Our Story

Our Story: After meeting in graduate school at UGA, we were married in 2011 in Marietta, Georgia. A year later, we joined the Peace Corps as environmental conservation volunteers and embarked on our adventure in Paraguay!

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are ours personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

December 14, 2011


We just completed our Peace Corps interviews today! For couples, you must be interviewed individually, and then together. The entire process took about 3.5 hours (but we had lots of questions to ask our recruiter).

The individual interview questions were almost identical to those on the Peace Corps Wiki site:

The couple interview questions came directly from the couple questionnaire (See previous post).

Our recruiter told us we will probably be nominated within the next couple of weeks. Then on to the medical review!

November 29, 2011


We put both our packets in the mail today!

We received our packets about a week ago in the mail. They were stuffed with information and additional paper work we needed to submit.

Here are a few of the things they requested:

  • Fingerprint charts (We went to the Sanibel Island Police Department for these)
  • National Agency Check Form (a waiver for a background check)
  • Reference Label Sheet (indicates our three references and includes contact information)
  • Marriage License
  • Couple Questionnaire
  • College Transcripts (can be unofficial)
Additionally, an email from our recruiter requested:
  • Skill Addenda (Sarah's was environmental education; Ben's were environmental education, business development, and education)
  • Financial Obligations Form (Ben)
  • Masters International Acceptance Letter (Sarah)
  • We also included copies of our relevant certifications
To keep things organized, we topped it off with a table of contents sheet. Hopefully, that will help our recruiter sort through all the paperwork. Soon we will schedule an interview!

November 13, 2011

Couples Questionnaire is done!

Here are the responses to the questions in the Couples Questionnaire!

CQ – Written responses

Here are the questions:

1. What do you view as the biggest challenges Peace Corps service will present to you as a couple? Have you confronted similar challenges in your relationship in the past? If so, how did you overcome them? If not, what relevant experience have you shared as a couple that will be helpful in meeting these challenges?

2. What are your expectations about serving in the Peace Corps as individuals and as a couple?

3. Couples must be prepared to live and train in separate communities during the three-month Pre-Service Training (PST), as couples typically serve in different Assignment Areas requiring separate trainings in community-based locations. Additionally, couples must be prepared to endure periods of separation during service due to service-related duties, medical issues, etc. Such periods of separation may be difficult for newly married couples, as well as more established couples. Please describe how you think you would cope with separation from your spouse during PST, as well as during your service, while keeping in mind communication options may be extremely limited even within your country of service.

4. Upon completion of PST, couples will be placed in the same community and share a household together. Typically, such households will have 2-3 small rooms, although some may be limited to one small hut or living space. Living quarters may feel cramped at times in comparison to housing standards in the United States. Additionally, many couples will find they share workspace and spend a significant amount of time together while collaborating on community work activities. At times, it may be difficult for individuals in a couple to find adequate time, or space, where they can be alone. Please describe how you think you may cope with living in close quarters with your spouse, and how you may cope with limited options for spending time alone.

5. Many cultures are characterized by clearly defined gender roles that differ from those in the U.S. How do you believe you will deal with situations that may cause strain on you as an individual, and on your relationship? For example, the credit for a wife’s work may be attributed to her husband, or a husband may be teased for washing dishes or clothes, as this is considered “women’s work.”

And our responses:

1. As a couple, we foresee some of the biggest challenges to be coping with stress and fatigue. We took a hiking trip for 4 days and 3 nights in the Grand Canyon. We planned our entire trip beforehand, As we progressed through our journey, we constantly re-evaluated our situation and determined where we needed to camp that night, what we were going to eat, etc. We learned that we both have different capabilities (endurance, perseverance, tolerance) and to get through, we needed to be patient with each other and take our time preparing each day. It is also important to motivate each other in times of weakness and to be completely understanding of the others needs.

2. As individuals, we expect the Peace Corps to make us more well-rounded, and to provide us with a better understanding of another country and culture. Also, we both expect to be given a chance to use our education and experience to help better another culture. We both hope to make long-lasting impacts on the communities that we will be becoming a part of. As a couple, we believe the Peace Corps will provide us a very unique experience and foundation on which to build our relationship. We look forward to seeing how the Peace Corps will change us for the better and bring us closer together as a couple.

3. During the three months of PST, we are planning for the worst and hoping the best. If most of our communication options are limited, we expect to least be able to write each other letters about our experiences. In the absence of letters, we plan to keep daily journals of our experiences which we will share with each other as often we get the chance. We will also make it a point to take pictures of special moments and people so that we can put faces with the stories that we will have to tell. Our recruiter mentioned that 90% of volunteers are given cell phones. If this is the case, then we plan to share our stories of trial and triumph during PST.

