This is not a deep post.
This is completely and utterly about silly physical things. Consumeristic. Someone asked what a few of our favorite things are that we brought with us. I posted long ago about a few necessities here, but some of those items have not held up and other items have become more useful than we thought. Also, there is only so much space in my brain for words right now, and most of what is happening is sad.
So, unless you are interested in this kind of thing, or want to know a few items that are durable enough to hold up in Africa for a few years, don’t bother reading this!
First, something I totally claim credit for. Andy owns one suit, one pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts, one swimsuit, and three pairs of Bluffworks pants. I found one pair on clearance for $40 when he needed new pants and bought them for him as a gift. Then, someone gave him two more pairs for Christmas a few years ago. They are literally the only pants he wears 6 days a week. They have held up beautifully, wash and dry easily, have security pockets, and look good ;). The regularly-priced pants would have seemed too expensive to me before he owned them, but I would pay full price for them now. He really has worn nothing else for at least 700 days.
While we are talking about things we wear, I mentioned SaltWater sandals in my previous post. And I still recommend them highly. My children have outgrown them before they have worn out with the exception of one pair that broke (we were able to get it repaired here). My kids prefer the style with a thicker sole called the 'Sun-San Sandal'. These are their shoes. Really. They do have a pair of flip-flops each, but this is what they wear to church, to play, on safari, etc.
If you know me well, you know I have ‘old lady’ feet as I call them. Triggered by a nasty ankle injury in high school, my feel hurt constantly. The cement floors, sometimes with ceramic tile over them, in Zambia have not helped. (And refusing to stop running doesn’t help, either. But if I don’t run a little bit, the price is my sanity. So…). But, these shoes!!! I am blessed with a mom who buys me nice shoes, but I ruined the two pair of leather Birkenstock sandals I had during rainy season here. My sister sent me these shoes, and I have since acquired another pair. These offer support, cushioning, and are reasonably cute while being relatively inexpensive. I wear them all day, every day, except while on my runs or bathing. For full disclosure, this picture is from the one time I had my toe nails painted. But, over 8 months later, these shoes are still looking great! (Much better than my toenails.).
Our beloved whirly-pop! (Actually, we have one I found with metal gears since the plastic kind doesn’t seem to last as long.). We used this in the States, and have used it at least a few times a week (nearly daily) here. Popcorn is cheap and a whole grain (not very many of those here), and my kids love it. Gas stove, fire, charcoal, etc., we’ve cooked popcorn over it all. This thing will change your life.
The little and inexpensive Sawyer Water filter is the best! We killed two other types of (more expensive) filters in the past with the high mineral content here. This little filter does a great job, is inexpensive, and lasts a long time. (And I applaud the company for making a humanitarian version at a great cost to provide overseas. Seriously, they could totally price these higher and make a killing. But they have not done that.). If you ever want to grab something in case of a zombie apocalypse, get one of these to have on hand!
Sunday Afternoon Sun Hats. The younger three kids have had these for nearly four years now. We used them in the States while camping and hiking, and they wear them constantly here. Great price for a hat that has been durable, easy to wash, comfortable for them, and fairly cute. Only one has had the clamp that tightens the chin strap break, but the hat can be worn without that part (you can see how Shiloh's chin strap dangles). If I thought they would look cute on me, I would wear one. Best children’s sunhat ever (and Wirecutter recommends the same company with a similar style for adults)!
Chemicals!!! This insect repellent was recommended by someone in Tanzania. And it works. What more do you need from repellent? We spray clothing, mosquito nets, camping gear, and more with it. I won’t vouch for the health qualities of it, but it sure beats all the nasty diseases bugs carry here. We have somehow managed to escape the clutches of malaria for over two years, despite camping in areas with a high risk. I credit this for part of our malaria-free streak.
My Norwex dishcloth was on the list last time and remains on it today. Another item I am not sure I would have even purchased, but a loving friend has kept me supplied! I will, however, replenish my stock while in the States. We wash every dish by hand here. Sometimes, we have limited water. These have worked amazingly and held up so well. Seriously the BEST. The stainless steel scrubber saves my hands and energy daily, also. I still spend half my life washing dishes, but at least it's not my whole life! (I have no link for this. I am sure someone you know sells this!)
Our bug tents continue to be on our list. We don’t use them every day, but when you need them, they are invaluable! We have loaned them out multiple times and everyone loves them. One had a rip in the side after a camping trip (while loaned out, so I don’t know how exactly it happened), but we just used some Gorilla tape on it, and it works well. Very handy.
Our REI chairs also continue to be daily used here. You can buy furniture here, but quality, comfort, and cost are huge factors. We do have chairs, but still sit in these all the time. The one that gets the most use (4 years of use since we had it in the States), probably needs a few repairs, but I am sure REI will let us know how to do that in the States. Great little chairs! I had to laugh because this picture looks almost identical to the one I posted over 2 years ago, but this one was taken today. (Yikes! These are more expensive than I remember. We got older versions when they were on clearance before the new colors came out.)
Lice combs and tea tree oil. Well, those are things I never wanted to use together. We put the oil in our shampoo and soap, and in the spray bottle of water I use to spritz the girls’ hair every day before doing it, but we still got lice. However, with tea tree oil in some conditioner and daily combing for a week, we got rid of the lice (we washed only the bedding) without too much angst. Probably something worth owning.
External batteries. Guys, I didn’t own a smartphone before I came to Africa (and I wouldn’t still, but I was generously given a nice phone), but I love mine other than keeping it charged. Electricity is always an issue here. We have loved our little external batteries (this Anker one has worked so well for over 2 years and gets used multiple times a week). Some friends amazingly found an external laptop charger and sent it to us. I am not sure what we would do without it. We have loaned this thing out and made many, many people covetous. It’s not light, but it is totally worth its weight.
Well, if you have read this far, you have some weird fetish about what we own and use. Or you are bored. But to the two or three people for whom this is useful, these are things we have appreciated owning and using here. I was searching for advice before we came here, and other than asking individuals, it was hard to come by. (I was asked to include links to the products. Because I love you, I did. No link is an affiliate link to my knowledge, nor do any of these companies know we exist.)