Friday, March 4, 2011

2 Years in 2 Bags: PC Morocco Packing List

It's hard to believe that in about 2 weeks a new group of bright eyed and energetic volunteers will arrive in Morocco. Just about six months ago I was sitting in my room thinking, "Hmm, maybe I should pack." I waited until the last minute to get stuff together for PC Morocco and I know that's not how many of the new volunteers are preparing so here is a packing list that will have you prepared for the next two years. Just to keep in mind as you read this list, I am a female volunteer living in the south of Morocco in a small conservative town. Also, a big shout out to Beth Cuddy who made the original list!!!

Let's start with the basics. PC allots you two bags which is also what the airline will allow. Do not worry about dimensions but do keep in mind weight. Neither piece of luggage should weigh more than 50 pounds. If it does, YOU will be required to pay the airline fee. Here in PC Morocco, you are only allowed to take one bag to your host family during PST. The other bag will be kept at your HUB site (don't worry it will be in a locked room and it will be safe). You will be able to access the 2nd bag when you are at HUB (every 2 weeks or so) but as you pack try to get what you will need for the first 3 months into one bag. Here are my suggestions:
-Large suitcase with wheels. This is where you should put most of your heavier or bulkier items. I suggest packing this to the whole 50 pound limit. I would also recommend packing this bag to be the one you leave at HUB. Things that you are bringing that you will not need right away should be packed into this bag.
-Hiking backpack. If you don't have one, it is worth the investment. Not only is it easier to travel with a hiking backpack (not all roads are paved!) it will prevent you from packing too much. Even though it can weigh up to 50 pounds, remember you will have to carry it across the country so don't over pack it.
-Regular backpack. This will work as your carry-on on the plane and will be useful for one to two night trips in country. Also extremely useful when carrying things back and forth between your CBT and HUB.
-Shoulder bag/Laptop Bag/Briefcase. For us girls, a larger "mom" type purse is great. Not only are you able to stuff it full of travel essentials, you can practically live out of it for a day or two if you need to. I recommend a purse with a lot of pockets and zippers. Pockets to keep everything organized and zippers to prevent theft. The Laptop bag can also work great during your time in Morocco. You'll take your computer most places and if you have a nicer laptop bag, you can fit misc. other items into it. Guys, a briefcase also will help you out during your 2 years here. Just make sure that it has a top closure in case of rain and to prevent theft.

