Packing List

If you are coming to Ethiopia to join the Peace Corps, this should be a helpful packing list. If you are not, this will be entirely pointless to read.
For those of you coming, congratulations. I had no idea what to expect of Ethiopia but I’ve been very surprised. The country is absolutely beautiful, you’ll have a good staff, and the whole experience is pretty awesome. I won’t say much more, because it is important for you to come in with no expectations and hope for the best. If you do so, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Here is a packing list that I wish I were given before coming to Ethiopia. This is not quite comprehensive, but should give you an idea of some different things to bring. Also, I like women but don’t quite understand them. There are things that I left out that the other species should consider. Track down a female volunteer for better advice.

1.    3 month supply of all medications—Peace Corps will provide for the rest.
2.    Resistance bands/Water weights: had these mailed to me after I realized push-ups weren’t going to cut it for 2 years.
3.    A 500gb or higher Hard Drive (and a 2-16gb thumb drive): So important. We have a massive network of movies, shows, books on tape and articles that will give you something to enjoy during your down hours. Put some of your favorite movies and or tv shows on it before you come ☺
4.    A computer:  some people didn’t think they needed it and regret it. Don’t have any expectations about having the Internet. That being said, almost all of you will be able to access the interwebs (if not in your town then in a nearby one.) My internet is about 3x the speed of dialup and I’m able to video chat at times.
5.    US-Europe electronic adapters and voltage converter: 220 to 110 so you don’t fry your camera charger. Because I bet that would really suck and ruin your week.
6.    Rechargeable AA and AAA batteries and charger: Brookstone sold one that works great for me here
7.    An unlocked GSM phone:  figure out how to do this on your phone or buy one off ebay and you will get to save some much needed money in country. Peace Corps will give you money for a phone but its nice to already have one.
8.    Cooking utensils: Vegetable peeler, plastic spatula, non stick frying pan, measuring cups (tbsp, tsp, cup, ½ cup) and a good knife. The best plan is to mail your kitchen stuff (and voltage converter) to save room right before you leave. Use the flat rate boxes at UPS and ship to:

Your name C/O Peace Corps Ethiopia
PO Box 7788
Addis Ababa

9.    Condiments and spices-find a way to pack things like soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, black pepper, herbs, cinnamon, vanilla,—and you won’t regret it. You could just get the tiny packets from sushi/fast food restaurants. You can get most of these things in Addis but it can be pretty expensive. Or mail them with the cooking supplies
10.    A nice pillow:  the ones here are essentially soft rocks
11.    Black socks and underwear: trust me
12.    A sweatshirt/ and a nice rainjacket: Ethiopia can be quite cold/rainy up in the mountains.
13.    Good waterproof hiking boots: a must
14.     Other shoes: running shoes, chacos, and something comfy (sandals/slippers) for around the house.
15.     Candy:  amazing how many of us crave candy–peanut m&m’s are like gold here-bring more than you think you will want. Also 10-20 packs of your favorite gum is a great idea.
16.     Wall decorations:  things to make your house more homely-lightweight things like pictures and banners/posters
17.     A small stuffed sleeping bag:  a must, in my opinion
18.     A couple nice notebooks:  the ones here suck
19.     Pens/Pencils:  the ones here suck
20.     A camera: if you don’t bring one, you are dumb
21.     Soccer ball and pump: I brought 5 deflated soccer balls to give as gifts and kept one for myself. Soccer is a religion here
22.     Other presents for your host family: American flag t-shirts, mini LED flashlights, and perfume are good ideas.
23.    Hygiene stuff: hand sanitizer, hand wipes, good shampoo, shaving cream, good razors, (an electronic shaver/beard trimmer is a great luxury to have) dandruff shampoo (I get it here because of the elevation), Dr. Bronners all purpose soap, cologne/perfume (aka an Ethiopian shower)
24.     Quick drying lightweight towel: so very useful
25.     Sleeping pills: are a great idea because they aren’t provided and man will you need them the first month. BUT
26.     Don’t bring any other medical stuff like cortisone cream or band aids: those will be given to you, as will water treatment devices and a mosquito net. No need to buy water purification pills or a steripen.
27.     Duct Tape: Jesus himself invented it
28.     Leatherman/Pocketknife: I use mine everyday
29.     Headlamp: the maid/worker of my host family thought this was the greatest invention ever
30.     A couple pairs of glasses/sunglasses: because if you are like me, you will lose your first pair.
31.     A hiking backpack: something to take on 3-7 day trips
32.     Books: you don’t need your whole library–we have lots and lots to share.
33.    12-16 passport photos-you need a lot and its better to have extras.
34.    Less clothes than you think you’ll need: I’m embarrassed about how many shirts I brought—most Ethiopians only own one or two.

