WILSON: Testing one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Doesthis work? It's working better than the last one I believe. Okay, let's go back and see what I have. Testing--Peace Corps Oral History Project tape one of interview with Tom Samuel, May 5, 2004. Okay, Tom if you would please give me your full name and where and when were you born.
SAMUEL: Tom--Thomas W. or Thomas Wood Samuel born in Gary, IndianaJanuary 18, 1941.
WILSON: Tell me just a little bit about your family, something aboutyour growing up and so forth if you would.
SAMUEL: I've got two brothers both younger. Mom and Dad intact family,1:00we let's see I started school in where? I don't even know. I think it was in Brooke, Indiana then I ultimately ended up in Portage, Indiana in high school, played sports, you know was on the honor roll, went to college. My brothers did the same. We were active; it was a small community that was growing so that we got a sense of being part of something. In fact, got a sense of being really important in terms of the community, for example, the particular football team I was on was ranked at one point in the state of Indiana. And that was the first team that had been ranked and you know etc. I think the point 2:00being that we grew up with a sense that we belonged somewhere. We were part of something. With my parents being active in politics and the community, it had a strong sense of you were part of something and you were glad you were there.
WILSON: Father's, mother's profession?
SAMUEL: Father was a--worked in the mills in Gary and then worked withGeneral American building box cars. He was a material expeditor making sure materials were where they were supposed to be. Mom was a housewife and you know worked off and on and part time jobs but that was--
WILSON: Okay, and then you went to college. Where did you do that?
SAMUEL: Went to college at Indiana University, graduated in '63 with3:00a degree in business administration. I don't know, there it is, you know. Not very exciting, more direct: going to school, going to classes. Came out, went to work as a management trainee with Jewel T. Foods which was a--They ran food stores in the Chicago area. We were--there were like 20 of us that were hired by the firm. We worked in individual stores and then we would work in the central office with the vice presidents and rotate among the vice presidents and get some idea of how large corporations work. And then-- 4:00
WILSON: How long did you do that?
SAMUEL: Two years. And then John F. Kennedy was killed and it seemedlike it was a good idea to go to Peace Corps.
WILSON: How did you find out about the Peace Corps?
SAMUEL: Actually, I mean you grow up as a young Catholic boy in Indiana.And Indiana Democrats are a minority, not in the particular area where I grew up but in the state they are. Also, you--I remember thinking that Kennedy probably shouldn't get the nomination; I wanted the Democrat to win feeling that a Catholic would be a disadvantage in the election. Once he in fact gets the nomination and is running, it's you know, it's a point of pride. There's a kind of feeling of okay again this idea I think of additional belonging. So when he identifies Peace Corps--I had also been in the army reserves along the way; I had 5:00forgotten all about that.
WILSON: When did you join the army reserves?
SAMUEL: I joined the army reserves in 1963 because if you remember theBerlin air crisis or the crisis when they shut down--the Soviets shut down our ability to transport materials to Berlin. We went in--I think that we had air transport at that time where we were airlifting everything in. Kennedy pointed out that everybody that was not in fact married with children that was over 23 years of age or whatever, was probably pretty suspect of being drafted, so at that point a number of us joined the reserves. I served in the reserves for I guess six months and then went to active reserves. I was at Fort Knox then 6:00came back and for maybe six months was again in the reserve unit. Went to Peace Corps; when I came back from Peace Corps there were so many returned veterans from Vietnam that all the units were filled. I wanted to transfer from Gary, Indiana which is where I had been a reservist to Bloomington because I was going to school. There were no openings so they just said, "Don't worry about it. Everything's okay." And you know at the end of six years after I had joined I got a piece of paper that said I had an honorable discharge from the army. And the name was Thomas Samuel Wood, and I said that's close enough for me.
WILSON: So you were actually still a member of the reserves when youjoined the Peace Corps?
SAMUEL: That's correct, that's correct.
WILSON: And tell me something about the process of joining the Peace7:00Corps that you went through. You fill out an application or--?
SAMUEL: I don't remember filling out an application but I'm sure I didbecause I know my daughters did and it was a pretty elaborate process. I do remember taking the exam which I think was a language proficiency exam. And I remember doing very poorly on that particular exam; so poorly that when I got to training a friend of mine that I had met the first night we were in training, and we went out drinking that night thinking we were really special and other people didn't quite measure up. But the next day we were told that we were all very special. We were going to Liberia where they spoke English and the reason was that none of us really had the ability to learn a second language; so we were lucky that there was a place like Liberia to go to.
WILSON: Did you have any choice of countries?8:00
SAMUEL: No, I think they told me where I was going and I said--I didn'teven think about choice; that wasn't an issue I think. You know where I was going was fine with me. I didn't know enough to--I didn't think about choice; I'm sure.
WILSON: How were you notified or where did you and where did you train?
SAMUEL: I trained in San Francisco. Where I was notified I have no--Idon't remember that.
WILSON: You were still working in Indiana?
SAMUEL: I was still working, yeah, yeah.
WILSON: So you went to San Francisco. And what was the training like?How long was it? What did you do in training?
SAMUEL: Training was--I think it was three months but I'm not sure. Itwas a considerable time and it was a very nice place to be trained by the way. I recommend San Francisco to anybody who has not been trained there for three months. It's superior to Boston in the winter where we trained a group that we trained back, that we worked on to train. 9:00My wife and I worked to train to go back to Liberia after we left. But it was good training I think. I actually thought it was a good idea; in fact I think Peace Corps has made a mistake by not having stateside training. Not so much because I think the volunteers maybe are trained better here than they would be in country, but because we have lost the ability to create experts in a particular area. Like there were a number of people at San Francisco State as well as people who were invited there that I'm convinced were not only experts in Liberia but probably remained expert primarily because they were called on a regular basis to train volunteers to go to Liberia. I think it's a tremendous loss of one of the key objectives of Peace Corps which is to train--or is to bring back the country to the United States, which I 10:00happen to think is by far more important than what the volunteers or the organization takes to another county. So it was a long--Three months seemed like a long time. There was a selection process even though I think it ended up being primarily a voluntary selection process. And I don't think that was bad because I don't think they really had criteria to make a decision as to what volunteers should or should not go, even though they had previously deselected a number of people on various and sundry criteria in other programs. But and I think that again, I think there should be some selection process. I think that's also lost when you do in country training because the idea of sending somebody home after you've trained them for 10 weeks or 12 weeks or whatever without having them be a volunteer is an expensive process, so I think 11:00that there's probably an over emphasis on letting people in fact be volunteers that maybe there might be reason that they be deselected.
WILSON: Were you trained for a specific job or certain kinds of skills?
SAMUEL: Yeah, I was trained initially I was going to be a teacher whichI--I mean my background again was in business administration and I had had a couple years in the management training program at Jewel T. But a little ways into the program the decision was made that I would be a going to the administration program rather than the teaching program. And I think there were 20 some of us that were in administrative positions in the government in Liberia. Very interesting group 12:00of people, some with much more experience than what I had--older individuals that had extensive experience--It was a very good program. We did--Those of us who were going to not be in the capital city of Monrovia but rather out of the capitol, they gave us--they called us in one morning, gave us $20 or $30. I can't remember what it was, and said, "You go here and you go there." And I ended up in Castroville. And they said, "Bring back in five days everything that you know about--everything there is to know about Castroville." So there was a--
WILSON: Castroville is a little town or--?
SAMUEL: Little town in, well actually it's the artichoke capitol of theworld according to Castroville anyway.
WILSON: You even remembered I guess what you learned.
