Can I be a vegetarian in the Peace Corps?
Peace Corps Applicant "Peaceful Core" writes: "So it all started when I had my first conversation on Monday with Placement Officer J about me being a vegetarian. After 15 minutes it was apparent that the Peace Corps does not appreciate vegetarians and that being one during your 27 months service is not a good thing. She kept asking me how I was going to explain why I was a vegetarian to people in my host country, which will be in Africa. I tried to explain myself. She then said that with the language barrier, I would not be able to be understood. I got the feeling that she was basically asking me to eat meat. She then tells me that another Placement Officer, P would call me later this week. And that I should meanwhile think about how I will approach this."
Answer: They're not lying when they say that it's not culturally appropriate to turn down food that is offered to you. I'm sure that's as true in Africa as it is in Latin America, where I've studied and traveled. PC has told me several times that I'm perfectly welcome to try to keep any type of diet that I'd like, but that I should recognize how difficult it might be, both in terms of food availability and cultural norms. When it comes down to it (and it may), will you choose to eat meat to integrate into your community, or ET and come home? That's what PC wants to know. They want to know that if you were faced with that situation, your desire to serve is stronger than your desire to keep vegism." Read more.
Can I be terminated for being away from my site without permission?
Costa Rica Peace Corps Volunteer Gringa Perdida writes: This week we've lost a volunteer. Saturday, Mike is leaving on a jet plane. This is nothing less than tragic. Actually, I believe 'ironic' would be a better describer. Mike was faced with 'administrative separation' for not calling Peace Corps to tell them that he would be passing the night out of his site. He was working in San Jose, and simply forgot to call in. It's something I, in my gnat-like attention span and attention to detail, have done more than once. Peace Corps found out and he was given the option to quit or be fired. So he had 24 hours to pack his things, say goodbye to his community and get out of the country. There is a policy, of course. The new policy is 'zero tolerance' and he is being made an example of. Anytime subjectivity is removed from punishments, it always seems to fall on the people that deserve it the least. Read more.
What is Peace Corps' policy on Tattoos and Piercings?
A Romania RPCV writes: "It has sadly come to my attention that Peace Corps is looking to become more discriminatory of applicants based on their artistic expression. Applicants who have tattoos will be heavily screened if not totally rejected from going to Asia, Central Asia and Eastern European regions because PC wants to give the world "a more professional view" of Americans.
According to Peace Corps, countries in Central Asia and also Ukraine have a view of tattoos as a sign you have been in prison. I know this is true to a certain extent because I know a few returned volunteers who have served in Central Asian countries. But as a lot of you RPCVs out there who have served in EE/CA regions can attest to is that tattoos are growing within the region in popularity with host country nationals, as are piercings. As a returned volunteer from Romania, I certainly can say this. Volunteers got facial piercings in-country, tattoos in country, did it compromise their job and the respect they had gained while there? No, not at all. Some of these volunteers ended up extending.
So my big issue here is where will Peace Corps draw the line? If there is a totally qualified primary education teacher trainer, certified with experience, who has a tattoo on her ankle, and then another primary education candidate with no certification and 6 months primary tutoring experience, with no tattoo, who are they going to choose? Is it about physical professionalism now in PC instead of what skills you can bring to your Peace Corps country?" Read more.