WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project, February 18th, 2005, interviewwith Harold Freeman, interviewer Jack Wilson--Harold, if you would, give me your full name and where and when you were born.
FREEMAN: My name is Harold Daniel Freeman and I was born in Nashville,Tennessee on April 24th, 1943 though Nashville was not my place of residence at that time. My parents live oh, seventy-five to a hundred miles away in a small town.
WILSON: Okay, tell me something about your, your growing up and where1:00that took place and your family and bring me up through your high school days and so forth.
FREEMAN: Okay, my father was a Methodist minister which meant that Ididn't live in any one place more than six years. My initial hometown was Lobelville, Tennessee which is about big as the palm of your hand, west of Nashville, southwest. Before I was a year old, we moved to a larger town, Lawrenceburg, also, southwest of Nashville and by the time I was five, we were moving to Nashville where my father was pastor at West National, a Methodist church. Went to grades one through three there. By this time, my younger brother had been born, having five 2:00brothers, four years younger than I am. He was born just before that move to Nashville. At, at the beginning of my fourth grade year, we moved to the other side of Nashville, a suburb named Donaldson which was beginning to explode in population adding about a subdivision a year and saw that happen while we lived there. The dairy farm behind us became a couple of hundred houses and my sister, my only other sibling who's born while we lived there, when I was eleven years old. We lived in Donaldson for five years and went to the fourth grade through the eighth grade there. Signed up for high school and registered but at that time, my father was transferred to Dickson, Tennessee which is forty miles west of Nashville a town of about five thousand at that time and so I dropped from a school of, with eighteen 3:00hundred students and grades seven through twelve where you know, Latin and Psychology and Sociology and Art and Introduction to Business and all that sort of thing was available to a town of the Dicson High School which had about six hundred students in grades nine through twelve, graduating class of only one hundred by the time I got through there and when I went there, I tried to sign up for the same courses I'd registered for at Donaldson High School but found out, they had practically none of them except Algebra, English and General Science. I tried to sign up for Latin and they said they didn't have Latin and I said okay and they said they didn't have French--
FREEMAN: I said okay, Spanish and it turned out they didn't have Spanishand I said what do you have? And they said English. When I got in the English class, I found out they didn't have much of that either. English was never a problem for me so it didn't make a whole lot of 4:00difference I suppose in hurting me for college or anything. It didn't help me but it may not have hurt too much and in the course of four years there, I took most of the courses they had except for vocational agriculture, home ec, and what I called civics for football players that was taught by the football coach part of the time at least and I was six foot one by the time I got out of there and they didn't have many sports opportunities. There was no tennis or swimming or track or whatever; just football and basketball for boys and only basketball for girls. I tried out for basketball but I was so un-athletic that I couldn't even make a team that started at 0-9 in one year but I did become the score keeper. Now, backing up to my freshmen year, when 5:00I unable to find courses that I had intended to take, they ended up putting me in World History as a freshmen which was really a course for juniors or something in the way they had it set up there so I met a bet of upper class folks I might not have otherwise known and by the end of the year, one of those fellows asked me if I'd like to be on the school newspaper staff the next year and I said sure so I, I did join the newspaper staff and worked on the little school newspaper which came out once every six or eight weeks or something like that. The remaining years of high school and became the editor or co-editor at my senior year and it also let me get inside the first, I got my first look at a little newspaper office because the, the town weekly newspaper or the county weekly newspaper published our paper there and 6:00on the days when I actually produced the paper, we would go down there and observe the pages being made and things getting ready to go on the press. I didn't know it at the time but I'd end up in that profession a good deal down the road.
WILSON: So you graduated from?
FREEMAN: Graduated from Dixon High School in 1961 without much clearintent on what I was going to do from there. I'd never been one of those folks that had my life planned out. You know, some seventh graders who know they want to be not only a doctor but say, a kidney specialist and I didn't have a clue as to even what general field I wanted in. I was pretty good in science and math and the best course I had in high school was physics. I didn't have anything to speak of in a lab but I had a tough teacher who knew what he was talking about and made us pay attention to the subject even when the ----------(??) 7:00boys basketball team was in the regional semi-finals or something which was unlike most of the rest of the school so when I chose a college, it turned out to be Tennessee Tec, not Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. I didn't even know what I was going to major in. There they didn't allow you the luxury of a freshmen year or a freshmen and sophomore year of general studies. You had to pick something and I thought well, maybe engineering. It had a big Engineering School and I got there and saw all these guys carrying drawing boards and slide rules. This was well before calculators were portable and I thought hell, I'm probably not too good at drawing all this meticulous stuff they had to do with the meticulous lettering on it as well. The first one I saw in fact was a really detailed drawing of the inner workings 8:00of a hand cranked pencil sharpener, all those helical gears and so forth. That's probably not my intended field but physics is not too far from that. It's got a lot of the same stuff in it so I'll major in physics and I did that for two years and survived the introductory courses and so forth okay, A's and B's I think but then I got into the real physics courses for physics majors, not the ones that were also populated by engineering majors, math majors, chemistry majors and high school science education majors and it quickly became evident that physics was not the field for me as an occupation so to minimize my losses or to make sure I didn't have any losses, I just changed my major which was physics to my minor and my minor which was math to my major and, and went on through the rest of my four years of college and 9:00graduated with a major in math and minor in physics, you know--
WILSON: And was--?
FREEMAN: And that doesn't sound like much difference but I discoveredthat to be a physics major, you had to understand the math that you took into courses and that to be a math major, you just had to pass the math courses and I was pretty good at passing math courses but actually using them in atomic and nuclear physics or physical mechanics and dynamics things was something of a different ball game. You know, in the physic courses, you, I remember one class where I had a take home test. We were given five days to do it; had only five problems and the best student in the class got four right and nobody in the class got one of the problems right and I thought you know, this is probably the end of my physics career. I think I got three out after five days but I, when I went to college, by happenstance, on a Spring Break 10:00visit to the campus before, while I was still a senior in high school, a nice lady in the admission office or student service office hooked me up with the advisor of the student newspaper after asking what extra circular interests and participation we had in high school and I mentioned that I was on the high school paper and she said, "Well, Mr. Norman, the advisor is over here in his office I think even though it's Spring Break. I saw him earlier," and so she called him and within a few minutes he came over, picked me up and took me on the tour and assured me that my Work Scholarship could be assigned to a student publication so I wouldn't have to work on buildings or grounds or in the library or in the cafeteria line. The Work Scholarship just meant you got paid the, well, that they subtracted from fees. A dollar of money you earned at the rate of a dollar an hour instead of the basic 11:00student payment fee or rate of fifty cents an hour at that time in 1961 so I got paid just a little bit for doing something that I probably would have been interested in doing anyway and it turned out that this Mr. Norman, now, Dr. Norman and retired, had worked for three daily newspapers and knew what he was talking about although he was the entire journalism section of the English department within the school of Arts and Sciences. There was, there was not a Journalism School or even department and furthermore, teaching those courses was not the, what journalism courses there were was not his only responsibility. He was the Director of Public Information including sports information and he oversaw the photo department. All those public releases that go out that say so and so won an award or wrote a paper or is competing in something or other or a new faculty, new dean has been hired or 12:00promoted or something so he had about three or four full time jobs but never the less, those of us who were fortunate enough to work with him, learned a lot and that's what made it possible for me to get into journalism later even though I had only nine quarter hours of credit in journalism.
