I’ve heard from PC staff that seven of the 15 invitations to serve in Samoa have been accepted. I’ve already exchanged emails with one excited soon-to-be Samoa PCV. I remember sitting in Starbucks talking to my friend Darren when I got “the call”. After a year of application activities and waiting, it’s an exciting time.
Here are some thoughts on what I’d be packing, knowing now what I didn’t know in 2010. Keep in mind, I’m 61 and female. Also, I packed enough underwear and clothes for two years of hard wear. I’ve already begun giving brand new stuff to my friends in the village. I neglected to consider that I’d have a chance mid-service to go to New Zealand where the shopping is comparable to the US.
· Lightweight cotton clothes. The thinner the cotton, the better. It’s cooler and dries faster. That goes for bras, panties and outer wear. If you’ve ever been to Florida in the summer, that’s what it’s like here, all the time. With no air conditioning. Bring things you’ll enjoy sweating in. We were told to bring collared shirts instead of t-shirts. What that means is no t-shirts with logos/messages on them. That’s ok for casual, but for “dress” you need the kind of t-shirts that you can find at any department store in the USA. The cute kind, not the “going jogging” kind. For guys, you do need shirts with collars.
· Board shorts. They’re good for swimming (swim suits are not acceptable in the village) and I wear them under my lavalava with a t-shirt for casual attire. And by themselves in my fale. Let me clarify. With a t-shirt, since everyone can see into my fale.
· A good chef’s knife (butcher knife), if you like to cook. If you don’t, bring one anyway as a gift. Knives here are Chinese and crappy. The handle on the first one I bought broke the first time I used it. I brought the teachers a good knife from NZ and they were thrilled, since they cook a lot at school. By good, I don’t mean expensive. Just something sharp and sturdy.
· A headlamp. I paid $39 for mine at Gander Mtn. and it was perfect until I used it to death. You’ll use it for reading in bed, walking to the bus in the wee hours and walking to the bathroom.
· Rechargeable batteries and a charger. Expensive both here and in New Zealand.
· A Kindle, or comparable. Books are heavy. Load lots on your electronic device. I only paid for a few of the 600 I brought because you can get many good books for free (legally). Google is your friend.
· A manicure set. I have a small leather case with the basics and I use it a lot, especially the tweezers. When you have mosquito bites on your face and feet with dirt so ingrained you can’t scrub it off, it’s nice to have pretty nails.
· A small sewing kit. Necessary for small rips, etc.
· Something small and light that reminds you of home. For me, it’s a crystal that hangs in the window over my sink. My mother always had one and I have too. Makes me smile every time I see it throwing rainbows on the tin roof.
· Multi-color pens. The kind that have at least red and blue ink. You aren’t allowed to use black ink at school. I have no idea why. You can buy them here, but grab a few at the dollar store – cheaper and they’re light.
· A small, lightweight pen knife. Handy for cutting fruit and opening packages.
· Mask and snorkel. Very expensive and poor quality here. Since you’ll be living close to amazing snorkeling sites, why not take advantage?
· A swim suit. It’s an island. Be aware that even at resorts, really skimpy suits
are not appropriate.
· Zip lock bags. They’re available here but expensive. Throw in a box (without the box, of course.)
· Sleep mask and good quality ear plugs. Lots of them. Samoans are used to sleeping in spite of lots of noise and activity. Most Americans aren’t.
· Laptop loaded with music, movies and games
· Sheets and towels. You can buy them here and while they aren’t cheap or good quality, you can buy the size you need. I brought twin sheets. I have a double bed. I brought a “fast dry” towel. The ones here are cheap and thin and dry faster.
· Medicines (non-prescription) and stuff like sun block. Thanks to the generosity of American tax payers, Peace Corps provides that stuff.
This list isn’t definitive but it’s a start. If you’re in doubt about bringing something, leave it at home. You can always have someone ship it to you later. Most important, just bring a sense of adventure.