Saturday, 5 December 2009

Uganda Packing List

I am heavily indebted to Joanne Tarrant for giving me most of these suggestions, and to Chelsea Nazarian for giving me great tips for surviving the flight.

When we traveled with Northwest/KLM/Air France each adult could take two fifty-pound bags free of charge. Because we flew on the adoption fare we got an extra bag free. I have read that some airlines recently changed their allowance to one fifty-pound bag per adult. Hopefully this is not true, but you should check with your airline.

What we took and what I would do differently:

One bag with clothes to donate to the orphanage and gifts for children, the Aunties, and other people. We brought clothes and shoes for the kids at the orphanage, tons of sweets (both chocolate and hard candy), bubbles, and beach balls. The candy was very popular.

One bag with 50 pounds of food. Totally worth it, especially after week two when you really start to miss American food. We hit up Costco and bought granola bars, Cheezits, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, tons of candy: mini-bars and hard candy (mostly for giving away), Oatmeal, Infant Formula, Spanish Rice mix, Ketchup, and spices.

Skip the ketchup. Contrary to what I was told you can find it almost everywhere. Bring fewer granola bars/crackers in favor of more boxed dinner things, and packets of just add water cookie mix. Uganda has plenty of decent snack foods. You can get milk, butter, meat, etc in Uganda, but flavoring it can be an issue. Next time I am bringing more Spanish rice, some Zatarains mixes, and maybe even a few of those good Thai mixes that you add chicken to. I will also bring salsa and tortilla chips. I was dying for both of those by the end of week two, and did not find a satisfying substitute. I would bring a rice-based formula, as the milk-based formula I brought did not work well for Tommy (although that is what he was drinking at the orphanage). Formula in Uganda is VERY VERY expensive. It would be worth packing (more worth it than diapers).

One bag with clothes for Tommy. It is hard to decide what to bring, because you likely will not have an accurate weight/height. You can assume that the child will not be larger than an American child of their same age. I brought some 12 month clothes, which fit Tommy at 14 months, but he also was fine in 12 to 18 month clothes, although they often looked pretty big. Shoes are worse. I brought the "average" size for 14 months, and they were too large. You will want shoes for court. My mom ended up bringing me little leather shoes from Target. They are great for early walkers, cost about 15 bucks, and are compact and light. Buy the correct size for your child's age and the one below, if they are an early walker. You can buy shoes in Uganda if need be. Truthfully, you can get almost anything there, it is just a matter of how much you are willing to pay!

You can dress your child casually everywhere but in court. Bring some nicer outfits, like a few short-sleeved button down shirts and pants. They should also look nice for church. Other than that it doesn't matter what they wear, although you should bring a sweatshirt or two, and carry one with you. Ugandans have a different idea of what is cold and when a child needs extra clothing. It seemed like anytime it dipped below seventy women would approach me and explain that Tommy (almost always cozy warm in my front carrier) was clearly very chilly. It is more polite to throw a sweatshirt on your child than to argue, and we all want to be good guests while we are in country.

Other supplies we brought for Tommy: diapers, wipes, a bottle, two sippy cups, two bowls with lids, spoons, a bottle rack and brush, dish soap, Royal African Hot Six Oil, Johnson's Baby Wash, two wash clothes, a small brush, an aspirator, nail clippers, portable changing pads, a tote to use as a diaper bag, toys, crayons, and books, a blanket, a little stuffed lion.

If you have reason to believe that your child might suffer from Giardia (or any other intestinal disorder) be sure and pack extra outfits and carry an outfit or two with you when you go out. Giardia causes major explosions frequently throughout the day. On a good day Tommy only needed two outfits. Some days he needed four.

With new airline weight restrictions I would leave out diapers. Diapers are expensive in Uganda, but not so expensive that they would be worth paying for another bag. We only brought them because we had room. Go to the Game- they sell bulk packs of diapers for more reasonable prices. I didn't check wipe prices, but my guess is that they would also not be worth taking unless you had extra room.

Bring a bottle, sippys, etc. These types of things are outrageously priced in Uganda, and they are light so they should be easy to fit in your bag. Go to Walmart. They have very inexpensive baby things that are BPA free and of fairly good quality. I think I paid 97 cents for each sippy I brought and the same for the bowls and set of spoons. If you are anti-walmart I'm sure Kmart or Target or the 99 cent store might have something similar. You want to bring cheap things so that you will not worry about them while you are there and can leave them behind if need be, since you will want space in your bags to bring some things home with you. Whomever you give them to will appreciate them, trust me.

Toys: We brought Tommy a number of books and toys; almost all were previously loved. He played with everything there, then we picked the things he was most attached to to bring home, and left the rest with various friends. Tommy loved his books, especially ones with mirrors, cars, and touch-and-feel things. He had a soft stacker, a shape sorter, a mirror, rattle, pull toy, and some stuffed animals. We brought some age-appropriate toys, and some toys geared for younger kids to teach him how to play. These were invaluable for entertaining at home, while waiting at court, the doctor's, the embassy, at restaurants, and of course, on the airplane. Also, we really believe that having some familiar objects eased his transition once home.