WILSON: So you graduated--
WILSON: In '65--
FREEMAN: Mm hmm
WILSON: And then what?
FREEMAN: Well, in college I had no clear idea what I wanted to doafterwards than I had in high school when I was pointing towards college. It had always been assumed that I would go to college. My dad had a Master's degree from Duke and my mom had gone to school for, to college for a couple of years. I think the first in their families to have done so, so graduate school was a possibility as I was nearing you know, the middle of my junior year or some thing along the lines when you start thinking about what the next step is and a job is another possibility. The military is another possibility, you 13:00know, the draft was in, in force at the time. Though, back in1964, there wasn't any big, big call up because the Vietnam explosion had not really occurred. There were not large numbers of troops there at that time but I wasn't really drawn to any of those. I went to some on-campus interviews and I remember AT&T invited me to North Carolina or some place for a follow up interview with a possible position as a technical writer because I had some, you know, journalism by that time. I was Managing Editor of the college newspaper and you know, get good recommendations from, from English and Journalism teachers and, and I did have the math major and physics minor regardless of how, how much mastery I had at those subjects. I wasn't afraid of technical vocabulary anyway and that sort of thing but I wasn't drawn in any of those directions and you know, along about that time, about the end 14:00of my, some time my sophomore year, the Peace Corp came into being and so I, I applied in my junior year and by the fairly early in my senior year as I recall, I had been accepted and then started the testing process and going through the physical and so forth and I was accepted on all those things and, and was told that if I wanted to join up, I could go to UCLA in, in June right after my graduation in late May and begin Peace Corp training for an assignment in Ethiopia.
WILSON: How did your family feel about that?
FREEMAN: Well, some of them thought I was a little strange and weird towant to leave Tennessee and go to California and then to the far side of Africa. Both my grandmothers who were you know, right on up in 15:00years at the time in their eighties I guess or nearly in their eighties if not. Both were afraid that they'd never see me again either because something would happen to me over there or they'd be dead by the time I got back. They never really enunciated these fears but it was, it was pretty much that way I think and I didn't know anybody who'd been in the Peace Corp at that time. You know, this was so early and there were, there were relatively few and I don't recall having known anyone who had been and come back by the time I went. I'm not even sure that I knew someone who had just left from a class earlier than me.
WILSON: Do you remember anything particular about the applicationprocess?
FREEMAN: Oh, it was probably the longest form I'd ever filled out in mylife--
FREEMAN: Up to that time and somewhere along the line, there was a16:00fairly detailed language aptitude test which was based on Kurdish or Urdu, something from a part of the world which the test makers assumed that the average American college student or other Peace Corp applicant would have no idea so that nobody, practically no one would have a leg up on anyone else because of, of previous knowledge. They would just give you a language principle or a set of vocabulary words and then, ask you questions about them or what verb would likely be related to what noun or something to see if you could pick out endings or beginnings or something. I don't remember the details but it was entirely foreign, foreign language and, but I must have passed some, to some degree anyway. I had no knowledge of language that would, was going to be useful in Peace Corps. I, I eventually did get two years of high school French at Dixon. They, they did introduce French 17:00after I got there but I didn't gain much command at all of that and in, at Tennessee Tec, I took two years of German and so I had not enough French to do me any good in French west Africa or some other places where French might have been in use and I don't think there were any, any Peace Corps countries where German was an advantage and I didn't have much knowledge of German either so I started afresh with Amharic when I went to UCLA.
WILSON: So you went to UCLA?
WILSON: And that was for training?
WILSON: And tell me something about that.
FREEMAN: Well, UCLA was chosen because it was one of the few placesin the country that had an existing language program that involved symmetric linguistics and symmetric and hermetic linguistics and because Amharic is in that group of languages, they were able to set up 18:00a training program. They already had graduate students from Ethiopia there who could serve as our language practice guides and you know native speakers we could hear. People we could sit with at our meals and we could conduct drill sessions where we'd go over something.
WILSON: Had you shown interest in Ethiopia or Africa or--?
FREEMAN: No, I just signed up you know sort of a blank check. At thetime, as I recall, they said that you could list three counties of preference in order of preference and let's see, if my mother had been a native Spanish speaker and if I had grown up bilingual, then, I'm sure they would have sent me to some country where Spanish was a help but I didn't have any particular interest, you know, had not focused on, hadn't done a big senior pro-, senior thesis or project 19:00on a particular country that gave me any knowledge or interest so I just signed up just in general for the Peace Corps and I probably would have never picked Ethiopia. As I recall, I knew three things about the nation when I found out I was going there or at least, I was going to training to go there. I knew the Haile Selassie was emperor, that the nation was on the far side of Africa and that Addis Ababa was the capital city and I don't think I knew a single other thing beyond that and I certainly knew nothing about the official national language which was Amharic which occupied much of our Peace Corps training. At that time, almost all the Peace Corps training for volunteers was done in the United States before you went to your country of assignment. At some point after that, they decided that they should reverse the 20:00process and just have elemental orientation in this side of the pond and, and send the volunteer recruits over to their, their country of assignment so they would start getting used to things there.
WILSON: And so this was the summer of 1965?
WILSON: And you were there for how long?
