The W2T team spent several days in an area of rural Ethiopia without access to the Internet, but interns Kendall Prossner and Madison Magiera wrote blog posts about their experience each day and sent home a big batch. Over the next two days, we’ll play catch-up and hear more about their first trip. First up, Madison writes about what to take with you.

If you are traveling to Africa, most online blogs and packing lists will tell you you’ll need sunscreen, bug spray, rain jacket (if it’s the rainy season), etc. In addition to these essentials, you’ll want to pack a couple extra things that you may not have thought to bring. Here are the things that have been most helpful and valuable to me within my first week in Ethiopia.

* Washcloths – Depending on where you are staying, you may or may not have running water (or even hot water). Washcloths come in handy both for sponging off and drying off.

A bath in a hotel with no running water.

* Hand sanitizer – We have been meeting and shaking hands with so many people!

* Mini flashlight – The flashlight on your phone will work, of course, and I’ve used mine multiple times, but you might also want to bring a mini flashlight. Ethiopia runs on hydropower and wind power. This means that when the water level within the dams lowers, less energy is produced and the power goes out. We have experienced multiple power outages – this is a situation when our colleague Gashaw will say to us “TIA” (this is Africa). Typically hotels have their own generators so they are able to restore power within minutes, but if you are not staying in a hotel then you will want to have some light at night when the power is out. (And, as we’ve learned, some hotels may only have electricity sometimes.)

* Lip balm – The air here has been dusty and dry, so chapstick has been a must…I’ve used it all day, every day. Mine also has SPF 15 to protect from the sun.

* Camera – I have gotten some good pictures on my phone while here but if you have a good quality camera then bring it.  You’re going to want to take lots of pictures! The countryside of Ethiopia is breathtaking, and in our case, the sweet little faces of the kids we visit are too cute not to capture.

Kendall brought her good camera and has been taking some amazing pictures.

* Hiking boots – In the rural areas of Ethiopia the roads are made of dirt and mud, and vehicles can only go so far. If you’re in the countryside, you’ll be walking along the roads and possibly hiking into villages, so hiking boots are needed. And I would suggest waterproof boots if you’re visiting during the rainy season.

* Toilet paper – In the villages, towns, and markets of Ethiopia there are few, if any, bathrooms with toilets. Instead, there are pit latrines, which are holes dug into the ground to hold human waste. Toilet paper is not provided at these pit latrines so it is BYOTP all the way.

* Laundry detergent/Febreeze – If you will be staying in Ethiopia for longer than a week, there are ways to find laundry services (some hotels do this for example). However, we did our own laundry in the hotel shower so our travel-sized detergent came in handy! If you don’t want to wash your clothes you can also just bring a travel-sized Febreeze bottle to keep your clothes smelling clean.

* Candy – I have been the candy diplomat so far on our trip. When we meet kids in the villages we visit, I always share some candy! The Ethiopians have been super friendly and welcoming to us to begin with, but the gift of candy can overcome language barriers and helps me make friends right off the bat.

Finally, I’ll share an item that I wish I’d brought to Ethiopia. Plastic forks.

In Ethiopia, all meals are shared between everyone at the table and silverware is generally not used. Injera is used as a sort of spoon to scoop up meat, sauces, lentils, etc. Traditional Ethiopian food is always eaten this way. However, there is also a good amount of Italian food in Ethiopia, so when I want a change from injera, I order pasta. This isn’t a problem in the hotels, but one day our team went to a restaurant in a town and Susanne and Kendall and I ordered spaghetti. The waiter brought out three plates of pasta and two forks. After our colleague Gashaw asked for another fork, he reported back to me that all the forks that the restaurant had were at our table already. The restaurant has two forks. So I used bread to scoop up my spaghetti and while it was a little more challenging to eat that way, it was just as delicious. Still, you may want to BYOF. TIA!

For the picture of Kendall and her camera: Kendall putting her camera to good use! She has taken some amazing pictures!
For the picture of me and the little boy: Candy makes friends!
For the picture of me with the spaghetti: BYOF!