Friday, October 24, 2008

Packing advice for the new folks

I have read that the next batch of folks is getting invitations and preparing to come to Zambia, so I thought it was a good time to post the packing advice I have obsessed about off and on for months. I was going to post a link to a document, but I can't figure out how to do it, so it will be a series of blog posts for the next few days.

First: Almost anything is mailable or available in Lusaka, so there’s no need to freak out. You won’t have much time to hunt and gather during training, but afterwards you’ll have two years to fill your tiny hut with crap.

After you arrive in country, you will almost immediately get on transport with only a daypack for your first site visit. Then you will move to your host family with only the bare minimum of your stuff, while the rest lives in storage until you get posted to your site. If you remember this when you’re packing at home, it will save you a lot of angst rearranging your bags when you get here.

My advice is: go light on clothing, since basic shirts and trousers are easy to find here. When you arrive, you will realize how crazy it is to care about “outfits.” Save your luggage space for things that will make you happy. For me, that meant electronics, snacks, and craft supplies. It will be different for you.

When we arrived, PC loaded us down with twin sheets, a pillow, heavy blanket, mosquito net, soap, medical kit, water filter, notebooks, pens and huge piles of paperwork. Once we got our bikes, we received a helmet, bell, rack, water bottle with cage, lock, patch kit, pump and tool. You should get a brand-new bike with a pretty comfortable seat. Don't bring any of that stuff!

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