…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

Welcome Peace Corps Tonga Group 76!

Dear Peace Corps Tonga Group 76,

Congratulations on making through the application process, receiving and accepting your invitation to serve in The Kingdom of Tonga! We are excited for you all to get here! There are a few packing lists floating around, both John and Blair have great ones on their blogs (http://johnoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/, http://talesfromtonga.blogspot.com) I want to add a few things that I am glad I brought or wish I would have:

Headlamp: It’s dark here when the moon isn’t full. I thought I would look lame with one on, but we all wear them (so we look lame together).

Rain jacket: When it rains it pours, literally and figuratively. I found a North Face one on the sale rack at REI, get one.

Gap Stretch Favorite T’s: These are the shirts that have lasted the longest ladies. Bring them in all shades.

Jeans: You don’t think you’ll need them, but it feels good to wear something that fits you. We volunteers do go out when we come to the big city, its fun to feel good.

Underwear: They just don’t last with the washing machines or hand washing and sun drying. I brought 12 pairs; I wish I had brought 20.

Capres: You can’t wear them to work, but they’re nice for weekends.

Sandals, lots of sandals: Everyone said not to bring Rainbows (b/c they are made from leather), but being from California, I couldn’t leave them at home. They have been totally fine. Bring them if you have them.
I also brought a pair of Sanuk sandals, nicer ones for work. Those are great, but you can wear any flip-flops to work.

I brought a pair of Tevas, they fell apart the second time I wore them! I don’t recommend them. But do bring some kind of strappy sandal for walking on coral. Most of the beaches (except for in Ha’apai) have coral bottoms, you’ll want to wear something while in the water.

My mom sent me some cheap Old Navy flip-flops, they have held up really well.

I also brought some slip on flats that I’ve worn once, leave them at home.

Running Shoes: They are nice to run and walk in.

Long Skirts: Ladies, this is what you’ll wear everyday you teach for the next 2.3 years. I brought 8 from Marshall’s. If you can find them, the skirts that hit mid calf are actually easier to get around in on a bike (I have many holes in my skirts from getting caught). They are not easy to find here, bring them with you.

Bathing Suits: Ladies, bring a few. And yes, bring a bikini. There are times when us volunteers go to beaches where it is ok to wear them.

Secondary School Stuff: There will be next to no resources for you to use at your school (this has been the experience of most volunteers in Ha’apai). If you are teaching business, bring some of your textbooks (or have them shipped). If you are teaching English (which I think almost everyone ends up doing), grab a grammar book or two and some ESL resources if you can find them. Pre-made worksheet books are great; you can find them at a teacher supply store.

A box of your favorite pens

Markers, crayons, colored pencils: You can get some of this stuff here, but it’s of very poor quality.

Kitchenaid Scissors: I use them every day (in the classroom and at home)
Non-rusting cheese grader

Good non-stick skillet: I use mine every day, KitchenEssentials from Target.

Electronics: It’s up to you, but I think that every volunteer here now has a laptop. Tonga is hard on electronics, but you learn how to take care of them.


Mini-speakers: iHome has a great set for $50 on Amazon. I highly recommend them, 3 of us in Ha’apai have them.

Rechargeable batteries and charger

Laptop: They are going to tell you not to bring your laptop to training, don’t listen, bring it. Yeah, there are bugs and it’s humid, but there are some seriously boring nights too. Get a waterproof bag and a keyboard cover and watch your computer like it’s your child.

Plug Converters: They walk away, bring several of them.

External Hard drive: A way to back up your computer (because this is Tonga, you’ll never know what will happen) and a way to share media. Us volunteers would be delighted if you brought some new media with you also 🙂 We have tons of movies and shows to share too!

Outdoor Stuff: I was not a camper before I came. But you can’t stay away from the incredible beaches!

Lantern: It’s nice to have at night to read and when we go camping.

Sleeping Pad: I didn’t bring one originally and wished that I had. You’ll also be sleeping on volunteers floors when you travel.

Sleeping Bag

Hammock (with rope)

Food: You may think it’s crazy to bring food with you, trust me; you’ll want it in training. Bring some treats that make you happy (Starbuck’s Via was mine). You may want to pack your favorite hot sauce and seasoning packets. And Macaroni and Cheese can pull you out of any bad day! The packages I receive now consist mostly of school supplies and food items.

Toiletries: You can get most things here. I have deodorant, tooth paste, toothbrushes, face wash and moisturizer sent in packages. Peace Corps will keep you stocked up on sunscreen and chapstick.

Body wash: There’s just something about having good body wash. You feel cleaner. I brought some from home and have it sent. I would bring a few bottles if that kind of stuff makes you happy.


Bring a small gift for your host family. I brought a pot holder and kitchen utensils. Others brought candles and little mementos from their cities/states back at home.

Bring pictures, posters and fun things that remind you of home. You’ll be setting up a place and its fun to show your community where you come from. This can be as easy as grabbing a calendar and some post cards.

If you like to journal, bring a few.

Like John said on his list, check the weight restrictions with Air New Zealand and FILL YOUR BAGS. Don’t leave one pound unused.

We can’t wait for you all to arrive! If you have ANY questions (no question is stupid, you are moving to Tonga for two years!!) please don’t hesitate to email me (juleighburke@gmail.com). There are quite a few group 75 volunteers in Ha’apai who can’t wait for you to hit our sands for training! Enjoy your last few weeks at home and get ready for the adventure of your life!



1 Comment»

  Heidi wrote @

are you getting new americans in tonga?? how exciting!

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