4. At the present time, we live in a small, one-bedroom apartment. We both work during the week, and see each other everyday. We don’t foresee having many problems living in small quarters together. If there are times when we need to separate, then we can find different hobbies or exercise routines to get a little time to ourselves.

5. We share many of the household duties, but some times our roles can seem reversed. For example, as it stands now, the male in our relationship does most of the cooking. If there is an instance when we receive jeers for this, we will see it as an opportunity to share more about US culture with the people in our community. We will explain to them that in the US, the sharing of all household tasks is considered normal, and that men and women are considered equals. Also, we do not consider it OK for either the wife or the husband to take credit for the others work. In these instances, it is important to us to speak up and let the people in our community know that credit needs to be given where credit is due; and that we are proud of our spouse for their accomplishments. 

November 10, 2011

Info Session

Tonight we went to a Peace Corps Information Session at the Atlanta Library. We were able to talk to a recruiter who served in Malawi.

Here are some things we found out:
  • 90% of volunteers carry cell phones.
  • Volunteers typically work Monday-Friday and have the weekends off.
  • Currently, applicants are nominated to go to a specific region 8-10 months into the application process. This process will change in January 2012, but this change will not effect our applications.
  • Your placement officer (not recruiter) determines where you will be placed.
  • It is very rare for married couples to have a choice of where they will serve.

November 1, 2011

The Ball is Rolling

Tonight, both Ben and I both submitted our Peace Corps applications! We had to fill out numerous pages of paper work including eligibility, marital status, drug/alcohol/legal information, financial obligations, education, language skills, employment, volunteer activities, practical experience, regional interests, two essay questions, and medical history. We also had to submit three references: a work supervisor, a volunteer/academic supervisor, and a close friend. The moment we submitted, we received emails from the Peace Corps with a couples questionnaire. We are to discuss and answer the questions then turn them into the recruitment office during the next two weeks. Typically, the application process takes about 12-14 months for couples, so this is just the beginning for us. We are so excited! Update: It took us only 8 months to get our invitation!

October 29, 2011

Marietta Square

Soon after our engagement, Ben and I decided we wanted to join the Peace Corps together. A few days later, we drove to the Peace Corps office in Atlanta to meet with a recruiter and discuss our options. Our recruiter told us that applicants need to married for one year before they can serve in the Peace Corps. Since the application process can take about one year, she recommended that we get married before submitting our applications.

This left us with a very serious decision to consider. We had planned to get married a year after our engagement, but that would mean waiting two years to join the Peace Corps. Having finished my master's degree a few months earlier, I was ready to embark on a new journey. And Ben, only needed one year to finish his internship with UPS, and his master's thesis. What would our family think about us getting married after only one month of engagement? and what was engagement, if not a promise to get married? What was the difference in waiting one year or one month to get married? Some couples are engaged for years before getting married... if you know, you know, then why wait? It seemed like we were only focusing on what other people would think, because of our preconceived notions about how long a couple should date. We'd known for months that we perfect for each other. So then we made up our minds... let's get married!!

Since I was a little girl, like all little girls, I had dreamed of my wedding day. I yearned for all the bells and whistles. I dreamed of a beautiful beach wedding, with bridesmaids and flower girls, and a fun-filled reception with food and dancing for all my family. How does a courthouse wedding fit into that? And that's why we decided to have not one, but two weddings: one at the courthouse, and one a year later at the beach with all the family. So we called up my parents and told them our plan. We could tell they were surprised, but they supported our decision wholeheartedly.

The night before the wedding, my parents spent the night with us in our little apartment in Calibre Brooke. In the morning, Ben cooked us a delicious breakfast. As my mom helped me get ready, I'm pretty sure the guys were playing Resident Evil 4 in the living room (very appropriate for a wedding day). My mom and I realized that I needed something old, new, borrowed, and blue. My dress was new, I found blue socks in my closet, I traded one of my socks with my mom (borrowed), and my mom lent me one of her diamond rings as something old. When I was all dressed up and ready, Ben played "Here Comes the Bride" as I walked down our tiny hallway. At the end of the hallway, my mom presented us with a bouquet and boutineer of yellow daisies. Without much ado, we piled in the car and headed to the Marietta Courthouse.

Luckily, the courthouse is open for 1 hour on Saturdays just for weddings. We turned in our marriage license and waited for our turn. There were a wide variety of people waiting for their turns as well. A few were dressed up like me and Ben, others wore jeans and t-shirts, one middle-aged couple brought their kids in wearing Halloween costumes, and one girl who looked very pregnant. My brother, Jared, arrived at the courthouse, looking stylish in his suit, just in time for our names to be called. We all entered the private wedding room with our officiant, Judge Jennifer Inmon. The ceremony was brief but still sweet. We said our vows, I got a little teary eyed, and since we didn't have rings, we skipped straight to the kiss.

