Group 129 Yearbook: Taking and Leaving

Peace Corps Thailand Group 129

When I used to go on longer camping trips, we’d always end the last night with a special little ceremony. We’d each have a couple minutes to ourselves to reflect on the trip, the lessons we’d learned, how much we’d grown as people, and what it would be like to go back. During that time we’d each go find a small rock and a leaf. We’d come back together as a group and share something we had learned that we wanted to take with us – something we wanted to keep afloat from this moment on: our leaf lesson. Then we’d share something we were letting go of, to let remain and leave behind as we headed back, represented by our rock. That’s the central idea behind this prompt – what are you taking back with you and what are you leaving behind? – Megan Cindric, Senior Editor

I’m taking the mortar and pestle and leaving the dried seasonings.
I’m taking the spoons and leaving the forks.
I’m taking the nam prick (chili paste) and leaving the Tabasco.
I’m taking the rice and leaving the “rice causes bowel issues” myth.
I’m taking the Thai smiles and leaving the American scowls.
I’m taking everything I bought and leaving everything I brought. – Tiffany Fitzgerald


Something that I’ll take with me back home is my Northern Thai cookbook. I’ve been collecting recipes from my friends and family over the past two years and have complied them so that I can make the foods I know I’ll miss once back in the States. The something I’m leaving behind is more a someone: Michael Marano. I plan to never speak to him again once I get on that plane back to Oregon. Good riddance. – Alex Cotrufello 


I did a lot of reading to try to make sense of my time here. Although about a neighboring Southeast Asian country, this lesson applies to my experience in Thailand. It comes from Charmaine Craig’s Miss Burma: “It is better to be in a position of having to ask for charity than to be in the position of never having to ask…” Leading to my paraphrasing what she says next: It is to my benefit spiritually to have to ask, to become acquainted with my own meekness, and to find strength in it. The idea I hope I have left behind: It’s better to have fun and learn than save face. – George McCaffrey

Two years ago, my students, my counterpart, and I set off on a journey, destination unbeknownst to us all. We hurdled obstacles in the form of cultural differences, language barriers, and school holidays. We each struggled to learn the other’s language, and through that struggle a deep bond was formed. Before we knew it, we’d arrived at our destination: the fountain of youth. Wait, no, not youth – confidence. The fountain of confidence. We took hearty swigs of confidence potion, vowing to carry it with us proudly for the rest of our lives. – Yousif Al-Amin


I’m taking everything that is useful and leaving everything behind that is not. I really don’t want to bring all of this physical and emotional baggage back to America, but my friend at the SAO would really appreciate the macrame I made that one time I faked diarrhea for two days. – Elizabeth Marik

I’m taking Name, Apple, and Lego with me and leaving behind all of our previous identities. – Michael Marano


I think I’ll be taking so many things with me, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. I’ll be bringing friends I never had that I can’t live without now, and how lucky I am to have so many of them. I’ll be bringing with me all the patience, love, and understanding I was given, shown and learned over my service. Everything I learned I’ll be bringing with me everywhere in life and in everything I do. Something I will leave behind is a lot relationships and people that I’ve grown very close to. I feel like I’m leaving behind a home, like any other home I’ve known. I’m leaving behind a community that I wish I could I pop in on like any of my other family or friends in America. I’m leaving behind a piece of myself I think, a part of me that will only really exist here in this place, in the community, with these people. – Justin Lott

I’m leaving behind a Counterpart who told me she had never talked to a foreigner before me but now has no fear in boldly guiding them through my community’s many festivals. I’m leaving behind a very unique sense of family that I would have never had otherwise and a support system, with my neighbors wholeheartedly being a part of my everyday patterns. I’m leaving behind feisty young students who gave me a run for it with their cleverness and silliness, who I will deeply miss. I’m taking with me a sense of humbleness, of smallness, that makes you value the small also you are in the timeline of a place and it’s goings on. I’m taking with me a learned sense of confidence in navigating ambiguity. – Olivia Dawson


I’m taking social anxiety with me and leaving behind generic crocs. – Chandler Smith

I’m leaving behind my physical presence in the village but I’ve made many worthwhile connections that I can use for the rest of my life. – Christopher Pinkos


Something I’m taking with me from my service is Thai spirit of jai- yen- ness and the subtle art of not giving a *. I’m leaving behind the seed I attempted to sow. – Hoi Kipgen


I’m leaving behind my students, my counterparts, the clouds, the sunsets, monkey mountain, the self-doubt, the insecurities, the amazing food and the adventures. I’m leaving behind too many things to list because I’m leaving behind the life I’ve built here. But I’m taking with me the memories and the new connections. I’m taking with me the things I’ve learned, not just about Thai culture and the people, but the things I’ve learned about myself. – Audrey Ardine


