Coming from grad school and being of limited funds, I didn't really bring a lot in the way of shoes. I basically brought one pair of running shoes. I'm not a big flip flop kind of guy, but that's what I wear the most of here. If I had it to do all over again, I'd pick up a decent pair of sandals (Chaco seems to be popular among the volunteers). I had a pair of Chacos sent and they worked really well until the sole started to separate from the rest of the shoe. Chaco, being a really good company, sent me a new pair based on some photos of the defective product that I'd sent them.
My roommate brought a really nice schammy/quick dry towel with him. It's ideal for this humid climate. I got something called a 'thai stick' which is basically a block of salt that works well as a deodorant.
I seem to recall the book that was supposed to prepare us mentioning things like "pants" and "dress shoes" and "business casual". What a crock of shit. There is no way in hell any sane person here is going to wear Khaki pants on any regular basis. If you work in the village you'll probably spend most of your time in a lavalava or shorts and a tshirt. If you work in the schools, they will likely have a uniform. Alternatively the ladies will wear pulitasi's, uncomfortable form fitting dress/top; and guys will wear ie faitogas (polyester manskirt with pockets) and some flowery button up shirts. Bring casual clothing, but minimize anything you wouldn't want to wear when it's 80 degrees and 85 percent humidity
I know there are some folks out there who are really stuck on film cameras. In my opinion, it's just impractical to get film developed here. The Kodak place in Apia can develop film and print digital pictures if hard copies are what you are looking for.
I have friends in the states that gather stuff for me and ship it here. One thing to remember is that many companies wont ship stuff to addresses unless you have called your credit card company and authorized them to ship to that address. So if you have a set of friends you will have send you stuff, make sure you call your credit card company and have their addresses put on file.
My roommate brought a really nice Teflon coated pan that we use probably use six nights a week. We each brought a nice can opener. In retrospect, a nice cast iron skillet (I know heavy) is probably better -- you would be surprised at how many people can make it into the Peace Corps and not know that a fork will scratch Teflon. Also useful: a tortilla press (big one -- 12 inch) , and a small (two cup) French press.
_Shipping Heavy Things Here_
Depending on your assignment, you may wish to ship some of your stuff here. I packed up a box of text books to be shipped here. I was told by the PCB (Peace Corps Bureaucrat) that I probably didn't want to receive any packages until after training. So I left the box with my mom so I could have it shipped later. This advice may be more applicable to different locations, but for Samoa, you can ship what ever you want before you leave. You will have access to any packages which arrive during training, and they can be put in storage until after training. Things to consider with respect to shipping:
o Ground shipping can realistically take up to six months to get here. I've heard stories of a package taking a year and it took a package of mine three months.
o Air mail takes between three to five weeks to arrive though legends are abound about the mysterious package that took six months to arrive with customs stamps from all across the globe.
At the end of training, you will be given a bike. The bikes we got were fairly nice Treks though they seem to be giving out the Giant equivalent. They are supposed to provide you with locks and a couple other things. Now, the dilemma is that it's not easy to get decent locks and stuff in the country. One option is to goto the hardware store and buy a chain/padlock. You can take the receipt and be reimbursed. If I would have known, I would have just brought my u-lock from the States. If you have one, and some free weight, I'd throw the bike lock in my bag.
I also brought a patch kit, small hand pump, extra tube, and a chain tool. Later on I had a rack, a set of panniers, some extra tubes, and toeclips sent. The rack and panniers are really important for me and I've ridden over both islands with them. For those that are interested jandd.com, will ship internationally and I really like their products. Email me and I can make some suggestions.
I brought a small tool kit (screwdriver, vice grips, dikes, etc), a set of hex wrenches, and a bike multi-tool with me. These have been pretty useful.
If you have a laptop, I'd definitely bring computer speakers. Nothing really fancy, but something that can compete with the sound of rain beating down on a metal roof. Make sure they are 110-240.
I'm really paranoid about loosing information. Most of the work I'm doing here is on computer, so I like to back things up. If you have a cd/dvd burner in your computer, bring 10 or so rewritable disks. If you have the space, you might want to grab a 50 disc spindle. If you have a USB or Firewire external drive, that would probably be ideal.
If you're going to live in the village and are going to depend on the Peace Corps computers to get work done, I'd bring a 1gb usb memory stick. These things are cheap now in the states and they cost a whole bunch here. In fact, if you pick up 10 or so, they can be used as gifts or prizes if you're a teacher. You can also probably raffle them off to raise money for projects.
If your warranties are going to expire on things like computers and cameras, you might want to see if they can be extended for the duration of your service.
Email me if you have any questions.