Sep 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm #1263502
I am headed off to the Peace Corps in mid-October, and I am trying to think about what gear I can bring along to bring some ease and efficiency to my life. Though this is primarily a community focused on lightweight backpacking, I am sure that the many travelers on these forums have valuable thoughts on such an adventure.
A few gear points I've been thinking about are:
I do not yet know whether I will be in a remote village or in the capital city, but I want to plan for the most isolated possibility. I welcome any and all thoughts on the coming adventure!
All my best,
JedSep 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm #1647318
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Jed, that sounds like a great adventure.
Before you discuss solar charging, you might want to mention what it is that you have that requires power. For example, laptop computer, camera battery, flashlight, etc.
If you need only DC power, that is one thing. If you need AC power, then that is another thing. You almost have to itemize the power demand for each thing, like 5 volts DC at 200 milliamps for four hours in one day.
I've been around some large-scale solar systems in East Africa, but I guess you are looking for something pretty small.
–B.G.–Sep 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm #1647321
@vinovampireSep 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm #1647330
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I'm a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) as you will be in 2 years. I served in the Philippines in the mid '60s.
My 1st and most imprortant piece of advice regards WATER PURIFICATION. More Peace Corps Volunteers get sick from bad water (& eating frozen treats) than any other source of illness.
Carry a SteriPen Adventurer and get the kit that has the solar recharging case and take 3 sets of rechargable batteries. This should last you all of your 2 year tour.
Also take two or three packages of Katadyn Micropur chlorine dixoide tablets. They are compact and each tab purifies 1 liter of CLEAR water.
We're talking water PURIFICATION, not just water filtration. Mainly you'll boil water to purify it when at your home but travelling away from home means taking a Camelbak bladder & pack for it and the Micropur tablets AND the SteriPen to use in glasses of water offered to you. Just tell 'em it's "doctor's orders" (your regional P.C. doctor :) and they should understand that you're not being crazy.
Also bring most of the clothes you'll need. Buying clothes there is likely going to be a PITA, especially socks that fit. I'd bring mainly synthetic or permenant press cotton clothes. Others will cling to you and dry too slowly or not at all.
Load up your I-pod with a gazillion tunes and bring a mini doc W/ speakers AND a 220 to 120 AC converter and the requiste plug adaptor(s). This last item is very important.
Finally, when you send your allowed "locker" of goodies to yourself be SURE that locker is bomb and burglar proof and that you can secure it with a heavy bike cable to something very immovable like a beam in the house or at least the plumbing – if there is any.
Finally, you must face the reality that you may have to "bug out" at a moment's notice due to political instability. Go to your burgular proof locker where you keep your passport, I-Pod, radio, etc. and have a medium sized daypack full of a change of clothes, passaport, etc. Be sure to take all your water purification gear too. You can grab this pack and flee quickly, knowing you have your essentials including malaria prophylaxis meds, mad money, and collection of Smurf comics.
Good luck and remember to always be professional and don't go "too native". They expect you to dress a bit better than them and not doing so can create some subtle disrespect of you that you'll likely never notice but may affect how well your advice is recieved.Sep 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm #1647337
First, kudos to you for volunteering!
I have ZERO peace corp experience, but have traveled extensively (although not to Rwanda). I highly second the Steripen. However, if you aren't constantly going from place to place carrying everything you own such that light weight is absolutely critical — then consider the slightly larger Steripen classic — which takes 4 AA batteries. Then bring a couple sets of rechargeable NiMH batteries and a charger. Rechargeable or alkaline or just good ol' "heavy duty" — methinks you'll have a more secure battery supply going with AA than the smaller CR123's.
And if you go the AA route, then I would also recommend getting as many of your gadgets as possible using the same battery type. Not a critical rule, but one of convenience and simplicity. Plan ahead before you shop. Google around, and you will find that there are AA battery chargers that come with all kinds of adapters for charging your phone, mp3, etc. — even a USB outlet.
As for clothing, my experience is different. I find clothing cheaply and easily available in many "third world" countries. So unless your size is significantly different from the locals (maybe ask ahead) — then I would just bring a few and then buy local. I've read that much of sub Saharan Africa buys cheap, second-hand clothes imported from the US…
One exception to the above might be shoes. A sturdy pair that fits you might be harder to find — so maybe bring an extra pair of good ones…
I again second Eric's post above — about not trying to dress like a native. NOTHING is so comical (i.e. stupid looking) as a FARANG wearing Thai fishermen's pants in Thailand — or coolie hats in China!! Picture an Asian traveler wearing "full-on Texan" and you will know what I mean. Something similar likely applies in Rwanda as well…
Finally, a great forum for international travelers of all stripes and colors is the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree. Ask anything about any place and chances are someone's been there and done it and will give you helpful insights.
Best of luck!Sep 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm #1647338
Something like hammocks and mosquito netting — my hunch is that they should be available much more cheaply locally. At least I know you can buy stuff like this in Mexico or Philippines a heck of a lot cheaper than here in the US. And the local ones may be mosquito treated — so that would be another plus. Ask ahead… And bring a roll or three of duck tape. :)Sep 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm #1647723
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I second Ben's suggestion of trying to get everything to run on more readily available AA or AAA batteries. I still think a solar charger is better B/C you may blow out a wall charger when the current fluctuates, as it does in many 3rd world nations – IF you're stationed in a location that even has electricity.