FREEMAN: June, July and August, eleven or twelve weeks, some thing likethat and the training consisted of a bunch of components. Language was one of the big parts. We had an eminent professor of linguistics who had written text books in two Ethiopian languages who was the head of the program and he had Ethiopian doctoral students working with him and each day, five days a week, they would give us about an hour lecture on some specific aspect such as making plurals or something like that 21:00and then, we would go to an hour and a half or two hour drill session with one of these native speakers who might have been a candidate for a Master's degree or something or might have been just the wife or husband of the student there but someone who was, was educated and was native, you know, an educated native speaker of the language so if you wanted to learn how to make the plural of lamb and plow and cow and dog and then, tomato, you know. Then, you would have to make sentences saying there's a tomato there. There are two tomatoes in the language and so you'd go use that word over and over again and also you had your own tape record with a tape lessons that you were supposed to add to the text book and you were supposed spend an addition to the hour or so in lecture and the two hours in drill, another hour or two in listening to the tape pronunciation and speaking back to it and looking 22:00at the text book over the lesson that you'd had and perhaps the one that you were going to have tomorrow and then, use some adjectives instead of plurals and so you, it was easy to have four or five hours a day devoted to the language. It wasn't total immersion where that everything you did all day long had to be in Amharic. It wasn't like that but it was much closer to emersion than what I'd had in high school French and college German and one weekend, I remember five or six of us rented a car and went to Mexico. We didn't have much spare time but there was one because we had classes Monday through Friday and then, at least half a day Saturday and then, somewhere along the line, you had to read some of the two or three books a week you were suppose to read and do your laundry and just, you know, the odds and ends, write a letter home, something like that and so one weekend was 23:00a little lighter than the others and we rented a car and went as far as Ensenada into Mexico, slept on a beach in San Diego and slept on the ground at an orphanage run by an American church organization down in Ensenada where tarantulas crawled across the ground and somebody drove a herd of pigs past us--
FREEMAN: But the orphanage folks told us we would be, we would be safethere but anyway, I got into that by way of saying that on the way, we took it upon ourselves, we tried to say as much as we could in Amharic. We would talk about the street lights in the street and turn right and turn left and all that sort of thing, you know? We had much more motivation in the language than we did as high school sophomore studying French for example because we knew here if this is July, you know, in September, I'm going to be needing some of this stuff and I won't have a car full of Americans with me so that we can switch to English if we needed to. Now, as it turned out that Ethiopia needed 24:00a bunch of teachers. The Emperor Haile Selassie had decided that his country needed to come into the modern age and that the only way to do that was to greatly increase the educational opportunities in the nation but there was no way for the Ethiopians to do that alone because they had only one or two education, institutions of higher education in the country that could turn out college graduates to be teachers and the competition for this relatively small number of college graduates of those institutions produced was intense then. You know, the national airline wanted them. The national government wanted them and the foreign businesses operating in Ethiopia wanted them or they wanted to go abroad and continue their education or they wanted to be entrepreneurs and make money or whatever so in order to mushroom the number of teachers, they asked the Peace Corp to provide a whole bunch 25:00of us and there were five hundred or so at the time I was there which was not very far into the life of the Peace Corp of course.
WILSON: And how, how many were in your training group or your particulargroup?
FREEMAN: There were a little over a hundred in my training group andthere was a simultaneous group but being trained at the University of Utah which also had a language program which allowed them to teach Amharic but now, what none of us knew was what was going to happen to us when we got to Ethiopia. We all went over at the same time. They chartered jets so forth and we got to, and we all went to Addis Ababa which was going to be, you know, the arrival and dispersion point and--
WILSON: Maybe before you get too far into that ake me back and talk alittle bit about other than language, what was included in the--
FREEMAN: In training?
WILSON: In the training program and--
FREEMAN: Well, they knew--
WILSON: And maybe a word or two about the selection process.26:00
FREEMAN: They knew that in general, we were going to be teachers so theyfocused on that. We had a number of lectures and classes by education faculty members at UCLA and by the people from departments other than language who knew something about Africa and Ethiopia in particular. We'd have a geography or maybe a cultural anthropology professor. I remember one came in and said well, tell me what you think about Africa? You know, it's hot and steamy and it's jungle, right? And everybody's black when you're not talking about the Mediterranean tier of nations and so forth. He said well, in general, none of that applies to Ethiopia. You know, most of the people live in the highlands, way high, highlands. High as Denver or higher so it's warm and dry, not hot and steamy. They did have some jungle down in the areas close to Kenya and so forth but, and had some desert along 27:00the Sudan and, and the Red Sea and so forth but, but in general, the conception that it was going to be you know, rain forest and jungle was not true at all and it was really not true where I lived because trees were prized and so we had that sort of instruction. We had the how- to-be-a-teacher instruction. That was not terribly successful I would say. I can remember one fellow who must have been a distinguished professor in his field because he told us he was I think and he was teaching us about testing which was not a bad idea because most of us had not studied to be teachers. We had studied English or geography or science and math as I had and we hadn't gone through any theory or 28:00practice or how to make up a test for anybody, much less students in Ethiopia but as I recall, this professor told us that he knew about all there was to know but there was very little hope that he could teach us anything worth while in the time allotted to him and as I recall, his prophesy came true. The most help I got in teaching was from a couple of return volunteers who had been brought in to serve as you know, adjunct faculty or whatever, just trainers in the training program there, some who had just gotten back in the months before this training started and I can remember on only one precept that I was taught and it was worth while and they said, they told us about how teachers are much respected in Ethiopia and this sort of strict discipline along that line that came from the British and Italian modes of instruction and 29:00where the students rose when the teacher came in and it was yes sir, no sir and, and things like that and they said Americans tended to be more laid back and relaxed in particular sense, most of us were young. We were just out of undergrad or grad school and very little older than our students. I'll take a little tangent there. Students in Ethiopia started school whenever they could. There was no automatic entry into first grade when you were six years old. They told us in training that the literacy rate in Ethiopia was only seven percent which meant that practically no one got to go to school so that if you had a kid who was nine years old and somehow managed to get him entry into the first grade, that's where he went so he wouldn't be graduating from the twelve grade if he was able to stay that long until he was twenty or 30:00something so we had, when I was teaching eleventh grade, I had a lot of seventeen and eighteen year olds and maybe some nineteen and twenty year olds. I don't remember for sure but I was only twenty-two when I started so, so anyway, this return volunteer back at UCLA suggested that it would advisable for us to start off tough. See, if you start off tough and strict, you can always slack off and people will accept that but if you start off relax, you sit on the edge of the desk, you cross your legs and speak in a highly informal way, that if you find out that doesn't work, it's much more difficult to get the students to accept, accept the situation when you toughen up and require more strict disciple or whatever in the class so I did go with that and I don't think any of my students would ever have accused me of being too relaxed and that, you know, it served us pretty well. I think most of 31:00us followed that advice so--
WILSON: So how many of your group actually went overseas and was there aparticular process of selection?
