There is No ‘first date’ When Being a Peace Corps Volunteer.
An assumption my family & friends are constantly buzzing around is that I’ll find the love of my life while serving in Peace Corps. Let me clear the air by stating that Peace Corps is not a dating service nor a marriage agency. With that being said, there may be some truth to the saying that when you surround yourself with people on the same mission as you- I suppose it can be relatively easy to fall for one of them.
Peace Corps Volunteers are grouped together in cohorts and sent to developing countries for our service. We don’t get to pick who is in our cohort, headquarters put us together based on the type of work we will be doing abroad. I met the other 34 members of my cohort in Philadelphia, then we all hopped on the plane together to South Africa.
We all fall in to 1 of 3 categories: 1. married and serving with your spouse, 2. in a relationship with someone back in America, or 3. (most are) single…wondering what their romantic life will be like these next two years. Speaking from personal experience, I came to this country without dating being on my priority list, I hadn’t given it much thought (ahem, already kinda wifed up at the time). I came to work, to immerse myself in my village and to try to make an impact in whatever way I can. Saving the world and such. After being in country for a bit, I quickly realized that Peace Corps can be like an extension of college life . . . if you replace the college keggers with humanitarian work.
“How often do you see other volunteers?”
Volunteers work full-time, most weekdays, but when weekends come around, we look for every opportunity to get together with other PCVs and rage face for 2 days before starting the cycle all over again. There are a lot of Dr. Phil venting sessions fueled by booze and tears, and yes, there is sex too, all mixed in with hikes, safaris & a general interest in exploring Africa’s terrain. Here is a funny read about sex and the Peace Corps from a fellow (sex ninja) RPCV.
I didn’t expect to be in such close proximity to other volunteers, to be able to see them basically every weekend. I didn’t expect booze to be so readily available, and so God-awfully cheap! It’s like summer camp for over-sized kids who want to save the world! And most of all, I didn’t expect romance to creep up into volunteer life as much as it has.
“Do people date in Peace Corps?”
The struggle is that there are no ‘first dates’ in Peace Corps. While people in first world countries can say things like “let’s get to have coffee” or “let’s get together for lunch one afternoon” if you want to spend a little time getting to know someone interesting, us PCVs are trying to navigate through a different structure of dating…“Wanna spend the weekend together?”
Yeah, you’re going to have to speed through a feeeeeeew steps.
We have to travel several hours on public transportation to visit each other, so visits are not simply for a few hours only. If you think you might have a connection with someone, you spend an entire weekend together to explore that spark. Nightlife and other forms of entertainment are so uncommon here, that you’ll spend a lot of face time just getting to know each other without the distractions of other people or noisiness of clubs.
So it’s like the opposite of Tinder . . .
Here is a video for someone else P.C. love story:
“Do PCVs only date other PCVs?”
I’m glad you asked. There are PCVs who date HCNs (host country nationals), but that’s a whole nother beast. We came to this country to fight HIV, and sadly some PCVs leave this country having contracted the virus themselves. So while mixing & mingling with South Africans may seem enticing and easy, a lot of PCVs steer clear of this temptation and turn to other PCVs to satisfy the natural need for carnal embrace.
“Is it true people will want to marry because they want to become US citizens?”
The answer is Yes, and it’s extremely annoying. Walking to and from work everyday, it is common to hear “I love you baby I want to marry you” being shouted in my direction from across the road. These guys are partially just being asses, but mostly serious. They will cat-call, stalk you, and shout marriage proposals over & over until they get your attention- all over the assumption that marrying an American girl will somehow grant them American citizenship, wealth and fame. It’s almost like being creeped on by Sype at a club.
The host country females are on this same hype too. “Do you have any brothers?” is a common question chicks like to ask me. I guess in the hopes that I’ll organize a betrothal for them to an American man. Why does everyone think America is so great? Hahaha. If they only knew the truth . . .
Romantic relationships blossom in a peculiar way when serving in the Peace Corps, and maneuvering the ebb & flow of volunteer life becomes more bearable when you have another PCV to hold your hand through it. They say roughly 80% of PCVs return to America in love. I don’t know how much I trust stats floating around the internet, but it gives you an idea of what Peace Corps dating is like.
Don’t feel sorry for us though! At least we are able to avoid the awkward self consciousness that comes with first dates, as described by Wedding Crashers’ Vince Vaughn: