Recommendations to future PCT’s in Tonga
WHAT TO BRING:
DISCLAIMER: This list is by no means is a comprehensive list and it’s definitely not PC approved. This list is only what we have found to ring true to us. Take what you want and leave the rest. Combine our list with PC’s and do what you feel is best for you. Cheers!!
Don’t bring pots and pans or kitchen stuff like PC recommends; you can buy all kitchen stuff in Nuku’alofa after swearing in, and pretty cheap too. You can buy knives and machetes too for opening coconuts if you are into that. The thing I found really irritating about the PC list was that there is a store across the street from PC headquarters that has all this stuff and they are saying to waste space in your luggage bringing it. Nonsense.
If you like cooking then get set for having almost no spices available. Make sure and bring or have sent your favorite hot sauce or spices. You’ll be glad you did. Make sure and try and do it toward the end of training so you are not lugging it around all over.
Tell anyone sending you things to use the USPS flat rate priority boxes for ~$40 for up to 20lbs per box. (as of January 2008) You’ll have an address during training and then you’ll get another one once you get to site.
You can’t buy tampons so count on bringing them or having them sent to you. If you can stand using the cup, then it’ll save you some headaches.
If you have a bunch of books you are wanting to read (and trust me you’ll have plenty of time to do so) don’t bring too many. Set up a series of sending boxes for love ones to send you at given times. Plus you can see what the various libraries have in the Peace Corps offices and if it’s one you were going to have sent then you don’t have to.
If you like playing your Gameboy or any other type of handheld or board games then bring them, you’re going to be glad you have them. Count on keeping close tabs on them though. Same goes for laptops. I wouldn’t count on using them much before swearing in though. There is a safe place to keep them during homestays. Things can disappear here like any other so keeping them safe during training is a necessity. If you have one, I would definitely bring your ipod as well.
Bring your favorite mask, fins, and snorkel. The ones here are of fair quality, but expensive. You are going to use these, I promise. Also if you’re into diving bring your certifications so you can.
If you like camping then I also recommend bringing camping equipment like a tent and small sleeping bag and maybe a sleeping pad.
If you like surfing and you have a board then you can bring it, you’ll just have to pay extra. We have a hard-core volunteer that brought a surfboard and a spear gun. The same goes for a bike. Some people might disagree with me, but I think the bikes here are awful. I wish I’d spent whatever it took to get my Klein here.
Here’s the deal. Tonga uses 240v which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for American items because more of your goodies are probably compatible than you think. They also use the Australian plugs which are like the American 2 prong, but kind of sideways a little. You’ll want to check to make sure, but things that have the little external power adapter like on laptops, they convert from 120v – 240v. So if your bringing something then look for that written on the adapter. So anything that doesn’t say that will fry if you plug it into an adapter here. So end up counting on getting a converter like an “Eagle Creek” voltage adapter at Campmor.com or REI.com and using that to plug in the rest of your goodies, like your Gameboy DS. Rule of thumb if it doesn’t say 120v – 240v then plug it into the voltage adapter to use it.
Rechargeable batteries are a must and so is the multi-voltage charger. Bring a wind up flashlight and a very lightweight headlamp.
If you’re afraid your bringing too much then you may be. PC will tell you that you’re allowed 80lbs. Anything else is your problem. If you feel like you can’t do without your camping equipment and you fins and snorkel, then your right. You can’t. So bring them anyway. Karen and I were over by about 50 – 60 lbs each and we paid the extra charge of ~$40 each and we have been very glad we did.
Bring your Ipod. Keep close tabs on it.
If you have a favorite show or movies, then bring those.
If you have a digital camera look into getting a waterproof housing for it on Amazon.com or another site (I bought mine used for ~$90). If you don’t have a digital camera, then buy one of the new one’s that is waterproof to ~30feet. I think Olympus is making one currently (January 2008).
A good watch is a must, but count on time moving slower here, at least after training.
A good reusable mug and/or nalgene is good to keep from producing as much trash in a place where there is little or no place to get rid of it.
