Peace Corps: What to Pack?

Even before getting the invite to be a Youth Development Volunteer in Uganda for 27 months, I was creating a list of what take with me.  A missions trip for 2 weeks is very different than moving to a new country for 2 years.  While in India four months, I made a list of items that I knew I would want for Peace Corps.  Of course, to each their own on what they want to bring but these were the items I put value into putting into my carryon/laptop backpack, large hiking backpack, and more of a duffel luggage…

Carryon:

  • Passport *a
  • Passport photos
  • Vaccine certificate
  • ID Card
  • Debit Card
  • Cash
  • Glasses *b
  • Laptop
  • flash drive
  • External Hard drive *c
  • Camera- point and shoot
  • Camera- SLR
  • Chargers
  • Memory cards
  • IPod and speakers *d
  • Alarm clock, small travel
  • Pills, daily vitamins *e
  • Earplugs
  • Travel shower stuff
  • Gum
  • Burts chapstick (5)
  • Photos of home*f
  • Journal
  • Hand sanitizer*g
  • Snacks

Main Bag

Clothing:

  • Bras
    • 1 Strapless
    • 1 Sport
    • 2 normal
  • 20 underwear*h
  • 3 socks *i
  • 1 Swimsuit *j
  • 1 slip
  • Under tanks
    • 6 longer, variety of colors
  • 3 T-shirts (fitted)
  • 3 T-shirts (loose cotton) *k
  • 8 Nice Shirts *l
  • 1 Long sleeve shirt *m
  • 1 Hoodie
  • 1 Longish Athletic Shorts
  • 2 Jeans *n
  • 2 Dress Pants
  • 2 Capris
  • 3 Skirts
  • 3 Pajama bottoms *o
  • 2 Bandana *p
  • Belt- brown/black
  • Rain gear *q
  • Laundry clothe bag

Shoes:*r

  • Chacos
  • Flip flops
  • Hippie shoes
  • Cross trainers
  • Brown sandals
  • Dress shoes?

Bathroom: *s

  • Electric Toothbrush/ replacements *t
  • Toothpaste
  • loofa
  • Razor
  • Shaving gel
  • Towel/3 washcloths
  • Face wash
  • Toner/pads
  • Moisturizer
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Tweezers
  • Q-tips
  • Brush
  • Nail polish *u
  • Emery boards
  • Diva Cup/tampons *v
  • Hair ties
  • Bobby pins*w
  • Mirror *x
  • Makeup *y
  • Jewelry *z
  • Meds/Vitamins
  • Mini Facial tissue
  • First aid stuff
  • Sleeping mask
  • Baby powder

Office: *A

  • Large notebook
  • Small notebook
  • 3 hole punch
  • Batteries
  • Calendar
  • Scissors
  • Tiny stapler
  • Scotch tape
  • Envelopes
  • Duct tape
  • Sharpies
  • Pens
  • Note cards
  • Map of Uganda
  • Wall socket adapter

Games: *B

  • Cards
  • Phase 10
  • dice

Books: *C

  • Bible
  • Black Prayer journal
  • East Africa lonely planet
  • 5 books to trade

Misc: *D

  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Sleeping bag/pad
  • Umbrella
  • Luggage locks
  • Sheets/pillowcase
  • Jump rope

Kitchen: *E

  • Travel mug
  • Nalgene
  • French Press
  • Bottle opener
  • Veg peeler
  • Swiss army knife
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Spoon holder
  • Plastic spatula
  • Tupperware
  • Ziploc bags
  • Zip ties

Food: *F

  • Mac and cheese
  • Pasta sauce mix
  • Soup mixes
  • Taco seasoning
  • Tea
  • Coffe
  • Drink mix
  • Granola bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Parmesan cheese

*a- PASSPORT- Passport holder that holds other items such as your WHO card, ID, are really handy.  I found mine on Etsy.com and its super cute.

*b- GLASSES/CONTACTS- I never needed glasses or contacts before I got my eyes checked for PC.  I only brought glasses not knowing my living conditions.  When I went home after 16 months in country, I decided to try out contacts.  Now, I can wear sunglasses, it’s easier to use my SLR camera, and I’m not scared my glasses are going to fling off my face since they’ve loosened up so much since coming to country.  I like my contacts.  I brought back 2 things of solution and can get more in country.  More expensive to buy it here but traveling with lots of liquids isn’t the best idea

*c- HARD DRIVE- I took a 360 gig with me as a backup… it died.  I bought a 500gig in country for roughly $125USD to replace it.  Peace Corps gatherings are a great place to share movies and TV shows with other volunteers.  Having a smaller hard drive for important documents and backup and then one for media is an option.

*d- IPod SPEAKERS- IHome speakers can be found at Best Buy and are awesome.  We’ve used them for movie nights at training and they are really small and compact.  Mine are in the shape of a pill when put together.  I don’t go anywhere without them.  Since they are charged by a USB and last for hours upon hours, they were one of my wisest purchases.

*e- VITAMINS/PILLS- Different countries differ on what vitamins they will give volunteers.  Guys and girls get multivitamins meant for pregnant women.  Medical kits have all the basic pain medicine and bandages that are needed.  I could have brought less of my own and would have been fine.

