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Author Topic: What did you bring?  (Read 15568 times)

David

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What did you bring?
« on: November 07, 2013, 04:24:41 PM »
From what I have read it looks like you can only bring two suitcases, and a carry on.  Can your carry on be a large backpack?  I know there are suggested packing lists for the countries. 

I want to know two things...

What are the two things you are most happiest that you brought?

What are the two things you did not bring and really wish you had?

Offline Amelia.Plant

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2013, 03:53:21 AM »
Whoa, packing!  It is so overwhelming to try to pack everything you will need for two years into those suitcases.  I would say to not try to bring as many bags as possible.  I took a small rolling bag as my carry on and two large rolling bags for checked luggage and it was a real pain dragging all of those through the airport.

In terms of what exactly to pack, it is pretty country-specific.  So talk with people who are serving in the country you will be in, but also take their advice with a grain of salt.  Many people will give different advice and I know I got overwhelmed with the quantity of information.

So here are a few tips:

1.  Bring clothes that you would wear in the states - do you like to hang out in jeans and a t-shirt?  BRING THEM!  For those girls out there who like to party in cute dresses, bring a couple!  You will have opportunities to look cute and you want to be comfortable.

2.  Learn what you need to wear for your primary assignment.  If you are in a government office, you may need some button-down shirts.  Again, this depends on your placement.

3.  See what things you can buy in-country.  Botswana has many things I needed.  Also, in terms of medical supplies, PC provides you with anything and everything you may need.  But you may not get your medical kit until after PST (with advil, tylenol, etc) so it makes sense to bring some basic painkillers and antacids with you at first.

4.  A MUST-HAVE are comfortable walking shoes.  Sandals.  Boots.  Whatever.  This depends on the amount of exercise/extra activities you think you may do, but good walking sandals/sneakers are important.

5.  Sleeping bag and sleeping pad (optional).  If you want to travel around the country or stay with other volunteers, it is good to have a sleeping bag.  Usually cheaper and better quality to buy in the states.

6.  External hard drive for media sharing.

To answer your questions:

I am happy I bought flash cards to learn the language (the ones here are only in the capital and are very expensive) and a head lamp.  A kindle was also wonderful to have.

Most things I wanted that I didn't bring I just bought in-country--french press, etc.  I wish I had brought more clothing--or more clothing I liked.

Will write more tips as I think of them.
Amelia
RPCV, Botswana 2011-2013

Offline Jeff

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2013, 09:06:03 PM »
The thing I was most happy I brought - probably a headlamp.  Nothing like actually being able to see and carry stuff at night, and read when you don't have electricity.

As for a second thing, probably a laptop, but that was somewhat situational.  Everything else I either thought I needed I really didn't, or could get something more or less equivalent in the city closest to my site (and pretty much anything in the capital).

Actually, second thing would probably be a good pair of Teva's or my shortwave radio......
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline the boss

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2013, 09:31:36 AM »
Happy that I brought...
I was very happy that I brought a good hat.  The sun was very hot in Africa and I needed it.  I wore it every day for two years.
I was very happy that I brought my laptop.  The Peace Corps seems to give mixed messages about computers.  You WILL need one plus it will be a source of entertainment a way to communicate.

Could have left at home...
I brought a lot of office supplies (note pads, pens, etc) that I never needed.  I could buy them where I was.
I brought a lot of pairs of shorts that I never wore.  Adult males didn't wear shorts in my village.  I could have gone ahead and worn them but didn't need to stick out any more than I already did.

Offline bobsteward51

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2013, 07:03:09 AM »
I found I packed too many clothes.  I would wear one set per week as washing them was difficult. Good shoes, sandals and socks.  Good coat preferably a rain jacket that can keep you warm if needed.  Morocco was very rainy, very hot and very cold so had to have stuff for all extremes.  The longer cargo shorts for summer would have worked out well but I did not take any.  Laptop, power strip, adapters/converters, portable hard drive with movies, books, etc., a good multi-tool like the Gerber Leatherman, sleeping bag & good pad, a 40L pack (I found this big enough to carry all kinds of stuff to include a laptop & charger, but not so big it is hard to get it in transportation and worked as a carry on for air planes), sunglasses, hats, small gifts for host families (calendars worked great), swim suit, wash/face cloth (hard to find in Morocco), good skin lotions were hard to find (my wife and I found we both needed this), water bottle was essential, collapsing cups (look in a hike shop/REI type place).  Peace Corps will give you a medical kit with scissors, tweezers (sometimes upon request), an emergency whistle, antibiotics, first aid cream, antacids, ibuprofen, band aids, sun screen, Chapstick, etc.  Gatorade was great on hot days when you really needed something other than Peace Corps hydration salts.  Take the small packets and have someone send you the big container in a care package later.  Nescafe was a blessing and saved me even though I would not drink it in the US.  It was great in Morocco on a cold winter day.  Again take the small individual packs to get you through your stay with the host families until you can start making your own if ever.  Also when buying stuff before you leave ask the store if they give Peace Corps discounts.  I never found any but many volunteers did and sometimes they are substantial. 

Carolynn Mambu

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2013, 09:40:17 PM »
Agreed, regular clothes, a good sleeping bag, head lamp, good walking shoes (at least 2 pairs), small lap top that is light and easy to carry around.

A few things not mentioned that I use a lot are a small pocket camera. You will not likely want to carry around a big camera as Volunteers are typically on the move a lot. A decent mid-sized back pack makes it easy for bus travel and hitching. And a pocket knife (swiss army or other).

Something to consider, if you have anything that requires batteries, get rechargeable. Almost everyone in Botswana uses rechargeable batteries so their regular battery stock does not rotate very much. When you buy them, the batteries are old and do not last very long.   

