Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Care Package Tips & Suggestions

Many people have been asking me what they can send with me to Africa, or what they could send me IN Africa. First off, I'd like to say, that I expect absolutely nothing from anyone. However, care packages throughout my service will be SUPER appreciated, and will help make things go a lot more smoothly for me, especially when dealing with home sickness and missing variety and flavours in foods.

About the shipping:
Use USPS. They have flat rate boxes, so you can put as much as you can fill it with, without worrying about weight. This will be expensive, probably around $60. Other services, such as DHL, will get the package to me in half the time, but will run around $400. DO NOT DO THISSSS! Nothing is that important to get to me, plus your package will probably sit in a post office for close to a month before I'd be able to get it, so don't worry about getting things to me in a "timely manner". Heck, I'm not even that important to spend that much money on, nor do I expect it, so please...

On the box:
Theft is pretty common, I would assume more so when it's a package coming from the US to a PC Volunteer. The best way to remedy having the package opened, sifted through, and taken by whoever wants whatever, is to "Secure the package with God". Seriously, as crazy as it might sound. Write things all over the box, such as "God is watching you, do not open!" "Hands off- this is NOT yours" "God knows what you're thinking/doing", etc. Draw pictures of a cross. Write Biblical versus on the box. (Somebody asked me 'If I put Jesus stickers on the box, does Jesus have to be Black or White?'.. I do not know the answer to this question, so save the stickers for yourself! lol) Heck, you can even go as  far as to addressing me as a nun. When you write that it's for me, go ahead and call me "Sister Caitlin" or "Sister in Christ, Caitlin". Although I am personally not religiously affiliated, this shipping tactic will substantially diminish the possibility of the items in the box being stolen and never received by yours truly. Also, NUMBER YOUR BOXES/LETTERS as you send them. I will then know if something never got to me, if I happen to get Letter 1 and then Letter 3, or something like that.

Keep in mind that packages will take about a month or more to get to me. Also keep in mind that I have no postal service where I will be, so it still might be another month or so until I am able to pick up the package in town. Although Milk Chocolate, M&Ms, and Hershey's kisses are my absolute favorite, there is a good chance that those would turn to mush whilst traveling or hanging out in a sweltering hot African post office (unless you send it during the rainy season??).. Also, send things that I would never need to refrigerate, as I won't be able to. So if it can't live in a pantry after being opened, it will spoil.

Without further adieu, here is a list of things that I have come up with, some of my favorite flavours and comfort foods, as well of things that I imagine would be of great use for me whilst serving:

**No Peanuts/Peanut Butter** (I won't die, so don't fret about checking ingredients. I just really don't like them, they make my throat swell up a wee bit, and my asthma gets a little worse, but nothing serious!)
Easy Mac packets
Power Bars- Vanilla, Chocolate, Cookies & Cream
Protein Bars, Protein (whey) Supplements 
Jello Mix
Cake/Brownie Mix (I've made this with just water over a campfire before!)
Muscle Milk
Chips: Hot Cheetos (w/lime!), BBQ, Salt & Pepper, JalapeƱo, Salt & Vinegar, Sun Chips (all), etc.
Dry Cereal: Honey Nut Cheerios, Multi Grain Cheerios, Cereal w/ Dried Fruit, Kix, Grapenuts, Lucky Charms
Candy- anything except stuff with nuts or black licorice! Skittles, red licorice, gummies, hard candies, chewy candies, individually wrapped candies, mints, lifesavers, mentos, gum, etc.
Dried Spaghetti
Pop Tarts (any)
Top Ramen
Dried Soup Packets
Dried Fruit
Lentils! Bags of lentils! mmm Soup!
I even enjoy eating MRE's, as well as Dehydrated Mountaineering Foods!

Condiment Packets- Ketchup & Mustard, Soy Sauce, Taco Bell Sauces, etc.
Spice Packets (I LOVE spices! anything!)
Taco Mix, Instant flavour packets (These are used to make the bland Nshima and Cabbage dishes a little more flavourful for me!)
SEEDS!!!! For my garden, veggies, and herbs! Anything to add variety, color, spice, flavour and more nutrients to my life! I have no idea what will grow out there, or what exactly my climate will be like, but I'd like to try to grow what I can (Please, No TOMATOES OR CUCUMBERS. I absolutely hate these to the point that smelling it makes me gag and eating it makes me puke, and they seem to be some of the main vegetables used in the villages for "salsa" for the nshima! ahhh!!!) 

