One of the biggest highlights of most volunteers lives is when a care package from home arrives. I have gotten 6 or 7 so far. I get very anxious around the middle of week 2 because I know it will soon arrive. It takes me back to childhood when you get a letter addressed just to you in the mail. It is like the things that separate you from the person who sent it just diminish while you open it, read it and enjoy the carefully packed items within it. From what I have seen a common thing that is sent from home is snacks. Those one candies you cannot get in your host country are so very cherished.
For me my gift packages are less about snacks and more about things I actually need. Although most of the time little snacks make it into my “barrel”. So I will stop here and explain the barrel. Here in Jamaica family members are often abroad and a few times a year they ship barrels to their families back home. It could be full of clothes, shoes, electronics and just about anything you can imagine. The barrels are pretty standard sized at 3.5 ft tall and about 2 ft diameter. They tend to be cardboard with metal rings for top and bottom. The cardboard is lighter than a plastic or steel barrel. These barrels arrive to the docks of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston. I am sure they arrive at other ports as well, but those are the big ones. Families will be informed after some time in customs that the barrel is ready for pick-up. The family then hires someone with a vehicle that can carry the barrels to bring them home. It is often akin to American Christmas. The arrival of a barrel is an exciting time for the family as it means they have new things to use or sell.
There is no difference when I get a package. I typically get a notice in the evening when my host family return home. If it is Friday I must wait until Monday to get the package, the only time I have ever looked forward to a Monday! Any other day I try to make arrangements in my schedule to go and pick it up the following day. My care packages typically contain toiletries and spices for cooking. The one’s from Richard are the ones that I order stuff from Amazon or Zulily and then have him consolidate and ship to me. Things like adult coloring books, books I cannot get here or on kindle, fitbit devices, my boat shoes and clothing because, hey I have lost 43 pounds since arriving on island. This translates to I need pants that do not fall off! Other things that have been sent to me are books and comic books for my schools, a special request I made, nutritional yeast and seasoning, lotions and dried mushrooms. Sadly the cost of shipping is quite high and even though I am closer than I was in Liberia, the shipping rates appears to be similar. I do not request snacks because I can get most things here, except wasabi almonds, please send those!
As I get more familiar with things here I will likely request less specific things and focus on having things sent out of love. My favorite part of the packages is any little notes and letters that are stuck in there. So in reality a letter is just as important and the things within the box! Today’s package had a bonus that I did not expect. Richard found a wine clutch and since I dropped a bottle of wine that I nearly cried over as I was getting my stuff out of the car a wine clutch might save me wasted money and some tears of frustration!
PS my newest package had a sample of Quaker’s Girl Scout granola bars! Please send any and all flavors you can find! Thanks! The lonely times are just bearable with love sent from home!