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Peace Corps guidelines: Limit two checked bags and two carry-ons (one + personal item). No more than 80lbs total; no one bag weighing more than 50lbs. Total dimensions (length + width + height) of checked baggage may not exceed 107 inches; dimensions of the larger piece of checked baggage can’t exceed 62 inches; total carry-on dimensions can’t exceed 45 inches.

Perhaps most importantly, you should be able to carry everything you bring.

So here’s my list, with a few notations about what was useful and what I should have left behind… In addition, Michigan Tech University’s “What Should I Bring [to Peace Corps]?” page has a great list of do’s and don’ts from RPCVs.
 

Clothing:

  • Shirts: 3 T-shirts; 2 tank tops; 3 collared shirts; 1 light long-sleeve; 1 fleece
    (PC says “business casual” for staging and PST, but “presentable” is generally adequate.)
  • 2 long dresses; 2 below-knee-length skirts
    (I should’ve gone with longer, more comfortable skirts—with pockets.)
  • Pants: 2 pr cotton/linen; 1 pr “tech”; 1 pr jeans; 1 pr light cotton for sleeping
  • 1 pr exercise shorts
  • 1 rain jacket (Marmot Pre Cip)
    (I used this on my vacation to Europe, but never in Senegal.)
  • 1 straw hat; 1 canvas hat
  • Shoes: Chacos; Merrell trail runners; dressier slides
    (I wore the Chacos constantly, but the tennis shoes rarely and the slides once.)
  • 5 pr socks
  • 10 pr underwear; 3 sports bras; 2 regular bras
    (I should have brought more underwear and bras.)
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 5 bandanas
  • jewelry

Having clothes made by local tailors, with crazy local fabrics, is both practical and entertaining in Senegal. I recommend bringing clothes that you’d like to have copied once you’re in country. Also, secondhand T-shirts are plentiful in the markets (and there are some real treasures to be found).
 

Toiletries, etc:

  • toothbrush; toothpaste (1 in use, 1 extra); floss
  • 2 pr prescription glasses
  • 1 pr prescription sunglasses
    (Because I wore contacts without problems, I never used these.)
  • 1 pr regular sunglasses
  • disposable contacts; saline solution; eye drops
    (PC strongly advises against wearing contacts, but I used them without any problems.)
  • deodorant (1 in use, 1 extra)
  • 1 bar soap; soap container
  • small mirror
  • leave-in conditioner
    (I never used this because my hair was usually too greasy as it was.)
  • comb
  • razor; replacement blades; small can shaving cream
    (I stopped shaving because of laziness and concerns over infections from cuts, so these went unused.)
  • 4 mini packs of Kleenex
  • tiny bottle liquid hand sanitizer
  • antimicrobial soap
  • the “Keeper,” which I
    recommend wholeheartedly; pantiliners
  • fingernail & toenail clippers
  • hair bands, hair clips, etc.
  • 1 extra-large packtowl; 1 small packtowl
    (Towels and fabric are plentiful in Senegal; these didn’t hold up too well.)
  • moisturizing lotion
  • Excedrin, ibuprofen
  • Lip balm
  • 6-month supply of prescriptions
  • 2 boxes Pepto-Bismol
  • small bottle of scented oils for bucket baths
    (Cute, but went unused.)

Many of these items are either easily available in Senegal or supplied by Peace Corps. The following items are provided on request by our medical unit (these may vary by country):

  • painkillers (Ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin)
  • malaria prophylaxis
  • special prescriptions (birth control, etc.)
  • multivitamins
  • vitamin C
  • antihistamine
  • decongestant
  • Claritin
  • cough drops
  • antacid
  • Immodium
  • antibiotics: Ciprofloxacin and Erythromycin
  • oral rehydration salts
  • antimicrobial soap
  • antifungal cream
  • antibiotic ointment
  • insect repellant
  • calamine lotion
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • band-aids and butterfly closures
  • sterile gauze
  • medical tape
  • Ace bandages
  • condoms
  • chapstick
  • dental floss
  • thermometer

Also, the medical kit that we received in PST contained sunscreen, tweezers, scissors, latex gloves, and a few other things that aren’t resupplied.
 

