Last Peace Corps Long Distance Relationship Standing

My boyfriend informed me a couple weeks ago, that the last couple (besides us) in his PCV group, in a long distance relationship had ended.  So we are it–we are the last Peace Corps long-distance couple standing from his group.

This news, of course, made me reflect.  There have been tough times for me in this relationship, where I felt lonely or a little insecure about what would happen, but ultimately I think the reason we have worked is because we have communicated on almost a daily basis.  I also took my ego and the game playing out of the equation, and let myself cry and be needy sometimes.  I also wrote letters (in a journal) to my boyfriend when I was working through issues to help me sort out feelings, which was generally a great tool and sometimes helped me frame conversations (or reflect on them).

I want to reiterate for anyone thinking of embarking in a long distance relationship with someone in the Peace Corps that communication is key.  This week, we went about a day and a half without a real call or Skype chat and that was a lot of down time for me.  Yes, sometimes that happens, where we can’t have a lot of talk time, but really I do everything possible to make sure we get as much talking together time as possible.  It is so incredibly important.  I guess maybe it is also about how one views the boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic, or what you want for your relationship–but honestly what I want and have is a boyfriend who is my confidante, my support system, my rock and my best friend.  He is the person I love waking up to in the morning (even on Skype) and the one I brush my teeth with at night (again on Skype).  We are not just talking every other day or every week, we speak almost every day. It’s important for me that he knows everything that is going on in my life on a daily basis, and that I know everything that is going on in his.  It keeps us connected as partners.  Again, this might not be the relationship that everyone wants or needs, but this is the one we have chosen and has worked for us.

I also have wondered if the reason we have succeeded in our Peace Corps long-distance relationship is because we are a little older than most volunteers.  Most Peace Corps volunteers are right out of college, but we were a few years older when my boyfriend joined the Peace Corps, late 20s.  Due to our age, my experiences with relationships taught me what I wanted and how rare it was to have found what I did with my boyfriend.  I spent a long time figuring it all out in my 20s, about what worked and what didn’t. So when I finally figured it out, I could finally settle myself down and commit whole-heartedly (even though ironically once I found him, he moved to Africa after dating for a few months).  You have to find the humor in these kinds of things.

So maybe it’s the age, or simply finding the right person.  Whatever it is, if you do want to be in a long-distance relationship with a Peace Corps Volunteer, just remember that communication is the ultimate key.

My Last Ticket Is Booked!

I finally booked my ticket back to Kenya–it will be my final trip there before my boyfriend finishes his Peace Corps service.  I’m about 40 days away from getting on my last plane trip back to visit my bf and cannot wait to be in his arms again, and say a bittersweet goodbye to the place where I have spent the most time over the past two years (besides my own home in CA).   Am so looking forward to seeing him again, because it has been such a long time, but am also very aware that it will be my last trip to Kenya for a long time or even possibly (hopefully not) ever.

We are currently trying to determine where to spend our weekends, and if small side trips to other countries are doable or reasonable.  Even though Kenya is so close to so many other countries, the problem is that Kenya is a very poor country, so there are not a lot of Kenyans traveling, therefore airfare is not necessarily cheaper out of Nairobi than London for example.  The top options on our current list are Ethiopia (because it’s close) and Angola (because Kenya Airways is apparently having a special since they will start flying to that country soon).  So let’s see what we come up with!

We did make one major decision though about our travel plans, we decided where to spend our last weekend.  With all my trips out there, we had the luxury to stay in some really amazing places all over Kenya, and so we debated about whether to stay in a place we had been to previously or try something new.  We both are very adventurous, but since this is our last weekend together in Kenya, we decided to revisit one of our favorite places where we know what is available to us and take the guesswork out of whether or not we will like the locale we choose.  I think this was an excellent choice, and the more I think about this place, the happier I am.

Ramadan in Kenya

So I wrote this entry last October 2009…but I wanted to publish now anyway because this was such a cool experience.


