Here is some (very specific and long- sorry!) information on what I packed, along with what I have had sent or bought since coming and some insight after almost a year here. In terms of clothes, this probably won’t be particularly helpful for men. Do NOT take this as a packing list for you, but just as a potential guideline. If you’re really not comfortable in dresses and skirts, pants will generally not be a problem, but most teachers do wear dresses and skirts always. Some volunteers brought one small bag, others brought two plus bags stuffed to the gills. Everyone is different, and you know what will help you to be happy and successful here better than I do. If you have a hobby that requires certain things, and you can fit them, bring them! You’ll have lots of free time and will appreciate that you brought those things that help you to fill the time. Please note that the pictures include items I have added since coming here (either what my parents have sent me or that I have bought here).
Tops: 3 long-sleeved shirts (tan, black, and black-and-white striped); 7 sleeveless shirts/tanktops (black peplum, red silky, black cowl, striped peplum, navy frilly, chambray peplum, floral button-up); 5 short-sleeved tops (2 patterned, black, striped, and white lace); 3* sweaters (navy, teal, wine-colored).
*I found that I did not bring enough sweaters for winter. I had my parents send the gray, green, and tan sweaters to me (although they didn’t arrive until spring) and purchased the black turtleneck sweater (which are very popular here plus warm, even if they aren’t very fashionable in the US).
**Update July 25, 2017: I bought a lightweight linen-like button up tank top for the summer. It’s army green and very comfortable.
**Update January 10, 2018: I retired (donated them to Loot Me, a space at Peace Corps headquarters where other volunteers can take what they want for free) a couple of my tops either because I didn’t wear them regularly or because they didn’t fit/were getting worn: the wine-colored sweater and the geometrically-patterned short sleeve. When I returned from my trip home to the USA for Christmas, I brought back one new long-sleeved shirt.
Notes about tops: I have found that I wear all of the tops I brought pretty evenly. As I mentioned, I probably could have used a few more tops for winter, but have mostly solved that now with the ones my parents sent and I purchased here. My school was heated, but not warm, so in the winter, I did not wear my short-sleeved or sleeveless tops at all. They were great for summer (which is very hot!) and spring/fall however.
Pants and Shorts: 1 pair tan dress pants; 1 pair black skinny jeans; 1 pair blue straight jeans; 2 pairs longer jean shorts; 2 pairs shorter jean shorts.
Notes about pants and shorts: Many volunteers have either gained or lost a significant amount of weight. I have lost enough that I no longer have a single pair of pants or shorts that fit. I need to purchase some, but haven’t done so yet.
**Update June 4, 2017: I’ve since purchased a pair of jeans!!! I do not wear these at school, but I do wear them occasionally around town (and once for a club meeting- some of my students did double takes since they’d never seen me wear pants).
**Update July 25, 2017: I gained some weight back and some of my shorts fit again. I originally wrote that I could not wear shorts in my traditional village, but recently I have begun wearing them around home and occasionally around town (when walking or doing work with my host family in the garden, for example) without a problem.
Dresses and Skirts: 5 dresses* (light blue, silky floral, 3 knit); 4 skirts (striped maxi, full navy, full green, narrow black).
*I had not brought the navy dress as it didn’t fit when I left the US. However, when I lost weight, I had my mom send it to me as I was confident it would fit again (and it does!).
Notes on dresses and skirts: I wish I had brought more! I wear these every single day (except if I stay at home all day and don’t leave the house). In particular, I wish I brought at least one or two long-sleeved or sweater options, as the dresses were a bit more difficult to layer in order to stay warm during the winter months. I have only worn the maxi skirt a couple of times because I walk pretty much everywhere and the roads are either dusty, muddy, icy, or snowy almost all of the time. All of my dresses and skirts hit just above the knees and that is absolutely acceptable. In larger towns, women also can usually wear a bit shorter of dresses and skirts, but it varies.