SAMUEL: Oh yeah I remember. Yeah, it was a very intense experience. I13:00got into town late at night and I came in with my luggage and I--The only thing open was a bar and I said, "Have a beer and do you have, by the way, any place for somebody to sleep?" And they said, "Oh yeah, we've got a room upstairs." I probably am the first person that had stayed in that room for a long time for purposes of sleeping. And, but the next day I then went out and started walking around the town. Went to the local church figuring that it was a heavy Hispanic population etc. and the priest said, "Oh yes, you know it's interesting what you're doing. Why don't you go see the people down at MAPA?" which is the Mexican Americas for Political Action or something group. And I did that, and he said, "Oh that's very interesting. Why don't you go over to the fire department? The President of MAPA is over there." And I said, "Well that's good, I'll go over and talk to the President of MAPA." And I went over and talked to him and he said, "Well you 14:00know that's interesting," he said, "Why don't you stay here at the fire station while you're here in town and we'll feed you and etc and we'll take you out to the fields and you can see the workers as they pick artichokes etc or whatever they were picking at that time." But he said, "You really need to go down to see the mayor." Now they didn't really have a mayor but they had a man who had been there a long time. He was Portuguese descent and he was called the mayor. And he was in a drug store and I went to see him; I don't remember his name. And this gentleman had me out to his house and showed me land grants that his ancestors had gotten from the King of Spain or Portugal or whatever. And he spent hours with me talking about Castroville and all the things about the community. I later, I got my picture in the paper and got a big story in the paper about being a Peace Corps volunteer there. I got to speak before one of the civic groups, very interesting 15:00process. I mean I walked away knowing a lot about Castroville and probably a lot about what it takes to be immersed in a community and really get to know it. I mean I found out the post office is an important place to go because the postmaster has certain ties to the community--didn't know that before. Found out it's a political process as to how you get to be a postmaster. Got to know the mayor, got to know MAPA, got to know the volunteer fire folks; it was an interesting process. And I think Peace Corps had done, again, I think a stateside training before an immersion in another culture is a kind of growth experience that I don't know if you can replicate that somewhere else.
WILSON: And then with, was there training about Liberia itself?
SAMUEL: Lots of training about Liberia. Again, experts coming in as16:00well as returned Peace Corps volunteers; I mean it was I thought a very good training. Now I'm not sure whether being on a college campus is necessarily the right place to go but it probably was less expensive housing but I don't, I really don't know.
WILSON: So what years did you actually serve in Liberia?
SAMUEL: I got on the plane in 1965 as Watts was burning. And most ofus that were getting on the plane really could not understand what was going on that Watts was burning. I mean the idea that Los Angeles, which was supposedly this more ideal racially integrated community, was burning down a portion of the city that was owned, and in many cases owned by the occupants of those homes; seemed very strange to us. The whole black power movement occurred while I was overseas. I 17:00remember seeing a clinched fist when, I can't even remember the man's name, when he won the whatever it was--the 100 or the 220 or whatever it was--and thinking, "What is he doing? What's this about?" not having an understanding. But at any rate, I guess I say that because you ask if I had been trained in what Liberia was about and the answer is yes but I didn't understand what America was about by the time I got there because, again I guess we really--How much do we know about Liberia or anywhere, wherever we are?
WILSON: So you went to Liberia in 1965. What was your first impression?You step off the plane--
SAMUEL: Hot. Hot, and again, I was told to go to the--I mean obviously18:00we went to Peace Corps something or other and they parceled us out to various sundry places and I went to--with some group of Peace Corps volunteers in the city. I was going down to Buchanan, which is down the coast 100 miles or so. At the time it was the rainy season and there was really no good road to get from Monrovia to Buchanan, so they were going to put me on a plane so I had to wait a few days to get on the plane. I can't remember who I was living with but it was a group of volunteers. Then one day they said, "Okay, go out to the airport and they will take you down to Buchanan." So I got a taxi and got my luggage and my trunk, put it in the taxi, went out to the airport. And it wasn't the airport; it was the private airport which is not the airport in Monrovia. And there were lots of pieces of airplanes but 19:00there was no real airplane. There were wings and there were engines and there were propellers; but there was no whole airplane anywhere that I could see. And finally we came up to this place where there was a whole airplane, but again, there were parts laying all around this airplane, which did not lead to great confidence that this was a good idea. But the guy said, "This is where you belong," and he dropped my luggage off and that's where I was. So I walked into this little shack and it was exactly that; it was like maybe 5' by 5' max. And there was this European guy sitting there and he said, "Oh, you're going to Buchanan today, right?" And I said, "Yeah, I hope so," I mean really it's a good idea. So he said, "Well let's go get your stuff in that plane," and he did and he said, "Now don't step on this wing--or on 20:00the tail section. Don't step on it." I said, "No, I'm not going to do anything like that." So okay, get up here, and so we get up and we're running down the runway full blast and he puts the breaks on. And I said, "Geez, what's the problem?" He said, "No gas." I said, "I'm glad you recognized it now. I mean it could have been a problem later." So we turn around and we go back and he gets his gas and we take off, and we're going down the coast and he said, "Did you ever see sea turtles?" And I said, "No." And suddenly we were in the water looking at sea turtles. And I said, "Okay, enough, enough water, you know enough sea turtles." We go down a little further down the coast and he suddenly goes, he said, "I'm going to show you something here." And we go inland a ways and he says, "See that wrecked plane over there, that son of a bitch just screwed up when he tried to go flying and just crashed that damn thing!" I said, "Could we get back on the coast please?" So by this time I have my imprint on the little handle in front of me on this plane. And we go on down, we finally get to Buchanan and he flies over 21:00the town a couple times and we go out to the airport, which is LAMCO- -which stands for Liberian American Mining Concession or something like that. And it's this grass strip and it's a little shack. Again, it's not 5' by 5', it's more like 2' by 2' and he drops my luggage off and he says, "Okay, they'll be out here to pick you up." I said, "Well, who are they?" Because there's nobody there, I mean there is nothing there. This is just--Finally somebody did come and it was Susan my wife of several years later--a year later when we married. Picked me up, we went into town, but anyway. I mean how do things happen? Well, who knows how they happen. I mean I don't know, but anyway it was an interesting trip down the coast. 22:00
WILSON: So that was your introduction?
SAMUEL: That was my introduction to Buchanan, yeah. And I complainedabout how bad the road was and Susan explained it was the best road in town. She was already there, so anyway.
WILSON: Let's stop long enough to be sure that we're recording. Soyou're in Buchanan down on the coast of Liberia. What's the weather like in Liberia and what was it like in Buchanan as you settled in?
SAMUEL: Buchanan is not different from Monrovia; in the wet season it'svery wet, in the dry season it's very dry.
WILSON: And this is what time of year?