FREEMAN: Yes, there was a process. The Peace Corp fortunately was, orhappily was generally devoid of government jargon except for one term that I remember or that stuck out and that was called de-selection. You got selected during the application and testing process at least from afar and then, once you got there, there were some folks who were de-selected and some of them self de-selected. I'm not sure they ever went so far as to call it that. Some people just decided it just wasn't for them and you know, were home sick or the language too tough or just the idea of going eight thousand miles away and maybe the 32:00girlfriend or boyfriend was back home or, or the parents got sick or the grandparents or whatever but some just departed on their own at, at unspecified intervals during the course of the summer and all the time, we were going through this stuff, oh, we also had some physical training I never mentioned. We were, we lived on a hilltop in a dorm and we walked all the way across the campus of UCLA for our weekly shots which there were many. I think, if I recall, getting five at one time on at least one occasion, you know, both upper arms TB test, a lower arm and maybe gammglobulin echip or something like that for preparations and trying to keep, stave off Hepatitis before there were vaccines for that. Anyway, that would be a mile away so you'd walk a mile up and down hills and get to the student health center and you'd walk a mile back and then, they also had specified phys ed. things where you, 33:00a lot of us didn't know anything about soccer and we were told that soccer was the biggest, you know, biggest game over there and so here's a little bit about how to play soccer and said oh, you might as a, as an inculcator duty, you might be the track coach or something so here everybody runs hurdles a little bit or you know, you'll be running a couple of cross countries sashays up and down through the walking trails on campus where we would lope, jog, trot or walk, whatever you were up to, things along that line. We had an Olympian discus guy showing us how to throw the discus I remember and he was Australian, the Australian champion but now, I've lost my train of thought there--
WILSON: You were talking about de-selection--
FREEMAN: The de-selection, well, anyway, we did a whole bunch of things.In addition to the training, they also had interview sessions. They sent us to psychologists and maybe, and one psychiatrist I know. We 34:00had group sessions where they just tried to feel us out or tell us what might, what sort of difficulties we might encounter and how we might deal with them and at the same time, I'm sure they were trying to evaluate us so they could tell the Peace Corps managers, bosses there, the Training Directors who they thought might not be suited or the ones that they thought were suited for this. Then, you did have, as I recall at least one individual session with the psychiatrist and I don't remember anything about that and then, we had some more testing, like much more aptitude testing or something there or there was personality, what the Minnesota Multiphasic something, MMPI or something like that, psychological inventory and I don't know what they used those for, perhaps for deciding who might be sent out into 35:00an individual spot and who might need to be with a group and who might need to be urban rather than rural. They never really explained that but we did take hours of tests along that line but in one way, I was less impressed I suppose by the selection process there than I was about most of the other aspects of the training. Almost any of us with walking around since there could have told the people who were doing the selecting and de-selecting that some of the people they selected didn't have much chance and that one person they de-selected should have been selected and the one person they de-selected I remember was a fellow who's name I don't recall but who was really, you know, hard working in all the training and so forth and he was allowed to come back later and he really wanted to go and he went through the training 36:00the next year and was delayed a year but did end up in Ethiopia as I recall and actually even did some in a newsletter to help other teachers, you know, something he'd come up with that worked. This was way before Internet and email and all that and there were only two or three telephones in my town and you know, you didn't call anybody anywhere so once or twice a year or once a quarter, maybe, you might get an email, I mean a mimeographed newsletter just to keep people in touch with other people because Ethiopia is a good sized country so those folks you lived and worked with for three months, day and night, seven days a week were suddenly six hundred miles away from you and the phone was out of the question and, and mail was slow.
WILSON: So you went in country--
FREEMAN: Yeah, well, I was going to say one other thing. This fellow,two examples to back up my contentions that the selection process 37:00was iffier than the rest of the situation. Then, there was a couple who had been a couple I think before they got there. They at least known each other, not married but they were from at least the girl was from Long Island and the guy was from metropolitan New York area. I don't remember where but they seemed highly unlikely to be at home and comfortable in a rural undeveloped part of Ethiopia or a rural undeveloped part of the United States for that matter and indeed, but they were both chosen and they, they remained interested in each other even though they weren't assigned to the same town or city. The girl was assigned to my town and the guy was assigned to the capital city of Eritrea, a good sized city which was an hours bus ride or more, an hour and half bus ride away and the girl went there to visit him almost 38:00every weekend rather than being involved in what was going on in the village, staying around where she would have interactions with students and their families or whatever and just getting to know merchants and what not. Anyway, the fellow made it through the first semester of his first year and then, he was gone by his own choice as far as I know. If they had decided that he should go, they probably wouldn't have announced that so I couldn't rule that out as a possibility and at the end of the first year, the girl was gone but I think if you'd taken a poll of the folks who'd been through training with them, they would have probably, would have estimated that they had less than a twenty percent chance of, of staying and I don't know why that everybody else, you know, the other people were supposed to be the professionals at this couldn't see that so I did see an example of someone who was de-selected who should have gone and a couple who were gone who clearly 39:00shouldn't have gone. Overall, most folks who went there stuck it out. You know, there was not, there was not a high percentage of departures and some of the departures were because an immediate member of the family was stricken by a debilitating you know, incapacitating illness and was really needed back home. I think one girl's mother was, you know, was stricken with terminal cancer that was unknown to her when she went to Ethiopia. Might have been, you know, a few instances like that but I don't think there was much, the dropout rate was not very high and at that time, there was no provision for visiting home. You know, you didn't get to come back the way soldiers do from Afghanistan or the way Peace Corps volunteers do at sometime now as I understand although I don't know the details about that and I think I called home twice maybe in two years because it was a big deal and a big expense 40:00and took four hours and you had to reserve a time and you know, some places you probably had to bribe a telephone clerk and it had to be done at the city, you know, say an hour and half bus ride away and this was before cassette tapes even that were small reel to reel recorders and I sent and received a few tape recordings for my family that way but again, that, you know, sending one and getting a tape back that responded to your tape, I mean, that was a thirty day exchange deal that people responded within a few days so mostly it was just letters in terms of correspondence. Now, I diverted you from a question.
WILSON: That's fine. Tell me something about what your job was.
FREEMAN: Well, I was--
WILSON: Where you were assigned in Ethiopia?
