Travelling to a new country is pretty intense. Actually, I should say relocating because travel is done with a sense that you will end up back home after some time. In between going shopping for stuff you need (and inadvertently forgetting to pack them in that last minute rush. why does that always happen??) a lot of stuff needs to be done. Saying good bye to family, friends, workmates, as well as constantly thinking of what you might need on the other side-a sort of survival kit you could say. My reason for relocating was school and that I shall speak about soon
As I went through the motions in preparation for my departure me and my boyfriend kept wondering what exactly I would need on the other side. If anything popped into his or my head we would text the other and then discuss whether it was a good thing to buy here rather than there. We thought up loads of stuff but we really did not think of everything I have to say. Why? Because neither of us had been to a foreign country with the purpose of staying there for more than 3 months.
This post is thus a sort of Survival kit for any people eventually relocating to a new country for a long period of time. If you know anyone relocating do send them this link and maybe some stuff on it will be something they haven’t thought of.
- Clothes (and shoes) I am in Germany but at a university. Most people are afraid to carry their entire wardrobe across seas thinking that on the other side it would be termed as shabby. Or I was. My uncle who had had a stint abroad once termed our kenyan clothes as such when he came back home… 😦 Well, if your going to be in a university setting not everyone cares about dressing (you know those nerd types who just can’t be bothered? I’m lucky cause I am in a Technical Uni so I am surrounded by a large percentage of these-engineers and scientists….just as I was in my undergrad, yippee!). I have seen such worn jeans and hanging sweaters that I feel sad I left a large bunch of my clothes at home. If you are coming to work well that is a different matter-dress to disprove theories on Africa’s general poverty! My sister advised me not to buy a winter jacket from home as it would most likely be very worn out and thus not sufficient to handle the weather here. Good advise, this place is COLD! Below is the view outside my window on my 1st day here.
- Kitchen utensils. These are things that are tiny enough to carry but that you can still get these sides only at a much higher cost. Not mugs or plates and such, those are too fragile. Your hand-carved wooden cooking spoons, those are special.
Don’t forget to pack your ugali mwiko (a wooden cooking spoon perfect for making nchima/banku/fufu/polenta) and your plastic tea sieve. I prefer plastic hence I carried mine but some people are ok with the metal tea sieves which can be gotten here in Germany.
- Spices!!! Not just your favourite Pilau masala, Tea masala or Royco but everything else you enjoy cooking with. Being a country with a higher living standard things are expensive in the shops thus a buck saved here or there goes a long way. The spices here range at about Kshs. 220 to the bottle while from home you can get almost everything for less than Kshs. 100. Include your favourite hot beverage(tea leaves, coffee, tea bags) and atleast a packet of Ugali flour because you will definitely miss it even if you are not a fan.
Biros!! I’ve been walking around looking for the Bic fine points, i really do like those biros. But unfortunately they don’t have them here (arrrrggggh!!!) And the cost of experimentation is high, I’ve had to buy quite a few in the search.
Masking tape. I know, you’re wondering why this would be on the list…well I’m staying in the student dorms and everything is soo plain. I don’t want the masking tape so I can paint some motif on the wall but to stick up my pictures of memories from home and a few posters to make the room my own. Masking tape is perfect for this because it doesn’t leave those ugly cellotape marks on the wall when you remove it. I can get masking tape here but again its ridiculously expensive-3 euro when i could get it at home for the equiv 0.45 cts.
6.Vaseline. My search for what our mothers and mothers’ mothers.. and mothers’ mothers’ mothers (…ok, maybe our mothers’ mothers’ mothers used the famous cow udder lubricant :D…) used to ensure their children never ‘pararad’ (defn: had dry skin) has been frustrating. From all the large supermarket chains to the speciality Beauty and body shops has my search been fruitless. Then, one cold Freiberg night in my Zambian classmate’s room I saw her pick a small tub off of her shelf. Alas!! Info was exchanged on where to find the rare jelly and I am yet to go to the shop but I will get it. Nothing retains moisture like Vaseline J 🙂 (Susan, that one’s for you and your Unilever employer!)
- Your Afro hair products. Yes, ladies(and men) I have been told numerous times that taking care of African hair is really hard while abroad. This being our natural hair is usually very hard to style on our own(or that we have gotten used to the convenience of always having people to do it for us). Carry your hair peice (braids or weaves- whichever you prefer), your hair oil (very important). For men learn how to shave your own hair. It can’t be that hard. I think yall have it easy. I’m not sure about shampoo and conditioner as I haven’t gotten there yet. Let me hope I’m able to do something with my hair when the time comes….something.
Another thing a friend of mine alerted me to not having listed is a travel adapter.(Thanx Max!) I forgot to look for one at home but I am sure a search would unearth someone who sells them. No sweat if you do not find one, they are available at the end of your journey as well. I had to ask my friend to order one for me off of Amazon.
(UPDATE Sep 2015)
- I forgot the following two items. Your culture. You are about to become an ambassador of your country whether you want to or not (plus you will just really want to wear that hoodie in the Kenyan colours that points out your roots). Pack your African attire, accessories and jewelry, a flag (there will definitely come a day you wish you had one), some art pieces, your traditional music (yes, traditional because nothing beats blasting Ohangla in the middle of the night during late night study/work sessions to unwind).
Gifts. I have created soo many close friends and being in a university setting they come and go pretty quick. I would have loved to give each something quirky and Kenyan so they would remember that crazy kenyan they once danced on the street with but I didn’t bring enough. Postcards are great ideas, tiny jewelry for ladies or guys. You’ll figure out something.
I hope this helps, welcome to the rest of the world!
The snowman wondering where his clothes (and his fans) all went. He was soo cool about it though (get it :D)