One more thing, do not bring anything that you cannot live without. If it is very valuable, leave it at home or, at a minimum, insure it. PC can help you get cheap personal property insurance. Volunteers lose -- misplace or have stollen -- all kinds of things. Remember, you will be living in a fish bowl. Everyone will know what you have and what you are doing. I find it simpler not to create  temptation.

Good luck! I hope you love your service!

redmaypril

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2013, 08:34:12 AM »
I brought a lot of stuff that I never used - namely, clothes. I ended up mostly wearing clothing that I had tailored for me in country - it was cheap and fit my lifestyle better anyway. My best possessions were a headlamp, a Nalgene bottle, and a leatherman. A thermarest came in handy when I went to visit other volunteers. Photos were also precious. Good sandals (I brought Tevas) were essential. But I was in rural West Africa. I guess the packing list would vary somewhat depending on where you were placed.

Offline Katlego

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2013, 10:52:54 PM »
I totally agree with Carolynn on her items and comments. Headlamp was a must. I got a rechargeable one and also a camera w a rechargeable battery so never had to buy any batteries. Deal with the extra cost now will save you money and hassle later.

I bought a fancy large backpack to carry stuff over there and only used it to carry my stuff back again. My other two must have items were my day pack which was bigger than the average day  back pack but within carry on size, with lots of pockets. I found if I put everything in the same place all the time pocket wise I never stressed out when traveling or worry if I had everything I needed. The other item was a very sturdy, durable folding nylon bag. Mine was a bagalinni brand which when I bought it I thought was pricey but it served as my second small bag for shopping or traveling for a few days. Both fit easily under bus seats or above head and were closed with no exposed pockets. Two small. Ages are better than one large one.

Shoes are a huge deal. If your feet hurt, life sucks. My down jacket was great in the winter and could be packed small.  Okay more than 2 things.

Agree with Amelia that you should bring clothes you like. I brought clunky old lady clothes befitting my age there, but not my age or how I dress at home. Still, be sure to have clothes you can wear to be respectful, but make sure you like them. Also, I saw younger than me women in other groups complain about being harassed by men, but they insisted on wearing very  short shorts and skimpy tops. A time and a place for this, but have a back up plan or get thicker skin.

Offline shawn

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2013, 07:14:06 AM »
Two things I'm glad I brought:

My camera and my netbook. (Close calls were my external HDD, nice pens, mech pencils, and mini notebooks)

Two Things I wish I'd brought:
Skittles. There is no second thing. Just Skittles
PCVL - Rwanda 2010-2013
NPCA Serving Volunteer Advisory Council

Offline Tyler

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2013, 01:30:36 PM »
I'm in CED, and we're supposed to dress basically business casual at our job- did anyone bring an iron?
-Tyler, FPCV, Costa Rica

Offline Amelia.Plant

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2013, 11:50:36 PM »
In Botswana, an iron was easy to buy in the capital city and bring it to our villages.  I would suggest not bring one in your suitcase.  They are quite heavy.  Perhaps ask if it is possible to buy one in-country.
Amelia
RPCV, Botswana 2011-2013

Offline Branden Ryan

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2013, 09:58:28 AM »
What are the two things you are most happiest that you brought?
1- My Nook. When the electricity goes out and I don't want to drain my laptop battery while sitting in my house, it is great to have stuff to read to keep me occupied.
2- Pictures. I have tons of pictures from back home on my living room wall (though the heat makes the duct tape that holds them up melt and they fall occasionally). They give me a little homesickness sometimes, but they're nice to have up and the students and teachers at my school like to see what life in the US looks like.

What are the two things you did not bring and really wish you had?
1- I second the french press. They're available in the capital but a bit pricey.
2- More media/second hard drive. You'll share a lot of media in country. I can't bring myself to clear out my movie cache because I never know when I'll be sitting at site and want to watch a certain movie on a day in the house, haha!
Branden Ryan
PCV, Tanzania, 2013-2015

Offline the boss

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2013, 05:12:24 PM »
When the Volunteers got together they would share movies and tv shows that they had on their laptops.  Sometimes we all wanted to watch a movie together.  But it is really hard for more than 2 or 3 to crowd around a small laptop screen. 

One guy had a small projector device that put the image onto a wall so everyone could see.  I did not have one and don't know how much they cost, but if I ever go back I am taking one for sure.

The one he had was very small, looked to be no bigger than a large smartphone, and I think cost around $120 or so. 

Offline Mary

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2013, 11:53:31 AM »
Glad I brought: Good quality shoes. That includes hiking shoes, and walking sandals (got 50% Chaco's sandals with Peace Corps discount) and heels for work. I picked up a lot of clothes in-country and the quality was cheap, but that's ok as I could sew them back up myself. Cheap shoes you can't fix. Also glad I brought a lot of photos of friends and family

Wish I'd brought: a tent, but I love hiking and lived in a mountainous area so that may not apply to you.

Offline Chloe

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Re: What did you bring?
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2013, 12:17:23 PM »
My go-to answer for anyone packing for PC:
Bring anything you care about the quality of. Depending on who you are, that might be nail polish or a pillow or coffee or running shoes (I brought a foam pillow that I stuffed down into a gallon size zip bag, and it was worth it for me).
Remember that no matter where you are going to live, you will be in a community and everyone there needs the same basic things you do so you will be able to get them one way or another. Bring what makes you happy and what makes you you.

Another great little packing tip I received from someone who served in the '70s: When you are packing your socks and underwear, divide everything into two zip bags. Use one bag for your first year of service, and one for the second. You will thank yourself for it.