SAMUEL: Wet season, this was the rainy season. It was raining,Liberia gets approximately 180 inches of rain six months of the year, and six months it gets none. So it was wet. I roomed with Bill Jackson who was another volunteer there in town who had been 23:00in the same training group that I was in. He was a teacher and I was in public administration working with the county superintendent, which is--Liberia at the time was divided into nine counties, and the superintendent was the chief administrative officer for the county. And I worked with him. The weather was hot and wet. I mean you could tell if you had been there a long time or not by whether you strained the gnats out of the scotch before you drink it. If you didn't, you'd been there a long time. If you did, you'd been there a year or so. If you didn't drink it at all, you were brand new. So I was brand new for a while and didn't drink the gnats--the scotch with the gnats in it. But I mean it was a good place. It was, again, Buchanan was 24:00a small town with a significant Americo-Liberian community, Americo- Liberians being the Liberians who had returned from the United States or descendents of those who returned from the United States as slaves- -freed slaves. And they really was a strong infrastructure within the community. The Bassa was the primary tribe. There was a Catholic priest in town who was the first priest who had been ordained a priest- -Catholic priest--Father Patrick Juele who we got to know very well, who married us in fact, and visited us in the United States later. He was very educated and somebody that was very trustworthy, so we spent a 25:00lot of time learning about Liberia from Father Patrick as well as from Superintendent Williams who was my superior, Susan obviously through her principal. But it was--You really got to know the community, part of what it was about. One of the things I did was to help publish a weekly newspaper which meant that there were--you got to know stories, tribal stories, traditional stories, as well as news. Wasn't a lot of news but, you know, whatever news there was, was printed. But it was an interesting experience in that you did get to know, again, I think back to sort of like my little community that I grew up in, you got to be part of this community. You got to know people. One of the, I'll 26:00never forget one story that again to describe the Americo Liberians' dominance in the community as well as in Liberia as a whole at the time. President Tubman had been President since the Second World War and one tribal boy said to me, "You do understand how this works?" Maybe not exactly that way but something to that effect, that, in fact, the Americo-Liberians and President Tubman in particular, has the heart of the tribal people under his foot and if they try to rise up he will step down and they will all die. I'm not sure whether he understood the full allegory of that or not or whether he really thought it was literally true. But it was true that the president was a very powerful figure in terms of what happened in Buchanan and in every other little 27:00community in Liberia I'm sure and certainly in the country as a whole. But that made and meant there wasn't a lot of administration. So in terms of my role, as I said I worked on a newspaper, worked on some community development projects. They had a national fair in Buchanan while I was there and we helped design the Bassa booth, which was the Grand Bassa which was the county we were in. And worked with development of the fairgrounds and making sure everybody could be there and etc. You know they could have places to display their crafts and whatever. The mining concession had a booth there. We put on a, in terms of activities, a show--a talent show where all the tribes put--presented their particular specialty, be it a some kind of a dance 28:00or songs or whatever it might be, and raised money. We filled the, we got the movie theater. The superintendent convinced the owner of the local movie theater that he ought to give us the theater for an evening and everybody would pay to get in as admission. And then that money would be raised to give scholarships for the children in the community to go to school. One of the problems in any situation like this is trying to decide who the treasurer is going to be, because you don't want it to be a Peace Corps volunteer because that doesn't look good. On the other hand, you're sometimes concerned as to who the treasurer might be. In this case, Father Jule was the treasurer because we knew that Father would make sure that the money was properly spent--or spent it. Maybe not properly spent, but spent for the purposes that it was decided to be spent for. It was a good two years. 29:00
WILSON: Did you experience any adjustment problems?
SAMUEL: No. There were--I don't know how many people in Buchanan, butlet's see it was 2000 people and there probably were 10 Peace Corps volunteers. So I mean the problem was there were too many Peace Corps volunteers in the town I think to really do what the job was. I mean I don't know. If the job of Peace Corps was beyond just being a teacher and living in an American community, there were too many Peace Corps volunteers. Because what happened was you tended to identify with other Peace Corps volunteers and spent a lot of time with the Europeans in town at the local bar and you drink a lot--a lot of drinking going 30:00on--and not enough involvement in the community itself other than those activities where we'd reach out and do something specific. But there was a lot of involvement of Peace Corps volunteers with Peace Corps volunteers. So there wasn't a huge adjustment. And you were given a status in the community that was really, I mean Peace Corps had--as I remember it--a philosophy at the time that your status should be something comparable to the people you worked with. Well, I mean I worked with the superintendent and he was sort of the top honcho in town, so he lived pretty well--a lot better than I did for sure. But because of that, I mean for example we had a beach front apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with the ocean, you know, lapping up close and on the main street in town. It wasn't a hard life at all, to 31:00say the least.
WILSON: Anything that you weren't prepared for?
SAMUEL: No I can't say that. As I look back, I would say if anythingwe weren't prepared in that we ended up, like I said, being able to spend too much time not being part of the community. And I don't know whose responsibility that was. I think some of it had to do with being teachers as the primary focus and you did your teaching half a day and then you had done your duty. There wasn't somehow a push to have you involved in other things.
WILSON: How many Peace Corps volunteers were there in Buchanan?
SAMUEL: Ten or twelve, there were a lot.
WILSON: Ten or twelve.
SAMUEL: There were a lot, too many.32:00
WILSON: Describe for me a typical day.
SAMUEL: A typical day is you'd--I can't remember what time you'd go towork but let's say 9:00. That day for me would last till 3:00, 4:00 in the afternoon, and then you'd go home and you'd have very limited involvement beyond that with the Liberian community--some perhaps. If there were special events, but again, it wasn't a kind of reaching out involvement with the community. I mean we had lots of involvement with the church and the children and priests there, but there really wasn't in terms of day to day involvement with--Because there wasn't a 33:00lot going on, maybe that was our fault, but somehow Peace Corps hadn't prepared us properly to do I think what maybe we should have been doing or what would have been done more likely today when you had a topic like AIDS to work with or a particular focus. The problem was there really wasn't a focus for involvement beyond your job kind of thing.
WILSON: You mentioned earlier something about a marriage. Tell me howthat transpired.
SAMUEL: Well you don't have a lot to do. You know, and I said I'dgotten there in July or August--August I guess. And I had gone back to Monrovia on a number of weekends after the dry season came so you could--the road was passable. But the friends--these friends of mine said, you know, when Liberian Thanksgiving, and I think that's like the 34:00first Thursday in November instead of the fourth Thursday or whatever it is. Why don't we go to Buchanan for Thanksgiving? I said, "Well that's really good guys. But who the hell is going to cook the damn turkey or whatever?" And they said, "Well, why don't you, you've got girls down there. Why don't you see if you can't get one of them?" So I went over and I said, "You know, why don't you guys--Anybody want to go to the movies?" Well we went to the movies and then you know, the next week I said, "Geez, is anybody going to be around at Thanksgiving?" And the only one that was going to be around was Susan, so I ended up getting married to Susan. Not quite that easily but I mean it, again, I think that I don't have--I don't know whether I believe in all the great fate things happen etc but when people have little to do and 35:00they, in fact, are together a lot and they are probably like minded to begin with or they wouldn't be in the Peace Corps in Buchanan, Liberia. The probability is probably pretty high that they could end up getting married, and that's what we did. I got married.
WILSON: Were you married in Buchanan?
SAMUEL: Married in Buchanan.
WILSON: Well tell me something about the marriage--or the wedding.
SAMUEL: We got married at St. Patrick's--or no--the mission church.I'm not sure. Well the night before--I guess I should tell this story because if I don't, Susan will. You know you're not supposed to see the bride and all this kind of stuff. So anyway, we had in Liberia there was a tradition of house boys which were Liberians, males, who would quite frankly come to your house to eat and every so often they would do a dish or do a wash or something. But they didn't do very 36:00much for what they got paid and plus their food. And so Susan, we were moving to a new house, the apartment that looked over the ocean in fact. And but Susan had all my clothes because they were being taken care of by our house boy. And so I needed clothes, so I went over and you know I was told I couldn't come in and you know finally we did. And but I was--I'd had a lot to drink as I said earlier. I mean it used to be that I think we got $160 a month of living allowance and most of it was paid for a bar bill on a monthly basis, so it was not a good thing. And anyway with these friends of mine, we finally got through with all that. We got back and it was light by this time and I realized that I still didn't have clean shorts and I didn't have a tie. So I went down and we had--Lebanese merchants were the, 37:00Lebanese were the merchants throughout Liberia at the time; I don't know who it is now. And I went down to the local store and the guy said, I said I need a pair of shorts and a tie. And he said, "Oh you're getting married today aren't you?" And I said, "Yes I am, I am getting married." And he said, "Well that's what a thought, a new pair of shorts and everything you know." I mean alright. So anyway, I got all that, got back, got into my apartment and the friends of mine were out filming Buchanan at sunrise and different kinds of things. And I locked the door and I went to sleep. And I went to sleep, but I mean the alarm went off and I still slept. Finally I heard knocking on the door because there was no way to get close to where I was. I was back on the ocean side and they were on the inside hallway several feet away from me. And finally they did awaken me and I looked around and I went, "Something I was supposed to do today. I just cannot remember." 38:00As I started to go back to sleep I said, "Oh I better not do that. I've got to go; I've got to get married today. But I did get to the wedding; and we did get married that day at the local church--Catholic Church. Had, we had a witness. We found out along the way that in order to, even though we had a local marriage license etc, in order to make the marriage official in the US you had to have somebody from US embassy there to witness and you have a certificate issued by the US embassy. So our official marriage certificate is something that the embassy in Liberia issued for our official marriage license or certificate or whatever. But it was a, you know, I mean--
WILSON: So you had Peace Corps friends and local folks? No family.
