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Author Topic: My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!  (Read 2949 times)

Offline JustinK

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My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!
« on: February 27, 2015, 09:58:50 AM »
My best friend, basically my brother, is leaving for the Peace Corps in June. I'm so excited for him! My first question is what should I get him? Kind of as a gift I guess. I planned on getting him a nice set of luggage like a  lightweight Tumi set like mine. However my father thinks it might be too nice for the environment. He doesn't mind the cost factor, but he's a veteran. He also worked for the state department and now works for the DoD so he's traveled to a lot of "harsh areas". My friend doesn't have any good luggage so I really wanted to do that for him. Is there anything else that he'll need? I'm thinking a nice rain jacket and things like that.

I also want to send him care packages over time but I'm not sure what those should include.

I myself want to go into the peace corps, but he graduates a year earlier than me. It's going to be hard, but I definitely want to visit him and have him visit me. How much time is allotted for this? I would love to go to Madagascar.

Is there anything else that I should know? Thanks!

Offline Jeff

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Re: My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2015, 12:53:31 PM »
Good luggage is a great thing, but I would check with some current volunteers or others that have served in Madagascar to see what they recommend.

For me, I have some various Eagle Creek stuff that works great...but remember, anything he brings he may have to lug around long distances and over not so nice terrain.  Some 'luxury' luggage has issues, especially if it is wheeled and the wheels are not designed for rugged environments (I'm NOT saying no wheeled - I had wheeled luggage in West Africa, but they were designed for rugged use).

This is the wheeled bag I have and have used travelling around: http://shop.eaglecreek.com/orv-trunk-30/d/1279_cl_2364.

EDIT: Link doesn't seem to work - name of the bag is Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30.

If this isn't a suprise gift, and he knows you are buying stuff, you may want to grab a copy of his invite, as lots of companies give great discounts on things.  I was able to get the above trunk for a significant discount through Eagle Creek's Peace Corps discount.

I've never actually been to Madagascar, so I would definitely recommend seeing if you can contact anyone there or who has served there (Future Peace Corps Volunteers Facebook page is a great place to network).
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline Jeff

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Re: My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2015, 12:55:35 PM »
Also, here's a link to the PC Welcome Book for Madagascar from last year...there is a "Packing List" section in the back that might have some ideas.

http://files.peacecorps.gov/manuals/welcomebooks/mgwb684.pdf
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline koji

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Re: My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2015, 02:41:24 PM »
That is awesome that you are so supportive of your friend. I can't say much about luggage, as I went with a second hand suitcase and a backpacking backpack (the pack was the best decision because it made it much easier to carry around). However, I can say some about how much you and your friend can visit.

In general, your friend will not be able to have visitors or leave their site during training (3 months) or at the first three months of service, so 6 months in total. However, some posts make an exception about the having visitors during the first three months of service part, so you might be able to visit him a little bit earlier, like the 5th month.

After that, volunteers build up 2 vacation days a month, and they can usually borrow 6 months ahead (so, 12 vacation days). However, weekends when they are out of country count as vacation days... so, if your friend has 12 days of vacation, that means that he can leave the country for 12 days- not 16 days like you would be able to squeeze in with a normal job. This makes going back to the states difficult, but if your friend can afford it, it is not impossible. There was one volunteer in my group that went back to the US every other month for a weekend. Of course, that is extreme and is not the norm.

Many volunteers make 1-2 trips back to the states and then have people from the states visit them. You can usually stay for about a week without any approval from the peace corps. However, if you are staying with your friend for, like, a month over summer vacation, then pc will have to approve that and your friend will have to explain how you will not disrupt his work and social bonds while you are there. BUT, you can visit as often as you like.

One final thing- your friend wont be able to leave the country for the last 3 months of his service, either. So, try not to make any fun plans right before he finishes up.

Offline JustinK

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Re: My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2015, 06:18:22 PM »
Good luggage is a great thing, but I would check with some current volunteers or others that have served in Madagascar to see what they recommend.

For me, I have some various Eagle Creek stuff that works great...but remember, anything he brings he may have to lug around long distances and over not so nice terrain.  Some 'luxury' luggage has issues, especially if it is wheeled and the wheels are not designed for rugged environments (I'm NOT saying no wheeled - I had wheeled luggage in West Africa, but they were designed for rugged use).

This is the wheeled bag I have and have used travelling around: http://shop.eaglecreek.com/orv-trunk-30/d/1279_cl_2364.

EDIT: Link doesn't seem to work - name of the bag is Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30.

If this isn't a suprise gift, and he knows you are buying stuff, you may want to grab a copy of his invite, as lots of companies give great discounts on things.  I was able to get the above trunk for a significant discount through Eagle Creek's Peace Corps discount.

I've never actually been to Madagascar, so I would definitely recommend seeing if you can contact anyone there or who has served there (Future Peace Corps Volunteers Facebook page is a great place to network).


