Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mauritania" and "Packing list for Bulgaria"

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{{Living_conditions_and_volunteer_lifestyles_by_country}}
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{{Packing lists by country}}
  
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The following recommendations are based on the experiences of Volunteers who have served in [[Bulgaria]]. Use them as an informal guide, bearing in mind that experience is individual.  There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything that is mentioned, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. Many past and current Volunteers wish they had not brought so many clothes and toiletries and had instead focused on specialty items. You should not hesitate to bring items of sentimental value that will help you feel content at your site, but you can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a 100-pound weight limit on checked luggage; you will be responsible for any fees for overweight baggage. Except where otherwise indicated, all the following items are available in Bulgaria; they are listed here as items to bring because the quality of the items may be inferior, their price may be significantly higher, or they may not be regularly available in Bulgaria.
  
===Communications ===
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===General Clothing ===
  
===Mail ===
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Volunteers need an assortment of clothing for work, play, and socializing. Since there is a variety of jobs, each with different clothing requirements, you should consider your particular job. Bulgarian teachers and other professionals have a fairly sophisticated fashion sense, which has been described by some as “elegantly casual,” and your Bulgarian colleagues are the best models for what to wear in the workplace.
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you come here expecting U.S. standards, you will be in for a lot of frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in MauritaniaSome mail may simply not arrive, and some letters may arrive pre-opened or with clipped edges because someone has tried to see if any money was inside (this is rare, but it does happen). Although we do not want to sound too discouraging, communication can become a very sensitive issue when one is thousands of miles from family and friends. We think it is best to forewarn you about the reality of mail service in this part of the world. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “West Africa,” “Airmail,” and “Par Avion” on the envelopes.  
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Attire for male teachers usually consists of slacks with a nice shirt and optional tie. COD Volunteers may find a jacket and tie de rigueur for the office or that slacks or a skirt, and a shirt or sweater, are more appropriate. Youth Development Volunteers generally work in more casual situations, but still need appropriate business attire for occasional use. Suits, dresses, and skirts or nice slacks with blouses are all suitable work attire for women; however, avoid clothing that requires dry cleaning because this service is usually only available in larger cities. For both men and women, nice jeans dressed up with a nice shirt and jacket are acceptable in many situationsThree or four outfits should be sufficient for work. You will also need casual clothes for relaxing around the house, socializing, hiking, skiing, and travel. Good-quality jeans are available in Bulgaria, but they are expensive by Bulgarian standards, so you may want to bring one or two pairs of your favorite brand from the United States (dark or black ones are better than light ones). Clothes that are comfortable and that can be layered as needed to accommodate the season are best. Dark clothes are easier to keep clean and hand-wash, and cotton knits are best avoided because they don’t keep their shape since you most likely won’t have access to a dryer.  
  
Despite the potential delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly (perhaps weekly or biweekly) and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.  
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In general, most day-to-day clothing you will need can be purchased for reasonable prices in Bulgaria, so you may want to use your limited packing space to focus on specialty clothing, such as hiking apparel or sporting attire and other unique and specific items.  
  
Sending letters and packages by airmail is always quicker and more reliable than surface mail (usually sent by boat), which has been known to show up years later!
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Some other suggestions follow:
  
People visiting in the U.S. can carry mail back and put them in a mailbox when they arrive. This is usually quicker and more secure than relying on MauriPost. If you want to send mail this way, bring plenty of U.S. postage stamps with you so that letters are ready to mail upon arrival in the U.S.  
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* Bathing suit (Bulgarian women tend to wear two-piece suits, so either two-piece or one-piece is fine)
 +
* Two or three pairs of fleece or silk long underwear (what is available locally is not of great quality), in colors other than white (which is harder to clean)
 +
* Several sweaters (good wool sweaters can be purchased locally at reasonable prices) 102
 +
* Scarves, hats, and gloves (think fleece, Thinsulate, and waterproof; it gets very cold in the mountains in winter)
 +
* Warm socks (you can buy normal day-to-day ones locally)
 +
* Lightweight coat or warm jacket, windproof and waterproof (mid-thigh or knee-length winter coats will keep you warmer than waist-length jackets). A wool coat is easy to buy locally, but it is not easy to find a truly waterproof jacket.  
 +
* Shoes: high-quality, lightweight, waterproof hiking boots are an absolute must, and it is best to break them in before you arrive. You can, buy good-quality hiking boots from internationally known companies at a few stores in Sofia. Wool slippers and flip flops are helpful, and readily available here. Good-quality shoes in large sizes are hard to find; women’s shoes and boots are especially difficult to find in larger sizes (over size 9). The quality of footwear in Bulgaria is poor, although there are some high-end stores in larger cities (with high-end prices to match). If you wear a larger size, you may want to consider bringing all of the shoes you will need for your stay including work shoes, waterproof boots, and casual shoes. Whatever your size, you will likely want to bring running shoes if you are a runner and other specialty shoes. High-end athletic apparel is available in larger cities, but often Bulgarians see them much more as a fashion statement rather than a practical purchase. The prices reflect that.  
  
