WILSON: This is Angene Wilson and I'm interviewing Lettie Heer on December 21st, 2004 for the Peace Corp Oral History Project. What is your full name?

HEER: Lettie Mehan Heer.

WILSON: And where and when were you born?

HEER: Well, I was born December 1st, 1942 in High Point, North Carolina.

WILSON: And can you tell me something about your family and something about just your growing up.

HEER: Oh, my. Well, my parents were like transplanted from the North. My father was originally from Vermont and my mother from New York State and this was during the Depression that they came down South because Union Bag and Paper Company had a mill down South, and my father was 1:00an industrial engineer and so he got on with them so this required a move down to Georgia and then, when the Second World War started, he moved to High Point, North Carolina for a job with a company that made uniforms. They had been making blue jeans and overalls and then, they moved to uniforms so I was raised in High Point which was a small town, well, fifty-thousand people, and my father went from having, well, from being an employee to running the company and then, starting his own company that made clothes and my mother did kind of the cultural thing. 2:00She helped start the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and I grew up I think rather privileged. I was privileged. So I grew up privileged but I also got to work in the plant when they had crunch time for getting something out. I would like go help pack things up and I worked there in the summers from sixteen to eighteen years old in the office doing office work, payroll, things like that so I got kind of a, a little view of less privileged lives and then, went on. Well, I got married, went on to college, had heard in 1961 of Peace Corp because 3:00that was the year I graduated from high school and I just kind of put it in the back of my mind but didn't, it didn't figure in at all.

WILSON: Where did you go to college?

HEER: Started out at Agnes Scott in Decatur, Georgia and then, well, got married, lived real close to High Point College which was just a small college and it worked because I was having babies in there. I had two children so I went like at night or whatever, and got a quite a few of the basic courses down, English Composition, some math, things like that so I went to High Point College. Then, my husband and I and our family moved to Beaver Dam, Kentucky and so I started college 4:00again there after about a year and went to Brescia College in Owensboro and made kind of the choice of Brescia because it seemed more friendly than Western Kentucky University which was kind of equal distance from us in another direction and totally enjoyed Brescia and got into biology there because I felt it hung with the staff, the teachers there particularly in biology and math and then, the last, right before the last year of college for me for an undergraduate, I got a divorce and--


WILSON: And this is in, what year?

HEER: Oh, well, '72 I got the divorce--


HEER: So it took me a good while to get through college there because I was just going part-time and then, I went full-time after I got the divorce and moved up to Lexington. That was in '73 and I went full- time to college, finished, got a bachelor's at UK in science and then, got a scholarship into the master's at UK.


HEER: In Environmental Sciences. I had originally, why, I don't think they even had Environmental Science at Brescia. I mean, that wasn't really on the--

WILSON: But UK had it by that time?

HEER: UK had it. And so, I went in that direction. I had decided not to 6:00go into math because I didn't feel bright enough to do that. I thought I would come to the end where I would just wouldn't understand anymore and it seemed quite arcane. The biology seemed pretty arcane too but I had living in Beaver Dam, it was an area surrounded almost totally, well, you had rural, you know, the farm lands and then, what impressed me was the mining plants. Peabody Mines were very close to us--

WILSON: Right, right, right

HEER: And I was totally, I guess in awe of the mining operation best from the standpoint of the amount of dirt, amount of soil that they rearranged and--


WILSON: Huge machines--

HEER: Huge! Yes, huge, huge machines, got to see the big shovel as it went across an interstate there. They had, they shut the interstate down. Piled dirt on top, drove like a tractor. This huge piece of machinery across that could work at another area and environmentally, I was taken back by the water of various hues. None of it was what you expect what to look like. Some could be pink, some could be bright blue, some was rather iridescent. Fish lived in them sometimes. Sometimes, it was way too acidic and toxic so that got me into thinking more in environmental terms so I, when I went to UK and that 8:00resonated more there, I got into environmental biology.

WILSON: And then, after you finished your masters?

HEER: Well, then, I, before I, you know, I was the sole, well, not exactly the sole source but ex-husband contributed some but quit just as soon as I got a job. And I was talking to someone the other day who was telling me that it's still like that, that you, even though they've got all sorts of laws in place now to garnish wages and things like that, that husbands don't pay child support so I got a job with an engineering company to do their environmental studies and this was the first time they had hired a woman in other than like a secretary or a drafter position and also the first time they'd had any environmentalist so I worked for GRW, G. Reynolds Watkins, and they 9:00had received a number of big contracts under, this was Nixon's time, this was like '75, to do waste water treatment plant studies called 201 facility plans so I got into that. Did that type of work and truly enjoyed it and I liked engineering aspects and I liked the planning of engineering products so I, actually after like three or four years, I ran the team that did the 201 facility plans. Then, moved to another firm and took over planning in general and we did environmental impact statements so--

WILSON: And you did that until?

HEER: Well, I started my own firm in there too in 1980 so I did all that 10:00until 1992.


HEER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: Okay, alright, I'm going to--alright, well, let's talk about, you talked about the jobs you've held before joining the Peace Corps and you mentioned that you'd heard about Peace Corps--

HEER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: In 1961 when it started so what, what got you interested in thinking about the Peace Corps after, after 1992, right?

HEER: Right, well, in the like period from '75 till around 1980 maybe, my mother and father did some work for the government; I think you call it that. It was called something like International Executive Corps--


WILSON: Mm hmm, I've heard of it.

HEER: And my father had run plants that made clothes--


HEER: And so he worked as, well, I don't think that he was paid but they paid his, their expenses for him and my mom and they went to, I know it was Turkey. I remember Christmas in Kenya, you know, I, we'd keep up with them and send them presents and get letters and they'd give back presents to us but there was I think Colombia, I know Ecuador.


HEER: They went on a number of different assignments over maybe a seven year period.

WILSON: Wow, did you ever go visit them or--

HEER: No, never--

WILSON: Oh, but they were sending things out?

HEER: Yeah and there were stories and they both loved it and then, they 12:00went and traveled usually while they were in that country--


HEER: So that, I've always loved travel. Too, and that type of thing interested me and let's see, my kind of a watershed for me was when my second husband died which was 1987.

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: I started re-evaluating kind of where I was going. My daughter was entering college--

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER:'89, my son was already in college so I didn't feel I had to make as much money. I was sick and tired of, well, bureaucracy, men, hahaha, always thinking that they knew everything, watching how hard 13:00it was every time I did something that was a little different for it to be accepted, having gone through our Department of Transportation in Kentucky and being told that I was like too stupid to do anything on my own even though I had been doing the same studies when I worked for corporations headed by men and was head of the study that was done, I wasn't qualified and just watching, having to fight all that. I had decided, you know, I don't need this. Still enjoyed environmental things but realized that the work, I went to a psychologist for a couple years and talked all this through, realized that what I enjoyed was, well, certainly the technical work I did but then, working on 14:00projects that really seemed to help people. Because I'd done projects that built housing and a number of things that I thought really helped people other than people get rich and so when Amanda went to college, that's my daughter, I worked it so I took off to Washington, D.C. and got a job with an engineering firm there, one that had worked in Lexington here on the sewage treatment plant, and started looking for non-profit work to get into and did that as a volunteer. I've, and totally enjoyed it. I was a mentor for two or three years for a young 15:00girl who'd been brought over by Catholic Charities from Eritrea--

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: Mm hmm and helped her get into a Catholic high school and realized what time management aspects were very different in her thoughts. I mean, it didn't occur to her to show up on time -- it just wasn't in there -- and helped her write, we had to write a life history and you know, I helped her with that and learned so much about her life in the Sudan and her father was working in Saudi Arabia and he was killed over there. Her mom died in childbirth of the ump-teenth child type of thing--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: And she lived with grandparents and there was no running water, 16:00no electricity and that type of thing and every now and then, somebody would hook a television up to a car and the whole village would come around to watch so I was hearing all these stories and totally enjoyed, her name was Aden Moges, her stories of her life before and then, watching her transition into an American girl. She lived in Anacostia with a foster family and I had a Mercedes back then and hahaha, here I go tooling over into Anacostia where there weren't even road signs on how to get there. They didn't want anybody mistaking and ended up there because it was gun shot city--

WILSON: Right, right, right.

HEER: Drug infested, blah, blah, blah and so I taught her how to drive a car on a Mercedes in the--


WILSON: Hahaha.

HEER: Hahaha, in the burnt out streets of Anacostia where we could just drive around easily. Nobody was there to run into, hahaha, and it was- - helped, helped another girl who was a prostitute and got her, she got kicked out of the Catholic Charities program and helped her get into Sasha Bruce Homes and work into, so she finally graduated from high school at Spingarn High School which nobody sat in their seat during the graduation but the energy level. Everybody was talking. You couldn't hear what was going on on stage when they were saying nice things, giving out the diplomas--


HEER: The families were everywhere but the energy level was just wonderful and she was so happy and she had some sisters who weren't 18:00incarcerated that were lovely and happy for her. I just loved working with things like that and much more than I did with the environmental work so that type of thing just got me more interested. I could see that there was need. I could feel that I was giving to people, that it was appreciated. I wasn't running into everybody telling me I couldn't do it and having to prove myself. I did have, I did have a lot of that because the, the I don't know, the non-profit world can be very bureaucratic and they wanted things done just a certain way even though they didn't work, you're supposed to do it that way anyway, write 19:00people up for things so I kind of decided I'm just going to do this more on my own and keep under the radar. You know, they didn't know I was teaching a young girl to drive a car, hahaha--

WILSON: Hahaha!

