When I was packing for my move to rural Zambia, it was very difficult to know what to take. I didn’t know what I would be able to buy in Zambia, I didn’t know what my day-to-day life would be like or where I would be living… and how much do you need for a year? Friends would ask me questions like “will you have a fridge?” and “are there supermarkets near you?” I didn’t know the answers, and I was just guessing as I added belongings to my luggage.
Now, half way through my year in Katete, it is easy for me to look back and divide my packing into two groups: things I should have left behind, and things I can’t imagine being without.
Here are some examples of items in the ‘why did I bring that’ group:
Leather shoes – they may seem like a good idea, something to smarten up an outfit. However, they get dusty and muddy within seconds of being outside the house, and are highly impractical in the rain. They’ve been left untouched in my wardrobe since I arrived.
Skirts/Dresses that end above the knee – in Katete, women cover their legs. This isn’t true of women in Lusaka, who will happily bare their knees. However, here in the Eastern Province, showing your knees is like wearing a very low cut top back home… You get a lot less attention if you just keep them covered.
Here are some examples of items that I can’t imagine being without, and that should be in the suitcase of anyone leaving for a stint in rural Africa:
Crocs flats – a plastic shoe may seem silly. However, when there are no pavements or tarmac, and the conditions are either incredibly dusty or incredibly muddy, it is beneficial to have a washable shoe that is waterproof and comfy!
LED Lenser Torch – In central London streetlights, shop signs and car headlights mean that you are never in the dark. In rural Zambia, there are no streetlights, and half the time there is no electricity, so when it goes dark, it goes really dark. Do not move to rural Africa without a good torch. In the UK, before Will left the house, I would hear him mutter a checklist ‘phone, keys, wallet’. Here in Zambia, it goes ‘phone, keys, wallet, torch’. The LED Lenser is so bright it feels like daylight, and it is rechargeable. It makes walking into the hospital at night when I am on-call much less scary – good for spotting snakes on the path, dogs in the distance and other such hazards! LED Lenser have a range of different torches, including a pocket sized torch (for me), and a superbright, find-the-animals-in-the-trees torch (for Will).
Hand-held blender – My hand-held blender takes up barely any luggage space, and has opened up the world of soups and smoothies. Nobody should ever move to a country that has an abundance of tropical fruit trees without being able to blend. Having mango trees but no mango smoothies would be a crime. Mango season is over, but recently I discovered two guava trees in my garden, which are now fruiting, and guava smoothies are pretty yummy too. Nat’s seven ways with Guava? I’m working on it…