Your address during training will be:
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===Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items===
  
“Your Name,” PCT
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Bring only enough to get through training. A wide variety of both locally produced and imported items (particularly in the cities) are available in Bulgaria, so do not pack extra toothpaste, toilet paper, dental floss, and shampoo, unless you are very particular about what brands you like. This goes for cosmetics, too.
  
Corps de la Paix
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===Kitchen===
  
B.P. 222
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There are kitchen stores in larger cities in Bulgaria with practically everything you will need to equip even a gourmet kitchen; however, it might be easier and less expensive to pack some of the following:
  
Nouakchott, Mauritania
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* Favorite local spices, such as chipotle sauce or items generally purchased at specialty or ethnic food stores
 +
* Favorite recipes using basic ingredients (you will also receive an excellent cookbook during training that was prepared by previous Volunteers)
 +
* Oven thermometer (oven temperatures and indicators aren’t very accurate or standard in Bulgaria)
 +
* Garlic press
 +
* Plastic measuring cups and spoons (it can be tricky using recipes with U.S. measurements and metric measuring tools)
 +
* Stainless steel vegetable peeler
  
West Africa
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===Miscellaneous===
  
 +
* Compact sleeping bag, for weekend travel and winter warmth (consider a lightweight pad too)
 +
* Contact lenses and cleaning solutions (the Peace Corps does not provide contact lens supplies and they are expensive locally)
 +
* Sunglasses (can be bought locally, but cheap ones can be poor quality, and expensive ones are really expensive)
 +
* Sturdy, water-resistant watch with an alarm (or bring a travel alarm clock) and an extra watchband
 +
* Small backpack—durable, lightweight, and of good quality for overnight trips (suitcases are a nuisance and large packs may be cumbersome for short trips)
 +
* Money pouch or belt (to hide your passport and other valuables when traveling)
 +
* Swiss Army knife, with a corkscrew
 +
* 35 mm camera (compact ones are best, since they are inconspicuous and easier to travel with); Kodak and Fuji films can be bought and developed locally, but there are few places, even in large cities, that can process Advantix and Advanced Photo System film
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* A digital camera is a great idea if you are bringing a computer so you can download your photos — it’s a great way to send photos home via e-mail and a great way to share photos with your community. Processing film is expensive and not available in most small towns.
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* A debit card or ATM card to withdraw cash that you know should work in Bulgaria and this region (for vacation travel)
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* Personal checks from a U.S. checking account (handy if you plan to apply to graduate school while you’re here and as a service to Bulgarian students, who need personal checks, in exchange for cash, to pay for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and SAT tests)
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* Credit cards (a few banks in Sofia offer cash advances and ATMs are becoming more common; also good for travel in other countries)
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* Laptop—if you decide that you want one here with you (remember to bring an plug adapter with surge protector)
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* A few novels to swap and any resources related to your program that you feel you must have
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* Durable flashlight
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* Compact sewing and tool kits
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* Games (Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, playing cards, Frisbee, etc.)
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* Plastic storage bags of various sizes (generally not available in Bulgaria)
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* Postcards, maps, and pictures from home to share with your community
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* An American football
  
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Note: If you bring valuable items such as a laptop, CD player, or musical instrument, bring a sales receipt or other documentation of ownership. In the event that we have to send your belongings home as unaccompanied baggage, proof of ownership prior to your arrival in Bulgaria must be presented to Bulgarian customs officials to avoid excessive customs fees and/or export restrictions. Also remember to insure any items of value.
  
Although you will not be in Nouakchott during training, your mail will be brought to you at the training site. Once you have become a Volunteer and are at your site, you may have your mail sent directly to your address there.  
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Note: Don't worry if you forget something, you can find pretty much everything, especially if you go to any of the bigger cities. The communist years are over and since the late 90's availability of western products is vast and prices are still lower than in the US for most things.  
  
