Packing list info and suggestions (Thanks: to the various TZ (R)PCV’s out there)

packing list

Peace Corps gives out a Tanzania packing list and then there is this:

Pard-z’s entirely unofficial guide for Future Peace Corps Tanzania Volunteers: packing tips, educated guesses, and the brass tacks of pre-service readiness: use at your own risk.
Research has led me here: believe me when I say you do not wish to spend as much time as I have during this fact finding process

****Every volunteer has an opinion; this is a rough guide of (R)PCV opinions and suggestions sifted from various websites, blogs, and facebook groups.

Feel welcome to freely chime in, be your own person; this only me attempting to harness the collective knowledge of those much more knowledgeable on the current needs of volunteers serving in Tanzania.
(Sources from previous PC TZ facebook pages,, and many blogs*see below)

*** What to know before packing****
Packing advice ranges from packing one bag of essential clothes and hygiene products, to multiple bags and 80 pounds of pure America essence. Don’t worry; there can be a happy medium. However, realize bringing an item means bodily carrying, securing, and maintaining it.

The short of it is, no one knows entirely what they really need until placed months later.
When arriving in country you go to a training site.

Peace Corps Trainees currently attend their training 5 hours outside of Dar.
Take what you need for PCT training; 3 months of toiletries, 3 months of “anti-death medication”, a weeks’ worth of appropriate clothing, and a few quality essentials not found in country (below). Finding time for anything beyond assuming the fetal and breathing into a brown paper bag at the end of the day might not be in your schedule. Basically, don’t assume there will be time to shop before you reach your site 3 months later and you can’t go wrong.

On that note: Tanzania is not 20,000 leagues under the sea, “the moon”, or a bio-dome.
You will not go without food, soap, or any other needed item. The Dude abides, but the Peace Corps provides… at least for essential survival. However, if you cannot live without specific higher quality products like the herbal tom essence pamper kissface cream for the entire 2 years, pack padded envelopes full of it and send it to yourself at:

“Your Name,” PCT
Peace Corps Training Site
PO Box 9123
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

***You should probably send yourself 2 bags of American things anyway – 1. To see how long it will take – 2 For getting amazing things to share with other PCVs during those eventual harder times. Also, this is a great way to initially save on weight and space, pack a couple of travel bottles in you luggage instead of full size ones and ect.

***Mail advice: padded envelope no more than 4 lbs, claim it worth no more than $10, place a cross on the package with “Go with god” to avoid “lost packages” (stealing).
Prices: $10-$20 for padded envelope which does not go through customs***therefore faster***
It will be $50 or so for flat rate boxes full of whatever your people send you: Rainbows/Patriotism in a bag/‘Merica candies/General goodies.
Your parents/friends/people will eventually be sending your things to your site specific p.o. box in a couple of months; no one knows their placement site until after training…sorry.

Quick Bring Advice: If you want a HIGH QUALITY item (kitchen knife, e-reader, ect) bring it from home. Otherwise, within reason, it really CAN be picked up in country.

Weight limit: (80 lbs) Keep in mind you will acquire many many more items from PC during training and no one else will carry your bags but you. Pack as light as possible when possible.

Pard-z’s actual packing list with notes:
Carrying devices – Large hiking backpack, duffel bag, daypack, and reusable grocery bags
Electronics (Unnecessary evils for the American mind) – (beyond a head lamp you could technically bring none of this, however you very well might slip deeply into insanity)
Ipod, Ipod cord, 2 pairs of head phones, Speakers (Have all)
Solar charger (not yet) Goal zero guide 10 (going with it, although it might not be needed.)
Shortwave radio (might not need it, but it’ll be nice as backup) (need)
External hard drive (have) (Some say fill a TB with new content and bring to country for trade)
Thumb drives (have)
Cameras (have) (DSLR expensive means guarding it, but can be worth it.)
Kindle (have) (the old free 3g models are king for internet, but a new basic one is still recommended)
Headlamp! (you may use it nightly, and power outages can happen at places with electricity)
Power converter (in country for less, but you may desire it for PCT…)

***Computer: Bring or not? Don’t shoot the messenger. Peace corps mostly says no….Volunteers mostly say yes!!! (“God yes!” and a few choice things not fit for children to view on this subject) However, Tanzania is harsh on these – frequent power surges, climate, and general theft can leave you high, dry, mumbling to yourself, and computer-less at your site. ***Tablets seem to not be as popular due to their reduced functional capacity in Tanzanian – especially due to internet concerns. Check for more details.
(1) Netbook- (have)
***Make sure you bring MS office NOT the MS Starter that comes on your netbook!!! You CANNOT do grants without it!***

If you have an older smartphone bring it for sure. Iphone, blackberry, galaxy, ect. Newer ones might be bigger targets for theft. However, before you do this call your company to get it unlocked. If they tell you they cannot, ask for their supervisor until it happens. At&t customers reported many frustrating minutes, but ultimate success. If that does not work, there are companies that give you the unlocking codes for $5 online. ***Regular cell phones should stay home. They are dime a dozen in Tanzania and easy to pick up.