SAMUEL: Oh yeah, there were a 100 and some odd folks--No, no, no family.39:00I mean the idea now, I mean you know, our children we go back and forth, we had two children in Peace Corps and, you know, we email on a regular basis. We've even had telephone calls. I don't think, I didn't talk to my parents for two years. I mean I wrote them letters every so often but email was not something we really thought a lot about at the time. So I mean my mother and father did know I was getting married on that day but only through a letter that I had sent quite a while before. So no, there were no parents there. We got married then two years later I met her parents and she met mine. And we said, "If you don't like it, we'll move on. Your choice." And everything worked fine so.
WILSON: Okay, what about travel? Did you travel around Liberia? Did youhave some vacation time--take some vacations?
SAMUEL: I had vacation time, traveled around Liberia, went down thecoast. I think we went all the way down to, what's the furthest 40:00southern point of Liberia--Anyway, Greenville and then on down the coast had, you know, for meetings and various--But you could only fly. There weren't, down the coast, there was no road system to take you there. So unless there was some reason to fly other than being paid by somebody else, it was unlikely you would go. Upcountry, I never went up to LAMCO or Nimba, other people did. Most of the time was between Buchanan and Monrovia even though there was, there was some time on the interior. But then a lot of travel, we went to East Africa, traveled through Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya--
WILSON: This was during service?
SAMUEL: During Peace Corps, in the middle of the term. On the way home41:00we came back through Southeast Asia, visited many countries including east Africa again. But we'd wanted to go to Egypt but we couldn't go there because they had a war. We wanted to go to the Congo but we couldn't go there because they had a war. We wanted to go to Ghana or Nigeria but they had a war. So we just went to East Africa again, and then went from there to India to the rest of Southeast Asia. A lot of travel, a lot of experience--travel experience.
WILSON: And visited other Peace Corps people or?
SAMUEL: I visited other peace Corps people in Thailand, I visited otherPeace Corps people in Malaysia, visited the Peace Corps doctor in several countries to make sure we had our proper Kaopectate to stop up 42:00whatever revenge might be taking place at that point. But most of the time we stayed in fact in YWCA hostels where they would allow married couples to stay. It was--Even though we did stay with Peace Corps volunteers in a number of cases like, but in Japan obviously there were no Peace Corps volunteers so we stayed at youth hostels. Philippines, I don't remember where we stayed.
WILSON: I'm going to have to turn this over. Your mentioning Kaopectatemakes me think of the broader question--How was--I was starting to ask you Tom about health issues while you were in Liberia.
SAMUEL: Yeah I mean health was certainly--We had physicians on staff43:00at that time, which I now understand are physician assistants. But at the time you had I think two Peace Corps doctors in country, American doctors. You had access to physicians on a regular basis. Like I say, there was a low grade fever that they never did quite figure out why I had it. It ultimately went away but not--It was still there even when I got back to the States; they just never were able to identify exactly what it was.
WILSON: Not malaria?
SAMUEL: No, who knows what it was. I don't know.
WILSON: But you were taking malaria suppressants?
SAMUEL: Oh yeah, oh yeah, taking--You took your malaria chloroquine atthe time on a regular basis. You had your kit just in case because we were down the coast and there weren't really physicians in town. The 44:00health care in Buchanan was provided primarily by a pharmacist, so you were--I mean if something happened you had a medical kit and, you know, how to do things if there are no doctors in the area or something. I can't remember the name of the book but--And you had a full regimen of drugs and etc to take, I never had to do that but I guess I always felt more secure because I had all those available to me.
WILSON: Okay, you I guess said something earlier about your interactionwith other Peace Corps volunteers. Were there other Americans, other expatriates that you interacted with?
SAMUEL: Not much, there were other expatriates. Buchanan was theloading point for the iron ore that came down from Nimba, so there was a lot of--there were many Swedish and American expatriates in Buchanan. 45:00But they lived in a community of their own and we really did not, I mean we had some interaction with them. To give you an idea we had, when Susan and I had been married, one of the people that came to our wedding was a person named Bebe. I can't remember what Bebe's last name was but she was from Scandinavia somewhere. And our rings had been made. Susan had had a jewelry instructor that she, from San Diego State that created the rings that we wore which were made of ivory and silver. But and that particular person and Bebe happened to meet in Europe in Spain, and by accident. They did not know each other and 46:00they were having lunch at this little cafe and the two of them realized that they knew us but they didn't know my last name. And I guess they didn't remember Susan's last name before marriage last name either. So they wrote a post card to us from Arlene and Beebe to Tom and Susie Peace Corps Liberia. And we got that card. Now the world is small. First of all that two people totally unrelated happened to meet in a cafe in Spain, happened to somehow understand that they knew each other and something about Liberia. And even though they didn't know us very well obviously, they knew our first names and we did get that post card; so it's a small world.
WILSON: Was there any Liberian with whom you had a particularly good47:00relationship? A coworker, host?
SAMUEL: Yeah, there was an information officer from the government,Roland--And I'm blocking on Roland's last name right now. But I spent a lot of time with him because he and I were the ones that basically put the newspaper together. And at that time Liberia, many people in Liberia would say well they wanted to be the 51st state in the United States and you know etc, so there was a very strong pro-American stated sentiment. Now I'm not sure what it really was, but what they said to us was it was strong pro American. There was a lot of American propaganda or rather information from USAID around, it was the time 48:00of Martin Luther King and you know "I have a dream" and etc. So there were lots of those kinds of things around. I got to know Roland pretty well but he was obviously an information officer for the government and whether that makes him part of--I guess I raised that because I'm not whether that makes him part of the community or not. I didn't know somebody who was the head of the Kru tribe in Buchanan, which I think probably would more likely, Kru Nancy who was the governor of that tribe in Buchanan would have been more likely to be the one that really knew what was going on in terms of the Liberian, at least the Kru tribe Liberians in Buchanan. Now we did get to know Father very well, and Father obviously was part of the Kru tradition and that Susan, for 49:00example, he gave Susan several hundred Kru proverbs and explained what those proverbs meant. So I think we did get a feel but again, it's--We didn't really become a part of the community in the sense of--I don't know what sense I do mean, but I think we tended to know the community through the eyes of Americo-Liberians. And even that we probably didn't know but we thought we did. And I think we tended to look at it as an American experience. I remember there was a voting for President while we were there and the ballots were pre marked for President Tubman and there was only one candidate, President Tubman. I mean I don't know why you needed to pre mark them because there was only one choice. 50:00But I mean I guess it was--Then you'd play off against that and talk about how well this doesn't make sense because it's not really an election. Well maybe it was, I don't know. I mean maybe that's what in fact, was the tradition that should have been used there. And yet I think it was the trappings of westernization and Liberia maybe is a little bit more unique about that in that they'd had the strong Americo Liberian, American traditions. That you saw the same thing, a House of Representatives, a Supreme Court, and etc, but they didn't behave in exactly the same way or with the same integrity that you would expect in the United States. And therefore as a young American you were somewhat critical. And I don't think we were properly prepared. You'd asked that question earlier in terms of really understanding what those traditions meant in terms of Liberia instead of in terms of how do they rank relative to what you would expect that to be in the United States. 51:00I mean what if you saw a pre marked ballot with only one name on it for President of the United States. You'd probably have a war. But that doesn't mean it was wrong in Liberia. But we never, we were never really told how to deal with that. In fact, there were rumors that some black Peace Corps volunteers actually even voted in Liberia which would be a problem in the United States as well as in Liberia I would think. But I think it was a lack of understanding of the traditions because they looked so American. Versus now I go to Uzbekistan and Tashkent and it looks different. So you don't expect things to be the same, where as in Liberia they said they were the same. I think there was some--We weren't properly prepared for that.
