Are you holding back your boyfriend or girlfriend from experiencing Peace Corps?

So here’s  a great question, from someone who is having doubts about whether they are holding back their partner from experiencing Peace Corps:

I just want you to know I’ve been referring to your entries since my boyfriend left for the Peace Corps in February of this year. We’ve made it this far, and I’m going to see him in less than two weeks! Our communication has been great, and we’ve really put one another first. That said, I finally cracked this week. It was the first time I felt that our relationship might be on rocky ground and the future seems more uncertain, though we plan on moving in together afterward. I think a lot of it is my guilt that I may be holding him back from really experiencing Peace Corps. Anyway, I guess I’m asking advice on how to prepare for the first trip to see him (it’s for 8 weeks!). I think the reason I cracked is mostly because of nerves… but nevertheless, he agreed.

Wow, so this is quite the distance! You have now made it 10 months without seeing him, and are now going to spend two full months with him, but think you are holding him back from experiencing Peace Corps….hmmm.

So here are the questions that immediately popped into my mind:

  • Are you holding him back from experiencing Peace Corps completely? No.
  • Are you holding each other back from dating other people? Yes.
  • If you think that dating people while in Peace Corps is integral to the Peace Corps experience, then, yes he is not getting that experience.
  • Is he experiencing something, different than others? Maybe.
    (But if he wasn’t dating you, wouldn’t he have a touchstone at home maybe he would rely on more instead?)
  • Are you actually the one feeling restless?
  • Are you the one feeling trapped by having to stay faithful to someone so far away?

All of these questions aside, 10 months is an incredibly long time to be away from each other, especially at the beginning, and of course you are experiencing doubts. Especially with such a huge trip in front of you, two months of seeing each other without being familiar with his location or where you stand really in your relationship would be totally overwhelming. The longest we went without seeing each other was seven months, and that was really rough for me emotionally at times. My longest trip out there was probably about three weeks.

Here are my recommendations, start by just breathing. You have gone a long time without seeing each other, so the best thing to expect about this trip is nothing. This is your time to reconnect in person. Your time to see if you are the people you remember, are attracted to each other, still make each other laugh and if you feel good around each other. My guess will be that yes, all the old feelings will come back and once you are there again, you will fit right back together.

My biggest concern for you honestly is that two months together might be somewhat overwhelming, especially in a new environment. I would make sure that you have researched some nice places for weekend getaways. This is really important, might sound kind of indulgent but trust me, necessary. Find a couple resort type places where you can just get away and relax, have access to clean water (or even water at all), good food, and a comfortable place to relax. I would say that on our end we spent about half the time at his location, and the other half either traveling or at resorts. We even ended up spending a couple nights in town just to have access to showers. Bucket baths might be more romantic than they actually sound, and if you are going anywhere with a lot of hot weather, trust me, you will want regular showers, and a clean place to sleep. If you are going to be there for that long, you might also consider renting a furnished place with more conveniences than your boyfriend currently has in his site. Again, it might seem like a splurge, but really it will help you transition between the two worlds and give you a nice place to reconnect.

Again, have no expectations about this trip, just let it unfold, and if you begin to feel anxious about anything before, during or at the end of the trip, that is totally normal–it is a completely new experience, in a new environment with a lot of pressure. Forgive yourself for high emotions and him, and try to stay calm and enjoy your experiences and time together.


Are you still together?

I’ve been re-reading this blog for the first time in a while, and especially reading YOUR comments, YOUR stories, YOUR concerns, YOUR hopes, and it got me wondering….are you still together?

A couple of you have given me updates from time to time, but I would LOVE to know how your story turned out, good or bad. Would love to know what worked for you, and maybe what didn’t.

So I have a request….if you ever left a comment, would you mind sharing your update? Can be one sentence (or more!), would just LOVE to know what happened with YOUR STORY! :)

How quickly does time go?

So I received this question recently–

My boyfriend just left for Uganda on Wednesday. I was really upset about it. And I miss him so so much! But reading your blog made me feel a lot better. I have sent him an email everyday that he has been gone telling him about my day just as I normally would. Today was the first time I have heard from him since he has actually been in Uganda. He responded back to all of my emails! It was the best feeling I have had this week! I’m wondering if looking back, did the time go by quickly?

I completely remember feeling so great when my bf was finally able to respond to my emails, was such a relief and made my heart beat a little quicker! ;)

So, does the time go quickly? Well, yes and no. I found the beginning and end to be the toughest. Both because there are so many high emotions flying around, excitement and fear of the unexpected. The time went faster when we had trips planned to see each other. I think at one point there was only three or four months between visits and that was pretty great, but the seven month stretch was really tough.

