Watching Movies Together in a LDR

Date night was wonderful! Was very fun, I felt incredibly loved, and the whole experience made me very happy. I hope any of you in a Long Distance Relationship get to experience a “movie night” also, as it is super fun and a great way to connect.

Biggest comment about date night is actually a tip for anyone who wants to try watching a video at the same time with your partner while still remaining on Skype. The biggest problem is the audio sync situation.  You want to make sure that you are watching the movie at the same time, but also that you are not distracted by constantly making sure you are in sync.  Last “movie night” my bf had the PAL version which made an exact sync impossible as I was watching NTSC, which meant I kept having to catch up to his timing. This date night we both had NTSC, so it was much better.  I spent a little time at the beginning getting us to pause and play at the beginning so we would be in sync and it was pretty accurate.  The problem was the echo which was a bit distracting.  I ended up just muting my TV, and listening to the sound out of the Skype from my bf’s computer.  There was only one time I had to re-sync us, but the method of only having one source of audio was much easier and doable.

Yay, for date night!  It was exactly what I needed to put a little pep in my step.

It’s the Little Things

As you know, I’ve been feeling a little down lately about not having the kind of quality time I would want from a relationship.  It’s a tough balance to know what you should expect/need from a long-distance relationship; it is really truly unique to each couple.  There have been a few Peace Corps long distance relationships I’ve heard about firsthand where the boyfriend was abroad and the girlfriend was back in the states, and they decided to speak about once a week, or every two weeks.  That method was not for me. I know how I am after two days without talking, so two weeks seemed incredibly difficult.  In both cases, I heard the relationships ended, and the guys found local girls to date.

When you enter a long distance relationship, particularly with someone in a situation as unique as the Peace Corps, you have to make a decision; are you in it for real?  Are you in the long-distance relationship because you want that relationship to last, or are you only in it with a half-hearted attempt, knowing it will probably end.  My bf and I were both clear with each other about what we’ve wanted from the beginning. We found each other (which doesn’t happen every day), we love each other, we have fun together, we help pick each other up and are stronger because of the other–and so with that kind of rare find, we knew we wanted to give our relationship every chance to succeed, which meant as much communication as possible.

Even though I voiced my frustrations and my sadness over the past few days, I also started looking at ways I could help myself power through and not rely as heavily on him.  So this weekend, I made plans for myself.  I took more control of my own social life, made sure I wasn’t sitting around feeling lonely.  Meanwhile, I still felt this nagging that I still wanted a little more from my bf, and that there were only so many ways I could help myself—but I also didn’t want to dwell on it too much, since I had already voiced my frustrations, I just wanted to keep going.

The wonderful thing about telling a guy exactly what you need, is that sometimes (more likely than not) he will actually give you exactly what you need.  This week he proved to me that he has been listening and cares about how I’ve been feeling, which made me the happiest girl ever.  First, we had quality, quality video Skype time—which in short was…wonderful.  We talked for two hours and during that time, we both talked about our daily experiences, creative projects we’re working on and just overall had a lovely catch up session.  During that time, he also made it a point to skip a daily meeting he usually attends (which is not mandatory but makes him more active in the community) and the best thing of all, he made sure that we would have time to have a date this weekend!  He even asked me when I would be available, and even though he had other social events available to him, he wanted to make sure that the time we picked would be good and convenient for me, regardless of his other events. I felt incredibly loved and felt like I/us was the priority, which made me feel all warm inside and thankful.

So tomorrow we have our date, morning my time, evening his time.  I will eat sugary cereal and he will eat dinner—and we will chat over our meal, and then we will watch a romantic comedy together that he recommended.  I am super excited about our date, and even happier about all his wonderful thoughtful gestures. Now the only worry I have is hoping that his power stays on!

