wOnderlust, they were so close.
As I approach my one-year mark in Namibia Group 45 is counting down the days until their departure. I wanted to create a guide for those heading to this side. Last year I posted a list of what I was packing for my 27 month Peace Corps service. If you have perused a few other Peace Corps Namibia blogs (Little Backpack, Big World and Alex Yonkovig to name a few), I think you will be able to get an idea of what to bring and not to bring, so my guide is obviously not all-inclusive. Knowing what I know now, here are some suggestions for you. This guide will be most beneficial to health volunteers, but here ya go:
Stick to 2 bags (3 max). I should’ve listened to this advice. One should be a larger suitcase or duffel bag with wheels and the second should be a backpack. PST is not your final destination. Having luggage with wheels will make moving easier on you and all the people around you. You will be walking a lot and a backpack is more functional. I brought a small duffel bag, which was clearly the wrong choice. Also, keep in mind you want something durable enough for commuting 8,000 plus miles, but also durable enough because it will collect dust for the next 2 years.
LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage! LOCK your checked luggage!
Things WILL go missing. Pocket knives, jewelry and especially electronics have been known to go missing in Johannesburg. Don’t even think about putting your valuables in your checked bags unless you want to arrive in Namibia without them.
Less is more.
I brought lots (probably too many) snacks and spices. Because you know, after one month in Namibia I was suffering and devoured all of my Krave beef jerky. I would suggest bringing some ethnic spices or seasonings that you can’t live without, and also a few of your favorite snacks, but, don’t go overboard. It takes up valuable weight and space, and it is always nice to have items like that arrive in a care package. Surprisingly, you can find similar spices in major shopping towns/cities such as Windhoek. Volunteers have found sriracha, Heinz Ketchup, Oreos, and even Pop Tarts.
There is food in Namibia. You won’t suffer…too much.
Health volunteers will most likely be placed in northern Namibia. I spend most of my days out in the community, so my dressing code (what it’s called here) isn’t too strict compared to maybe a CED volunteer who may be required to dress more business casual. I brought one nice pair of dress slacks and four or five skirts. These were acceptable during PST, but not functional or ideal for me at site. I would recommend keeping the business attire to a minimum. (You honestly could probably wear the same thing every day at PST, but don’t.) Health volunteers, don’t waste valuable space on a lot of business wear.
Ladies, if you choose to bring dresses or skirts, make sure the hit your knee or below. I know the game we play. I’m 5′ 11″, sorry the ‘six’ key on my laptop is broken, but you will feel eyes looking at you if you decide to wear anything shorter. It’s just not appropriate in Namibia. Cute, form-fitting, and trendy is fine. Short is not.
Group 45 will be arriving during some of the cooler months here in Namibia so take that into consideration when packing. You will not need a winter coat by any means but pack a light sweater or cardigan. Maybe, even bring a light jacket, mornings and nights will get pretty cold during those times.
Don’t go out and purchase a lot of new items. If you’re unsure, go without, and you can purchase it here for a fraction of the cost. Bring clothes you are comfortable wearing at home. Those are the clothes you will be most comfortable wearing here. Don’t, I repeat don’t, go buy a whole new wardrobe. You will be here living and working, you won’t be a tourist or on vacation (most of the time) so don’t spend too much time at REI.
If you work out at home or you are considering working out during service, bring workout clothes and even some equipment, if you must. If you don’t want your nice athletic wear getting ruined, DON’T BRING IT! Because you will snag your $40 reflective running tights on the fence post on your homestead and it will be the saddest day ever. Volunteers have brought kettlebells, yoga mats, and resistances bands from home. All of these things are also available in-country as well if you rather not tote these items across the globe.
Bring a hat, umbrella, and at least one sweater.
Most of the time it’s sunny and sometimes it’s cold.
As a health volunteer, my Chacos sandals are my go-to. I choose Chacos over Tevas because I think the soles can outlast the northern Namibian terrain. I’ve seen acacia thorns do damage to some of the sturdiest soles. I wear these almost every day because of the amount of sand I trek through to get to and from work.
Bring at least one nice pair of shoes for church, weddings, retirement parties, or even a PC event.
Slippers are a must around my room because of the insects. Oh, and shower shoes.
I just make cold brew coffee in my Nalgene now.
You can get all household essentials in-country with your settling-in allowance. I think a volunteer even purchased an iron and an ironing board with theirs. If you bring a water bottle, bring one that is 32 oz or smaller. My Nalgene carries 1500mL, which is a pain to travel with (there I go complaining about water), but it gets heavy. I would even suggest a thermal type of bottle. Wait to buy sheets here. They have several bedding stores to purchase them. You won’t know what your living situation will be for the next 2 years right away, so just wait to purchase bedding.
Toiletries, such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, etc., you can find here. Unless you are brand loyal, only bring enough for training.
Ladies, if you don’t have a DivaCup. Get one (or two). Feminine products can sometimes go weeks without restocking, especially in a village.
Sunscreen is provided by Peace Corps Namibia unless you need a higher SPF. I think PCN provides SPF 30.
NATURAL HAIR LADIES AND GENTS
Bring products from home. I think there is one store in Windhoek that sells natural hair products, although, I haven’t been able to locate that store yet. Many women here do not wear their natural hair, so the product selection is slim or non-existent. I have found some alright brands, but they do some damage to your PC stipend. So, stock up on your shea butter, jojoba oil, oil treatments, and do yourself a favor and bring a small spray bottle also.
I received mine as a gift a few years ago and was a little hesitant on bringing it, but I’m so glad that I did. I didn’t even have much time to read for enjoyment back home, but you will have plenty of downtime during your few months in-country and at site. Volunteers love to share books. If you have an electronic reader, BRING IT!
You will hear mixed reviews on bringing a sleeping bag. I’m from Texas, so when I got to my permanent site in June the nights were cold for me. I slept in my sleeping bag every night. If you choose to bring one make sure it is compact. Like super compact. A sleeping bag is also useful when overnighting at other volunteer sites or if you plan to go camping while you’re in Africa.
Ear plugs! Bring ear plugs. I can promise you the first few weeks or even months you may have a hard time sleeping from the dogs, chickens, and other noises. Also, save the little courtesy pouch from the international flight. It has a sleep mask which I use on the weekends to sleep in until 745a.
See you soon and happy packing!