FAQs: Can I send you a care package?

(updated on November 25, 2019)

This is a bit of a "Part 2" to my post on "FAQs: Can I send you mail?" so read that one first for my address and other basics.

I know it's a bit presumptuous to ask for things, but at the same time, family and friends have been asking me what sorts of stuff I would like to receive in a care package, if they send one.  A gentle reminder that I absolutely do not NEED anything. I have everything I need. If you're wondering what would be nice to have or what I do/do not have access to, look no further, as here is a guide for you.

Also, be sure to check my wishlist page.

***First of all, please go easy on the plastic. ***
We burn our trash here in Vanuatu, so any of the items below that comes in plastic/foam will be burned eventually. Maybe unpackage things on your end so you can recycle it properly in the USA, then wrap things in paper for cushioning, since I can burn that without worry. Please be as eco-friendly as possible!

Is there anything you need?
In short, not really. PC provides us with all the basic toiletries and medicine cabinet staples we need, and me being the crafty one, I am making my own soap/body products. I am good on hand sanitizer for a while now, as well as sunscreen and bug spray.

What would be inappropriate to send you?
I mentioned in my original mail FAQs post what kinds of things may not last in transit (or how it can get eaten by rats). But there are some other things that would be weird for us to get. For example, one volunteer received dried banana chips as a snack...we have lots of bananas here. We have lots of tropical food and related items, so please don't send taro, coconut, grapefruit, banana, pineapple, mango, papaya, corn, and hibiscus in the form of tea, cookies, chips, crackers, oils, etc. We got it all here, literally growing from the trees.

We also have lots of Asian/middle-eastern food products, being so close to that region. That means you can easily find ramen, ras al hanout, masala, soy sauce and curry in the stores here.

I have learned the hard way that honey will not get through customs, or anything clearly labeled "honey" flavored, like honey BBQ sauce. Also, if you send me beef jerky, I will be incurred a fine. Please do not send me beef jerky.

What kind of foodstuffs can I send you?
Obviously, non-perishables. My kitchen is basically just a pantry. But I DO love to cook/experiment!

Also, "shelf stable" is a loose term...I store BBQ sauce on the shelf at home all the time despite the "keep refrigerated" warnings, and I've survived. My stomach is growing stronger every day.

Things in jars/reusable containers are great because I definitely do reuse those tiny jam jars and tea tins!
  • ChocolateI previously mentioned no chocolates, but I mean chocolate bars/exposed chocolate when I say that. Chocolate is so rare here that it's super expensive (hello, $3 pack of vending-machine-sized M&Ms), so other forms of chocolate would be nice, like the kind in a candy shell. That means M&Ms, candy/chocolate-covered sunflower seeds and Robins Eggs (the Whopper kind) are game.
  • Sauces. Again, we have Asian food a-plenty, but maybe a good remoulade, a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ, a unique jam (cherry rootbeer? maple pumpkin? blueberry tarragon? fig pistachio?), tomato spread, or maple syrup (all shelf stable, of course) would be delightful. (Don't send honey, as it will be seized and destroyed upon entry into the country).
  • Spices. I am good on spices for a while, but if you find something extraordinary, send it along! Also, my request for powdered cheese still stands. 
  • Protein-based snacks. I get a lot of starches here, and as much as I do love potato chips and crackers that people send me, my body will hate me for them later. If you find something unique at the store that is protein-rich (even just nuts will do) and interesting, then send it. My body will thank you (But also I do love junk food, so this is more aspirational than anything else).
  • Boxed high-fiber meals. *cue 50's commercial voice* Boxed foods take the guesswork out of food prep! I can't tell you how many times I sit in my kitchen, staring at all my beans and such...and settle on ramen because the idea of thinking about what to cook is too exhausting. I don't know if risotto is high in fiber, but damn it's good. Think boxed quinoa or boxed risotto or boxed paella...
  • Seasonal snacks. We won't get the same Easter (Whopper eggs!), Halloween (I love you so, so much, you delightful sweet from heaven named Candy Corn), Christmas (mix-with-water hot cocoa), and apple-filled autumnal treats that you will find back in the USA.
  • Exotic snacks. I always enjoyed things from Try The World and things I'd find in the local Mexican grocery store. If you find something that looks yummy and interesting (and isn't taro/coconut/etc), then send it my way! It'll be like I'm back at home again.
  • Camping-ready foods. I have a basic stove and a campfire to cook things in. Any foods designed for campers would work for me, like instant soup packets or freeze-dried fruit (found at Trader Joe's or on Amazon). Freeze-dried is different than simply dried (dried is like raisins...freeze-dried is like the strawberries in Special K with berries). They are shelf-stable and good snacks! I can use freeze-dried vegetables to add nutrients to soups and other dishes. I can use freeze-dried blueberries to make blueberry cake if I'm so inclined! (Yes, we learned how to bake on a campfire).
  • Random sweets. I was browsing inspiration for this post and discovered that strawberry-flavored Fluff exists. I've never purchased a jar of regular Fluff, but I have tried it, and I do like strawberry things, so this seems like something I would want. Also, I go through spurts where disgusting junk food sounds delicious (though, chocolate chip Twinkies were a mistake...never again).
  • Suggestions to jazz up tuna. I'm all ears here. 

