Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just More Pre-Departure Information

So, since I've been getting a lot of the same questions, I decided to take this opportunity to answer some of them. For those of you who read this often, you probably know the answers to all of these and will, therefore, find this entire post redundant. For those of you who don't read this often, you probably don't care, and will find this post pointless.

Here, my friends, is a list of (complete with answers) my FAQ's:

1. Are you nervous?
answer: Duh! Of course I'm nervous; I'm going to Africa! That being said, my excitement SERIOUSLY outweighs my nerves.

2. Can you get packages?
answer: Yes. Here is the deal on mailing me stuff, at least from what I can gather (more information will be posted when I get it). It is expensive, there is no way around it. For letters, the required postage is $0.98 and it will take 2-3 weeks to arrive to me. Make sure to write on the letter or package "Air Mail" or "Por Avion" or it will take up to 6 months to reach me. Packages: Flat rate boxes are cheapest, but it is still going to be pricey (isn't my love in return worth it?). Packages will take 5-9 weeks to reach me via airmail and 6 months for ground mail. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I get 6 months of duty-free shipping. After that, anything that is sent to me that is valued at over $20, I will have to pay duty taxes on. (Hint: ship used goods *wink*) What are good things to ship? From what I read, it sounds like juice mixes (crystal light type things), candy, pictures of you, spice packets, ect are great. Anything that I wouldn't be able to get there that would make me happy, and ship well really. I'll put up my shipping address soon where the "about me" blurb is right now.

3. Will you have internet?
answer: Not for the first 8-10 weeks. After that, definitely every once in a while (monthly), possibly more. I will find out later in Spring.

4. Do you have a packing list?/ What are you bringing?
answer: Here is a copy of my packing list.....its overwhelming.

General Clothing

  • Lightweight, all-weather jacket
  • Hooded sweatshirt or fleece
  • Sleeveless dresses and shirts (note that Volunteer teachers cannot wear these in the classroom)
  • Swimsuit (one piece)
  • Bandannas or handkerchiefs
  • Sun hat (baseball cap)
  • Good-quality raincoat
  • Small umbrella (On principle, I refuse)
  • Durable, easy-to-wash pants
  • Shorts and other clothes like drawstring pajama pants for lounging around (doctor’s scrubs are ideal)
  • Women can and do wear trousers for traveling and in the cities
  • Teachers need lightweight dresses/skirts that go below the knee (no slits above the knee, and not tight-fitting)
  • Cotton slips (waist to knee and waist to ankle)
  • Very durable, practical clothes (not nice, dressy clothes)
  • Some nicer clothes for in town (dancing, restaurants)
  • Lots of underwear, bras, socks
  • Heavy-duty sports bra
  • Belt
  • Money belt
  • shorts (longer, knee-length shorts for women) for biking
  • Sturdy work gloves (if you garden)

Overall advice: do not bring a lot. Just three to four outfits for staging and beginning of training.You can find just about everything in the markets. Malawians dress very conservatively, and will espect the same from you!


Durable shoes are an essential investment

  • Teva or Chaco sandals
  • Sneakers and/or hiking boots (Boots are handy for rainy season)
  • Shoes (close-toed and good to stand in all day; for anyone who teaches)
  • You can get flip-flops in Malawi (but according to current volunteers they're all crappy and wear out so you have to buy a new pair every month so bring a pair from home)
  • Dress shoes

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

  • Favorite brand of tampon
  • Face/hand/body lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo (just a 2-in-1 to get through training)
  • A few toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste (just one for training)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Multivitamins
  • Short supply of razors and blades
  • Two pair eyeglasses if needed
  • Hair-cutting scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Lip balm
  • Prescription drugs (three-month supply)


  • A sharp kitchen knife
  • Rubber spatula
  • French press (if you appreciate good coffee)
  • Kitchen towels
  • Send foodstuff to yourself before leaving: specialty/herbal teas; Kraft Mac & Cheese powder; Cliff,Luna or other energy bars.

Miscellaneous But Important Items For Serious Consideration!

  • Sturdy water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
  • Lightweight, travel, waterproof tent w/ground cloth
  • Leatherman/Swiss Army knife
  • Compact sleeping bag for cold weather
  • Laptop
  • Bungee cords or backpack straps
  • Fitted and flat twin sheets, or double if you need
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra bulbs
  • Shortwave radio
  • Solar-powered rechargeable batteries with recharger
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Headlamp (very popular among PCVS!) and/or wind-up flash light
  • Converter and adaptors (220V here. Small multi converters/adapters work well.)
  • Good dictionary
  • U.S. stamps (so you can send letters home with travelers)
  • Flash drive!! We provide a 2 gig version, but you may want more of your own.
  • Camera
  • Field guide for flora and fauna of sub-Saharan Africa
  • Seeds for herbs and vegetables
  • Battery-powered alarm clock (I have a wind-up clock)
  • A couple of thirsty towels (this one entertained me)
  • English dictionary, Thesaurus
  • Sunglasses
  • Some zip-lock baggies
  • Watch - think cheap
  • Jewelry - like the watch
  • Personal money (you can keep it in the safe at the Peace Corps office)
  • Games (Scrabble, cards, chess, Frisbee, etc.)
  • iPod/mp3 player (Please note that erratic energy, heat, humidity, sand and dust will do a number on all electronic devices)
  • Musical instrument (harmonica, guitar, etc.)
  • A few novels (to swap after reading) I'm brining The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galexy, The Three Musketeers, Pride and Prejudice, and Peter Pan
  • Hobby materials like sketching pads and pencils
  • Day pack
  • Luggage (should be tough, lightweight, lockable, and easy to carry)
  • Hiking backpack
  • Sharpies
  • Crayons, markers, colored paper, colored pencils and cheap paint sets
  • Children’s books
  • GRE prep materials
  • Unbreakable French Press
  • Misc pictures from home and calendar showing scenes of the US

I'm not bringing everything on here, obviously. Also, I am bringing things not on here. This is just a general idea from PeaceCorps and previous/current volunteers to get an feel for what is needed. At least, because of the backpacking I've done, I already have a bunch of the basic things that would normally cost an arm and a leg (eg. Boots, backpack, sleeping bag, ect).

I guess that pretty much covers the questions I've been getting. I can't believe I have less than a month left. If you know me, and know where I live, or know me well enough to contact me and see where I live, I am having a going away party on February 6th. Stop by, eat food, hang out. I am going to try to cook some traditional Malawian dishes like nsima ....that might end badly but there will at least be an attempt.

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