Gear:

  • Timex sport watch; extra battery
    (The strap broke within the first month, and afterwards I simply used my cellphone’s clock.)
  • battery-powered alarm clock
    (Get one of the nifty kinds that has a thermometer and calendar.)
  • digital camera (Canon s410); accessories; 4 memory cards
    (Fantastic, both for my web gallery and for amazing people with the instant gratification of a
    digital display. I wish I had brought an extra battery.)
  • USB card reader; blank CD-Rs for backing-up photos
    (The CD-Rs were available in Senegal, but the card reader was invaluable as a jump drive for
    cybercafes and PC computers.)
  • miniDV camera (Canon ZR40); accessories; 6 Sony Premium miniDV tapes
    (Once I started using this regularly, I had many more tapes brought/sent.)
  • iSun solar charger; BattPak; charging accessories
    (The iSun never really worked, but other models are worth investigating if you don’t expect to be at or near a site with electricity.)
  • 16 AA rechargeable batteries; 4 AAA rechargeable batteries
    (I was very unimpressed with the Energizer rechargeables, but this could have been a factor of my makeshift charging apparatus.)
  • 2 pin (French) socket adapter
    (What I brought was actually a wattage adapter, which I blame for my iPod’s first meltdown. Many electronics run on both 110 and 220 currents, so what you’ll usually need is simply a plug adapter.)
  • LED headlamp
    (Absolutely indispensable. I recommend the Petzl model that runs on three AAAs.)
  • 1 pr good scissors; 1 roll scotch tape; 1 roll duct tape
    (All priceless.)
  • 2 combination locks
  • 2 carabinier clips
  • lots of Ziploc freezer bags (quart & gallon sizes)
    (Again, priceless.)
  • two Nalgene bottles
  • 3 medium-size pieces of Tupperware, nested for transport
  • kitchen knife
    (Very useful.)
  • Swiss army knife; whetstone
  • 2 journals; 2 pocket notebooks
  • pencil bag; pens, pencils, permanent markers, etc
  • address book
  • 2005 planner
  • pillow; hand-rolled vacuum bag to transport it in
  • Thermarest
    (Not as essential as the pillow, but nice to have. I should’ve brought decent sheets, too.)
  • cheap wallet; money belt
  • $200 in traveler’s checks
    (I cashed half of these to buy my cellphone and never used the other half.)
  • 18 passport-sized photos
    (A PC requirement. Do them beforehand or you’ll spend an evening running around your staging city looking for a drugstore with a Kodak kiosk. Though at the end of the two years they gave about a dozen back to me, unused.)
  • plastic document/file folders
  • PC paperwork; Volunteer Handbook; personal papers, etc

 

Entertainment:

  • small shortwave/AM/FM radio
    (I used it every day to listen to the BBC.)
  • 40gb iPod; accessories; iTrip (to play the iPod through FM radio)
    (My iPod went back to the US twice for repairs; the second time, it was replaced. Bring plug
    adapters, not a wattage converter, which can fry it. I bought the Apple plug adapter set, which worked for my iBook as well.)
  • earbud headphones; tiny speakers
  • poster-sized map of the world
    (I would have put this up if I hadn’t lived in a round hut.)
  • photo album to share; photo album for me
    (A big hit with my host families in PST and the village.)
  • deck of cards; Uno
    (I should’ve brought more kid-friendly games.)
  • essential books: Slaughterhouse Five, Myth of
    Sisyphus, Daily Afflictions
    (PC offices and houses all have libraries full of books for PCVs to borrow.)
  • French grammar book; tiny French-English dictionary

 

Food:

  • 1 bag Werther’s Original hard candy; 1 bag CremeSavers hard candy
  • 3 pouches Kool-aid mix
  • 1 box chai black tea bags

 

Gifts:

  • LSU baseball hat
  • tin of Burt’s Bees hand salve
  • 2 boxes Crayola crayons
  • small pad of paper; sheets of paper
  • soccer ball (deflated); two needles

I found that the large, amorphous family structures in Senegal made
gift-giving very complicated. Group gifts (like the crayons and the
soccer ball) or large quantities of small things (like the candy) were
easier to give. I gave other gifts that were brought from the US, like
LED flashlights, to my host father, who as the head of the family would
distribute them appropriately.
 

And to carry it all:

  • large (5400 cu.in.) Kelty backpack
  • light duffel for transporting backpack by air; luggage straps
  • North Face backpack (booksack size)
  • small Eagle Creek travel bag (purse size)
  • assorted zip-bags, stuff sacks, etc

 

Things brought or sent to me during service:

  • laptop computer (12″ Apple iBook G4)
    (I went without a computer because it seemed silly to bring a laptop to the Peace Corps, but
    having it there was both been extremely useful for projects and also provided a nice bit of convenience—and escapism.)
  • Chaco flip flops
    (While $1 flip flops are ubiquitous in Senegal, these—with their comfortable straps and sturdy footbeds—were one of the best purchases I made during my two years. Plus, Chaco gives PCVs a 50% discount.)
  • small nonstick skillet and one of those nifty collapsible steamer baskets
    (Both either not available in Senegal or very expensive.)