The way to make time go quickly, is to have trips planned to see each other as often as possible, and to keep yourself as busy as possible. Try to plan your own adventures while he’s away–just because he’s gone doesn’t mean you can’t take your own trips somewhere, or do something different!

My bf has now been back from his Peace Corps experience for almost two years–about the same time he was away in Kenya. I’m trying to think which feels longest to me, and I guess, it would be the time he was away. With him here, the days blend together more, and because we pass it together, it’s enjoyable, so maybe that’s why it seems to pass more quickly. With him away, it was tough, especially at the beginning it seemed like such a long time, but it is doable, just really tough to sometimes manage. You can do it though, just find a way to make the experience manageable for yourself!!

Sending Packages in the Mail to Kenya

Sorry for missing this question from a few months ago, but here it is:
Hey! I hope all is going well back home. I’m writing because I’ve a big question that I’m sure that you could solve… I’m trying to send a package to my friend who is doing his volunteer service at Port Victoria, Kenya.

So, I’m wondering if you know any reliable company to send it? Some people had said to me to use DHL, but I’ll love to hear if you have any tips that could help me to send it in a safer way.

It’s pretty sad that people normally recommend you to not even try to do it.

My answer:

Okay, so here’s the thing–you can send packages but there is no real guarantee they will arrive.  For the most part though, most of the packages that were sent to my boyfriend either from me, or his family made it through. We heard somewhere that it is helpful to write religious messages (regardless of your personal beliefs) on the envelopes to discourage stealing or opening of them like “God rewards those who don’t sin, God is watching you, etc.” or even address it to Father/Sister (Insert Volunteer’s name).  Kind of awful, but I did write messages like that on most of the packages that I sent.

Also, I made a concerted effort to only send things that would fit in larger envelopes–I really tried to avoid boxes of stuff. I also only sent the bulky envelopes International Priority Mail BUT I would not use the U.S.P.S. packaging at all. I wanted to make the package seem as plain and uninteresting as possible. One time when I mailed a large envelope, the postal lady actually was getting annoyed with me, because I refused to use the U.S.P.S. flat-rate envelope that would have been cheaper for me to use than my own plain envelope. Good news is that I paid a couple extra bucks to use my non-fancy envelope and my boyfriend got his package.

I never used DHL so I’m not sure, but it makes sense that a private company might be more reliable than a government run institution, but you never know. Good luck!

Thinking of you

So even though my boyfriend is no longer in Kenya, and is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, I still think about this blog and think about all the couples out there who might be going through our past experiences. This was particularly jogged for me today, when I received a comment thanking me for this blog, and it made me feel great to know people are still reading it, and hopefully it is helping someone. I still think about all of you, and hope you are communicating, growing in your relationships and communicating (I know I said it twice, but as you know I think it’s super important).

If any of you in Internet land are still reading this blog, and have any questions or comments, please feel free to still send them my way, I would love to answer/help if I can. I would also love to hear (the good and bad), from any of you who previously wrote to me so we know how you are doing, and we can share what did or did not work.

Update about us! We just passed our one-year mark of living in a place together. We both have made professional transitions also in the past year, and additionally my bf has just completed his Master’s! What a year! Life is good. We still love each other, we still communicate daily, and we still talk of Kenya, and of one day returning to see old friends and places.

Kenya now seems like another life to me. Strange, it was less than two years ago that he was there, but the presence of now and our life now has taken over, and I am content in the what seems to be a more distant memory. Sometimes when I think about that two years in our lives, I wonder how we survived and actually beat the odds to stay together; it was honestly such a long time. But we did it. Somehow we managed, and you can also. Keep the faith (both of you), be honest with how you are feeling and communicate. Thinking of you and wishing you love and happiness.

I Miss You, Pookie Bunny Head

Thought you guys might enjoy a video about a couple in a long-distance relationship.  I showed this to my boyfriend, and he said, “We are totally that couple.”  I don’t think we were that bad…. ;)


Fears and Doubts

I received this message from someone recently and wanted to share it with all of you.

First of all, I have to tell you that I come to this page at least twice a month to read random entries. My boyfriend and I started dating over a year ago. From the start, he was very upfront and honest about his interest in PC and about a month ago, we FINALLY got word of his acceptance and assignment to the Dominican! I am filled with so many great emotions – but also some negative ones, which I believe is totally normal. I have a couple questions for you – how did you kick the blues when you were out of contact for long periods of time? What did you do to calm your mind and thoughts, particularly about his safety. Maybe even fidelity. I’ve no reason to doubt him, but I wonder if that mind will ever cross my mind. Also, how often is acceptable to visit your PCV? Since my boyfriend will be in the Dominican, I can picture lots of short, one week trips. How much is too much? How long is too long? Also, I started my own blog as well and plan on quoting you quite a bit. You put so many things into perspective for me and have really gotten me to shape my mind about being in a LDR with a PCV, not just someone who lives on the opposite US coast. Wishing you all the best!!