===Telephones ===
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[[Category:Bulgaria]]
 
 
While local telephone service is becoming more widely available inside Mauritania, it is still a bit unreliable. Generally, long-distance service to Europe and North America is good but expensive. You, your family, and friends should be prepared to rely mostly on letters and e-mail for communication.
 
 
 
More and more professional Mauritanians are using cellular phones, especially in the capital and larger towns, and they all subscribe to one of the two cellular companies in the country.  It is highly unlikely that a cellular plan bought in the United States will cover Mauritania and the surrounding region, with or without roaming charges. Therefore, we strongly discourage you from bringing your phone along. You may want to purchase a cellphone once you are in-country. One advantage you have here is that it costs you nothing to receive a call on your cellphone (local or international).
 
 
 
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
 
 
 
E-mail is available in Nouakchott and in all regional capitals.  Because you will probably have limited access (Volunteers average a visit to the capital once every month), one option is to arrange for Volunteer friends posted in sites with Internet access to print out and send you your e-mail. Most Volunteers set up a Yahoo, gMail, or Hotmail account before leaving home, giving the e-mail address to friends and family. There is access to the Internet in Mauritania through commercial outlets in Nouakchott and most regional capitals. Some governmental organizations in the regional capitals may also have Internet access and usually are willing to let Volunteers check their e-mail. DSL Internet service is currently available in two of Peace Corps/Mauritania’s 10 regional satellite offices.  It is expected that high-speed Internet service will continue to expand to the regional capitals.
 
 
 
===Housing and Site Location ===
 
 
 
Peace Corps/Mauritania will provide Volunteers with funds to secure safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria (see the chapter on Health Care and Safety for further information). Housing may range from a one-room hut with no electricity or running water to a larger house with several rooms, running water, and electricity. The Peace Corps will pay for any necessary security and hygiene improvements, including a water filter.
 
 
 
Peace Corps/Mauritania asks host communities and agency sponsors to provide Volunteers with housing that includes a private bedroom and bath/latrine facilities. You may share a compound or a house with a host family, but the Peace Corps will ensure that you have at least one room to yourself.
 
 
 
Unless you are posted to a regional capital, you will most likely not have running water or electricity. This means that you may collect your water from a well or a borehole and spend your evenings reading by candle, lantern, or flashlight.  You will need to be very flexible in your housing expectations as there are no guarantees of available (or continuous) electricity or water.
 
 
 
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
 
 
 
As a Volunteer in Mauritania, you will receive four types of allowances.
 
 
 
The Peace Corps gives you an allowance to cover your basic living expenses. This living allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a survey of Volunteer expenses to ensure that it is adequate. Paid in local currency every quarter, it ranges from the equivalent of $140 to $396 a month. The allowance is intended to cover your food, rent, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. You might find that you receive more remuneration than your host-country counterpart or supervisor does.
 
 
 
A vacation allowance of $24 per month is paid in ouguiya.  It is automatically included in the quarterly deposit to your bank account.
 
 
 
You will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance of roughly $290, paid in local currency at the end of pre-service training, to buy basic household items for your eventual site.
 
 
 
If the Peace Corps requires you to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and meals. This amount is established by the post based on the current cost of transportation and lodging.
 
 
 
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Mauritania with these four allowances, although many Volunteers bring money (cash or traveler’s checks) for out-of-country travel.  All Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. The living allowance is adequate, and Volunteers are expected to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues.
 
 
 
Credit cards can be used at only a couple of establishments in the capital, but are very handy during vacations and for travel outside of Mauritania (as are ATM cards). Volunteers have found that bringing new $100 bills brings the best exchange rate when changing money. For safekeeping, Volunteers can store money, personal passports, and other valuables in the Peace Corps safe in Nouakchott. However, the Peace Corps’ liability for stored items is limited, so consider your decision to bring valuables carefully.
 
 
 
===Food and Diet ===
 
 
 
Volunteers often struggle when adjusting to the Mauritanian diet. The typical Mauritanian family eats either rice and meat or rice and fish for lunch (depending on proximity to the river or ocean) and couscous and meat, pasta and meat, or couscous with bean sauce for dinner. The abundance of vegetables in the Mauritanian diet varies according to the season and each family’s cooking habits. Given that meals in Mauritania tend to be very starchy and oily (meats are almost always cooked in oil), many female Volunteers experience weight gain during their two years of service. Conversely, male Volunteers often find keeping weight on to be a challenge.
 