202 Days and Counting

Sometimes it helps me to think about things in terms of numbers/percentages—when my bf first left, I wondered if I should look at our time apart in term of days, weeks or months.  I think I settled on weeks, even though some of my earlier letters to him would indicate how many days he had been gone.  After a while, we got into our groove and I stopped notating the dates, until now.  I am thinking about time left/days left and today I calculated that if he comes back on his official end date and not any sooner (which is possible), we have 202 days left of his Peace Corps Service.  To put in perspective, I also figured out that his entire service is 792 days (2 years and 2 months), which means that we are 74% through his term.  I know this might be a little extreme to do all these calculations, but honestly it helps me.  I have even been toying with the idea of making a countdown chain, like the same kind I had when I was younger to countdown for Christmas; not sure if I will go that far, but it’s tempting.

I was talking to one of my girlfriends about how I’m feeling and she mentioned a couple things that made me feel better.  She mentioned that what my bf and I have done so far, 20 months in a long distance relationship, has been amazing.  That the 20 months in a long distance relationship is something I should feel good about but that on top of everything ours has been a cross-continental relationship, so what we have accomplished is incredible.  The other thing she mentioned which I completely appreciated is that she said the “homestretch” is always the most difficult.  She asked me to think about someone running a marathon, and how that last couple of miles is brutal, and there is a point where you might just want to throw in the towel because it has been so tough (fyi, I by no means want to throw in the towel), but ultimately when you hit that last mile and cruise in, it feels wonderful because you accomplished what you set out to do.  So I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for feeling this way, and am trying to envision the finish line.

The other thing my friend warned me about is that when your long-distance relationship is finally ending and you are going to be in the same place finally, there are a lot of fears.  She mentioned when she moved out to California to be with her bf (years ago), they started arguing more frequently right before she moved out.  In retrospect, she attributed much of the fighting to the fear she was facing by finally getting to be in the same place with the guy, and what it would actually be like, and all that she was leaving behind.  It was good to hear her perspective, because although that has not been happening with me and my bf, I could definitely see how those feelings could manifest.

I guess today was a better day for everything.  I had a conversation that helped me feel better about how I’m feeling, and last night I spent a hour on video Skype with my bf.  So all is getting better…and just think, by this weekend, we will have less than 200 days left until he gets back.

Long Distance Relationships Aren’t Always Easy

So the last week has been a struggle for me.  I am definitely feeling my boyfriend’s absence and it is tough.  I hate not being able to be stronger about him gone, but honestly I am struggling.

To be specific, I am feeling alone and not being in the same place has started taking its toll.  We have been apart at this interlude for five months, and by the time I see him next it will be seven months.  I know we can make it, that I can make it (we are more than 75% through his time in the Peace Corps) but it’s just tough right now for me.  I miss my partner, I miss my friend and I miss my boyfriend.  I want to share my bed at night with him again, and I want to have conversations that are not restricted by my work schedule, his classes, bedtimes or our time zones (Kenya is ten hours ahead of California).

And the amazing thing is that we have video Skype, we are so fortunate. We get to see each other almost every day.  I guess maybe we (I) got spoiled. For a while we were seeing each other on Skype twice a day, once in the morning and again at night. In the last few weeks though, due to his schedule and then my vacation and then his schedule, our time has been limited, and I’ve started feeling the effects of his absence.  It’s no one’s fault, it’s just the circumstance and I’m feeling a bit frustrated and sad.

I also don’t like how this struggle affects me and then subsequently him. I don’t like being the needy girl who needs her guy to be there, and then by voicing it makes him feel bad.  Again, I wish I was stronger right now, but I also need to remind myself that it’s only for a few more months, and also that for the most part I’ve done pretty well in 20 months; so a moment of sadness here and there is okay.  I just wish he wasn’t so far away, so we could just have a weekend together here and there.  Above all, I wish the person who is working on the teleporter would hurry up already; there are people in long distance relationships that will be overjoyed once it’s finished.

