Friday, May 3, 2013

Packing for Peace Corps Service in Paraguay in 80lbs or Less

(Don’t tell, but technically you have 100lbs to work with.)

In less than 30 days, Peace Corps Paraguay will welcome in its newest crop of Community Economic Development trainees. In honor of the arrival our new baby G, here’s a list of what I would include in my precious 100 pounds if I had to do it all over again. 

A few considerations before we dive in: 
*Paraguay has a funny little insect called the bot fly. Some Volunteers blow this little bugger off, however I am paranoid and insist on ironing all my clothing. You may want to consider this as certain quick-dry fabrics melt when pressed.
*You can buy near about anything in the Capital, including clothing and shoes. Problem is, in order to get something comparable with US quality, you pay through the nose. Paraguay can be really hard on fabric, so I wouldn’t bring anything you would be upset if you couldn’t wear again in the States.
*Paraguay is covered in red dirt that with get on and into every thing you own. 
*Red and blue are highly politicized colors. However, unless you wear them to a parade or a government office, most people won’t make the association. 
*In the winter, Paraguay average low temperatures measure in the mid-50s. As a mid-westerner, I scoffed at this “cold”. Trust me when I say, without insulation or heaters this can feel down right frigid. Layering is key. Also, it’s perfectly socially acceptable to wear the same outfit four days in a row--especially in winter. 
*As someone who didn’t wear makeup in the States, it didn’t occur to me to bring at least one cute going out outfit (or anything, really that made me feel beautiful). You’ll have the opportunity every month or two when you’re in the capital. Personally, I was surprised how good it felt to get dolled up after too long in-site. 
*Peace Corps will provide you with a Spanish/English dictionary. 
*Try not to stress about your bags too much. At the end of the day, you can buy most things here and have anything else shipped. 

*** = Available in Paraguay for a reasonable price

Clothing (Joanna): 

  • 5 t-shirts 
  • 4 tank tops 
  • 2 pairs of work pants 
  • 2 pairs of jeans 
  • 2 pairs of capris or shorts or skirts
  • 2 work shirts (light weight and wrinkle-free) 
  • 1 long sleeve shirt 
  • 1 pair long underwear bottoms or leggings 
  • 2 cardigans for layering 
  • 1 sweater 
  • 1 nightshirt 
  • 2 pajama bottoms 
  • A lot of underwear 
  • Whatever you like to workout in 

For the Lady’s Foot: 

  • 3 pairs super fuzzy fleece socks*** 
  • 1 pair of leg warmers (seriously) 
  • 3 pairs of regular socks 
  • 1 pair of shoes for work (comfortable flats with durable soles) 
  • 1 pair of shoes for working out 
  • 1 pair Chacos
  • 1 pair of Crocs*** (Horrible I know, but the roads in my town turn to soup when it rains) 
  • 1 pair of flip flops for the shower***
Clothing (Kevin) 

  • 2 lightweight short-sleeved dress shirts*** 
    • (Ao Po’i, the traditional shirt, is very popular amongst Volunteers) 
  • 4 polo shirts 
  • 4 t-shirts 
  • 2 long sleeved cotton shirts 
  • 1 sweater 
  • 2 pairs of work pants
  • 2 pairs jeans 
  • 2 pairs of shorts 
  • 2 pairs of pajama bottoms 
  • 2 pairs of long underwear bottoms 
  • Many pairs of boxers 
  • Whatever you like to workout in 

 For the Manly Foot: 

  • 3 pairs of dress socks 
  • 4 pairs of cotton/workout socks
  • 1 pair of cross-trainers 
  • 1 pair of shoes for working out
  • 1 pair of Chacos 
  • 1 pair of work shoes (comfortable with durable soles)
  • 1 pair of flipflops for the shower*** 