Our bags:

Medicine: Pepto Bismol, Immodium, Mosquito repellents of varying strengths, Advil, Advil pm (for jet lag-didn't need it), cough drops (the smog is BAD), band-aids, antiseptic wash.

Clothes: You will probably be getting your laundry done once a week, and it will take at least a day or two to dry and be ironed. So I would bring at least nine days' worth of clothes. You will need at least two different nice outfits for court. Depending on your judge you may want to bring three, because you might have an extra court date. These clothes should be modest and nice. Jeff wore a full suit, and I wore either dresses or nice skirts/blouses. The judge probably won't turn you down based on your appearance, but you want to dress nicely to show your respect. You will also want to wear nice clothes to church. People really dress up for church.

The rest of the time, if you are in Kampala or the surrounding areas you can wear skirts knee-length or longer, knee-length shorts or capri pants, and jeans or other long pants. The only time I ever wore regular shorts was in transit to and from the pool at the Speke, where everyone wears normal bathing suits, so I figure they can't be shocked by shorts. Men can wear shorts, but it is most culturally acceptable to only wear shorts on the weekends and wear pants on the week days.

Bring shoes that are good for walking, especially on uneven terrain. There are sidewalks in Kampala, but if you are outside of the city at all and decide to take a walk you will mostly be traveling on rutted dirt roads.

We did not bring jewelry, except for wedding bands, watches, and one pair of inexpensive earrings. You must have a wedding band on at court. If your band is attached to a diamond or other precious stone, get an inexpensive plain band to wear.

Toiletries: Pack your normal things. Then bring extra toothbrushes. You will need to be careful not to use the water to brush your teeth, and it is really easy to forget. If you accidentally run your toothbrush under the water you will either have to boil it or throw it away.

If you have hard contacts you may want to avoid washing them in water that is not either boiled or bottled. The easiest way to do this is Simplicity solution. It is not as good, but it works well under the circumstances.

Miscellaneous: Depending on your living situation, you will probably not need to bring towels, sheets, etc. I know our guest house provided them. You may want to bring a blanket for spreading on the floor or grass. We brought an old sheet and a grass mat and they were both very useful.

Flashlights. The power goes out all the time. Bring at least two flashlights. I had a headlight (like for spelunking) and it was AWESOME. So useful.


Copies in each carry-on of all of our documents (dossier and tax returns for the embassy), just to be safe.

Our court clothes. You do not want to be without these.

The rest of the space we devoted to clothes and things we did not want to be without, just in case our bags were lost.

Personal Item:

Jeff brought his laptop. I brought a backpack with a fresh shirt/undergarments for the layover, books, our iPods, my adoption journal, my glasses, and my quart sized ziplock survival pack (we each had one to take through). It contained: deodorant, a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, pre-moistened face clothes, antibacterial gel, a travel sized contact solution and my contact case. The only thing I didn't have that I wish I would have packed was a small tube of lotion. Airplanes make me so dry.

Long trips like this are bound to make you feel gross. However, I found that changing clothes during the layover, washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc, really made me feel better. I arrived in Uganda feeling somewhat normal, which helped my emotional state a lot.

Bring a pillow. Bring a pillow. Bring a pillow.

African pillows are very large, overstuffed, hard, and lumpy. If you normally sleep on a cushy, flat, down pillow, your neck will be horribly sore after sleeping with these. I ended up sleeping without a pillow for five weeks. Bring a pillow.

If you child is under 35 pounds or so, bring a carrier that will allow you to backpack them around. If your child is under 25 pounds that you can use a front carrier (or a front/back/hip carrier like Ergon), which is even better for bonding purposes. We brought an Ergo and were so happy with it. We used it everyday, and it was worth every penny we spent on it. Tommy found it very comforting, and often liked to fall asleep in it while listening to one of our hearts. It also encouraged a great deal of eye contact in the front carry position, which is also ideal for bonding. It was easy to get him into and out of, and rarely was uncomfortable for us to wear. The only time I felt any discomfort from it was after wearing it for hours on end and doing a great deal of walking. If you are only planning on being in the city, a cheap umbrella stroller might be helpful, but if you are strong enough to carry your child it is so much easier to do that.


Amy Jo said...

Great post, Amy! I'll be sure to share this with anyone that is thinking about adoption overseas. You should write a "guide"!

Ribbens Family said...

This is all great info!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write we don't have to guess at all!!

harveyj1 said...

We are flying to Uganda as I type this...well actually Detroit, but ultimately to Uganda to adopt our baby girl. This post was very helpful!