I am leaving behind…
My body image issues
Greng Jai
My relaxed Thai life
My Thai family

I am taking with me…
A sense of accomplishment
New skills including speaking a second language, creative problem solving, and a newfound grit to persevere
All of the love I’ve been shown since starting this journey
Life long friends, both American and Thai whom I’ll never forget! – Cat Nightengale 


I am taking my Karaoke microphone. It has helped me practice my Thai songs and it has also been a great tool to use in the classroom. I am also taking this suitcase. It’s about 20 years old, a little beat up, and some of it’s zippers are busted, but it has a history with me. It’s traveled to 8 countries on 4 continents, and through countless airports. One time it got lost in Africa, but it came back to me. Maybe it will retire after we get back home. I am not taking any Thai children, like Mic, even though I want to, but they will always be close in my heart. – Ray Kornegay 


I am leaving behind 10 pounds, and bringing back stomach problems (I enjoyed the food, at least). – Nikolai Stern

From my service, I will be taking home a wider world view and fuller understanding of myself, flaws and all. I will be leaving behind a sense of impatience or frustration with this often overwhelming world. Everything is as it is. I will also take home the confidence that I can endure hard things and keep smiling to improve whatever community I am a part of. I will be leaving behind many Thai students of whom I fell in love with and who were my greatest friends. – Lauren Cono


I’m taking back a new perspective, countless friendships, a newfound love of spicy food, and plenty of pasins. I am leaving behind my presence, the outcome of two years of hard work and dedication, the hope that my community will look back on memories of me, the crazy foreigner who said “hi” to everyone and wasn’t afraid to make a fool of herself, someone who showed her kids that girls could be tough too and that it’s okay to make mistakes. And in the end even though I’m excited to go back home, my heart hurts knowing I have to leave behind the places and people I’ve come to call home here – Megan Cindric

I am leaving behind a piece of my heart. An understanding I am taking with me: When you are in a box, you think you are able to think outside the box, but you’re not. – Christine McCaffrey 


Something I’m taking with me; the laughter, smiles, and jokes shared with my students, my coworkers, my yais, my family. Something I’m leaving behind; expectations. By letting go of the thoughts of what my service could have been, I can embrace, cherish, and remember it for what it is; perfect in its imperfections. – Genevieve Montreuil

I am leaving behind my bicycle and I am taking an appreciation for a slower pace of life with me. – Theresa Kozelka 


I have spent a fair amount of time the past couple weeks trying to answer this question. My packing list is constantly changing and every week I add and take away items from my “Hobbit Hole Pile.” But, I will definitely be taking my Thai outfit home with me. Though I don’t think I’ll have much chance to rock shoulder pads and a long skirt, that outfit was the first external sign of my belonging in the community. And I will absolutely be leaving my toaster oven behind. Not just because there are bigger ovens waiting for me back home, but because that oven has been used to create so many memories with my neighbors. I hope that by leaving it I also leave the opportunity for more memories (and lots of cookies) with whoever occupies my house next. – Kayla McCabe


I’m leaving behind a home that I’ve cultivated, a family that I’ve grown, and a life that I cherish. I’m taking with me all the memories. Also, an increased tolerance/preference/actual need for spice. I will undoubtedly have chili flakes stocked in my kitchen at all times. – McKenzie Paterson 

It is my greatest hope that I am able to leave behind even a fragment of the joy I am carrying with me beyond this experience. – Rae Richards


I am taking home pictures, memories and a lot of clothes. I am leaving behind hugs, memories and inspiration. – Valerie Albicker 

I’m taking home a stomach of steel and I’m leaving behind Uno. I’ve played enough of that game to last a lifetime. – Abbey Weiler


Something I am taking with me: My desire for better Thai language skills. And a little nick in my heart for each child I encountered. Something I am leaving behind: Hopefully, some excitement for English and some English language skills. Also, my favorite jeans because they don’t fit anymore. – Barbara Allen 

I’m leaving behind the pants I wore every day during PST, the button down A1 shirt I wore only twice (once during Swearing In and once during COS), the swimming trunks I’ve worn for every swimming related thing here in Thailand, and the last of the five t-shirts I brought with me here from America, BUT, I’m taking home with me this pairless sock that has stood with me through thick and thin. #darntough #youcandohardthings – Clarence Say


