staff and volunteers for that when you head out to your island. [posted by Gina]

Q: What computer capabilities will I have in South Tarawa? Do most PCVs go to the Peace Corps dorm/headquarters to use their computer? Mainly I want to know what most people do about uploading pictures from a digital camera and freeing up space on memory cards.

A: People use the computers at the PC office, and there really aren't any others--there is one place on south that has a lab, but the PC stuff is much better. but, keep in mind you won't have access to those until you officially become a volunteer AFTER training. so don't tell your families you will email them when you get there, because you probably won't be able to. you proably can from fiji, and PC will probably send out a big one to everyone's contacts to say you arrived safely. after a week or two you may get a chance to call from north tarawa, or MAYBE in the first week from south, but don't have anyone count on it. basically, bring an extra memory card for your camera, because you'll take alot of pictures in training. there

is also one camera store on south that you can get them printed as pictures (not just on paper), but it's really expensive. most people send film/memory cards home, and have one set saved at home, and another mailed back to distribute. that is what i did, and it worked
out well. [posted by Gina]

Q: How much training/materials does peace corps give regarding teaching techniques and ESL information and what should I bring?

A: You'd have to get this advice from an education volunteer, but anything you can find on teaching ESL to primary students would be good to bring, and you can use it in school, or with your family and friends informally. [posted by Gina] I thought that there was a complete lack of educational resources, especially when it came to teaching English. There is basically nothing in the schools and teachers will often ask you to explain topics to them, and even though you understand it, explaining it becomes difficult. So one good thorough book would have been awesome. I often taught Math and Science as well and a resource book in these areas would also have been valuable. [posted by Nikki]

Q: Should I bring a hammock, buy one in Tarawa, or have one made on the outer island?

A: I say wait till you get out to your island and see your setup, but opinions vary. [posted by Gina]

Q: How do PCVs make up for the lack fruits and vegetables? Vitamins and supplements? Dried fruits and veggies? Freeze-dried fruits and veggies? And, also, what about dairy? Powdered milk?

A: PC provides daily vitamins. have people send you dried fruit and stuff. there is regular milk available on south, and powdered is (usually) available on the outer islands. you can buy some canned fruit and vegetables on south, and on a few of the outer islands. [posted by Gina] The medical officer will fill you in on all of this. The local fruits help & you'll get vitamins (bring your own supply for training) [posted by Lindsey]

Q: What is a good way to transfer funds from the U.S. to the Tarawa bank account? Also, am I able to use an account in the U.S. to pay for a plane ticket bought online, for example?

A: You can transfer the funds through any bank from US dollars to Australian--I just sent some money, but it cost like $36 to send. There is also a western union. But wait on that until you get there and get an idea of how much you are going to need. PC gives you plenty, in my opinion, so save what you have now for when you get back and are unemployed (like me). If you buy an international plane ticket in Tarawa, you have to pay cash, but the bank is directly downstairs from the travel agency. Some people have tickets bought by people in the US and mailed to them. Again, wait till you get there and get a better idea of the situation. [posted by Gina]
Q: I read that the Kiribati swim in their clothes. Would it be acceptable for me to wear a swim suit?

A: Yes, if it covered your knees, but you won't actually be swimming that much. In fact, some people (men) wear swimsuits all the time, because kiribati people don't differentiate them from shorts. [posted by Gina]

No comments: