Category Archives: Friends

104 – Oregon Bach Festival Youth Choral Academy

This was one of the most life changing things I have ever done.  When I was a junior in high school, the Oregon Bach Festival started the Youth Choral Academy.  It started out small, probably only about 50 or 60 of us, all from Eugene.  They got one of the best choral conductors in the country, Anton Armstrong from St. Olaf College, to come and lead us with the help of an amazing Dick Clark from the U of O.   I imagine we were not that great the first year, but I can tell you that I left that week of the academy a much better singer and chorus member.  We got to work with amazing singers on vocal technique, body singing and so much more.  We went to the ‘camp’ during the day, but were free to get into all sorts of shenanigans at night.

The next year, the administrators wised up, and put us in the dorm to keep a better eye on us.  We were also much better the next year, coming from all over Oregon.  Dr. Armstrong expected much more from us and kicked our butts a little harder.  I learned even more.  Unfortunately, my college women’s choir was a huge let down after singing with the amazing singers in the OBFYCA, so I quit singing after my first term in the choir.  I did go back as a chaperone for the YCA the next summer.

I was a very strict chaperone.

This year was the 15th anniversary of the academy, so they invited all 700 of the alumni back for a weekend of rehearsals, a luncheon and to since a couple songs with the current YCA (now called Stangeland Family YCA) kids.  The concert was this past Sunday, and I have to say I had so much fun.  Only about 35 alums showed up, but there were 4 of us from the original year.  I took Alma to the luncheon and it was pretty fun to imagine her singing in the choir in 15 or 16 years.  Oh, how lucky she would be to have an experience like singing in the SFYCA.


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Number 99 – Echo Hall

Echo is one of the best people I have ever met in my life.  For reals.  She is the funnest, funniest, prettiest, sassiest lady there is.  Echo plays a lead role in most of my favorite memories from 1998- 2004.  Summer nights with Echo were full of possibilities and usually led to mischief of the best kind.  There were nights in parking lots, running around with a beach towel as my cape, there were nights dressed in black, stalking other friends’ parties, nights driving around town blasting Dave Matthews Band in my little Ford Escort, nights waiting for phone calls or something amazing to happen at Allann Bros., swinging at playgrounds, dancing anywhere and more fun than I could even begin to describe.

Echo and I haven’t seen each other much in the past few years, but whenever we do, I feel like we can pick up right where we left off.  That’s a sign of a true, incredible, lasting friendship if you ask me.

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Number 93 – Sally Yazwinski

Yes, people do ballet in the Peace Corps. Duh.


Sally was one of my Peace Corps friends.  I liked her from the first day.  She had a really cute scarf (which isn’t why I like her, but it helped).  When Jesse and I were rescued from our first host family in Sumgayit Station (I will get to this in a later post), we got to go live with Sally’s cluster in beautiful Corat.  Corat was a sweet little beach town compared to The Station.

Sal is a very funny lady.  She cracked me up all the time (and cracked up at everything I said, thus making me feel very good about myself (I bet she’s laughing now if she’s reading this (are you laughing, Sally?))).

Sally and Kelsey came to visit (before the roses were blooming) last spring and it was so, so, so great to catch up with them.  Although we only lived in the same part of the world for a very short time, I know that Sal will always be a great friend who will always mean the world to me.

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Number 89 – Susie, Sue-Sue, Evelyn, Susan Schoenfeld Stewart

Susan was my very best friend when I was little.  We did everything together – ballet, choir, band, piano, roller skating,  girlscouts.  Everything.  Some of my very best childhood memories involve Susan.

We met on the very first day of first grade.  The story goes that someone (my brother, mom, dad?) told me to make some new friends as I got on the bus.  I saw Susan sitting by herself at a desk, so I took the desk next to her’s and introduced myself.  The rest is history.  We spent all our recesses together, I had my first sleep over at her house, we played together most afternoons.  We had so much fun together.  We were always laughing and my mom nicknamed us Giggle Gerties (or something?).

Susan taught me so much about what it means to have a friend and to be a friend.  She was a beautiful girl and is now a beautiful woman, whom I haven’t seen in far too long.  I love to follow her blog and notice things that we still have in common even though she’s all the way across the country in Virginia.  I will always love my first BFF, Susan.

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Number 87 – Sam Rutledge

I met Sam the summer before my freshman year of high school.  I liked him immediately.  He bounded into a party and his energy was so electric that I couldn’t help wanting to be him friend.  During our freshman year, we did become friends.  We became really good friends and for a couple of years he was one of my best.

We did drama together, so I got to spend a lot of time with him.  Sam was one of the funniest and most talented people I knew during high school.  He was (and still is) very creative and compassionate.  He is a truly lovely human being and I am so glad he is in this world, and that he was such a big part of my world during high school.

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Number 72 – Rayne Zaughsome

Rayne is one of my favorite people in the world.  He was there when I met Jesse.  He was our best man in our wedding.  He is one of those amazing friends who you know will always be there. 

He lives his life with such beauty and joy.  He is always trying new things.  He never seems to let fear get in his way – he wants to experience the world and his life in such a big way.

He and Jesse have such a lovely eternal friendship.  They were kindred spirits when they met in the dorms and I’m pretty sure Jesse wouldn’t be who he is today if Rayne hadn’t come into his life.

Rayne constantly inspires me to do whatever I can to make this world a better place.  He loves nature and the environment and sharing his passion with everyone he meets.

It has been way too long since we’ve seen this amazing man.

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Number 71 – David Morgan

This is one of my very favorite photos from Azerbaijan

David, David, David.  I have to admit that I didn’t much like David when I first met him.  I actually remember the moment that I met him.  It was in Philadelphia for Peace Corps Staging.  He came up and introduced himself and I said, “I’m Carolyn.”  He said, “Nice to meet you, Cərolyn.”  Then I said, “No, it’s Carolyn.”  He said, “Well I will call you Cərolyn.”  You see, David’s from New Jersey so he said my name like Rudy’s friend Caroline on the Cosby Show.  I thought he was rude.

It took me quite a while to turn my opinion around.  It was the TEFL conference in Baku.  I met up with him and another volunteer to take the night train to Baku.  Somehow that weekend we connected and became great friends.  He even came back to Ming with me on the electric train and stayed the night with Jesse and me before heading back to his site.  I remember talking with him the entire 6 hour train ride.  It was nice because we could speak English fast enough that no one could understand us, not even Gulnaz.

One thing I love about David is his endless romanticism and faith.  He approaches everything in his life with unfaltering passion and courage.  He loves everything Russian and I know that love will take him far in his life.  His faith is inspirational and powerful.  David is a wonderful friend and I’m so glad we had the chance to become friends.

Oh my!!  David just reminded me of one of my favorite memories from Azerbaijan.  We spent a night watching a season of The Amazing Race.  The entire season on our laptop, all huddled together in our bed.  This might sound odd to non-RPCVs, but it’s perfectly natural and normal for groups of PCVs to huddle together watching TV on DVD bought at the local Hong Kong Harry’s shop in the capital.  On this particular night, we had to be somewhere in the morning so we watched it on 1.3 time so we could fit in the entire season.  I remember going crazy with nervous energy when the dramatic music came on… oh man.  Craziness.  I think I just gave away a big secret about Peace Corps – it’s not all community development.  (shhhhhhh)

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