The following message is dedicated to the 78th Group of Peace Corps Volunteers headed to the Kingdom of Tonga in September 2013:
Dear Peace Corps Tonga Group 78,
First of all let me say how excited we are for you to get here! That being said, this is a strange letter to write. It feels like just yesterday I was in your shoes - not knowing exactly what to pack and wanting to soak in as much time with family and friends as I could, and feeling like I was about to leap off a cliff into the unknown. September will be here before you know it!
I thought I'd write this letter to help you a little bit with the packing process. The rest of Peace Corps - Tonga 77 would definitely agree with me when I say that I was the girl who brought way too much. Which is funny because I'm not at all high maintenance in the States. So first off, don't be that girl (or guy). The mail is pretty reliable, so if you do happen to really need something, I'm sure you can find some awesome family member or great friend back home to send it to you. Anyhoo - I'm sure not everyone in Peace Corps Tonga would agree with my list, but if I were to do it over, here is what I would do differently:
Skirts/Dresses (girls): Bring breathable (cotton) dresses and skirts. Make sure they cover your knees! Also, don't bring anything that is made of a thick material - you will sweat right through it. Back sweat is the worst.
As few pairs of shoes as possible: I wear three pairs - flip flops, Chacos (or something similar) and occasionally some running shoes when I work out. That is all you need. Seriously. That's it.
A hammock: You are about to move to the South Pacific Ocean where coconut trees are plentiful which means that there are prime spots to hang a hammock. Do yourself a favor and cut down on time and bring some "slap straps" too. I have them - they are wonderful!
Ear plugs: If you are like me you may end up living 10 feet from a Mormon Church. Sometimes the villagers like to get up at 5am for choir practice. It's the most beautiful singing I have ever heard, but it can be early. Luckily, I came prepared. Also, despite what childhood cartoons teach us about the rooster crowing once in the morning, this is a lie. They start before the sun comes up and don't stop. :)
An external hard drive: If you have time, fill it with your favorite movies and tv shows. You might find yourself with a little bit of downtime here and it's always nice to have something to watch. Plus, you can share it with your fellow volunteers.
Perfume: It's always nice to smell good. Bring your favorite sent so it reminds you of home!
A Journal: Chronicling your Peace Corps journey is so important. I'm already finding it so so much fun to go back and read my early journal entries.
Febreze: Unless you like doing laundry by hand, it's not a bad thing to pack. Makes things last a little bit longer - I don't live in Febreze scented filth. I promise.
A good backpack: Chances are you will have to walk some sort of distance to get your food (to the market, to town, to the local store, etc.) so it doesn't hurt to bring a day backpack or some re-usable bags.
To leave at home:
Scarves: Tonga is hot. There is no use for scarves here. Let your neck breathe. This seems like an obvious statement and I thought I was a pro when it came to understanding heat (I have lived in Florida during the summer time), but I have never experienced heat like this.
Expensive camera/computer equipment: You're about to move to Tonga where the humidity is higher than average. With humidity comes mold and it's no fun when your electronics grow fungi.
Jeans: I suggest bringing one pair (that's it). I've lived here almost 9 months and I can count on my fingers how many times I have worn my jeans.
Leather goods: Belts, sandals, bags, whatever. It will mold if it comes to Tonga.
That's about it from me. Obviously pay attention to the packing list that Peace Corps provides because I really think they did a good job with it. These are just items that I use often or found especially beneficial.
Toki Sio, (See you later!)