The Weekends + LDR + Peace Corps Social Life

The hardest time to be in a LDR is the weekends.  Yes, other times are difficult as well, but I think the weekends are the toughest.  On the positive side, I get to do a lot of organizing, errand-running and cleaning done during that time, but honestly it’s a bit tough at nights.  I actually have really enjoyed my nights in, watching horribly wonderful bad TV but there are many nights when I wish my BF was home.  It’s interesting because honestly I have really only been feeling his weekend absence more strongly recently in the last couple of months. Maybe this is because he has been gone for over a year and a half now, so the novelty of alone time is starting to wear off, or maybe again because I haven’t seen him in a while.  Whatever it is, I am feeling a bit lonely without my partner to be by my side at parties or shows, or even for a night at home.

Part of the weekend absence is also made a bit more difficult due to a Peace Corps volunteer’s social life. The weekends are the time when all the volunteers in the Peace Corps get together for a party, site visits, etc. Which makes our hours-long weekend Skype chats non-existent and postpones our potential dates (watching a movie at the same time).  That said, I am incredibly happy that my bf has such an awesome group of friends over there, I think it would be so much tougher for him if he had nothing to do on the weekends than it is for me. I can at least drive to places in my car or go see a show and not worry about curfews or being out at night by myself in a strange country.  I also love how awesome his friends have been to me when I’ve visited and it has been really cool to get to know them, and realize that they will be in touch for many more years to come.

So, yes, the weekends are tough when you are in a long-distance relationship, but always in these kinds of situations I try to remember that this is a temporary situation and in a few months we will have all the couple weekend time we can handle, so I am trying to enjoy this alone time as much as possible.

Alone Time

One of my friends is currently doing a little bit of a LDR thing with her husband.  He is working in another state during the week and flying home on the weekends to be with her.  They have been trying to stay positive by appreciating their weekends together because it has been more quality time, and they have looked at their weekends as mini vacations.  On Facebook today though she posted “appreciates alone time but this is getting to be ridiculous”.  I laughed and completely understood.

When my bf joined the Peace Corps, we also tried to look at the long-distance relationship in a positive light.  We would get to do our own thing for two whole years, see each other every few months, be in a committed relationship but get to live our own lives more independently.  Fortunately, for the most part, the experience has been a good one for us–we’ve become closer friends/partners, appreciated each other more, fallen more in love, and I’ve definitely become a better communicator and learned how to express myself more clearly (sidenote– huge tip–if you are in a long distance relationship, especially for the girls out there–if something is bothering you or you need something from your guy JUST TELL HIM, don’t make him guess or hope he will know, JUST TELL HIM WHAT YOU WANT OR NEED–he is not a mind reader and will appreciate the directness–this is one of the best things I’ve learned in our time apart, and can apply not only for LDRs but for regular relationships).

I also feel more settled, and I have absolutely enjoyed the alone time, time for myself for reflection about my past, present and future–has honestly been a really good experience for me…however, I’m ready for him to come home now.  We have a little less than seven months left (less if they let him out in time for the holidays), and while I know the time will fly by, I’m ready to start living my life in the same place together.

Part of this longing for the alone time to be over, and for our life to start together, is also because we haven’t seen each other in person for almost five months–we have only been apart this long once (before my first visit to Kenya).  Yes, we see each other on Skype but the virtual smiles can’t compare to holding your partner’s hand or making out! For this second year, I had really intended to see him every 3-4 months but work and other travel plans didn’t permit that scenario, so this in between time will actually be seven months (writing that here makes it seem even worse–yikes!).

Recently, someone posted a comment on my blog asking if we were still together because I hadn’t written in a while and my blog was inspiring her because her boyfriend is joining the Peace Corps soon.  I shared this with my bf and he said, tell her to visit as much as possible or possibly move there to be with him.

I am all for the visiting as much as possible–I feel like we have been fortunate as I have visited three times so far and by the time he comes home it will be four times.  Some people might say to themselves, “Yikes, four times in a 26 months??!  That is not for me!” but for us, it has been okay, not perfect, but it has worked. It has given us alone time, individual and together adventures which has been very, very cool–and I definitely love him more now than before.

