Thursday, July 12, 2012

Leaving for Africa...

From a teacher that moved here in 2010...  What ever you think works for you do.  This was her ideas...

I recently received some helpful information for packing and traveling to Malawi. I know that several of my readers have been to Africa or other places in which careful packing and planning is a must. I would love for you to share anything from your travels that may be helpful for my own adventures when it comes to packing an preparing. I have included the information that I have received below. Comments appreciated. I also hope this helps others, too. 

Well in advance, call the health department about which shots you need for the countries that you will be visiting. Some to these are required to be administered as much as a month in advance and the serum can be difficult to secure.
Be sure to call credit card companies and tell them when you will be traveling abroad and where you are going. Be sure that you jot down the contact information for reporting a lost or stolen card (should be on the back of your card) and keep it separate from the card.

Something very comfortable; remember you will be trying to sleep on the plane. Layers are recommended. Sometimes the airplanes very hot, but sometimes they are very cold. You will be required to take off your shoes at least ONCE each way. You will also be walking quite a long distance in some of your layovers. Include an extra pair of shoes in your carry-on. Be sure to check the weather before you go because it will probably be totally different from what it was when you left the states. You can do this easily on the Internet prior to leaving. Also, keep in mind that the temperature will vary from country to country and even city to city, depending on the elevation. 

PASSPORT PACK (on a cord around your neck, tucked into a jacket or shirt when you’re sleeping)
Photocopy of other family members’ passports that are traveling with you
Info on how to report/replace lost passport
Contact information at your destination(s)
Hotel confirmation at your destination(s)
Airline tickets
Boarding passes
Drivers license or other photo ID
If taking lots of cash, put some here.
Exchange contact phone numbers for reporting lost or stolen credit cards and keep theirs here.

Cash for exiting country
Tip money ($2.00 U.S. per traveler in Joberg and Malawi)
Cash for spending money
Credit Card
Reading glasses (I wound up keeping these on a chain around my neck)
Lip Balm (flying dries you out terribly)
Ear plugs

Quart size Ziploc bag with 3 OZ. TOILETRIES OR LESS
Liquid foundation makeup
Hand sanitizer
ANYTHING LIQUID – hairspray, makeup remover, moisturizer, eye drops, mouthwash
Malaria RX (if taken daily)
Any other routine daily medicines
Medicine for motion sickness or allergies or whatever if you’re prone to such
Over-the-counter pain medicine (Ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc.)
If taking lots of cash, put some here
Book(s) for reading on plane or during layovers
Sunglasses (after being on plane, sun is very bright)
Optional Items:
Makeup (liquids already in Ziploc bag) 
Dental floss
Small hair brush
Deodorant (solid)
Shower cap or hair band to hold hair during face washing
If you do not have a piece of carry on luggage, you might want to put panties and a change of clothes, etc. in here. (Just in case you spill something on yourself in route or your luggage gets lost, etc. etc. etc.)
U-shaped, neck support sleeping pillow—this is essential for ANY sleep on the plane!!!! We tied these to the outside of our back packs.

CARRY ON LUGGAGE - Lock your all you luggage - even your carry on - do the combination ones by TSA
Electrical products that you need in Africa (just in case your luggage gets lost.) Note: Converting from 220 (Malawi and most of Europe) to 110(United States) can be quite tricky. An adapter will only work on items that are below a certain wattage. Typically nothing that gets hot will be below that wattage with the exception of a few curling irons. Talk with your “hosts” to find out if they have converters available for you. (Converters are not the same as adapters.) If staying in a hotel in Joberg, South Africa has its own distinct electrical outlets. I took a bag of adapters and none of them worked. There was a hair dryer in the hotel room, but we didn’t need it. In other words, no need for curling irons, electric razors, curlers, flat irons, etc. in Joberg. Might want to inquire about camera chargers!
Pajamas (weather appropriate)
Toiletries (ones not already in back pack—NOTHING liquid)
Weather appropriate change of clothes for however long you will be in Joberg (if you don’t want to have to unpack your checked luggage)
Extra under garments
Outerwear (weather appropriate)
Camera charger?