FREEMAN: I knew nothing at UCLA when we finished Peace Corp training,I knew nothing about my job except the fact that I was going to be a 41:00teacher in Ethiopia. I didn't even know, didn't know what subject, what grade level, what part of the country and I was in the same shape as everybody else and we were all, I mean, we had some leave to go home and then, we all gathered in New York and took off for Rome and then, from Rome to Addis Ababa and we spent just a few days there of orientation, resting and from you know, a many thousand mile plane trip, getting acclimated to living at seven thousand five hundred feet, if that's what you were going to do because Addis Ababa was above seven thousand feet and where I was essentially, eventually assigned was six thousand feet up and the city that I mentioned Asmara was also above seven thousand feet so a few of us were accustomed to that and I'll give you one anecdote from that. I remember in our first couple of days there, I happened to be the office of a hotel where the Peace 42:00Corps had put us up and of course, there were no phones in the rooms there. There was just a phone in the office and a call came in from the permanent Peace Corps office there for the country and it was for a girl who had been in my training group at UCLA and I said well, I think I know where her room is. I'll volunteer to go get her so she can come over here and talk. Well, this was sort of a quadrangle style hotel with a court yard in the middle and two or three stories tall so I loped across this court yard and then, went up one or two flights of steps and at this time, I'm twenty-two years old and I'm, you know, six foot one and weigh a hundred and forty-five and I was in pretty decent shape, you know? But I got to this girl's door and knocked on it and she answers the door and I couldn't delivery the message except to make the sign of the telephone with my hand and fingers and point 43:00(laughs) the other way over there, so it took a while before our bodies got used to getting, getting enough oxygen in our blood there at that sort of altitude and that, you know, not much of exercise. I maybe trotted or, a little thirty or forty yards and, and probably double timed up one or two flights of steps and you know, it was not a great deal of exertion but it was a great deal more than my body's oxygen carrying capacity was prepared for at that time. Well, anyway, they gave us orientation there and let us go to the big market which was an interesting cultural thing and also let us try out our new found command such as it was of the Amharic language which is quite distant anywhere related and practically no way to the English language even in the manor of writing. It has its own alphabet and so I enjoyed going 44:00to this large market, the marcato, a great deal and bargained some and found out I was able to do that with some degree of success and boy, I'm really liking this. This is not what I could do in French and German. I couldn't have done anything if I'd gone to France or Germany to speak of except hello and goodbye and please and thank you maybe so only about two days after I had this, this enjoyment at the market using Amharic and speaking with the hotel staff and so forth too, and Peace Corps staff that were Ethiopians, I found out that I was being sent to Eritrea, the northernmost province of the country, the province where there are several languages spoken, none of them Amharic--
FREEMAN: Except by the educated folks and the central governmentpeople who, who were installed by the, by the emperor's government 45:00and Addis Abba and many of the people who spoke Amharic up there also spoke English and, and in some regard, Amharic was not terribly well received. Students were required to take it in school because it was the official national language but it, in a way, it was the language of the outsiders, those who were making the big decisions in Addis Abba and who were not terribly well received in Eritrea and Eritrea eventually became a separate nation in 1993 and at that time, the separatist movement was already underway and we had to take care of to steer clear of political discussions and taking sides or anything like that. It was the sort of thing that Peace Corp volunteers 46:00wherever they are assigned have to do. You're there as a guest of the government to assist things and you know, it was made clear to us that we were not there to foment revolutions and if we had been there to foment revolution, we would have been gone as soon as the you know, the powers got wind of it so I started you know, within a week after having arrived in Addis Abba, I was in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea which I said was at that time the northern most providence and is now an independent nation of less than four million people I think. It boarders the Red Sea and Ethiopia and Sudan and it's a long skinny piece of land that supports--
[Tape one, side a ends; tape one side b begins.]47:00
WILSON: Side two, tape one of interview with Harold Freeman, Peace CorpsOral History Project, February 18th, 2005. Harold, you were talking about being assigned to Asmara, to teach. Tell me, what did you teach and where?
FREEMAN: Well, we were all sent to Asmara and a couple of days oforientation there to Eritrea and then, we were dispersed throughout that province. Some were staying right there in the capital city and I was sent to the town of Adi Ugri, also known as Mendefera which was fifty-four kilometers south of Asmara and, and about fifteen hundred feet lower but still, six thousand feet above sea level and I was assigned to a high school, Saint George Secondary School at . Their high schools were few and far between. As I mentioned earlier, the literacy rate was very low. There weren't very many schools so in an area the size of a county, there would be, except in major urban areas, only one high school and that was the high school, that was 48:00the situation I was in. My town may have had ten or twelve thousand people. There was no census so who knows? But it was not a tiny town. It wasn't just a little village by any means and it was on one of the two major north-south highways in Ethiopia so there was a two lane paved road that ran North and South through the town and one little paved cross street and then, pretty much else was like village streets in much of Africa and much of the rest of the undeveloped world and Ethi-, the Italians who had had a strong presence in Eritrea from 1890s or so on up to when they were defeated in World War II, had determined a lot of what towns like that looked like. A lot of the amenities were 49:00left over from the Italians, the power system and the water system and the electric system. We had electricity at night when a big diesel generator was turned on and there were some street lights and, and some of the better housing had electricity though generally, only four, a few lights. Students lived in a place, I had some students, six of them lived in one little room. They were allowed fifteen or twenty- five watt bulb and if they used it later than eight p.m., their landlord charged them extra so there was a lot of that and an elementary sewer system and then, a water system that worked most of the time. When water was scarce, you might have to get up, we lived at the bottom of the hill so we had to more water pressure. If you lived at the top of the hill, you might have to get up at two or three in the morning and fill buckets to have, to, so you could have a water supply during 50:00the day. Anyway, there was a lot of Italian influence there and this school I think had been, perhaps, been built by the Italians but it was built along the style that they might have had and the number of classrooms all spread out in single story long buildings parallel to each other and it was seventh grade through, by the time I got through, twelfth grade. It had been a middle school or something like that. It was fed by a number of elementary schools some of which were out in villages so the students at St. George's Secondary School, some of them were coming to this larger town for their first experience there and some walked every day to and from their village. Some were, their villages were so far away that they had to stay in town with relatives or in a tiny room with a bunch of others that they rented for a very 51:00small sum but it was a very large sum if you only make a few dollars a month, you know, if your family income is only a few dollars a month and by the time I got there and I was not in the first group of Peace Corps volunteers there. There had been volunteers there for at least two years before I arrived so we had an overlap with some who were still there when my group of four arrived. We had two or three others who had been there for a year or so. We had some, some continuing orientation. It was good to have some Peace Corps mentors there who could tell us something about the school and the faculty and what the students were like and things like that--
WILSON: And you were--
