The following is my Peace Corps Armenia packing list. It contains a comprehensive record of everything I brought with me to Armenia, to get me through two years here. Overall, I am fairly satisfied with how I packed, even though since I got here I have dreamed more than a dozen times that I was back home and had the opportunity to re-pack or grab additional items.
If you are going to be an Armenian Peace Corps volunteer, especially in the A-21 group coming in May 2013, or will be going to a similar Peace Corps country, like Ukraine or Georgia, this list may be particularly interesting. I will annotate it with additional comments, so you can see what I was especially glad I packed (marked with an asterisk), and what I would do differently, were I to do it again. Of course everyone has different priorities, so bear in mind that these are my own ideas of what is important to have in Armenia.
If you are not joining Peace Corps, this list will probably fill an idle curiosity of what a person would pack when they plan on volunteering outside of the U.S. for 27 months.
I had a hiking backpack and a rolling suitcase as checked luggage. Both were under the 50 pound weight limit. I had a laptop backpack and my mandolin as my two carry-on pieces of luggage. I brought everything I thought I would need; I did not purposely leave anything I wanted to be shipped to me later on.
My advice is this: Try not to stress out too much over packing, and don’t spent too much money trying to buy additional items; work as much as you can with what you already own. If you accidentally leave something at home or don’t already own it, you can probably buy it in Armenia, although it may not be the brand, quality, or style you expect. Also, Peace Corps provides a lot of medical supplies like over-the-counter pills, band-aids, and sunscreen in the medical kit, so don’t bring much beyond special prescription medications.
- *2 pair jeans – nice to have casual clothing here, even if it will make you stick out even more
- 2 pair adventure pants – they roll into capris, and also zip off into shorts, and dry quickly on the line. Wonderful things. (*Note: after over a year in country, I don’t wear these much anymore. They’re “too casual.”)
- *Shorts – good for working out. It’s not so common for girls to walk the streets in shorts, but the summers are really hot and you might be able to get away with it.
- *Sweats – I wear these all the time around the house and to bed
- 2 long sleeve t-shirts – wish I had brought more, as they are good for layering
- Fleece shirt
- *Hooded sweatshirt – wish I had brought 2, as I used to live in these in the States
- *6 T-shirts – nice for casual wear and working out
- *1 Tank top – great during the summer. Tank tops are fine to wear, no matter what Peace Corps tells you. Wish I had more, as I snagged this one on a fence
- *3 pair dress pants – worn almost daily to work, and during PST
- 3 skirts – worn mostly in the summer. Best if they’re not too short, but still cool.
- 6 dressy shirts – good for wearing to work, and during PST. Should be a mixture of weights for hot and cold weather
- Sequined vest – fun if you want to be dressy, but basically unnecessary
- Light sweater – summer evenings can be cool
- *Knitted sweater – very warm, I wear it all the time in the winter. Should have brought a wool sweater or two.
- Dressy scarf
- *2 long john tops – wish I had brought Under Armour.
- *2 long john bottoms – wish I had thicker, wool ones, not just silk. Can find warm tights in country, but my legs are too long even for the 5XL ones I bought in Armenia, so I just snipped the toes off
- *4 pair thick socks – should have brought more
- 2 pair black dress socks
- 14 pair white cotton socks – nice to have lots of socks. They take forever to dry on the line
- 10 pair undies – the more underwear the better, as you won’t have to do wash as often. Wish I had more silk ones, which dry faster.
- 2 sports bras – good for working out
- 4 reg bras – probably could have used a few more
- Slip – worn under skirts, but rarely
- Swimsuit – good for summertime at Lake Sevan or one of the two water parks in country. Mine is a tankini, as I thought a bikini would be too risque. Turns out lots of women wear bikinis here.
- 2 camis
- Towel – towels here are not so good. If you like big, fluffy ones, bring one from home.
- *Travel towel – dries quickly and is convenient for extended PCV trips across Armenia or traveling outside of the country
- Should have brought a pair or two of dressy capris. Perfect for summer, when you are hot but it’s inappropriate to walk around in shorts.
- 2 pairs of glasses – 2 are required by Peace Corps
- *4 boxes of contacts – I wear contacts all the time and wish I had brought enough for two years
- 8 oz. contact solution – Can find more in country (although expensive), or have shipped in care packages
- Contact case
- 2 bars Dove soap
- Shampoo – a full 25 oz bottle was not entirely necessary, but I still haven’t had to buy from the store, which has been nice.
- Conditioner – ditto shampoo
- Floss – Armenian floss is not waxed.
- 2 deodorants
- Diva cup – for use instead of tampons. Has worked well for me. Tampons are provided by medical office.
- Diva wash – a special face wash, also for cleaning the Diva cup
- 1 package panty liners – easy to find in country
- Prescription hand cream
- Hand sanitizer
- Peppermint oil – used to combat fatigue during PST
- Venus Divine razor
- 6 razor blade refills – I should have brought more; they don’t take up much room and are expensive in country
- Q-tips – available everywhere in country
- Fingernail clippers
- Toenail clippers
- 4 chapsticks
- IBuprofen – only bring a little; Peace Corps provides this in your medical kit
- Band-aids – ditto IBuprofen
- *Tennis shoes – I wear these all the time, even though they make me stand out. Most Armenian women wear high heels. (*Note: after over a year in country, I rarely wear tennies anymore.)
- Flip flops – good for showering or if you like walking around in the summer in these
- *Dressy flat sandals – nice for the hot summers during PST when you have to dress up everyday
- Black high-heeled shoes – only bring these if they are comfortable. Mine are not; I should have left them home.
- *I wore my brown hiking boots on the plane. These double as my winter boots. (*Note: I got a pair of nice dressy winter boots in a care package, and I much prefer them to my hiking boots. I lived in them my second winter in country.)
I was just guessing here, and decided I would request gifts later in a care package, when I knew who they would be for.
- Fancy scissors
- Meat thermometer
- Orange peelers
- Bubbles (a 3-pack)
- Glow-in-the-dark stars
- *Laptop – there were only two volunteers in the A-19 group who didn’t bring a laptop. We use them for teaching, watching movies, and various aspects of our work. I use mine for graphic design projects, storing and editing pictures, etc. Everything I used it for at home, and then some. Internet and electricity are readily available. Bring your laptop!
- *Charger – for the laptop
- *Neoprene case – ditto, good for safely transporting laptop
- *Wireless mouse – I love using a mouse, versus a touchpad
- Computer screen cleaner – glad I brought this, as Armenia is very dusty
- *2 flash drives, 8 GB and 512 MB
- *Portable hard drive, 1TB – good for backing up files, and storing movies.
- *Surge protector – I got the wrong kind from the states. If it’s for your computer, buy the $20 one from www.apc.com. It plugs into your computer cord between your battery pack and the part that connects to your computer, and protects your computer from electrical surges. Make sure you buy the proper 2- or 3-prong one, depending on your battery pack.
- Power adapter to plug American plugs into Armenian outlets – I did not bring one, and they are readily available to buy in-country. However, if you can get a decent cheap one from Amazon or somewhere, it may be worth it. I have melted through five already, because they are poorly made here.
- Mp3 player and earbuds
- Extra camera memory card – not that necessary for me
- *Battery charger – my camera takes AA batteries.
- 6 rechargeable AA batteries
- Camera gorillapod – nice, if you take a lot of pictures, otherwise unnecessary
- Mini radio – should have left at home
- A Nook or Kindle would be a great device to have, and if I had one, I’d use it all the time, but is not necessary, if you don’t already have one and are trying to save money. (*Note: Kindles are being provided by Peace Corps Armenia to all in-coming PCVs, starting this year, 2013.)
- *Acrylic paints – Glad I brought these, as I enjoy painting. If you have a hobby, find a way to pack it, so you have an outlet.
- Brushes, other painting supplies
- Large canvas and three small ones – for painting
- Tarot cards – a fun hobby for me
- UNO – some people play all the time. I don’t.
- 6 necklaces – good to bring some jewelry, just not really expensive stuff
- 2 rings
- 2 books – It was enough for reading on the plane and the first little while in country. The PC office has huge bookshelves of good books to choose from once you get here. Again, a Nook or Kindle would be a great device to have, but is not necessary. (*Note: kindles are now being provided by Peace Corps.)
- *Photo book – I made this online before I left the U.S. It has pictures of my family and home life in the U.S., and I have shared it with many Armenians. Much more convenient than loose photos, for that purpose.
