Will and I will celebrate our two-year anniversary on Wednesday. In honor of this occasion, we are reflecting a bit on what it’s like to be a married couple in the Peace Corps.
About 10% of Peace Corps volunteers are married. In Indonesia, out of 67 volunteers, four of us are married (two couples). As with anything, being a married couple in the PC has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore the pros and cons:
Companionship The most obvious advantage is that you aren’t alone in this crazy adventure. I always have someone to come home to, vent to, ask if that weird food is also hurting his stomach, etc. I can’t imagine doing this alone, and, quite frankly, at this point in my life I would not be doing this if I weren’t doing it with my husband. Props to the other 90% of PCVs out there who are.
Preparation for Parenthood What? How can living with no responsibilities for two years prepare you for parenthood? Well, there are a few reasons I say this. First of all, there are a gazillion children in Indonesia and they are all incredibly adorable. We have fallen in love with a number of them. We spend more time with children here than we ever did in our lives in DC. Second, before Peace Corps, Will and I really didn’t talk much about things that…how should I say this? Happen in the bathroom? I know many married couples have no issues with this, but lets just say we liked to keep the mystery in this department. Well, when you join the Peace Corps, you can only sit through so many medical sessions on diarrhea and try so many new foods before you’ve made some major progress in this area (see the mention in our last post on the effects of papaya). Pretty important that we get over that before kids, yeah?
Built in Vacation Partner/Roommate/Dinner Companion I know I can always find someone to take a vacation with me and I always have a roommate for training. In addition, when I want to get out in my community and eat at a local warung, take a run, or explore, I don’t have to do it alone.
Double the Invitations Will and I are almost always invited places together. Even when I’m invited somewhere without Will’s name ever being mentioned and I show up alone people say “why didn’t Will come?!” We’ve come to learn that we can basically assume that an invitation for either of us is an invitation for both. This means we each have twice the opportunity for meeting new friends and community integration. We both know each other’s teaching counterparts and fellow teachers now. We’ve been to each other’s counterparts homes. It’s a great benefit! Makes the all important “community integration” aspect of Peace Corps about 100 times easier.
Fighting? What fights? When you remove normal responsibilities or stresses from the daily life of a married couple there’s little to get upset about. We don’t have to cook or clean our house, we aren’t allowed to have kids here, and we both make the exact same amount of money and it covers all of our needs and all the ice cream we want. In our free time we plan tropical vacations. Between the Peace Corps, our host family, and our host family’s housekeeper (I know, right?!), our daily, weekly and monthly needs are taken care of. This might be the most leisure-filled and privileged our life will ever seem (who would have thought?). Sure, when we go back to the U.S., we’ll face real life again, but we get to hit the restart button. We get to think about what worked and didn’t work for us before, and reestablish the division of labor and responsibilities when we transition back to the real world. Most married couples rarely get that opportunity in such a clean way.
Dependence About eight weeks into training I realized I had never taken an angkot (minibus) by myself, nor had I walked around our training village by myself! Everyone else had by that point traveled alone or walked alone I am sure. That first time was weird, but I did it and it wasn’t a big deal. The first time I took the bus back to Malang from our permanent site I was traveling solo and it was very strange. It made me realize how dependent I am here on Will’s companionship. The longer I am here, the more independent I become, but it will take me much, much longer than other volunteers to get to that point.
Language Skills Will and I speak only English when we are together. Because we spend a lot of time together, and our family probably feels like they don’t need to keep us company, we are speaking much less bahasa Indonesia than most volunteers, and our language skills are improving much slower because of that.
Space Luckily, we are one of those couples who can spend a lot of time together and we are both extroverts. However we are living together in the smallest bedroom either of us has ever slept in (alone), with no closet and no wardrobe and there are two of us. Single volunteers only have one person worth of stuff in their rooms. Despite our efforts to keep things tidy, there is stuff everywhere. We have clothes hanging on our mosquito net, electronics and toiletries on the top of our dresser, and, if we try to move around the room to do anything, we either bump into our floor fan, our dresser or each other. This is a constant source of frustration for me. Luckily we have a sitting room outside our bedroom, because we’d go crazy otherwise. In addition, there’s not a lot of opportunity for spending time alone. Alone time is something that most volunteers feel that they get too much of. Maybe we’d like just a tad every now and then!
I’m sure over the course of the next 22 months, I’ll have some new insights into this, and I plan to write about it again later. But for now I feel very happy that I’m doing this with Will. The pros definitely outweigh the cons! Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go eat some ice cream and book a flight to Bali.