FREEMAN: So we had a good size group, let's say there were seven of usand I say and I'll explain some other things but one girl there was 52:00leaving after one year. She was still there when we got there but her two years were not up, she was leaving after one year so we had very little overlap with her and there were others who had just left, you know, we got there in September, first of September, end of August and those who had finished the preceding school year had left shortly after that and because this was a large school with close to fifteen hundred students and you know, forty or fifty faculty members. Of the small group of, I'm not going to, a small group out of that total faculty but a fairly large group of Peace Corps volunteers to be in a small town, six or seven of us. We were assigned to the upper grades because we were all college graduates at least and I think at least one had a Master's degree out of this group and most of the Ethiopian 53:00teachers were challenged by trying to teach a grade that may not have even completed themselves so you might have a, you might have an eighth grade teacher who had finished only the tenth grade or a ninth grade teacher who had finished only the ninth grade or maybe only the eighth grade because the opportunities were not there where they'd grown up. They couldn't get into a school or if they were older, the British or the Italians had not allowed them much educational opportunities. I say the British because the British were assigned sort of a caretaking role in Eritrea after World War II for a while and so we all found ourselves not teaching seventh and eighth grade at all. When we 54:00got there, it was the first year they had the eleventh grade and I was assigned four eleventh grade math classes and others, generally, somebody taught geography or biology. My roommate taught biology and others taught math or science, physics but we were all in the upper grades because very few of the other teachers--there was one, one Ethiopian, Eritrean teacher who had gone to, had graduated from the American University in Beirut. I think his family was well to do is why he had managed to do that and he had a car. There was only one other teacher in the faculty who had a car. Now, granted, this guy's car was a Fiat 650 which makes the Volkswagen Beetle look large and commodious. The other faculty member's car, it belonged to an Indian 55:00teacher, a contract teacher hired from India. Then, as now, India had more people with education than it had jobs for and so there was a man and his wife who both taught there. The man, I can't remember what he taught but his wife taught, they called domestic science but we called it home economics or something along that line and I, I taught math both of my two years there. I took the eleventh grade class into their senior year so I got to be there for the first graduating class of St. George's Secondary School and the way Ethiopian's system is set up, the, the seniors, the twelfth graders took a national school leaving exam which I might compare it to the New York regency exam, something that really determines more what you do in terms of graduation than 56:00what you're getting your individual classes. It was a national exam that was administered at the school but it was done early in the second half of their twelfth grade year and after that, they were through with school even through there were three months left or something so when that came to headmaster who also an Ethiopian, Eritrean graduate of the American University in Beirut and a quite impressive man who had the third car. I didn't count him among the faculty. He was the headmaster and he had a Volkswagen Beetle. He assigned me to help the teachers of science in the twelve seventh grade classes and I can tell you that's the most interesting assignment I've had in my working life probably all the way up till this time and it was quite rewarding. It'll take a little while to explain why I really think it's worth it. While many of us Peace Corps volunteers may not have 57:00known much about teaching because we didn't even intend to be teachers. We were just told we were going to be many of us. We at least had had exposure to a wide variety of teaching styles through at least sixteen years of education back home. Well, the Ethiopian teachers primarily, particularly those teaching the seventh grade, had, had come up through the Italian, British model where the Italians, the teacher was maestro and then, you know, it was strict and all that and, and much of what they did was read from a text book or dictate a lesson or deliver a lecture and the students copied down copious notes or in some cases, just copied verbatim the small textbooks that they had available to them as the teachers read them and this is what happened to these teachers when they were subjected to education as students 58:00so they didn't know anything else about it. I can give you an example of what they did. I saw a test and the students, when I came to work with these, I was not given a class of my own. I was supposed to be sort of a resource teacher or an experiment teacher to work with all twelve sessions of the seventh grade but I saw a test that said after, this is after they'd studied light and cameras and opti-, you know, introductory to optics and so forth and spectrum probably, prism, things like that. A camera is a blank for making a record of light and it was the part of the test you were supposed fill in the word "device." Well, that's an English vocabulary lesson but the operative 59:00principles here are camera and record and light but that was not, that was not, a camera is a device for making a record of light was a sentence out of the text book and to make the test, the teacher had just put a blank in place of one of those words but it was not testing any scientific knowledge or understanding of what they talked about in there so my job was to do things like when we moved onto sound, well, I would take in rubber bands of various thicknesses and length and you hold them between your fingers and you pluck them and you get different pitches and you can tell if you stretch it more tightly, the pitch goes up. We talked about vibrations. By the time I got there, they all know that sound was the vibration of molecules in the air as 60:00transmitted to the eardrum or some such sentence but that's what they knew about sound so vibration, what does vibration mean? Put your hand on your throat as you talk. I've got a lower a voice than you, put your hand on my voice box as I speak and you'll feel the difference. Stick a meter stick over the end, sit a student down on one end of it and then, twang the other end and watch it go boing, boing, boing, you can see vibration. Then you tell them, well, sound is faster than that but it's the same idea. And the best moment I ever had in teaching was after a session with one of these twelve classes and this class had been selected, the best two or three students from each of these elementary schools so out of all these twelfth grade students, you had the one, I mean, seventh grade students. I had the one twelfth, the 61:00upper one twelfth in essence in one little section. Well, you've never seen such a, such a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed bunch of kids. They were in there to learn and they were able to learn despite all their malnutrition and illness and walking maybe five kilometers to school and back each day and not having pencils and paper when they needed them all the time but they, they would glom onto anything I would throw out there. It was going right into their little heads. And one day I finished one of my sessions where instead of standing up there and droning on about a camera being a device for making a record, they had to copy it down, slowly, laboriously. I had done something that had helped them learn something and they all gathered around me on the floor or something like that. One little boy followed me out and I was headed back to the empty room that served as a teacher's lounge, and he said "Mr. Freeman? If you have some free time, could we do some 62:00more of that?" And you know, that's about the highest compliment you can get as a teacher. And I realize looking back that that I did not teach the math that well. In the first place, teaching plain geometry or trigonometry, it doesn't lend itself to such simple things, I mean, just right off the top of the head as rubber bands and meter sticks and, you know, a pulley or a string or something like that but if I were doing it, if I were to do it over again, I would try to make my math lessons much more like the science lessons. Of course, I had the advantage of having been there a year and a half and you know, whatever it is, only a year and half of teaching experience but that was a year and half more than I had when I started teaching my eleventh grade math students but I greatly enjoyed that. Something I should mention by 63:00the way is that I taught in English and though Amharic is the official national language, English was the second official national language and that was because the Ethiopian languages, in general, were not spoken beyond the borders of the country and there were few books available in Amharic and Tigrinya which was the language of Eritrea in the part of Eritrea where I was. And there were upwards of eighty dialects we were told spoken in various parts of the country. So in order to make it possible for Ethiopians, Eritreans and residences of other provinces to go abroad to study or to do business internationally or to listen to the BCC or the voice of America, whatever, you know, to do international trade, they needed to have some language besides their own and they had chosen English which was a good choice for them and so many of their text books or most of their textbooks above seventh 64:00grade level were in English and the instruction was in English and even the Ethiopian teachers were supposed to teach in English. Some of them would take the easy way out, particularly those who, you know, I described as who might have finished only seventh or eighth grade themselves and didn't have the greatest command of English but that made it easier on me so--
WILSON: So what, what would a typical day have been like for you fromthe time you got up onward?