Thank you so much for that bag recommendation! That's a nice looking bag! Would it be too much to get the 36 inch one,? Will one piece of luggage suffice? I'm a big traveler, but I'm also that person who packs excessively, lol. I know this isn't a vacation, so I'm trying to think of this rationally and get him what he absolutely needs. Its definitely a surprise. Is there any way I can get his invite from the peace corps? Maybe I can just sneak around and make a copy of it (or have one of his siblings do it haha). Will he needs a good "rugged backpage"? He used a leather backpack and a canvas tote from J Crew right now. The eagle creek brand seems to have a lot of really nice stuff.

Thanks for that packing list! I went over it and there's a lot of stuff on there I can get from the military supply store tax free/discounted. I'll have to ask my dad if he can take me.

That is awesome that you are so supportive of your friend. I can't say much about luggage, as I went with a second hand suitcase and a backpacking backpack (the pack was the best decision because it made it much easier to carry around). However, I can say some about how much you and your friend can visit.

In general, your friend will not be able to have visitors or leave their site during training (3 months) or at the first three months of service, so 6 months in total. However, some posts make an exception about the having visitors during the first three months of service part, so you might be able to visit him a little bit earlier, like the 5th month.

After that, volunteers build up 2 vacation days a month, and they can usually borrow 6 months ahead (so, 12 vacation days). However, weekends when they are out of country count as vacation days... so, if your friend has 12 days of vacation, that means that he can leave the country for 12 days- not 16 days like you would be able to squeeze in with a normal job. This makes going back to the states difficult, but if your friend can afford it, it is not impossible. There was one volunteer in my group that went back to the US every other month for a weekend. Of course, that is extreme and is not the norm.

Many volunteers make 1-2 trips back to the states and then have people from the states visit them. You can usually stay for about a week without any approval from the peace corps. However, if you are staying with your friend for, like, a month over summer vacation, then pc will have to approve that and your friend will have to explain how you will not disrupt his work and social bonds while you are there. BUT, you can visit as often as you like.

One final thing- your friend wont be able to leave the country for the last 3 months of his service, either. So, try not to make any fun plans right before he finishes up.


Thanks for all of the useful information! I definitely wanted to visit him for a couple weeks because flights each way seem to be around 3 grand. Wanted to make the most of it! I understand he has a lot of duties and obligations though. Don't want to get in his way.

I know his parents will force him to come back and visit, but I really want to visit him there too!

Offline Jeff

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Re: My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2015, 07:22:40 AM »
The 36 inch one in and of itself is not too big...but I would personally recommend the smaller one.  The reason being most PC countries that I'm familiar with have a size limit of 107 linear inches (adding the H+W+L) for all checked bags, with no more than 2 bags total to check.

Additionally, you usually get one carry on of 45 linear inches.  The two bags I took with me as checked bags are the ORV Trunk I mentioned before, and the Digi Hauler backpack (also from Eagle Creek).  Together they are 105 linear inches.  Some people prefer a rigid-frame pack versus just a more-or-less regular backpack, but it worked for me.  The Welcome Book I linked to below I think has the luggage limits, so you might want to check there before you buy anything as well.

Packing excessively for PC is something almost everyone does.  But it's actually NOT a good thing for PC.  Couple of reasons - 1) as mentioned before, you have to lug everything around on your own and get it to fit on local transport which can be a real problem, and 2) you will get lots of stuff from PC during Pre-Service Training, so if you already have too much stuff, then its really going to get bad!

Personally, I took an expandable duffel that I packed in my suitcase, and when I actually got to country, I basically filled the duffel with stuff I brought, realized i didn't need, and never even opened it once the whole two years.

As far as the invitation goes, it actually comes as an email.  It does have links to all kinds of information in it about the country and program, so if you were really trying to surprise him, you could always ask him to forward it so you can check out the links...?  The only question may be if Eagle Creek will honor the discount since the invitation is in his name and you are trying to purchase it.  Definitely worth asking though.  I would make sure they understand you are purchasing it for him as a gift for his exclusive use while in the Peace Corps, and you probably should be willing to ship it to him in his name/address.  I believe most of those discount programs require purchasing for oneself only.

Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline JustinK

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Re: My friend is going to Madagascar - have some questions!
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2015, 10:20:11 AM »
Yeah, I got him to send me the email! Haha, I feel weird using it, but it should work out fine.

I actually found the bag on a third party website (Luggage Pros) for 280 dollars with also a 10% coupon for signing up for emails - brings it down to like 267, which is a pretty reasonable price. I'll see what I can get with having his letter.
http://www.luggagepros.com/eagle-creek-exploration-series-orv-trunk-30.shtml?utm_source=GoogleBase&utm_medium=feed&utm_term=Eagle%20Creek&utm_campaign=PID24385&gclid=CKaejP-TmcQCFY-EaQodnX8Aiw

I'm glad to know that the PC countries have specific size requirements. My friend is a very chill person. He's not the type to overpack. His mom will try to, but he'll pretty much just bring only whats on the list (if that lol). He just kind of exists sometimes requiring barely anything, haha. He'll hate that I'm buying anything for him, but oh well. Thanks for all of the help! This is so difficult.