- Additional photos – for decorating walls and to remind me of home
- Journal – for hand-writing, when I don’t want to write on my computer, or when my computer’s not charged and the electricity is temporarily out
- Mandolin – I like playing music, so I’m glad I brought this. Again, if you have a hobby, find a way to pack it, so you have an outlet.
- Mandolin strings
- Pack of markers – handy for craft projects or a gift
- Pack of crayons – ditto markers
- Drawing pencils – ditto markers and crayons
- *Dry erase board calendar – I used one all the time in the States, so I’m glad I brought it here, as I still use it all the time. During PST I used it to communicate with my host family about my class schedule
- 2 dry erase markers
- 2 2011 calendars – I use the pictures to decorate my walls
- Small ruler
- 40 envelopes – nice if you plan to mail letters home
- Small Elmer’s glue
- Pink eraser
- 6 blank CDs – totally unnecessary
- *Small notepads – good gifts, and good for making lists, which I do all the time
- 2 spiral-bound ruled notebooks – good for language lessons. Bring if you like a certain kind of notebook. The ones you buy here are usually top-flip, or really small book-style
- *Small scissors – good for craft projects and cutting random things
- Business cards – rarely used, but gives me a way to share my blog and contact information with others
- Blue masking tape – came in handy for hanging things on my wall, but wish it was duct tape or packaging tape
- Small office kit – contains a stapler, tape, paperclips. Unnecessary, but it didn’t take up much room.
- A couple magnets – for hanging pictures on your fridge. Nice if you have a fridge, which I don’t.
- 3-hole puncher – unnecessary
- Laminated U.S. Map – Good decoration, but didn’t need to be laminated, too hard to pack
- Europe map
- It would be fun to have a small stash of colored paper (especially construction paper, which you can’t find in country) for projects, but I didn’t bring any.
- *Headlamp – streets are not well-lit, and bathrooms are not always inside the house
- 2 pocket knives – handy, for the sharp blades (most blades in-country are dull), and one was a good host family gift
- *Sunglasses – sun is very bright in summer
- Thread and needle
- Combination lock – haven’t used, even a year in, but may use later at hostels when traveling
- Small screwdriver kit – good for opening computers and fixing glasses, but mostly unnecessary. Again, it didn’t take up much room.
- *Small backpack – I don’t have a purse, so this is what I use. Comes in very handy.
- 2 cloth bags – good for shopping, instead of accepting a plastic bag
- I didn’t bring a pillow, but if I thought it could fit, it would have been awesome. Armenian pillows are huge and heavy and not very comfortable to sleep on.
- *Winter hat
- Ear warmers – never used
- *Winter jacket
- *Warm slippers – worn everyday inside the house. You can buy them in country, but it’s nice to have quality ones from home.
- *2 pair stretch gloves – a pair of fingerless gloves would have come in handy. I ended up getting some sent in a care package.
- Winter gloves, heavy duty – rarely used. I usually just wear my stretch gloves. These are more for playing outside in the snow, which I don’t do much here.
- *Sleeping bag, 15° – packs up very small, great for PCV sleepovers. The smaller you can get your bag, the better, as bulky things are a pain to lug to other volunteer sites via public transportation.
- *Fleece liner – good for an additional blanket in winter
- Bag holder – used when my sleeping back is not stuffed in the stuff sack
I didn’t bring any, but I know volunteers who did.
As of March, 2012, I still live with my host family. But when I move out (which should be soon), I know I will be wanting certain kitchen supplies and ingredients. I don’t know if it’s useful to pack these things when you first come, or to request them in care packages later on, or just to find them in-country. But when I have more personal experience, and I feel it’s necessary, I will update this section.
Update: The following are things I would have appreciated having for the kitchen, but I’ve been able to get them in care packages, from other volunteers, or at the store. In other words, if you think you’ll want good quality immediately after moving out, bring these with. Otherwise, save your space for other things.
- A good sharp all-purpose knife would come in really handy in the kitchen.
- Vegetable peeler
- Spices like cayenne pepper, paprika, sage, curry
- Maple syrup
- Nice quality silverware, 2-4 of each – fork, knife, spoon
- Round pie tin – I love baking pies and have had to improvise on what I bake them in