HEER: Yeah, yeah, but it was working and I didn't get myself into a whole lot of trouble and I've just, then, I moved to Chicago. Got a job in Chicago because I know, you know, my trade, how to do environmental work and by this time, I was seeing that I don't need to work anymore, that I didn't trust it because what if I ended up poor? You know, it would be horrible and outlive the money but I guess I got more 20:00confident of that and more sick of working and things that I didn't find that were good for me and so I went, it was, I lived in Oak Park, Illinois which is nice as far as architectural, Frank Lloyd Wright--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah.

HEER: Beautiful town. I moved there after looking around because they had, it's a liberal town--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: And they run the, they were so embarrassed back I don't know even what year. I want to think early seventies when like the one black family in town was vandalized. I guess the cross on the lawn type of thing. I'm not sure what it was but they were terribly embarrassed so they decided to both to keep up the money in town so it didn't turn 21:00into a totally black community, they decided to come up with rules and regs to integrate and now, they keep things at twenty-five percent black. No more, no less, hahaha, and now, they're working the Mexican population but watching them try to do that was very interesting-- [phone rings]--

[Pause in recording.]

WILSON: Alright.

HEER: Okay so Oak Park is just totally involved in integration of different ethnic groups. The schools were wonderful. All sorts of different ethnic groups would have their chance to show what their community was like and celebrate and they're, well, the United Nations Association has a group there. The Council on Foreign Affairs? 22:00Something--

WILSON: Well, yeah--

HEER: Council on Foreign something, Foreign Relations--


HEER: They're, they're very active. There were groups that would go down to Cuba, you know, it was just all sorts of wild and wonderful activities and one lady I met there had served in the Peace Corps--

WILSON: Oh, okay.

HEER: And she did it when she was sixty-eight and it had never occurred to me that it was anything other than a young person's game so I talked with her some more and thought about it and thought well, this would be a good time to try. I'd try out my money and see if it's solid, if it seems to be going to last and give me something that I want to do and 23:00that's so I made the application. It took a year--


HEER: Hahaha.

WILSON: And did you request a particular country or--?


WILSON: No, no.

HEER: I just, my first choice was Latin America I guess you'd say, Central, South America.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: Second choice was Africa. Latin America because I have a friend in Bolivia. And I'd been down there to visit and stayed with a family for about a week and thought that that was the best way to vacation. Really enjoyed that. It was so much nicer than going on a tour but they just wanted people were fluent in Spanish.

WILSON: And you have some French?

HEER: I had French in high school.

WILSON: Ha, in high school--

HEER: Forty years behind.

WILSON: Hahaha, oh--

HEER: But they, in the African, they really seem to have quite a few 24:00openings in Africa and so that's, I suppose why Africa was where they sent me--

WILSON: And what about your environmental background? Did that play at all do you think in where you got sent?

HEER: I didn't think so. I didn't, I wondered how, I was not impressed with the application process, the fact that it was very difficult to get a hold of anybody even when you did, they didn't--

WILSON: Well, what, this is what year?

HEER: 2000.

WILSON: 2000, and that it took so long?

HEER: Yeah, well, I didn't, my friends after I got into Peace Corps--

WILSON: Mm hmm

HEER: My compadres over in Senegal, we figured, hahaha, that this, this 25:00year long deal is their way of getting rid of people. This is the way they select. We figured they did not select on what your background was. They were not interested in what I knew and what I didn't know. The APCD, the Associate Peace Corps Director for Environment in Senegal, had never read my resume. You know, they just, and I learned why. They weren't linking you up with like a government agency. It wasn't that high up.

They were putting you out in a village and we figured that this is kind of why it took a year. They were wanting to see what your stamina was, what you know, how you were going to handle it all or what are you willing to go through, hahaha--

WILSON: Well, and I guess I ask that that's interesting because clearly 26:00Peace Corps has had environmental, environmental programs in various countries and sometimes, people have for, example, like you were talking about your, your father and his experience.

HEER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: People have gone to particular countries for their expertise in small business--

HEER: Right.

WILSON: For example--

HEER: Right.

WILSON: I know that's how a friend of mine's father went to Romania so I guess it depends on the country and the program and the year you go and so forth. So anyway, after a year, you were chosen to go to Senegal--

HEER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: And how did that work? What, where did you train and what was that like and Senegal was offered you and you took it. I mean, you didn't have choices?

HEER: Right

WILSON: Yeah, okay.

HEER: Well, they said you could turn it down--


WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: But they didn't seem to like that idea--


HEER: And I had chosen Africa as my second choice because I do consider that to be where human beings began and I figured that I would have something to learn and I've always enjoyed African-Americans so I thought this will be kind of getting to the real nitty gritty maybe of what people are really like, give me more insights into that so I was, I felt very honored to get to go over there and feel welcomed by them because they were so welcoming.

WILSON: So you left in?

HEER: March.

WILSON: March of 2000.


HEER: Of 2000.

WILSON: 2000 and flew to Dakar--

HEER: Well, actually, it was 2001--

WILSON: 2001.

HEER: March of 2001.

WILSON: Okay, 2001 and flew to Dakar--

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: And then?

HEER: Then, it was three months training in Thies which is like sixty miles east of Dakar and it's a nice city as Africa goes but I remember being you know, there was the feeling of jumping off the end of the world because I had no idea what I was getting into even though I had read up on it. I mean, I remember watching a TV program. This would have been maybe Masaai people or something like that--

WILSON: Hahaha.

HEER: And they, they were herders and they, it was this very dry area and they wash their hands in the pee of the cows as it was coming out and I'm going oh, my God, hahaha and they brush their teeth with their 29:00hands, you know, and I'm just, well, I hope I live through this type of thing and--

WILSON: What did your family, your children and your friends and so forth think about you doing this?

HEER: Oh, they were not impressed is the way I would put it. They thought this was nuts. And my son who had been in the military for four years and had been in I don't know what, I know Lebanon and some other countries around in there, said you know, what are you doing? Hahaha, all that poverty, why would you in the world would you want to go there? My daughter, who is she, she wants to have money. That's 30:00very important to her and she just couldn't, you know, just couldn't even go there so I did feel that I was setting a barrier between me and my children but on, the other hand, I didn't feel that comfortable with where my children have gone. Not that there's anything wrong with what they're doing. They're both lovely people and they live lovely lives and they're nice people in the community and they're both well respected. They're an asset. You know, they're fine. But they don't care for other people. They're all about themselves and they both are Republicans. My God! Where did I go wrong?


WILSON: Hahaha!

HEER: And they don't have any real need for me in their lives is the way I kind of felt about it. They both have their child care situations under control, not that I would want to take that over anyway but it was like I was out of touch with where they wanted their lives to go, and so I felt that what do I have to lose by going over there and looking at something else? So that was kind of in my mind on many different levels when I left the United States. I was tried of working and wanting another thing to open up my mind of ways to be useful for another period of my life until I get too old and Alzheimers sets in or the knees and the body totally fail so I could see from the beginning 32:00that this was going to be a challenge and it proved that but it proved something that I could deal with and deal quite well with. In Peace Corps in Senegal, they put us in a family situation almost immediately--

WILSON: As part of training?

HEER: Mm hmm, mm hmm and then, we were trained. We were trained quite well--

WILSON: Even--?

HEER: Even I managed to learn Wolof--

WILSON: And they focused on Wolof or French too or what?

HEER: Well, the, you had like an interview with the head teacher when you went there and I knew some French and had, you know, made efforts with tapes before I left the U.S. for a couple of months to learn French again and the French teacher said at your age, it's going to be 33:00too hard for you to learn French and Wolof which you need--

WILSON: So concentrate on the Wolof?

HEER: Concentrate on the Wolof because it's more important that you can communicate with the people--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: Than with the school teachers--

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: And that proved to be very good advice. Now, it's not easy for me to speak Wolof. I don't understand today all the words when, you know, somebody's having a nice conversation or really rips it off, I'll get a few words and then, try to figure out what the meaning is but I did get to the point as I got better at it where I could tell that people could understand me. People, I could understand them if they made the effort so I, they put us in little villages and I--

WILSON: Now, this is, this is training? After training?


HEER: After training.

WILSON: After training, so you're in Thies for--

HEER: For training--

WILSON: For three months?

HEER: Three months--

WILSON: Do Wolof and? What else was involved in training?

HEER: There was some environmental training and then--


HEER: And there was--

WILSON: Environmental--

HEER: Cultural--

WILSON: Environmental training meaning?

HEER: Well, they, I was assigned to the school system because that's where their environmental program was. Somebody up high had decided that the Peace Corps program in Senegal should be to help foster the environmental program in the school system so they gave us teaching on what the school system was like and then, hands-on training with what the school actually kind of looked like out from town and the status of environmental education out there and it was all very rudimentary. 35:00It's kind of like wash your hands, filter your water, and then, planting seeds, planting trees--

WILSON: And this was primary school education?

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: Environmental studies in primary schools?

HEER: Yeah, didn't go anywhere near the college--

WILSON: Middle or secondary?

HEER: Which is like middle school--

WILSON: Yeah, okay.

HEER: So I mean, I learned how to make soap, learned how to make hand lotion. We learned some of vectors of malaria, oh, learned how to make little stoves out of mud and cow dung type of things, just quite a few 36:00basic hands on types of activities to run.

WILSON: And how many of you were there, I'm just wondering?

HEER: Forty-two in the cohort that I went to Senegal with--


HEER: And there were I think nine of us that were in the education, the environmental education program.

WILSON: And the others were?