CHECKED BAGGAGE - Lock your luggage with TSA locks - do the combination ones
You are limited in weight, size and number of pieces and it varies from airline to airline. Typically, you are allowed to check two large pieces that each weigh 50 lbs or less. Be sure to use TSA locks on your luggage. 
Clothing – Again, be sure to check the weather on the Internet before you go. Also, the number of clothing items that you take can be greatly reduced if you are able to wash your clothes while on your trip which I was able to do. 
Shoes -- try to keep shoes to a minimum because they are so heavy!! Take primarily comfortable shoes.
Toiletries – anything that you need that was either not in the carry on at all or not in large enough quantities to last the duration of the trip. This includes shampoo, other hair products, bug spray, sunscreen, lotions, toothpaste, mouthwash, cotton balls, q-tips.
Pharmaceuticals -- This included Phenergan, Peroxyl, Benadryl, Neosporin, Bandaids, Imodium AD, Mucinex DM, Nyquil, Sudafed, a prescription antibiotic and anything else that you like to use for common illnesses that are not life-threatening, but make you miserable if you don’t have the right medicine.

Since I am moving to Malawi what goes into my checked luggage will vary. Apparently, I can buy things like shampoo and toothpaste in Malawi, but not the brands I am used to. I suppose that becomes a bit of personal preference. 
One thing that really stands out on that list is the use of the fanny pack. Not sure that I am a fanny pack person. Scratch that! I am not a fanny pack person. However, last time I flew in the U.S. the airlines required that I stuff my purse into one of my carry-on's. So the fanny pack may go unnoticed being strapped around my waist and possibly a means of getting more of my belongings on that flight. Something to consider. Sometimes practicality does outweigh beauty. More importantly, isn't there another name for a fanny pack? It makes me cringe every time I hear that term. What do you think?

Interested in more information on packing for Malawi?  Check out these helpful posts.

Packing for Africa -2012

This is from a teacher that was here - her blog here

Packing For Africa: Part 4

After having lived in Malawi for almost a year, I think a follow up to my pre-Malawi packing posts is in order.  This is a lengthy post primarily for future ABC missionaries, but anyone else who might be interested in how my dutiful packing actually turned out may find this post insightful and maybe a bit entertaining.

I'll begin with the following statement.
  • Most anything you need CAN be purchased in Lilongwe, BUT...  
    • you may not find what you want when you want/need it so patience is a virtue.  If you've got something you need or really enjoy owning, bring it with you. 
    • it's going to cost you.  Most goods cost between 50% and 100% more. 
    • made in China is not the same thing as made in China, for Africa.  I am still amazed at how often items that don't seem like rocket science to make (like a pencil), don't actually work. 
Now for a revision of my first list.  Larger items are best if you are sending them on the container.  Otherwise, it will be too expensive to put them in your luggage.  Mailing items is very expensive and there is a chance they won't make it to your doorstep (maybe someone elses, but no one you would know).

