Back to the stone age: Being in a long-distance relationship with the citizen of a socialist country

Long-distance relationships are difficult enough – even if you have all technological means to make distance shorter it is still pretty damn hard. Now technology is something many of us have learned to take for granted – and I do not exclude myself here. In fact, I think many LDR couples nowadays rely so much on technology that it’s nearly impossible to imagine keeping your relationship running without it.

Ali and I started out our LDR when smartphones, tablets, WhatsApp and even facebook weren’t around. We met each other in an online game called Ragnarok and we communicated via the internal game chat most of the time. Other than that we used MSN or ICQ messenger – and e-mails! At times Ali used those free text messaging websites in order to write to me when I was out (since he did not have a German line) and later when voice and video chats became a thing we starting hanging out on Skype a lot. Hah, it sounds so prehistoric, just like our parents talking about vinyl or recording cassettes…Or maybe we are acrually getting old :P
So the longer our LDR lasted the easier communication became due to technological progress. I can still remember the huge difference it made for us when we both finally owned smartphones. Suddenly I did not have to be stuck in front of my laptop at home anymore in order to talk to Ali: I could even send messages on the run.

I wish it would continue to go on like that for us. But in the past years we have had to learn how to do more and more without technology and that less technology means increased distance. As Ali lives in Venezuela, a socialist country moving closer to economic breakdown every day now, even matter of course things like internet or even electricity have become scarce. Due to little rainfall (that’s not the only reason/problem, but I will let politics aside for now) the Guri dam produces not enough electricity for the grown population so that the government has decided to cut electricity and water for two periods of 4 hours each everyday. For us this means: 2 x 4 hours without internet, charging his phone or computer. Hours without communication. So on top of time difference we also have to coordinate with power cuts now. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds. There have been times when I read news about riots, shot protesters or other bad things going on and I was not able to contact him or he me to tell me he is alright. It doesn’t make this LDR thing any easier when you fear the country your SO lives in to go up in flames any time.

Actually just now being in Kenya I have learned how these phases of power cuts must truly feel for him. It also means no TV, no radio, no computer games, no movies. And you better save your battery because you cannot be sure when or if the electricity comes back on. You are damned to boredom and doing nothing, especially if you have nothing to read or no offline hobbies like drawing or writing. It can be really frustrating at times. What I normally do when I’m bored is eat. But even food is too expensive in Venezuela to practice it as a hobby.

Having your SO live in a socialist country also means that they are exposed to any other kind of shortages that might occur.
Your laptop breaks?  Well, my fiancee studied informatics – here in Germany it would be an easy thing for him to buy the component he needs to fix it. But computer parts have – just like pretty much everything else – become unavailable. And if you are lucky enough to find what you are looking for they will charge you horrendous amounts of money that you think not twice but ten times if you want to sacrifice dinner for the rest of the week in order to fix your computer.
Well – just buy a new laptop then? HAH! Of course, with a 700% inflation new latops are barely affordable, too.
Getting sick? Good luck finding those little relief pills costing less than 5€ in Germany – but at least you get a worried girlfriend for free on top of it.
Your car needs a new tire?  Well, I guess trips to the embassy for marriage paperwork will be really tough from now on because there are simply no affordable tires available for the moment and near future.
You want to visit your girlfriend?  Too bad international airlines have almost stopped operating in your country and they won’t sell tickets to anyone who wants to pay in the national currency as they are not allowed to exchange this money into international currencies (which makes it basically worthless as there is nothing to buy within the country). So you will have to travel by road to a neighbouring country to take the flight from there. Because a 14 hours plane travel alone is not stressful enough already. In fact I have had these nightmarish visions of the permanent closure of Venezuelan borders to put an end to our plans to finally close the distance for some time now. I honestly don’t know how I would fare with this. That the borders have in fact been partially closed don’t do my nerves any good. These are the reasons I have stopped visiting him and his family in Venezuela and instead kept paying his tickets to Germany. Maybe this relationship is one reason why I became so interested in the past of socialist eastern Germany – history repeats itself.

