Saturday, October 6, 2012

The List

Peace Corps is not so great in giving suggestions for what to actually pack and what you actually need. Plus, whenever you hear from a current volunteer that you can buy pretty much anything here, it's hard to believe. For the most part, you can get a lot of stuff here, and mostly keep in mind while packing, to pack things you can't live without. If it's a certain type of snack, pack a lot. If you have to have books, stock up the kindle. If it's a hammock, make sure you leave room for it. Also think about sustainability, like solar battery chargers. Packing was probably one of the most stressful things for me besides saying  goodbye those last few days. I searched high and low for a good packing list but could never find a really good one. Here it is. This is literally everything I packed, and whether or not it was a good choice. Remember, this is for Zambia and may not work as well if you are heading to another country. Also remember I'm a guy, so the bathroom supplies and clothes might need to be adapted for women. I also stuffed some extra spaces with power bars and candy, mostly still waiting til I get to my actual site.

The List:

For Travel
compression straps - pack some, they are handy
2 – 32 oz nalgene water bottles - I almost always have one within a few feet of me
small dry bag - two words: Victoria Falls
inflatable neck pillow - made the 15 hour flight a lot better
earplugs - ditto, also helps drown out the roosters at 2:30 AM
sleepy eye mask thing - good to have for the flight
sunglasses - you'll need them, but I recommend cheap ones. You can't have nice things here
2 person tent - I plan on camping a lot, so it was necessary
fleece sleeping bag - lightweight and about the size of a football, very nice
sleeping pad rocks bruise
2 – 20L dry bags - great for packing for the flight
1 – 40 L dry bag - seriously these things are great. Go to Walmart and get some cheap ones
2 compression bags - they will be used
poncho - for the 6 month rainy season, maybe?
TSA approved combination locks - get several, I suggest combination so you don't have to carry keys for 2 years

2 med size duffel bags - army surplus quality – durable and not at all flashy
1 large size duffel bag - REI type
1 shoulder bag - for carry on
VISA debit card - VISA works here, some others don't. Look into it.
About $200 in USD bills - Try to get bills from 2006 or later, it's complicated so if you can just bring new bills.

Camera Supplies
Pelican case - might have trouble with TSA, but useful and can be locked
good zoom camera - for safaris and whatnot
point and shoot camera - for everyday whatnot
full backup set of rechargeable batteries - not sure if I trust the battery brands here small battery tester might come in handy, but it's cheap and might not work as great as it should
Small Camera Bag - for everyday travel
Larger Camera Bag - for safaris and other travel
camera lens cleaner cloth - duh
lens cleaner fluid duh
small tripod - it's very small

Solar stuff and gadgets
Goal Zero: - Goal Zero has great customer service, PC discount, and a lot of other volunteers have/use their products. It's also one of the only chargers that can charge 4 batteries at once, both AA and AAA.

Guide 10 plus
Nomad 7
10 led lamp
Rockout speaker

mp3 player – 8G - load it up and bring it – plus we share a lot of music too
several flash drives to back up pics - easier than buying and packing an external drive
2 sets of headphones - you'll break or lose one
headphone splitter - haven't used it yet, but I can still see where it would be useful
US to UK plug converter - get one
Kindle - can be a little pricy, but the battery life is great and you'll read a lot of books here
battery charger - debatable if you have the Goal Zero charger
small binoculars - great for a birdwatcher in the African wetlands!
2 headlamps with AAA batteries - I don't use them all the time, but they are really helpful when traveling around without candles

Crank lantern - PC gave us solar lanterns that work really well, then I broke it
crank flashlight - I use it constantly, especially at night
netbook - most volunteers brought some sort of laptop. The provincial house only has a computer and a half
digital watch - good to have

Bath Supplies
one week's worth of toiletries - unless you want name brand stuff, you can get it here
toothbrush  w/ travel case - definitely get one
floss - unwaxed in medkit, but can find at big stores, pack a lot
toothpaste - you can get colgate and aquafresh here
small bottle listerine - not essential, but I like to use it from time to time
shampoo there is a good variety here, but can get pricy
soap w/ travel case - very useful
pumice stone - you can get them here for a dollar
razor - they have a few name brands here
shaving cream - just bring enough for the first few weeks
comb - bring it
scissors - versatile, bring a pair
small tissue packet - I just use toilet paper...
advil - pain meds in medkit, not really useful unless you need on flight
lip balm - in medkit, unless you need some on the flight
deodorant - name brands are expensive here, but I've found decent ones
small container of hand sanitizer - I've heard you can get that relatively cheap around here
pre moistened toilet paper - just in case
sunscreen spf 70 - in medkit
OFF! Deep woods 25% deet - in medkit
camping mirror - broke on the flight, can buy here anyway
fingernail kit - duh
small sewing kit - used it the first week
couple dozen Q-tips - expensive here

10 pack of bungee cords - at least bring a few
zip ties - haven't used them yet, but they are cheap, I'd bring some
hammock with straps and carabiners - made my hut a paradise, highly recommended
3.5inch pocket knife - I use this a lot
leatherman – one old and one new - I use these a lot
swiss army knife - I use this a lot
fire starter kit - matches are super cheap here, or bring a lighter
bike repair kit - they give you everything you need for a bike, except saddlebags, it's you're call. I plan on making a crate and strapping it down with bungee cords

duct tape - useful
small super absorbant camping rag - I can find a lot of uses for this
durable working gloves - haven't used them yet, but they are small and useful
cheap carabiners - bring a handful, you'll use them somewhere, somehow

