This week I have been ill, which has basically involved numerous visits to the latrine and curling up in a ball on my bed, moaning gently and listening to Justin Bieber (amiright girls that’s how we spend the day when we know what’s up). Anyway, we have one month of the programme left which means the next group of volunteers will be preparing and fundraising now to do ICS in Nicaragua, and elsewhere, and may be stressing over what to pack. I searched for post that explained “What to pack for ICS” but nothing was very detailed. So this isn’t a very entertaining post, its basically a detailed packing list with tips which hopefully anyone doing ICS will find useful??? And it is specifically about doing ICS in El Bramadero, but can be suitable for any rural destination.
ICS packing list for El bramadero
As a general rule, bring things that aren’t too delicate, that you won’t mind if they get ruined and that won’t show dirt quickly. This is because its dusty, you’ll be sitting outside a lot, and washing everything by hand which can damage delicate clothes. Some clothes are easier to wash by hand than others – denim is hard work! You don’t need to bring clothes wash or stuff like that, you can buy pretty much everything you need like toiletries in Nicaragua, but I brought the products I usually use and like to make me feel more at home.
Building involves messing around with cement which is really dirty. You want clothes that are easy to clean.
Progressio provide four t shirts you can wear at work so you don’t really need to bring any tops for work (though I’d check they are still doing this)
For bottoms I bought a couple of pairs of running leggings – one three quarter and one pair of short ones that come above the knee. These are quite good as they are made of material which doesn’t trap heat and is easy to clean. Other volunteers wear loose sports shorts. The Nicas wear jeans but I think that’s crazy…
When you’re not building you will probably want to wear summery clothes as it is hot. My tip is to pack some of the clothes you would normally wear, as you’ll feel more comfortable and happy. But bear in mind you are washing everything by hand, which is hard work (especially for denim) and also can ruin and shrink the clothes.
El Bramadero is usually sunny and hot with lots of leafy shade. Sometimes its overcast and rainy, and is cooler at night.
Local young Nicaraguans usually wear jeans or leggings and t shirts or vest tops. Don’t worry about wearing tight clothes, this is normal here. Also people wear shorts so don’t worry about having to cover yourself up (though they rarely wear hot pants or miniskirts). People dress quite smartly if they can and they love to see our clothes, especially if we dress up.
Generally what I packed was…
Three pairs of shorts of different lengths – this is what I wear most days. I have some cut off Levi’s, some short cotton ones and longer cotton ones. (Denim is good as its hardwearing but its also hard work to clean). My roommate brought dungarees too which is a nightmare in the latrine but makes her look super cute.
A couple of summer trousers, like the classic traveller patterned trousers. I bought two pairs and I think I nailed it.
One pair of leggings and one pair of jeans (though I haven’t worn them much)
Sleeveless summer tops e.g. cotton vest tops or loose camis. (I brought a whole bunch, probably too many)
A couple of tops or shirts which have longer sleeves, that you can slip over vest tops if its cold or you want more protection from the sun. Also recommended to avoid mosquito bites.
A zip up hoody
I brought two weeks worth of knickers and I do NOT regret it. As I’m sharing a room Im also glad I picked knickers that cover my bum he he 🙂
I brought four bras and a sports bra but three would be enough. Bring comfy ones.
Five pairs of trainer socks.
Five pairs of walking/sports socks.
Flip flops with thick soles (e.g. havaianas or however you spell it). You need these for the shower and also I wear them every day.
Trainers you don’t mind getting dirty and can play sports in
A pair of those sexy walking sandals from Clarke’s, with thick comfy soles.
I wish I’d brought some smarter, normal trainers for day to day (e.g converse)
Two sets of pyjamas, probably longer bottoms unless you get hot at night.
Bikini or swimsuit.
One or two special outfits e.g. for birthday parties or dinners. I packed a light dress that looks quite formal but packs really small. I also packed a midi skirt that I’ve worn with a smarter cami top or shirt. NOTE I brought a jersey maxi skirt but its a bit saggy and just trails in the dirt and river and isn’t worth the hassle. However another volunteer has a cotton maxi dress which isn’t as long, and she likes to wear that.
I brought a big backpack from Sports Direct for my hand luggage, the biggest possible that fit with the flight restrictions, which was useful when going to midterm and overnight stays.
One day backpack.
One tote bag for meetings.
Two pairs of sunglasses.
Sunhat or cap
Two water bottles – choose wide ones as its easier to refill them. I had one with a carbon filter which was good but then the cap broke.
Earrings or some basic jewellery
Two towels (at least one that covers your modesty!)
A head torch and a wind up hand torch.
A travel pillow
Photos from home to decorate your room and show the family.
Notebooks and lots of pens (including good colouring pens and pencils)
A mirror (as big as you can fit/find)
A couple of books
Cards, games, activities
From eBay I bought a plastic photo holder that you hang on the wall and filled with photos from home.
Bring what you would normally use, here are some quantities for three months to give you an idea.
Sun cream – at least three bottles (I wish I’d brought more SPF 15). If you are somewhere much sunnier (e.g. Parcila in Nicaragua) probably at least five bottles.
Bug spray – I don’t need much as I haven’t been bitten a lot, but I think on average you need AT LEAST four bottles/sprays, if you run out the stuff they sell here smells amazing and attracts bugs.
Solid shampoo from Lush (solid shampoo weighs less than liquid and is easier to use in the bucket shower).I brought two and I’m definitely not going to run out. I chose ones with ingredients that naturally deter mosquitos (e.g. citronella, citrus)
Nice solid soap for showering. Treat yourself to a nice soap as its a good luxury. Two or three bars has been enough and I shower every day.
A good cleanser (sun tan lotion and sweat blocks the skin)
Two shower puffs. I CANNOT recommend this enough.
Two toothpaste tubes.
Hair serum (sun can damage the hair and dry it out).
Moisturiser and after sun (I have eczema and for three months I brought four 200ml bottles aveeno, one 500ml doublebase, one hyrdocortizone, one protopic. It weighs a TONNE).
Multivitimans and any medicines you want to bring (e.g. all the medicines).
Useful: a wash bag to carry things to and from the outdoor bucket shower, and a plastic soap dish.
I bought my presents in Primark. I bought a large tote bag with a pretty version of the union jack on, and some sweets. Other ideas would be colouring books and pencils for children, nice packs of cards, pretty things for the home (houses aren’t very decorated), biscuits or sweets, notebooks, photo frames.
Things I wish I’d brought:
One of those toiletries bags which unfolds and you can hang off a hook to organise everything.
Perfume, body spray or perfume oil. Or a heavily scented body butty (e.g. the body shop)
My legit university level Spanish grammar guide. Everyone wishes they’d brought Spanish guides/courses/book.
I hope all that’s useful to somebody!