So after being here for 3 months I have a few more packing tips. Some of this will probably be repetitive of the first post, so bear with me.
Let’s talk about rain boots. Moving to a tropical country, rain boots was what I was most confident I needed to pack. They were the most frequently recommended thing from other PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) and travel blogs. It just seemed like common sense- after all, Guyana is largely rainforest. But, living on the coast I haven’t needed them. It is the middle of rainy season, but the coast is developed enough that the roads aren’t a big lagoon. So the heat outweighs the rain and I still stick to my crocs. If you’re planning to go to the hinterland, then I’d say to pack your rain boots to trudge the the rainforest. Not just to keep your feet dry, but as a snake protection barrier. Since I plan to visit every region of Guyana, I’ll keep my rainboots with me, but they weren’t as essential to daily living as I expected.
I had never owned a pair of crocks prior to moving to Guyana. I still don’t have the signature ones with the holes in them. What I brought is I think the croc equivalent of a dress shoe.
These are my every day shoe in Guyana. They’re closed toed, which is mandatory to enter any government building, including schools, health centers, hospitals, etc. They’re rubber – which is perfect for the rainy climate. Because they’re relatively small, (especially in comparison to rainboots) they are perfect for the heat and if moisture gets on the inside they dry quickly. Additionally, they’ve proven good for walking, which is essential to daily life in Guyana. Public transportation from point A to B is actually fairly inexpensive, and a lot of people don’t walk very far – they’d rather catch a bus or car, but that adds up when you’re living here and not just visiting. I’d definitely recommend some kind of crocs to anyone visiting Guyana or any other tropical country.
I was so focused on what I needed to pack for work that I didn’t bring sandals. This is definitely something I’ll be bringing back with me. I haven’t been able to find decent quality sandals for less than around $80 US (decent quality meaning like the equivalent we could get at like Payless Shoes in the States for like $20-$30). So definitely bring a pair of sandals with you. Make sure the sandals you bring are fine getting wet and comfortable for walking.
Pillows: I already gushed about how much I appreciate the pillow I brought. If you’re really tight on space and you are only coming to visit then the pillows are passable. If you’re moving here – at least bring one. It is such a comforting piece of home. I plan to bring a couple more back with me when I visit home.
Cookwear: You can buy cookware here and weight is usually the issue when you’re packing, so it’s not something I’d say is essential to pack. It it’s however, difficult to find quality cookware here and when you do it’s very expensive. So if you have the space bring a couple of pieces with you. I’ll be bringing at least one non stick pot and pan back with me when I visit home.
Ceramic knives were highly recommended to me before coming and I’m so glad I brought them. Like most things here good quality knives are very expensive. The metal ones get dull a lot faster here for some reason (or maybe they don’t start off as sharp as at home) so the ceramic ones are perfect to be able to use the same knives for the next two years.
Tupperwear: I’ve only seen cheaply made tupperware here. Believe me, you’ll want to put any food you’ve opened in tupperwear, ants (at the very least) find their way into everything otherwise.
Crockpot: Ok, so no one I’ve talked to here knows what a Crockpot is, noneless where to get one. Cooking is often a time intensive task here, hours spent in the kitchen preparing every meal. I didn’t realize how amazing my crockpot was until I didn’t have it. So even though this will be a lot of weight in my suitcase I’m planning to bring back 2.
Pop-up mosquito net: You always want a mosquito net to sleep under when traveling in Guyana. The pop up nets are easy to travel with. They are also easy to set up so you don’t have to figure out how to hang them. Make sure you get one that folds small enough to fit into your suitcase. Also the recommendations that I read online recommend erring on the side of smaller than your bed. If it is one that doesn’t have a bottom this is true, but if it’s a full tent shape (including a bottom) I would say go for a bigger one- so you’re less likely to end up touching it in your sleep allowing mosquitoes to bite you. Make sure you get a durable one. The one I brought broke after only using it (unfolding it, sleeping in it, and refolding it) twice.
Clothespins: Most people handwash their clothes, even the people that have a washer typically hang their clothes to dry. Clothespins are one of those things I didn’t think to bring but are invaluable.
Paracord (& sharp scissors): Useful in countless situations you wouldn’t necessarily consider ahead of time.
Large water bottles: It is almost impossible to stay hydrated when you combine the heat with how often you walk places here. There isn’t always readily available drinking water- you can’t drink the tap water – so it’s wise to carry water with you that you know is safe to drink.
If you’re going to the hinterland, particularly hiking through the rainforest, a lifeproof straw is a good idea. I don’t need one on the coast because I have somewhat easy access to filtered water at home. But the water isn’t safe to drink from streams, even the rainwater isn’t always safe to drink unfiltered, so if you’re going to be somewhere that filtered water isn’t delivered a lifeproof straw is a good survival tool. The Peace Corps provides us with a water filter but it’s not portable.