Clothing is the hardest thing to pack. You are not sure whether you will end up in the cold mountains or the hot desert. Will you be in a liberal or a conservative town? There are many variables that determine the type of clothing you should pack but as PC does not tell you all these things until you're several weeks in country, let me give you some hints. First off, PC stresses business casual on their packing list but if you ask any serving PCV's, leave it at home! Also, keep in mind you will most likely be hand washing so bring heavy duty clothes that will be able to take the wear and tear. The Moroccan sun is going to fade the colors fast so don't bring any red shirts that you won't wear once they turn pink. Also, ladies, as a general rule, you want your shirts to cover your shoulders, back and butt. I can't stress enough how wonderful the vacuum seal bags are! Make sure to invest in the ones you roll instead of the ones you need a vacuum for. Be careful if you use them to not get carried away. Just because you can fit more stuff in your suitcase when using them doesn't mean you should. For more specific tips, keep reading.
-Business casual. Don't bring too many business casual clothes. Most people work in jeans and t-shirts. Bring a nice outfit for when you arrive in country and something for swearing-in. This outfit will only be worn for the few and far between "special" occasions you have. Remember that what you bring you will be washing by hand (most likely).
-Jackets. Morocco is extremely cold in some areas. I recommend packing a heavy one and also a lighter one. I brought a Columbia with a zipper out fleece. Fleece is perfect for the cold desert nights.
-Sweaters. Keep in mind you don't know if you will spend the next two years in the mountains or the desert so I would recommend bringing at least one sweater. You'll wear it no matter where you end up.
-Lightweight cardigans. Ladies, these are crucial!! I only brought one lightweight cardigan and I live in it! Many women end up in conservative towns where they need to cover their arms and back. For those who end up in the hot south in a conservative town, they will save you in the summer. I recommend at least two basic cardigans that you can wear with just about any shirt you bring. The longer the better.
-Long sleeved shirts. These are great. Bring a few that are heavy and a few light ones. Just keep in mind the length. Make sure they cover your back when you sit down.
-Short-sleeved shirts. Not only are these great to sleep in and work out in, but they are great to layer with a cardigan or a long sleeved shirt. Don't bring anything too fancy as you will most likely will be hand washing and the strong Moroccan sun will fade the colors quickly.
-Tank top. Perfect for layering in the winter or great to pair with a cardigan in the summer. You will also live in them when you are alone in your house.
-Dressy Tops. Just because you're a PCV doesn't mean you won't want to look cute when you travel or when you meet up with other PCV's in one of the larger cities.
-Pants. Jeans are the best followed by khakis. Bring good quality ones because you will be walking a lot and, again, hand washing really takes its toll on clothes after a few months. PCV's also go through weight loss and weight gain every few months.
-Leggings. Bring a pair or two to wear around the house or under a skirt that is a little too short to be appropriate.
-Skirts. Be very careful about the skirts you pack. Shorter ones you will not be able to wear often but will be great when you travel. Longer loose skirts are great for those hot summer days when the thought of wearing jeans makes you sweat more.
-Dresses. Same advice as for skirts. Bring longer, flowy dresses. Don't forget a fun dress that you can wear when you're in one of the larger cities or traveling.
-Lounge wear. Bring a pair of sweatpants for in the winter and some shorts to wear around the house. Girls, you will most likely not be able to wear shorts outside but you will still want to bring at least one pair.
-Bathing suit. Remember you are coming to a conservative Muslim country but you will have the opportunity to go swimming both in country and when you travel. Ladies, you will most likely need to wear a t-shirt over your bathing suit when you go swimming in Morocco.
-Belt. One that you can wear with anything. Ladies, weight will change on a weekly basis. Guys tend to lose weight during the first few months and girls tend to gain during the first few months. Keep that in mind when you're packing pants as well.
-Underwear/Bras. Ladies, leave the lacy underthings at home. They won't last long if you end up needed to hand wash or if you have a washing machine. Everyone will also see your underwear when you hang them out to dry so try to keep it PG.
-Socks. You will want some normal pairs and a pair or two of thick ones for the cold nights.
-Scarves. A great way to keep your neck warm. Many women end up in sights where they need to wear their hair up and a scarf will ensure your neck stays warm if your hair can't. Also a great way to cover your chest if one of your shirts is a little revealing.
-Gloves. One fingerless pair will be your best friend on those cold nights when you're trying to type up a report or a lesson. They also are handy while cooking.
-Hats. Morocco has a lot of sun. If you sunburn easily, make sure to bring one. There will be many opportunities for hikes and long walks and unless you want to keep applying sunscreen, a hat will save your face from everyday sunburn. A heavy winter hat will also come in handy for the cold winter nights. My advice, bring a winter hat that you can sleep in comfortably.

This was a challenge for me as I'm a shoeaholic but in the long run you want to bring functional not fashionable. Remember that shoes take up a lot of room and can also add lots of extra pounds to your suitcase. Bring a few pairs that will get you through any situation and leave the cute heels at home.
-Tennis shoes. You will be walking a lot! Also great for when it's raining or you're going on a hike.
-Sandals. I recommend a pair of Keene's or Teva's. Also perfect for those long hikes you'll be taking. Also appropriate for those rainy days.
-Dress shoes. One pair is plenty. Morocco will destroy nice shoes fast so don't bring a pair you want to keep. You will only really need these for special occasions or when you're out on the town.
-Boots. They do take up room so my suggestion is to buy one pair of nice hiking boots to use as both tennis shoes and boots.
-Everyday shoes. Everyone has their own preference. I walk around everyday in a pair of Rainbow flip flops. Just remember that it is dusty here and white shoes do not do well.