  • Cookbooks with scratch recipes. I have the Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker.  These didn't make it in my luggage, due to weight restrictions.  Honestly, I haven't missed them.  The Internet comes in handy for finding recipes (when it's working).  I suppose it depends on how serious of a cook you are.  Then again, ingredient options are rather limited, rendering most American recipes rather useless.
  • Clothing for pretty much the entire time I am there. It's hot!  You can buy second hand American clothing very cheap.  However, new clothing is low quality and comes with a high price tag.  This is especially true when considering children's clothing.  One missionary had a child's onsie come apart after one washing because it was not stitched but glued together.  It gets cold here at night during the dry winter"ish" season.  Bring warm clothing, too.
  • Extra socks and underwear as local detergents are harsh on clothing. True.
  • Shoes (running, hiking, dress, walking, sandals) With all the rain here, I'm considering buying a pair of Crocs.  Most of my shoes stink now.  Shoes are probably the most important item to bring as shoes here are very poor quality (and very uncomfortable). 
  • All medicines Absolutely! The over the counter selection is very limited.  Consider bringing vitamins, too. 
  • Contact lens cleaner solutions, saline (got to love Costco). Haven't checked to see if this is available anywhere here, but if it is it won't be consistently.  Plan ahead.
  • Toiletries If you have certain items you really prefer, then yes.  Otherwise, you can buy shampoo, conditioner, etc. at reasonable prices.  Exceptions: expect to pay between $10-$15 for a small can of shaving cream, razors are only single or double blades, and travel sized items are nonexistent.  Bring any cosmetics you want, especially if you have fair skin.
  • Tape – all types (random - apparently not readily available) Mystery solved! This is one of those items that is sold here that doesn't actually work.  You can find tape (masking, duct, transparent) here, but it doesn't actually stick.  Crazy! 
  • Scissors You could skip
  • Batteries and chargers – all types You can buy batteries here, just bring specialty items and chargers.
  • Flashlight I like my small Maglight but you can buy flashlights here. 
  • Camera This is one item I wish I would have spent more money on.  I've never taken so many pictures and videos before.
  • Teaching Supplies (that's a whole other list) Most classrooms are pretty well equipped.  Highly recommend dry erase markers and mechanical pencils.
  • Sunglasses, glasses, extra glasses (good thing my prescription has not changed in the last decade).Yep.
  • Stamps Haven't used mine yet, but if you need something mailed in the U.S. it helps whomever is carrying it back for you to have postage paid already.
  • Laptop, printer Both are a must.  Include extra ink.  Academy printers don't always work, so if you're a teacher this becomes a necessity if you create your own lessons.  On the other hand, many teachers don't have a printer and figure out a way to deal.  I suppose it really is a personal preference.
  • Smoke detector Houses do have them, don't bring.
  • Water filters Initially helps with the taste of the water, but you do get used to it.  The houses all have special antimicrobial filters.
  • Head lamp – power outages average 3X/week Still recommend.  However, power outages are almost daily and usually only last 10 minutes or so till the generator kicks on.  Note:  this only applies if you live on campus.  Power outages can last an hour or a whole day otherwise.
  • Reusable containers, towels, napkins, bags Plastic containers are pretty decent here, towels can be purchased, napkins made (cheaply), and bags can be purchased, too.
  • One piece swimsuit (prefer one that isn't scary ugly) A tankini is completely acceptable.
  • Book day costume (Halloween type costume) I'd ordered one but it didn't arrive on time.  I was lame to not have one nor was I really equipped for a make shift costume either.  This event is a big deal.  There is also International Day.  A patriotic themed costume is fun for that.  Note: dressing like a pilgrim is a bit frowned upon given the issues with "pilgrims" to South Africa.  The use of a costume really only applies to academy staff and students. 
  • Mosquito repellent You can buy that here, but packets or travel sized bottles come in handy while traveling.
  • Spices Lots of spices here but limited seasoning packets (and they're very expensive if you do find them).  Consider bringing taco seasoning and parmesan cheese. 
  • Good hair cutting scissors (nervous about what this implies J) Don't bother.  You can get a good and inexpensive haircut here from a few places.
  • Chocolate chips (very expensiveTry nonexistent.  Bring them.  Even if you're not a chocolate addict, sometimes you want something that "tastes like America." 
  • Electric kitchen appliances Depends on your level of cooking expertise.  You can find them here.
  • A good pot and pan (quality is hard to find) You can buy decent pots and pans here now.  Then again, if you're a serious cook, you may want to consider bringing them.
  •  Water bottle/thermos bring a leak proof water bottle, coffee thermos, and I would recommend a CamelPak too if you're into hiking.  You'll drink way more water here. 
Other Items to Consider
  • Towels and Bedding - This may depend on where you are living.  The people that lived in your home before you may have left linens behind and you can use theirs.  Contact ABC to see if this applies to you.  If nothing was left behind you may want to consider bringing your own.  When you arrive after two to three days of travel all you're really going to be interested in doing is showering and sleeping.  You probably won't be up for a trip to the bank to exchange money and then shopping for overpriced linens.   The other option would be to see if you can borrow this stuff till you can purchase it.  I brought my own, but I wouldn't call it necessary.  Again, planning is everything here.
