Cruising along I-90 in our 2003 Dodge Intrepid on a beautiful May afternoon, somewhere between Coeur d’Alene, ID and Missoula, MT, on the way to my cousin’s wedding, it happened: our first Peace Corps fight.
The conversation that led to our first spat revolved around whether or not to take our 3rd generation, five-year old iPod Touch to Nicaragua. I thought it’d be great to bring along, but Emily felt uncomfortable with the idea of bringing too much technology. After realizing that this seemingly innocuous discussion had become heated, we came to understand just how much is tied into the tangible act of preparing 100 pounds of luggage, physically and emotionally. For us this included:
- the choice of what parts of our lives to leave behind
- the desire to effectively assimilate into a new culture
- the conflict between the urge to simplify life, yet be prepared for anything
- the realization of how little we actually knew about the next 2+ years of our lives.
To help us through this process, one strategy that we found equal parts overwhelming and comforting was Googling “Peace Corp Packing Lists”. The guidance and suggestions of PCVs that had gone before us was a comfort, but the sheer amount of information and opinions was overwhelming. In an effort to help sort through the information overload, I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the best packing lists out there for prospective Nicaraguan Peace Corps Volunteers.
Before we dive into it, though, I need to share a piece of advice that has stuck with me ever since I first read my TEFL Volunteer Assignment Description:
Don’t obsess about what to pack. Everything you need is available here. You’re already ready, just bring you.
It’s so true. And for those extra special goodies from home, while there is always the mail, there are also an almost constant stream of PCVs headed back to the states, or family members coming to visit Nicaragua that will happily transport a package for you. Just bring you.
MayWeSuggest’s Peace Corps Nicaragua Packing List Round-Up
1. The Most Important Peace Corps Packing List Ever
Allison Adams, PCV in Ethiopia
Why it’s great – Allison offers good overall packing strategies, while acknowledging that it’s impossible to truly know what to pack for two years. This is not PC Nicaragua specific, but I think provides some helpful guiding principles for those unsure of what to pack.
- “The reality of packing for the Peace Corps is that you’re not going to find the perfect packing list.”
- “Take others’ packing lists as suggestions. If the list was written after the Volunteer has already been serving for a while, it could be a valuable resource. These types of lists often include items that you can and can’t find around that person’s site – and they sometimes state if items can be found in the capital or bigger cities.” I’m focusing on these types of lists in this post 🙂
Why they’re great – Alba does a great job of honing in on context of being a Nicaraguan PCV, and how this will affect your packing and service. Know Before You Go is a more broad, expectation management post, but does contain some packing nuggets.
- Her “Thoughts on Money” are on point. I wish I would’ve saved some of my money from Staging and brought it to country. If only I would’ve known how many Córdobas that was!
- Bring your computer. Personally, I brought an old, crappy one that works but is falling apart. I would recommend bringing something you know will last.
3. Detailed Packing List – Revised
Michelle Zaragoza, Nicaragua PCV from Environment 64
Why it’s great – This has to be the most detailed list I’ve seen, cataloging literally every item she brought. What’s even more awesome is that after 10 months in Nicaragua, Michelle went back and reviewed the entire list and gave suggestions based on her experience.
- She very clearly lays out the PC packing parameters at the start of her post.
- Stickers are a hit with the kids here.
4. Hindsight is 20/20: Packing List Advice
Paul and Holly Ragan, Nicaragua TEFL RPCVs
Why it’s great – This is a very well-organized list, from an organized couple, that has a little something for both the hombres and mujeres. Also, it’s broken down into the helpful categories of Don’t Leave Home Without It, Para Muchachos, Para Muchachas, If You Have Room/Weight, If You Don’t Have Room/Weight, Leave It At Home, and Other Packing Advice. Although they wrote it in 2007, it still holds true today.
- Pack extra batteries
- Pack Command Hooks
Why it’s great – While not a packing list, this is a very handy link for your pre-service purchases. I’ve got to put a plug in here for Bluff Works. While a bit pricey, the pants I bought from them are hands-down my favorite article of clothing here in Nicaragua. They are durable, professional, comfortable, and even have zippers in two of the pockets (which adds an extra sense of security in the crowded Nicaraguan buses). I couldn’t recommend them enough!
Why it’s great – Basic, comprehensive list based on the experiences of many volunteers here in Nicaragua. You’ve probably already seen this list if you’ve been on the Peace Corps Nica wiki, or read through the Welcome Book, but I thought it’d be good to include it here.
- Bring a good kitchen knife if you know you’ll want to cook for yourself when you get to site. For example, this one rocks.
- Two high-quality, quick dry towels.
What do you think? Have you seen other awesome PC Packing Lists that I missed?
Feel free to reach out with any questions you have about packing and preparation for service! Emily and I would be happy to chat, and we know other PCVs in country would love to, as well 🙂 We’ve all been there!
But most importantly, take a few deep breaths. You’ve got this!