Our Courthouse Vows:
"I, Sarah, take you, Ben,
To be my husband.
To have and to hold,
From this day forward,
For better, for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish
As long as we both shall live."

Hand in hand, we headed out for some fun in the square. First, we went to Marietta Pizza Company and celebrated with pizza and beer. Afterwards, we walked around the square for a post-wedding photo shoot. We stopped in a cute little cupcake shop and enjoyed some impromptu wedding cupcakes. The whole day was absolutely beautiful and we loved getting to share it with my parents and my brother. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful and supportive family. We love you guys!
A month later, we visited our families in Georgia and Florida to announce our marriage. On the car ride there, we decided to write them a song. At first we told them it was a song about joining the Peace Corps, but soon, the lyrics reveal that we are already married. First we sang it in Sanibel to my grandparents, Jojo and Papa Don, and my Aunt Kim and Uncle Merrill. Then we drove up to Tampa and sang to Ben's family there: Debby, Rick, and all of Ben's cousins and their kids. Then, we sang it to my dad's family at my grandmother's 85th birthday party in Georgia. Their reactions were priceless! Everyone was surprised and thrilled! We are so thankful to have such a supportive family! Here are the lyrics and a video of us singing the song to my family in Florida:

"Oh the places we will go, but where nobody knows,
The mountains or the seashore darlin'.

I don't really care where, as long as you are there.
We're going to the Peace Corps darlin'.

But, we almost forgot! Before we get our shot,
We need to tie the knot. We need to get married darlin'.

What will everybody say? Will they love us anyway,
If they weren't there the day, the day we got married darlin'?

We became husband and wife on October 29th.
That's when we got married darlin'.

We wish you all were there, in Marietta Square,
in the courthouse where we just got married darlin'.

Although, we didn't have rings...
-But wait! You had a ring!
-Only my engagement ring...
-You want another ring??
-Of course I want a ring!
-But, will I get a ring?
-We'll both get wedding rings,
To show that we are married darlin'.

When, we both said I do, we knew our love was true.
There's nothing we can't do, now that we are married darlin'.

We want you to know that this was just a formality.
We planned all along to get married eventually.
We still want to have our wedding by the sea.
So please save the date (October 6th) to come to our beach wedding!

In actuality, we ended up having our 2nd wedding on August 18th due to an earlier than expected Peace Corps invitation... but that is a whole other story!

September 17, 2011

Up, up, and away we go!

Over the past week, Ben has been giving me one clue each day leading up to a romantic date on Saturday. The clues are as follows: champagne, drive, basket, tickets, puzzle, and a picture from the jungle book. I thought for sure we were going to have a picnic at the zoo, but boy was I wrong! We jumped in the car and headed across the state to Augusta, GA. All along the way, Ben gave me more and more clues helping me to guess our destination. After the clue, "it involves 2 of Captain Planet's powers: wind and fire" I finally guessed it. We are going on a hot air balloon ride!! I was so thrilled that tears formed in my eyes... what a romantic surprise!

We met up with the balloon crew and rode out to a large field where they began to set up. They pulled the balloon out of a bag, laid it out on the grass, and used a large fan to fill it up with air. While they were filling it up, they let us walk inside the balloon and take pictures, so cool! The next thing we knew we were scurrying to get our belongings and jump into the basket of the balloon. Soon we were watching the ground grow farther and farther away. The sound of the fire filled our ears as we gazed in awe as the horizon expanded around us. An interesting fact about hot air balloon rides is that because you are moving with the wind currents, it will not feel windy. As we were soaring over the trees, Ben got down on one knee and proposed mid-flight!
"Sarah, I brought you up into this hot air balloon to ask you to be my wife. I love you with all my heart, and I know you love me too. I want to spend the rest of my life with you! Will you be my wife?"
I threw my arms around him and said YES! While he was putting the ring on my finger, I was terrified that it would accidentally plummet into the trees far below. I turned to see that the balloon pilot had been taking pictures of us the whole time... and they turned out amazing! By now, it was time to land and the balloon started to sink towards a large hay-field. As we lowered the pilot gave us instructions on how to brace ourselves for the impact. We clung to the sides of the basket and each other as we struck the ground and skidded to a stop.

We celebrated our safe flight and engagement with champagne and snacks. I could never have imagined a more perfect and exciting proposal! Later, Ben told me how he had secretly taken my parents out to dinner to ask for their blessing. We stayed that night in a little bed-and-breakfast, then had a steak and lobster dinner with my parents the next day. I am so happy to begin this new adventure in life with the man I love!

Paraguay Photos