I know PC Invitees obsessively read current PCV blogs for packing tips, so I thought I’d throw out some suggestions and things I’ve found helpful. My tips are geared toward Environment/Green Initiative Volunteers, so bear that in mind.
Jedd and Michelle have an excellent packing list, one that I consulted frequently before Staging.
* Two ancient rolling duffels
* Timbuk2 messenger bag (Can’t recommend this one enough. I carry it with me daily and it holds a ton of stuff.)
*A sleeping pad. Large gatherings of volunteers sometimes requires you to sleep on the floor. (a year and a half in, I haven’t used this very much. Handy to have, but not terribly important)
*Compact umbrella. You never know when it’ll rain here, so this is critical.
*Chacos. You can’t get PC cred unless you have Chacos. (just kidding. mostly.)
*I brought assorted comfortable flats for training and times when I’m required to dress a little nicer.
*Sorry if this is TMI, but ladies, I implore you. DivaCup. It’ll change your world. I’ve used it for going on five years now and I’ve never looked back. I brought two with me, just in case.
*Microfiber or quick drying towels, as well as one beach towel.
*Bring at least 2 pairs of jeans that you’re willing to destroy in the bush working.
*I’ve found that cotton V-neck shirts a la Old Navy or Gap are perfect for a variety of situations. They can be dressed up or down, depending on the venue.
*For dress clothes, I just bulk bought nice shirts and somewhat stylish khakis at Gap and Old Navy. All the hand washing and line drying will destroy your clothes, so there’s no sense in bringing really expensive clothing. I don’t know how technical clothing like moisture wicking shirts and more breathable fabrics hold up, as I don’t own any. I know they can be purchased at places like REI.
*External hard drive. This one is a life saver. Trainees and volunteers routinely swap movies, TV shows, and music, for those days at site when you have nothing to do (and believe you me, there are more than a few of those days). It’s a little bit embarrassing how much TV I’ve watched.
*Host family gifts. Unless there are some changes, you will have two host families during training. Most folks brought things from their home state as a form of cultural exchange. I wouldn’t devote too much packing space to this. Something like calendars with pictures of your state or hometown are perfect.
*Stabilizers. They’ll talk about this in training, but bringing stabilizers from home are going to be very important to your mental health. For me, a morning routine of oatmeal, English breakfast tea (I brought a bunch of loose leaf tea with me and have had more sent), and my prayer book keeps me sane. I also brought my knitting. (It appears I’m actually 80 years old, but whatever.) And I’m a reading fanatic, so an ereader was really important for me. The PC library in Kingston is pretty well stocked, but I’m not there frequently enough to keep up with my rate of book consumption. For some people, a routine of exercise helps. Find out what your stabilizer is, and bring it with you!
*Command hooks and poster putty. Most Jamaican structures are concrete, so things don’t stick to the walls very well. If you want to hang posters, pictures, towels, flags, or attach anything to the wall, this is what you’re going to need. Even duct tape won’t cut it. Use them at home or in the classroom.
*Sweat is an every day reality. I’ve never sweat so much in my life, and hope to never again. I love this Buff headband/neckerchief thing for keeping my hair back and out of my face.
*Packing cubes are something I wish I’d brought. They would have been SUPER handy in training, but as much as I travel around the island on the weekends, keeping things dry is important. Moldy clothes are the worst.
*Very basic school supplies. Environment volunteers do a lot of work in schools, regardless of your primary assignment. We make informative posters and do environmental education and such. Highly recommend bringing Sharpies and maybe even some children’s books with an environmental or nature theme (The Lorax, The Giving Tree, Stellaluna, Seedfolks, From Seed to Pumpkin and The Sea, The Storm and the Mangrove Tangle are all books I either brought or had sent)
*You can get re-usable shopping bags here, but if you have room, these are pretty wonderful.
*We live in a disposable, throw-away culture and Jamaica is, if possible, worse than the US. I carry these with me everywhere I go.
*If you intend on writing letters and sending them home, you should definitely bring your own supply of cards/stationary and US Forever stamps. It’s somewhat expensive (around $1.20US) to send a standard card to the States. US-stamped letters can be given to PC staff who will ensure they get to the US Mail. It’s also much faster.
Peace Corps Volunteers can get some pretty substantial discounts from companies that sell some excellent gear. Check ’em out!