I Said Yes

August 17, 2016 was a special day. It marked my last day as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and a day of celebration for myself and my 273 batch mates who had successfully completed our 2 years of service.

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Ringing the bell signified the completion of my Peace Corps service during our Close of Service Ceremony at the Peace Corps office in Manila.
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Some of the newly finished volunteers in Batch 273 with the Filipino Peace Corps staff. Next to me in the center of the photo is my best friend and site mate Loren (white jacket, dark hair). She was John’s co-conspirator and photographer for the events to come.

What I didn’t realize was that the day was special for an even greater reason…

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Earlier that morning John had gotten approval from our Country Director to propose at the end of my Close of Service Ceremony. The ring he gave me is made of marble and significant because it was handcrafted in Romblon, the marble capital of the Philippines and where we served together as Peace Corps volunteers.

IMG_1221Our story is a Peace Corps anomaly and a small miracle. John and I met in his hometown of Wilmington, NC as instructors at Surf Camp. We dated in America before I left for the Peace Corps, and I was actually sitting in his living room when I received the email with my country assignment to the Philippines in January 2014. Little did we realize, he too would end up serving in this country.

During my first year as a Peace Corps volunteer John came to visit for two and a half months. He lived with my host family, attended our family reunion, and used his expertise in outdoor recreation management to assist the provincial tourism office.

John’s arrival in Manila after a year apart:

Climbing Mt. Pinatubo:

Activities with the host family: superheroes and eating balut.

Assessing Mt. Guiting Guiting:

At that time the Provincial Tourism Office decided to apply for a Peace Corps Response Volunteer specialized in Eco-Tourism Development. The Peace Corps Response program is a short term (typically a year or less) assignment of an experienced professional to meet a specific need in a developing country. Other Response positions include Disaster Risk Management or Non-Profit Management Specialist.

When I was at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington D.C. for the Blog-It-Home winner’s tour in October 2015, I got the news that John was accepted for the Eco-Tourism Peace Corps Response position. He would soon be returning to the Philippines this time as a volunteer!

Later during John’s volunteer training one of the Peace Corps staff in Manila saw him with his ukulele and said, “Oh you’ll have to meet this volunteer in Batch 273. She plays the ukulele too.” John laughed as he explained that I was his girlfriend and he had given me that ukulele and had taught me to play.

I sent John the photo above from the airport when I left in July 2014. In February 2016 he sent me his own version while en route for training in the Philippines.

The past 7 months we have both been volunteering in the Philippines, in the same province, and even the very same office building. Work in the Philippines ranges from evaluating submarines for tourism, planning a mountain bike race, leading an environmental kids camp, and conducting coral reef assessments.

Was I surprised when he proposed? Yes! If you watch the video you can see us walk up to the Peace Corps sign. Then, I turn to look at the camera and stand there smiling, waiting for Loren to take the picture. I didn’t realize she was actually taking a video and when I turned John was on one knee.

But in life was I surprised? Nope – he is the greatest!

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10 thoughts on “I Said Yes”

    1. Thanks Mem! Guess what?! I am back in Charleston now and yesterday I rode past your old house and Hazel Parker on my bicycle. I miss you guys! Hope you are doing well. I did not see any people at the house.

  1. Sara Jean it was wonderful seeing you yesterday. Congrats to you & John on your engagement. What a beautiful story you wrote on your journey together. Much happiness to the two of you. Now a new journey begins for both of you. ❤️

  2. wow continue your chemistry…..it will be biology….and sooner when youve got offsprings…it will be economics……hahahah congrats…ill take care of john here….miss you sj…..

  3. Hello Sarah, miss you…late wisher I may be, it was due to the signal of internet.. Congratulations to both of you…

    Andito ako ngayon sa 9 waves, ciudad christia where we first meet. Ngayon araw na ito ay ang aming huling araw at bukas, maaga kaming aalis dito kasama ang mga PCV ng Odiongan at San Andres.

    I hope this time, we will finish what we have started. See you soon. Dont forget us on your wedding day…Your OPAG family miss you a lot Sarah. Regards to your family.

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