08 April 2011

Salone II


So in lieu of the pending arrival of the next batch of Peace Corps Sierra Leone volunteers in June (Salone II as I hear them affectionately being called), I think its good for me to publicly reappraise the packing list I posted almost a year ago. I brought some things that for me were absolutely necessary…But as I think almost every Peace Corps Volunteer realizes, most of the things he or she packs are absolutely extraneous and can be purchased once they arrive at their posts:

15 boxer briefs
-Too many!! They are a pain in the ass to wash by hand, and an eye sore on those days when you swear to all the heavenly angels up above that it’s too hot to were clothes, during the day or night. Go easy on em.

8 under shirts
-A bit overated. The locals here love to wear undershirts, but when your suffering from a sever case of heat rash, it can force one to reconsider his choice to wear them. Maybe bring a few wife beaters for those hot days after school.

6 ankle socks for running
-Pretty useful. They are better than wearing regular socks which make you too hot. Although during the rainy season, long socks are good to have when wearing shorts outside. They protect you from those goddamm biting black flies who I’m pretty sure were created for the sole purpose of causing suffering in human beings.

4 breathable T-shirts + one cycling shirt
-Absolutely essential. Breatheability = comfort and sanity. They wash easy, and dry fast and keep you cool I wish I would have brought more.

1 light Columbia water-resistant windbreaker
-Good to have. Keeps you dry during the rainy season without making you feel too hot.

2 ties
-Yes, bring ties for the few formal events you will have to sit through.

2 business casual khaki pants

2 long-sleeve button-down dress-shirts

1 pair dress pants
-I think that was a bit of overkill for me. 2 business casual khaki pants were enough.

1 pair swimming trunks
-Just DON'T do it. You can buy these here, or just go swimming in your boxers/briefs/birthday suit if your too cheap to buy any here.

3 sets of traditional African clothing
-WAY TOO MUCH!! You can find awesome traditional clothes here or fabric and have it tailor made for you. The ones I've bought here are way nicer than the ones I brought with me. You don't need to bring any from the states to impress people, they will already be impressed with you!

2 long sleeve shirts/sweatshirts
-I didn't end up bringing it but had my dad send them to me during training...Don't waste your time, money or efforts on jamming these into your suitcase. It only gets cool here during the harmattan season, besides, you by long-sleeve shirts here almost anywhere. 

3-4 short-sleeved button up shirts
-Didn't bring them, and I'm glad I didn't. You can have kick-ass short sleeved button up shirts made expertly made here!!!

2 pairs comfortable zip-off/hiking pants
-Probably the best clothing item I brought with me. When your hot, you just zip off the pants. They are light. water-resistant, and dry quickly. Essential.

2 pairs jean shorts
-It's good to have nice shorts when you don't feel like wearing pants and want to look somewhat presentable in public.

1-2 pairs of jeans
-I didn't bring them with me, but had two pairs sent to me during training. Even though they are hot, having jeans is good when you want to be casual, or go out with friends.

2 pairs athletic shorts
-A must-have for me.

1 pair Merrell hiking sandals 
-Very durable shoes, glad I brought them. Take advantage of the Peace Corps discount!

1 pair Chaco sandals 
-If you don't mind having a chaco tan which you will get one (Even I got one!) Oh and take advantage of the Peace Corps discount!

1 pair Keen sandals
- Not so necessary. One pair of nice sandals are enough for me. But if you decide that you want them, take advantage of the Peace Corps discount!
1 pair flip-flops
-Didn't bring them. You don't need em. Flip-flops are like the staple footwear here in the villages so you can easily buy Chinese made or nicer ones here. 

1 pair running or track shoes  
-I brought both running and track shoes. The running shoes are good to have when jogging, but unless you plan on competing in a local track meet that you are really serious about...please do yourself a favor and leave the track shoes in your closet at home.
2 sun hats 
-Can't do without them. The sun is too strong here and wearing a hat can make a big difference when working outside
2 belts(*)  
-Unless you plan on using a rope to keep your pants up, I suggest that you bring a belt or two

4 Bandannas 
-I find them to be really useful, especially now that it's the dry season, and the dust is just overwhelming

1 Kente cloth

2 African Kofia hats
-I like this particular style of hats so I satisfied with bringing them


Bicycle lights
-Usless!!! They don't work anymore!!

Mini travel alarm clock
-Come one really? I wake up with the sun anyway in this place. Just use your watch. Although my alarm clock does have a temperature gauge which provides amusement when temperatures reach past 90+ degrees inside my house

Digital watch
-Good for me, and probably good for you

8GB USB flash-drive
-It's good to have to store files on if you don't bring a laptop, but beware of viruses!
Wall battery AA/AAA charger
16 rechargeable AA batteries
8 rechargeable AAA batteries
-Bring them. Local Chinese made batteries are worthless. Just don't bank on having a consistent power source with which to charge them with

Headlamp (Petzl E89 Tactikka XP)
-It's my best friend at night. Do bring a headlamp if you can afford one. Cheaper/reliable versions are available everywhere too

Digital Camera
-You want to capture those strange and fun experiences don't you? WELL GO ON AND PACK IT THEN!

-A highly personal decision. It has been useful for me but you don't need one, its good to have one though. Usually those mini PC's don't hold up well in this climate, but you have to make sure that you protect your laptop from the elements (Dust, humidity, water, extreme heat). NEVER plug your laptop into a power outlet being supplied by a generator without using some sort of current stabilizer. Trust me. I've had one charger go out on me already because I plugged it in on generator power where the voltage surges were going past 300v. Your charger wont last too long in those conditions.

