29 June 2011

Dear H19

Dear H19,

Hi, welcome to Honduras (almost)! We are excited to have you (and by that I mean we are excited to no longer be the new kids on the block)!

I imagine that some of you are probably freaking out about what to pack, like I was. There is a great post from one of the H16 volunteers on what to pack and not to pack, and I have a few things to add of my own.

-You all are in a different position than we were. As you know the housing policies have changed and you all will be living with host families for the entire two years. I’m sure it will be as rewarding as it will be challenging. In my case, when we packed to come to Honduras, I put back half of my clothes and instead brought things like knitting supplies, tea, spices, and household items that we would want over the next two years. You all won’t have to decide there because your host family will likely provide everything you need in terms of household items. Don’t bring them (unless you, like me, have a special magical can-opener that you never go anywhere without). You can buy almost anything you would want housewares wise here, but likely your host family will already have it.

-Jeff says about clothes: I brought too much. Without a washing machine, if you wait more than 5 days to do laundry you are going to be spending hours doing it, so you will get to do it more often. I brought enough clothes to go two weeks without changing, and there was no need. Two pairs jeans, one pair khaki, 1 ‘traveling’ (lightweight quickdry), one pair nicer shorts, two sports shorts(doubles as pajamas). Handful of tshirts, 5 or so button up shirts, sports coat, 1 tie. Done. Don’t be afraid to not bring enough, ropa American stores are plentiful and cheap- Sam bought two pairs of jeans for less than $8 here in site.

-Hobby stuff: If you are a knitter, then please for the love of God, bring your own yarn. They only have terrible scratchy awful acrylic stuff here. Not even the good acrylic, just the terrible pill-y kind. If you don’t know what I am talking about, feel free to disregard this section. If you have another hobby, you will have a lot of free time to do whatever you do, bring your stuff you need for it.

-Sports: Some people in our group brought things like hacky-sacks, soccer balls, etc. Jeff brought a soccer ball (futbol), and a rugby ball, which has proved to be a lot of fun not just between fellow trainees (more than 10% of our group had played rugby), but also in the community. The kids here still haven’t mastered that whole passing backwards part of rugby.

-Games: Small games are highly recommended! Lots of people brought card games like Set or the card version of Scrabble—we brought Bananagrams in both English and Spanish. Lots of fun with the host families and gives you something to do during lunch or other waiting times.

-Headlamp: Bring one of these! You will be happy you did when the power goes out. I recommend one that takes AA batteries, not funny button batteries. You can find AA and AAA batteries here, though batteries are expensive, so bring a bunch or have someone send you some. In our site, the power has been out about 20% of our time here. One week we only had power half the time.

-A clipboard! I know that sounds ridiculous, but you will seriously use this all the time. I wish I had one.

-Ladies: bring some flats. I did a silly thing in having only practical shoes (tennis shoes, Birkenstocks, flipflops, hiking boots), and apparently the thing here is to wear flats, and they are expensive to get good ones that don’t fall apart. Flip-flops are not ok for work (and hence, no ok for training), but “decorative sandals,” which are flipflops with crap on them, are ok. Honduran business wear is jeans or skirt, nice shirt/blouse, so consider that when you are packing.

-Jeans: It is totally acceptable here to wear jeans all day every day. Skinny jeans are really in, but capris are nice too when it is hot. I only brought one pair with me, and have since bought 2 more so that I don’t have to wash them so often. Go read Kristi’s post and listen to what she says about cotton/poly blends! We have plenty of cotton stuff, but the polyester helps. I have some sturdy oxford shirts from LLBean that are holding up well, but other than that the 100% cotton wears a lot faster.

-If you have a non-smart phone, or you have an older phone that works but you just don’t use anymore, get it unlocked and bring it. You need a GSM phone, one that takes a SIM card, and need to go to the company you bought it from (ATT/T-Mobile, ect.) and have them unlock it. The cheap phones here are cheap, but will cost you around 11 days of trainee income--save that for beer money.

-Bring a computer and an external hard drive. You will use your computer for work, and you will want the external hard drive to back things up. Honduras is hard on electronics, make sure you back things like documents and pictures up regularly. A larger external lets you store more movies, music, and pictures. We have a terabyte external, and it only has 100gb left. Peace Corps probably told you not to bring a computer. Do. You can always choose not to use it, but you will find them prohibitively expensive once you get here.

-GET INSURANCE. We are spending $200ish a year, and have our electronics and stuff covered. It’s pricey, but completely worth it, especially since just replacing your clothes would probably cost more that what you are going to make in a year. If our laptop or something is stolen, we wouldn’t be able to afford to replace it otherwise.

Along those lines, don’t bring anything irreplaceable. You will likely go through service with no problems, but every year people get robbed. If you have a family heirloom or something else one of a kind, the likelihood of it getting lost, stolen or damaged here is high.

If you have any questions, post a comment or email us.

Goodluck! Training will likely be long and at times boring, but stick with it!

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