**Update June 4, 2017: I’ve since purchased a midi-length plum-colored dress, which I shortened to above the knee.
**Update July 25, 2017: My parents brought me a floral maxi dress when they came to visit (which I shortened) and I got a navy sleeveless dress (in a heavier material) for free from Loot Me (we have a location in our Peace Corps Volunteer Lounge where volunteers can donate their unwanted clothing items for others to take).
**Update January 10, 2018: As I mentioned before, I’ve really wished I brought a long-sleeved dress, so when I was home in the USA for Christmas, I purchased a dark green long-sleeved swing dress. I can already tell it is going to get a lot of wear!
Cardigans and Blazers: 1 blanket sweater, 1 long black cardigan, 1 long tan cardigan, 1 black blazer.
Notes on cardigans and blazers: I rarely wear the blanket sweater out and about, but appreciate it at home, especially on particularly cold days. I rarely wore the blazer until this spring, but have worn it quite a bit this spring. I am glad I brought it for when I have to look especially professional at school or Peace Corps events. The other two have gotten a lot of wear, and I think I could really do with at least one more (preferably a shorter cardigan to wear with my dresses and skirts and not look frumpy).
**Update January 10, 2018: When I went home to the USA for Christmas, I brought three cardigans back with me: one black, one short button-up camel, and one longer light tan. I’ve retired the black cardigan I brought with me as it was so thin it was no longer warm. I continue to wear the blazer often.
Other (not pictured): 3 pairs exercise/long-underwear-style leggings; 1 pair dressy black leggings; 1 pair dark red fleece-lined leggings; 1 pair black fleece-lined stockings; 2 pairs black stockings; 15 pairs underwear; 10 pairs socks (including 3 pairs thick hiking socks); 3 bras; 4 exercise t-shirts; 1 pair exercise shorts; 1 pair spandex shorts; 1 nightgown; 1 pair sweatpants; 1 long-underwear shirt; 1 fleece sweatshirt; 1 black cami; 2 thin tanktops to wear under things.
Notes on other clothing: I could have used more fleece-lined stockings and leggings. I also wish I brought 2 pairs of sweatpants. I did not need so many socks, as I rarely wear them, or the spandex shorts (deodorant works well to prevent chaffing, FYI).
**Update January 10, 2018: I’ve added several pairs of regular and fleece-lined black stockings, as well as replaced the dressy black leggings with new ones. I’ve also added another set of thin black long underwear: a top that has a deeper V-neck and therefore can be worn under my dresses and another pair of pants.
Shoes: 1 pair tall black boots; 1 pair hiking boots; 1 pair running sneakers; 1 pair short black boots*; 1 pair black shoes with small heel; 1 pair black sandals; 1 pair hiking/walking flip-flops; 1 pair simple black flats.
*I bought the short black boots here at a second-hand store. They were brand-new, very comfortable, and not at all cheap. Keep in mind that shoes and clothing are expensive in Moldova and quality is generally pretty poor- these were made in Italy and therefore higher quality.
Notes on shoes: Moldova will be very hard on your shoes. This picture is taken after about one year of wear in Moldova. The two pairs that have the most wear were already fairly well-worn when I came, but even the short boots that are good quality are starting to wear, and I’ve only been wearing them about a month. My tall boots need the heels replaced. Moldovan roads are dusty (or muddy), rocky, and uneven, plus you’ll be doing a lot of walking. I don’t think I’ve worn the sneakers a single time, and the hiking boots only once or twice. I’ve also found that I don’t wear the flats much, as the seasons pretty much transition from very cold to very hot. I’m pretty confident neither pair of sandals will make it through this summer. I did not bring winter (snow) boots and do not regret it. I’ve found the tall black boots or my hiking boots suffice just fine.
**Update July 25, 2017: my black sandals did not make it through even half of my second summer. Thankfully, my parents brought me a new pair when they visited (the exact same sandals). While travelling in Romania, my parents also got me a new pair of running sneakers as the ones I had brought didn’t have any tread left.
