47 Peace Corps Volunteers, 1 Day


Anna McGillicuddy, 129 YinD – Close of Service Speech 

I’d like to begin my speech with a thank you to staff
Ajaans and Khun Thanakom for giving us voices,
Training staff for showing us how to use them
And our program managers for trusting us in our choices.

Let’s not forget those who work behind the scenes
CD, program assistants, PCMO, Khun Suthanya working nonstop
Marvin & Khun Sumalee we commend you immensely
If it was us, those damned rent receipts would make our heads pop.

Fellow volunteers, I now turn to you
Taking you on a day in the life of Anna, yep- a bit bizarre
But my hope is that these words will show you
How this journey has never been just mine, but instead, ours.

When I wake up in the mornings I’m usually grumpy
Anticipating physical & metaphorical journeys uphill
And my focus shifts to those who constantly take them on
And so I channel them, Diana, Dalton, Romil.

I roll out of bed and turn on a podcast
Choosing one recommended by Alex or Celete
Voices fill the silence and I wonder if they’re doing the same
Comforted, feeling connected, distracted from the heat.

Bending down to stretch, thoughts begin to swarm my head
To do lists, reminders, swimming around so chattily
I’m momentarily overwhelmed until I hear something soothing
‘Remember to breathe’ says the voice of yoga Natalie

The ice water hits my back and I let out a shriek
Washing, drying, putting on mismatched clothes in a frenzy
I do a double take in the mirror and chuckle
No way would this be approved by Mckenzie.

Pulling my bike out, I check the tires
Remembering the tutorial from dear Ms. Marik
I smile and find gratitude in that moment
Her fierce spirit, providing me with shelter, a barrack.

I arrive at morning assembly, greeting my students with hugs
Trying my best to counter the smacks from teacher McCrabby
And I wish I could hide his hand and his anger
Like bamboo sticks behind a desk, a genius move by Abbey.

I stand in front of the school as we practice SEED
Making sure I enunciate and that my voice amplifies
If only they knew that this had been a joint effort
Thanks to late night calls with best friends, Carly and Nikolai.

We begin class with ASL phonics & they carefully follow my movements
And suddenly it all becomes so transparent,
In their growth, in their patience, in their determination
I C, K-, Clarence

My students run up to the board screaming in delight
I smile, thinking about how I stole these games from Andy
And how that small PCV connection made this happen
One exchange, this network, my god, how handy.

I teach my p4 science class about Jeptune, ya know, the planet,
I shake my head and think that next they’ll have me teaching Thai
Gonna leave that up to Chris P, Nathan and Jordan
What even is kaw khai?

At lunch my mind wanders to thoughts of bread
Jealous of bakers Kayla, Megan and Kitkat
I think of my failed baking attempts and wonder what happened
What’s that ingredient they all add? – ah patience – I’d forgotten that

After I learn that my classes are cancelled, I want to just scream
But instead I take a moment to summon Mo & Quincy
Painting love wherever they go
Kindness Leonardo Da Vincis

Month 23 and I’m still called the wrong name
Remember though Anna, Kyle replaced a PCV too,
And Hoi has, well, an interesting Bahlat
But look at the work they’ve done, you can learn how to make do.

On the days when I wonder what I’m doing
Why I’m working a job without a salary
I focus on the present and see the beauty around me
Practicing mindfulness & love, thank you Olivia and Valerie.

I walk into class and find quite the scene
My students rolling around laughing like hyenas
Their laughter, wild, contagious
Like a Khon Kaen weekend with Christian, Pablo, Christina.

Surrounded by laughter and love
A strange thing happens – I have momentary amnesia
I watch my students work together, with compassion – as leaders
Oh my god ‘is this what it feels like to be Theresa?’

Out of nowhere, it comes to me
An idea that’s been reused and recycled
Let my kids become their own superheros
Images flash of Khun Laura and Michael

I propose some new ideas to my teachers
Reminding myself of my latest epiphany
They’ll be here long after I’m gone
Training, no, empowering teachers like KC, Audrey and Tiffany

After school, I get questioned for my love for sports
This is not what girls are supposed to play
So I stand up for myself, I stand up for my girls
Channeling the strength of Gen, Eygiel and Rae.

I work on letting the comments roll off my back
It’s been almost 2 years and I’m still adjusting
Jokes are exchanged, humor and laughter are used
I learned that from both Chandler and Justin

I’m gifted some fruit, and by some I mean 1 trillion
Constantly amazed at how Nam Jai flows here like juice
Knowing I’ll never be able to fully repay them
But hopefully I can love and be loved deeply, like Yai and her Yous.

I return home and pull out my paints
Recalling art and poetry from Khun Cat and Lauren
Colors fill the page, words fill it’s spaces
And I become a part of a world where I’m no longer foreign.

My phone lights up with a flurry of messages
Sassy exchanges between Barbara, George and Christine
I giggle at the humor, smiling at the jesting
Their warmth, a loneliness vaccine

Plopping down in bed
9:30pm? Woah, it’s time to hit the hay
With music flowing through my community
I think, ‘hmm still not quite as good as Khun Ray

My eyes close and my thoughts begin to slow
On this rock hard bed I somehow feel balance
Among the loudness around me
I find stillness, I find silence.

Because as I drift off to wait yet another day
I know each of you is with me, deep in my bones
Forcing my back to straighten, my head to lift
So I can look forward, unflinching, knowing I’m never alone.

Each and every person here PCVs and staff
Have touched me in ways I am unable to express
You’ve challenged my thinking, forced me to grow
And you did it with love, for that I am blessed.

Many say Peace Corps is a selfless endeavor
Putting your life on hold for two full years
But my life hasn’t stopped, it’s grown fuller, deeper
A beautiful switching of gears

You know that saying by old Dr. Seuss?
’you’ve got brains in your head,
And feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose’

He never says what happens after
When you get to the place that you choose to go
I think you just keep on moving, you keep on growing
But I’d say that’s something you already know

So even when the next steps seem impossible
When they seem scary and unknown
Remember you thought the same of the peace corps once
And now look at how we’ve grown.

Peace Corps Thailand, the one and only group 129
Thank you, thank you, you’ll be with me forever
I wish you all nothing but love, success and happiness
In your future endeavors.

Read Anna’s previous articles and contributions.

2 replies »

  1. Cheers Anna! def reblogged this – want to remember it always. Thanks for being so thoughtful in your closing words


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