Mosquito coils/repellents etc: There are so many mosquitos here, anything you can bring to repel or kill them is suitcase space well spent.
Hammock: I was never much of a hammock person but it is a part of the Guyanese culture I readily embrace. Get a doublenest -they’re more comfortable even if you’re not sharing. They have hammocks here but they’re the cloth kind for around the same price and damage easily. ENO was recommended to me and gives a discount to PCVs. We all like our ENOs, that isn’t to say there isn’t another brand that is equally good – its my first hammock and I’m happy with it. Spring for the mosquito treated ones. If you’re planning to sleep outside in one get the mosquito net too otherwise it’s not necessary.
Foldable laundry hamper: Not something I thought of ahead of time, but something useful and easy o
I am pretty sure I already covered this, but let me re-emphasize a few things. Only pack lightweight, natural fiber clothes. It is hot here and humid. While I thought it wouldn’t be too different from Florida – air conditioning is sparsely found here and when it is often doesn’t work as well as air conditioning at home. (I don’t think most of the buildings were designed for air conditioning, perhaps not being sealed off from the outside enough.)
In official (government) buildings, which includes courts, health care facilities, schools,etc there is a dress code. Basically for females, shoulders to knees need to be covered (nothing sleeveless or above the knee) and you have to wear close-toed shoes. I haven’t paid attention to what the male dress code is, but I asked one of my fellow PCVs. He said it’s a long sleeve button down, dress pants, and dress shoes…tie is optional. In a hospital (or healthcare setting) it’s any collared shirt even short sleeve, dress pants and close toed shoes. Keep this in mind when you’re packing because you don’t know when you’ll need to go into a government building.
For women I suggest cotton knee length to maxi skirts and dresses. Those seem to be be the best crossover between what is culturally appropriate and being cool enough for the weather. You can wear tank tops when you aren’t in a government building, I suggest wearing them and just carrying a shrug with you in case you need to enter a government building. Unless you know you’ll frequently be in them, like if you’re a future PCV, then I suggest trying to find very short sleeves so you don’t have to layer them. Teachers dress more formally here (primarily suits or similar clothing), but they don’t seem to mind we are in business casual, at least in my experience.
If you’ll be in Guyana for an extended period of time, bring clothes your weight can fluctuate in and a belt. Most of the volunteers I’ve talked to have gained or lost weight, if not yoyoing up and down.
If you are visiting, pack like you would on a normal vacation. If you’ll be here a month or more, I suggest bringing plenty to entertain yourself. Unless you’re near Georgetown (or maybe New Amsterdam or Bartica) there isn’t much to do after dark. There are only 2 operating movie theatres in the country, both in Georgetown. Books are heavy, so you probably won’t have room to pack many.
Tablet: I would suggest loading up a tablet or ereader with as many books and shows/movies as you can. A hard drive was recommended to me – but at least 5 people from our group had rhein hard drive malfunction since being here. During training I didn’t use it much but it is invaluable now that I don’t have other volunteers nearby to fill my empty time.
If you’re coming as a PCV you’ll need a laptop – so you also have the option to just load it onto that or load things on to a USB. I recommend USBs over a hard drive – much more affordable, what you have saved will be divided over several, so it won’t be devastating if one dies. And I haven’t heard of anyone having one that died, although hard drives commonly do here for whatever reason.
Keep your laptop in a protective case when you’re not using it. Other PCVs have gotten ants in their keyboards. I got a lenovo x260 because of its battery life and durability. It seems like more computer than what I actually need, but I haven’t had any issues with it (knock on wood) and another of other volunteers have with their various laptops.
You don’t need solar power unless you’re hinterland.
Journaling: I had numerous people suggest I bring and use journals. I’ve never really been someone to journal and that didn’t really change for me here. If you like to journal – bring one – but if you’ve never been a journaler don’t think you’ll suddenly become one because you’ve joined the Peace Corps. I thought I wouldn’t blog either, because I thought of it as an online journal, but I find it much easier to write with an audience in mind. Blogging for me is more like letter writing, sharing my experiences and perceptions- so don’t rule out blogging just because journaling isn’t for you. But to each their own.
Coloring: I don’t think I ever really stopped coloring. I’ve always found it relaxing, especially while I was in nursing school. Combining this with letter writing but using a coloring book with pictures only on one side of each page, has been an enjoyable way to relax and keep in touch with family and friends at home at the same time.
I still don’t have a place to set up to use my paints, maybe when I get my own place I will appreciate having them with me.