Packing for my mission. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for about two months now. How do I pack for nine months in Myanmar given the following information:
- it will be extremely hot and humid
- my shoulders and knees will have to be covered at all times in public out of respect for local customs
- all gear must fit in one suitcase and weigh no more than 20kg
- it will rain a metre each month during the rainy season
- I will need to keep myself entertained – internet access is intermittent at best
- Every two weeks everything I bring with me will have to be packed up and moved.
- It’s currently colder than normal with temperatures dipping down below 10C at night
- Some luxury goods are hard to come by (cheese, chocolate, coffee – the three “cs” essential to my happiness!)
- There’s some medical equipment I want to bring as a safety blanket (neonatal stethoscope, pulse oximeter, neonatal ambu bag, Doppler ultrasound) because that gear hasn’t arrived at my project yet and I don’t think I can sleep without it!
So, as you can tell from the above, packing for this trip will require some strategy. One saving grace is the famous MSF t-shirt. I don’t really need to worry about shirts, as I’ll be wearing the provided t-shirts at least 6 days per week.
To deal with the heat and humidity, I’ve been told to pack some quick-dry clothing. Others, however, have told me that their quick-dry clothing failed in the intense humidity and they recommend natural fibers…so I’m going to bring a mixture. For the rain, I’ve packed a pair of eccentrically-coloured rain boots I bought on sale – I will not be heart-broken if I end up leaving them behind!
To deal with the current “cold” temperatures, I’m bringing one fleece jacket, one sweater, some socks, and a pair of running shoes. It’s a bit humorous to hear people talk about the “cold” spell in Myanmar when I think of the temperatures of -40C in the Northwest Territories. But, I get it. When I lived in Australia and it got down to about 14C, I found it really cold because the buildings weren’t insulated nor did they have central heating. I have no doubt that it will feel cold, but I’m hopeful that the chill in the air won’t last long.
Entertainment. I’ve loaded my computer with music, podcasts, and movies while also loading my e-reader with over 200 books. I’m hoping to be surrounded by fascinating people who will keep me entertained with stories of their lives and travels.
As for the luxury items – I’m bringing some cheese, chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter – mostly as gifts for my team members (except the peanut butter…until I can confirm another source of it, I’m keeping it to myself!) I am not bringing any ketchup with me…another staple in my diet. My twin sister is on record as saying: “I think you’re making a terrible life decision by not packing ketchup.” If I’m going to embrace the culture then this spice wuss (I max out at candy cinnamon hearts for spiciness!) needs wean herself off of ketchup and onto more exotic flavours.
I currently have a rather large pile of items listed above and it will now be a battle to see which items make the cut and which items stay home. Let’s hope I make wise decisions. (It may not be wise, but the half-kilo of peanut butter is non-negotiable!)