This page is for invitees who are preparing for Peace Corps Dominican Republic. Others preparing for the Peace Corps in other countries may or may not find it useful too; remember that every country is different and each volunteer’s experience is different. So use this list as a guide, and make your experience your own.
Things I’m glad I brought:
Good walking shoes. The roads here are bad, and I walk everywhere that I go, so the cheap stuff wouldn’t do. I was able to get a deal with TEVA shoe company, and got some pretty nice ones.
Good luggage. Again, the roads. But with international travel, I couldn’t risk the cheap stuff, so I got a deal with Eagle Creek luggage company. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a good investment. I brought along a hiker’s bag, a medium sized bag that I could roll, a book bag and a small tote. If you can pull it off in less, do! There are times that you carry everything you have with you, plus they give you a lot of stuff during training. Rule of thumb: If you can’t carry all of your stuff in one trip, don’t bring it. There are a lot of things you can get in country, so don’t go too crazy packing.
Laptop. This helps especially because I’m an ICT volunteer, but it’s also good to pre-log my blog entries, gathering and saving my thoughts before I have to post them, since I have a limited time at the computer labs. It also helps you stay connected to loved ones back home, and you can listen to music. Decide between a netbook or a notebook.
Diva Cup. If you’re a female, buy it, bring it and ask questions later! There are a lot of things here that you have to worry about. Leakage shouldn’t be one of them. (Can I get paid for that endorsement?) Also, there may not be a bathroom (or a bathroom with a trashcan or tissue, or water) when you need one. I also got a discount on this. By the way, tampons are really expensive here.
Music! This is a great way to get back home in a flash, or have church when I need to. Put all your music on your computer or external hard drive and bring it. An iPod or other MP3 player would be good too.
Umbrella. And not just for the rain, but also for the sun (which is blazin!).
Braids/Senegalese Twists. I have natural hair, so I didn’t want to have to worry about it while adjusting to 114 other things.
Pictures. Pictures and other items that remind of you of the people you love the most are essential. Sometimes you just need to see some familiar faces. These are also good to show your host families to give them a context of who you are. Trust me, they’ll be interested.
Water container. A reusable water container to drink out of. I promise you will use it every day during training and maybe beyond. Also, this isn’t a country that recycles, so if you care about the oceans, do it.
Washcloth. Not everybody uses a washcloth to bathe, but if you’re someone who does, bring two or three of these. At least one towel too.
My Bible. Got to have the word. More than my inspiration, it’s my lifeline.
Cute shoes. Not necessarily heels, but you need something that’s will make you feel girly sometimes, especially with all the sweating you’re going to be doing. If you need a reason to get/bring some cute shoes, just tell yourself it’s a part of integration; Dominican women love to look good.
The ability to laugh at myself.
Other recommendations general and specific:
I should have left my Spanish/English dictionary (although my Spanish was good before coming here) and OFF bugspray home; they give you both of these at training. I wish I’d brought a hand-held fan. I can never get enough American chocolate. Bring your favorite whatever. Whatever you look at that makes you feel good. No matter how much community you build, sometimes it’s just you out here.
While it’s pretty stressful preparing to be away from home for two years (tying up loose ends, getting POA, selling your car, etc.), make sure you spend tons of time with friends and family before heading to staging; you’ll definitely miss the ability to be able to do that whenever you want once you’re overseas.
Also, I’ll pass on some advice that my cousin passed on to me before I joined the Peace Corps:
Living in the US we often times forget that the only thing separating us from those that are less fortunate is the lack of access to resources, not because they are people of color or only know the way of being poor and uneducated. NO ONE wants to be poor! And of course we see this to some extent in the US with the majority of people in prison people of color due to lack of resources or proper education and that perpetuation of helplessness among our communities. But you definitely do not see it to the extent you see it in the developing world.
Do not take on a “White Messiah” view of yourself (or “Brown Messiah” if you’re a person of color). Development roles like the one that you’re about to step into will almost immediately superimpose an incredible magnifying glass on the differences between you and the people you will serve. You will be the foreign expert brought in to bring about change. This magnifying glass may make you or your community feel like the host country nationals CANNOT do what you’re doing or achieve the same feats. Resist that feeling. We have to remember that the difference between PCVs and the people we serve in our communities is that we’ve had ACCESS to resources. So as my cousin said, “Go there as someone who can build the capacity of the people so they will never need another Peace Corps volunteer when you leave.” (Thanks, Ksakrad.)
So, take a deep breath and get ready for the adventure! 🙂