HEER: They were young people--

WILSON: Doing, well, no, I was thinking they were doing what? The people who were in--

HEER: Same thing.

WILSON: Everybody was doing environmental education?

HEER: The nine, now, the others--

WILSON: The others--

HEER: Let's see, we were all considered natural resources--


HEER: The majority of them were attached to the agriculture program--


HEER: So they really did farming and market gardens--

WILSON: Okay and then, there were nine people--

HEER: And then there were maybe five that were attached to forestry.

WILSON: And then, after the three months of training, you were sent to--


HEER: Sent to the village

WILSON: A village--

HEER: Yes.

WILSON: And the village was where?

HEER: It was seven kilometers north of Passy and Passy was maybe thirty kilometers east of the Atlantic Ocean and maybe forty kilometers north of The Gambia.

WILSON: Okay, so this is a different part of the country than where you trained?

HEER: Yeah--

WILSON: Because it was the other part?

HEER: It was a hundred and fifty miles like south of where we trained.

WILSON: Right, right and you lived by yourself in this village?

HEER: Not by myself--

WILSON: But you were the only Peace Corps volunteer there?

WILSON: Okay and you--

HEER: But they put you in a family, I mean, in a village of three hundred people, there's no such thing as rental property.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: Hahaha, you need to be part of a family.

WILSON: Did they set that up or did you do that?

HEER: They set that up. What happens is you know, they're usually, 38:00well, they've had volunteers there since--

WILSON: '64.

HEER: 1963--


HEER: Somewhere, somewhere in--

WILSON: But not in this village?

HEER: Not in this village--

WILSON: Okay, right.

HEER: But they've had volunteers in every village I kind of went to. There had been a volunteer there at one point or another--

WILSON: Really?

HEER: In that, that forty year period so--

WILSON: And was that, was that good? I mean, people knew what, knew what Peace Corp svolunteers were--?

HEER: Yeah

WILSON: And were accepting and--?

HEER: Were accepting and wanted one--

WILSON: Wanted one--

HEER: See, it's the kind of thing that they want one--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: And it's not because they want to learn from them--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: They want the money and they want the entertainment value, hahaha--

WILSON: Hahaha!

HEER: And we did provide that--

WILSON: Hahaha, okay.

HEER: And that's what my family wanted which is why they had wanted--

WILSON: They wanted to have the opportunity--


HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: To have somebody like you--

HEER: Right.

WILSON: Live with them, so, tell me something about your job. What were you supposed to do for two years?

HEER: Well, we had this three months of education in what the school system was like and how we were supposed to work with the school system and they had assigned a teacher person to work with me and blah, blah, blah and then, got there. Well, the people in my village did not want their children to go to a western school. It was called French school. It's public school. They had sent their children there in the past but they were not pleased with the education, not from the standpoint of learning things but from the fact that the boys would 40:00then go off up to Dakar, down to The Gambia and there's, there's a difference in culture. Such a difference in culture. It brought money in because they'd send money back home but they essentially left the village. They left the village life. They were not what the imam in the village considered good Muslims anymore. They were more likely to steal, more likely to get in trouble--

WILSON: And these were--

HEER: Sex, drinking, God knows what type of thing.

WILSON: Right and these were boys? Boys would have gone to school or girls too?

HEER: Girls too--


HEER: But the boys left home.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: The girls, by the time, see, school had been there for twenty some years. Boys had left and I think that's the way it's been since time 41:00immemorial--

WILSON: Mm hmm, not just in Senegal, all over the world?

HEER: Right, hahaha.

WILSON: Hahaha, yeah.

HEER: And girls might go to another village but they stay closer to home. They come visit, mom goes to visit, blah, blah, blah--

WILSON: So if they weren't going to send them school?

HEER: They wanted them to stay and work in the village. They did not want them getting the ideas of western education.

WILSON: So what did they do? Just say we're not going to send our children?

HEER: They didn't send their children to school.

WILSON: They didn't send their children to school. There was a school teacher but no students?

HEER: There were six students--


HEER: And back in the good old days, there'd been sixty to eighty students and the six students were all of the lowest caste in the village who had--

WILSON: Wait, what do you mean by caste? I mean, it's not like caste in 42:00India, right?

HEER: Yes.

WILSON: It's, really?

HEER: Yeah, it is.


HEER: Yeah, see, I was placed with the chief and they're Wolofs. This is a Wolof village.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: Okay, the Wolofs had brought in Puelars who were herders to--


HEER: To look after their animals and they had somehow brought in the Bambara to do the leather craft, metal craft and this was explained to us back when I was in training. The different castes and the names that go with the castes and how you're going to be placed with a family that is the dominant caste in the village because--

WILSON: Why did they use caste as opposed to ethnic group? I mean, it sounds like they're different ethnic groups but it's also--


HEER: They call them castes.

WILSON: But they call the castes.

HEER: There are different ethnic groups--


HEER: Who speak different languages--

WILSON: Right, right but by caste, they're meaning their socioeconomic place in the village.

HEER: Right, right.

WILSON: Okay, okay

HEER: So it was the Bambara and the griots which are the storytellers and they could be Wolof but I think in America they'd be considered white trash, you know, but they, for the Wolof, they were considered the trash.

WILSON: Oh, okay.

HEER: They were not respected people although they were necessary in the village.

WILSON: Right and so it was only those children who were going to school?

HEER: Mm hmm and some of those children and the boys. It wasn't girls. It was boys and they were wanting their boys to get the heck out of our village Dialaba and that's what was going on. They wanted for their boys to go on and get an education, move to a city, get more education, get, because when the country of Senegal got its freedom, 44:00they respected all the ethnicities and all the castes and you could get a government post. It was, it became more of a meritocracy and this was their way out for the Bambaras.

WILSON: So here you are, you're supposed to be doing environmental education--

HEER: Environmental education--

WILSON: And there are six--

HEER: Six kids

WILSON: Boys who are of Bambara group--

HEER: Right

WILSON: Who are in schools. What did you do?

HEER: And nobody was going to send their kids to school--

WILSON: And nobody was going to send their kids to school.

HEER: Well, and then, it starts becoming clear to me why they didn't care, a. if I learn French or not and b. they never read my resume to see, hahaha, what environmental background I had because it did not matter, hahaha--


WILSON: Because that wasn't really what you were going to be doing.

HEER: Exactly!

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: So all my village wanted at first was money and they wanted oh! This was just hilarious.

WILSON: So what did they want you to write grants to get money?

HEER: No! They wanted me to give them money.

WILSON: Oh, they wanted you to give them money.

HEER: Or I could write grants and they, you could see them just salivating as to how they were going to steal the money and they even wanted me to help them steal things from Peace Corps. They had a regional house down in Passy and they were closing it and it had a solar powered unit and it had a pump on the well and they wanted me to help them steal those. I'm freaking out about that time, you know?

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: I'm thinking what? What have I gotten myself into? I talked to 46:00my father, the chief, he's a wise person and I learned then the chief does not mean like mayor. It's like judge and he wasn't about to lead a project. Wasn't going to get involved in anything like that and his son is the one who wanted to steal the stuff from Peace Corps so I had a talk with my father and I ended up thinking of these people as parents or siblings and told him that I wasn't going to do a project just so they could steal money, that that's not what I was there for and I wanted to do some projects with groups that wanted to--

[Side A ends; side B begins]

HEER: --With him in my terribly put Wolof, but I realized we were 47:00communicating, that I wanted to work with some people that wanted to work with me and he suggested I go to some of the other villages where, because, you know, where our relatives were, other Wolofs, hahaha so I did that and the next village, I went to Ndorong Wolof--

WILSON: And these villages are how far away?

HEER: A couple of kilometers.

WILSON: And you're getting there by--?

HEER: By bicycle .

WILSON: By bicycle, by Peace Corps bicycle--

HEER: The only bicycle in the village, no cars--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: So I went over there and in ____ Wolof, they wanted a school and they wanted a health hut and the women wanted to learn how to tie dye, yeah, they have all this, they had had a volunteer before--



HEER: Maybe ten or fifteen years in the past and so they were kind of oh well, let's do something, you know? So I'm going this oh this is wonderful, hahaha, so over the two year period I was there, I had the money to run around so I was one that visited the Ministry of Education up in Foundiougne and the, like the county office, the department, and got some things going there. They would tell me what was needed to start a school and then, I'd go back and tell the villagers and over the time, they started would be like a PTA and they, they, we went 49:00down and got to the department took a village group on the horse driven charrette and we'd go bumping on down, you know, like ten kilometers. That was a hell of a ride and got the land set aside because the land is all communally owned and they got the land set aside for a school and then, the villagers dug a well and they made a school out of sacet fence, that's just the stalks of the millet which is what we ate and I took the list of children's names and their parents up to the Ministry of Education office. Then, talked to them and got to, there was one guy up there that I got to know pretty well and for a bribe of a pair 50:00of glasses, hahaha, because I needed new glasses while I was over there. My eyes were getting worse so when I got new glasses, he kept hinting that he wanted eyeglasses so I gave him my old glasses which were nice glasses and he was just so happy and he became my good friend and we got a school teacher out of this--

WILSON: Now, did that village not have a school before--


WILSON: And the Peace Corps volunteer was there before--


WILSON: The Peace Corps volunteer was doing something else--

HEER: It was agriculture.

WILSON: Agriculture, okay, okay.

HEER: So we got a school--


HEER: We got a teacher--


HEER: And they were workers, they were workers--

WILSON: So and is that what made that village different from the one you were living?

HEER: Yeah


HEER: My village was sitting on its butt just waiting for the world to come by and give them something nice and this other village, they got somebody trained to do the health care, you know, it's basic health 51:00care--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: Wash your hands, here's the band aid type of thing and they'd sell malaria pills and things like that. It makes a difference when a Peace Corps person has been there.

WILSON: So were you getting your village ready for a Peace Corp volunteer in ten years do you think? Hahaha--

HEER: Well, there's another one there now.

WILSON: There is another one there now?

HEER: Mm hmm--

WILSON: So maybe--

HEER: But I don't think they're doing a whole lot. We got some, now, about this time, as, see, word is coming back from the other village, hahaha--

WILSON: Right, right, she's doing something here, hahaha--

HEER: Yeah and my village is going well, my gosh! You need, you live here. You need to be doing, we're your people, you know?

WILSON: Right, right, right.

HEER: Hello? Yeah. [phone rings]

[Pause in recording.]

HEER: Okay, so I talked more with my village and they had a school 52:00building. They had a teacher. They were not sending kids to school and I said this is not good and learned that the, you know, that the local priest people. There were three of them. They did not want that. They just did not want that.

WILSON: Okay, now, was this the, because you mentioned the imam earlier--


WILSON: This was the Muslim leadership?

HEER: Right--


HEER: And everybody there was Muslim--

WILSON: Was Muslim--

HEER: Except the Bambara who I learned they think are really animists. They go to the, you know, the big prayers--

WILSON: Right, right

HEER: But they think that they really practice animism and they will put a spell on you--

WILSON: Oh okay

HEER: So they didn't trust them. They didn't like the Bambara.

WILSON: Oh, I see, okay, alright, so it was imam that was the leadership of the Muslim community that would--

HEER: He just, he would come to, I'd get people to have meetings and he'd come to the meetings and he'd stand there off to the slide glaring 53:00at me, hahaha, and nobody naturally wanted to cross him and he's a big man--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: And he was nice in his own way. He just didn't, and I understand more now what their sphere is because the village was lovely. I did not see people, I did not see violence really in the village. I saw like two women being beaten and then, everybody come stand around so that didn't last very long and the kids really were gentled into growing up and then, there was a lot of peer pressure which would be another thing to get used to I think--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: But they were gentle people. They shared so much. It was on a graduating scale. You wouldn't share as much to a Bambara as you would 54:00to your own people but you had to share. That would have been just terrible--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: So I could see that they were seeing that their boys that were going off to Dakar were learning bad ways and I would, when I went to Kaolak which is the big city or Dakar, it's not nice. It's people begging on the streets. People trying to steal your money all the time--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, not comfortable for you either--



HEER: And I could see why they didn't want their kids learning that more and they, these, I'm sure had been nomadic people and the French made them have a village and stay there. That was not their way. I think these were farmers but they moved around and farmed where the land was best or whatever. They hated the French. Just hated them and 55:00associated schooling with French, associated medicine with the French. Wouldn't speak French. Now, the older young men like forty years old, they had been to school in our village. I knew they knew how to speak French. They would not speak French. Women definitely would not speak French, nobody! So speaking Wolof made total sense in the village.

WILSON: Was anybody interested in English?

HEER: Not really.

WILSON: Not really.

HEER: Not really, they wanted American money--


HEER: But we got some stuff started in that village. The women came to me, there is a woman leader that is just as powerful I learned as the chief. She's head of the women's group and--


WILSON: Now, was she a relative of the chief or one of his wives?

HEER: She was a cousin and she took care of herself very well. Took care of her family and her husband kind of tagged along. It was interesting, and she wanted the women of the village to learn how to read and write in Wolof so again I went to the Ministry of Education to see what we could do about getting a teacher to come in and teach reading, writing and arithmetic in the local language so the women could run their own businesses more. The women are the one that are the salespeople in the market and so I got that started. We got thirty some women in class--


HEER: And the teacher that came three times a week and they all put, dinner, whatever got set aside. Men and kids had to take care of the 57:00babies. Women all went to class--


HEER: And then, got some teenage girls into a club to go down to Passi. This was a Peace Corps program that was started in Passi and they, it's for girls who don't go to school but it is to give them more ideas I guess you'd say and they had a wonderful time. They got to go to Kaolak, a big city, hahaha, I don't think the parents were approving exactly but the girls were having a wonderful time and then, they petitioned really to have their own reading and writing program and I did help them with that of learning how, each of them, there was like forty girls, how to write their own name and how to do basic arithmetic and we got, there were two girls in town that had been to French school 58:00and they, they were the teachers so I paid for that, for them to learn that and then, I helped through Peace Corps money to start like eight market gardens both in my village, the village that started the school, and some of the other villages so we started market gardens because they all want to make money--

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: So I felt I did not environmental education but I realized my view toward environmentalism is that it's never going to be able to compete with, between people and their money. I mean, they want their money first. Then, they'll think about hugging a tree and so it was easier to get them thinking about a market garden which does, they will eat 59:00some of the produce out of it, you know, the seconds so to speak. They are learning how to interact more with other villagers. It's raising their expectations of life. I don't know if that's good or bad but it was what they wanted and it looks to me like that would lead towards more education so I felt like it was just good.

WILSON: And did, you said there's still a volunteer there, do you know what's happened to some of things you described?

HEER: They won't talk to me about that, the volunteer that's there. I found that so interesting because I made definite arrangements. I'm a planner totally in my mind so I got these two villages where I really worked the most to come together at the looma which is market place 60:00where everybody kind of meets and I said I will help you fund some projects. You've got to follow the rules that Peace Corps has of how you take care of money and it was like okay, okay, okay so what they decided that they really wanted. They said you decide on a project and it doesn't have to be something that's good for the community so what they wanted was that soccer uniforms and soccer balls so I said okay, we'll do it equally. Figured out how to get Western Union the money over there, got it all done, got, they got their money. Each of the groups bought a cow. Hello! I have no idea what that's about--

WILSON: Hahaha.

HEER: I do not--

WILSON: Hahaha.

HEER: I think they internalize that they better not just have a big 61:00party with that money.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: The letters I get in written in Wolof, French, English--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, right.

HEER: Come back that they wanted to save the money and that is the way they save over there--

WILSON: Oh sure, sure

HEER: They buy a cow--

WILSON: A cow! Right, right.

HEER: So I think that might be what they did--

WILSON: That's interesting.

HEER: Now, they replaced me kind of with two volunteers. One in one village, one in my village and the volunteer Danika never would write me--


HEER: Things just went in a black hole--


HEER: And then, she ended up getting kicked out--

WILSON: Oh, okay.

HEER: So she probably wasn't a good volunteer--

WILSON: Yeah, right.

HEER: But my contact there has now got an email account--

WILSON: Oh my goodness!

HEER: And emails me--

WILSON: Oh my goodness!

HEER: Hahaha--

WILSON: Oh wow! Now, this is somebody who's Wolof or this is the Peace 62:00Corps volunteer that are there now?

HEER: No, this is a, well, he's not actually a Wolof. He's another caste--

WILSON: Another caste--

HEER: But another ethnicity--

WILSON: But somebody from the village? Wow--

HEER: He's my "son."

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, I know about that.

HEER: Yeah, hahaha--

WILSON: Hahaha

HEER: And he's gotten with it enough now, see, he's been used to a Peace Corps volunteer--

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: You know?

WILSON: Yeah--

HEER: And yeah, so he's started an orchard--

WILSON: Hmm, wow

HEER: I know the stuff that's continuing on there--

WILSON: Right, right, well, that's good

HEER: In my village, not that sure--


HEER: I know the volunteer that's there thought he was going crazy for a while, hahaha--

WILSON: Hahaha

HEER: I can see why. He ended up working more with a non-profit that's doing mangroves so he's gotten himself closer to the ocean and to the mangrove area and he's helping other volunteers there reestablish the 63:00mangroves which is a fine thing to do--

WILSON: Yeah, it is--

HEER: And now, I hear that he's wanting to do a project. See, his two years is going to be up this June, hahaha, and I know the panic so he wants to show that he's done something.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: Now, I can imagine that that cow will be used for that if it hasn't been used for something else--

WILSON: Hahaha.

HEER: And then, I had contacted Peace Corps in, well, I talked with my APCD before I left because I had been able to get like fifty dollars, a hundred dollars at a time from a program that they had and it had been discontinued and I told him I'll be glad to help you with some money for that so I contacted them again last year and said that again and they couldn't figure out what to do and then, it rattled around for a 64:00while. When I went to the Peace Corps convention in Chicago, I talked with the Peace Corps Partnership people and said you know, the offer is there, hahaha, come up with something! And so now, it's whirring around some more. Emails are coming from Peace Corps Partnership that they would like the money and it might end up going to my village to do something--

WILSON: So that would ----------(??)--

HEER: Yeah

WILSON: What were your living conditions like? What was it like, I mean, you want to talk about a typical day, what you ate, how you lived, you know, that kind of thing

HEER: That was so meaningful. All those experiences were much more meaningful than the work that I did. I just think in terms of work so I'm going to do that but being able to, to live that primitively, it, 65:00it really struck a note with me. I think I had been wanting that my whole life but it just doesn't happen here in America. Lived in a hut that was made out of mud bricks with a thatch roof top--

WILSON: You had your own?

HEER: I had my own. Peace Corps had given the, like my family there the cement, the money to buy that thatch--

WILSON: Right but you were in their compound? Is that correct?

HEER: Within their compound and their family had actually done the work to build the hut and it came with a douche. I was the only one that had the douche, hahaha, which, you know, the hole, a cement hole in the 66:00ground--

WILSON: Ground, okay--

HEER: So that was the bathroom and then, had sacket fence that surrounded the back of my, it made a yard in the back that surrounded the douche so I'd have some privacy. Of course, it kept falling down.

WILSON: And the sacket fence again was made with? That's--

HEER: Millet stalks--

WILSON: Millet stalks, how high?

HEER: They're like eight feet high.

WILSON: Eight, oh, so fairly high?

HEER: Mm hmm--

WILSON: Yeah, okay

HEER: But they get eaten! You know, we have goats and sheep everywhere. Well, after like December, food is scarce so December till next rainy season which begins in June, they're started to strip the sacket fence a little bit at a time. You know, they're eating it so it eventually kind of collapses on itself--


HEER: But so I, yeah, I wondered if I were going to make it with all that and I did--


WILSON: And you had, how, how did you sleep? How did you eat? What was in your house? How big was your house?

HEER: It was twelve feet square.


HEER: Okay? And it was a cement sand floor. Sand with cement top and mine was new so they'd just built it for me because I was the new volunteer, the only volunteer. It was wild. It had two doors and a window. I didn't open the window which had a metal piece of sheet metal on the outside because it just kind of opened out onto a road that was where people traveled from the next village to ours and plus the fact that all kinds, you know, first day I was there, a horse sticks its head in, you know?

WILSON: Hahaha

HEER: Hahaha

WILSON: So that was closed--


HEER: Yeah, so I kept that closed and it, my bed was, it was sitting on stacks of the mud bricks like there were different piles of them and then, my bed was saplings put together with bailing wire and then, I bought a, I guess it was about a three or four inch piece of foam rubber that went on top of that and then, Peace Corp gave us malaria nets, the net. That was the bed and then, I had a desk built. Now, this is very rudimentary. It's a flat surface and then, the legs that hold it up and then, I decided, a lot of people had to have amoires built--


WILSON: Mm hmm

HEER: And I didn't think I wanted that so because I had, well, I knew from, we had to stay a weekend in the village before we actually went down there and the first night I stayed with the volunteer who was the ancien, the old volunteer in the next village. I was so freaked. There was a huge rat that was in her bed under the bed. There was, she, to try to kill the rat, she moved the only chair that was a wooden chair sitting in the chair and there was a termite mound under the chair, eating the chair--

WILSON: Oh my goodness!

HEER: I mean, I'm and, and then, I was hearing things eat on the bed at 70:00night and you'd move things and you'd see all the little termite dudes eating the bed--


HEER: So I decided I'm not going to do too much with wood so I decided to buy they're big containers. They weren't five gallon. They were, but they were containers, plastic containers with tops--

WILSON: Mm hmm, oh, and put your clothes in--

HEER: So I would put my clothes in those and they also had, made reed baskets. You could buy those in the market and I thought now, that would probably work better and sure enough, they did and I did, would due diligence every day on animals, hahaha--because the ants would eat right through the floor and start those little termite mound dunes--

WILSON: Right, right, so what did you use for, I mean--


HEER: Well, they had a broom, a bough--

WILSON: Okay, right, so you'd sweep every day?

HEER: Oh I swept everyday!

WILSON: Did you have insecticide stuff that you used?

HEER: I didn't use that--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah.

HEER: The sweeping just did fine--

WILSON: Yeah, did fine, yeah.

HEER: And if I really got kind of fed up with, you know how it feels like, oh, here they are again! We had d'eau de chevel, chlorine, to put in our water to help clear up and I'd pour some of that down the hole, give them something to think about and then, I'd, I had candles. So sometimes I'd plug the holes up with wax and that'd take them a while to eat around that. And--

WILSON: So you had, you had termites mainly but did you also have cockroaches and rats and mice?

HEER: I had, I didn't have--

WILSON: Geckos? Oh, what else?

HEER: I had geckos.

WILSON: You had geckos? Geckos are good though because--


HEER: We called them push-up lizards. I'm not sure they were geckos--


HEER: But they were yellow and blue--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah.

HEER: And they, they push themselves up. They do pushups all the time and they would come in at the top of the mud wall--

WILSON: Right, right.

HEER: Where the thatch didn't quite meet and they'd be running around up there and that's why it was very nice to have that net for the malaria mosquitoes--

WILSON: So they didn't fall down.

HEER: I mean, they didn't fall down on you and they would hit. I'd hear them, you know? They'd hit the top of the net and bounce off. I hadn't been there but maybe two or three nights when I'm awakened in the wee hours of the morning by something crawling around on the roof. Well, I'm scared to death. Don't know what it is and don't want to go outside and take a look see what it is but as it would crawl, I ended up getting out of bed and I had a plastic chair. I'd take my plastic 73:00chair and I'd sit at the exact opposite end of the room wherever the thing was and I must have stayed up all night moving the chair--

WILSON: Hahaha

HEER: And staying away from it, whatever it was--

WILSON: Whatever it was.

HEER: I had no idea what it was but the, it was just like a million little horrors of that. Had something that was like a vole. It didn't seem to have eyes that saw very well. It was just out at night. It was the size of a laboratory rat and it was always real close to the ground and it would crawl in under my door which was a piece of metal, sheet metal or it could crawl in over the top. I never kept food around. I always kept it in the plastic containers. I was so glad I 74:00had those plastic containers, hahaha--

WILSON: So now, did you eat with the family or where you fixing your own food?

HEER: I didn't fix my own food. No, the, there were three young women in the family that did the cooking. Two of them did the most cooking. They, so I ate what they ate--

We had it was essentially millet for the evening meal and the morning meal and it was like cereal. It reminded me of wheatina or grits and then, it would have a sauce made out of either leaves or if they were feeling wealthier, it'd be made out of fish and it was tasty. I did just fine on it and then, the noon meal, the big meal was usually rice. And it either had fish or would have other sauces on it but I found 75:00the food quite good. I enjoyed it.

WILSON: So what was a typical day? What time did you get up? What did you do, you know, if there was a typical day, right?

HEER: Oh, there were very typical days because one day just falls into the next and I got much more at home with the situation. At first, it seemed I needed so much time by myself and I remember like I got a magazine from home. It was Vogue. My daughter sent it ,and I would never have read that in the United States but I was going over every page, hahaha. Just couldn't lap up enough of the color, the clothes, what people said, you know? ut over time, I got to I didn't need that 76:00so I spent more time outside but I--

WILSON: But meaning outside, you'd be sitting with, with other women and they were doing things or--?

HEER: Yeah.


HEER: Yeah, or just sitting with the family. The men and the women sat together in the morning and then, the young kids did the chores and they got my water for me. I did that sometimes but they all wanted, you know, that was considered the respectful thing to do and they, they got up around seven. It was whatever time it was light but they'd already gotten up for prayers before it was light so depending on the time of year, that was five or five thirty and there would be two sets of prayers and I loved that. It, I liked the chanting anyway and I got 77:00so I could tell who it was that was doing it and there was a series of chants and it was so nice to wake up and hear that. It was still dark and the stars would out and there would be that call to prayer and I'd hear it off in the distance in the other villages because nobody did it at exactly the same time. Now, I loved that. It was a lovely way to get up and then, I would fix my little cup of Nescafe and they had powdered milk which was really quite good and so that was the way I started the day and I wrote in my journal the first of the day and I--

WILSON: You kept a journal, a daily journal the whole time you were there?

HEER: The whole time I was there--

WILSON: Oh my!

HEER: And also, like at seven a.m., they had a BBC news program that 78:00I could get from The Gambia so I'd listen to the see where we were standing because I was there for 9/11. So and I didn't know about 9/11, that America had been hit with the terrorist attacks for maybe five days.

WILSON: Oh, that long?

HEER: Mm hmm.


HEER: The villagers told me that there, there'd been an airplane--

WILSON: That something had happened?

HEER: Had flown into a big building in New York City and then, they said two airplanes and I thought no, that can't be--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: But then, after a few days, the, my APCD came down and--

WILSON: Yeah, I'm sure the Peace Corps staff was concerned about--

HEER: Yeah but I spent, I'd be outside, you know, you'd kind of wash up and it's cold. The water would be cold in the morning. Wash up and 79:00go out and sit with the family and they don't eat breakfast till about eight until the water is drawn and the animals are fed and so I'd eat with them and there'd be a bowl for women and children and a bowl for the older boys and the men and we'd eat breakfast and then, they'd start on their tea immediately and that took about an hour to cook. It was a very sweet tea and they poured it back and forth and back and forth from a, it was like a little shot glass into a tiny little Arabic looking teapot and it was cooked over charcoal on a special little grill--

WILSON: And you drank that too?

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: After you had your breakfast?

HEER: Right and it would be maybe a quarter of a shot glass that you'd get and they did it three times. Premier, deuxieme, and troisieme and 80:00it got sweeter each time. They'd add more sugar but that took till about nine or nine thirty in the morning and then, people started out on what they were going to do. And the women, older women, you helped, I helped like pick the black, little pieces of dirt out of the rice for lunch, and I became the person that helped like get clothes together to wash and I usually washed my own clothes but I would help them with that because--

WILSON: Now, where did you wash clothes?

HEER: Down at the well and you, they draw the water. They have, it goes through a series of different big plastic sewoo, big plastic containers 81:00and it gets washed. It soaks. It get washed again. I mean, they wash the hell out of those clothes and then, they rinse them in a couple more containers and so I'd help them with those things and then, I, Peace Corps had given us some suggestions on how to integrate in the community and following people around essentially so I'd ask people if I could go out to the field. What I learned about me is I do not like to do agricultural work. I hated pulling weeds--

WILSON: Hahaha!

HEER: I never could understand that. It didn't seem to be the heat or the work. I just didn't--

WILSON: Like it.

HEER: I didn't like it and I didn't like having my own garden. I tried that and after things kept eating it, I just gave up on it. I'm just not an agricultural person and that's why I decided, I didn't mind like 82:00getting on the bike and going an hour's ride on the bike to you know, get to where I could, you know, which is hard in sand--


HEER: It was like I was expending energy but that seemed alright to me to get to the road so I could get a car to go up to Foundiougne. That didn't bother me.

WILSON: So how many times a week would you be doing that kind of thing as opposed to staying in the village the whole time?

HEER: I did that, I did that about three days a week I went out--

WILSON: Mm hmm.

HEER: And then, I did two days a week of really just making sure I stayed in the village and kind of, I got--.

WILSON: Because that was your home?

HEER: I made it my business to meet everybody. First, I made a map and tried to assign names to people. Then, it dawned on me that nobody's ever in their compound, hahaha, they're always at somebody else's so then, I had to rearrange my names of who was really the head of the 83:00compound as I got to learn the language better--

WILSON: Right, right.

HEER: Yeah, yeah

WILSON: What did you do for recreation? Did you go to the big city occasionally?

HEER: Oh yeah.

WILSON: Did people come visit you? What did--

HEER: At first I, well, my friend Joan, she was the other older volunteer. She's seventy-two now--


HEER: She was stationed in a town about twenty miles from me and we started Foundiougne Fridays. Going up there every Friday. It became quite a joke and we also snagged other people into coming with us. Foundiougne was the, on a river and it was a destination for a French fisherman so they had campements there that you would actually drink 84:00there so we decided to go. It took two hours to get up there, at least! On a good day, it was two hours from the time of leaving the village to getting up to Foundiougne --

WILSON: This is--

HEER: About twenty miles away

WILSON: This is by bicycle?

HEER: I had to bicycle up to the closest paved road and then wait on a car--


HEER: Which may or may not come which may or may not be full--

WILSON: Full or whatever.

HEER: Yeah and may break down, hahaha

WILSON: Or run off the road--

HEER: Yes, hahaha

WILSON: And so what did you do in Foundiougne?

HEER: Well, we used, you know, I usually tried to go visit the Ministry of Education. I also helped get some latrines built so I had to go visit the, it was part of their Health Department, the Sanitary so I tried to do something each Friday. I'd gotten some clothes made 85:00up there. They had much better tailors. Really lovely clothes and then, we would go drinking and we had a favorite place, Chez Baobob, and we'd get our Gazelle or Flag beer and then, we tried eating. Now, the only time I really got diarrhea there was from a restaurant up in Foundiougne so I didn't want to eat their food that much, so talked Joan into let's make tuna fish sandwiches. You could buy big thing of albacore tuna for about a dollar. Nice, chunky albacore tuna and then, we bought a small jar of mayonnaise and I'd buy an onion and I'd bring 86:00a spoon and a knife and then, we'd buy--

WILSON: Bread.

HEER: Some of the local bread--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: And we made our own food and we got ourselves all set up between two different campements, two different little hotels and they knew us, you know?


HEER: It was just fun--


HEER: And we'd sit there, drink till about three p.m. when people started stirring around again after prayers and then, start coming home which took another two hours, hahaha. Yeah, that was Friday. That was the whole time I was there. Every few months, we'd go to Dakar--


HEER: Like every two months, went, as time went on in that last six months, started going to Kaolak once a week. Joan was totally sick 87:00of the village and so we would go one day spend a day at the Kaolak regional house and then, come back the next and that was fun. We'd get to see everybody who was Peace Corps.

WILSON: What about outside of Senegal? Did you travel outside of Senegal at all?

HEER: Very little. Now, when we went to Foundiougne, that's when we did a lot of what I considered our illicit vacations because we got to know the fishermen there that were leading the fishing parties and I considered those some of our best trips. We went fishing like three times of renting a pirogue, boat--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: And going fishing in the mangroves and one time, we got to go to a village whose name totally escapes me but it's down on the Atlantic 88:00coast. It took a good six or eight hours to get there. You had to go down the river, out into the sea and over to where the village was and it was a rich village because they, they were fisherman. They were Serere. We stayed there for two days. I mean, they had electricity, solar power. They had telephones. They had schools. They had mosques with big towers and we're going, my God. I mean, they were a standard of living that I would say like a Caribbean Island would be. As different from the village which was so--

WILSON: And not that far away.

HEER: Yeah! Who knew? So I totally enjoyed that. We went to St. Louis. Went to the Jazz Festival twice, went, Joan and I just went around and 89:00then, for our big vacations, we did two of them. One time, we went to Spain and the other time, we went to Great Britain.

WILSON: Oh! You were allowed at that point to go off the continent weren't you?

HEER: Yeah, yeah.

WILSON: So you had a month really--

HEER: We had a month and that's what we used that for--

WILSON: Right, oh, okay.

HEER: Because Joan was English--


HEER: She was an American citizen. She had married fifty years some prior--

WILSON: Oh my!

HEER: An Air Force guy--

WILSON: Oh my!

HEER: She had been in the British Air Force and she lives in Napa, California and they'd lived there for twenty years after he retired from the military and she was interesting. She had an eighth grade education and had gone to work then and had joined the military when 90:00she was seventeen and was like a telephone operator and then, after her husband retired, he was a master's sergeant and he was in communications some how. She worked for a five star hotel out in Napa and she became the bell captain, and here they put her growing corn. She'd never been around a corn stalk in her life, right? And I mean, it was kind of a joke but I loved seeing how she handled it. I mean, she was older than I. She had a terrible time with Wolof. Her, her village was Wolof, Serer, and Puelar too. Her family that she was with was Puelar--


HEER: And she ended up teaching them a lot of English. She ran a school 91:00for like four or five guys, a French couple who was on the run from the law came and lived in her village, and she got her sister to be their maid so she got employment for her village sister and then, when we'd go up to Foundiougne, here, she had worked for a five star hotel for twenty years before she retired. She helped them with teaching service because their personnel had no service training at all, never even thought about it like may I help you?

WILSON: Right.

HEER: What would you like? Would you like more? Hahaha-- Nothing like that; they'd sit over in the corner and put their head on the desk, you know? So she worked with Fanera who was the young man that we came to like so much at the campement and got their work better and now, Peace 92:00Corps has an environmental eco tourism program there--

WILSON: Oh, wow! That's nice.

HEER: Yeah, and in Foundiougne --


HEER: Yeah, so she, I was so interested in seeing how different people took their Peace Corps experience and worked with it.

WILSON: Based on what they'd done before too, right?

HEER: Yeah, but not according to the bureaucratic rule of what they thought you were supposed to do or your job description.

WILSON: Well, or what was on your resume.

HEER: Yeah--

WILSON: That didn't--

HEER: Theyd never read her resume.

WILSON: Right.

HEER: To me, they would have been much better off putting her into micro-business type of thing. They would have actually been better putting me into that because I'd asked for that as my first choice rather than environmental education because I know how to business--


WILSON: Right, right.

HEER: And--

WILSON: Well, that's what I was thinking when we were talking earlier that there have been a lot of small business--

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: But of course, a lot of that has been in Eastern Europe--

HEER: Oh, okay.

WILSON: With the former Soviet Union so I don't know whether when you put app--, who knows? How, how were your experiences with younger volunteers? I mean, it sounds like you got together with volunteers just generally so that was positive, too?

HEER: Oh, enjoyed them, didn't, I, I kept looking for people I felt that would be accepting of me. The majority of them really weren't-- You know, I was an old fuddy-duddy, something like that or totally non-livid because I was kind of shocked at the well, their deportment, 94:00hahaha, which is probably why they thought I was an old fuddy-duddy. I mean, it was the drinking, the drugging, the sex, morning, noon and night and maybe they would think about talking to a villager, you know, I just thought oh my God but then--

[Tape 1 ends ; tape 2 begins.]

WILSON: --particularly meaningful, memorable stories from Peace Corps and why are they meaningful?

HEER: Well, I told you some of the little horror stories with all the little animals and creatures. Now, those, those were the most memorable that I have of specific events. The, I can't think of too many just experiences that I had that I haven't told you--



HEER: That just kind of blew me away. There's one section that I haven't mentioned and that you, you'd asked me about traveling like up to Dakar. Okay, when I first started to go to Dakar because you'd need to for shots or something that'd be wrong with you, that type of thing and I never really got sick over there, for that matter, but felt needed to get away too. You know, a dose of civilization and Peace Corps had a place to stay out there. Well, stayed there one time, Joan and I did and were horrified and hahaha and so went, decided that we'd go complain to Peace Corps medical because we'd been there a few months 96:00and knew that was the way to make things happen. So she did her part. I did mine. We worked this out, you know, so we'd be in unison on our message that we wanted something other than the hostel to stay in and I told them that it reminded me of a homeless shelter and that was not R&R for me to you know, to go from a village into what looked like an American homeless shelter to me and--

WILSON: And also the behavior of--

HEER: The dirt, the behavior, yeah--[phone rings]--Oh, can we stop here? It's my daughter--

[Pause in recording.]

WILSON: Alright, go ahead

HEER: So medical said that they, they could ask the embassy if we could have like a homestay with an embassy person in Dakar--

WILSON: Hmm! Wow! That's nice--

HEER: Well, hat took a, you know, naturally, you had to focus and ask 97:00again and again and went through rigmarole and then, got to stay with the, she was the administrative assistant to the ambassador--

WILSON: Oh, how nice!

HEER: Yeah--

WILSON: So you could see another part--

HEER: Totally another part, yeah, of how foreign service can live--

WILSON: Mm hmm

HEER: I mean, this was a lovely high rise over looking the ocean, the doorman, the whole nine yards, lovely neighborhood that I never even knew existed in Dakar, hahaha, and then, she was fun. She was having all kinds of boyfriends. She was an older African-American lady and you know, she, she introduced us to the swimming pool that they went to and all kinds of things so it was just fun. And then, she was transferred down to Ghana and took her boy toy with her. Married him, 98:00married a Senegalese, good looking Senegalese, thirty some year old man. She's about sixty, you know, took him so off they go so then, Joan and I are wondering what the hell are we going to do now? Hahaha so went back the to embassy and this time we asked you know, our friend Ruth to put in some good words for us. This time we got another administrative assistant and this was an African-American lady who had married a Senegalese who was of patrician background and by this time, I'd read enough of Senegalese history--

WILSON: That you knew--

HEER: Yeah, to realize kind of what was going on and I mean, they were almost as light as I am in color and the last name was Jensen and he 99:00was very proud that mom was Senegalese, dad was Swedish, something, whatever Jensen, Danish, something--

WILSON: Danish, yeah.

HEER: And he had been in foreign service there. The family really identified with their Senegalese-Gambian roots but identified more with the patrician aspects of Senegalese society and there were pictures of the wedding, you know, grandma's wedding, coach and four, the kind of the Napoleonic hats, you know, all that kind of stuff. The kids all come to school here in America, you know, hahaha, so--

WILSON: So, so very different from your village?

HEER: Totally different than the village--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah but it's still Senegal, hahaha

HEER: Still, yeah--


HEER: Yeah.


WILSON: Yeah, that's interesting--

HEER: So I got another whole view of Senegal from that experience.

WILSON: So what was it like coming back?

HEER: It was kind of shell shock in a way. I did notice my kids truly respect me for this. My, I don't know if it was being away. Or how other people took my Peace Corps service or something but it, I no longer feel that I'm kind of the old, the old tire that needs to be somehow kind of discarded, put on a shelf--

WILSON: They're kind of proud of you?

HEER: They are proud of me. And hearing from each of them how they're coming more into my way of thinking on certain things.

WILSON: Ah! Okay.

HEER: Yeah, so I'm feeling much better about that--



HEER: And what I tried to do after I got home, it has made such a difference with me of being more and more fed up with the excess in the United States. I really just don't like it at all. I didn't like it before but never could put my finger on what would make a difference and then, getting to live in a village and seeing I did just fine on the food that I had, the lifestyle that they had and it seems so much more meaningful to me and seeing that I set with my goal for service to work with people who wanted to work with me. You know, not being 102:00employed anymore, I don't have to get along with people I don't want to so that was my criteria and it worked very well over there. I decided to bring that home with me--

WILSON: And how have you done this back here?

HEER: Well, I started, it's been interesting--

WILSON: Because you came home in?

HEER: It was June.


HEER: 2003.

WILSON: 2003.

HEER: Mm hmm


HEER: Went and visited people for three months. All my family and my friends. Then, one of those stupid little things, a friend in Danville wanted $10,000 worth of flowers arranged for a wedding and a girl friend asked me if I would help. I came back from that experience just 103:00totally just crying, just, the excess--


HEER: The absolute excess of it all--

WILSON: Because that was just--

HEER: I couldn't stand it!

WILSON: Because that was just the flowers.

HEER: Yes! Hahaha--

WILSON: Ay yah yah.

HEER: The refrigerator truck that sat there on site and we worked almost twenty-four hours a day trying to get these freaking flowers where they were supposed to be and then, seeing the wedding and the two families totally didn't like each other and everybody was there that was supposed to be there. They had the black staff of, the mammy, and I'm about to throw up, hahaha, so when I got back from that I decided you've got to find something to do so I'd been a Red Cross volunteer for twenty years doing the night calls on fires. Did that in D.C. and Chicago--


WILSON: Oh wow!

HEER: So I thought well, I'm in Louisville, I'll go down and sign up, transfer down so about the time I get back home from going talking to them, I get a phone call and said we've got a VISTA volunteer position and they love Peace Corps people so would you consider it? So I went down and talked to them and thought well, this will probably get me into what there is to do in Louisville. I stood that eight months. Again, I was just, I hated it, absolutely hated it. The, it, it was something like Peace Corps but yet it was not. I was working on homeland security for the Red Cross. We were supposed to do disaster 105:00preparedness education. Oh, yeah, I can do that. I can talk to schools. I can talk to community groups. They didn't want me to do anything. This was a horror story. I worked for a guy whose previous job had been a guard in LaGrange with the prison system and he comes from a long background of prison systems and had been in charge of women's prisons and so and I'm just going oh, good Lord. I didn't even want to be in the same room with him. He, he's so, was so exuding of his personal power and I just thought oh my God, I wonder what he's done in the past. I just had very bad feelings about it and then, he didn't want anybody to do anything because he was in charge. The VISTA 106:00program, he didn't want. He was just supposed to have it. The Red Cross didn't want the program. Louisville didn't want to do anything because they had one group that was in charge of one thing, one group that was in charge of another. None of them would talk to each other. They put some guy that was an alcoholic in charge and he didn't want to bother with anybody.

WILSON: And you couldn't get out of it or--?

HEER: I got out of it--


HEER: I just left it.


HEER: Like E.T,'ed hahaha--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, I was going to say but you were there for eight months?

HEER: Yeah and I taught kids in school--


HEER: You know, I did things but it just impressed me that there was a $500,000 vehicle that they bought while I was there. I mean, it just went on and on and on and I got to, you know, I looked around into moving to another site like with the school system or with refugee 107:00ministry, things like that and all those programs were terribly run because I talked to the other VISTA volunteers. And they're very unhappy with them and I thought well, you know, you're wanting to do something with people that want to work with you, just do it on your own. Now, when I had first come into Louisville because that's where I decided to live because it's something like a city, the, one of my neighbors in the apartment house has a son-in-law who's a teacher at Wagoner High School and she had mentioned my Peace Corps thing to him and he had two Senegalese students, immigrant students. So that was November of last year so what I have done, I have decided to take them kind of under my wing a little or make myself available to them and 108:00that has, that's done nicely so that's what I do.

WILSON: So, so are there a number of Senegalese, of these--?


WILSON: There are a number of Senegalese who are in Louisville now?

HEER: In Louisville now.

WILSON: Wow! Because we're getting Liberians as refugees but Senegalese aren't refugees are they?

HEER: No, they're illegals.

WILSON: They're illegals.

HEER: Mm hmm.They were legal before 9/11--


HEER: But then, we seemed to have revoked their status and so--

WILSON: Did they come to trade or--?

HEER: I don't know. They, the two families I work with the most or I go, I consider them my friends--


HEER: My two friends, they're, they were in New York City. Okay, one of them, the husband got deported. He, I think he tried to, you know, after 9/11, he somehow made himself known and they sent him back.


WILSON: Yeah, okay.

HEER: The wife took the kids and went out to California immediately and then, they're all linked in this community now and they ended up here. There are Senegalese in Paducah--


HEER: Yeah! And settled down. They've got a little Senegalese restaurant. Some people are legal and some are not in the family. My little granddaughter had, she was a mouse in the Nutcracker here in Lexington over the weekend and I brought a little Senegalese girl who's ten years old over with me to go watch the "Nutcracker."

WILSON: Oh, how nice!

HEER: She had a wonderful time!

WILSON: Oh I bet!

HEER: And we went to a tea, you know? Hahaha

WILSON: Oh wow, that's great!

HEER: Yeah and then, her brothers yesterday, she has two brothers. Now, she's an American citizen. She has a brother that's an American citizen. Another brother who isn't, it's her half brother, it's her 110:00father's son but not her mother's. He's over here and he does so well. He is so bright, you know.

WILSON: So, so--

HEER: I'm enjoying them. These are foster grandchildren for me.

WILSON: Sure, sure--

HEER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: Now, do they, are they Wolof originally or--?

HEER: No, these are not Wolof--

WILSON: They're not Wolof

HEER: But they speak Wolof.

WILSON: But they speak Wolof.

HEER: They speak Wolof at home. Both families speak Wolof at home and I had a third family. The uncle had taken this boy over here. His dad had been killed in Italy where they were commerciants, they were--the mom went back home to Dakar and these are upper middle class people. All these families, when you get into them--

WILSON: Well, that's--

HEER: They're probably upper middle class in Dakar--

WILSON: --trading because a lot of Senegalese, Malians, Guineans have 111:00come to you know bring things to sell like at the Roots Festival in Lexington. The Roots and Heritage Festival or something like that.

HEER: These folks all work for the, the restaurants.

WILSON: They all work for the restaurants?

HEER: Mm hmm

WILSON: Okay--

HEER: And, and--

WILSON: So there's a Senegalese--

HEER: Holiday Inn, hahaha

WILSON: So there is a Senegalese restaurant in Louisville?

HEER: Yeah, yeah.

WILSON: That's great. Oh well, we'll have to go over there some time.

HEER: Yeah.


HEER: Yeah


HEER: Yeah so that, I'm getting involved with them and that's gotten me more involved with the international community and the Alliance Francaise and--

WILSON: Oh wow.

HEER: Yeah because Peace Corps peoples are in that too--


HEER: So I practice French a little there and then, there's this guy Omar who's the representative for the mayor on international things 112:00and so I'm trying to work now to get some of the older children and all the families who are not American citizens to be able to go to college over here.

WILSON: Right and that's a challenge?

HEER: That's a challenge.

WILSON: Because they're not, they can't apply for Pell Grants and that kind of thing.

HEER: Right, right so that's what I'm doing plus I decided I like the cultural things. I always have and I volunteered at Actors Theater and Kentucky Center, things like that.

WILSON: Right. So as you look back, what do you think the impact, your impact on Senegal was and what was the impact, through Peace Corps, and what was the impact of Peace Corps on you? How would you sort of sum that up?

HEER: I'm not sure what the impact of me on Senegal was--


WILSON: Or on your villages--

HEER: Now, I'm going back in March--

WILSON: You are?

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: Oh my goodness!

HEER: Joan and I are going for two to three months.

WILSON: Oh! For two or three months? Wow! And what will you do for two or three months? That's more than just visiting.

HEER: Well, we, we'll be visiting our people with the embassy--

WILSON: Ah huh.

HEER: Get a good week out of them, hahaha--

WILSON: Because they're still there

HEER: They're still there

WILSON: Why not?

HEER: Then, our friend with the campement in Foundiougne so we, he's on email now so we've contacted him--


HEER: And he's like come any time so I know we'll get a good rate--


HEER: And we're going to do a week there and then, do a week in one of the villages I was in. Then, go back to Foundiougne, maybe another week there and then, down to Joan's village and then, go down to another village we know and just spend a week in those villages. See, I could spend more time over there. I could go over there and spend 114:00like half the year over there but I'm a little afraid because I won't be under Peace Corps medical. So I want to kind of see how this goes. If I immediately come down with, hahaha--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, right, because Peace Corps medical is very, very helpful and aggressive actually--

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: If somebody has to be evacuated or--

HEER: That's right.

WILSON: Or if you're sick, why, they take good care of you.

HEER: They do.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah

HEER: They did. I know that you know, I've been in contact with the volunteer in Jelaba and he says they keep counting the days till I come, that kind of thing--


HEER: Is she going to be here this week?

WILSON: Yeah, that's great

HEER: You know, so I know they're waiting to see me--

WILSON: Right, right.

HEER: And they knew my mantra that they had better do something that 115:00they were not getting money for anything so--

WILSON: So hopefully, they will have done something with the cow?

HEER: That's what I'm hoping, hahaha!

WILSON: Hahaha! What will have happened with the cow?

HEER: Cow, hahaha--

WILSON: Yeah, right

HEER: Yeah and then, the other village, you know, he's written me so yeah, he can't wait till I come.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, right and you're keeping contact by your, you've offered to support Peace Corps Partnership somehow?

HEER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: That yourself, you're saying--

HEER: Yeah.

WILSON: If they can get a project, why, you'll--

HEER: Yeah

WILSON: Go do that too and--

HEER: Yeah, I changed my will since I've been back--

WILSON: Oh really?

HEER: I had given a good lot to Red Cross, count that out, and Nature Conservancy and also, Camp Fire Boys and Girls, gone. I've decided to rethink a whole lot of this and just I've got a good twenty years. I 116:00want to do something that makes me feel good too so I don't just want to give it away when I'm dead and don't know what happened--

WILSON: Right.

HEER: I would rather do it in smaller lots and kind of see what happens and see if things grow and maybe I can send some kids to school. I helped with a little Peace Corps, it's Peace Corps people. Now, they're RPCVs. Up in the Chicago, fund some girls education so I'm helping a little--


HEER: But I, I'm totally living on so much less money. When I left Lexington, I cut down on expenses and that was '89, '90 and I have continually managed to do that and really cut down since I've been back. Almost all my clothes now come from like Goodwill. I learned 117:00that buying in the Foundiougne markets. I never bought used clothes before and now, I do just fine. I don't have very many clothes. I keep to, I always have a little car after I got rid of the Mercedes. Went to a little car. '96, still got it. It's just fine. Get another one when it dies. I eat more Senegalese oriented things. Stay with the cereals. I do oatmeal and grits and then, I do rice and a little fish. Lots of vegetables. I've tried to stay that because I lost forty pounds over there--

WILSON: My goodness, really?

HEER: So I've tried to keep that off--


HEER: And I feel healthier and I want to stay out of the clutches of the American medical system and you know, it's, and I don't worry about 118:00things, you know? If it's going to be, it's going to be. I enjoyed after I got used to it, you know, sitting in the dirt under a tree and watching all the little hands and the goats and the horses. Everything just kind of wandering around, hahaha--

WILSON: Hahaha

HEER: And it was just fine and I realized that we're a little animal too. I had intellectualized that before but then, just watching everyone I so felt that that we're just another animal--[phone rings]--

[Pause in recording.]

WILSON: What has been, well, I think you've already answered this actually. This question is what has the impact of Peace Corps service been on the way you think about the world and what's going on. You talked about that more in terms of your own lifestyle but what about 119:00you know, world events. You mentioned being in Senegal at 9/11 but more generally, any changes in that or were you thinking the same way about the world when you went that you are now?

HEER: I think I must have been thinking somewhat the same way before because I wasn't buying what I was seeing in America and hearing in America and my friends were saying that I was going into Peace Corps and leaving America because Bush was elected you know so hahaha. They understood that I wasn't too happy with all that--

WILSON: Yeah, right--

HEER: I, it's just reinforced it and made me even more curious. I would love to do another string in Peace Corps, and I think I will.

WILSON: Oh really?

HEER: Yeah and go--

WILSON: To another part of the world?

HEER: Another part of the world. I'm becoming much more Buddhist which 120:00I wouldn't have, you know, I've read a lot about religions and never bought Christianity really but now, I see instead of just not buying something, I see doors opening due to increased knowledge and awareness of other things to do, other ways to think so I'd like to go to a Buddhist country but I don't care--

WILSON: Maybe--

HEER: Just not cold.

WILSON: Just not cold? Maybe Thailand--

HEER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: Yeah, that's be--

HEER: And I, I'm just more and more irritated by the way Americans seem to think and I don't know what the answers really are. I do think all this circles, that we go in and out of different ways. That's why I think we're really just little animals. I don't think we're really 121:00improving. I think there's certain boundaries that are for humans just like there are for horses and that we will stay within those boundaries and I think that's why we circle. We might have a more civil rights way of looking at thing and then it will get, you know, it all goes back to me type of thing and then, well maybe we better open it up again--

You know, I just think it goes. It might change a little over time but it--

WILSON: Peace Corps been around for more than forty years. Do you think it's had any impact on Senegal, on the world, on us in the U.S and does it have a role today and in the future?

HEER: I could see that it had an impact in my area because I could really see that in the villages and that's what it was meant to do was to get 122:00right down to the, where people live and particularly where poor people live so I know it's had an impact. Now, as far as has it had an impact in Senegal's government, no. I did get to learn that the reason Peace Corps is in Senegal, the reason that the United States has an interest in Senegal is just to kind of keep the peace, to keep their little finger in because they wouldn't want to not be there and Peace Corps is a good way to show a little progress or a little caring. They don't want to really do too much with USAID. They really want to keep and 123:00this I heard from the country director that he thinks they're really just wanting the status quo. The president who's in there, they don't want people getting killed, they don't want the place going to some--

WILSON: Well, there's enough problems in West Africa.

HEER: Yeah.


HEER: Yeah, and they've got a friendly government to the U.S. so they're just happy as little clams but you know, they act in a way like they're trying to do something but really, it's probably keep the status quo but I don't know that, see, I'm not sure that we're right in what we're doing. Really, I wish I knew what another alternative to capitalism was. I mean, we know communism as it was set out didn't prove successful but I kind of like the way that they carry on their business there. They really don't do very much. They really don't 124:00get very stressed out over things. They don't try to be their best. They just have fun with their family. They enjoy going to the loomas, the markets. It is a time to try to get the better of somebody which I think is what capitalism is but it's looked on as a game. You, if a person says this flower is worth fifteen thousand dollars, you say, oh, no, of course it's not. And they'll say well, maybe not, I'll come down a little but you know, hahaha

WILSON: Hahaha, yeah, bargaining is fun isn't it?

HEER: Yeah, it's just fun--

WILSON: Mm hmm. Is there anything else you want to say? What questions haven't I asked? Is there a question you want to answer that hasn't been asked?

HEER: Well, there was one question that, well, what was the second part 125:00or third part of the last question?

WILSON: Well, the second question of this is what should to role of Peace Corps today and in the future?

HEER: I guess what upsets me hearing that Bush would like it to essentially become what I would consider an extension of USAID, something more like VISTA which was just abysmal, because while I was in the village, Peace Corps had no clue what I was doing and the people that I worked with, the APCD, the staff, they acted as a buffer. He had to create some report, God knows what the poor man told our government but he told me just do what you want to do. Take care of yourself, do what you can, don't worry about it. That is totally not what VISTA is. They want those numbers. They want you there eight a.m. to four thirty. You're shackled, you're--


WILSON: It wasn't about the people?

HEER: You can't start your own program. Because the people you're working for can't do their own program. I would think that would be terrible if Peace Corps got into something that, in that mode where they were trying to make a third world country into something that's our people would like which is exactly what I think we're doing in Iraq now. We're just bound and determined that we can put enough resources in there and that they'll see the light. Oh no! And all that's going to do is hurt their people and hurt ours. Okay, that's it.


[End of interview.]

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