*f- PHOTO ALBUM-Having a handy album that holds 20-30 photos of home is an easy way to show new host country national friends what America is like… just make sure the photos are somewhat appropriate if the culture is super conservative.

*g- HAND SANITIZER- I still see some people constantly using this.  Me?  Nope.  There’s soap.  Can’t be a germaphob when you live in a village.  Well, you can but you’ll probably go crazy.

*h-UNDERWEAR-  Bringing a lot means you don’t have to hand wash them as often, but then your knuckles start hurting towards the end.  Some people have kept new pairs in a zip lock bag and brought them out halfway through service.  Don’t bring unmentionables that will fall apart.  When you ask your mom to send you new ones, be specific.  The key is to be comfortable yet it’s a great feeling to wear cute ones even when no one else is going to see them.

*i- SOCKS- I seriously wear my Chaco’s or other sandals every day.  I only wear shoes to work out in.  3 pairs of socks is plenty for me.

*j- SWIMSUIT- I brought the one I used to lifeguard in as well as a 2 piece.  I rarely have the opportunity to swim whereas other volunteers have pools practically in their backyards.

*k- T-SHIRTS- I’ve gained so many t-shirts since being here.  We have our PCUganda shirts, free shirts because I attended a workshop, they keep coming.  I have too many in my opinion.

*l- NICE SHIRTS- Let them be cute.  Let them be comfortable and slightly conservative.  You shouldn’t have to change your style all that much- just readjust it a little.  Quality matters since they will be hand washed and will fade.  You won’t want to bring any of them back to the states after wearing them all the time while away.  Don’t be too picky when it comes to clothes.

*m-LONG SLEEVED SHIRTS- some people live in the cold mountains, I live in almost a desert that is super dry and hot.  People in the village get by somehow, see what they are wearing and you’ll most likely be able to find something that works in the village.

*n- JEANS/PANTS/CAPRIS/SHORTS/SKIRTS DRESSES- Jeans may only be appropriate in the capitol.  Deep villages don’t respect women who don’t respect their conservative culture and won’t listen as well to someone who isn’t wearing a skirt or is showing too much skin.

Pants for work may only be appropriate at some places but are worth bringing.

Capris/Shorts shouldn’t show the knee at all.  The knees, inner thighs, are seen as super sexual and should be covered at all times.  Even when playing sports, try wearing guys shorts or something longer.  You’ll get attention no matter what but if you are able to lessen the amount, do it.

Skirts should be knee length or longer.  Knee length may be seen as only for little girls in the village but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear them in the dreaded heat.  Cool thing about skirts is that they are easier for tailors to make.  .  People will notice the effort and say you look “smart”.

Dresses can be worn at work or out and about.  A cute dress for the city is nice to have.  Even if something doesn’t reach the knees, leggings can cover up skin.  I wish I hadn’t been so concerned about length and sleeves when I was shopping before leaving.

*o-PAJAMA BOTTOMS- It gets cold, so long ones are handy, the knee length are a safe length to wear around the house when my door is open and people may see me, shorts are great when its 90 degrees at night.

*p- BANDANAS- roads are dusty and dirty and being able to cover the hair will keep it from turning red.  Also handy when you need to scrub the extra “tan” from your cheeks.

*q- RAIN GEAR- Some people bring North Face jackets where as I’ve only ever used a cheap umbrella that I bought here.  I can buy a nice jacket for 10 bucks in the market.  People at my organization don’t walk in the rain so we use it as an excuse to stay inside and drink tea.

*r- SHOES- I seriously wear Chaco’s all the time.  They said “dress shoes”, but I took that as not wearing flip flops.  I bought dressy Keens but have only worn then twice.  I don’t like shoes.  The big market in Kampala is like a giant Goodwill where you can find more shoes if you need them.  Some people have found it handy to bring hiking boots since they live in rainy mountains.  I travel with Chaco’s and a pair of flip flops since shoes take up space.  I bought heels for when we have a girls night in the city and dressing up that way is fun every now and then.

*s- BATHROOM- People have been living in that country for thousands of years.  Large cities and towns have a variety of items that can stock any bathroom.  It’s a matter of preference.

Items that can be easily found in bigger towns- shampoo/conditioner, lotion, q-tips, shaving gel, cotton balls, soap.

Items that I’ve had a hard time finding include- Loofa, organic face wash/toner/moisturizer, deodorant I really like.

*t- ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH- I love my electric toothbrush.  Yes, I had to bring extra batteries and replacements but its worth it.  There is nothing like a good clean mouth.  Replacements are easy for family to send and batteries can be found in any village.  Batteries from home last longer but are heavy.  Still, I suggest everyone have one of these.

*u- NAIL POLISH- Yes, you can find it here but do you have that color you always love to wear?  I brought a few and people were jealous.  Toes can go bare but spending ten minutes to make them cute so you can’t see the dirt makes you feel cleaner somehow.  I brought a foot scrubber for rough patches.  Even bringing a small pedicure thing would be kinda cool for lazy Saturday afternoons.  Key is to take care of yourself.