FREEMAN: Well, that brings up something that mostly was a surprise to meand would be a surprise to most folks, talking about the Peace Corps. I mean the vision you have is going and living in a mud floor hut and, and so forth and you know, doing whatever the people do and we did do whatever the people did but, and we were supposed to be paid according. I was paid a hundred and twenty-five dollars, U.S. dollars a month. 65:00
WILSON: That was a living allowance?
FREEMAN: Yeah, that was the living allowance and then, they paid arental allowance. You know, that was what each volunteer in the country got that amount. They provided housing allowance that varied according to where you were. If you were in Addis Abba, you, you know, housing was scarcer and harder to come by and therefore more expensive. My town was sort of in the middle so you know, we weren't the lowest or the highest but there happened to be a few nice houses in there and one had been rented by Peace Corps volunteers before we got there. Then, a group of three newcomers, of whom I was one, were assisted by an Ethiopian staff member of the Peace Corps office in Asmara in 66:00negotiating another lease there so we weren't at the mercy of the local landlord in not knowing what prices were supposed to be or anything like that. We had this staff member who really took care of that for us but we had a nice house that had tile floor. It was Italian design and actually, some of the tiles might have come from Italy. I don't know. It was, you know, stucco exterior and we had bougainvillea around it and a wall around it. Walls were common for protection to keep stray dogs out. There were stray dogs out. I'll touch on that if we get a chance so there was a house with two large rooms.
WILSON: Running water and electricity?
FREEMAN: Running water and electricity with the exceptions that Imentioned before, the electricity didn't come on until dusk and then, our, in our community room, our living room, dinning room, lesson 67:00preparation room, we had an overhead florescent light fixture and one of us had to remember to turn that on soon after the generator was turned on shortly before it got dark or we wouldn't have any light until after eleven p.m. because with florescent lights, the starting voltage, the voltage required to start is higher than the voltage necessary to keep it going so if you didn't turn on your florescent light before the other folks in town turned on their lights once it got really dark, then, when you turned it on all it would do is kind of hum and flicker and wear out the cube but it would never come on until people started turning their lights off and the overall voltage went up. And we had a bathroom with an Italian old style toilet with the tank way up, above my head, six or seven feet up on the wall with a pull chain for flushing. And a sit down toilet, not a squat Italian toilet, thank goodness. And we had a shower which was just a shower 68:00head that hung. It pointed straight down and it had charcoal or wood fire water heater connected to it. So twice a week, we built a fire in that and had a warm shower and I mean, everybody, you arranged so that everybody was there at the time, you know, when you had because the fire wouldn't last all that long. And I mentioned the trees were scarce, hence, firewood and charcoal were scarce and it was actually against the law to cut down trees without permits and so forth so it was sort of a surreptitious thing. I mean, everybody had to cook, you know, so you had to have something to cook with and most folks couldn't afford the bottled gas that came from the city though we did do that for our kitchen, our kitchen gas stove we had. There was an old Italian stove but we didn't have any refrigeration. We didn't 69:00have electricity to keep it going in the day. And then the other Peace Corps household did have a kerosene refrigerator but it was so much trouble and so stinky, you know, that kerosene flame would just fill the house even if you had the windows open all the time and stuff that they didn't really use it much. I think they gave up on it. By the second year I was there, nobody even tried to use it. Anyway, we had a house with two nice large rooms and my roommate and I shared one of the rooms. The other large room was the community room: the living room/dining room, where you typed your lessons and your letters home and had company. Then there was a kitchen that was between and there was a little hallway between those two and the bathroom is outside connected to the house but you had to go out onto patio deck, whatever, terrace to get into the bathroom. And then, in an adjoining compound 70:00there were three other rooms that served as bedrooms and the third person in my group was a girl. She had her room down there. And our maid had her room down there. And the third room was kept by the landlord for when he came into town, he could stay there. Our landlord was from Asmara. He was a big, big man directly translated. He was well to do and powerful and had had government positions, and he spoke English and Italian and Amharic and Tigrinyan. Was well dressed and had a small old Mercedes and another car so he was, you know, in the upper one half of one percent of folks in Ethiopia. And he'd been a Senator and he'd been head of Civil Aviation and so forth and owned a lot of land including this real estate that we rented. We had this 71:00and we had all-purpose maid, cook, wash woman and you say, well, why did you do that? You went to the Peace Corps -- why did you go over there and you know, you have a servant in essence? Well, it turned out that that's what all the Ethiopian teachers did, too, and part of the reason is that if you ride your bike a couple of kilometers to school in the morning and every morning, you have to go buy bread and you have to buy whatever vegetables you have. If you're going to have a chicken, you've got to go get the chicken that's either alive or freshly killed so if you're going to shop for lunch. You've got to go to four or five places and you have no refrigeration for this so your lunch has got to be fixed right before you eat it. I mean, you ride your bike home for lunch, there was no cafeteria or any provision for storing food really or anything there besides what you could just put 72:00in a container or something like that but at room temperature. Which is what the students did by in large and a number of the faculty. But we had a student who lived with us and we gave him -- he was from a village twenty kilometers away -- so we gave him free room and board in exchange for going to the bakery for breakfast for us to get us fresh bread and doing some other shopping and other household chores. And he's geophysicist now, by the way, in the United States. He worked for an oil company in Canada and the United States. But daily life was very time consuming. Clothes were washed by hands and they were 73:00hung over a clothes line to dry. If you were going to iron them with an electric iron, you had to wait till electricity was available. If you're going to wash them, you had to build the fire and wait for the water to get warm if you wanted to wash them in warm water and cooking, you know, we couldn't afford canned goods. The only thing we ever bought in the way of caned goods was mayonnaise and tuna and we bought that up in the city. We'd buy a case of tuna, you know, twenty-four cans or something--
WILSON: So what did you normally eat?
