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How To Pack for 2 Years in Peace Corps Ethiopia

Our newest group (G11) will be arriving in Ethiopia in less than a month. With almost 22 months under my belt, I know a thing or two about what you need to survive for two years in Ethiopia. Some of you may have read my previous packing list here. This one will include some things off that list, but add others that I realized I want or need since I wrote that original list 14 months ago.

New and improved:

  • Cheese making kit – If you like cheese, bring a cheese making kit! (approx $25 from Amazon). My sitemates have one of these and convinced my fiance and I to pick up one. It’s super easy to make mozarella and you can use it on pizza, pasta, with tomatoes, etc, etc. There is no end to the usefulness of cheese here.
  • Shampoo bar – They are AMAZING. Easy to pack and travel with. I use Soap For Goodness Sake because I hate that more mainstream shampoo bars like LUSH contain sodium laureth sulfate.
  • Other cooking stuff – If you like to cook, bring things like a non-stick skillet (super expensive and low quality here), decent knife, spatula, silicone baking cups, candy thermometer (for cheese making!), etc. I didn’t even know I needed a lot of this stuff until my G5 neighbors left country but they have all been incredibly useful.
  • Professional clothes – I didn’t bring many of these but you do want something professional. I wear mine when I facilitate trainings and now to my new office.
  • Jeans – If you like jeans, bring them. You will wear them. But make sure they don’t have holes, that is not good here.
  • Property Insurance – I can’t count the number of times people have made claims for stolen cameras or cell phones. It may seem like a lot of money but it’s TOTALLY worth it when your electronics go missing! Peace Corps uses Clements.

Still relevant from my original list:

  • 38L Backpack – This is THE number one thing I was told to bring and I am still so grateful I did. I use it all the time…. weekend trips, weeklong trips, to carry packages, to carry glass (don’t ask). It fits a sleeping bag and a pillow for Peace Corps holiday celebrations. Plus, I’m using it for my ten week Big Trip after I COS in December. I genuinely don’t think I could have made a better purchase.
  • Microfiber towel – Still awesome and useful. Medium is a good size. Dries fast, packs tiny.
  • French press – You cannot purchase these in Ethiopia. This is amazing. If you like coffee, bring it.
  • Headlamp – Even living in a city with consistent electricity, definitely bring this. I use it all the time, especially when the power is out. It’s also really helpful for going to the shint bet at night. On that note, I brought rechargeable batteries to use with the headlamp & other electronics and they’ve been amazing (and I don’t worry about using the headlamp a lot).
  • Water bottle – Reuseable water bottle is a must. Bring it.
  • Pillow – I have two American pillows. Genius to help you sleep well.
  • Swimsuit – Good for swimming pools and getting rid of those nasty tan lines!
  • Laptop – Yes, you want this. Bring it. Mac, PC or netbook doesn’t matter.
  • External hard drive – Bring one that can be powered by your computer. You’ll want to load up on the variety of media floating around the PC/Ethiopia world.
  • Music player – Something small like an iPod shuffle is really useful for bus trips. And multiple headphones is always useful, but you can get extra mailed to you.
  • Smartphone – I use an iPhone as my cell phone in country, as do many others. As long as it takes a sim card, it’s useable.
  • E-Reader – There are a lot of digital books floating around. You’ll never be bored if you bring this… even if the power is out for three days straight and all your other electronics are dead.
  • Fitted sheet – There are plenty of sheets here, but fitted does not exist. If you don’t know what size bed you’ll get, you can always have it mailed later.
  • Makeup/Nail Polish – Ladies, if you wear makeup and nail polish in the US, bring it!
  • Clothes that are YOU – I purchased a couple long skirts before coming, but otherwise I brought clothes that I’d been living in and wearing in the US. I only brought one pair of jeans though, which my sister remedied quickly by sending me another pair for Christmas. Seriously, don’t wear shorts and tank tops all the time, but if you wouldn’t wear it in the States, you won’t really want to wear it here.
  • Purse – I only brought one purse that I use all the time, and I wish I’d brought another. Again, if you’d use it in the States, you’ll probably use it here. However you can buy one if you need one.
  • Art Supplies/Hobby materials – If you have a hobby in the States that can be brought over, such as drawing, sporting equipment, etc. After PST you have an amazing amount of free time! Also sports are a great way to integrate.

Work + Coffee

Feels just a little strange to be back in a place with “normal” coffee!

Work + Coffee

Creating the Big Trip

When Ryan and I first started dating, I had this idea of the big, post-Peace Corps trip I wanted to take. It started in Israel and Jordan, moved to India for Yoga Teacher Training, travelled through southeast Asia and ended in Australia visiting my friend J living in Brisbane. When Ryan and I got more serious and he wanted to travel with me, I realized it no longer made sense.

We shifted it around, added and dropped some things. Most of the advice out there says you have to pick your “pillars,” or places you must go, and build around that. My pillars were: Taj Mahal, Mumbai, Myanmar, Angkor Wat and Petra.

I still wanted to do the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), so we decided I’d depart Ethiopia earlier than Ryan and attend the YTT north of New Delhi and then we’d commence the trip in New Delhi when Ryan could join me. Unfortunately, due to the fact I would need to leave the first possible COS date and I can’t know that until August, I had to drop the YTT dream, however our trip is still beginning in New Delhi—mostly because it’s easy and affordable to get there from Addis Ababa.

We brainstormed ways to fit Jordan and Israel in (and hopefully Cairo!) that would make sense, and came up with taking the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow. But first, we have to get to Beijing… it made sense to just go from west to east in southeast Asia: Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. We’re hitting Vietnam right at Tet (or Lunar New Year) and will fly up to Shanghai afterwards, taking the bullet train to Beijing.
Due to the unrest and conflict currently happening between Moscow and Ukraine, we are opting to cut our train trip short and take it to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

However, we still want to complete the original circuit and make it to the Middle East, so we added Turkey in lieu of Russia followed by Jordan and Israel. Thankfully, we recently booked our flights back to the States from Israel and were able to get a long layover in Cairo, so at least we’ll get to see the Pyramids!

And that is how our Big Trip went from just an idea I had a year and a half ago to a reality starting in around 8 months.

How did you plan your last trip?

In Memory of Fallen PCVs

When you’re in another country, it’s easy to lose track of American holidays and celebrations. I missed Memorial Day on Monday. Throughout history, many men and woman have lost their lives in service to their country. This number includes 296 Peace Corps volunteers who died during their service.

The Fallen PCV Memorial Project maintains a list of the these PCVs. It’s a good reminder that although PCVs provide a different kind of service to the US, it is a service nonetheless.