By now I have started paying almost everything for Ali And I wish I could cover the needs of his family too as they have always been friendly, very nice hosts and supportive so we could be together. He didn’t like it at first, to say the least. In fact he refused to accept my my financial support until we got into a really big fight where I told him that he keeps delaying closing the distance because of his pride and stubborness. That was when I was fed up from spending ages looking for afforable German courses in Germany and Ali still doing the maths after every offer I presented to him. Basic German needs are only one of the requirements by German authorities in order to get married in Germany and I thought it would be the wisest thing for him to learn the language whereit is spoken and where we could also spend time together in person. Our first arrangement was that I would just pay a part of the fees but as Venezuela’s economy crumbled so did Ali’s income.

But I truly don’t mind. Our relationship is way beyond taking notes on how much we spend for or on each other. This relationship has always been expensive for both of us. We would always save most of our money in order to see each other and have a nice time while we were together. Although we are not going to marry in church I guess we are taking this “in good times and bad times” thing to the next level.

And I am not going to lie: I also see one good thing about this crisis. What always bugged me before was that Ali was determined and willing to give up his family, his friends, his life in order to close the distance – while I would get to keep all these + him. I felt selfish, I was not sure if I could justify his sacrifice in front of myself – especially in case we broke up in some near or distant future. In fact I have been the one to delay closing the distance at some points because of my concerns. Now that Venezuela is in ruins I almost feel like saving someone from a life with no future. I love him so much but even in the unlikely events that our paths should separate in the future I will never regret having succeeded in helping a person to live a better-off life outside Venezuela. My concerns were basically wiped out by socialism at it’s worst. It’s still not fair that he has to give up everything as pretty much everyone below the age of 40 has no future in Venezuela. But like this I can justify “stealing” him from his home country all the way,

*By the way, personally I would describe my political views as left-wing and I think many core goals of socialism are worth achieving. But there has yet to come one socialist system that proves it can truly realize a good and safe life for every member of society.

10 years of long-distance #wtf?!

The day Ali popped the question was our 10th anniversary, Dec. 4th, 2015. Ten years of permanent long distance relationship, only interrupted by shorther or longer stays at his places in Venezuela and Barcelona and my places in Hannover, Karlsruhe and Berlin.

10 years! Whenever I tell people how long we have been together their jaws drop open, especially when they hear that all this time was spent in LDR. Why the hell would you do that?

Well, Ali and I met when we were faily young. We became a couple when I was only 16 years old, years away from finishing school, Ali, 21 at the time, still in university. I cannot remember if we have ever really talked about it in specific, but we must have – as we have always talked about pretty much everything (which by the way has sure been one key factor to why we are still together): But in my mind it was always pretty clear that we both should not let this relationship come between us and our education and dreams. After school it would have been much easier for us if I had started an apprenticeship. I would have earned a little money, gained experience on the job and a foothold in some company while after 3 years max I would have been trained and set for a permanent full-time position. That would have been the easy way.

But I did not want to look back years later regretting my decision. A decision I would have made for a relationship that by that time might not even exist anymore. I know many people in LDR are head over heels, and I sure was as well at some point, but when it came to life-changing decisions I have always been a stone-cold realist (maybe another reason why our relationship is so bold). Some people might think it’s egoistic not to step back for your relationship. I don’t think so, I call it survival. I have never been a risk-taker. So whatever decisions I have made in my life, they were always played on the safe side. It’s also healthy self-reference not to forget your own life, your own dreams, your hobbies, your friends, your family. Don’t give up what you cherish in your life apart from your relationship. I always knew that our relationship would benefit if I was at ease and peace with myself because I would channel this balance into it. In the end a relationship consists of two individuals with individual needs and personalities that need to be taken care of.

