11/3/2012: THIS IS OUTDATED INFORMATION, PRESERVED FOR POSTERITY. PLEASE VISIT THE MAIL INFO PAGE FOR THE MOST UP-TO-DATE REQUESTS.
I’ve been in Mongolia about 6 weeks now so I have some sense of the things I could use, what is available here, and what is cost prohibitive from a living allowance perspective—Peace Corps Trainees in Mongolia earn about two dollars a day, which is more than enough since our host families provide for us. Once we are officially Peace Corps Volunteers and are on our own, the allowance increases substantially, but still remains far below American wages. I mention this as a reminder that being here is my choice and going without comforts from home is as much a part of the experience as is integrating into the culture (and living as the locals do is, in fact, another way to integrate).
But since I’ve been asked what I need, and what I want, I will give a list of possibilities—I just ask that everyone reading this, who is potentially considering sending a care package, please remember who I am. Though I can be impulsive with purchases, as you know, more often than not, my practical side is typically in control of my spending. And, I have little problem with delayed gratification, or “sacrificing” now with an eye toward something great later. As someone who does not like to waste my money, I also don’t want you to waste yours. I say this because I have seen care packages delivered to my peers where the shipping alone was exorbitant (one was $126), and the contents were presumably thought to be highly desirable and unavailable (2 cases of snickers, which are not only available here, but comparably priced).
Okay, with that peace of mind, following is a list of things I could use throughout the next two years.
Peanut butter and trail mix – both are here at the American store, they just costs 5 times as much,
Oatmeal – haven’t seen it at all; would love a break from white rice, especially at breakfast,
Brown sugar – haven’t seen it, and if I get oatmeal, which would be wonderful, it would that much more wonderful if it had some brown sugar. (Though these will go together for me, I’d prefer to not have the flavored instant oatmeal packets.)
Granola and/or fiber bars – haven’t seen them. There’s lots of hiking here and snacks that can travel would keep me from absent-mindedly grabbing a candy bar,
Gatorade powder (or REI equivalent) or energy gel like cliff mocha (had a free sample from REI before I left) – for all those incredible hikes. Maybe it comes with age, but my knuckles swell 🙂
Hard candies – Mongolians have a big sweet tooth and ALWAYS offer candy to guests. Think of me when they go on sale after holidays or to stuff into the little extra space of a package of something else,
Sunscreen minimum 30 SPF – The Mongolian sun is strong! The weather is unpredictable (rainstorms to rainbows) but I can’t reapply often enough on a sunny day,
USB flash drives – from what I hear, during collaborations people “forget” to return them. I don’t want anyone to go out and buy USB flash drives! but if you happened to have conference freebies laying about (or maybe a 128MB one like I found at home before I left), and you don’t know what to do with it, I’ll gladly take it off your hands.
Finally, I could use a super-absorbent large towel for laundry. I can’t wring out the hand-washing enough to prevent dripping and I don’t want to use my personal towel for the laundry and for me. As I recall, family members are allowed to use my REI membership by giving my name, but in case you want it, the card # is 12070850.
Between all of us, packages have taken about 5 weeks, letters/cards about 3 weeks, so if you DO plan to send something, do it NOW because if you wait a few weeks, I’ll get my site assignment which will delay the package further. As soon as I have my new address (in a few weeks), I will post it and there will be about a month overlap.
If you do decide to send something, use USPS, not courier services, because they require a visit to the capital for signature. And if you don’t send a package, that’s cool too.