I just got back from visiting my boyfriend in Kenya for the second time, and happened to be there during Ramadan.  My boyfriend had been fasting since the beginning of Ramadan (only cheating slightly by drinking liquids during the day).  When I got there I also joined him in the fasting for the last ten days of Ramadan. What a wonderful experience!

I have to say that he was better than I was, as it was a little difficult for me to adapt to no food during the day, particularly during the weekends when we stayed at beautiful resorts with delicious food all around us.  We managed to survive though, just fine and I am so thankful for his wonderful community who allowed us to break fast with them.  Every night we would come together under the stars, and sit on mats on the ground.  Together with students and a few teachers, we would eat big plates of beans, coconut rice, beef stew, chapati and what I can only describe as delicious sugar dough balls–all washed down with hot Chai tea.  Since I only eat seafood, sometimes these meals were a bit carb heavy, but it was still a really incredible experience to share that with his neighbors. The way they welcomed us completely into their community for this ritual was humbling.

Call Your Peace Corps Volunteer

A few weeks ago, I was feeling a little down, but now I am feeling so much better.  Most shocking of all, we have been without Video Skype for about a week because my bf is traveling for work.  So what have we been doing instead? Using the phone!  The good old-fashioned non-Internet phone, and it’s actually been fun and kind of nice.  Don’t get me wrong, Video Skype is still my communication technology of choice but I’ve been enjoying our calls.  It also has been reminding me of the period of time when we had limited Skype.

I’m going to repeat myself here, but please, if you are going to be in a long-distance relationship communicate as much as possible.  When we exclusively only have the phone available (and even w/Skype) we speak at least once a day (unless we are traveling), and more likely twice.  It is a wonderful way to stay connected and feel like the other person is really a part of your day.

Anyway, even though I am a huge fan of Video Skype, this post is basically to say that phone calls can be pretty wonderful also.

Questions & Tips For a Long Distance Relationship With a Peace Corps Volunteer

So…Your boyfriend or girlfriend has decided to join the Peace Corps.  Congratulations, you are with someone who wants to give of them self in a really amazing and challenging way!  In my situation, I was incredibly proud, excited for him and nervous about what it would all mean for us. Here are a few main things you need to ask yourself if you are going to be in a long distance relationship with a Peace Corps volunteer.

  • Are you absolutely committed to your partner?  Are you prepared to be away from someone for 27 months with only sporadic visits and be faithful to the relationship, to each other?
  • Are you prepared to put in the same effort that a daily in-person relationship takes (ie. speaking every day, knowing when your partner needs more attention and finding ways to make them feel loved every day)?
  • Do you trust your partner?  There is a lot of socializing in the Peace Corps, so you must trust your person and know they are committed to you (at the same time they must also trust you).
  • Is technology available to both of you? This question will actually need to be answered when your SO (significant other) actually gets to their real Peace Corps site, but it’s an important one, so it’s included.
    • I might sound like a broken record, but I cannot reiterate enough how important Video Skype has been to the success of our long distance relationship especially in this longer time apart. I realize only phones might be available in some situations, since some Peace Corps volunteers end up in obscure locations, but with Video Skype we stay connected, we get to see each others’ joy and sadness, which is incredibly important.  That said, I recently reflected on the fact that for the first couple of months we had sporadic email and sporadic phone calls–then that was followed by daily phone calls (1-2 times per day) w/weekly Video Skype when the internet wasn’t out, then Video Skype in the morning and night whenever we aren’t traveling.  We have definitely gone in phases, but Video Skype is wonderful.
  • Can you financially afford the in-person visits and the calling cards? And do you have the flexibility from work to visit? It is extremely important that you visit your Peace Corps boyfriend/girlfriend as much as possible so you maintain your connection to each other and also so you can relate to their experience and know their friends. By the time my bf comes home, I will have visited him four times (about 2-3 weeks each time).  Honestly, I think five times would have better, but we are working with what is available to us.

