A new batch of Volunteers is preparing to leave the US, and begin their service in the Philippines, so I figured it was a good time to revisit the items I packed over ten months ago.
CYF Specific Items:
I had a bit of trouble separating “CYF specific items” from the list, so I tapped some other CYFers for ideas.
Great for events with kids and for personal use. Music is huge here, so it’s a good way to relate to the people you will work with.
You can buy these in country when you get to site or “borrow” some from Peace Corps at the end of training. If you have the room, you could also throw some in your suitcase.
Unless the computer you are bringing has a projector port built in, you will likely need this. A lot of CYFers lead presentations with a few slides to help with visuals. I personally didn’t bring one, but it would be pretty helpful.
Great for quick file transfers and such. I use mine all the time to print stuff out for events.
“I just found out about this here. It can stop viruses from getting in your usbs. It would have been nice to have one since all my usbs carry some virus. Practice safe data exchange guys and gals!!!” Viruses are pretty common on office computers, so it’s easy to get a virus when you’re just trying to print out an attendance form. They’re pretty cheap on Amazon too: https://www.amazon.com/Syncstop-The-Original-USB-Condom/dp/B01N0HCJOW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1495438879&sr=8-2&keywords=usb+condom
I use a 25L REI day pack every day to help get me and all my stuff/presentation supplies to work and the various schools around my communities. Other CYFers use a nice big purse or tote to take to work instead of always using a backpack.
Waterproof cover for that bag-
Whatever you chose, try to get a water proof cover for it. I think I found mine on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00L641CPG/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1. I know it says it’s for a 45L, but that’s not quite true- it bungees around my 25L just fine.
A nice journal/personal planner-
As CYFers, we have a lot of meetings, trainings, and other events to keep track of. A journal/planner helps you keep track of things.
A nice pair of shoes-
I get by at my site with flip-flops and sneakers, but most other CYFers are in slightly stricter placements. Another Volunteer said, “I personally would recommend (for ladies) nice sandals. I can’t get away with Tevas every day and I can’t imainge wearing closed toed shoes all the time.”
GAMES, GAMES, GAMES!-
To play with youth. Frizbees, a football, UNO, friendship bracelet supplies, baseballs and mits, coloring books and colored pencils, ect, anything you’re in to that kids might enjoy too.
Clothing I use:
The most important thing is to bring clothes that you are comfortable in.
6 work shirts- (polos/lightweight dress shirts)
I didn’t really wear polos in the states, but I have been so happy to have some here. One of my offices is not super strict, and I could probably get away with t-shirts, but the other office expects a collared shirt, so I’m glad I have both. I also bought a couple Peace Corps polos when I arrived for more official events. Bring a variety of colors as some offices have a specific color they wear every day.
3-5 pairs work pants- (jeans/dress pants)
I wear jeans every day, as they are considered dressy here. It’s not everyone’s style, but it works for me. If you prefer dress pants or skirts, bring those. Capris would also be acceptable.
I only wear these for special events (weddings, anniversaries, christenings) because I usually have to ride a bike to work.
I come from a pretty cold place in the states, so I couldn’t really imagine only needing one sweatshirt for the next two years. I brought one lightweight flannel and a hoodie, and while I haven’t really needed the hoodie, it’s been a comfort item. If you won’t need it for comfort, just bring on sweatshirt item.
I brought a lot of really cheap really lightweight socks (like fifteen pairs). I have large feet, so I wasn’t sure that I would find my size in the Philippines. About half the week I just wear flip-flops and don’t use the socks, but I’m glad that I have them for the other half of the week.
~6 tops for relaxation-
Every day when I get home from work I peel off all of my sweaty clothing, take a cold bucket shower and put on a t-shirt or tank top. I would recommend about 3 tees and 3 tanks for the evenings. For girls, I recommend tanks, not spaghetti straps. I can also wear these items outside on the weekends (but with the tanks I usually wear a scarf or sarong).