WILSON: Is there a particularly memorable story or event or something52:00during your time in Liberia? Kind of thing you tell your friends or kids or--?
SAMUEL: Well I mean there were personal experiences of course in termsof marriage and the local pastor of one of the churches who gave us the organ to play at our wedding said to Susan. I can't remember exactly how he said it, "But it is my pleasure to let you use my organ." And somehow that got to be very funny and it just--But I mean there were stories around that, you know, that had to do with our interaction. And again, even that story I think explains how we weren't really properly prepared to understand the culture in which we lived. And 53:00part of it, again, even there I guess I want to--The problem was the local AME pastor, whatever it was, was supposedly like the AME pastor in the United States, but it wasn't. And I don't know how you explain that so we understood that, but we didn't. And so I guess my stories would probably be about Peace Corps volunteers not understanding what it was we were seeing then or now. And maybe it explains to some extent the problems that the United States has in terms of its international relations. I guess to sort of emphasize that, when I was talking earlier about the show we put on, in order to do that we 54:00had to build a very large stage in the movie theater for everybody to be on. And the carpenters from the local government built the stage, and I was there observing them building it and a hammer fell out of a man's hand and it hit me on the head and I was bleeding. And the man was very afraid; I mean the fact that he had--I mean you get hit on the forehead and you bleed profusely. And it was like, "My god, I've broken his skull," or you know who knows what he thought. And of course I leave and I'm, you know, put something on it for a cold press for a while and you're fine. But I guess that his reaction was, anybody that did that would be upset. You wouldn't want to hurt somebody else. But it wasn't just that, he was concerned not only that 55:00he hurt somebody but he'd hurt somebody that this could be a problem. You don't hurt an American in Liberia at that time. And I guess again that's sort of a story about where I don't think we understood what the implications of all that were. But in retrospect, when you look back and you say, "Okay, I think I understand better now. What did all that mean? Why was it like that? Is that what we wanted?" I don't know.
WILSON: So what was it like coming home?
SAMUEL: Coming home was--First of all, we traveled a long time--threemonths--two or three months, maybe longer. We got to Los Angeles and we were out of money but we had to get to Chicago to meet my parents and then we had to go from Chicago to New York to meet Susan's parents. 56:00We stayed with Susan's uncle and aunt, and they were kind enough to give us enough money to get a bus ticket from Los Angeles to Chicago- -Gary. We got to Gary, Indiana on the bus, which is a long trip by the way. Don't ever go across Nebraska at night; there's nothing there. Wyoming, however, has even less. I mean there's not even light in Wyoming at night, or at least there wasn't in 1967. We got to Gary and Susan was meeting my parents and they had lost our luggage in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Now we had traveled around the world, many, many stops. I can't remember how many. And our luggage had been in tact the whole time. Susan only had a pair of thongs, one bra, one sweatshirt, and 57:00one pair of jeans. And our luggage didn't come for three days and she met my parents. So it was not--Anyway that's another, I mean it-- Again, the United States--Remember now, all these other countries, they found it, everything was fine. We then went to meet Susan's parents, then my parents came to meet Susan's parents and Susan's parents came to meet my parents, and there were, you know, all sorts of receptions and gifts and it was a wonderful time. Then we went to Peace Corps training, and I will get down to what our reaction was. You can imagine in that whirlwind, you're not, there's no reaction at all. I mean all you're doing is doing.
WILSON: This was a job now?
SAMUEL: This is a job now. You're going to meet, you're going to meet,you're going to meet, you're going to meet. Then we go to the job in Boston where we're going to train a Peace Corps volunteer group to come back--go back to Liberia. And we were involved heavily in terms of 58:00the community. It was during, remember this was during the community action program phase and the Johnson War on Poverty and we were going to do good things in the United States as well as train Peace Corps volunteers. We were in the south end of Boston, everybody lived with families. At that time there was little or no reaction. I mean again, I mean the idea of reacting--we were doing Peace Corps things. It wasn't like you were--We--Maybe like some volunteers that come home and they go back to their bedroom that they'd been in before they went. I mean we didn't do that. And then we go from there to graduate school. There was really no time. You know I think Susan talks one time about going to a very exclusive store--a chain store in Boston--grocery store 59:00and shopping and thinking, "My god, where am I? What's this about?" But I never had that reaction. I mean it was, "Okay, we're just doing this now and we did that before." And it never seemed like a transition to me.
WILSON: So what do you think the impact of your Peace Corps service wason Liberia or Liberians?
SAMUEL: We may have trained Charles Taylor or one of his cohorts alongthe way.
WILSON: Charles Taylor being a more recent President.
SAMUEL: More recent, infamous President of Liberia. Or Samuel Doeor somebody like that, and we probably told them they were doing the right thing if they rebelled against the government. I mean God knows what we said. I think probably long term, and this is where I guess my earlier statement about I think the Peace Corps has missed the 60:00point by not having in country, or having state side training in that I don't know what impact Peace Corps has had in Liberia. I'm sure it had some on some individuals. I'm not sure on balance whether it was positive or negative. But as an American in the United States, the Peace Corps had a substantial influence over me and I think over a lot of other people--all for good for the United States. And I guess I think that is the--If we were at the University of Kentucky where I am now, building an infrastructure of knowledge of Liberia or some other country. I think it could be very valuable in terms of our community and the United States as a whole to have groups of experts pocketed around the country. We have that now but we are not necessarily, 61:00unless by some chance you happen to run into another couple who are from Liberia, you're not necessarily going to have an experience. And if they happen to be there at approximately the same time you were there, like in our case, that may mean you have some common experience. But in other cases if you are ten years apart, I mean the history of these countries particularly in the ten years from 1960 to 2004, these countries have changed dramatically over that period of time. I don't know what; I don't know whether we have something to share in the same way. Surely we can share experiences internationally and we have the base from which we came, but I think it could be richer. I think more could be done because I think that's the primary benefit is what the United States gains and that we learn languages, we have exposure 62:00to cultures, and people then come back and live as normal Americans in everyday places doing everyday things, but with a remembrance of something that really is for them very significant. Like in my case you were trained, you got married; you still live with that same person thirty eight years later. That's pretty significant in terms of how it affects you so that you're going to--A good bit of your life would be filtered through that experience. I think that makes the United States a richer place. I mean for my parents and most of my parents' friends or not just my parents' friends--I think most of the people and the parents in the 1960s, the idea that thousands of young people would 63:00be spending two years in some other country, in some cases with--Like in my oldest daughter's case an outdoor latrine with a cold shower and little or no water and no electricity, I mean that's a--I just can't envision that most parents in the 1960s really thought--or 50s--would have thought that was where American children were going to be. And therefore, we are different. And we have won big and I'm not sure we've made much difference in Liberia.
WILSON: What did your parents think about you joining the Peace Corps?
SAMUEL: I'm not sure my parents ever fully understood what I was doinganyway but--And they're good people, they were great people. My parents had encouraged me to make my own decisions and do my own thing as they did my brothers. I think they understood that, you know, this 64:00Kennedy guy did something that made people do crazy things and maybe it was okay if he said it was okay. If it had been a Republican, I probably wouldn't have been allowed to go. But since it was a Democrat, he must be okay. He was a Catholic Democrat at that. So that I guess it became an expanding experience and in the early 1960s it was still a pretty unique thing so even in our little community it was pretty--it was talked up to, you know, "Tom Samuel's going to Peace Corps," you know whatever the hell that means or you know etc. So I guess they thought it was okay. But then I came back and went to school again and they really didn't understand that. And then I worked for a while, went to school again, and they really, really didn't understand that one. So the idea of understanding me was not something that they made a big deal out of; they just said, "Okay, uh-huh, uh- huh, okay. So you're going do that?" "Uh-huh." "Okay." 65:00
WILSON: What kind of an impact do you think your Peace Corps experiencehas had on your family over the years?