Okay, so now that you have answered “YES” to all of the above questions, here are my personal tips for surviving and growing in your Peace Corps Long Distance Relationship.

    • LDRs can be tough, so don’t make it tougher by playing games, communicate clearly when something is bothering you-don’t make your partner guess.
    • When people ask me how often my boyfriend and I talk, most are surprised to hear we talk at least once a day or twice (depending on our schedules).  You would speak to your regular boyfriend once a day, and fill them in on your daily life, so of course you should do the same in a LDR so you stay connected and share all aspects of your life. I actually get a bit frustrated and anxious when we can’t speak as often (we will deal with those feelings in another point later).
    • Find a way to communicate every day.  When my bf first went off to PC, we couldn’t get on the phone for a couple of weeks.  He also had extremely limited access to email, so I did a couple things to keep myself connected: 1) I would write him emails whenever I felt like mentioning something to him. 2) I kept a journal of letters I wrote to him at night to help me chronicle my feelings (this is also a great way to see a snapshot of your relationship).
    • Funny enough this is something that is stressed to PCVs also when they volunteer.
    • This one is sometimes tough for me, but it’s important—you never know what the situation will be for your PCV (living/work, etc), be flexible and adapt to the situation.
    • Time zones can also be tough, so you may need to take turns staying up late for the other.
    • This one is also sometimes tough for me, but by exercising patience you will keep yourself sane.
    • Sometimes there will be blackouts and your partner’s cell phone won’t work, or they will be stuck in trainings—just know that the situation will pass and you will be communicating regularly again-breathe.
    • Again, I repeat breathe.
    • Just because your partner is not right in front of you every day, this does not give you permission to take them for granted—this goes for both the PCV and PCVSO (Peace Corps Volunteer Significant Other).
    • Make sure they know they are loved by making time for the other (ie. little emails or texts help).
    • You both will have busy social calendars, make sure you make room for each other in those schedules.
    • If you feel you are not getting enough time together, say something and be creative about finding a way to feel connected.  If you don’t say anything, the distance will grow and you face the potential issue of disconnecting.
    • My bf had to go into town and contact an Internet provider to install something on his roof to get Internet.  It costs him about half his monthly PC allowance.
    • If your PCV did not bring any additional savings for these kinds of situations, consider giving your PCV the money—it benefits both of you and will be incredibly worth it.
    • There will be times when you are tired, sad, lonely, and frustrated.  That is okay, your partner lives halfway around the world.
    • Let yourself feel that way, talk to your partner, talk to your friends, remind yourself that your PCV is coming home soon to you!
    • You both will have ups and downs in your life apart-sometimes relationship related, but mostly life related—support each other and take turns being the shoulder to lean on.

I think I will add on to this list as more things come to mind…but at least this is a good start!

Rules for our Peace Corps Long-Distance Relationship

In a blog comment recently I was asked what our rules are for our Peace Corps Long Distance Relationship.  My answer is simple, we want to be together, so we choose to be 100% committed to each other.  Nothing is open, it is a real relationship with daily communication and yes, sometimes it takes work (just like any relationship).

It might seem incredible to some that I choose to be in a committed relationship with someone who lives oceans away and who I only see every few months, but I love this man. The thought of jeopardizing it by casually dating others isn’t an option for either of us.  Personally, I think once that door is opened you have basically said it’s okay if the relationship doesn’t work, and you are not completely committed to seeing it through. Can I be proven wrong? Sure, there is that chance that if you’re in an open LDR you might at the end realize how much you love the other one, but for me, I found the guy I want to be with, so I don’t want to risk losing what I waited so long to find. I wouldn’t have an open relationship with someone I wanted to be with if he was here in person, so why change the rules for a LDR? I would rather spend the weekends with my girlfriends or alone in order to ensure that at the end of my boyfriend’s time in the Peace Corps we are still together.