Personal Items
Just about anything you want you will be able to buy in country. Many PCV's bring enough shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and toothpaste for 2 years but let me tell you, don't waste the luggage room! Bring some small travel sizes to get you through the first few days and leave the rest behind. You will have time to get anything you need and PC gives you money so you'll be able to buy anything you need. More details below!
-Shampoo, soap, Q-tips, lotion, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toothpaste etc. I suggest buying a travel size bottle of all these items. It will be enough to get you through the first few days and you can buy all these items in country. Many name brands you may like from America you can find here. Save yourself the room and just bring some small ones to start with.
-Razors. Bring one or two. You can buy razors here but if you have sensitive skin, I recommend bringing your own supply. Most of the ones you will find here are the cheap disposables.
-Face Wash. Not many brands are available here and its expensive. Also, most of them are for normal skin. If you have oily, or dry skin, you will want to make sure you come prepared!-Makeup. You won't wear it that often but it can be hard to find good quality makeup in country. If you have a favorite, bring it with you.
-SPF face lotion. Peace Corps will provide you with sunscreen but if you have fair skin or extremely sensitive skin, you may want to bring your own higher SPF face lotion.
-Hand sanitizer. This will save your life on a daily basis. I recommend the small bottles you can buy at Bath & Body Works. Also get the handy holder that you can attach to your purse or backpack.
-Tampons and Sanitary Pads. Everyone has their own preference again. You won't find tampons often in country but if you are ok with pads, just bring a few. Another option is the Diva cup but not everyone likes it so if you are going to bring it, make sure you try it at home first.
-Chapstick. Bring your favorite. Peace Corps will provide you with a stick of chapstick but after that you are on your own.
-Deodorant. The most common type in Morocco is roll-on so if you are ok with that only bring a stick. If you need a heavy duty deodorant make sure to bring a supply for 2 years because you won't find that here.
-Manicure/Pedicure tools. A small kit if you want them but you can buy them all here. Don't bother bringing polish as you can buy it here but you probably won't wear it too often.
-Towel. I recommend bringing a small camping microfiber towel. Not only will it be easier to pack but you can buy a regular towel in country. Also dries much faster so easier to use when traveling.

The following is a list of everything else you may want to bring with you. The closer it is to the top, the more I recommend making room for it!
-Sleeping bag. You will definitely want to bring one! Great for when visiting other PCV's and for those extremely cold nights.
-Small Duffel. Pack an empty one into one of your bags. PC gives you tons of books during training and expects you to find room for them. The duffel will be the space you need.
-Camera. Make it clear from the beginning that no one is to use it without your permission! Also, make sure to insure it as camera damage is almost a guarantee and if you're traveling, theft is always possible.
-Laptop. This will be your best friend for the next two years. Make sure to install good anti-virus protection. If you have an extra battery for it, bring it. You never know how long the power will be out in some situations and batteries tend to go bad here.
-Flash drive and external hard drive. The flash drive is handy and the external you'll need to store movies and tv shows that you download to pass time. Make the investment if you don't already have one!
-iPod. You have many long trips ahead of you and you will want your music. Also great for those days you just don't want to talk to anybody when you're walking around.
-Water bottle. Bring a durable one because it will get beat up over your time here.
-Swiss Army Knife or similar product. Useful on a daily basis. I have the small keychain version which works very well. Just make sure to put it into your checked luggage when traveling or it will be taken away!
-Umbrella. A small sturdy one (Totes is a good brand). The ones you can buy here will break in a day.
-Luggage locks. Bring at least two. You will want to use one on your bag that you leave at HUB and you may want to use one on the bag you leave at your host family. Most people do not have any issues with their host family but just in case.
-Keychain flashlight. It will save your life on many occasions. Many streets are not lit so it makes walking home at night that much safer (look out for that hole!).
-Adapter. There are some bulky ones out there that are too heavy and fall out of the wall so spend the extra money and get a good one. You'll be thankful you did. DO NOT buy the Target brand one. It is the perfect example of big and bulky and will cause you more stress than help you.
-Favorite spices. I brought taco seasoning, cinnamon and Mrs. Dash. Other ones you want you can have shipped later.
-Flashlight. Power goes out every once in awhile so it comes in handy.
-Travel alarm clock. I usually just use the alarm on my phone but if you need the extra push to get up in the morning, I would bring a battery operated one.
-A durable folder or binder. You'll get a lot of papers during PST and you need someplace to put them all.
-Duct tape. You'll be glad you brought it. Moroccan tape is terrible so it really helps when hanging posters.
-Art Supplies. I brought some sharpies which are great when making posters and also some crayola markers. Other suggestions would be colored pencils and crayons.
-Jewelry and sunglasses. Nothing to flashy but some to keep you happy.
-Map of Morocco. Be careful if it shows the Sahara separately, Moroccans will get into a heated argument with you over it.
-Batteries. Easily purchased in Morocco but just a few to get you through the first few months.
-Pictures. Your host family will want to know about you and your family so pictures are a great way to break the ice on the first night. Ladies, be careful not to bring too many of you with many different boys. It is not common for girls to have multiple guy friends.
-Ziplock bags. Assorted sizes. They help when traveling with liquids and when trying to share your homemade American food with Moroccans.
-Playing cards. They are great to help pass time and you Moroccan youth will love to play too.
-Bananagrams. This is a great way to make sure you don't forget your English and its a fun game to play with Moroccan youth and other PCV's!
-Gifts for host families. Some ideas: postcards of your city in America, a calendar, coloring books, picture frames, table runner, American candy, bring something to cook for them, lotion, candles etc...

