What I packed (and wish I packed)

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Glad I Brought:

  • Voltage converter/plug adapter (This was the best. It changed the plug of any electronic, but it also converted voltage for those items that might not automatically do so. For instance, computers do, but my hair straightener might not. Plug adapters were easy to find here, but voltage converters were not as easy. Mine was about $20 at Best buy and I used it every day.)
  • Multiple coats for different weather
  • Three months of toiletries, especially hair conditioner as my hair is very specific to what it needs. Thankfully, I found two brand in country that worked just fine
  • Hiking boots – good for the rainy season
  • Chacos – the most hideous thing I ever saw when I first bought them, but loved them by the end of service
  • Laptop
  • Smartphone that connected to Wi-Fi (this saved my long distance relationship)
  • My favorite book
  • Camera
  • Journals (I like to write on real paper sometimes).
  • Wool socks!! (Winter has been cold. I’m really happy I grabbed a multiple pack at an outdoorsy store right before I left).
  • Quick drying towel (This was another last-minute purchase at an outdoorsy store, but it’s great. It’s perfect for traveling too).
  • Giant reusable water bottle (What’s the easiest way to spot an American? Water bottle and a backpack).
  • A memory book – an idea presented by my sister, filled with pictures and encouraging letters from loved ones – they got me through the tough times.
  • Hoodies – it got cold at night and I brought about five of them
  • Headlamps – I ended up bringing two, and was given one from a departing volunteer and sent one in the mail – I ended up leaving two with my family.
  • A multi tool-in-one (My father loved it so much that I ended up giving it to him as a goodbye present).
  • A present for my host family!
  • Extra chargers and computer battery (chargers tend to go missing and I ended up replacing my battery which turned out helpful because I could never keep a charge).

Wish I Brought (or bought here):

  • More kid friendly things (UNO, coloring books, word search puzzles, books for elementary and middle school)
  • Kindle (Technically, I was sent one as a Christmas gift)
  • Printed out pictures (I meant to do this and dropped the ball, but there are print shops here.)
  • Stocked external hard drive (I brought mine, but should have filled it with tv shows)
  • Sneakers/converse
  • Sewing Kit (although they can be found in country).
  • Birthday cards (I wouldn’t fill a bag, but I wish I had brought some nice ones for the special people in my life).
  • More business casual (Sometimes I wish I was a little fancier. My coworkers are way more stylish than me. I mean, that will be true regardless, but I wish I had packed to be a bit more dressed up at school).
  • Some of the spices I love. I’ve built up my spice cabinet through care packages.
  • Non-stick pans – bought pans that were “non-stick” and were definitely not. I would have loved to have cooked eggs without them sticking to the pan.
  • A sharp knife (ended up being given one from a volunteer who early terminated)
  • A battery or solar powered radio as the power went too many times, and was left without any sound
  • More quick dry/cotton clothes
  • Vitamins (thankfully, my mom hooked me up).

Wish I had done before I left:

  • Set up What’s App/Viber/etc. (I didn’t set these up before my phone plan ended, and wished I had because even without a plan, I could have used the services over WiFi.
  • Updated Skype (at 3 months into my two years, I updated skype and wasn’t able to get it to work again as it’s blocked in Ethiopia)
  • Opened a Roth IRA (I tried setting up a Vanguard account when I got to Ethiopia and they flagged my non-US IP address. They weren’t allowed to set up the account unless I physically spoke to someone at a bank in America because allowing me to confirm over the phone would have violated the Patriot Act).

I didn’t need:

  • I bought like 7 pairs of shorts – any time I wore them (always in my home or compound), I would be made fun of. I could do with less shorts and more dressy clothes
  • I bought 7 pairs of jeans (they were a hassle to wash by hand and would take too long to dry/keep clean)
  • Clothes for all seasons (I wear business casual at school, which at my school means slacks and a nice top or jeans and a nice top. I could have brought less clothing. I wear the same things all the time. The Peace Corps office also has a spot in the Volunteer Lounge where we can discard and pick up used clothes from other volunteers.)
  • My thick pink jacket that I kept in my bag (ended up ruining it and throwing it out).
  • My leather boots (never even wore them)
  • Small, compact umbrella (I’ve lost about three umbrellas, so thankfully they’re easy to buy here too).

Peace Corps also provided:

  • Medical Kit filled with ibuprofen, malaria pills, condoms, whistle, and many other goodies
  • Enough papers and manuals to fill an entire carry-on suitcase. (At the end of my service, I ended up giving my stack of papers away to be used in the fire stove of my mom).
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