And Ali never pushed me. On the contrary he always backed me when it came to pursuing my dreams. He was happy when I was happy. Selflessness -another key factor to the survival of LDRs.

So after school (almost 5 years had passed) I studied public relations – a career very close to my dream job journalist/author but better paid  ;)  and afterwards did my M.A. in communication management. Not taking any unnecessary breaks, not going abroad, gaining job experience with suited internships and student jobs on the side but still performing above average *shoulder pat*. It wasn’t easy, it was exhausting and at times I felt like I knew nothing of this “student life” involving fun and parties that everyone talked about. This was my compromise, my sacrifice for our relationship: Getting done as soon as possible. Because if I got my way I should at least not waste any time. And still my university career took 5 years until I finally graduated last summer. And that is how easily 10 years sum up. The love for each other has maybe cooled down a little in terms of “settled” as it happens with every long-term relationship but it has become deeper and deeper. In fact, when I look at the two of us it reminds me of those old couples you somtimes see on the street, still holding hands. Isnt that what many people’s relationsip goals are?

And in a way all the decisions I have made have created a solid basis for our life together. I am finally full-time employed with a permanent contract, not earning very much but well enough to support us both. Not being able to do that was always my biggest fear but I have fought it with all I had. We are getting married on Sep 30th, 2016 and although I look back on the past 10 years with a warm feeling in my belly I cannot wait to call this LDR past.

Funnily this post was supposed to describe the day of our engagement. I guess, I’ll postpone that for another time  ;-)

TLDR – Don’t forget about yourself in a LDR. Your self-confidence will bring balance to your relationship and make passing time much easier.

 

 

Where to begin?

Oopsie. It’s been a long time since I last wrote anything on this blog. Jeez, more than two years actually. Although I had been so confident in the beginning to keep writing and thereby document the time till our marriage. Well, chances missed, I guess. Almost – because Ali and me are very close to finally get married in Germany.

But first things first. It’s actually pretty funny how I end up writing this post. Right now I am in Kenya where I was sent by the humanitarian organsation I work for to get an idea of our projects, take great photos and document what experience. Well, eventually I got myself food poisoning – which is the reason I could not attend the mission I was supposed to go on this week. Spending the time till my flight back to Nairobi in our regional office I found a few minutes for the first time in weeks to check my private e-mail beyond mails from family. I stumbled once again over someone commenting “this blog about LDR, Venezuela and our path to marriage that started a few years back”. So since I feel miserable and there is nothing much to do (and because there is finally stable internet connection!) I check out what that person named “SK” wants to tell to the author of an obviously dead blog. I most certainly expected spam.

But nope, surprise, it’s actually someone who has ties to Venezuela and LDR and to whom some of my posts still mean something after all this time. A welcome wake up call. Well, one of the posts commented by him or her seems surprisingly recent.It tells about protests in Venezuela, similar to the ones taking place at the moment. There are so many reasons for these protests as there has so much happened in the past two years that they are difficult to name. To make it short: If the economy was ill before, it’s even worse off now. There are shortages of almost everything due to nationalized/socialzed and then mismanaged companies and strict currency control. The currency control is actually in place for quite some time. But many knew how to betray the system in order to make profits from it or to use the black market as a work-around. Now inflation is so high (700%) that even the black market work-around doesn’t work well anymore and currency control has become much stricter (which would be a good thing if it only meant fighting corruption). Ali needed some meds last week (luckily nothing life-threatening) but of course could not get them anywhere. Anyhow, so things are pretty dire – but you can actually read enough about it in the news if you just google “Venezuela” (sadly).

