We celebrated our 2nd anniversary this Wednesday- woohoo! I had to teach a class on Wednesday, so our celebration was limited to finally setting up our oven and making pizzas for dinner (might not seem like it, but this is actually a pretty big deal, especially since we got to use the pepperoni that my parents sent – thank you)! But yesterday we used one of our days off to celebrate a little more by taking a little hike up one of the nearby hills, then setting up Matt’s hammock and having a picnic lunch. It was a really nice way to get outside but still have some time to ourselves (except for when a group of Moroccans saw us playing cards at our picnic site and came over to join us).
In light of our anniversary, I’ve been thinking a lot about serving in the Peace Corps as a couple. The classic image of Peace Corps (for me, anyway) is one of a lone volunteer, working through personal challenges brought on by living alone while also bringing positive change to her community. I realize that’s not really a practical way to look at Peace Corps service, but I still find myself feeling a little out of place as one-half of a couple. We are able to support each other in all of our personal and work-related challenges, and at times our life here doesn’t feel that different from life in the U.S. (of course, that’s only until we step outside). It’s a world of difference from what it seems that many of my single PCV peers are going through, and it never fails to make me feel like I’m somehow cheating the system, or not having the true Peace Corps experience.
But of course this is a ridiculous attitude to have, because there is no true Peace Corps experience. The Peace Corps exists in so many countries and so many different urban and rural situations that the true Peace Corps experience can’t be anything besides what you yourself experience during your service. The Peace Corps gives us some really good (albeit impossible) advice when they tell us not to compare our service to that of other PCVs. I think it will be a constant struggle to not compare our experience as a couple to the stories we hear from our single friends. I still feel guilty when I talk to a fellow volunteer about loneliness and isolation and realize I can’t empathize because I haven’t experienced it to the same extent. I still feel behind when I hear about how much time other volunteers spend integrating and speaking Darija with new friends, whereas Matt and I naturally spend a lot of time together speaking English. But living and working together in the same community requires a lot of teamwork and compromise (all on very important topics, like who gets the computer next, and what movie we’ll watch tonight). We don’t face many of the issues that single volunteers face, but we do have the challenge of maintaining a healthy marriage through all of the difficulties that come with serving in the Peace Corps. Serving as a couple is certainly not the same as serving as a single volunteer, but instead of seeing it as less of a challenge, I’m working on seeing it as a different challenge. And in the end (even though he drives me up the wall sometimes), I’m so grateful to be serving with Matt – I wouldn’t want it any other way.