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Marriage to an RPCV – The Experience of a Lifetime

Last Update: 12/19/2013 2:29 PM

by Meredith Miller Vostrejs

What is it like being married to a Peace Corps Volunteer? Is it any different than other marriages? Apparently, married life with an RPCV can bring its own sense of adventure, laughs, opportunities and global savvy to the relationship. From appreciation for hot water and reliable transportation to social activism at home and abroad, marriage to a Peace Corps Volunteer truly is the experience of a lifetime. Local RPCVs have met their spouses before, during, or after their Peace Corps service. Yet all agree their chance meetings were meant to be.

Jeroen (Left) and Tiffani (Right) at NorCal Point Reyes
Service Day 2012

Often times Peace Corps volunteers are drawn to people with similar interests, such as a love of travel or working overseas. For Tiffani Brownley-Meijer this holds true. Several years after her Peace Corps service in Mali from 1997 to1999, Tiffani taught with the JET program and worked on women’s issues in Japan. That is where she met her Dutch husband, Jeroen Meijer, who was also working there with the UN. They were introduced by their Australian and Austrian colleagues , who had actually met on a ferry in China…So this is how their story began - with chance meetings, life overseas, and a cast of international characters – to eventually be wed in the Colorado mountains.

Another local RPCV, Tiffany Sommerlad, met her husband Tony Nguyen before departing for her assignment to Armenia in 2001. Tony was teaching his first philosophy class at San Jose State; Tiffany was the talkative student who sat in the front row. “I knew something was up, when she showed up to all of the office hours asking questions about Aristotle's Metaphysics,” recalls Tony. He proposed before she left for Peace Corpsand awaited her monthly letters that came in three parts. He then distributed a part each to his and her parents so they would have to meet and put the letter in order to get the whole story. We may not know their whole storybut they confess Peace Corps has strengthened their marriage, from shared perspectives of American life (through Peace Corps for Tiffany and as a first generation immigrant for Tony), and the ability to say “behave yourself!” in Armenian to their lovely seven-year old daughter.

Meredith and Dan Vostrejs

I have to confess as the author of this article, I have my own story too…I met my husband Dan while we were both serving in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Eastern Caribbean) in 1995. There was only one house to rent in our village so we moved in together…and the rest is history! Our initial time together in Peace Corps definitely shapes our memories – lots of embarrassing moments, laughs with locals and other PCVs, and to this day a desire for the slow Sundays when life came to a halt in our village. Nearly twenty years later we still build on our Peace Corps service, with a continued interest in global health and development and a desire to raise our two kids to be globally minded social activists.

Social activism is a common bond for Jeb and Edie Eddy, who met prior to Jeb’s Peace Corps service in the Philippines 1963-1965. They attended the same college and had one date at a folk music concert, a suggestion made by Edie. Says Jeb, “I knew that anyone who had the insight into me to know what a great choice that was had to be special!”

Edie and Jeb

Less than 3 months after Jeb arrived in country for his Peace Corps service, President Kennedy was killed. “The world changed forever, and we all knew it,” recalls Jeb. Following his Peace Corps service Jeb went to Vietnam; his cross-cultural skills from Peace Corps were coveted and he was assigned to a USAID project during the war. During that time Edie had a teaching job in the Philippines; afterwards Jeb joined her back in Manila, where they lived until relocating to Palo Alto 42 years ago.

When asked how being married to a PCV affected their marriage Jeb replied, “Very positively for us both. Our common experiences have made parenthood, travel, and social action work pretty well for us as a couple.” Their relationship and daily activities in the community are evidence that they share many deep values in common, with a view to making the world a better place for future generations.