**Update January 10, 2018: the new black sandals lasted all of a few weeks, which I’m really bummed about. Not sure how I’ll replace those. I purchased a pair of gray modern loafers but haven’t been able to break them in to a point where they are comfortable.
Winter: 1 long down winter coat; 1 warm scarf; 1 winter hat; 2 winter headbands; 2 pairs thin gloves*; 1 pair heavy winter gloves*; 1 pair gators, 1 pair Yak-Traks**.
*I swore I had packed these, but forgot them. My parents sent one pair thin gloves and the heavier gloves, but they took a long time to get here, so I purchased a cheap thin pair of gloves at the piata- they worked just fine.
**I DID NOT pack these- Peace Corps provides them to us and will replace them if they break/are lost.
Summer/Spring/Fall: 1 light rain jacket; 1 small umbrella; 1 pair sunglasses; 1 breathable baseball hat; 1 swimming suit; 1 plastic frisbee.
Notes on outdoor/weather gear: I am SO happy I brought a really good winter coat and that it was longer. I do wish I had brought a slightly thinner scarf as mine was a bit too warm. I’ve never used the gators. I wish I had a lighter but still somewhat warm jacket for spring/fall. I haven’t used the swimming suit, but there are occasional opportunities to wear them (again, I lost weight and it no longer fits). Bikini suits are fine, by the way.
1 laptop computer; 1 Amazon Fire tablet (only $50!); 1 point-and-shoot Olympus camera; 1 point-and-shoot video camera (Sony bloggie); Lumix bridge camera*; outlet adapter.
Notes on technology: my laptop kicked the bucket one week before I left and I ended up having to take my mom’s clunky Dell laptop. I really wish it was lighter/smaller. Peace Corps packing lists will tell you that a laptop is optional. It isn’t. You will need a laptop for many things. I love the tablet for reading kindle books- make sure you have a library card in the USA that connects you with free kindle books to borrow! I purchased the Lumix camera after coming here (from Amazon.uk). It was a good price, but it’s a little bigger than I’d prefer and wish I had just bought a new really good point-and-shoot (mine is quite old and I’ve been having issues with it). If you have a smartphone in the United States and can unlock it, most volunteers do so and like that they have a high-quality smartphone. If not (like me), Peace Corps will provide you with a simple smartphone (Peace Corps pays for the monthly fees regardless of whether you bring a phone or get one from Peace Corps, which currently includes 4 GB of data per month). Wifi is affordable on your stipend, and coverage is pretty good in most places. My host family did not have internet, so I purchased it myself- I have a small mobile modem, which I love as I can take it with me anywhere. I currently pay for 50 GB per month at the cost of 300 lei per month ($15 USD), but there are multiple options and price points depending on your needs.
**Update January 10, 2018: I’ve gotten used to my large Lumix camera now and love it! I lug it with me practically everywhere I go, even to school. I’ve also (finally!) replaced my laptop. It was only working when plugged in, so when I went home to the USA this Christmas I seriously upgraded and purchased a Microsoft Surface Laptop. I’ve been using it for about two weeks so far and I LOVE IT. It’s lightweight, thin, works super well, and the battery lasts about 10 hours.
Luggage, Backpacks, and Bags
Luggage: 1 large Timberland rolling duffle bag (I found it for about $50 at TJMaxx); Osprey Aura AG 65L backpacking pack; High Sierra rolling carry-on (has backpack straps as well); Osprey Sirrus 24 Day pack.
Notes about luggage: Peace Corps pays for two checked bags, plus you will be able to bring one carry-on and one personal item. You technically can pay for an additional bag, but keep in mind you will have to lug everything around on your own, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Most importantly, be mindful of weight! When we came, the airline was very strict about carry-on and personal item weight. As the duffle bag was bigger and could fit a lot, I put my heavier items (shoes, etc.) in the 65L pack- it was harder to carry, but I was able to get both bags pretty full without going over the limit. I recommend doing a practice pack a couple weeks before you actually pack if you can to see how much stuff/how much weight you can get in your bags.
