Disclaimer: Every country is different. (Obviously.) Additionally, there are different PST sites within each Peace Corps country….sometimes…..so even if you’re headed into Peace Corps Ethiopia (welcome!), this might not be helpful. That said, I hope it is.
[Also, what?? two posts in one week??? What is this craziness??? —> I finally remembered to “schedule” a post. No, I probably don’t have cell service right now. sigh]
Without a doubt, the most stressful part of getting ready to leave for Ethiopia (for me) was packing. Especially since I picked up a trip last minute that ate a week almost right before I left. (KWS Class of ’17 – I would do it again in a heartbeat. I had so much fun with you guys. I hope you’re all doing amazing!!!)
Since I just moved into my site (edit: no, now it’s been about a month), I’m looking backwards at what things were unexpectedly helpful during PST (pre-service training). The things I brought specifically for site, I’ll talk about later. (At this rate, it’ll be when I’m about to leave hahaha).
The biggest thing about peace corps and packing, is to know yourself. What small things make you happy now, and make your life marginally better? A particular pen? An article of clothing? A brand of toothpaste? Find those small things, and bring them. As many as makes sense. In the long run, it’ll be worth the workout in the airport.
Miscellaneous – things I’m so glad a brought.
A small sewing kit – 2 colors of thread, a pack of needles, a few pins, and small scissors. I’ve used this 9 times already.
A hammock. I’ve only used this once yet, and it was already, totally worth it. (I got an ENO single, with the regular Atlas straps. which can double as a laundry line.
Battery pack. Just do it. The best you can afford. I stalked amazon and found a pretty good one on sale. If you find one that charges via solar too – even better.
External Hard Drive – at LEAST 2T. Mine 3T is already almost full. (Shout out to Lisa and Joe for being the #1 reason it’s over 75% full).
Jerky – this saved me so so many times. (Shout out to Trader Joe’s Terkey Jerky!) Ethiopia is very very religious. I was with an Orthodox Christian family (they do drink alcohol, but during fasting days – (all Wednesdays, Fridays and holy days), they don’t eat any animal products. There was a month with meat only once. They gave me eggs a few times, specially, but that was rare.)
Clothes pins! – super helpful.
My travel mug – I needed this so much. About halfway through PST I hit one of many walls, and being able to make my own tea and take it with me to trainings saved my sanity. Ethiopian culture is incredibly helpful and generous, but being able to make my own tea, without sugar, in a “normal” size mug, was magical.
[My first attempt making coffee all the way through from cleaning the beans to “boiling” the coffee. It went pretty well. Also featured: my front porch! Notice the paint can in lieu of a coffee tray. The tiny mugs are borrowed from my fantastic land lady.]
ORGANIZATIONAL ITEMS!! Of all kinds. – packing cubes (lightweight/backpacking kind), ziplock baggies, a toiletry bag that props open….whatever it is that works for you, bring it. I’ve been living out of my suitcase for the past three months, and I’m not sure when I’ll find something to transfer everything to. If you need to be organized to stay sane, bring things to help you. (edit: one month into site, and I’m still living out of my suitcase.)
Gear ties – google them. If you have a problem with charger cords….you’re welcome.
Duct tape – I wish I brought more. I have heard that it’s available somewhere….probably Addis.
Photos from home – for me, putting photos up in a room makes it mine. Also, everyone here wants to know when your family looks like. They make a great addition to a host family gift. Also, I gave my host dad a picture of President Obama and he kissed it he was so happy.
Grayl water filter bottle – if you don’t want to pay for water but haven’t set your filter up yet….this is for you.
Toiletries – they say 3 months, but if you’re attached to a brand or something, bring more. The only thing I’ve run out of so far is deodorant. Shout out to Catie and my friends for sending me more. 🙂
Clothes. I read somewhere to bring about three weeks of clothes. I have about three and a half weeks of underwear. Although it’s easy to wash, there have been a couple times I have used almost all of them. Especially since during the rainy season when it can take clothes 3 days to dry.
I did bring leggings, a few pairs, and I’m so glad I did. I wear them in my house, when I’m doing laundry, and even a few times to run. If needed, I just toss a skirt over them. Super easy.
And they make it easier to use the shint bet. Important things.
Tshirts!! I brought 8. They’re not super difficult to wash, and they’re easy to dress up with a scarf.
Nice shirts – I brought 5.
Dress pants – 3, and they are a pain to wash. I’m glad I have them, because they make me feel more like myself, but they’re difficult.
Skirts – I wish I brought more. You can wear them more times before you have to wash them. Also, darker colors are the best.
[The momma dog who adopted me. She’s named “Abu” as in abucado (avocado). No, I didn’t name her, but I like Abu.]
A folder. I’m so glad I brought it.
A notebook, or 3. If you’re a notebook snob, bring one. I brought a small-ish one that had all my notes from language and PST sessions, and then a big one I’m going to use for lesson plans moving forward.
Writing implements of all kinds. There is one type of pen available. If you’re not a pen snob, don’t worry. If you are, bring some. Or steal some from the hotel at staging.
Paper clips, a small stapler, binder clips, rubber bands….things like this. I brought an altoids tin with these things. You can find them in country, but they’re tough to find. I found them helpful. Because I’m naturally very scattered, organization is necessary for me to be a functional human.
I’m sure I’m forgetting things, but c’est la vie. I hope this is helpful. Or was interesting. If it was neither… email our customer support and I’ll be sure to refund you.