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.