SAMUEL: I have two daughters, both of them are in Peace Corps becausethey grew up thinking that you went to high school, you went to college, went to Peace Corps, came back, and went to graduate school. Of course, everybody does that don't they? Because that's what mom and dad did and it seemed normal to them--I think that that sort of, that's the kind of impact. I mean we never said that, we never--Susan and I never made that as the rule or anything. I mean they just, they just knew that's what it was. I mean if you ask them, they'd tell you. I think it's had a lot of impact in that, for example, I'm involved in 66:00international activities now with the university. Some of that has to do with having been in Peace Corps. You have friends who have been in Peace Corps as you have. Their values tend to reflect yours or yours theirs. So then you, certainly in terms of being a teacher, it comes up as part of the life experience you talk about when you're talking about management and health care as I do, and part of that's in the developing world. You talk some about Peace Corps experiences.
WILSON: Yeah, tell me, tell me, tell us something about your career andthat impact and what you have done, what your profession is.
SAMUEL: Yeah, well my profession is to do what I need to do that day67:00and try to do it so it's okay. No I mean I had--I've been let's see--I talked earlier about being a management trainee and then going into Peace Corps. I came back and I--That's interesting because there was a thing called the green sheets that Peace Corps had that you could identify jobs from and they could match you up with people and there was two people in Oakridge, Tennessee. One ran a mental health center and one ran an orthopedic clinic, and they needed somebody to manage that and they chose to have me come do that. And the mental health center had twenty in-patient beds, ultimately fifty in-patient beds plus the large out-patient center etc. And the orthopedic clinic had five orthopedic surgeons and they offered me a job. The orthopedic 68:00surgeon was a member of the council of the southern mouths, which is sort of a do-gooder, Quaker, liberal group from the north that was going to do good things in the south. And it was a result of that that I got the job. I worked for them for a while and then I went to law school. After law school, matter of fact while in law school, the commissioner of mental health in Tennessee called me and said, "I need for you to come to work for the department of mental health and mental retardation." And I said, "Harold, I'm in law school. I can't leave law school to--" I didn't even know who it was, in fact, to begin with until Susan told me who he was. But I went up and interviewed and before I graduated I was going to law school in Knoxville. And the mental health department is in Nashville of course. And I was spending everything but exam time in Nashville trying to run the department of 69:00mental health, mental retardation at the time. I went from there to Memphis and I was associate dean for administration at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. I then went back and worked for the Council of the Treasury in Tennessee, which was an office that has considerable power and influence and was a very--developmentally an interesting opportunity because the legislature, the committees, all the financial committees of the legislature reported to this person. We issued all the bonds; we appraised all the property for purposes of property taxation in Tennessee other than the four major cities. We did all the redistricting maps necessary for the legislature and for Congress, which means Congressmen would come in and look at our maps 70:00and tell us how they'd like to have them drawn etc, etc. I mean it was a very interesting office, very powerful office. I went from there to executive vice chancellor of the Medical Center at University of Kentucky and became a full time faculty member in the health services management department. Ended up most recently being the interim director of school public health at the University of Kentucky.
WILSON: What international experience have you had since Peace Corps?
SAMUEL: Well I mean other than travel most of it has been as a resultof the fall of the Soviet Union. Spent a lot of time soon after the wall came down and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the newly emerging states and the far east of Russia--Habarsk, working 71:00with the local medical institute, which is like a medical center training physicians and nurses and dentists and people in public health in health management. I mean if the one thing that the United States has that other countries want I think in management. They have biostatisticians and epidemiologists and even physicians and specialists and they may not have all the technology that we have, but what they don't have that we have is a management system as to how to organize that completely. So I spent a lot of time there; spent time in Moscow as well as a few other republics--Kazakhstan etc, training people in management techniques. Then became a principal investigator on a grant--large grant in Romania to work on health care reform and 72:00management training for health care professionals and to run a campaign to inform the public as to how to consume health care under health care reform. Currently we have a grant in Uzbekistan that's much the same; we're working with the two medical institutes Tashkent on designing the curriculum in the school of public health as well as the medical, the undergraduate medical curriculum in terms of management. I just got a call this afternoon, we are likely to get a new large grant in Romania to integrate agricultural extension agents with health care professionals in terms of delivery of health information and different 73:00activities in terms of Romanian population so that how do you stay healthy, how do you reduce, why would you want to reduce caloric intake, why would you want to increase certain kinds of vegetables etc and not have more cheese, which may be counter to their diet. Why would you want to exercise? That would be more likely in the big cities whereas in the countryside they are probably getting adequate exercise. All the way down to things like child abuse, spouse abuse, alcoholism, which are counter productive in terms of production of agricultural products and goods. Romania is one of the countries that would like to be part of the EU. In order to do that, they have to meet certain standards of hygiene for their food production for example. So that there are lots of issues to be involved in that involve health and 74:00agricultural production and rural activities in Romania.
WILSON: Do you think there's any relationship between your Peace Corpsoverseas experience and any of this interest in either the health field or the international?
SAMUEL: Yeah, I think there is. I doubt without the Peace Corpsexperience I would have done particularly the early trips to the Soviet Union--Russia--I mean former Soviet Union. Were somewhat, I don't know, you weren't afraid but you just weren't real sure what goes on here. I mean we had all the stories about how bad it was, right? I mean the first time I walked on Red Square it was like, you know, I mean this where the tanks were, this is where Stalin stood, this is you 75:00know, I mean my god. I mean they were going to drop bombs. I mean I got a tattoo on my back for my blood type because they were going to drop bombs and that blood type was going to help me be okay. I'm not sure how but anyway. But I mean the thought that somehow this power that was no more, didn't exist I still find mind boggling. But would I have been there without Peace Corps? I doubt it. I don't think I would have started. You know I could have, but I think it probably made it simpler.
WILSON: You look forward to more international travel or experiences?
SAMUEL: I look forward to more retirement, which hopefully will includesome international travel. As I get older though, the quality of the accommodations have to increase in order to make it acceptable to 76:00travel in foreign countries. I mean I don't think I could--
WILSON: Even a beachside apartment in Buchanan, Liberia is--
SAMUEL: Well that would probably be okay; I could probably handle thatone. But I mean you send me to the interior of Namibia with no water and no electricity and ask me to sleep under the stars I probably would say, "Well let's see if we can't get to a major city here." But I don't know. It's interesting, I'm not sure.
WILSON: What if any impact do you think the Peace Corps has had on howyou look at the world?
SAMUEL: I think pretty substantial. The example, I guess the bestexample, is one that's going on right now. Mugabe, as everybody knows 77:00in Zimbabwe has sent the thugs out to take the land away from the white farmers, which may be fine. I don't know. Again, it's one of those things which it's hard for me to judge that as being bad other than being a true person that believes the greatest good is for the greatest number is probably the right standard that we ought to play when you look at a country that was a net exporter of agricultural products to being a net importer and people starving and etc. It doesn't seem to be a very good tradeoff, but regardless. But as an editorial in the paper said yesterday or a couple days ago, Mugabe is now exporting that technique to Namibia where my daughter had been a Peace Corps volunteer and has sent people from Zimbabwe to Namibia to work with 78:00the President of Namibia to figure out how to drive the whites off of the land in Namibia without compensation for the land. Now the difference between the land in Zimbabwe and the land in Namibia is that the land in Zimbabwe has adequate water, is really very rich land to begin with, and adequate resources to make it productive again. The land in Namibia is really very dry and consequently has to be very carefully husbanded or it's not going to be productive over time. All it's going to take is a few people mishandling that the way it's been handled in Zimbabwe and you will not have production of land again in Namibia for years and years, not just tens of years but maybe hundreds 79:00of years. I don't think I could have thought about that or would have cared but for my Peace Corps experience. That the fact that you have traveled the train from Nairobi to Kampala probably is important. You've seen the rift valley and you think about what's there and you can translate that to some other place and you've seen Murchison Falls in all its glory and splendor and then Idi Amin killed all the elephants and the wildlife and the people even. And ravages of that are such that you can feel the pain that I think if you hadn't been in Peace Corps it would have been hard to do that. It wasn't just that we saw Murchison Falls but that was important itself. I mean anybody 80:00that saw it would have saw its beauty and etc. You saw it also as a Peace Corps volunteer, somebody who cared about Uganda, and I think that's different. So I think that, yeah, I think it was a tremendous influence over how you view the world based on that experience.