Odds and Ends
2 photo books (one for me, one for show) - I'd recommend, but one is probably just fine
passport cover book - nice to have
2 travel books of Zambia - definitely bring, also get a good map of zambia, Peace Corps hasn't given us any yet

address book of family, etc. - and back it up everywhere
Frisbee - good to have, Zambians can't get them to work though
deck of cards - nice to have when you are bored
soccer ball - bring some needles to pump too, or buy here
spork – just in case - you can buy utensils here, and they're cheap
vegetable peeler - should have brought an orange peeler too
bike coily chain thing - I can see myself using it sometime
combination lock - haven't seen combination locks, just key locks
double size fitted sheet - typical size bed here, fitted sheets hard to find
double size sheets - PC supplies you with some, but I like having extras
journal - highly recommended
Sriracha hot sauce - Send me more!

1 pair boots
1 pair cheap tennis shoes
1 pair good sandals - you'll wear these a lot
1 pair five finger shoes - Zambians love to ask about them

3 pairs shorts                                                  
1 pair jeans                                                     
1 pair dress pants
2 pair fishing zip off pants - I wear these all the time
2 long sleeve fishing shirts - will come in handy come cold season
1 pair swimming trunks - for swimming                                     
2 dress shirts (polo) - for pretending to look dressy
1 button up dress shirt - maybe should have brought 1 more, but not necessary
5 pairs socks - they were white
3 tshirts - used clothes are cheap here, so don't bring a 2 year supply of shirts
1 belt                                                              
1 long sleeve shirt - cold season gets cold
1 zip up hoodie - cold season mornings get even colder
towel - I use a chitenge (cloth used for everything here) to dry after bucket baths, but having a real towel is nice too. Also, real towels are super expensive here

underwear - I'd suggest packing some
6 bandanas - more useful than I imagined
knee brace - I got a bad knee, I kneed this.

orange peeler - the oranges here are delicious but hidden in the thickest peel we've ever fought
running shoes - you might just want to go for a run
luggage with wheels - my luggage only weighed about 80 lbs, but it was all on my hands and shoulders, one of those on wheels would have made the trip much easier

sharpie marker - meant to pack it and forgot. Label most of your things.
Tie - meant to pack one and forgot, doesn't take up space, might as well
favorite board game - settlers of catan is way popular here
Ziplock bag - I didn't bring many, but you can pack with some to use later on
bike odometer - to see how far you've gone/fast you ride

Unless you have a specific phone you want to bring, and can get it unlocked, don't bring a phone. When you get here you will be taken to get phones. Talk to current volunteers about what phones they have, what features they like and use, and how much they cost. Bring about $100 USD for a phone. I use the Samsung Chat, which allows for basic internet stuff, and can hold 2 sim cards. I mostly use Gmail and Facebook, and search for random things on Google. It texts and calls and has a qwerty keyboard. Don't worry about service plans, there are 3 here to get, with different coverage areas. It is cheap to get a number and add talk time. When I was told not to worry about it, I did anyway. So I'll tell you again. Don't worry about it.

I didn't bring much dress clothes cause... It's Africa? I should have packed at least another dress shirt, probably short sleeve, as well as some more dress pants. My fishing pants have worked well for me, especially since they are thin and breeze helps cool me off. I haven't worn my shorts much because what they did not tell us before leaving was that we are supposed to dress nicely all throughout training. Right now I'm wearing my fishing pants, sandals, and a t-shirt, and I'm considered dressed nicely. However, if I was wearing shorts, I would not be dressed professionally.

For the women... wearing chitenges is standard. They wrap around your waist like a dress. As far as shirts go, you can wear tank tops and whatnot (I think they'd like you to stay away from spaghetti straps), but regular t-shirts are probably the easiest. Dresses are fine. Several of the girls here don't like wearing the chitenges, so they must wear long pants, capris, or dresses. Zambian culture does not allow showing knee or thigh. You'd be considered a prostitute. Those that don't mind wearing chitenges, typically wear leggings underneath so they can hike the chitenge up and still ride a bike.

You can also get clothes made here and they are quite inexpensive. I bought a chitenge for 6 bucks and had it custom made into a shirt for another 6. Keep that in mind for swearing in. It's a lot more fun when everyone is wearing African clothes.

Weight loss/gain:
The best explanation for weight gain or loss in Zambia, where guys tend to lose weight and women tend to gain weight, is because of the new diet we pretty much have no control over. Shima is corn and thus is high in carbs. So, when we're biking all day, men, with typically more muscle, use up all the carbs and lose weight. Women on the other hand, with less muscle mass, store more of the energy, and gain weight. Each person is different, some of the guys are gaining weight, while some of the girls are losing weight. It all depends. I will say if you're a bigger guy, pack some smaller clothes so you can fit into them later. I ended up losing a lot of weight right away, but I wouldn't have considered myself big to begin with. So, now my clothes swallow me, but it's manageable since I can just wear a belt or get cheap used clothes around town. Women, don't worry. Even the women here that have said they gained weigh, no one can tell. It's not drastic unless you're a bigger man. Just something to think about when packing.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ben,
    I was looking for something else in my bookmarks today and saw your blog and thought I'd check in. I'm really enjoying it, though I'm afraid I can't read it all, but your writing is really descriptive and the pics are lovely! Thank you for sharing your experience! --Anna Marie