 
 
Vegetarian Volunteers sometimes have difficulty maintaining a meat-free diet in Mauritania. Very few local dishes are served without meat, and it is often difficult to find alternative sources of protein. However, meeting dietary challenges is almost always possible if Volunteers are willing to be resourceful and flexible. Cooking for yourself is always an option but will cause you to miss out on the Mauritanian family experience. In the case of being invited to share a meal with a Mauritanian family, you will find that your host can be very accommodating if you explain any restrictions when you are invited to their home.
 
 
 
===Transportation ===
 
 
 
Getting around Mauritania can be challenging. Taxis (taxis brousses) are the main modes of travel among towns and often entail squeezing into a Peugeot 504 with eight or nine other people or sitting on top of luggage in the back of a pickup truck with 20 other people. Driving anywhere long distance is likely to entail rumbling along sandy roads through the desert. If you are required to travel for work or medical reasons, the Peace Corps will reimburse your travel costs. Some Volunteers use their settling-in allowance to purchase bicycles. Peace Corps/Mauritania provides helmets to Volunteers and they are required to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. For your safety, Peace Corps/Mauritania prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicle (such as a motorcycle) for any reason. In addition, Volunteers are not allowed to own or drive private cars in Mauritania. Violation of any of these policies may result in termination of your Volunteer service.
 
 
 
===Geography and Climate ===
 
 
 
Mauritania is situated on the Atlantic Ocean in northwest Africa. It is bounded on the northeast by Algeria, on the east by Mali, and on the south by Senegal. Mauritania also shares a long border with the former Spanish Sahara, control of which is contested by Morocco and an insurgent movement, the Polisario, supported principally by Algeria. The northern five-sixths of Mauritania is desert—for the most part uninhabited (the region known as El Majabaat Koubra). The majority of Mauritania’s interior population lives in the narrow strip of Sahel and savanna that sits between the Senegal River and the Sahara Desert. This area of the country generally gets more rain and is a bit cooler, if more humid. A narrow strip of savanna near the Senegal River that is used for the majority of Mauritania’s agricultural initiatives quickly gives way to the more sparsely vegetated Sahel. Farther north is the Sahara Desert, which stretches to Mauritania’s northern and eastern borders.
 
 
 
Mauritania has three main seasons: the hot season from April to July, the rainy season from August to November, and the cold season from December to March. Keep in mind that hot, cold, and rainy are relative terms and that seasons probably do not vary as much as the ones you are used to in the United States.
 
 
 
===Social Activities ===
 
 
 
Social activities will vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in local ceremonies like weddings or baptisms, storytelling, and parties and dances. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers during the weekends or make an occasional trip to the capital, although it is expected that Volunteers will remain at their sites to accomplish the second Peace Corps goal of cultural exchange.
 
 
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
 
 
 
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and presenting yourself as a professional at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines. You will be assigned to a Mauritanian government ministry, and you are expected to dress and behave as your colleagues do.  While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is because of economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing shabby, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront.
 
 
 
Peace Corps/Mauritania has instituted the following dress code, required for the Nouakchott office, the Kaédi training center, and other official functions. Peace Corps/Mauritania requires for office-type work assignments that men wear collared shirts and pants. Pants on women are appropriate, but they should be worn with shirts that hang to mid-thigh.  Ankle-length skirts (not simple wraps), long dresses that cover the shoulders, mulafas (full-length veils worn by Moor women), or boubous (robes worn by local men or women) that go to the ankles are also appropriate. As temperatures are usually quite high, buying clothing that is mostly or all cotton is highly recommended. Volunteers can wear any kind of shoes or sandals (with or without socks) except plastic shower flip-flops. As you will be walking a great deal (mostly in sand), sturdy sandals that can easily be removed are highly recommended. Clothes should always be clean, not unduly wrinkled, and free of tears.
 
 
 
===Personal Safety ===
 
 
 
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but such an important issue cannot be overemphasized. Statistically, Mauritania is one of the safest countries in the world. That said, as stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Most Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment.  Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Mauritania. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
 
 
 
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
 
 
 
The developmental and human accomplishments of the Peace Corps are frequently not tangible or easily measured.  Progress is often frustratingly slow. Through the Peace Corps, thousands of Volunteers have been given the opportunity to have a hand, even if only a small one, in shaping how some of the world’s neediest people live. At the same time, the world has been given a personal view of individual Americans putting their ideals to work.
 