Something I’m taking with me is gained confidence in my self and my abilities, courage to face the unknown standing tall and proud, and a new profound love for myself. Something I’m leaving behind is the fear of failure. The fear to try new things or learn an unfamiliar topic. To embrace challenges with humility and a smile, maybe even a laugh. I hope the youth in my community will find this freedom from ‘failure’ for themselves and think of me when trying to learn something new. – Kyle Kvamme

Something I’ll bring home is growth mentality – pure confidence in my imperfect self and the knowledge that I am, and want to be, forever changing and growing. Something (I hope) I’ll leave behind is the memory of the foreign girl who tried muay thai, traditional thai dancing, soccer, volleyball – a girl who tried it all, regardless of what was expected of her as a woman. – Anna McGillicuddy 


Me and Nong Kalamay – she is by far the most bada** muay thai fighter around, giving the boys a run for their money

What I am taking back home with me are the beautiful sights, warm smiles, and the joy of all the conversations I had with the incredible people I met during my time in Thailand. What I hope I am leaving behind after my volunteer experience is plenty of good memories with those I worked and shared my time with during this marvelous trip. – Laura Hernandez 

As we get nearer to saying our goodbyes here in Thailand, there are a lot of uncertainties in the air. However, I take comfort in knowing that I will forever carry the unconditional love gifted to me by my students and community. As I take their love with me wherever life takes me, I leave behind my fear of the unknown. – Mookho Mokhesi


I’m taking my relationships, my experiences, and my yai-clothing (paatungs 4eva). I am leaving all of my ugly black mourning clothing–but more importantly, I hope I’m leaving a sense of what my students and workers are able to do if they are unafraid to be bold. – Andy Anderson

Something I’m taking with me from service is a pah kwan which is used during a Thai traditional ceremony known as Baci. I brought one with me when I visited home last December & shared parts of the ceremony with family & friends to ring in the new year. Til this day a few of them still have the string tied around their wrist! Something I’m leaving behind are the significant amount of polos that have accumulated in my closet! – Eygiel Limbo


To be honest I thought this prompt would be easier to answer, but my mind just ultimately drifts into an infinite amount of answers, so I don’t know even know where to start. I guess I am taking back with me an almost second life’s worth of experiences. Of what could have been simply if I was born in a different place or time. I hope I can leave behind the impression of a bigger world for my community. That there is so much more geographically and culturally beyond this community. – Nathan Caballero

I will take away with me the memory of Thailand’s magical sunsets, the sounds of the birds as I wake up, the endless croaking of the frogs during raining season, the sweet taste of coconut ice cream and the warm welcome I received from my students every day. I will leave behind a piece of my heart. – Diana Garcia


I’m leaving spicy intolerance in Thailand, and I’m taking superior bathroom hygienic technology with me back to America. – Jordan Niemoeller

I’m taking back an embracement of vulnerability and leaving behind fear of failure. – Kat Giannini


I am leaving behind a competent, confident, compassionate coteacher and amazing students, who are eager to learn and take care of each other. I am taking with me the self-love acquired throughout my service as a result of being loved by my school and my community without expectation or reason. – Natalie Garro

When I leave Thailand, I’m taking with me the knowledge that I am capable, competent, and adaptable. I’m leaving behind a community of new friends that have shown me what living outside your comfort zone with love and acceptance can look like. – Celete Kato


I’m leaving a second home with a group of people that have become my family. The love that you all and my site have given me has touched me forever. What I’m bringing back is love for different perspectives. I used to be really close-minded to ideas being thrown, but Peace Corps has opened my eyes and ears to try and understand as much as I can. – Romil Pineda

I’m taking home something I never imagined to be leaving with: a passion for teaching. My students in Thailand taught me that trusting and loving relationships built between teachers and their students are the foundation of true change. I’m leaving behind an official World Kickball Association kickball (thanks for the donation, Mom & Dad!) and my students’ newly discovered love for the game. What started as a last-minute lesson idea turned into the school’s new favorite sport! – Carly Allard


Leaving behind expectations from my service and taking pain and love with me. – Quincy Clowe

I’m taking with me a condensed milk sweet disposition and leaving a part of my heart with my family! – Pablo Doster RoperoPablo Doster Ropero

I’m taking away the comfort of knowing how similar humans truly are – our desire to laugh, to be loved, to learn something. This underlying bond transcends language and cultural boundaries…While I look forward to taking this idea with me, I’m equally pleased to be leaving behind my need for a constant supply of anti-diarrhea pills. – Christina Beynon

I plan on taking a more complete understanding of what it means to be a volunteer and I hope to leave my students with a burning curiosity to explore the world around them. – Dalton Striedel


Christian Ramirez

Read previous “Yearbook” entries.

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