H 2 O
Water bottle (have)
Camelbak (have)
Hiking filter/ chem. drops (have)
Steripen ***Some say they use it around cities instead of bottled water, others say they live without. (not taking)

Clothing –
Favorite quotes – “Tanzania is basically one big thrift shop.” “People are obsessed with cleanliness; someone might suggest you disgracing your family for wearing slightly dirty pants while teaching.”
***You will wash these by hand, avoid white. Look at the fabric and think….”Can I really bucket wash that?” if the answer is no… Consider alternatives. Khaki appears cleaner than black for longer, dirt/sand may be your constant companion/mortal enemy! However, remain yourself; take a few of your favorite color regardless.
Remember you should also pack a change of American cloths for the city/ de-stressing in your room with your ipod/Voice of America/computer .
(2) Khaki quick dry pants (have)
(2) Khaki Dress pants (have)
(2) Short sleeve (have)
(2) Quick dry shirts (need)
(2) Long sleeve (have)
Dress belt (need)
Work belt (have)
(7 pairs) Underwear (have)
(7 pairs) Socks (have)
(2) Ties (have)
Money belt (need)

Ladies (Paul’s making most of this list and finds the exact details of womanly things/conversation a mystery, but here are a few basic suggestions even he understood)
Diva cup, if you don’t know about it look it up. Tampons are virtually non-existent, bring them and ship them if you can’t live without them. Pads are distributed by PC/ more easily available.
Skirts – anything that covers your knees when sitting is generally culturally appropriate.
Wearing capris can be acceptable, especially with an anti-creeper scarf to cover your lady parts.
Ladies, while in your village, unless you are in a muddy field doing an environmental project, integration needs may require you to wear skirts to be respected. ***Consolation prize, many of these can/(should?) be made for you in country

Good knife and sharpener or good ceramic knife not needing sharpening
Measuring spoons/cups (have)
Vegetable peeler (have)
Can opener (have)
Ziplock bags for spice storage (have)
Bathroom type stuff
Deodorant (2 years/get it sent to you)
Nail clippers (have)
Razors/good shaving cream/ect for 2 years/ get it sent to you
Quick dry towel (have)

Good pens! (have) (Pens in country are frustrating pieces of junk)
Sharpies (have) (ditto)
Bike helmet*** if you own it, take it. Otherwise ask the TZ PCVs for 1 in country
Leatherman (have) (Great tools to have)
Shout Stain Stick (need) (You are bucket washing, this is a time saver.)
Sewing kit (get together)
Blue tack gum for hanging
Combo lock (Key locks can be found in country)
Gorilla glue/ducktape
Preferred anti-insanity devices – Sudoku, crosswords, music, instrument, writing, games, ect
Debit card, you can use it at Barclays bank locations! (It’s a nice backup/good for vacations)
Passport, passport copies
Peace Corps Paperwork
US Stamps (for others to drop your letters in the mail)

To Share
Photos – family, town, regular life and work (need to print/update)

PC provides you with what you need to live here. It’s a bit silly to use loads of cash from home to decorate. You might get a posh corps site (Unlikely), but it’s a bit counterproductive to reinforce the rich mzungu stereotype on your own.
If you are bringing greenbacks for vacation, make sure they are newer or they won’t be accepted. 50’s and 100’s get the best exchange rates.

Suggested Do not bring items:
Too much weight, if you can’t physically carry all of it… it might be too much. You’ll get more stuff before you go to your eventual village/work site.
Bedding – PC gives you pillow and sheets. (leave space for this in your bag) (Welcome Book say bring sheets, we should updated this at some point)

What is in the Medical Kit PC gives you in TZ:
Ace bandages, Adhesive tape,
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook, Antacid tablets (Tums),
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/NeomycinPolymycin B), Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens), Band-Aids, Butterfly closures,
Calamine lotion, Cepacol lozenges,
Condoms, Dental floss,
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl),
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s), Iodine tablets (for water purification),
Lip balm (Chapstick), Oral rehydration salts,
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit), Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed),
Robitussin-DM lozenges(for cough), Scissors,
Sterile gauze pads,Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine),
Tinactin (antifungal cream), and… Tweezers

******If you want it and it is not on this list, assume you are responsible for obtaining it, unless specifically told otherwise.*********

General Advice
• Again: Tanzania is not 20,000 leagues under the sea, “the moon”, or a bio-dome. You will not go without food, soap, or any other truly necessary item. The Dude abides, The Peace Corps provides…. you with the necessaries.
• Get personal property insurance for electronics/valuables (link in website section)
• Studying the language a bit before can be at least a small advantage, otherwise PCT will be a grueling experience spent largely on cramming your brain full Kiswahili for 6 or so weeks.
• Prepare to not truly enjoy your PCT experience, no one with a pulse and functional brain seems to. That period of time is a necessary evil to kickstart an amazing 2 years; survive with your class and you’ll be doing well.
• “The Dude abides”….and so shall you until understand the context of the game at the very least.