If There's Room Left,,,
These are things I would only worry about if you still have room left in your luggage (or can spare a few more pounds!). Don't worry if you don't get them in there, you can easily get these things or substitute items in country.
-Small sewing kit. Things will tear, buttons will fall off, just some essentials to keep your clothes in decent shape.
Plastic flip flops. You want these to shower in and they are great for around the house. You can purchase them in country for about $2 so don't worry if they don't fit.
-Slippers. You can get them here for cheap as well.
-Traveler's Guide to Morocco. You are here to work, but you're going to have time to play too!
-Screwdriver for glasses. You don't want to have to buy new ones every time yours fall apart.
-Reusable tote bags. Great for carrying around groceries. Also a great way to show Moroccans they don't need a plastic bag for every item they purchase. You can find them just about anywhere nowadays but I prefer the ones that fold up real small so that I can stick them in my purse until I need them.
-Journal. You're about to embark on an amazing journey. You're going to want to document.
-Frisbee. Great game to play with Moroccan kids.
-Oven mitt. You won't find them here and you don't want to keep replacing burnt hand towels.
-Measuring cups and spoons. If you plan on cooking over here, its all in metric and you won't find measuring cups and spoons easily. I brought collapsible silicon measuring cups and magnetic measuring spoons.
-Silicone muffin pan. I like cooking and muffin pans are as one Moroccan put it, "crazy technology".
-Address book. Or some type of thing to keep everyone's addresses so you can keep in touch.
-Loofah. You can buy an equivalent here but its nice to have one to get you started.
-Movies. If you have any favorites, bring them with. I suggest downloading them and bringing them on an external but if that's not possible, bring the DVD's.
-Cookbook. If you have any favorite recipes, I suggest typing them into a Word Doc to save yourself the room.

Leave at Home
If you have these things in your bags, take them out and put other things in!! You want to make sure you can pack the best things for your next 2 years!
-Dressy clothes. As I said earlier, you only need one or two dressy outfits. Everything else leave at home.
General medical supplies. Peace Corps will supply you with all the general supplies. Bring 3 months worth of your prescription drugs and then PC will supply you with those as well.
-Books. Don't bring too many as there is a PC library and PCV's share books. I recommend bringing a Kindle or a Nook. It's great to have hundreds of books at your fingertips and much easier to travel with.
-Kitchen tools. Except for the ones I mentioned above, leave them at home. You can buy almost everything else here. Including coffee presses and coffee makers.
-Cookbook. As I stated before, type up your favorites. PC will also give you a PCV cookbook which is great.
-Sleeping pad. You're in the Peace Corps!! We all have back problems but that's what massages are for.
-Dictionary. Peace Corps will give you one.
-Sheets. You can buy them here and you won't need them for awhile.
-CDs and DVDs. Put everything onto your computer or an external. You'll save tons of room.
-Hairdryer or straightener. Buy them here so you don't have to worry about power conversion.

Well I hope this helps all of you out there that are about to arrive in Morocco. Don't stress too much about packing. You'll pack things you don't need and you'll forget things that you wanted to bring. Care packages are always something to look forward too and the flat rate boxes can be sent to Morocco!! Just keep in mind, everything you bring you're going to have to carry around - a lot. It seems daunting to have to pack for 2 years in 2 bags but its not so bad. Soon enough you'll be used to wearing the same thing for three days and showering every other day or once a week. My advice, don't spend so much time packing. Spend your time with friends and family. You'll do just fine with whatever ends up making it into your bags.

See you guys in Morocco!!!


becca said...

This makes me want to pack up and come visit you! It sounds like you are a master PCV (again!) in Morocco. I have a care package all ready for you, but I can't send it until I get my first paycheck at the end of this month!



Leslie said...

Come visit me anytime!!! YAY for care packages!!!