An Open Letter to Group 89 and Beyond 

Dear Future Group 89 and Beyond, 

It’s August and in a little over a month you’ll be embarking on a new adventure in your lives. Yay!  It’s seems like just yesterday I was where you are now. I was this crazy combination of excited,  terrified, anxious,  and elated. I remember a lot of sleepless nights leading up to my departure. There was a lot of “I can’t believe I’m doing this…” and “I can’t believe I’m ACTUALLY doing this!!” I stressed about packing, saying goodbye to all of my friends and family, and all of the fears that come with moving to another country. But mostly packing. 

So if you’re anything like that right now that’s completely normal. You’re about to take a big leap in terms of faith,  your comfort zone,  and in your lifestyle. Being nervous is completely alright. You got this. 

Since your biggest stress is probably packing, let me go ahead and address that. Peace Corps should give you a suggested packing list and PCV Zack wrote a post last year on his blog with a good detailed list along with some awesome advice. click here for that . I think that they cover pretty much everything you need and then some. To avoid a lot of repetition (and to make my life easier),  I’m just going to give my top 7 do’s and don’ts to pack. 

Deep breaths. 

Top 7 DO Pack 

  1. Good sunscreen!  The sunscreen we get isn’t that great.  Not a high spf or long duration. The sun here is like its own nuclear force.  I got lobster level sunburnt three times in training alone. So save yourself some likely skin cancer and bring the good stuff.  If you don’t want to,  that’s fine; pack aloe instead.                                                
  2. Back ups for back ups. Bring extra chargers for your extra chargers for whatever electronic devices you bring: phones,  kindles,  iPod’s,  laptops, etc. I’m not just talking one back up,  I mean multiple chargers per device. I’m on my second phone charger and third laptop charger and they’re not cheap to replace here either. Samoa is hard on electronics.    
  3. School supplies!  You can buy a lot of the basics here (scissors, glue, paper clips, staplers..), but they’re not the best quality.  But I suggest bringing stickers,  fun pencils, coloring books,  crayons,  markers,  and colored pencils. Your kids will go crazy for the stuff and so will you when you start making your own resources. Thankfully I have a supportive family who sends me more of that stuff in their care packages so ask someone to send school things to you later if you’re worried about luggage weight.                                                                       
  4. Crystal light packets.  I promise I’m not crazy.  I know it seems random but you’ll be drinking A LOT of water and sometimes adding a little flavor will make your day a whole lot better.                                                                         
  5. Good hygiene products. Specifically razors,  cleansers,  and feminine products.  In reference to feminine products, pads are here but not really anything else so use that information to make your choices. I also brought wet wipes which have come in handy when I haven’t had water.                      
  6. Hobby something or another. I’m talking knitting stuff or wood carving knives or sketchbooks or journals or adult coloring books.  Whatever hobbies you have or have thought about picking up, bring them.  You have a good amount of free time here and it might help with your sanity. I journal so much more now than I ever have before.                                      
  7. Ladies,  pack all of the sports bras. All of them.  They’re a game changer.  

Top 7 DON’T Pack 

This list was a lot harder to come up with. I was sitting in my room looking around and trying to figure out what I don’t use and there wasn’t much. That should tell you how useful Zack’s blog and Peace Corps list are.  

  1. Electronics you’re attached to. I can not say it enough. Samoa is hard on electronics and chances are they will break or succumb to heat strokes so bring cheap ones to get you through two years or ones you don’t mind not going back home with. And don’t bring anything without antivirus software on it. Just don’t.                                                                                               
  2. Tons of shoes.  All you need is a pair of flip flops,  chacos or tevas (for adventures and to double as water shoes ish), and a pair of tennis shoes (sneakers) if you’re inclined to exercise. Don’t bother bringing more than that.  You won’t wear anything else and it’ll probably be extra weight you don’t use.                                                                                                                   
  3. Spandex anything.  It’s just too hot for that. You’ll sweat too much and it’ll be gross and sticky.  Bring airy light stuff instead like cotton.  Trust me.                                                                                       
  4. Medicine stuff. I brought a lot of Excedrin and ibuprofen because I’ve had a tendency to get migraines most of my life. I wish I hadn’t though. Your med kit will be more than enough and you can always talk to our doctor about special things you need.                                                                                                                                       
  5. Food. Sigh..  It might be difficult, but refrain from packing all of the snacks you’re afraid to go without.  You’ll be okay.  That’s what care packages are for and you can honestly find a lot in Apia.  Plus,  I think food is a great way to integrate by eating what your family or community is eating.  It helped me but that’s just my opinion.                                                                       
  6. Bed stuff. I once read somewhere to bring sheets. Don’t.  Families tend to have plenty and if for some reason they don’t you can buy them here.                                                                             
  7. Cute clothes.  I would bring a couple of cute outfits for special occasions or going out in Apia.  But not a lot.  Most of the time you’ll be in T-shirts, shorts,  and lavalavas.  You’ll also be handwashing your clothes (most likely)  and between that and the environment, your clothes will see a lot of wear. I won’t be bringing most of my clothes back to America if that tells you anything. 

I hope that helps with your packing. And if that doesn’t ease some of the stress, remember this: if you forget to bring something and you find out you really need it,  you can probably buy it here or have it sent to you.  It’ll be fine. 

Deep breaths.  

Now,  I’m going to give you a couple pieces of advice. It might seem a bit presumptuous of me that I think you need it, but promise that’s not the case.  It may or may not help you and you don’t have to listen to it. But on the off chance that it might help you I’ll say it anyway.  

  • Get on that plane with an open mind,  open heart,  and no expectations.  When people come here with certain expectations of how life will be or how easy it’ll be they end up disappointed or they struggle.  Having a go with the flow mind set will help you integrate into the Samoan culture and your life as a Peace Corps volunteer. And isn’t integrating into a new culture part of the adventure? Accepting the changes in your life as they come will help you have a more positive experience in my opinion (that’s just me though).                                                                        
  • Try not to compare too much.  Every single one of you that is starting this journey is unique. You all have different backgrounds and life stories. You will have different families,  villages,  and schools.  You’ll form different relationships. You will have different triumphs and different struggles. Your service will be your own and what you make of it.  Don’t try to shape it to look like someone else’s. On that same line of thought,  don’t compare your life to everyone back home.  People will get married, have babies,  die, graduate, and change jobs.  You are not falling behind in your life by becoming a volunteer; in my opinion, you’re improving it. 

Deep breaths. 

I can’t stress how excited I am to meet you. Every group that comes in represents the future of Peace Corps in Samoa. You all bring something new and wonderful to the table: your ideas,  your dreams,  your thoughts,  and your personalities.  You will learn from each other and us crazy 88ers will learn from you too. Remember,  you got this.  

Deep breaths. 

See you soon,  

Sarah 

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