 
 
The excitement and adventure of the Volunteer experience are, in some measure, a result of its unpredictability.  There will be unexpected joys as well as unexpected disappointments. You could find plans for a health clinic canceled at the last minute because the Department of Health has been reorganized. Your plan to dig a well might be held up by a quarrel between local groups over who is to do the digging or because the required materials cannot be delivered as scheduled. The official to whom you were supposed to report might be replaced by a successor who knows little about a scheduled project. Such variables can erode the enthusiasm, the patience, and the idealism of a Volunteer.  Your success will often depend upon determination, patience, and the ability to find another way. The Volunteer always has to be able to come up with a Plan B. A big part of the Peace Corps is the challenge to remain flexible, energetic, and hopeful at a time when it would be easy to give in to cynicism or indifference.
 
 
 
Ideally, a Volunteer’s lifestyle and work should merge.  Accepting the community and being accepted by it are essential for success. In both their daily lives and jobs, a Volunteer must take care to avoid the inherent appearance of arrogance in the position of an outsider who has come to bring change and “improvements.” Volunteers find that as they live and work, they learn from the people of their host country at least as much as they teach them. In so doing, they can enhance their effort to achieve the third goal of the Peace Corps by bringing their host country experiences home to the United States.
 
 
 
[[Category:Mauritania]]
 

Revision as of 12:18, 29 July 2010


Packing List for [[{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]

Packing Lists by Country

These lists has been compiled by Volunteers serving in [[{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]] based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list!
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]
[[Image:Flag_of_{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}}{{#if:{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}}|_{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}}|}}{{#if:{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}|_{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}|}}.svg|50px|none]]

See also:
Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

[[Category:{{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |3}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |4}} {{#explode:Packing list for Bulgaria| |5}}]]

The following recommendations are based on the experiences of Volunteers who have served in Bulgaria. Use them as an informal guide, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything that is mentioned, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. Many past and current Volunteers wish they had not brought so many clothes and toiletries and had instead focused on specialty items. You should not hesitate to bring items of sentimental value that will help you feel content at your site, but you can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a 100-pound weight limit on checked luggage; you will be responsible for any fees for overweight baggage. Except where otherwise indicated, all the following items are available in Bulgaria; they are listed here as items to bring because the quality of the items may be inferior, their price may be significantly higher, or they may not be regularly available in Bulgaria.

General Clothing

Volunteers need an assortment of clothing for work, play, and socializing. Since there is a variety of jobs, each with different clothing requirements, you should consider your particular job. Bulgarian teachers and other professionals have a fairly sophisticated fashion sense, which has been described by some as “elegantly casual,” and your Bulgarian colleagues are the best models for what to wear in the workplace.

Attire for male teachers usually consists of slacks with a nice shirt and optional tie. COD Volunteers may find a jacket and tie de rigueur for the office or that slacks or a skirt, and a shirt or sweater, are more appropriate. Youth Development Volunteers generally work in more casual situations, but still need appropriate business attire for occasional use. Suits, dresses, and skirts or nice slacks with blouses are all suitable work attire for women; however, avoid clothing that requires dry cleaning because this service is usually only available in larger cities. For both men and women, nice jeans dressed up with a nice shirt and jacket are acceptable in many situations. Three or four outfits should be sufficient for work. You will also need casual clothes for relaxing around the house, socializing, hiking, skiing, and travel. Good-quality jeans are available in Bulgaria, but they are expensive by Bulgarian standards, so you may want to bring one or two pairs of your favorite brand from the United States (dark or black ones are better than light ones). Clothes that are comfortable and that can be layered as needed to accommodate the season are best. Dark clothes are easier to keep clean and hand-wash, and cotton knits are best avoided because they don’t keep their shape since you most likely won’t have access to a dryer.

In general, most day-to-day clothing you will need can be purchased for reasonable prices in Bulgaria, so you may want to use your limited packing space to focus on specialty clothing, such as hiking apparel or sporting attire and other unique and specific items.