Moving to be with your partner in the Peace Corps is a tough decision–I definitely kicked the idea around, but ultimately, I think we both still wanted our alone time, our own set of adventures before joining up again.  My bf does have a Peace Corps Volunteer friend whose girlfriend did move to be with him, she was lucky enough to have a job skill she could use to find work with a little bit of pay–they seem happy, so it has worked for them.  The problem with that scenario (I think) is the possible pressure for both people.  It’s tough enough when someone moves to another city in the same country for you, but to add another country, with trying circumstances (limited water supply, humble living area, culture differences and no real support system) it is a completely different story.  I also think if you do want to move to the same city where your boyfriend or girlfriend is during their Peace Corps Service, you need to visit there at the minimum one time, preferably twice, so you are incredibly clear on what you would be getting into with your every day living (don’t just visit during their vacation time). Personally, I know I would have gotten a lot of satisfaction doing my own kind of community service if I had moved to be with my bf, but I also know that not having some luxuries (ie. not having a regular shower every day and just doing bucket baths) could be trying, especially living as a couple. Ultimately it was not the right decision for us.

All of that said, I feel like I am in a bit of countdown mode–preparing my life with my bf in the same place again.  I’ve had more than sufficient “Alone Time” and am ready for “Together Time”!

Peace Corps LDRs and the Danger Element, Literally

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Sorry, it’s been a busy couple of months for me with work–rest assured my bf and I are still together and very happy with each other.

Something came up though a few weeks ago that I wanted to mention about Peace Corps Long Distance Relationships, that I think people don’t always consider as part of the potential difficulty (I think this can also apply to military LDRs but I wanted to mention it from a Peace Corps perspective).  When a Peace Corps volunteer is sent to his or her service, they are intentionally sent to an underdeveloped location–the purpose is to help in the development and understanding of the community–to learn and grow from each other.  While this is an incredible appealing aspect of the PCV experience, the flip side is the potential dangers that are present when you serve in an underdeveloped community.

Case in point–a few weeks ago my bf was coming home from dinner with another PCV and they were both stopped by what first appeared to be beggars.  As the encounter progressed my bf and his friend were not let go by the “beggars” and soon realized that they were both being dragged to a truck on the road full of other Kenyans.  As they were dragged closer, they also saw a couple police officers present.  My bf managed to free himself, but when he looked over at his friend, he saw that he was still struggling (had his shirt off) and was almost to the truck.  They managed to get him free and ran back to my bf’s house which was less than a block away from where they had been dropped off by the matatu (bus service).

The following day, my bf discussed this experience with one of the teachers at the school and was told it was incredibly likely they were trying to kidnap them for ransom (with the “police” not actual police but Kenyans dressed that way).  With the police corruption high in Kenya, it’s difficult to say though if it really was or wasn’t the police–a common police corruption example is the police will get you off the street (mazungu or Kenyan) bring you to jail and accuse you of something so they can receive some “chai” a bribe for your release. Peace Corps Security didn’t seem to know either way if it was the police or a real kidnapping, and insisted that my bf and his friend report the incident to the police (personally I thought this was an extremely unsafe thing to do, because if the incident was police-related my bf was basically instructed to hand over all his personal info over to the ones who had tried to kidnap him). I digress….

Anyway, this incident made me think a lot about my bf’s safety, and how helpless I am over here.  If he had been kidnapped, what would/could I have done?  Fly to Kenya, where I don’t speak Kiswahili, where you never know who is in cahoots with the kidnapping and try to post his ransom, all in the hope that he is not hurt? After this happened, I looked up kidnapping cases in Kenya to see what could have happened.  For the most part it seemed that people are returned after ransom is given, see here for an example.

It’s interesting, you know?  I would imagine most “normal” LDRs (ie. people being away for college or due to a job) might worry about cheating or growing apart–but neither of those concerns enter my mind.  Instead, I worry that my bf might be kidnapped–but honestly, I try not to think about it too much or else I would drive myself crazy.  My bf is a smart guy, and he promised me at the beginning of his service he would come back in one piece, and I absolutely expect him to keep his promise.