Greetings to all incoming PCJ invitees! By now, you’re closing up odds and ends and getting prepped for your 27-month stint in Jamaica. What the heck does one need to cram into 2 bags in order to survive the next two years abroad?!
Nearly one year in, I’m still asking myself the same question. Here are some bits of unsolicited advice to quench your thirsty minds.
Things I’m glad I brought:
- Art supplies: I love to color. Art supplies did come in handy during my education sector technical training, but they made this list because I find coloring to be extraordinarily relaxing.
- Yoga mat: this job is stressful. Yoga helps.
- Decorations: Small items, like pictures, maps and the like will help warm up your space and make you feel right at home
- 3M Command wall hooks and mounts: Most structures in JA are concrete; these make hanging things in your home or workplace less of a headache
- Pants: Right now, it’s winter. Some parts of the island, like where I live, do get chilly! Also, jeans make for a great weekend ensemble and are a nice break from formal work attire
- Aeropress: Ok, so I actually came to JA with a French press, but that broke. The aeropress is amazing, easy to clean, and saves me from having to drink instant coffee
- Crocs flats: Easy to clean, more fashionable than rain boots (it rains more than you might think)
- Kindle fire: e-books are ahh-mazing and have proved a great source of relaxation
- External hard drive (1TB!): file sharing galore! Sometimes you’ll miss home, but that’s nothing an episode of (insert favorite TV show here) can’t cure
Even though you’ll be in a different country, living in a different cultural context, you’re still you. Come with things that provide you with comfort and stability.
Things I could have left behind:
- Lots of clothes: yes, it’s nice to have options, but the clothes that aren’t in my weekly or biweekly rotation have started to mold…less is more, people!
- Fear of the unknown: really, this has only crippled me. “What comes, let it come. What stays, let it stay. What goes, let it go.” –Papaji
- A list of “demands”: despite how flexible I thought I was, I came to PCJ with certain “musts” in mind, like I must have my own kitchen at site (seems absurd, right?). Yes, this experience does serve you as the Volunteer, but ultimately, when you’re making the most of what you’re given, you’ll feel a lot happier than if you’re constantly fighting to get what you want. By the way, I share a kitchen, and it’s kind of awesome.
- My boyfriend: This one’s probably going to get me into trouble…while some PCVs are able to successfully make their long-distance relationship work throughout their service, mine only prevented me from being fully present in Jamaica. Make sure you’re talking with your s/o (or mother, or brother or friend) pre-departure about the what-ifs (“what if we can’t skype more than once per month?”) and about the ways that you define “support.”
We’re lucky to live in such close proximity to the US because 1) It’s cheaper to mail packages to Jamaica than to Madagascar, and 2) We’re more likely to have visitors with room in their carry-on for that pound of coffee from that roasting company you love so much. Lots of the stuff we consider essential is pretty easy to find in Jamaica, especially in the cities, so ultimately everything will be ok, assuming you don’t only pack bathing suits and flip-flops.
Check out these other blogs for other packing advice, and be sure to reference the guides that VAC sends out annually to invitees. Happy packing, and we’ll see you soon!