Other than food, what can I send you?
Like I said above, I don't really need a lot, as I am living a minimal lifestyle and everything I do need is provided to me by the PC. That being said, things to pass the time, remind me of home, or that make life a little more fun are always appreciated. Check out my wishlist page for ideas. Some suggestions from currently serving volunteers are...
  • laminated photos of you, of Chicago, of me as a baby, of you celebrating an American holiday...everyone loves looking at photos here, and they love seeing America!
  • 3+ yards of a fun fabric, 100% cotton, or a cotton/poly blend, woven (not knit) for me to make an island dress for friends/family. 
  • cedar sachets/blocks (to keep clothes from smelling musty)
  • flash drives with home videos, TV shows, music, movies
  • ziploc bags (infinitely useful), and you can also just use them to wrap around everything in the package
  • glow-in-the-dark stuff. It's really sunny, then it's really dark. Stuff that glows is fun.

So, just to run through this again...
Ok, so you want to send a package. Here are the steps you need to follow to ensure it gets to me in one piece in a timely manner:
  1. Choose a package for your items. Bubble packs are best, as they are far less likely to be searched. If you must send in a box, send in a flat-rate box if your item is large and heavy. It will be cheaper.
  2. Ensure you are not sending me prohibited items (see above in this post) or perishables. Ensure you aren't sending anything that may be damaged in heat (if it sits in storage it can be subject to high heat). 
  3. Pack items well. Double-bag food to keep bugs/rodents away.
  4. Write the address. Check the spelling. Double check the spelling. 
  5. Fill out a customs slip and do the following:
    -Do not declare a value of over $10, despite what the package contents are. If you declare it over $100, I will have to pay a fee to receive the package. Remember...I'm volunteering here!
    -Do not write that it contains anything valuable, even if there are valuable items in the package.
    -If you are sending books or clothes, write "new" or don't include them on the list at all. If you write just "clothes" or "books" or "used clothes" or "used books" I will be charged a fee.
    -To be safe, write "religious materials" or "educational materials" or "feminine products" as the detailed contents. DO NOT WRITE THE ACTUAL CONTENTS (aka, do NOT write "spices, one jar of jam, one book..."
    -Remember that packages sent from the USA are assumed to be very valuable. Don't give anyone any reason to snoop or steal or confiscate!
  6. Get a tracking number. This should be provided for any and all international packages without an additional fee, because you must be able to track items if they get held up in international customs. Get it and hold onto it, so you can see if it is held up somewhere and isn't arriving for good reason.
  7. Write on the outside of the package to deter prying eyes. You can write bible verses, "Jesus loves you," or "Property of the US Government - violators subject to fines." 
  8. Send!

You are awesome and amazing for even thinking of sending me something, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. <3 


Popular Posts