This post is for volunteers who will be arriving in July! First, congratulations! We're all so excited to meet you guys. Second, I seriously cannot believe I've been here almost a year!
I remember thinking way too much about packing. I did lots of blog searching and emailing my mom lists and taking over our living room with my packing, unpacking, repacking and unpacking again. So. I'm gonna make it more difficult on you and give you yet ANOTHER list! hahah
My number one suggestion is to bring your stuff! Don't go buy fancy (and or used) clothes and equipment, it's not necessary. Bring things that make you feel like you.
I NEVER wear the clothes I bought for Benin, like goodwill long skirts and ugly shirts. In village, I mostly wear clothes I've had made here and in cities (workstations) I wear jeans, tank tops and t-shirts, exactly what I wore in the states. After school I almost always change into shorts and a t-shirt (and just wrap on a pagne if an adult comes over), just like I did in the states as well (minus the covering up my knees if an adult comes over). Anyway, just bring your clothes! Ladies, you just 'need' to cover your knees, and Beninese ladies do not like to see bra straps.
With that, here's a (kind of) brief list of suggestions:
Best Things I Brought:
*Battery powered fan. Ok, so I don't have electricity while most volunteers do. But it was $6, so I'd deem it worth the risk. Also, I couldn't afford a D battery charger, but if you can I'd recommend one, if it's solar great, if not, all villages have 'charge stations' where they use a generator to charge phones, you can charge batteries there, I charge AA's there. I'm probably single handedly destroying the world with my use of crappy Beninese D batteries.
*Ipod. I also got an excellent case/speaker for $10 at Bed Bath and Beyond. I don't know what I'd do without music, it reminds me of home, I love to dance around my house, listen to it when I do chores or grade papers and I LOVE playing music for my kids. I charge it at workstations and use it wisely, but I think I'm going to buy a solar charger off of a volunteer who brought one but has electricity.
Travel/Pocket French/English Dictionary. Priceless, use it all the time, kill time in taxis learning words, must have! (fyi Peace Corps gives you a regular sized dictionary).
*Mexican/Taco Seasoning.My favorite thing to cook at post is Mexican rice and lentils, or I buy prepared beans and mash them up with it and make tortillas, or I put it on popcorn. Also curry, but curry is easy to find and not that expensive.
*Netbook. I didn't buy mine for Benin, but I would if I hadn't had it, or at least I hope I would have. Again, no electricity, but I can watch 1 movie and charge my ipod 3 times before needing to recharge. Plus, there is wireless internet at the workstations. Also, when I go to workstations I can watch movies on my laptop while people are waiting to use the one computer we have. Don't forget your external hard drive.
*Photo Album. I made an album with pictures from home, lots of family and some of me. I've loved sharing it with my Beninese families, plus it's nice to look at every once in a while.
*Set of Sheets. Twin size. So happy I brought mine, they're t-shirt cotton or something and my favorite, plus there are no fitted sheets here and it's nice to have matching stuff, in my opinion.
*Cute Clothes. Really, truly, bring stuff that you like! For 'going out' or pcv parties, skinny jeans and tank tops or cute dresses with leggings are perfect. You can show your knees at the workstations and in Cotonou. I choose not to in Cotonou and am glad I brought leggings. Oh, and a swimming suit, I have a bikini, you can only swim at the Ambassador's house or French hotels...so it doesn't matter.
*Rain Jacket. Have you heard Toto's "Africa?"....yes, there are rains down in Africa, lots and lots of rains, bless them for they enable me to sleep.
*Random: Duct tape, good scissors, lots of good pens, spiral notebooks (they gave us graph paper for training, I was so happy I had spiral notebooks), travel hand sanitizer (I was in to that during stage), wipes (again, stage...you'll get over it),
*Kitchen: Set of knives, favorite spices, garlic press (whatever you like)
*Toiletries: Lots of deodorant, conditioner, and face wash and moisturizer. Everything else you can easily find in cities and towns, so just bring 1 set, also a soap container. Oh, you can find deodorant, but I haven't liked the stuff I bought.
*Ladies: cute clothes!, make-up, hair products, jewelry, lots of tampons (I've never seen them here), lots of panties, lots!
Wish I'd Brought:
*More tank tops
*2nd pair of jeans
*pillow (my mom told me to, should have listened)
*Astringent/toner (I have yet to find it in Cotonou and without running water and with all the sweating you do here, it's very helpful)
*Maple Extract (I love maple syrup)
*Seeds for garden
*Dog stuff: flea collar and collar (they are so expensive)
Didn't Need to Bring
*Headlamp. I never used it after like the first month at post.
*Thermarest. I like to pack light and they are bulky, plus I have no problem sleeping on the floor, but most volunteers have mats anyway (you buy them here).
*Lots of books - there are well stocked libraries at every workstation
*Extension cord/outlet- they're SO cheap in Cotonou, like $2
That ended up being way longer than I intended! Hopefully it's helpful. Really, everything you need is here. If you want to bring 3 outfits, a toothbrush and money, you'll be totally fine. Don't stress! Eat lots of good food and enjoy time with your friends and family. See you soon! :)