Crazy things start to happen when you have an abundance of time, imagination, and wireless internet. Contemplation about global warming, feng shui, chocolate, and online dating swirl and simmer inside the brain until the illogical begins to seem possible.
My intense candy cravings and lack of social contact, combined, led me to reactivate my OKCupid! profile about 9 months ago. I had no real agenda other than shameless self-promotion and solicitation. I was very clear and upfront about my circumstances, that I was living on another continent and serving in the Peace Corp, and that I was only looking for “new friends” who might want to send me M & M’s in the mail. I specified that messages would also be welcome from people who: a) wanted advice on traveling to Peru, b) were interested in learning more about the Peace Corps, c) had the ability to run faster than me, or d) were otherwise awesome.
Although I had to contend with some unwanted attention from “rilonelyman” and “ebay-holic” I was surprised by the quality of men who initiated communication. Instead of the usual one liners, like “hi hun” or “nice butt” people made an effort to compliment me on my “mad running skills” and my “fun and fascinating life”--- kind and curious people from Oklahoma, Minnesota, Seattle, and Missouri, among other places.
But then something rather unexpected happened --- The Return of Rob Gordon! “Rob” is the boy from back home, who, much like the protagonist of “High Fidelity,” boasts an impressive record collection and an encyclopedic musical memory. He is the fun and fabulous guy who dated, then rejected me, in the months before Peace Corps. He broke my heart, then he bought my car. And like every great post-modern romance, I believe our spark was rekindled by excessive drinking and Facebook. Fast forward to several months later and I am officially in a long-distance relationship with good ol’ Rob. I was looking for chocolate, but found a boyfriend instead. J
Surprisingly, love in the Peace Corps happens more often than you would think. We leave the comforts of home behind, which may include a robust social/dating life, and most of us enter this experience anticipating two years of solitude or celibacy. And for many months that was my reality. I craved rhythm, routine, and an amazing tan. I gained 15 pounds, my hair was a hot, layered mess, and my buttoned-down fashion sense rivaled that of the local Mormons. Yet I began to grow in new and exciting ways; I became more comfortable living in the present moment and conjugating verbs in the past tense.When I finally dipped my toe back into the dating pool, even in a self-deprecating, non-serious manner, perhaps my joie de vivre was apparent. Khalil Gilbran writes that “Beauty is a light in the heart” and I believe that many volunteers, those who find peace and joy in their service, emanate that radiance. Marathon Skype sessions, flirty text messages, and animated discussions about The Future have become the nuts and bolts of my current relationship, and I am happier than I would have imagined. I guess my unsolicited relationship advice to those contemplating the Peace Corps, or any major life change, is rather straightforward: Trust yourself, indulge your passion, and, as Rob would say, “something will happen.”