Here is my response–

Your situation sounds really similar to ours–we had been dating for about eight months, and the entire time I knew that the Peace Corps was in his soon to be future.  Originally, we had been told that he would most likely be leaving after the holidays, but then he received the call.  There was an opportunity for him, to good to pass up, but he would have to leave in November.  I, too, remember feeling very mixed. I very clearly remember us being in the kitchen, making dinner and hearing about the offer. On one hand, I was very excited for his new adventure, particularly this group and country, but I also felt sick to my stomach. I also, didn’t want him to really know that either.  I remember him saying, “I think I need to go,” and I said simply, “I know.”

In terms of your other questions…

We actually didn’t have too many times when we were out of touch for that long.  I believe the longest was actually when he first arrived, and then it took probably about a month for him to get settled in and get a phone.  In the time in between, I wrote him a ton of emails, and wrote in my journal A LOT.  I felt very sad.  Another thing that really helped was just feeling connected to him through mutual friends or even his family.  His mom and sister were really amazing about checking in with me.  Friends were also good.

Worries about his safety–before he left I told him that if he ever felt like he was in a somewhat dangerous situation to just pretend like I was there with him, and so he would feel more responsible for his own safety (or mine).  A couple months into his training he was out by himself at night, and came to a really dark empty road and saw a dog–he said that my voice popped into his head reminding him that he had to protect me/us also, so he turned back–maybe he would have anyway, but I think because I really made him think about that it was just more than his safety at stake, it was me or my heart (I know that is kind of cheesy) but honestly kind of true.  I didn’t worry too much about his safety, because it was kind of pointless–that said, I did become really good at reading current Kenya news, so I became more familiar with the political situation. Mainly I would sometimes get worried about his health, but I also knew that if things got really bad he would come home, and I had to trust him to make those calls on his own.  Ultimately though, I had to let those worries go, there was nothing for me to do.

The fidelity issue.  I wasn’t worried.  There were times when I wondered who these new people were that he was meeting, and maybe it partially crossed my mind, but funny enough, we were in such consistent contact I honestly think it would have been impossible for either of us to cheat, without the other one knowing.  I also think it’s funny that the assumption is that the PCV could cheat, and not the person back at home.  This came up once with one of my girlfriends, and she said to me, “You do realize that he’s going to be around all these people who take bucket baths, and you are around clean, well dressed people all the time.” Ha!  Anyway, I guess the point is, just be consistent about your communication, and be honest about everything.  If you feel down, happy, anything let him know–it’s important that you build this free flow of information, so you build trust and a great strength in your relationship.

Visiting–I visited four times in the two years.  You’re not allowed to visit during training, and then for the first three months of ther service.  I believe there is also another rule about not visiting at the end of the service (maybe last couple of months) but I think that one might be more lax. Each trip was about 2.5-3 weeks.  Your visits will most likely depend on his work schedule.  If he’s a business volunteer, he should have more flexibility for vacation time, if he’s in school, the breaks and trainings will determine availability.  I wish I could have snuck in a fifth trip, but it just didn’t work out for us.  The longest we were physically apart was about seven months, and that was rough.  I really struggled at one point with the sadness, but made it through.  It’s during those times, it’s important to voice your frustrations/sadness and maybe plan a date night together.

Thanks for all the questions.  It’s so bittersweet for me to read past entries, and remember that time period when he was in Kenya.  It seems so long ago, but that part of our lives was such an important part of our story and creation as a couple.

Have you decided where you will live after the Peace Corps?

Just watched the movie with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long about long-distance dating….wanted to share some thoughts.

It seems to me their biggest problem was the uncertainty of when they would be together, which is not really an issue of a Peace Corps LDR.  That said, the element of where to live, was a hot issue in the film, which is also a point after Peace Corp is over and you can be in the same place more easily but still have to worry about a job (especially for a returning PCV) where it might be a bit of a challenge (especially in today’s economy).

