Friday, May 4, 2012

It’s almost time for a new batch of trainees!

To anyone who got that blue packet that was so long awaited, congratulations! You got into the Peace Corps! And you got assigned to one of the most beautiful countries in the world, get ready for two crazy years. But first, that ever important question about what to pack . . . I remember stressing out about how I was going to fit all of my belongings for the next two years into two bags and a carry on. Fact: I use about half of the stuff that I brought. It’s inevitable that you are going to bring some things that are ridiculous, but here is a list of things that you might consider.
 -    1. D-light solar light/charger: This thing is awesome. It can charge your phone and ipod and is a great light. However it’s not a necessity to get a solar charger. Most sites have charging stations where someone hooks up a generator and many of us charge there, or your school could have solar power. But if you get placed in a small village, this will be very useful.
      2.Clothes: Yes, bring the ‘professional clothes’ that PC tells you to bring. But don’t stress about it. I really don’t wear any of those clothes that I brought with me, you can buy cute, cheap clothes here in the market (its like thrift store shopping). The clothes that I wish I would have brought more of are the ones I wear after school (tank tops, capri yoga pants, Bermuda shorts, light dresses) those are the ones that are not the easiest to find here. If you’re a girl, bring a cute dress, we like to go out here and you will want to not look like a teacher  
      3.Computer: If you can swing it, try to bring a computer. PC is moving away from paper handouts and is in the habit of giving us flashdrives with a lot of great resources on it. But if you don’t have a computer it’s a little difficult to access those. You will be absolutely fine if you don’t bring one (we have computers at the PC hostel in Freetown) but I’m happy that I have mine.

       4.Music player/speakers: Dance parties are a must. Even if you don’t listen to pop music, pack it full of ridiculous top 40 stuff so you can jam out with your neighbor kids, that will be the only American music they have a chance of knowing (Akon and Rihanna preferably).

      5.  Locks: Tsa approved locks for your luggage. PC gives you a padlock for your lockbox so don’t bring one. I think I have like three padlocks floating around my house that I don’t use.

      6. Shoes: For girls: One or two pairs of cute, leather sandals to wear to training and to teach in.  before I came and I never wear them. I also brought those silly croc ballet flats. DON’T BUY THOSE!! They suck in the rainy season, I was constantly slipping out of my shoes and as someone already disposed to clumsiness, that was not good. You can get pretty durable flip flops here. But it’s hard to find dressy sandals that won’t break in a week, so if you can find those, bring them.

      7. Luxury Items: Bring some jewelry if you want. In the culture here it is strange if a woman doesn’t wear earrings so bring a few pairs. 

       8.Towel: Those tech dry ones are cool 

       9.Toiletries: The basics; shampoo, deodorant, makeup, body spray, face wash, razors etc. You can get the stuff here but it’s nice to have American quality for awhile. I’m still using my shampoo from the states and I just brought a regular sized bottle. Bring two big tubes of toothpaste, it’s nice to feel Crest minty clean. And you’re gonna use a lot of deodorant because its frickin hot here, always. 

       10 Kindle: I had one sent to me. One of the volunteers here has a file of over a 1,000 books, enough to keep you busy for two years, so once you get that you are set. The battery lasts awhile which is nice. It gets dark around 7 pm here and when you don’t have electricity the only thing o do really is read, so this will come in handy. Again, not a must (we have a huge library of regular books that are constantly being shuffled around) but it’s nice to have. 

       11.Camera: Some people have really nice, big ones, others have small point and shoot varieties. Whatever works for you. 

       12.Gifts for your host family: They give you a place to stay for ten weeks, hook them up with some American goodies. Gift ideas include: American flags, novelty items from your state or university, candy (not chocolate, that shit will melt as soon as you get off the plane) bubbles, silly bands, bouncy balls, anything from the dollar store, just go crazy. They will love whatever you give them. 
       13.   Spices for cooking: You can always get these sent to you, so don’t stress if there’s no room. Basil, curry, cumin, beef/chicken bullion etc. Whatever you use at home. You can buy onions, garlic, black pepper and thyme in the market so you’ll survive even if you don’t bring these. 

       14.   School supplies: Most things here are made pretty shoddily so you will appreciate a good Bic pen and woe the day when you realize that they have slowly but surely all gone missing, so bring a few with you. You can get most school supplies here, they just are a little expensive for the good ones, so if you have room throw some in, if not don’t stress about it. For teaching I recommend a good textbook for your subject. For science though you might want to wait until you get your assignment because you could be teaching biology, chemistry, physics or integrated and you don't want to waste space on the wrong book. But one good high school bio book, or middle school science book would help. For math maybe a workbook with middle school problems and for English I've heard grammar books are helpful.

       15.   Water bottles: Two nalgenes are pretty standard fare amoung PCVs. I prefer the narrow mouthed ones for traveling because that way you don’t soak yourself with water when attempting to drink on bumpy roads. 

       16.   Things not to bring: Sunscreen or any meds(you get that in your med kit), ugly clothes (you won’t wear them), anything really heavy
       17.   Water proof backpack: Rainy season is no joke. To prevent all of your stuff getting soaked repeatedly get one of these bad boys. Or a dry bag for your electronics that you can stuff inside a normal back pack will be fine too. 
       18.   I probably forgot a bunch of important things but honestly whatever you bring, you will make work. If you absolutely need something you can get it sent to you. Try not to stress about this, I brought way too many unnecessary things that just wasted space and contributed to back pain after lugging all of that baggage around the country. Try not to spend a lot of money. You are not going on a two year vacation or expedition, this is still ordinary life, you will still want and value the same things even if you are 7,000 miles away from home. Flexibility, my friends, the true characteristic of a Peace Corps Volunteer 

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