So the thing about Peace Corps Ethiopia is that there is arid highland, desert, and the rainforest. They take your weather requests into account when placing you, but because it’s Peace Corps, you can’t count on anything.
I’m in a high rainforest, so based on that, here are my thoughts.
Also, if you’re wondering how the holidays are here, sorry. Next post! (Which will be soon. Like tomorrow haha).
Disclaimer: I’m an education volunteer, and a woman. Teachers here dress nice, but jeans are considered nice because they’re Western. I wear mostly dress pants or flowy (baggy/hippy) pants, and I’ve never had a problem. I’ve heard from some agriculture volunteers that wearing skirts helps them integrate….most of the female teachers at my school wear skinny jeans.
Health volunteers work closely with the highest educated HCNs (host country nationals), and locals…so they have a bit of both.
Ultimately, the most important thing when picking clothes to bring, is that you feel comfortable wearing them. Bring a few of your favorite T-shirts. Bring your favorite pajama pants. Bring a hoodie. Bring underwear that makes you smile. It’ll help you so much.
Secondary note : quite a few things on this list are fairly superfluous (school supplies, organization stuff…) I’m naturally very disorganized; so if my stuff isn’t organized I’m fairly non-functional. It might seem like I’m type A; I promise you I’m not. I included them because they don’t take much space, but they’ve come in handy.
If you’re an education sector volunteer, coming in June, you’ll be coming into the rainy season which is tough. It gets cold. And muddy. Bring a pair of wool socks or three. Bring a warm sweater/jacket…or both. Not a winter coat. But a warm jacket will probably be helpful.
During PST they expect you to be professional (business casual) at all times. At the same time, you’re washing your clothes by hand. I wore T-shirts with a scarf and sweater/jacket (warmth, not suit jacket) often, and wore a button down occasionally.
A recommendation I got that I want to emphasize – go to goodwill and thrift shops. Look for cool, breezy, business casual-esque pants. If they adjust to fit you even if you lose/gain weight, even better. Some last minute impulse buys have become my favorite pants here.
Another note – a friend gave me two wool sweaters that have been absolutely invaluable. The temperature in the morning will be cold, then heat up to what would be in the US – shorts and sleeveless weather (here shorts are “special slut wear”), and then drop again at night.
Some people say bring some extra underwear only for the second year. I brought quite a few pairs (17? 20? Underwear doesn’t take up much space) – some cotton, some quick dry, and some Thinx. High high recommendation on the Thinx pairs. They’ve saved me quite a few times. Bathrooms here are …. challenging.
Rain clothes : bring them. Especially where I am, rain boots and a good rain jacket are a must have. I also have a rain cover for my backpack. One of my friends brought rain pants, and he definitely wore them. I’m ok without them, but I’m so glad I brought my boots. My friends up in Tigray? They’re fine with just hiking boots. But if you’re an education volunteer, your PST will be in the south during the rainy season.
Final note on clothes – no matter how light you think you are packing, you will likely bring more clothes with you, than people own here. So there’s that.
Shoes hold a special place in Ethiopian culture. People pay to have their shoes washed frequently.
Also, shoes get DESTROYED here. I brought a few pairs of ballet flats….they lasted 3 weeks. You can buy cheap “shint bet” shoes here no problem, but when deciding which ones to bring – go for sturdy ones. And bring at least one nice (enough) close-toed pair.
Solar charger (I’ve got a Anker Power Port Solar – two panels, two USB ports). It doesn’t charge my laptop, but it handles my phone and nook just fine.
Battery pack. Keep an eye on Amazon’s sales, and get one. Mine charges my phone at least 8 full times. (Rav power)
At least a 2T external hard drive. (I’ve got a 1T and a 2T. I currently have 2.5gigs of files.)
A few flash drives. You can use them directly with the printers here – at least you can in the Jimma office.
Unlocked smart phone, with a VPN. If you hunt around, you can find vpns that aren’t too expensive. You can also find free ones, but I wouldn’t trust those. I got one for $70 – 5 devices, for a lifetime.
Nook or kindle. I think a friend of mine has a library membership where she can rent digital books any time she has WiFi – rare, but it happens. I signed up for BookBub’s daily email to alert me to ebooks that were cheap ($0.99-$3.99) every day for the year or so before I left. I caught quite a few good books through that.
Small bluetooth speaker! Worth it.
Extra headphones. The ones you can buy in country are either SUPER expensive, and in Addis only; or absolute trash.
Insurance. I’m currently working with a claim for my laptop. Peace Corps recommends Clements. (*update – since my laptop couldn’t be fixed in country, it was a bit of a headache getting the paperwork they wanted to certify that. Once I got it to them, it was no problem.)
A few cheap solar lamps. (You can buy these here, but they’re expensive and bad quality).
