Tight Pants: Packing for Peace Corps Jamaica

Packing for Peace Corps is a tough job. How can you possibly decide what you will need for two years and fit it all into two bags, weighing under 80 pounds. We PCVs in Jamaica thought we would share our thoughts on what you can and can't live without. Disclaimer: The comments on this page do not express the views of Peace Corps, the US Government, or any other organizations named in these pages.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Packing Questions

1) What gifts would you recommend bringing for a host family? I've read that calendars, hard candy, and postcards are common, along with footballs and soccer balls.
I would just bring something small with you, like your favorite candy that you can share with them the first night or something. Then I would get to know the family better and buy them a gift before you leave, this way you can get them something you know they will like and use. Or maybe there will be something that you have that you want to leave behind with them, for instance we gave our family one of our DVDs because our host sister watched it over and over again while we were there.

2) What is something that you brought with you that you haven't used?
A raincoat, it was really hot to wear it and Jamaicans don't use them so I really felt like I stood out and looked silly. I brought it back to the States the first time I returned. A nice sturdy umbrella that you can fit in your bag and carry all the time is really a much better option.
3) What is something that you wish you brought had with you?
I've had tons of packages sent to me which has been really awesome. Here are a few of the things I have requested: towels (both quick dry and regular bath towels), a solar shower (really great when you have to take a bucket bath because you can get a better stream of water), a coffee grinder and french press, a good quality can opener, and a good quality kitchen knife.
4) What is the difference between a world band and an emergency crank radio? If there is a difference, which would you recommend bringing?
One main difference is the fact that you can crank the one to recharge it, so it would be better in a case when you had no electricity and you ran out of battery power. The other advantage of the hand crank radio is that many have a cell phone adapter so you can recharge your cell phone as well. I have both and the primary reason I got the crank one was for the cell phone adapter. Also the main advantage of the world band is that it has shortwave radio, but Jamaica gets tons of FM stations (including BBC) so you don't ever need the shortwave stations. I'd say go with the emergency crank kind.
5) Sleeping bags and sleeping pads...are they essential? I've heard that they are nice for sleeping during training.
We have sleeping pads and find them pretty handy because we go visit other volunteers a lot and have people stay at our place pretty often. All the floors in Jamaica are concrete covered with tile so having that extra cushion is really nice. I don't really find that a sleeping bag is too necessary, we usually just bring a sheet because it is easier to carry and most places aren't very cold.
6) I saw that you used a pack from REI. Did you have another bag to put the pack in for the flight?
We checked our backpacks as they were and just buckled and tied up all the straps and they got through fine. But there really isn't any advantage to having a backpack because you won't be able to travel very easily around the island with a backpacking backpack (and it makes you stand out which could make you a target for crime) so I would recommend bringing 2 duffel bags or suitcases for your checked bags because they will be easier to pack.
7) I've come across recommendations to bring a laptop to Jamaica, as it helps with work, keeping connected with friends, uploading pictures, etc. What are your thoughts on this? Would my work be at a disadvantage because I do not have something readily available to type up documents, research, and such? Are many PCV's in Jamaica bringing laptops?
Lots of PCVs in Jamaica have laptops and I know several volunteers who didn't bring one at first and either had a visitor bring them one or got one the first time they went home so I would definitely say it is an item in demand. We use ours a lot for music, games, movies, etc. And to do some work at home. We don't have internet at home but we just save things on a jump drive so that when we do get internet we can upload things quickly (definitely a concern if you are paying for internet). I think the biggest use of laptops among the volunteers I know is not to do work for their agency but to help fight the boredom at home.


At Friday, June 15, 2007 2:07:00 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Some Questions...

1. What type and brand of sleeping pad would you recommend? $100 seems to be a standard price for Therm-a-Rest. That is a lot of money, so is it worth it?

2. What type and brand of a solar shower would you recommend?

3. How formal is "business casual"? Is a nice skirt and top okay, or should it be business suits?

4. What kind of work shoes do you recommend that will look nice enough but be comfortable? Must they really be closed toe?


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