Gender-free Accessories and Other Stuff:
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses (We have crazy sun in Paraguay. We also have crazy dust that tends to scratch up glasses. You may want to keep this in mind when choosing your pair.)
  • 1 belt (I like the kind with the secret money compartment.)
  • 1 hooded raincoat
  • 1 medium weight or fleece jacket
  • 1 pair fleece gloves that turn into mittens (My host family got a huge kick out of these.)
  • 1 sun hat or 1 baseball cap***
  • 1 winter knit hat
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 backpack (daypack)
  • 1 tote bag***
  • A pile of handkerchiefs (or more accurately sweat rags)

Electronics and Gadgets:
  • Computer
  • Registration codes and startup software for essential programs (learn from my mistakes)
  • External hard drive
  • Plug adapter and surge protector
  • Pen drive
  • Usb extender (One of the major internet companies now uses these wifi thingies. However, if your town is not in their network, you’ll probably use a usb internet stick. Unless you have ports on both sides of your computer, a hub will make life easier.)
  • Mac port converter for projectors
  • Canned Air (so much dust)
  • Camera
  • iHome Speakers
  • Cord to connect iHome speakers to computer
  • Kindle
  • MP3 Player and earphones
  • Headlamp

Office Supplies:
  • Favorite pens
  • Sharpies
  • Stationary with envelopes (if you plan to write any letters)
  • Construction paper and crayons (especially if you enjoy spending time with kids)

  • Sleeping bag
  • Your favorite brand of water bottle
  • Self stick hooks
  • Nails for plaster walls (keeps my backpack off the floor)
  • Multi-tool (Leatherman)
  • Measuring Cups
  • 1 small, quality pillow (What's more comforting than a good pillow?)
  • Full sized sheets (I love cozy bedding and you can buy something cheaper and better quality at Target than you’ll find here.)
  • 1 quick-dry towel
  • Photos of friends, family, and America
  • Except on rare occasion, I’ve only seen instant coffee outside of the capital. However, if you plan to bring a favorite blend or receive some in a care package you may want a French press. (There are ways to rig up a system, too. You can buy filters in the capital.)

Personal Items:
*We packed way too many toiletries. A week or so worth of supplies should do the trick. (There is a store right next door to the training center where you can buy soap, shampoo, etc.)
*About a week into training you will receive a med kit with everything from bug spray and sunblock to aspirin and allergy pills to antacid and diarrhea medicine.
  • 3 Months worth of prescriptions that you absolutely need to live
  • Speciality hair care products
  • Gold Bond powder
  • Razors (Anything better than a throw away bic is very expensive.)
  • Face moisturizer with sunblock
  • Anything that makes you feel great

  • One book for the plane (PC has a great Volunteer library.)
  • Card games
  • Supplies for your favorite hobby (Guitars and yarn are available here.)

Random and Optional:
  • TSA locks for your luggage (Although these do not have the best reviews, they have suited our needs just fine. It’s been my experience that these type of locks help deter opportunistic theft.)
  • Travel duffel bag for your hiking backpack
  • Gifts for your host family (We brought a small book of photos taken around Chicago, a tiny Chicago skyline snow globe, and a box of Lemonheads.)
  • Workout bands
  • Climbing gear (There are opportunities to go climbing here, if that’s your cup of tea.)
  • Hiking boots and clothing (Optional, but you'll probably never live this close to Patagonia again.)
  • Tent (Optional)
  • Sleeping Pad (Optional, but you might end up sleeping on other Volunteers’ floors more than you planned.)
  • Spices (See below)
  • Pet toys (My cat is really attached to her American mousie.)

A note about spices: All my favorite care packages have included spices. By reputation, Paraguayan food tends not to pack a ton of flavor. Most Paraguayans consider a little black pepper super spicy. Here are some of the seasonings I miss the most: 
  • Cinnamon (available here but very weak)
  • Anything to make Thai or Indian food (we do have curry)
  • Ginger powder
  • Creole spices
  • Maple extract (can be used to make syrup)
  • Anything to make things spicy.
  • Also, decent cheese is a rare commodity here. If you like mac and cheese, bring a handful of the flavor packets. (We already have plenty of pasta.)

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