Other bags and backpacks: Columbia school backpack; Everlane tote bag; Cross-body smallish handbag.
Notes about other bags and backpacks: Some volunteers use backpacks everyday for work-related purposes. I generally use my tote bag. I use the backpack (or my Osprey day pack) for weekend or several day trips to the capital on weekends or when we have trainings, as it is easier to bring on the rutiera, our main form of transportation, than my carry-on bag. A small duffle bag could be useful for this purpose as well.
**Update July 25, 2017: I’ve actually recently discovered a brought a couple of additional bags that I forgot about. The tan handbag above has a broken strap and is unusable now, but I have another small floral patterned handbag and a slightly larger over the shoulder “hobo” style bag that I’ve recently started using. My parents also left with me a medium-sized cooler bag, which I think will be useful for when I want to purchase refrigerated items while in Chisinau in order to make Americanized food.
**Update January 10, 2018: I got a new cross-shoulder bag to replace the one that broke. It’s a simple, black bag that is just big enough to fit my camera.
All Other Stuff
Toiletries: I brought quite a bit, you can get by with less. Things that are hard (but not necessarily impossible to find here): dry shampoo, which you’ll use a lot (example: in the winter, I get to bathe about every four days. I recently discovered you can find dry shampoo at Forchette in the mall.); facial products if you’re picky about what you use; face sunscreen (Peace Corps will provide you with one tube of regular sunscreen); makeup if you’re particular about brands (I rarely wear makeup here and when I do I only wear mascara, so I’m not really sure about accessibility. Moldovans do love to wear lipstick!); tampons with applicators, electric toothbrush head replacements, good chapstick. The number of things I use on a daily basis (or even weekly basis) are pretty slim: because I was bucket bathing for awhile, I started using 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner (Heads and Shoulders), I also use toothpaste and deodorant daily. That’s about it. Obviously, some volunteers make more of an effort and many have better bathing situations.
Desk/Art/Personal Supplies: I brought a lot- markers, good paint, good watercolor paper, and sharpies are particularly hard to find, as well as sticky notes. I like to paint and therefore brought watercolor paints and paper, not everyone will need that. Education volunteers, in particular, will want to bring good markers (think Mr. Sketch markers). Crayola colored pencils don’t exist here, so if you’re partial, it’s a good idea to bring them. Also, stickers are hard to find and kids love them. English Education volunteers will be provided with a good pair of scissors, some decent markers (but in limited colors), masking tape, and some colored chalk when they do practice school, and you’ll be able to keep them. I also brought a leather-man style tool, and find it very useful. Definitely bring photos/postcards/etc. from home! You’ll also get folders, notebooks, and pens at every Peace Corps training and will end up acquiring quite a bit.
Everything Else: I brought a small, easily packed blanket. Not at all necessary, but it’s something that makes me feel at home. I brought my own towel and am glad I did- the towels you can purchase here are pretty poor quality. You can purchase practically anything you need here, so don’t worry too much. Mostly focus on things that will be expensive and poorer quality here: footwear, clothing, and electronics. I feel like I brought more than I needed, but I’ve also used almost everything I brought. Winter will be very cold and your workplaces may not be heated well (or, in very rare cases, at all). Summer will be very hot and humid and AC/fans don’t really exist. Neither does ice in drinks. Moldovans really do take how they look and dress very seriously. You’ll want at least one particularly nice outfit for things like weddings, the first day of school, and other important events. Male volunteers, especially those that work in schools, probably have a bit more wiggle-room in terms of how they dress, but female volunteers, especially in smaller villages, need to look put-together and professional every day (not fair, but that’s how it is). Female volunteers will want to bring at least one scarf that can be worn on their head as well, as you will almost definitely visit a monastery or church at some point, and your head will need to be covered (and you will need to wear a skirt or dress).
Okay, that’s it! I’m sorry this is so long, but I wanted to be sure to include notes, etc. Feel free to contact me with any questions!