10 September 2012

handle with care

I originally drew up this post as a guide for friends and family interested in sending care packages my way. It seems to get a good bit of traffic, which makes me think folks are looking to it as a resource, so I've tailored it a bit so that it can act as more of a general guide. While some of my advice may seem over the top, I can attest that I had few problems with care packages making it my way.


I’ve had a lot of inquires recently about sending care packages my way. There’s absolutely no excuse for me to further delay mass shipments of vacuum packed burritos, Doritos (Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch, Spicy Sweet Chili, etc.), Swedish Fish, Peanut M&Ms, and cheese (grated parm, Velveta block, Kraft singles, anything processed, etc.). So, without further adieu, here’s my updated shipping information, along with some suggested care package items and very important packing/shipping tips. Please read everything before putting a package together, and absolutely do not hesitate to contact me.

OK. Where do I send all the goodies?

Father/Sister/Brother [Name of PCV]
P.O. Box [#]
[Town/City Name], Ethiopia

[Note: There are no zip codes in Ethiopia]

What’s the best shipping method?

United States Postal Service Flat Rate is generally the best way to go. The only exception to this would be if you wanted to send me anything that wouldn’t fit into a flat rate box, such as baseball equipment or a year’s supply of Doritos. The absolute best bang-for-your buck is the largest available size. The costs jumped during my service from $60 to $78, but the happiness you will add to the life of a PCV has no price tag, right? The medium flat rate box is now $60. The weight allowance for each is 20 pounds. If you just want to send a few things, you could go with anything from a large envelope to one of the smaller flat rate boxes, but at $24 with a 4 pound limit, the value is much less than the medium flat rate box (which now comes in at around $60). Whatever the rate, USPS is far better than, say, UPS, where you would cough up a slim $640 to send a 20 lb. box. If you want to check on update shipping rates of various sizes and varieties offered by USPS, go here and enter Ethiopia: http://ircalc.usps.com/Default.aspx?country=10105&m=13&p=0&o=1&mt=12

Any other advice?

YES! Please read each of these points and mind them closely when preparing/sending your packages.

  • Don’t Waste Space – One of the greatest frustrations I have heard expressed by seasoned PCVs is when there is unused space or unnecessary packing fluff, such as packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Pack the box wall-to-wall and nothing will move around. Remove excess/unnecessary packaging from materials entering the care package and open packaging to release air; when possible on both accounts, of course.  If you find yourself with “extra” space (really, there is no such thing…), please refer to Part I or Part II of so what should I send you?, above.
  • Airmail! – Be sure to write “Air Mail / Par Avion” on anything you send, and see to it that the post office adds the official stamp indicating such elevated status.
  • Cover the Box in Religious (Christian) Symbols, References, Quotes, etc. – I know this sounds silly, but it really works, hence the “Father Joseph A. Whelan” dilly in the shipping address (once again, you thought I was kidding). See my previous post on mailing packages for more info.
  • Use Red Ink on the Outside of the Package – Again, sounds silly, but it works. Click the same link in the previous bullet for more info.
  • Write “Educational Materials,” “Used Goods,” “Household Items,” etc. on Outside of Box – Writing things like this should help the package clear customs.
  • Minimize Value of Customs Declarations – Try to be as vague as possible and avoid declaring anything of real value on the customs slip. You may have to put up a bit of a fight at the post office, but it’s worth minimizing the chance of a package being pillaged en route.
  • Avoid Sending Items of High Value, Cash, etc. – Electronics, cash, airplane tickets, etc. are generally discouraged for mailings. PCVs regularly visit the States, so it’s much easier to try and make arrangements to exchange materials at such a time.
  • Ziplock Liquids  - Liquids are technically not allowed/frowned upon, but usually tend to make it through. In either case, it’s a good idea to contain any and all liquids in a good, sturdy Ziplock bag. That way it won’t ruin everything else in the box, and all the other cute little care packages it will be traveling with, if it breaks.
  • Let Me Know it’s on the Way – Surprises are nice and all, but it’s actually much more fun to know something is coming. It’s also good to let me know something is on the way so I know when to stop by the post office, since it’s not something I do every day.

What about letters? Postcards? Pictures?

All of these are most welcome, and go a long way in boosting my morale. Letters should follow the same course of religious symbols and red ink. It’s a good idea to number the letters (i.e. Letter #1), in case something gets lost in the shuffle. Postcards should travel in an envelope, else they’re likely to end up on the wall of some random post office somewhere. Pictures are best sent in a well-sealed envelope of the larger, yellow variety. I don’t know the technical term for such parcels, but Laura and Dan have both sent me pictures by this method and they’ve gotten to me just fine. A lot of what I receive ends up on my walls.

1 comment:

  1. Garmin ANT stick is off the list. Many big thanks to my pal Christina for the donation!