I’ve never been a light packer. I’d like to think that I’m not entirely high maintenance and instead chalk this up to my indecisiveness. I just want to be prepared for any and all potential circumstance, even the most unlikely. That being said, you could maybe imagine that packing to move myself to Rwanda for 2 years was no easy feat (thank you mom for your assistance). I think that not that I’ve done it, I’ll be much better about packing for big trips in the future, but who knows. So far, my packing ability has not improved. In fact, fellow PCV Katie has said that it is one of her personal missions to make it so that I know how to pack by the time we return to America.
So, let me take you back a few months, to long evenings at my parent’s house spent playing tetris with my luggage and belongings. Since we are the sort of family that doesn’t own a scale, I used the Wii to weigh the bags. That, in and of itself, was pretty hilarious. We used the Wii fit program under the pet setting and weighed the bags like you would weigh your dog... though my parents certainly don’t use that to weigh the dog. Or do they? Maybe the cats? Ok, that’s beside the point. We had strict weight restrictions that Peace Corps wanted us to adhere to, along with dimensions for our combined luggage. Of course, once we got to the airport it seemed a bit less serious, but when I was still in Gainesville, Fl I was really trying to stay within the given perimeters. Turns out that after what PC refers to as “staging” in Philly (after having to go into the bags and repack and change clothes and get ready for the plane trip from NY to Rwanda) I did some poorly planned rearranging that made my bags too heavy. Thank god for fellow PCV Matthew Teal. His bag was extremely under weight, and he let me transfer my yoga mat and some books into his bag so I could avoid excess baggage fees. So, we made it to Rwanda, avoided extra fees and everyone was happy.
In a few months Rwanda will be receiving new volunteers. And Peace Corps sends volunteers out all over the world throughout the year. If any of those prospective volunteers are reading, I want to share with you a few things I learned during the packing and transportation process.
- My yoga mat is the one thing I am perpetually thankful for having brought. If there’s something you love, that will help keep you you, I suggest you bring it because it will certainly make you happy.
- An easily compact-able sleeping bag is pretty valuable here, and will be really nice to have while I’m traveling. I have a North Face down mummy bag that belonged to my mother when she traveled the world when she was my age. It’s probably not as warm as it used to be, but it still works really well.
- Hiking boots. This may just be my personal preference, but I absolutely love my gortex boots. I found a cheap pair on e-bay right before leaving the states and they work really well here (although they do earn me more funny looks).
- Shampoo and conditioner. You can find acceptable stuff here (or so I’ve heard) but it’s expensive to get stuff that’ll keep your hair nice.
- Pants. Plain and normal pants. Skirts and dresses are really easy to find here, but I find that many of my female colleagues wear pants to work and good pants are more difficult to obtain over here. I’m SURE this varies based on your village- for me, pants are a-ok! (I even wear slightly skinny jeans (watch out!))
- Reading material. If you like to read I suggest you find a way to bring reading stuffs with ya. Many of the PCVs in my group had Kindles (in fact I am going to be receiving one myself in the next couple of months) and those seem to work really well. I brought some books... they definitely added weight to my bags, but they are really nice to have.
- Camp towel. I got an XL one and I use it ALL the time. You can find regular towels here easily and for little money, but they’re just not as good. Plus, camp towels are really great for traveling... and for the rainy season when nothing seems to stay dry.
- Sharp kitchen knife. I brought 2 and they are very nice to have. I also brought a swiss army knife. You can (of course) find knives here, but they aren’t very good and they are expensive.
- Rain gear. Could be that the rain beating down on my roof is making me think this is super important, could actually be important. Umbrellas are easy to find here but I suggest bringing a good rain jacket.
- Daypack/ Backpack. Something to use when you have to go into the next town, if you go out to a park, for short overnight trips... again, you can find them here, it just may be easier to bring one from home.
- “Appropriate” work-out/ lounging attire. I found out the hard way that shorts and leggings are both pretty inappropriate (even for sport). I suggest track pants or looser yoga pants or long shorts. Nearly anything goes here, but they draw the line at skin-tight lycra pants and short shorts... I guess I can understand that.
Fellow PCV Danny made some comment via facebook before we set off to start this crazy adventure that I actually found to be really helpful. He said that you should just put everything you think you’ll need into a bag and then take out one of each thing. Subtract one shirt, do away with one pair of socks, throw out one dress etc etc and it makes a pretty big difference. I would say, stick with you intuition. If you think you’re going to (for example) long for your yoga mat and regret not taking it, find a way to make it work! Anyway, this post is a bit out of the blue, but I’m putting off writing my end of term exam and enjoying the rain and catching up on some typing. Next on my agenda: e-mail responses. Miss and love ya.