Finally, things I wish I had packed but are luxuries that you probably don’t have room for:
Febreeze, tap lights, (the lighting in my room sucks) hangers, (it took me a long time to find some) a hammock (very jealous of the two kids who brought one) and my weight in vacuum dried Chipotle Burrito’s.

Enjoy your last couple months in the USA, and I look forward to meeting you all.


2 comments on “Packing List

  1. Laura says:

    I just got invited to East Africa, maybe Ethiopia, maybe Kenya, waiting on packet and will know in a few days ….I have a few random packing questionsand a dumb one about the hammock, you mean just the rope kind right that you tie to trees? Not like a free standing one for a house with wooden sides that hands like 4 inches off the ground.

    Also, what’s the deal with having friends mail you chocolate? Does it melt and get all gross or are you so desperate for good chocolate that you just dont care?

    Thoughts on dry powder shampoo for women? Perhapsa question for a female volunteer….

    Anything special for an ESL teacher I should bring? (besides a few books)

    Short wave radio…worth the $70?

    How hard is it to get digital or film pics printed/developed?

    I swear if I end up in Ethiopia and you are kind enough to answer my random questions I’ll bring you some PB M and M’s 🙂



    • hey i’m answering this question in mike’s place in the hopes of receiving some M&Ms. or just to be nice. also jessica is here. we’re ethiopia peace corps volunteers, so don’t worry, we’re legit.

      1. chocolate. have them send it. chocolate here blows and the only thing they sweeten here is coffee and tea. cake is gross! and sometimes chocolate arrives unmelted.

      2. jessica had a bar of shampoo she bought from Lush which was pretty awesome and lasted a long time but didn’t take up too much space/weigh too much. but everyone we know uses liquid shampoo. you can actually buy ok shampoo here, it’s just expensive. some people have it mailed and that seems to work fine too. we sadly don’t know anything about powdered shampoo but maybe you can trailblaze that one.

      3. ESL stuff… pictures of family and places in the states are good for talking about colors, family, etc and they’re always super interested in any thing personal about you. colored post-it notes are good for some activities (sentence rearranging, etc)

      4. short wave radio. i brought a cheap one (like $30 from REI) and during my first crazy month i was like, holy crap! they’re speaking English! but it was really hard to get a good signal, i just had to constantly hold it and tweak it. but the other thing is that BBC here is almost all africa news, and i really wanted more western news… there’s a lot of news about cabinet positions in mozambique and that type of thing. i ended up giving my radio to a friend. one thing i’d recommend is loading up on news podcasts before you come, and bring a laptop, and you’ll occasionally be able to update your podcasts at the HQ in addis where there’s wireless.

      5. pictures- any medium sized or large town will have photo print shops, it’s super easy if you bring pictures to the shop on a flash or disc. they also like to put flowery borders on them and fuzzify everything with a beautifying airbrush. taking pictures of your host family during pre-service training and then printing them at the end as a parting gift is awesome, host families love pictures!

      we’re excited to meet you. best wishes in all things. – megan and jessica

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