2 pairs of athletic shorts-
I can’t wear these out in to my community, but they’re great for the evenings inside my house. I only brought one pair of these shorts with me, but I was able to find another pair at a used clothing booth.
3 pairs mid-thigh-knee-length shorts-
I can get away with wearing mid-thigh length shorts in my community, but usually stick closer to knee-length because it draws less attention. These are only for weekends though, could not wear them to work.
2-3 pairs Leggings-
I usually wear these when biking long distances, but could wear them to work if I wanted to.
You will need at least one of these for wearing over tanks or for covering up on chilly buses. I recommend bringing or buying a sarong even if you skip the cardigan – they are super flexible.
Bring as many as you can. I think I packed the suggested 20 pairs, and they’re pretty beat up now from a lot of hard scrubbing. I’m not sure about males, but females definitely do not want to buy underwear in country. Also, bring some spandex for use under dresses/skirts.
This is the bare minimum. I brought 3 with underwire and 3 sports bras. You can buy more in Manila, but you will likely struggle to find the right fit in the provinces.
1 dressy outfit-
You will need one really nice outfit for swearing-in. I decided to buy a dress in country and found one without too much trouble. Peace Corps gave us a guided day in Manila for this purpose. If tend towards sizes larger than 16, you should bring your own dress/nice-top-skirt-combo.
Men should bring a nice pair of pants and a dress shirt, but can also buy a traditional dress shirt in country.
1 pair of dressy shoes-
Needed for swearing-in. I have only worn mine once or twice at site, but I definitely needed them for swearing-in.
1 pair sneakers/running shoes-
For biking, running, hiking, ect. I usually also wear mine to work.
1 pair nice flip-flops or sandals-
I wear my Rainbows for half the week. I also brought some Tevas but don’t wear them quite as often as I wear my flip-flops. You will get tired of wearing close toed shoes, so bring some sandals you can wear to work. You will also need some flip-flops (tsinelas) for inside the house, but you can get some cheap ones in country.
This is really about personal preference. I have a once piece with board shorts and a swim shirt/ rash guard for swimming near site, and a bikini for vacation. I know other girls who prefer a tankini top with their board shorts or leggings.
Gotta protect your face from the sun!!!
Clothing I don’t use:
I bought Croc Flats specifically for Peace Corps based on the advice of currently serving Volunteers. They are super easy to clean, but I hate the way the plastic feels on my feet, and haven’t worn them since Community Based Training.
I brought a pair and never wear them. It’s too hot!
Clothes that I didn’t wear in the states-
You style may change a big in the Peace Corps, but pack for who you are now, not who you think you’ll become. Bring clothes that make you feel like you. I brought a lot of capris and flowy blouses that I would never wear in the states, and I haven’t worn them more than once.
Anything but a Google Chrome Book (they’re not compatible with the Peace Corps reporting software). I had to buy a new lap top for service, and I wish I had gone with something smaller and lighter than my full-size HP.
Not for everyone, but you will have A LOT of downtime, and reading can help. You will get a bunch of book files from folks at Initial Orientation
2 pairs of Earbuds-
Great for listening to music, podcasts, or risqué TV shows/movies. They will break, and I haven’t found any good replacements in country, so bring more than one pair.
I brought my iPod Touch, and it is by far my most prized possession. When I have wifi it’s basically a smart phone (but with no bill). When I don’t have wifi, it plays music, podcasts, and functions as my camera.
External Hard drive-
Bring a 1TB hard drive (or maybe a 2TB). If you are not techy, no worries, others will help you fill it up with everything you need when you get here. I would have gone crazy months ago if I didn’t have a hard drive with shows, movies, music, and books.
Brown out happens, and sometimes power just doesn’t find its way to your house for a while (a fellow CYFer went without power for 3 months). I didn’t want to deal with batteries, so I brought a crank flashlight. It’s not the brightest, but when the power goes out, I can use it long enough to light a few candles.
I’m so afraid that my camera will get lost, wet, or stolen, that I have yet to take it out of my suitcase. My iPod Touch has been fine so far, but I hope to break out the camera for some upcoming travel.