WILSON: You've mentioned your daughter several times and we talkedabout it in terms of their going to the Peace Corps, a family impact. What as you as a parent have experienced through them, what are the differences in the Peace Corps experience that you had as you experience that they have had?
SAMUEL: I talked about Namibia, the other daughter was in Turkmenistanwhich is in Central Asia. And I guess probably the biggest issue is AIDS, the impact of the disease that in Namibia about 25%-30% of the 81:00adult population is HIV positive. Huge impact on the population and in Turkmenistan you have a dictator who is probably not that different from Tubman or some of the other dictators when we were there except our dictators were more respondent to American influence in the 60s versus now where they're not responding to anybody. There is no, I mean before the Soviets could call the tune for their dictators and we could call the tune for our dictators, and therefore I think they maybe were a bit more humane in the process than what they are now--I think that's a difference. I think that the general disintegration 82:00of the world is, you feel that with your children. Like my oldest who was in Namibia most recently, like two years ago--two and a half years ago--wanted to stay on an extra six months working with Peace Corps. I just, because I was worried about this Mugabe connection to Namibia that that might happen. And that was after 9/11 by the way, I just said, "Why don't you come home?" I mean you know, we'll find a job. Of course she didn't find a job here but that's neither here nor there. There was a kind of, I think the whole--And maybe my wife says I'm a pessimist anyway, but I really do feel a general disintegration of the world order. I think it played out in our preemptive attack on Iraq 83:00and a whole series of other things, but long before that I think that feeling what my children felt--My youngest daughter was in Indonesia in the mid-90s. We had people from Indonesia come and visit us. There was a feeling of closeness, of openness that I think now would probably be very strained. Again, I don't think you'd know that unless you'd been in Peace Corps, unless you'd then experiences these people and your daughter had been to their daughter's weddings and it was Muslim but I mean it was not a--I don't know. I think there's something going on that I think those of us who had been in Peace Corps who then have children who have been in Peace Corps are probably feeling today that may or may not be accurate, I don't know, but I mean I certainly feel 84:00it very strongly that there's a general level of things are not getting better. Me, I don't know whether they're getting worse, but they're certainly not getting better.
WILSON: Do you think the experience that your daughters had was as validand valuable as the experience you had?
SAMUEL: Oh yeah, maybe more, maybe more.
WILSON: In what ways?
SAMUEL: Because I think they did become more part of their communities.I think they in fact there have been changes. I'm not sure it was always successful but I think there were attempts to integrate them more into the communities. There weren't as many volunteers. I mean we blanketed Liberia. There weren't that many volunteers in these other places so consequently, and Peace Corps has had to deliver a policy of not having people in the capital city. The fact that there were Peace Corps volunteers in Monrovia when we were in Liberia meant 85:00that there was somebody to go stay with in Monrovia. If there are no Peace Corps volunteers in Monrovia, it doesn't mean you're not going to go to Monrovia. But there aren't going to be as many trips probably because you don't have people to be with and do things with in the same way as if they lived there. So I think there's more involvement, more feeling--I'm not sure it ends up being that much different but I do think there's a kind of tradition--And I don't know. I guess I have to be careful because I think had also traveled heavily internationally before and they weren't the same people as Susan and I were--young, naive, never been out of the country, people who land in Liberia-- versus our children who had been over half the world already who end 86:00up going to another country with the assurance that their parents have already been there, they've already done that. This is what everybody does; I mean that's a different way to look at the world I think. It's hard for me to judge I guess when it's all over. It was different for our kids but I'm not sure if you took the people in the same circumstance we had been in, leaving Portage, Indiana where most of the people had worked in the mills, and going to Liberia. Maybe their experience would be the same as what ours was, I don't know.
WILSON: Okay let's pause for a minute. We will move now to tape twoof the interview with Tom Samuel Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia. This is tape two of the Peace Corps Oral History Project interview 87:00with Tom Samuel on May 5, 2004. Tom, I guess we were talking about your children's experience as Peace Corps volunteers and whether there were similarities or differences. Did you have anything else that you wanted to add?
SAMUEL: It's hard--I guess the only thing is just to sort of reiterate.I think it's difficult, it's a different time, it's a different--They were prepared differently. The United States is a different place, the world is a different place, but I think they walked away with basically the same experience. It was not that different even with all that. In that they didn't really feel that they were part of the community. 88:00They didn't really, really--Except they were probably more aware of it while they were doing it than what we were, and that has to do with their own sophistication I think when they started rather than--That's different today, but I don't know.
WILSON: But their methods of communication were a little different. Ibelieve you eluded to that at the beginning.
SAMUEL: Yeah, I think they are different in that they--First of all,both of them had a second language that they worked with. They were not, they were not the hoards of Peace Corps volunteers to sort of take up time. They did, they had projects that were specifically related to AIDS as I said that I think gave them a reason to be involved in the community because the community in both Namibia and Turkmenistan was basically denying there was an AIDS problem. So consequently, 89:00it's a different level involvement with that community than what we had. They had a reason to pry into the community that we didn't have. Like we could have only gone so far and then it would have been, "Well you don't belong here." Whereas they could say, "Yeah, but I do belong here." All the way down to your sexual practices are part of what we are concerned about with you about your own destiny, your own involvement in the world, your own life, as to whether it would be there or not. I mean like Jessica, my oldest who went last, talked about funerals on a daily basis in the community of young people--small community. Obviously people didn't talk about AIDS if they didn't--But the fear of it is in many places that if you talk about it, it becomes real. But at any rate, it gave them a cause--a reason to be there and 90:00be involved that we didn't have. I think that is a different thing. There's something different about that, I'm not sure exactly what it is but there's something different.
WILSON: Sort of summing up, what do you think the overall impact ofPeace Corps itself has been in the United States?
SAMUEL: Well, I don't know that's hard to tell. I think it's beenpretty substantial though, I do. I think that--I think there are, I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of return Peace Corps volunteers, but I think they bring back to their communities an experience that wasn't there before, wouldn't have been there but for this. Most of those experiences, while they weren't pure Liberian or Namibian or Turkmen, they were certainly closer to that than what we 91:00have living in this country. So that I think there's an understand of other cultures of real life experience that is different that has to make a difference in terms of how we view the rest of the world. I don't know, maybe because we're so polarized now that the people in the red zone are out listening to people in the blue zone and even though that experience exists it's seen as somehow negative just by the fact that it's likely that experience will lead you to the blue zone. Or as Doonesbury said today to the non-Bush portion of the alumni affair--I don't know, I don't know. But I think it does make for a difference in the United States. People came back with different experiences. 92:00
WILSON: So is there a role for Peace Corps today and what should thatrole be?