Check out survivalgearsource.com or West Marine's online catalog for a solar battery charger. You may become very popular with that piece of equipment.
PM me if you have any questions.Sep 21, 2010 at 8:27 pm #1647773
@johnzLocale: East Bay
First off, many thanks for your service to our country!
I was Peace Corps Cameroon in 1988/1989 in Cameroon, West Africa. Seems like yesterday, hard to believe it's been over 20 years. We trained in The Republic of the Congo (Zaiire) and also in Cameroon before posting, for me that was in a tiny village that had not had foreigners since the French pulled out….
Water will be your biggest issue, but Peace Corps has pulled their heads out of their butts since the 1960's and realized that quality water filters are an intelligent investment, or at least they were on that track when I was in service. We used a ceramic gravity filter that handled about 2 gallons at a time. So I would inquire of your handlers, but not really worry too much about water. However, keep in mind it is up to you to be ON TOP OF YOUR WATER. I was sick a fair amount of my two years from waterborne stuff simply because on occasion I would forget to bring my own filtered water and in the tropical heat, there was no way to spend a day in the villages without water… presto you have some new bug. You have to be dilligent ALL THE TIME. Thats as simple as just making sure you have a full water bottle in your pack ALWAYS. Not usually, but ALWAYS.
As mentioned already, music is a nice touch stone to home when away from home. Bring your iPod and a small decent speaker system. Batteries are available even in the most remote of Timbuktu villages, I would not worry about that. I brought a solar charger and sold it pretty quick because it simply could not provide enough power to run my player and external speakers… but my motorcycle battery did just fine!!!
Other than that, everything you are going to bring will wear out before you leave so don't worry about it. Clothes will all be available there too. I brought a small photo album of my family and friends and carried it with me whenever I went to do my Aquaculture visits in the villages…. it was by far the single most important thing I packed. Family translates across all languages!!
Again, thank you for your service. PM me if you have other questions.
PS. What program are you going to be in? Your chosen program will dictate, to a large degree, the size of the city/village you will be posted to and therefore the conditions you will live in (running water, electricity, paved roads, etc). Ditch all your existing notions of what you are getting into and open yourself to the experience. Enjoy!!!Sep 21, 2010 at 10:18 pm #1647797
@davidpcvsamoaLocale: East Bay, CA
Congratulations on your posting and thank you for your service.
Many of the above suggestions are excellent. I would second the need for a fully loaded Mp3 player. +1 on solar cooking.
The PC will likely provide you with some water filtration equipment but a portable device such as a steripen would be great for when your traveling. I can already imagine the looks you will get when your Rwandan hosts serve you a beverage and before you drink it you stick your steripen in for a treatment.
I had my parents send me a short wave radio which was incredible in a village. Voice of America, BBC and the Australian Broadcasts felt like my connection to the outside world on a island. Add rechargeable batteries and a charger and your set.
You will likely discover you have all the time in the world. I would suggest bring a couple of books you have always wanted to read but never had the time to do so. Bring a few classics. The Brothers Karamazov got me through training.
Although sandals were easy to buy locally, they were crap quality and would wear out in a week. Sharp rocks would go right through the sole. I had a pair of tevas sent in from the US.
If you use any special toiletries you can't live without such as contact lenses solution, high spf sunscreen, razors, tooth care product, etc. I would bring an ample supply. You never know what will be available. I dont imagine Rwandans use much sunscreen.
Every Peace Corps experience will be different but my only universal piece of advice is to not forget that you are responsible for your own safety. Stay vigilant and trust your instincts if a situation does not feel right.
Good luck, represent the US well and enjoy the experience.Sep 30, 2010 at 11:08 am #1650265
Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. The information about SODIS and water purification is fantastic.
Someone asked what I'd be needing solar power for. I was thinking of bringing my laptop, iPod, camera battery, cell phone, and I guess batteries.
@eric – you mentioned a "locker" that I'd be receiving. Could you elaborate on that? I recall reading about having a locker that I could secure in my residence, but I do not recall reading anything about sending it or anything.
Also, regarding clothes, I am expected to dress professionally at all times; think business casual. You mentioned synthetic clothes and I imagine merino could be added in; any suggestions on synthetic/merino business casual wear?
@ben – excellent point about battery management. Regarding the Steripen specifically, would you say the security of AA supply outweighs getting the Steripen Adventurer with solar case?
Finally, what do y'all think about a multitool and a knife? I imagine the former would be an essential, but I don't know if it fulfills the function of the later.
All my best,
JedSep 30, 2010 at 11:22 am #1650269
"@Ben – excellent point about battery management. Regarding the Steripen specifically, would you say the security of AA supply outweighs getting the Steripen Adventurer with solar case?"
I would go for the AA supply (NiMh for regular use plus some alkalines for standby). With solar charging — unless your room has a south-facing window that allows hours of penetrating sunlight — you'll need to set the gadget out in the open for hours and hours at a time. Prolly will get stolen sooner or later…Sep 30, 2010 at 11:30 am #1650274
So as far as solar charging goes, any charger I buy will probably be stolen sooner or later? Do people know of crafty ways to conceal their chargers while still charging?Sep 30, 2010 at 9:21 pm #1650414
please be safe friend
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