  • Travel sized items & travel friendly clothing - Given that you're in Africa you'll probably want to do some travel while you're here.  You'll want a bag that can't fit under your seat on a bus and doesn't have to be checked on an airplane (roll aboards - almost always get checked now).  The issue being that if the bag isn't in your possesion, count on someone rifling through it (even if there is a lock on it). Theft is highly likely if you travel through Johannesburg (a.k.a. Joburg).  Don't put anything valuable in a checked bag.  You can't buy travel sized items here, so stock up (at least on the containers).  Quick drying/multipurpose clothing (so you can wash it in a sink) that can be squashed in a bag is ideal. 
  • DVD's - so this genius thought she could download tv shows and movies to her computer to save space in her bag. hahahahahahahahah.  Ha!  Have I mentioned that the Internet connection here is slow?!  A three minute YouTube video can take 3 hours to play.  Music and podcasts take awhile to download (but tolerable).  The good news is that many people here have a lot of movies, but not much for TV shows.  Maybe recommending someone bring DVD's is a bit for my own benefit,  but I've got a stash to lend out, too. 
  • Games - Good times when you probably won't have a TV with a satellite subscription.
  • ebook Reader - This is definately optional, but you may find that once in awhile you actually will have time to read a book.  Granted there a quite a few theological books on campus to read, but you may appreciate something from another genre now and then. You can download books to your computer and the Kindle app is great for that.  I have a Sony ebook reader that I really DON'T recommend.  While the Sony eReader is a bit cheaper than the Kindle (hence the reason I got it), the books cost more, there isn't as much of a selection to choose from, and many can't be downloaded outside of the U.S.  If you're going to do this then I suggest the Kindle.  Many staff members here have one and love it.
  • Speakers - I threw a compact stereo onto the container last year and have really enjoyed having good sound.  If that is not an option for you, I would recommend speakers that plug into your USB port on your laptop and run off of power from your computer.  
  • Mobile phone - If you have a mobile phone that you love, you can bring it and probably have it unlocked (this may limit your ability to use it in the U.S. again).  This is assuming that your SIM card is accessible.  I know that some Droid and Palm phones don't have accessible SIM cards, however, SIM cards can be cut to fit the iPhone.  Otherwise, a new (ancient style) phone, will run about $20 (heard of these but never seen one for sale) - $60 (more likely).
  • Compact umbrella - It rains a lot and having a small umbrella that can be stashed in a purse or bag helps.  You can buy large ones here that double as canes if need be. (What? You don't need a cane!  Bring a compact umbrella then).
  • Travel packets of hand wipes/hand sanatizer/tissues/mosquito repellent - Sanitation isn't the same here and I haven't seen these items for sale. 
  • Cups and coffee mugs - Cups and mugs tend to be small here (I feel like I am drinking from shot glasses and teacups).  This is really a personal preference and more realistically a very American preference.  I brought a bigger coffee mug and love it.  I will be schlepping another larger mug back with me and larger drinking glasses (acrylic).  Sometimes more is more (and better). 
  • Long shower curtain and liner - curtain rods tend to sit a bit high around here.  I have heard others note that their shower curtains don't even make it to the height of the tub, leaving quite a mess in the bathroom. 
  • Over the shoulder bag - While I don't feel like people are out to grab my purse, I definately felt more comfortable with an over the shoulder bag when I first got here.  The largest bill is only worth $3 and only a few places accept cards.  Your going to feel like you just robbed a bank with the amount of cash you'll carry with you and it takes awhile to get used to. 
  • Bibles - Bring your favorite study Bible and a smaller Bible as you'll be bringing it to various events.  Those that have brought only a small Bible, to save space for packing, wished they would have brought a larger study Bible, too. 
Stuff to forget about.
  • Binders (and sheet protectors) - I brought them to organize all my files, assignments, etc.  Paper is A4 here so a standard binder is just not big enough. 
You could absolutely bring only a carry-on and purchase some version of most things you appreciate here. Your American life won't translate no matter how much you bring and that is all part of what makes the experience great.  Everything mentioned above is just a suggestion to make your stay in Malawi a bit more comfortable, but you'll be fine without those items.  After all, they are just things and don't we all have enough stuff?  Additionally, just getting off of an airplane with a carry on is going to make you far richer than most of the citizens of Malawi anyway.   Living in Malawi makes you realize how most of what you own isn't really all that important and that you were probably more materialistic than you ever would have noticed otherwise.  Granted we are humans and our desire for stuff, comfort, and luxuries doesn't really ever subside, but living here has helped to keep the materialistic side of me in check.