*v-DIVA CUP- Seriously, one of the handiest and greatest items.  Tampons are expensive if you can find them and there’s no applicator.  Rather than asking family to send tampons with every package for two years, one small Diva Cup will solve all those needs.  I had mine mailed to India while there.  Hard to get used to at first but more reliable and easy to travel with.  Intrigued?  Google it and purchase one today. (http://lunapads.com/divacup.html)

*w- BOBBY PINS- I went a little overboard with buying a whole box from Sally May but I’ll leave the extras in the volunteer free box and make someone’s day.  Bobby pins are one of the easiest ways to make your hair cute without too much effort.  Having been a beautician, doing a little extra with the hair can turn a bad boring day into at least a cute hair day.  Also, I use them as bag clips.  Multi purpose.

*x- MIRROR- Latrines don’t have sinks or mirrors.  I have a small under $10USD two sided mirror from Walmart that is an essential.  Even for guys, a mirror for shaving is something they usually forget.  Sure you could go two years without looking in a mirror but I wouldn’t advise it.

*y- MAKE-UP- There are days when you want to look cute or when you have an important meeting.  Swearing in ceremonies and in service trainings where the group is back together.  Nothing wrong with putting 5 minutes into making your eyes pop.  What’s annoying is when girls take 45 minutes to apply 5 million layers of stuff to their face.  Keep it simple with basics.

*z-JEWELRY- I brought too much.  I have all these cute earrings and bracelets that are still sitting in their container.  I wear one pair that I brought with me and others that I bought here.  I lost the right earring of a pair I got in Nepal which was really sad.  Wearing a ring where normally a wedding band would be is handy when random guys say they want to marry you.

*A- OFFICE-  I brought a small pencil box full of pens, colorful sharpies, note cards (which we had to have made during training for language), and really small basic items that I wouldn’t know the quality once in country.  The small notebook was great for revising my language notes.  A small calendar the size of a checkbook has been awesome to keep track of what I do each day and to plan ahead.  Keep it with me at all times.

B- Cards can be bought in country.  I had some with Alaska on the back so I brought them.  I now have a travel Apples to Apples and will hopefully be able to use it with students and my neighbors.  Pretty excited about that actually.

*C-BOOKS- I’ve learned to love reading even more since being here.  I brought books that would be good to share and have enjoyed the books others brought.  At the volunteer lounge, there is a “library” but I mainly hear what another volunteer is reading and then ask them if I can read if after them.  I like getting books from home as well.  Lonely Planet East Africa was great to have when I travelled down to Rwanda and to see what is in Uganda.

*D- MISC- My flashlight broke.  They have flashlights that you charge by outlet that work. Quality headlamps are better.  I have a small solar lamp that is great for reading but is also bright enough for when the power is out and I want to cook.

Sleeping Bag/Pad- I have a small 55+ that doesn’t take much space and easier to travel.  I also have a travel liner/sheet which is what I usually take.  If visiting a friend, they normally have extra blankets and pillows.

Umbrella- I almost spent 40 bucks on one at REI but then chose not to.  My 3 dollar one from here works.  It’s not as cool to show off or talk about but that’s okay.

Luggage Locks- I haven’t used them and haven’t had anything stolen, thankfully.  Other people use them and then their bags have gotten slashed while walking having everything dumped out of the bottom.  I should really use them more often…

Sheets/Pillowcases- I love my jersey material sheets.  You can buy them in country, but I’m glad I didn’t.  Nothing fancy, but workable.

Jump Rope- easy to do in my house.  I waited and bought one here with a counter for 5 bucks.

*E- KITCHEN- everything I brought fit in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag.  I can find everything at the nice stores, but it was fun to pick them out in the states in one place.  A good veg peeler, a sharp knife, plastic utensil holder when cooking, measuring items, and French Press have been items I use frequently.  If you enjoy Coffee and don’t have electricity, a French press is essential.  I bought a small one from Starbucks and even though it is glass and plastic, keeping it in the box while traveling kept it from breaking.

*F-FOOD-  I didn’t bring much with me when I left for training.  Since I lived in a homestay for 10 weeks, I wouldn’t be cooking for myself.  There are so many powder sauce packets with different flavors that are easy to make in the village.  I brought back with me this time around powder soup mixes and Cheddar Broccoli soup which can also be used to make a cheese sauce, flavored powder potatoes since I had room, popcorn flavoring because I could, snack size cookies, peanut butter m&ms for my site mate and I to share, beef jerky… the funny thing is that I enjoy the local food and could eat it every meal.  When I cook at home, it’s easier for me to make noodles rather than rice, posho, or sweet potatoes.  I didn’t bring back any candy other than the M&Ms.  I have a lot of hard candies for my hut boys and students sitting in Tupperware in my kitchen area.  My parents send me awesome smoked salmon or tuna things in these one serving bags and then little packets of mayo which is a great change in diet.  Honey Nut Peanuts are tasty.

Other items that are great-

-simple house slippers

-coloring books to do with kids

-quality soccer ball and pump

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