It’s that time of year again, when the new recruits, with freshly delivered invitations start to invade the cyberspace with questions about everything from what to pack to what their last meal should be. Well, never fear newbies (that’s you G9), us G8ers are now seasoned peace corps volunteers, rounding on 1/3 completed. We also happened to all get together last week and talk about advice we wish we had had, so here you go: the most comprehensive and probably incredibly useless advice list for Peace Corps Ethiopia, as compiled by a bunch of health volunteers who miss cheese a little too much.
- Make a “little black book” of everyone’s mailing address back home. You will want to send letters and Christmas cards etc and who doesn’t want to receive a letter with a stamp with Meles’ face on it? No one, that’s who. It’s a pain to track down those addresses in country, especially during pre-service training when your internet ability will be very low.
- Maybe get some sector experience before you arrive. For health, maybe look up what the heck an IGA is (you will be asked to do one, and you want to figure out how to avoid that). For environment, apparently gardening is a thing (food security shout out!). For education (what up G9), look into active learning techniques. You won’t be teaching, you will be teacher trainers.
- Eat your favorite foods. Then run around the block, and eat them again. Especially the ethnic ones. You can find bearable pizza and beer here, but I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t kill someone for hummus, or pad thai.
- Pack a care package for yourself. Or have mom send you one the day you leave. It will take at least 3 weeks to get to you anyway.
- Get a hard-drive (terabyte recommended) and load it up! Bring us G8ers some good stuff please : ) special requests include: newest seasons of Arrested Development, Big Bang, Always Sunny, Parcs and Rec, any HBO, Showtime, and BBC (Homeland, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Sherlock etc), The Americans. Movie requests- Great Gatsby, new Star Trek, basically anything new!! We will be raiding your datas during PST. (Gotta love Ethiopia’s no copyright laws sometimes).
What to pack:
Take this with a grain of salt. Everyone’s site is different, and everyone’s priorities are different, but here are some basic tips for Ethiopia. Basically it’s cooking stuff, clothes, and things to keep you from going crazy or getting bored.
- You can get everything you need to survive here. Clearly, people live here, but good quality cookware is hard to come by, expensive and only available in Addis Ababa. I was very happy I packed:
- A good skillet
- A good paring and chef’s knife
- Vegetable peeler
- Spices (see previous post)
- A couple butter knives (expensive and bad quality here), forks and spoons are easy to come by
- Pack a box of granola bars or some other such snack. You get some money at staging for the last night; most of us hit up the Whole Foods down the street. That first month in training with host families, you will be guaranteed to have a few “emergency granola bar” moments.
- Pack clothes you want to wear. Don’t go buy a whole new wardrobe filled with cargo pants and T-shirts. Most of us wear basically what we would in America, maybe a little more conservatively (no spaghetti straps or mini-skirts, but jeans and normal tank tops are totally fine). Though normal for me is Boulder, Colorado chic- love me my Chaco tan lines.
- On the clothes thought- bring things that will layer. Rainy season is cold, hot season is… well, hot. Bring a rain coat! Umbrellas aren’t enough during a monsoon. It can get down to below freezing in some sites, and as hot as 110 Fahrenheit in others. Sorry you don’t know where you will end up!
- Flashlight! (or headlamp if your cool)
- Little notebooks, like a pocket sized moleskin. You will be given notepaper up the wazoo for trainings, but something small to carry around has been helpful.
- A computer. There’s always someone in every group without one… ya hippy.
- A pillow. Unless you enjoy sleeping on something like the consistency of play-dough.
- Pack some stuff in canvas bags in your suitcase, like reusable grocery bags. Then you have extra bags for overnights/short trips and market day!
- Things to brighten your day- photographs from home (you’ll share these with host fam and compound peeps), nail polish, music etc.
- DUCT. TAPE. It is useful for everything.
- For contact’s wearers- I stalked up on about 18 months worth. Which is about right, because I don’t wear them every day here, probably about half the time and mostly when I’m in trainings. I may not have showered, but I did put my contacts in! Success.
Do Not Pack:
- Books. The rumor is you lucky ducks get a kindle. There is also a file floating around with like 60,000 reads on it so don’t waste space and kilos with hardbacks. Even Ethiopia is in the digital age! (almost). And for you hardback lovers, the VRC (volunteer resource centers) in Addis and Bahar Dar have libraries.
- Sunscreen or basic meds. You get a lovely medical kit with all that (and some not so basic meds). DO pack specialty over the counter meds like probiotics or vitamins.
- A million shoes. Basics include: flip flops, sturdy/hiking sandals (Chacos or something of the like), sneakers (for exercise), a nice pair (stylish sandals for girls or dress shoes for boys are fine). I also packed a pair of chucks and hiking boots. Sometimes I wish I brought 1 pair of heels though, and then I face plant on the gravel…
- Sheets or blankets. You can get them here, or get some fitted ones shipped later.
- Any other kitchen items- pots, plates, bowls, cups are all available in hub town markets.
Take it or Leave It—The Items of Argument
- Sleeping bag. I’m glad I brought mine, and people who have visited me are too. But I don’t really use it that much. I will be happy to have it when I summit Ras Dashen though! Depends if you like to camp or not.
- A lot of chocolate. Have mom send it in a care package. Unless you’re an addict, like my friend Morgan, I say it’s an initial waste of space and weight. And don’t pretend like you’re going to share it with your cute little host siblings… you won’t. And it won’t be pretty.
- Cards and other games. Glad I brought mine, but the volunteer resource center has all sorts of crap floating around. I ended up giving my SkipBo to the host fam. It was a good gift because there were memories attached.
- High heels. I’m a shoe girl, but I didn’t bring any, but it kills my soul a bit. Still undecided on that one.
So there you have it, the most vague and yet comprehensive peace corps Ethiopia pre departure packing list. Feel free to ask specific questions in the comments or check out the Pre-Departure Group Facebook page for all sorts of useless advice. Good luck! See you in July!