Crystal Light
VIA Coffee
Tea (all kinds, even stuff for being sickies, to help me sleep at night, etc. I'm totally down with homeopathic or all natural medicine and using different tea herbs for different ailments)
Hot Chocolate/ Milk Chocolate Mix

Duct Tape (colours are cool, too!)
Electrical Tape
Ziploc bags, all sizes. Tupperware containers. 
Batteries (these are super expensive there, AA, AAA, C, D)
Tea Candles (you can get like, 100 of these for $1 at the Dollar Store, I have a thermoelectric device/charger/light that runs off of the little bit of heat produced by tea candles, so these would be VERY helpful!)
Deflated Soccer Balls, Pumps (hand or foot), replacement needles
Reading Material- this can be done in different ways. I will have my Kindle, so Amazon Gift Cards would be helpful for getting books, also send suggestions! Another option is USB's with anything on them! I seriously love to learn, about absolutely everything. If you find something interesting, save it as a file onto a USB drive. If there are instructions for doing something or teaching something, put it on there! If there are how-to videos that you can save as a file without me using internet, slap it on! Put pictures, music, anything! Then mail me the USB!
Pictures- of us, of your life, things back home, drawings, etc.
Hut Decor- anything I can duct tape to my walls! 
Hand Sanitizer
Baby Wipes (Instant showers! WOO!)
The PC will provide me with vitamins, medicine, and things to take care of myself, but: Gummi Vitamins, DEET, Neosporn, Hydrocortisone are things that I've heard I might want extras of :)
Extra Stationary for all my pen pals!
If you travel a lot- pick up the small soaps from Hotels and send em! Liquid soap would be nice to have :)

Maps!!! For my hut, or great teaching aid as well- US Maps, Cali Maps, World Maps, Africa Maps, VFR Sectionals (I am a pilot ;)) etc.
Maps/Diagrams/Posters of the Human Body. Or if somebody wants to get me a small plastic learning model of the human body w/removeable organs I think that'd be great. [I'm not sure if this is a sensitivity, but I would think having posters of the human body, when the person is represented with beige skin, might not be as relatable to the children or people that I'll be teaching.]
Arts & Crafts to do with kids- projects, outlines & directions, ideas, templates
Scissors (straight edge and squiggly ones)
Crayons, Pens, Pencils, Markers, Sharpies, Felt Pens
Colouring Books for kids
Small Childrens Books
Flash Cards- Simple concepts, English words
Paper Airplane Patterns
Sudoku, Word Searches
Cards, card games (uno, old maid, etc.)
Felt (I can use the shipping boxes to make Felt Story Boards!)
Friendship Bracelet String
Beads, String

Gaiam Balance Ball
Resistance bands
Athletic Tape
Yoga Mats
Body Stick (for rolling out sore muscles!)
Head Lamps 

I will continue to add & take away from this list, depending on what I really need. If you feel like picking a few things off of the list, or if you have other ideas, I'd love to receive anything while I'm gone!! Be Creative! I will appreciate anything, no matter how big or small. Extras will be used or gifted to other volunteers, village members, schools, or anyone that needs it more than me. Remember that the address that is on the right side of my page is only my address during the first 3 months of training. If you send something now (June, less than 4 weeks until departure). it will be there a little after I get there. I will update with my permanent address once I am assigned my final site placement. I will have many things during the first (3)three months, so feel free to send me packages throughout my whole 2 years of service. Until October, I will be living with a host family, and am not sure of the amount of space I will have to keep things, nor am I sure how easy it will be to move all of my belongings when I go to my site.

I cannot stress enough how much having people write to me back home will mean. I don't care what you write- tell me about your life, tell me what you're learning, tell me about your job. Vent to me, complain about anything. Ask for advice. Ask questions about what I'm doing. Allow me to teach back home while I'm gone. Draw me pictures. Write down all of your FB status updates throughout the month, and send em all to me at the end of the month. Tell me jokes. Make up silly stories. Tell me about world events, or local news. ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING!

*If you are coming to my going away BBQ at my parents house, we will have a large shipping box there. Feel free to drop off an item or whatever you'd like, without having to ship something over to me.*

Thanks, loves :)

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