Natalie Green is a Practical English for Success (PES) volunteer serving in a pueblo in Atlántico, Colombia.
Before joining the Peace Corps I made the very unconventional decision to get married. We hadn’t been dating for that long before I got my invitation for service, but I knew that I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to come to Colombia to serve in the Peace Corps and I also didn’t want to miss out on a life with this person. He felt the same way, thank goodness, so we quickly got married and enjoyed nearly 6 months of marriage before I left for service. I’m no expert on relationships, but here are some of the things that we’ve done during the 18 months we’ve been apart so far to help keep our relationship going:
- Whatsapp – Before PC I’d never had a smartphone. In a strange turn of events, my personal technology got an upgrade when I came to Colombia and it has been huge in maintaining our relationship. Whatsapp allows us to easily send texts and pictures throughout the day so that we don’t feel so distant, and when my phone is working properly we can also call each other. Describing the crazy things that happen here doesn’t always cut it. Pictures are where it’s at. But also, hearing a loved one’s voice after so much time apart is a special thing.
- Mutual Commitment to Service – I may have been the one who applied for Peace Corps and took the oath to serve my country, but we are both very committed to my service. He could very easily have asked me to stay in the US with him and I probably would have said, “Ok honey.” Sure, he loves to remind me of all the things I’m missing out on at home (reliable power, water, favorite foods, not sweating constantly), but he’s never genuinely suggested that I leave early. I’m so thankful that he’s been supportive and insistent that I go after what’s important to me at this time in my life.
- Visits – My husband doesn’t speak Spanish, doesn’t do well in hot climates, and had never traveled abroad before we met. So, coming to Colombia wasn’t exactly on his list of Things to Do before meeting me. However, he has now come to visit me twice so far, and plans to come once more before I finish service. Being able to share my life here with him and introduce him to all the people I talk about has given him a much better understanding of what I do and why I’m still here. Plus, traveling with him and having so many new experiences has been what keeps us excited for the future. Having shorter countdowns to look forward to has made the BIG COUNTDOWN much more tolerable.
- Making it Work – For whatever reason, my husband and I had never had a “fight” before my coming here. In fact, I think it took us about 16 or 17 months into my service to have what might have been our first fight. I’m still not sure it’s even officially happened yet. Anyway, the point is that through all the ups and downs of my life here as a PCV and all the ups and downs of him living life back home, the most important part of our lives has remained each other. Life is not all rainbows and butterflies (although sometimes that’s how I portray my pueblo to be on Facebook). My challenges have been aplenty, and often times so have things that I never imagined I would encounter in my life. He, too, has taken on many big projects professionally and gone through numerous hard times that would have been stressful even if I had been there to help out. We could have easily found things to fight about throughout this time, but because we’re both committed to our relationship and my service, we look past each other’s faults and focus on how we can be better for one another. We try our best to have patience, express ourselves clearly through Whatsapp messages, ask for clarification, use excessive amounts of emojis because sending real photos of our faces takes up too much data and ain’t nobody got time OR battery life for that. En pocas palabras, we’re just doing our best to make it work. We went into this chapter of our lives knowing that we weren’t going to take the easy way out, and for better or for worse, til death do us part, Mi Amor Zaky is stuck with this Sweaty Gringa.