[A three part series]
This is a 3 part musing about the wonderful feeling in life we call love. Explore love in its many wonderful forms through a PCV service. Believe it or not, this is a very complicated, but constant question asked by many; including a thorough, almost separate, application during the initial application to PC. Attempting to add some clarity to the burning question of, “how do volunteers deal with relationships during service,” I dissect what having love in PC means to me and my own experiences figuring it all out.
A two year service abroad hardly seems the place to form a love connection, but by the end of PC service each volunteer does make one. This isn’t necessarily with another person. Love is a many splendid things.
Unlike most volunteer services, we integrate and form a bond with our community. We fall in love with our surroundings and become part of the community. For some of us we acquire pets that give us unconditional love and support during those trying days of defeat. You are pushed to your limits and learn to love yourself better with every embarrassment, every awkward laugh, every forced smile, and especially every victory.
Though some days we are overexposed, most days we can admire the beauty and peace where we live; it is the way the sun rises and sets, at night how bright the sky is with stars, the simplicity of living in a mud hut (even with its hardships), and exotic animals that are just outside your door. We love being PCVs more days than we hate it.
Then there is the other form of love, a more tangible kind. There are volunteers who come in with spouses and must learn to tolerate a 24/7 environment together. Some say it is easy, some find it difficult, but you may find yourself more in love at the end for all you have been through together.
A small portion of volunteers join PC and leave their significant others behind. With mutual understanding they face the challenge of maintaining a long-distance relationship. Thousands of miles of separation, some not being able to ever make visits, and the inconsistency of technology, can either make or break a relationship. The lucky ones can visit and enjoy each other’s company for a time during service or enjoy daily conversation due to good connections. It requires a level of trust, understanding, and support to have a significant other in PC for 2 years.
The best relationships will thrive and grow. Though, if a relationship crumbles, it isn’t what you as a PCV or significant other did or didn’t do, but some people can’t handle the pressures of distance, and in the end those aren’t the people you would want as a partner anyway. As lousy as it may seem when a partner joins the PC, it tests the limits of trust, understanding, and support, and if he/she is standing at the end of the terminal when you go home, then it is a relationship worth keeping.
Now, the other half of most volunteers comes in single and unattached. Many have just severed relationships due to the strain a 2 year separation would have; others are happily single and ready to focus on themselves. Over the course of 2 years one thing is the same between these volunteers, many enter into a relationship of some kind. Whether with a fellow volunteer, or local, it is almost inevitable to create that kind of connection amid the isolation and loneliness.
With other volunteers you share a common bond and with locals you interact everyday and form friendships that can become more. Whomever it is with, many (not all) volunteers enter into relationships, flings, or long-term commitments when in PC. It can truly be a life-changing experience beyond 2 years of simply being a volunteer.
You can maintain being single in PC, but the bottom line is: there are all sorts of ways to fall in love during PC and by the end of service it is inevitable and you will experience it.