Your keys to site safety are:
• Language language language.
• Get to know and attain the respect of your neighbors and community leaders.
• Dressing and acting conservatively
• Stay within cultural norms when possible, you may later choose to act outside of them, but it’s best to have gained the respect of your community before so.

Helpful websites:
Current volunteer groups/ people in your shoes: (LGBT)

Best information and fun from youtube: – Training – Funny acronyms – Funny Peace Corps – Funny Tanzania

Tanzania Blogs

Peace Corps Suggested Travel Insurance:

Get Tanzania specific updates from the US Government:

Tanzania Health Suggestions:
(PC Medical staff gives you a ton of stuff, if not exactly what you’d use at home)

Kiswahili Lessons (Swahili)

PCV Recommended Safari: (Currently most popular for PCV discount)
“…. no need to overnight in Ngorongoro… if you leave from Arusha you can see a good portion of it in half a day and then continue on to Serengeti…Sopa Lodge in Ngoro was so crowded with tourists, but… mobile camp in Serengeti was awesome.”

Friends and Family Support and Information

Welcome Book

Acronyms “Filthy…We hates them”
AdSep- Administratively Separated, when you get sent home early, usually for breaking rules or getting into some sort of trouble.
APCD- Associate Peace Corps Director, the person in charge of each program. We have 2 for education, Hilda for the North and James for the South.
AVS- All Volunteer Survey, a survey that all volunteers are supposed to fill out each year.
CBT- Community Based Training, your CBT is the group of 4-5 trainees that lives in the same area as you during PST, used for both the group and the place
CCT-Christian Council of Tanzania, the training center that Peace Corps uses in Morogoro
CD- Country Director, ours is EB (that’s her name, not an acronym) and she’s awesome
CLT- Communicative Language Teaching, an English teaching technique focused on getting students to use English to communicate
COS- Close of service, there’s a COS conference 3 months before home, and then your COS date is the day you actually finish your service. Sometimes used as a verb.
COTE- Calendar of Training Events. Pretty self-explanatory.
DC- Washington DC, where Peace Corps’ headquarters is
DSM-Dar es Salaam, the biggest city in Tanzania, where the Peace Corps Tanzania office is. More commonly called Dar.
ET- Early terminate, when a volunteer decides to go home early. Used as a verb.
HCN- Host Country National, in this case, a Tanzanian
HOS- Head of School, your headmaster
ICT- Information and Communication Technology, computer classes
IST- In Service Training, the week long training after you’ve been at site for 3 month, including HIV training.
LA- Living allowance,
LCF- Language and Culture Facilitator, the Swahili teachers during PST
LPI- Language Proficiency Interview, the oral Swahili test you take twice during PST and once before COSing
MSC- Midservice Conference, the conference you have after you’ve been at site for a year
NECTA- National Examinations Council of Tanzania, NECTAs are the national exams that students take after forms 2 and 4.
NGO- Non-Governmental Organization, sometimes volunteers work with NGOs, especially if they extend for a 3rd year.
OMS- Office of Medical Services, the medical office in Washington
PC-Peace Corps
PCMO- Peace Corps Medical Officer, the Peace Corps doctor
PCPP- Peace Corps Partnership Program, a type of grant where they post your project on the Peace Corps’ website and people donate
PCT-Peace Corps Trainee
PCTZ- Peace Corps Tanzania
PCV- Peace Corps Volunteer
PEPFAR- President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the government’s HIV program, and where the funding for PCTZ’s HIV work comes from.
PIP- Performance Improvement Plan, when you get caught breaking rules, you get PIPed
PSDN- Peer Support and Diversity Network, a group of volunteers who are trained in supporting others, who you can call if you need someone to talk to about something.
PST- Pre-Service Training, the 2.5-3 months of training before you swear in and become a real volunteer
RPCV- Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, someone who has finished their service
SOW- Scheme of Work, the outline of what you’re going to teach for the year
SPA- Small Projects Assistance- a type of grant
SSC- Safety and Security Coordinator, the staff member in charge of safety and security issues
TAC- Time Away from Community, when you’re away from your site
TEFL- Teaching English as a Foreign Language, what I do.
TIT- This is Tanzania, like TIA, This is Africa, except Tanzania specific.
TOT- Training of Trainers, when the PCV facilitators and staff get together to plan and prepare prior to trainings. Also, and I haven’t figured out why, what Tanzanians call a shot of alcohol.
TPR- Total Physical Response, an English teaching technique using lots of actions
TZ- Tanzania, or Tanzanian
VAC- Volunteer Advisory Council, a group of volunteers that sorts out issues with staff. I’m the president.
VAST- A type of grant for HIV/AIDS activities
VRF- Volunteer Reporting Form, the form we fill out twice a year to report our activities to Peace Corps
VSA- Village Survey Assessment, something that health and environment volunteers need to do their first 3 months at site to assess the needs of their community
VSO- Voluntary Service Overseas, the British version of Peace Corps
WU- Weekly Update, an email that gets sent to volunteers each week. Pronounced Woo.

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