Peace Corps volunteers are always traveling around. If you plan on being a Peace Corps volunteer, make sure you buy a sturdy, drawstring daypack, and a good rucksack for when you are traveling around. The last thing you want to be hauling on and off public transport here is a giant rolling piece of luggage or duffel.
Traveling is also the most common way Peace Corps volunteers see each other. Very rarely are many volunteers close by enough to each other that they wouldn’t be backpack-ladened. Running into each other in the city, we all have our daypacks. Inlanders coming to the coast, they all have their giant rucksacks. Meeting up in Nairobi, a combination of the two.
Combine these burdens with Peace Corps volunteers being an affectionate bunch with one another and we have a problem. Have you ever tried to hug someone who is backpack-ladened. It’s awkward to try and reach all the way around the pack, usually only accomplished by the long-armed and lanky, while usually resulting in bodies pressed a tad to close together, even for Peace Corps comfort level, so the obvious method is not acceptable.
We have some alternatives. There is the more traditional hug, slightly modified, wrapping arms around the upper shoulders instead of around the lower shoulders and lower back region. This is the most common, but still does not offer the level of hug-ness a normal hug would provide.
You also have the one arm shoulder hug, best used when the recipient is also carrying an item in one hand, such as a Nakumatt bag ladened with gifts of cheese and beer (priorities). Both members will feel contact and pressure along the sides of their bodies, which is ok.
There is also the bro-style hug. It begins with a handshake or high-five style greeting, at which point both individuals close in and perform a combination of the upper-shoulder hug and one-arm, while still clasping the other’s hand.
There you have it. Even ladened with backpacks and rucksacks, it’s still important for volunteers to embrace on another, and as with everything in Peace Corps, we always seem to find a way.