Feb 28 2012

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How to Contact Me

As mentioned in my previous posts, I will have no access to the internet for the first 8 weeks in Malawi. Which means, I can only be contacted through regular snail mail. Unless it’s an emergency then you may contact:
Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington
Phone: 1-800-424-8580, Ext 1470, or 202- 692-1470
Below is a letter I received from the Peace Corps on irregular communication:

A Letter from the Peace Corps on Irregular Communication

The mail service in Malawi is not as efficient as the US Postal Service; thus, it is important to be patient and understanding.  It can take three to four weeks for mail coming from Lilongwe to arrive in the United States via the Malawi postal system.  From a Volunteer’s site, mail might take 1-2 months to reach the United States.  Sometimes mail is hand carried to the United States by a traveler and mailed through the US postal system (Volunteers should bring some US stamps).  This leg of the trip can take another several weeks as it is also dependent on the frequency of travelers to the US.  There is a truism that you may wish to embrace as uncomfortable as it is, “No news, is good news!”

On average, it takes approximately four weeks for letters mailed from the United States to reach Lilongwe, and may take an additional six weeks to reach the Volunteer’s site.  We suggest that in your first letters, you ask your Volunteer family member to give an estimate of how long it takes to receive your letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often you will write to each other.  Also, try numbering your letters so that the Volunteer knows if they have missed one.  Postcards should be sent in envelopes – otherwise they may be found on the wall of the local post office!  By the end of their Pre-Service Training they will be able to send you their specific site address.

For the first 8 weeks in country, your family member will be living in a village near the training site (about one hour drive south of Lilongwe) and participating in an intensive, immersion style training program where they will begin to learn language, cultural norms,  and technical skills necessary to be a safe and productive Peace Corps Volunteer.  During this time, they WILL NOT have access to email/Internet but can certainly receive and send letters.  Receiving mail during this intense period is most welcome and appreciated.  Once they are sworn-in as Volunteers, they will have access to the Peace Corps computers in the office and can reestablish email communication.  However, you must remember that NO Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi has daily or even weekly access to email so you should have limited expectations as to immediate replies to any emails you will be sending.

Volunteers often enjoy telling their “war” stories when they write home.  Letters might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, etc.  While the subject matter is important, it is often misinterpreted on the home front.  Further, given the lag time in communication by the time you receive certain news, weeks if not months have passed and your family member has moved past a particularly sad moment when they miss you, or that specific illness, and don’t understand why it is that you are so concerned anymore!  There are two extremely competent Peace Corps medical doctors at the Peace Corps office in Lilongwe.  In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer is sent to Lilongwe and cared for by our medical staff.  If the Volunteer requires medical care that is not available in Malawi s/he will be medically evacuated to Pretoria, South Africa, or the United States.  Fortunately, these are rare circumstances.

If for some reason your normal communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member for an abnormal amount of time, you may want to contact the Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-800-424-8580, Ext 1470, or 202- 692-1470.  The Office of Special Services will then contact the Peace Corps Director in Lilongwe and ask him to check up on the Volunteer. Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, critical illness, etc.), please do not hesitate to call OSS immediately, so that we can inform the Volunteer. Tell the operator your name, telephone number, and the nature of the emergency and the Duty Officer will call you back.

For lightweight, but important or time sensitive items, we would recommend using an express mail service.  DHL is one possibility and other courier services may operate in Lilongwe.  For more information about DHL, please call their toll free number, 1-800-CALL-DHL, or visit their web site at www.dhl.com. We advise you to shop around to find the best prices and service options.

If you choose to send items through DHL, you must address the package to:

John Mark Esplana, PCT

c/o  U. S. Peace Corps Malawi

(You’ll also need to include the Peace Corps/Malawi phone number: 265-1-757-157).


If you’ve been following my posts, I’m sure you’ve figured out that I like the 80’s. I especially like Lionel Richie and I can honestly say that I have sang in front of people at a bar and sang a few of his songs… Here’s the best part, I wasn’t drunk! Luckily, the audience were so I sort of sounded good. LOL

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Permanent link to this article: http://peacecorps.jmephotographie.com/2012/02/contactme/


  1. BDB

    Love will find the way and Stuck on you, best lionel ritchie songs EVER

    1. jesplana

      I couldn’t agree more.. AAA+++

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