While I was in the process of applying to the Peace Corps, reading blogs written by current and past volunteers became somewhat of an obsession. Without fail every PCV blogger includes a list of most and least useful items they brought with them. I think it's time for me to make the obligatory packing list post, on the chance that any Peace Corps applicants are reading this.
Best things I brought:
1. a head lamp. Everyone lists this, and with good reason. It's great for reading in bed when the power goes out (which is a lot) or for making late-night trips to the latrine. (Just try not to look down once you're in there.)
2. a thermarest camping mattress. This was a last-minute addition after I read a PCV blogger's description of the mattress in her host family's house. I have been thankful for it every night.
3. ipod and good speakers. Also a set of items I give thanks for every day. The speakers I purchased were called iMaingo2. I highly recommend them. I also bought a set of rechargeable batteries to use with the speakers, which was a great choice as well. Apparently batteries here are both expensive and of poor quality. Plus, I wouldln't even know where to find them.
4. sun hat. A must-have if you plan to walk anywhere or do anything outside during the middle of the day.
5. duct tape. I wrapped a bunch around both of my water bottles, and it has come in handy many times already.
6. a pair of lightweight pants to sleep in. Great for protection against mosquitoes and fleas. The mosquito net the Peace Corps provides is great - unless a mosquito happens to be in it. It also does nothing for fleas (which are present in most homes with a dog, i.e. most homes).
7. a bath puff. I feel much cleaner when I have something to scrub myself with, especially in cold water bucket baths, which are all I take.
8. yoga mat and strength bands. I've been trying to stay in shape, despite the high-carb diet. Everyone says male volunteers get really skinny because they lose their muscle mass and female volunteers get fat eating tortillas and beans and rice.
9. American foods like cherries, almonds, cranberries and dried apricots. It was really fun for me to share some of these things with my host family and to see their reactions to these (for them) exotic foods.
10. my favorite clothes. I got a lot of recommendations from people about what to bring for rain, for heat, for sun, for modesty, for whatever. I have found that the things that I've enjoyed having the most are the things I most enjoyed wearing at home. That said, I plan on ruining everything I brought between the cement wash slab and the barbed wire I hang my clothing on to dry.
Things I brought and haven't used much:
1. a computer. I think the laptop would have been really great to have, if it hadn't stopped working. I'm still waiting to see if I can get it fixed in Managua, but I'm not holding my breath.
2. solar shower. Basically a black bag you can fill with water and put in the sun to get hot so as not to have to take a cold shower. A great idea in theory, but I haven't really used it. The showers are cold, but it's so hot here I don't really mind. Maybe I'll start using it to wash my dishes once I'm living in my new place.
3. solar panel ipod charger. This would have been really great if I had ended up in a site without electricity, but I didn't. So I haven't used it.
Into it: the internet cafe I go to sells ice cream bars
Still getting used to it: the fact that I will not have regular access to a flushing toilet for the next two years