What about us? (This is the “what happened to you guys”-part requested by SK ;)
As I said earlier we are still on our path to marriage. And when I say “path” I really mean it. We have completed all the paperwork necessary in Germany. So Ali got all those nice little papers that are sometimes difficult to get in Venezuela because the Venezuelan State doesn’t know such documents asked by German authorities like the infamous “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis” – which basically says that you able to get married (wtf?!). I got all of them translated into German – which costed me “only” about 300 Euros (and now I’m just waiting for anyone commenting that they got it way cheaper), handed everything in to the German authorities, namely Standesamt and Kammergericht (district court). The latter was to decide whether the documents we handed in to replace the in Venezuela unknown Ehefähigkeitszeugnis were actually sufficient. They were. Phew – so far, so good.

What is missing now is the “Visum zur Eheschließung”, the specific visa needed to enter Germany for the purpose of marriage (German bureaucracy is great, isn’t it?), for which Ali needs to apply for at the German embassy in Caracas. The documents from me/Germany he needs for this (Verpflichtungserklärung, Letter of Invitation and confirmation by the Standesamt naming the date of the marriage – 30th of September, by the way, woohoo) are on their way via DHL Express. Now we are hoping for them to arrive soon and safely so that he can apply, hopefully gets the confirmation quickly and can then book the flight to Germany.

So that’s it for now. Of course I have left out all the many details, the tears, the worries, the often frustrating seek for information…but as writing makes you reflect I realized that although many things have happened months, sometimes many months ago, they are still extremely present in my mind. So I hope I find the time and nerves to recap these many moments and fill this blog with life again. If not, maybe a gentle reminder by “SK” can send me back on track ;-) But this time: please without free time due to food poisoning.

TLDR – Venzuela is even shittier than in 2014. We are getting married on 30th of September. Period.

Insecurity and LDR double standards

So, I am sorry I haven’t been writing in some time. My new semester at university has started and classes, group works and tasks have already taken its toll again (it’s been two weeks since the semester started – what the heck?!). Oh, and I’m also massively working overtime.

And to be honest – I was also a little clueless on what to write about. Until I haven’t signed a contract that will ensure my employment for after June and guarantee me the chance to move to Berlin with my employer I feel a little insecure to make plans on precisely how, where and when to get Ali to Germany. I hope to have news about this within the next two or three weeks…Plan A is still a language course for him.

Meanwhile the Aliens Department in my hometown (get the joke with my blog title now?) surprised me by answering my question about the so called “Verpflichtungserklärung” (which is basically a commitement by a German citizen to cover the costs for living  for a foreign visitor, student, tourist or such) within one day via e-mail. I was a little confused because in the form I found on their website it said the maximum duration for the visit can be three months, which is way too short for the language courses we had in mind. So I wasn’t sure if I had actually found the right form. They told me to just state the number of the months he actually wants to stay here anyway, regardless of the remark in the form. So much about self-explanatory bureaucracy.

And because university, my job and my long-distance relationship isn’t enough already I had the brilliant idea to sign up for three voluntary teams in a club that helps to promote my degree program to possible future employers.

So I met with some of the other volunteers in a bar on Thursday to talk about how we divide the work that has to be done. And as it always is and because there actually wasn’t that much work to divide we also chatted about a lot of other stuff. I don’t quite remember how we got there but one of my class mates told another girl from a different semester about her boyfriend who studies in Latvia – so obviously a long-distance relationship (LDR). I was just beginning to feel sympathetic towards her when the girl she talked to mentioned someone she knows from Greece who is in a long-distance relationship with someone from Latin America. She also mentioned how difficult it is for them to see each other frequently because of how expensive plane tickets are. My classmate replied: “This sounds mean – but it won’t last between them for long.” This somehow hit me hard – and I don’t know why, because I have heard people disencourage LDR couples so often. But how dare you judge another LDR couple you know nothing about not to make it if you are in a LDR yourself. Well, sure it’s so much easier to visit each other if it’s “just” 1.000 kilometers separating you instead of 8.000+ but LDR remains LDR. And if you are in a LDR yourself why would you be so judgemental about other couples who are in pretty much the same situation as you are. I guess I’ll have to try hard not to let this influence me in how I interact with her in the future because hearing her say that made me kind of sad, to be honest. Are those double standards already? I don’t know.