Surge protector/power strip-
I did not bring a voltage converter – just the surge protector and nothing has been fried yet. It also gives me access to more outlets and acts as a mini extension cord.
3-2 prong Adaptors-
You will meet many 2 pronged outlets; bring a few 3-2 prong adaptors so that you can use them. You can get a two pack on Amazon for super cheap.
External Battery Power Bank-
When the power goes out for half a week, you will be glad that you have something to charge your phone. I bought this one: https://www.amazon.com/10400mAh-Waterproof-External-Flashlight-Smartphones/dp/B00MG9VVW4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495438378&sr=8-1&keywords=unifun+battery+packn . It charges my iPod Touch for a week before it runs out of juice, and also doubles as an emergency flashlight.
Toiletries I have needed:
4 travel size bottles (2 shampoo and 2 conditioner)-
6 oz of each got me through Training, and then I didn’t have to carry heavy bottles to site. I bought big bottles in the city two weekends after I arrived at site.
I also bought a luffa/scrub brush when I got to site. You will sweat a lot, so it’s important to scrub.
Bar of Soap (in soap case)-
I used body wash in the states, but had to embrace soap here.
Toothpaste & Toothbrush-
Enough to get through training and the first few weeks at site
I brought a large bottle as some Filipino brands have whitening agents
I brought a two year supply because I had the weight/room and I’m picky about brand and consistency.
Razor w/ blades-
Bring a two year supply. You will regret it if you have to use the local razors.
Tweezers, nail clippers, ect-
I’m super pale, so I burn a lot. Aloe really helps when I get toasty and is hard to find in country.
Toiletries PC will provide:
Baby powder, Floss, Bandages, Bug spray, Alcohol, Chapstick, Advil, Pepto, Claratin, ect (any medicine you need)
Bring a bit of high SPF waterproof sunscreen if you burn easily.
In the beginning they provide disposable, but if you ask for a refill, they give you a digital one.
I did one large towel made from regular towel fabric and a quick dry towel. It’s nice to wrap up in my big fluffy towel some times. I also brought a small quick dry turban thing because I have super long, super thick hair.
I used my Leatherman a lot in the states, and I’ve use it a lot here too, but if you’re not handy, you probably could get by without one.
You don’t NEED to bring this if you’re not CRM, but I’m glad I brought mine. You can get a cheap mask and snorkel in country if you don’t have one already (there’s no guarantee that your site will be near water).
I brought two 1 liter Nalgenes and a 500ml Klean Kanteen. You will gulp down water every day, and you will not regret bringing sturdy bottles.
I have to bike everywhere I go, but that is not the case for most sites. I brought a helmet and lights, but you could find those items in most cities, so don’t stress about it if you don’t already have them lying around.
Great for airplanes and extra security in country.
Keep things from getting wet and moldy. I have one 2L bag for boat trips that I bought here (so I can throw my purse in it), and a bunch or dry/compression bags that I used to get all of my clothes here.
Dry bag for computer-
I bought this one: https://www.amazon.com/Aqua-Quest-Storm-Laptop-Case/dp/B00K5Y53VW/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1495440541&sr=1-1&keywords=aqua+quest+storm+laptop+case. It has saved my life (or more aptly my computer’s life) on multiple occasions. It rains all the time here, and a dry bag will help keep out water, ants, and dust. The same product is available in other sizes, so get one that fits your computer.
I always pack toiletries in plastic when traveling, but I would throw in a few extra for food storage and general use.
Sometimes it’s too hot, but other times, my rain coat has been really important. It’s really hard to bike while holding an umbrella (which you can buy in country).
Jewelry you really care about-
It might get lost or stolen. Stick with simple and inexpensive items.
PC provides a sturdy pair.
It’s too hot!
Lots of leather items-
Mold is a serious issue here…
I know this has been super long and I rambled a bit, but I hope my input helps! For the non-Peace Corps folks who made it this far, fear not, my blog will be back to normal next week, when I will finally get to return to Bohol.