SAMUEL: Well I go back to my, I mean I really believe the United Statesought to look at Peace Corps primarily as American and benefiting Americans. I guess it's not too similar from US aid. We talk about all the US aid we give to other countries and it turns out that in fact that's basically paying Americans for American products and American time spent somewhere else. That obviously comes back and changes the life of Americans in that they have more wealth than what they would have had otherwise. I think just the same with Peace Corps, maybe not in economic terms but in cultural, political terms there are things that are known that people cannot make certain outlandish statements 93:00and get away with it without somebody saying, "Well now you know that's not quite the way it is." With some credibility, not that they are necessarily going to be listened to, but with some credibility that they were there, they lived on the ground, they actually experienced that. They can speak to it much better than somebody with an opinion that lived 5000 miles away from it. I think that's important, particularly important as we move increasingly into a globalized world. I can't imagine how we are going to do it otherwise. And Peace Corps provides a very inexpensive way for us to get that. We pay volunteers very little, pay very little for their housing, for their food, and they spend two years and then they come back. I think two years is probably a pretty good time limit. If it's much less than that I think you'd never drink the scotch with the gnats in it. At best you'd filter 94:00them out; you'd never actually drink it with the gnats while they still were in the scotch. Therefore, you never would really have experiences Liberia using that standard. And I think that's part of what I'm talking about. These are people who really lived on the ground. Even with all the pock marks are the shortcomings that I talked about earlier, I had a buddy who ultimately became a multi millionaire. Gary Osted, owns a book company of some sort, publishes textbooks or something. And Gary, when he got out of Peace Corps he had been in Croziersville, Liberia which is the middle of nowhere. And he was the only Peace Corps volunteer there so it wasn't like Buchanan or some of the other locations. And Gary was out soliciting manuscripts 95:00after he got out of Peace Corps and he went to some--Worked for Wiley Publication at the time and he went to some university and talked to some high powered statistician about writing a textbook for Wiley Publications. And the guy really put Gary down and said, you know, just talked about how stupid he was and how he didn't know anything and why didn't he understand more of this. And Gary walked out and said he was just devastated, just devastated. And then he thought about it and he said, "You know that son of a bitch doesn't know a God damn thing about Croziersville, Liberia. I know about Crozierville, Liberia. I have knowledge and understanding of something that he doesn't. Why could he put me down for what I don't know but I can't--" You know, I think again, you think about that repeated thousands of times over and yes, you could have that experience some other way, but it's really an 96:00experience on your own. It's really out there. It's not with mom and dad or an American institution wrapped around you in every instant of every step you take. And some of those steps you have to take on your own. Yeah, you're protected, you're inside a cocoon, you're not going to starve, you're not going to be exposed to disease in the same way as the natives, you know etc, but you get closer to understanding that. And I think that's important. I just got, our oldest when she was in Namibia, she said nearly all the girls just swore off sex while they were in Liberia--or in Namibia because they didn't want AIDS. I mean you suddenly understand things differently I think than what you, if you lived in the United States where it's more pristine. Not that the same problem wouldn't occur, you shouldn't do the same thing, it's just that it's different. It's in another country, another context. Yeah, 97:00so I think it's real important.
WILSON: Slightly different question. Would you ever go back to Liberia?Have you ever thought about going back to Liberia?
SAMUEL: Yeah, I'm not sure that I would go now because they probablydon't have those accommodations that allow a 62 year old, 63 year old male to feel comfortable. But yeah I guess I would, Liberia of course is a little different case than most in that the political and economic stability is less--considerably less now than when we were there. But I probably would. It would take a special project I think to do with some kind of substantial contribution that could be made and that I had some unique skill that could help make that happen. I don't think I would seek it out as a tourist attraction. 98:00
WILSON: Are there any people that you would try to look up that you--?
SAMUEL: No, and that's interesting. I think most of the people thatwe knew again were Americo-Liberian, and many of them would have been killed of course. In addition, they were older so they're likely dead now anyway.
WILSON: Because of the wars in the last--
SAMUEL: Well also just because of age.
SAMUEL: 40 years later, I mean they might have been in their 40s then.And life expectancy in Liberia is not as long as the United States. Also, I mean Buchanan has been particularly hard hit by the war. I don't know. I mean Father Juele I know is dead. We received notice when he died. He was a bishop when he died, first Liberian ordained 99:00a bishop.
WILSON: So you had some contact ongoing for all this time.
SAMUEL: Right, right, right, through probably fifteen years ago. ButI mean, no we didn't really keep track of everybody. Again, I think it has to do with our experience where we didn't really integrate into the community.
WILSON: Are there Peace Corps colleagues of that time period that youhave any contact with today?
SAMUEL: Some, some, like the guy sitting across the table asking thequestion. And there are not so many from Liberia but from other countries. And again, those shared experiences come out. But we 100:00probably would have been pretty much in the same place anyway, but we might not have found each other in the same way because this way we have a little mark on our forehead that says Peace Corps that allows us to get together as a group. I think that again reinforces what those values were that we took with us to begin with that have been honed over the years and sharpened and probably made real. Particularly when you follow up with a couple daughters in the next generation--I had a, we took my nephew to Namibia and South Africa with us when we went to see my oldest daughter. And we were sitting in a--
WILSON: This is while she was a volunteer.
SAMUEL: While she was a volunteer. And my nephew said to me, "UncleTom, if you could live any time--any time in history, what would it 101:00be?" I said I'd want to live right now. I'm a tenured faculty member at the University of Kentucky; they can't cut my salary unless I really screw up. I live in the United States where there is no competing power to challenge us. I can visit Namibia and be in this bar with my daughter, with her friends, with you, with my family. And they're going to serve me food and they're going to accept American dollars and they're going to be happy to have American dollars. I can experience this country and we can travel from here to South Africa, to Swaziland, to etc and people are going to look at our US passport and say you may go through with no visas required. I mean I think that where we 102:00live now, what we're a part of has something to do with Peace Corps. Not that Peace Corps caused it as a cause and effect, but Peace Corps maybe was an effect of something else--an internationalization of the world. We talked about the internet earlier, the email idea that you and I didn't have when we were there, that our daughters really contact people all over the world on a regular basis.
WILSON: And they did that with you while you--while they were overseas.
SAMUEL: Yeah sure.
WILSON: When in your day you were writing periodically home.
SAMUEL: Maybe four or five letters in two years and not much.
SAMUEL: It's a different world. I mean American products--we didn'thave American products. I mean I guess if you went to Monrovia in the big supermarket you might have gotten Cheerios. But in Buchanan we 103:00didn't have Cheerios. I mean you had some kind of European substitute for it perhaps, but your dried milk was from Holland or wherever and it wasn't--It just wasn't the same. Now, I don't--It's probably worse in Buchanan today because they don't have anything. But throughout the world, I mean there are the products that are international products. It's a globalized economy, it's different, it's different. I don't know if it's better but it's different. And I think Peace Corps reflects that going back to my when would I want to live. Well, you know, we've got Peace Corps volunteers in what? 130 countries or whatever, and if I go to those countries there's something there that I can probably grab a hold of and say, "You know I was once a Peace Corps volunteer." And there are people there that will probably show me part of that country that I wouldn't see otherwise. It's a different world 104:00than what we grew up in.
WILSON: Are there things about your experience that I haven't touchedon that you would like to make a part of this record? Either stories or something I've skipped over.
SAMUEL: Well I'm sure there is. I can't think of anything right now. Imean it's, no I can't think of any particular story. I think the point is that Peace Corps is an integral part of, obviously I mean my wife and I were married in Peace Corps, our children went in Peace Corps. I mean Peace Corps is still a--We attend Peace Corps functions; we talk with people who have been in Peace Corps. Obviously those values are part of what our values are and reflect part of what we are. And I think that's probably true of many, many people that maybe don't get 105:00involved as often as what we do. But it makes a difference. It makes you a different person.
WILSON: And it's obviously been a major element of your life.
SAMUEL: Yeah, I mean--Well yeah, I mean I made a mistake 38 years agoand I still live with it. I'm sure she knows that.
WILSON: Okay, well Tom thank you very much.
SAMUEL: Thank you.
[End of interview.]