Solar Calculator
-You can find them here.

Grundig G6 Aviator shortwave radio
-I love the radio. Back in the states, I listened to the radio more than any other medium. I'm pretty isolated so I only receive a few local radio stations, and all the BBC shortwave frequencies that you can pick up here in Sierra Leone. If i didn't have the BBC, It would be really difficult for me. It's nice to hear people speaking English when all I can hear throughout the course of a normal day is Krio and a hodge-podge of local languages, all of which I understand only a few token phrases.

Electric hair clippers
-A complete waste of space...seriously. You can get a decent haircut anywhere here, unless you are posted to a really isolated village.

Voltage converter
-You can find a step up/down transformer here if you really need one. Don't do as I did.

-Ok so out of all the toiletries I stuffed my suitcase with, I think the only essentials are toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss and deodorant, and may a small comb or brush if you don't plan on keeping your hair short. You don't need a 3 months supply! Training will be in Makeni and you can easily find all these things an more in town. All the other items I listed a year ago can be found here in country.

1 extra large pack towel
-You should bring a towel, although after some time, you might adapt to using lappas for towel which dry even faster than any fancy-schmancy pack towel.

2 pairs prescription eye glasses
-If you wear glasses, this is a requirement by Peace Corps so that solves that dilemma. 

1 pair sunglasses
-I'm happy I brought them. My eyes are thanking me every time I use them in this equatorial region.

1 Patagonia travel sling
-Very practical for me so far

1 Leatherman
-So handy!

1 stainless steel water bottle
-I can't do without this. Water is life.

8x42 Stokes Talon binoculars
-Anyone who knows me well, will know that I cannot do without these.  

Columbia travel pillow
-I admit its a luxury item, but it is packable, and useful for camping trips. I've definitely made good use of it.  

Regular size pillow
-You can easily find pillows here, but if there is a special pillow that you must have with you then what the hell, bring it!

-It's up to you whether or not you will take the time to go camping. I'm glad I brought mine.

Sleeping sack (Dream sack)
-Surprisingly useful!! It packs REALLY small, plus the material is light, it keeps you cool, and dries really quickly.

Magnifying glass
-If your a science geek, why not?

 -Carabiners are good to have if you need to keep things secure. Don't overdo it though.

-Haha...Good for camping, but don't stress yourself out over bringing one or not. You can find nice mats here in country, although they are not made like yoga mats. So bring one if you must.
-If you like to write, you will find yourself doing alot of that here, especially when things get tough. If you don't like to write, do yourself a favor and bring one or two anyway, you just might change.

Weekly planner
-My planner is sitting, idle, collecting mold and dust. Planning here is not easy so don't think that bringing a weekly planner will help change that!!!
U.S. stamps
-For those rare occasions when people you know will be traveling back to the states. You can easily send mail back with them. A small sheet should be more than enough.

Passport photos 
-A Peace Corps requirement. Bring them so that you will not be scrambling at staging to have pictures taken.

Photos of friends and loved ones
-I brought these, but the only problem is that they are all on my laptop. Definitely bring printed photos so that you can cherish them at any time!!!

-Don't even waste a thought on them... please. You can find scissors here

-Good for exercise, but overall a useless luxury item. The kids love it though.

Yoga ball
-I'm being 100% honest when I say that the yoga ball is one of the most useful items I brought along with me. It makes a great chair and helps support your posture. It much more comfortable than most chairs you will find here. And as an exercise tool, its absolutely invaluable. Very happy I tucked it along with me!  
Bicycles tools
-Don't bring bicycle tools of any kind whatsoever!!!! Peace Corps will have you covered on that front. All volunteer who want will receive bicycles with all the necessary tools and accessories.  

-Peace Corps will absolutely inundate you with notepads so don't make things difficult for yourself yah?

2 TSA locks
- A requirement, unless you want greedy airport security personnel to search your suitcase. I also use them to lock my backpack whenever I'm walking through the bustling streets of Freetown.

-Unless you're planning on doing some serious hiking, you obviously don't need a compass. I could have probably passed on bringing mine...oh well

Laminated world map
-Sure why not, It's a good reference.

 -The three books below I ended up not bringing: 
Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan
History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (To bulky!)(^)
The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas (Could theoretically take me the whole two years to read this thing!)(^)

-The following books were the most useful books I brought:
Oxford Pocket Dictionary
Birds of Western Africa
Bradt Guide to Sierra Leone
College level Biology textbook  (A MUST HAVE!!!)
Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky

We have a burgeoning book collection, and you can always count on other volunteers to stuff their suitcases with books. You can also find books here in country. You don't have to bring your library along. 

The only change I made to my suitcases? I left my big duffle bag at home and instead brought my camping backpack and stuffed it inside a light roll-on duffle bag so that I could satisfy the two checked in luggage requirements

And so there you have it!!

Don't stress too much... your almost here!!!!!


Erica French said...

Thanks for the advice! Quick question about the shortwave radio: can I buy one there or do you recommend I buy one in the states? I was planning on just getting one there but I don't know if they're available. Thanks again!

Ikenna Achilihu said...

You don't have to buy one in the states! You can find quality ones here if you choose to do so, so don't let it stress you out too much