A headlamp or two – I’d get one that uses a rechargeable battery (Petzl for the win!) because AAA batteries are tough to find here.
They say bring enough for 3 months…I say if you’re attached to something, bring more of it. (I’m super attached to my toothpaste – LUSH toothy tabs – I worked there for several years) and I brought enough for possibly two years. One year at least.
You can buy everything, even deodorant, here….but sometimes it’s difficult to find. Or really far away.
Tampons! If you’re a tampon person, bring many. And prepare a box to be shipped to you during PST with more.
I heard you can only buy them in Addis, and they’re not the type you know. (edit: I’ve been looking for them in Addis, and I haven’t found them yet.) I’ve heard good things about the diva cup, everyone I know who uses one loves it. Get used to it in the states is my advice. I’m working on figuring it out here, and it’s just a little more stressful here.
Again – Thinx – they’re wonderful. I can’t use them on their own, but when I’m at school – 30mins walk from my house….. they’ve saved me a lot of embarrassment and stress. (Quite a few people here use them.)
Hand sanitizer – a friend brought a TON of this. It was super helpful during PST. Now, 6 months in, I don’t use it as much. But in the beginning it was so, so helpful.
Push pins/thumb tacks – to put photos on your walls. If you’re in Tigray….maybe tape? (The houses up there are concrete.)
Ear plugs – there was one day during PST that the church near me was blasting music for almost 24hrs straight. It was awful.
Paper clips – like many things, you can find them here, but they’re weirdly expensive. I had some lying around at home in my “not-junk” drawer.
Small French press coffee maker (Hi my name is Mari and I’m a coffee addict. Definitely not necessary, but I like to make myself coffee on days my neighbors don’t invite me.)
Small non stick pan (You can buy these in Addis, but they’re expensive based on the money Peace Corps gives you.)
Decent chopping knife (I brought this, but I don’t use it often. I use my Spyderco lockback for just about everything.)
Lock back knife – I use it more than the dollar store chopping knife I brought.
Leatherman (Sometimes you just need a screwdriver…or something random.)
Chopsticks – it’s weird what you miss here.
Some of my favorite spices (garlic powder! You can find garlic here, but garlic powder is so much easier to use. And difficult to find.)
Some of my favorite teas (I have not been able to find Mint tea for my life. Or any herbal tea. There’s plenty of black tea though.)
Grayl water bottle – orange filter. Not necessary, but it’s nice to be able to drink sink water at hotels without worrying.
Sleeping mat for camping
Hammock (I’m in the forest, so I use it.)
60L pack – It’s huge, but a lot of times I use it because my 30L is too small for longer trips. Also I’m 5’10, 200ish lbs. I think if I was smaller and a better packer, I’d be fine with a 40L. Probably.
Clothes pins – where I am, it can take three days for clothes to dry during the rainy season.
Letters. I asked friends, family…people I loved to write me letters that I could open and read later when I was down and out. Such a good idea. Now that I’ve settled into my house, the letters are pinned up in my room.
Grammar book – digital and physical copies. Digital is nice because I’ve got it on my phone. Physical is good when there is no electricity. In a couple more years I expect the regional offices will have plenty of copies floating around. Right now, not so much.
Luggage locks. (Bag slashing isn’t so much a problem here. Unzipping is. But mostly in Addis. Ethiopia is a high petty crime and harassment, low violent crime country.)
Photos of friends and fam – to show people here, and for walls. (People like looking at physical photos. And I never feel at home anywhere until I put photos on my walls.) ** since I live in Oromia – dirt walls! I staple my photos into my walls. My friends up north use tape or putty to attach theirs. (They have cement houses.)
Snacks – in re-useable containers. I repackaged my favorite snacks in ziplock type containers to save space packing, and it was a fantastic idea. I’m now using those containers for sugar, salt and spices. In the market, they sell things in plastic bags here. If there’s a container store near you – (there’s a company called “the container store”) check it out. They’ve got some good, fairly cheap containers…don’t get lost.
Jerky – They don’t eat meat as much here. Especially if you’re an Ag or Health volunteer you’ll be coming in during a major fasting season – almost no meat anywhere for a few months.
Surge protector / converter – I bought a Bestek one – so far so good! There are also cheap converter plugs here that are probably fine…that’s when I’d definitely get insurance though.
Pillow – I brought a pillow because I’ve had neck challenges here and there. It was a good life decision. Normal pillows are definitely available here though. A bit pricy but available.
Microfiber towel – useful for travel. Tough to wash, but all towels are. Some people hate them though. I’d try it before bringing it.
Duct tape – for so many things. The first thing I used it for was to put names on hard drives. Then names on bags….photos on walls…. endless uses. I’ve heard you can find it here, but so far I’ve only found electrical tape.
So those are my thoughts! I hope you found that useful, or at least not a waste of your time.
Good luck and Baga Nagaan Dhuftaan!!