Some other suggestions follow:

  • Bathing suit (Bulgarian women tend to wear two-piece suits, so either two-piece or one-piece is fine)
  • Two or three pairs of fleece or silk long underwear (what is available locally is not of great quality), in colors other than white (which is harder to clean)
  • Several sweaters (good wool sweaters can be purchased locally at reasonable prices) 102
  • Scarves, hats, and gloves (think fleece, Thinsulate, and waterproof; it gets very cold in the mountains in winter)
  • Warm socks (you can buy normal day-to-day ones locally)
  • Lightweight coat or warm jacket, windproof and waterproof (mid-thigh or knee-length winter coats will keep you warmer than waist-length jackets). A wool coat is easy to buy locally, but it is not easy to find a truly waterproof jacket.
  • Shoes: high-quality, lightweight, waterproof hiking boots are an absolute must, and it is best to break them in before you arrive. You can, buy good-quality hiking boots from internationally known companies at a few stores in Sofia. Wool slippers and flip flops are helpful, and readily available here. Good-quality shoes in large sizes are hard to find; women’s shoes and boots are especially difficult to find in larger sizes (over size 9). The quality of footwear in Bulgaria is poor, although there are some high-end stores in larger cities (with high-end prices to match). If you wear a larger size, you may want to consider bringing all of the shoes you will need for your stay including work shoes, waterproof boots, and casual shoes. Whatever your size, you will likely want to bring running shoes if you are a runner and other specialty shoes. High-end athletic apparel is available in larger cities, but often Bulgarians see them much more as a fashion statement rather than a practical purchase. The prices reflect that.

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

Bring only enough to get through training. A wide variety of both locally produced and imported items (particularly in the cities) are available in Bulgaria, so do not pack extra toothpaste, toilet paper, dental floss, and shampoo, unless you are very particular about what brands you like. This goes for cosmetics, too.

Kitchen

There are kitchen stores in larger cities in Bulgaria with practically everything you will need to equip even a gourmet kitchen; however, it might be easier and less expensive to pack some of the following:

  • Favorite local spices, such as chipotle sauce or items generally purchased at specialty or ethnic food stores
  • Favorite recipes using basic ingredients (you will also receive an excellent cookbook during training that was prepared by previous Volunteers)
  • Oven thermometer (oven temperatures and indicators aren’t very accurate or standard in Bulgaria)
  • Garlic press
  • Plastic measuring cups and spoons (it can be tricky using recipes with U.S. measurements and metric measuring tools)
  • Stainless steel vegetable peeler

Miscellaneous

  • Compact sleeping bag, for weekend travel and winter warmth (consider a lightweight pad too)
  • Contact lenses and cleaning solutions (the Peace Corps does not provide contact lens supplies and they are expensive locally)
  • Sunglasses (can be bought locally, but cheap ones can be poor quality, and expensive ones are really expensive)
  • Sturdy, water-resistant watch with an alarm (or bring a travel alarm clock) and an extra watchband
  • Small backpack—durable, lightweight, and of good quality for overnight trips (suitcases are a nuisance and large packs may be cumbersome for short trips)
  • Money pouch or belt (to hide your passport and other valuables when traveling)
  • Swiss Army knife, with a corkscrew
  • 35 mm camera (compact ones are best, since they are inconspicuous and easier to travel with); Kodak and Fuji films can be bought and developed locally, but there are few places, even in large cities, that can process Advantix and Advanced Photo System film
  • A digital camera is a great idea if you are bringing a computer so you can download your photos — it’s a great way to send photos home via e-mail and a great way to share photos with your community. Processing film is expensive and not available in most small towns.
  • A debit card or ATM card to withdraw cash that you know should work in Bulgaria and this region (for vacation travel)
  • Personal checks from a U.S. checking account (handy if you plan to apply to graduate school while you’re here and as a service to Bulgarian students, who need personal checks, in exchange for cash, to pay for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and SAT tests)
  • Credit cards (a few banks in Sofia offer cash advances and ATMs are becoming more common; also good for travel in other countries)
  • Laptop—if you decide that you want one here with you (remember to bring an plug adapter with surge protector)
  • A few novels to swap and any resources related to your program that you feel you must have
  • Durable flashlight
  • Compact sewing and tool kits
  • Games (Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, playing cards, Frisbee, etc.)
  • Plastic storage bags of various sizes (generally not available in Bulgaria)
  • Postcards, maps, and pictures from home to share with your community
  • An American football

Note: If you bring valuable items such as a laptop, CD player, or musical instrument, bring a sales receipt or other documentation of ownership. In the event that we have to send your belongings home as unaccompanied baggage, proof of ownership prior to your arrival in Bulgaria must be presented to Bulgarian customs officials to avoid excessive customs fees and/or export restrictions. Also remember to insure any items of value.

Note: Don't worry if you forget something, you can find pretty much everything, especially if you go to any of the bigger cities. The communist years are over and since the late 90's availability of western products is vast and prices are still lower than in the US for most things.