If you have a pocket knife and/or Leatherman; bring them but put them in your checked bags.
Karen and I had a rolling duffel each, 2 carry on backpacks and one of those North Face large duffel’s for all our extra stuff. That’s what we ended up putting all our camping, snorkeling, hammock, etc in. There is a guy in group 73 that brought 2 of the medium size North Face duffel’s and 2 backpacks and he still had room left over he was saying he wished he packed more in. The large North Face duffel is too big, but the mediums are perfect.
If you have a phone from the states that takes a sim card then chances are that you can get it unlocked here for about $40 pa’anga ($20). Then you can buy a local sim card from TonFon or UCall for about $25 pa’anga. Then it’s prepaid from there on out. If you don’t have a phone you can buy one here for about $140 pa’anga up to the newest for $1200 pa’anga. Supposedly the IPhones work here too, but I can’t image having one. It’s hard to explain, but you understand when you get here. You’re looking at about $.85 a minute back to the states to a landline. If you have family calling you then you should set them up with Skype or Pennytalk to call you.
Don’t bring more than maybe 3 pairs of pants. Bring all the shorts you want. Your going to get to be very good friends with a article of clothing you’re not use to wearing called a “Tupanu”. Prepare yourself. Also bring plenty of boxers. Bring a variety of button up loose fitting shirts. T-Shirts are not tolerated during training, but can be warn in your free time.
Bring several bathing suits. Bring a non-leather belt or two.
Bring plenty of long skirts (I know it’s difficult to find them certain times during the year in the states so do your best). You’ll be able to find some here, but just don’t count on it, it’s a chore and you won’t have time during training.
Bring some Capri pants; you can wear them in your free time or swimming. Make sure and bring a western style bathing suit. The times may be few and far between, but you’ll eventually find a place to wear it (this will most likely not happen during training). They are culturally inappropriate here so be warned.
Bring your favorite pair of flip flops, and then bring another pair just like them. Maybe a pair of Chaco flips with another pair of sandals. Don’t bring leather ones; they just won’t last very long.
Bring a hat or two. Bring several pairs of sunglasses. If you like fishing then make sure they are polarized.
Bring a beach towel.
Save as much as you can before you come. You’ll get paid fine after swearing in, but some places are more expensive than others so if you need to supplement your income then you can. Or you can think of this saving as for your first trip somewhere. Things are more expensive here than you might imagine so get ready. People can and do live within their means, but doing anything extra can be hard.
WHAT TO EXPECT WITH TRAINING:
Well no matter where it hits you, when you are leaving for staging, during staging, when you are in the airport, or when you step off the plane you’ll be asking yourself “what the hell have I done”, even if you are excited or anxious. You’ll be taken to a guest house where you’ll be filled in on logistics, and within a couple of days you’ll be at your first home stay. Expect to be at the first home stay for about 2 weeks and the second home stay for 6 – 8 weeks. Your first home stay will be somewhere in Tongatapu and your second will either be in Ha’apai, or Vava’u. To be completely honest with you, training is rough, it’s long hours eating new food, speaking a new language, and getting to know a lot of new people. Expect losing a certain amount of your personal space and being told what to do like you are back in high school and going to an assembly.
You’ll be told sometime in the middle of your second home stay what you will be doing. During training up to that point you will have several times in which you will be interviewed by your program director. Make sure you know what you want to do and make sure that they know what you want to do. You don’t want to end up doing something you don’t like for 2 years, this is an imperative. If you can stay focused and struggle through the “center days” then you’ll eventually be ecstatic to know that you are done with one of the hardest parts of Peace Corps.
Then the second hardest part about Peace Corps is the first 3 months at site. I’ve been told (Karen and I are only at the 2nd month point at this writing) that if you can make it through these two important points then you’ll finish, otherwise…. The important thing to note here is that if you get to this point and you can’t do it, then you shouldn’t feel bad and no one should ever make you feel bad about leaving. Any reason not to do Peace Corps is a good reason. Don’t feel bad!! There are plenty of other things out there that are worthy of your skills!
At any rate let us know if you have any questions, future PCT’s.