There was a point while my boyfriend was in Kenya where I did need to know what was going on in his head about where he wanted to live after since we had never explicitly discussed what would happen.  I can’t remember exactly what it was that prompted me, but it was on my third visit to Kenya, and I noticed that there were certain times when referring to the future that instead of using the word “we” he would use the word “I” which honestly made me a tad nervous. I was still fairly confident that the future held a life that would include “us” not just him, but I decided to clarify one night. So I brought up “the after” time and what that meant for us….did he envision going to work in another country or another state if the opportunity was a good one career-wise or was he planning to be where I was living regardless. Again, even though I thought I knew the answer, I needed to absolutely be sure, because I didn’t want a surprise after the two years to hit me with him in yet another country and a continuation of a long-distance relationship, that I could not do, two years was my limit.  Same for the idea of him extending his service to three years, which I also brought up as a concern early on, and even though I don’t think he eliminated that idea from the get go, I think as our relationship progressed and time passed in his service, he knew the best thing for him and us was only  serving out the two years.

So back to where we would live after his service.  My career is very specific to geography, and I knew for me that the two places I could happily live and pursue my passion were Los Angeles and New York. So for him to find a job, I gave him those two areas as an option for looking for a job. Luckily he found something in the field he wanted close by, so we didn’t have to make any real tough decisions, but at one point when it was looking kind of difficult to really secure a position in one of those areas, we started the conversation of potentially living an hour away from each other by plane which neither of us was super thrilled about.  Our goal was to live in the same city, and until we had exhausted that potential, we really didn’t want t think or talk too much about different cities.

I would definitely recommend that the conversation of where you will live is discussed maybe 2/3 of the way through your PCV’s service–it will help both of your expectations and help them target jobs in the areas that they will be seeking.

A Peace Corps LDR That’s Not Working Out

I received this really heartfelt entry from someone, and since she asked for advice, I wanted to share it with all of you:

I have read your blog, and i have actually copied and pasted some of  your stuff to my boyfriend who is now been in the peace corps for 3  months! hes in Georgia! we have been dating for 8 years.. and I thought  if any couple could make it, it would be us.. but a month ago things  were not the same, and to put it all out there, he said we couldn’t be  together while he was in georgia! this was over skype. I had no idea  where all this was coming from!! months before he left, we talked about  how things would be ok, and the night before he left, he left two  beautiful letters, and I knew things would be fine.. I don’t know what  happend. I’m 22 and hes 25.. we have been in each others lives, since I  was 14. I’m still in shock and very hurt, I knew the distance would be  hard, but I was planning on visiting as much as possible. I have talked  to friends, and they said, maybe he wants to find himself, figure things  out on his own. I have stopped emailing him and giving it time.. I’m  just lost and hurt. I still believe things will be fine when he comes  home (july 2013). We have eight years together, and strong promises of  marriage was made. I believe in love, and the power it has, and I wont  give up on us! but am I a fool to wait around for two years? what if he  does not want us back… a good part of my life has been with him, and i’m  scared to go on without him.
We have been living together for a long time, most of his stuff is still  at my place.. we have a dog together, we used to be a family.
My friends and family say, its now time to focus on me and finishing  college, but its hard.. I miss my best friend. But he knows what he has  back home, someone who loves him! I know he knows that. I guess if hes  looking for that, he will come back to me.. I hope
Some advice would be great.
Thanks so much!!

-confused girl

Dear Confused Girl,

Thank you so much for writing.  I am going to have to wing some of the advice to you, because our situation was a bit different than yours.  We were older, and had been together for less time than you and your boyfriend.

I think a lot of people use the Peace Corps to “find themselves” and sometimes in order to do that people need to leave behind the ones they love. Since you have been together since such a young age, perhaps he really does need/want to figure out who he is without you. I know it is super tough to be without the one you love, especially after being together for such a long time, but I think you should also really take this opportunity to figure out who you are without him. 

Don’t wait for him or put your life on hold. The best thing you can do is live your life, as you want. If in two years he returns and you get back together, great, but don’t live the next two years with that as the goal, or else you will be waiting, not living which will not be particularly interesting for you or him.  He is having his own adventure, I would suggest you do the same. Take up an activity that maybe you always wanted to try, but never found the time to pursue-do new things, and keep yourself busy.

I’m sure you’ve heard this from friends/family, and I hesitate to say this because I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but as someone who did find love at a young age, and didn’t know if I would really truly find it again (and happily I have)–know that there are other people out there, that you can find love again, and you have plenty of time to have adventures and find someone who will be the match you ultimately need. Enjoy your life, and let him go, it will be tough and a true struggle some days, but please just live your life for you, not for him, and ultimately I promise you will find the partner you need.


My Boyfriend’s Advice for Peace Corps LDR at the Beginning

Recently, a reader asked about my boyfriend’s perspective on what a person at home should do–particularly at the beginning when the Peace Corps Volunteer is in training. I thought it was a great idea to ask for my boyfriend’s opinion, and it was fun to hear what he had to say.  I’m including the original question, my boyfriend’s response and then my feedback–kind of a long blog today, but hopefully it will be helpful!