Have you had negative experience with people judging your or someone else’s LDR? I’d be curious to hear about them.

LDR Playlist: The night before Good-Bye

It has actually been some time since I got to spend time with Ali. While I may not remember every single time we had to say good-bye in detail a bittersweet feeling overcomes me whenever I think back.

The last evenings and nights together in a LDR are always drenched in melancholy. You are happy that you are still together and grieving because you know that with every minute that passes your good-bye comes closer – and in many cases that good-bye will have to hold for months. Worn from lack of sleep I often found myself feeling like on my way to the slaughter house during the final trip to the airport. I pretty much just wanted “it”, the long process of saying good-bye that often begins days before, to be over.

1. Eagle Eye Cherry – Save Tonight 

I think this was one of the first songs that I discovered after starting out with Ali and could identify with. I like this one in particular because the mood is not as melancholic as in many other songs about saying good-bye. That makes it much easier to listen to, especially when you have just gone through saying good-bye. It focuses on the bright side of the last night and rather encourages you to enjoy your last hours together instead of sinking in grief.

 

Well, we know I’m going away
And how I wish, I wish it weren’t so
so take this wine and drink with me
let’s delay our misery…

Save tonight
Fight the break of dawn
Come tomorrow
Tomorrow I’ll be gone

There’s a log on the fire
and it burns like me for you
Tomorrow comes with one desire… 
to take me away

It ain’t easy to say goodbye
Darling, please, don’t start to cry
’cause girl you know I’ve got to go
and Lord I wish it wasn’t so

 

2. Maroon 5 – Daylight

This one is quite new and pretty much the “emo” version of Safe Tonight, at least that’s what I thought when I paid attention to the lyrics for the first time. Maybe “emo” is too harsh but it is definitely melancholic and I wouldn’t dare to listen to this song with anyone around when I’m still emotional from saying good-bye. After all, the lyrics focus on the morning (symbolized by the daylight) instead of the last night itself as Save Tonight does, which is probably exactly the reason it makes me feel much sadder. Anyhow, the lyrics are really sweet and I think anyone in a long-distance relationship can identify so well. The Play For Change version below is not that emo, however ;)

 

Here I am waiting, I’ll have to leave soon, why am I holdin’ on
We knew this day would come, we knew it all along
How did it come so fast
This is our last night, but it’s late and I’m tryin’ not to sleep
‘Cuz I know, when I wake I will have to slip away

Here I am starring, at your perfection in my arms; so beautiful.
The sky is getting bright, the stars are burnin’ out.
Somebody slow it down.
This is way too hard, ‘cuz I know when the sun comes up I will leave
This is my last glance that will soon be memories

And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go
But, tonight I’m ‘gonna hold you so close
‘Cuz in the daylight, we’ll be on our own
But, tonight I need to hold you so close

 

3. Something Corporate – Wait

Is this a LDR song? I’m not sure, but at least I like to read it as one. Anyhow, Something Corporate is/was one of my favourite bands. Sadly, they had split up before I even got to know them. The lead singer Andrew McMahon has a way with cryptic lyrics and sometimes I still find myself discovering new meanings to their songs although I have listened to them a hundred times before.

I can hear ticking clocks,
Running rampant in me,
Chiming in apogee
Waiting for the synergy
Of her and me waiting on the light
And I never say goodnight
Never say that I’m always right

Now in you girl
I’m content to drown
You’re so high and I’m so down
This night’ll end sooner but much sooner now
I’m awake in you and you’re asleep in me
All the things I’ll never be
Make me wonder could you see
And I said

Wait, till I hit the ground harder
Wish I could wait, to hear your heartbeat fast
Wish I could wait till I missed her flavour
My days are numbered here
And I don’t want to be the last one home
Don’t want to be the last one home

This post is for everyone in LDR and especially for fellow blogger  ;)