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Peace Corps update: and so the packing begins…

My nickname is Little Liz, but that doesn’t come without reason. I’m 5’1 and at times and mistaken for a high school student (hey, although it annoys me now, it will be in my favor ten years from now!) All my short people out there understand how horrible long dresses and skirts look on us. Also, I’m sure my short people have the same trouble as I do — finding dress pants that don’t drag on the floor for a cheap price is nearly impossible.

It’s no surprise then that my current wardrobe is composed of shorter items and no dress pants. All of my business casual and professional clothing hit either at my knees or a little above. Unfortunately, clothing like mine won’t fly in South Africa. Older women are expected to wear dresses or skirts that hit below the knees and shirts that show no cleavage. Younger women aren’t taken as seriously in South African culture, so it’s going to be challenging for me coming in as someone who already looks young. However, if I can present myself well through my clothing choices I may be able to gain a little more respect early on.

I’ve been aimlessly searching the women’s department at Macy’s this week to find the most conservative and long dress items I can find. Yup, you guessed it: I ended up at the old lady’s department. I know there’s really no such thing, but you know, the area of any department store that an older woman/mom/grandma would shop at.

I pride myself in my style and getting to dress up whenever I am out and about. Now, I’m going to be wearing long dresses that don’t need to be ironed (that polyester material) because I’ll be hand washing my laundry in a bucket and hang drying it. I not only like a teacher now, but I look like an old teacher. Here’s a glimpse of my steals (I hope you sense some sarcasm here…):

20120619-185544.jpg

Luckily, I have a lot of other clothing items the Peace Corps suggests to bring. I’ll be arriving in the midst of winter and I’ve heard it can get to the low 30s without heat. I survived a Syracuse, New York winter and grew up on the coast in the Bay Area, so I can do 30 degrees with the right clothing. This is the first time in my life I’ve really been happy that I went to Syracuse University for a year after high school because I have all the winter clothes I need to bring to South Africa (I knew I’d need them again!)

Goodbye fashion, hello to a completely different culture! Oh and did I mention I only get to bring two bags of luggage and a carry on?

I booked my flight for staging (in-country orientation) in Atlanta. I leave San Francisco at 10pm on July 9th and arrive in Atlanta at 6am on the 10th. I’m a little bummed staging isn’t in Washington D.C. or Philadelphia because I wanted to say bye to some college friends, but I can’t do anything about it. I’m getting more and more excited every day!

19 days!!!

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. As I write now you’re probably getting on a plane for Philly, so I guess I caught you too late. My advice for packing for Peace Corps South Africa is to not listen to PC…I’m serving in PC-SA now (arrived in January), and let me just tell you…I’m SOOOO glad I didn’t buy a single long skirt and instead brought my skinny jeans (like you I’m on the petite side at 5’2″). South Africans dress FLY! If you are bringing hippie skirts or matronly clothes then you’re just making yourself stand out that much more like a non-belonging foreigner or just plain fugly. Perhaps it is different for education volunteers than for HIV/AIDS outreach volunteers and it may be different for those living in rural areas vs towns, but I regret so much bringing “practical” “comfortable” “outdoorsy” clothes instead of my usual (more sophisticated) threads. I regret not bringing my fly BCBG leather jacket. I regret not bringing my favorite tops. Bring what you would normally wear back home but maybe make it a tad more conservative. Sport your usual style. Come as you are.

    July 9, 2012
  2. As I write now you\’re probably getting on a plane for Philly, so I guess I caught you too late. My advice for packing for Peace Corps South Africa is to not listen to PC…I\’m serving in PC-SA now (arrived in January), and let me just tell you…I\’m SOOOO glad I didn\’t buy a single long skirt and instead brought my skinny jeans (like you I\’m on the petite side at 5\’2\”). South Africans dress FLY! If you are bringing hippie skirts or matronly clothes then you\’re just making yourself stand out that much more like a non-belonging foreigner or just plain fugly. Perhaps it is different for education volunteers than for HIV/AIDS outreach volunteers and it may be different for those living in rural areas vs towns, but I regret so much bringing \”practical\” \”comfortable\” \”outdoorsy\” clothes instead of my usual (more sophisticated) threads. I regret not bringing my fly BCBG leather jacket. I regret not bringing my favorite tops. Bring what you would normally wear back home but maybe make it a tad more conservative. Sport your usual style. Come as you are.

    July 9, 2012
    • Edu volunteers are in rural villages and from what I’ve heard it’s pretty conservative (from Volunteers on the SA 26 Facebook group),so it definitely might be different than towns. I did decide to ditch a lot of the grandma clothes and brought some of my favorite blouses and blazers 🙂 I definitely didn’t listen to the PC when they told us to bring neutral color t-shirts. I need some color in my wardrobe! I hope the hippie skirts aren’t too much of a problem… we’ll have to see! Thank you for your advice!

      July 10, 2012

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