how it all began
May 29th marked our first wedding anniversary, which we spent on the white Seychellian sand far away from our computers. This past year has flown by with the dizzying speed of countless new adventures and experiences. Then again, our relationship had a bit of a whirlwind trajectory even before we got married and moved to Kenya.
One year ago, we walked hand in hand on the rocky shores of Kennebunkport and said our “I do’s” on a salt marsh, dancing the night away to the soulful reggae beats of a local Maine band. By that point we had been dating for less than two years but were already legally married. Just four months earlier, D had received his offer letter to join the State Department. He had passed the orals, the last hurdle in a long selection process, a year before, but it took so long to obtain the necessary security clearance that we had given up on planning our life around the Foreign Service. S was in her last year of grad school and we were thinking of moving from Chicago to one of the coasts; nebulous marriage plans cropped up in our conversations, the engagement tentatively to take place once we got our careers on track.
We had come back from a month-long trip to Central America to find a letter granting D his security clearance jammed into our overflowing mailbox. An email with the offer letter came a few days later, and as we cuddled up in bed reading up on what lay ahead D said we should get married. No question was popped, no knee was taken, no ring (at least then) presented. The timing may not have been what we expected, but there was little need to question. Sometimes things just work out and getting married felt like the right thing to do.
On a drab February morning, we went with two witnesses to the Chicago courthouse only to be turned away. We had chosen that Friday because S had the day off from her county health department job. We should have realized that the courthouse would also be closed for the same reason – Lincoln’s birthday was that weekend so all municipal workers in Illinois enjoyed a holiday. When we returned to the courthouse the following Monday, the judge congratulated us for getting married in such a romantic fashion and offered us some Sweetheart candies. Wrapped up in the practicalities of getting a marriage license so that S could be included on D’s travel orders, we were completely oblivious to the fact that our first marriage ceremony took place on Valentine’s Day. We set about hurriedly planning a Memorial Day wedding to make sure we could hold it before D finished training. By the time we took our vows a second time, we knew we were headed to Nairobi within a matter of weeks. D was the second of his training class to depart for post; had we not obtained a marriage license in Chicago, S would have likely been stuck in DC for the entire summer while the State Department processed her paperwork.
Though we had only dated for slightly more than a year in Chicago, we actually met two years prior in Ecuador. S had just started an eight-month backpacking trip with her sister, post-college and high school respectively, and decided to head to one of the premier hiking destinations Ecuador has to offer – the Quilatoa loop. Switching buses in Latacunga, they were hurried onto a jam-packed bus that was about to leave the terminal. S’s sister got the jump seat next to the gear shift while S wound up sitting on the dashboard in front of the windshield where D had already made himself comfortable. He had extended for a third year as a Peace Corps volunteer in the beautiful Andean village of Chugchilan, which offers the best hostels on the Quilotoa loop. We got to talking during the 3 1/2 hour bus ride, hung out in Chugchilan, and kept in touch via email until our paths crossed again in Chicago, where we both went to grad school. The rest, as they say, is history.
— Photos courtesy of Whitney Fox @ emilie inc.