Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Mail Situation

OK. It's really happening. I have completed my first practice pack and everything is looking pretty good. 

My official date of departure for staging in Philadelphia, PA is June 6th at 3:15 pm.  I will check in to staging that evening. The next day is full of vaccinations and orientation/motivation type meetings. At 2:30am on the 7th we will hop on a bus and head to JFK in NY to catch our flight to Johannesburg at 11:15am. 

After I get to Swaziland chances are good that I won't be able to send emails, update my blog, or phone for about 10 weeks. If the opportunity does arise I promise that I will post at least something short for you all.

Now, what you have been waiting for mailing info for my first 10 weeks. This bit of info also includes some good packaging tips, which you should heed. It's not uncommon for mail to be searched these tips will help reduce that possibility.

The Mail Situation:

Here’s the deal. Bring a few envelopes for those first letters you write before hitting up the post office. While you are in training (the first 9 weeks you are in Swaziland) you will be very busy. If you receive mail at this point, it will be sent to the Peace Corps Office in Mbabane (the capital city of Swaziland) and about 1-2 times a week the staff who oversee and run your training will bring the mail to you at your training site. So you will be able to receive mail and packages during training and it will be delivered to you. It would be very easy to send yourself packages before you leave America to the Peace Corps Office in Mbabane.

You will most likely be brought your package the first 1-3 weeks in training. So if you decide to mail yourself supplies, or you receive a care package, you will be able to get it during training. You will always be able to send mail to yourself to the Peace Corps office after you are an official volunteer; it just becomes a matter of getting to the capital to pick it up then hauling it back to your site. If you are very close to Mbabane, then it’s no problem to use the Peace Corps office as your primary address for getting packages. Some volunteers who do not live near Mbabane set up a post office box in a closer town.

After you complete training, you will be able to decide if you want an additional post office box. It’s a very easy thing to set up and volunteers who share a common shopping town often all decide to share a P.O box.

Here are some great tips for sending packages to Swaziland:

It takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for packages to make the trip from America to Swaziland, and in my experience three weeks is average. Flat rate boxes are probably the cheapest option from the US post office. Don't send things on expedited shipping, as they do not come faster than regular 'air mail'. If you send something through the postal service, use this address to have it delivered to the Peace Corps office:

Emma Wallis, PCT
PO Box 2797
Mbabane H100, Swaziland

Note the stressed importance of Africa on the bottom of the address, Swaziland shares a very similar postal code to Switzerland (SD) and it only takes one keystroke form a busy postal worker for your package to end up in Zurich instead of Mbabane. Adding Africa severely diminishes that possibility. Many people believe putting Christian symbols or phrases (i.e. “Jesus Saves”) on packages reduces the likelihood that things will be stolen in the process. In general, though, packages make it here intact.

However, if you do send something through a courier service (such as DHL) then you must use the physical address where the courier will drop the package:

Emma Wallis, PCT
Farm 188
Gate 256 Muzi Road,
Dalriach West, Mbabane