From a reader:

Hi! I want to thank you so much for sharing all your experiences! It was such a great moment when I got to see your blog. My boyfriend just start his volunteer time in Kenya a month ago… and I’ve been experiencing lots of different feelings about it.

For one side, I feel so proud of him… because I see how he is actually truly living what he wants.. but at the same time it’s so tough been so far away from him… Actually, I feel that the toughest part is that we’re not able of being in contact all the time, since he is very focus on his training…

Anyway… I really understand that, because probably I would do the same if I was in his position.

Well, I decide to write you because I would like to ask you if you could advise me about what are the most important aspect that I should take care about him… I mean, what do they need most at the beginning?

During these last weeks I’ve been trying to keep writing him, to let him know that still when we’re not talk for a while, he is still present in my day a day life. Trying to share with him what I’m doing here, and somehow… trying to keep our communication as it was before he left.

But I’m not sure if that is actually what he needs now, so since your boyfriend is already back… I wanted to ask you if you guys could give me some advises about what kind of support I should give him.

And my second question is if at the beginning is when they actually need more time with their self to get use to all that new experience?

Well… I thank you again for all your help & for sharing such a amazing experience with me.

All the best for this new step that you are taking together!!



Here’s the response from my boyfriend:

For me, I don’t think I really needed lots of contact from home.  So much was going on during training that too many letters to read might actually have felt like a burden.  (But then again I was confident that things would be OK even with the communication hiatus.)

I think the best she can do is keep her cool (not get upset if he doesn’t respond often enough) and line her comments up with his.  If she tries to write to him like everything’s the same, he might see her as being incredibly distant and irrelevant.  She needs to respond to his observations and his mood in an agreeable way so that he feels like she’s still there for him when he needs it.

Nothing is a guaranteed recipe for success but I think that’s what worked best for me.  What works best for her is another matter.  He likely won’t be able to be supportive until he settles into his site, so if she needs that support soon, she’s going to be disappointed.

Now here’s my response:

Honestly, I was a little surprised by my boyfriend’s response, especially the letters and writing feeling like a burden to him. I also thought that I had written to him a lot, especially at the beginning, since my emotions were running so high. I definitely kept a journal I wrote in every night, which I tried scanning and sending him some pages–but those were difficult for him due to bandwidth issues, so I stopped sending those through.  I also remembered sending him an email almost every day, just so he would know I was thinking about him. I looked at my emails and his from the first three months to give you all an idea of the frequency that we emailed.  Now, please keep in mind that not all the emails either of us sent were long, juicy emails, some of them were one-liners. So here’s a breakdown of how many emails were exchanged in the first three months:

Month 1: I sent him 55 emails (he sent me 29 emails).

Month 2: I sent him 54 emails (he sent me 36 emails)

Month 3 (please remember that since his training was only two months, he was actually at his site by this time): I sent him about 80 emails (he sent me 42 emails).

In looking at our emails, I did notice there were some days where we wouldn’t email at all, and others where there might be 4-5 quick emails.  I do remember my boyfriend at one point mentioning feeling bad about not being able to respond to everything. It must have been tough for him at the beginning, without regular internet access and then knowing that every time he would have access, he needed to respond to my emails (and his family’s and friends’).

I also liked the point my boyfriend mentioned about needing the person at home, to respond to how the Peace Corps volunteer is feeling and their experiences.  At one point, I actually itemized all of his volunteer friends in an email, with small descriptions, so I could keep them straight in my mind when we talked about them. It was also as a good way for him to know that I had been listening to his stories about people that he was meeting.

The bottom line is that we did keep in touch a lot, even at the beginning BUT during his training, there was not a ton of free time for him to have long conversations or access to write long emails and I did need to be patient, and really put his needs above mine. There would be days where he couldn’t write, and it was so tough at times, but then when an email would come from him, it would feel great and reaffirm that everything was going to be okay between us.

One more thought, I’ll leave you with—even though I sent my boyfriend what might seem like a lot of emails, there were days where I wanted to be even more connected to him, or wanted to tell him everything that was going on with me; I also didn’t want to burden him with all of my thoughts/feelings though as he was embarking on his own physical and emotional journey. This is where my personal journals came in handy-I could write all that I wanted to, and get any emotions out. Funny enough, I also think it helped to write with a pen and paper as opposed to typing (maybe there was less temptation that way to send it an email).  It also felt more personal that way, like a kid writing in a diary.