FREEMAN: Well, scrambled eggs and bread from the bakery that was notfar from our house. It was Italian style hard rolls and loafs of bread and we would buy some jam, maybe, or some Italian jelly or jam like that. We would eat Ethiopian and Italian style food. A lot of pasta, you know, vegetables that were grown around there, tomatoes 74:00and green beans and onions, some carrots, not a lot of variety. I mean, you weren't going to get asparagus and well, I don't think corn was available. I thought of corn but they just didn't grow it much. It takes too much water but it was animal feed if it had been there probably. But I didn't do badly for food at all. During Peace Corps training back at UCLA, our native speakers of Amharic and Tigrinya had provided us a meal of Ethiopian food with the Ethiopian spices at the level that they would normally eat. Which left me with the feeling that -- as I mentioned, I was six-one and weighed a hundred and forty-five or something -- after two years of trying to exist on that high percentage of very strong red pepper I would probably be 75:00six-one and ninety-five pounds if I indeed did survive at all. Of course, since we had our own cook, we could tell her that when she made Ethiopian food for us which was quite frequent that it not be quite that heavily spiced or at least until we got used to it. And we did get a great deal used to it but even some of our colleagues who were more natives of the country could not eat it all. If you got an ulcer, you certainly didn't want to be the dead guy that died so food was not a problem and living accommodations really weren't a problem. Now, we had to be careful because you know, the water was not safe to drink. The water went through a ceramic filter and was either boiled or you put a measured amount of chlorine bleach in it and let it sit and stir it and so forth. If you were going to eat salad and tomatoes and whatever, anything that was not cooked and was not peeled, then it had 76:00to be dipped into or left to soak in a salt water solution or a bleach solution. When you went to, out to eat at the home of someone who was not educated enough to know about hygiene or you went to a restaurant, you were cautioned not to eat salads even though it might have looked pretty, it may have been well presented. And the steak that was served in the nice restaurant in Asmara or the chicken may have been beautifully presented and delightfully tasty, you could get something that you really didn't want. And the Peace Corps medical kit that was provided to each location --we had it at our house, for our group -- it had five levels of treatment increasing severity, you know, larger 77:00caliber gun for the treatment for gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea. And at least once during my two years there, somebody had to go all of the way up to, to a level five which was not desirable at all. But I mean you were really sick when you got there. But everybody got into one or two more than once, you know.
WILSON: What about recreation? What did you--
FREEMAN: Well, daily life was recreation to a great extent. I mean,everything was new to us. If you wanted to go out and do some of the shopping yourself, you were seeing a type of store that you'd never seen before and you were dealing with and I enjoyed interacting with people and trying my language skill such as it was. You know, bargaining with things. And I learned how to say, you know, I want the relative price, the family price, the brother-in-law price, you 78:00would say here. And they would laugh because most foreigners did not learn much of the local languages, you know. Some had been there as conquerors, the Italians, so they thought the Ethiopians, Eritreans should learn Italian. So if you made an effort to go on the other side, you were welcomed. Going back and forth to school -- we were a couple of kilometers from the school or something like that -- and we had a single speed Italian bicycle apiece. So you'd go and come in the morning and at lunch and then, in the evening so I rode four or five miles a day on a bicycle if I didn't do anything else so trying to get exercise was not a problem. If you went around town, you walked. You didn't own a motorcycle or a car in the Peace Corps there in Ethiopia unless your job required it. If you were one of the small number of 79:00people who were say, public health workers, and you needed to go from village to village or something like that, then you might have greater distances than you could travel on foot or on a bicycle, then you would be allowed to have a Land Rover or a Jeep or a car, whatever was suitable. But we got around on our own feet and we went from town to town, you know, from our town to the city, fifty-four kilometers away, we took the bus like everybody else. I kind of helped coach basketball a little, despite the fact that I was bad, you know, I couldn't make my high school basketball team. Have people over. You'd get invited to a wedding or you'd go out to a village with your students or just go out to a village to look at it. See little boys that couldn't get in school out there herding the sheep and the goats and the cattle and strike up 80:00a conversation with people. And Peace Corps provided us with a whole bunch of paperback books and I read a whole lot of those, you know? We had short wave radio and that was it for radio. There was no T.V.
WILSON: Did you, on school breaks or anything, did you travel within thecountry or elsewhere?
FREEMAN: Yes! That was encouraged and of course, we wanted to see somemore of the country besides our own particular areas. And whenever there'd be a long weekend or a week off for what'd be say Easter or something like that, then we would travel. And even Eritrea was widely different in its ethnic makeup and its geography. Forget the rest of Ethiopia, just this one province which is now a small nation of 81:00its own. I had lived in the highlands where many of the people did and Asmara was much the same there but if you went towards the Sudan, you would find nomadic tribes who spoke entirely different languages. I remember going there one time, the Easter vacation, I believe it was my first year. Probably March something. There were Peace Corps volunteers out in a town only about fifteen or twenty kilometers from the Sudanese boarder and they invited us to come out and we did because Peace Corps, you could bunk with most anybody as you may recall in your own experience. If you were in a town and they had a floor, you could sleep on it, you know. Or a couch or whatever. So the people who were in this town wanted to go somewhere else but they left their student or their maid or whatever, information about us, and we were allowed 82:00to go into their house. So we spent a couple nights there and this was entirely different because this was low land. Our area was arid and semi-desert or almost semi-desert but this area down there was between semi-desert and desert and there were nomadic tribes with camels. I mean, camels came through my town too but the people who lived there didn't have camels. And you'd see those big old termite mounds that are eight feet tall that there weren't in my area. And in order to bargain at the outdoor market there, I had to find somebody who would speak a little Amharic or Tigrinya which was an alien language in this area and get him or her to translate with the shop keeper or the merchant there into ----------(??) or Ethiopian, Sudanese, Arabic, 83:00something which was a new experience, trying to use a language in which I was not adept to speak to some third party and between me and someone else. And if you went in the other direction towards the Red Sea, you'd go through Asmara, the capital city and then down seven thousand five hundred feet of mountain roads which the Italians had built back in the 1930s or so. They were not very wide and they were more hair pin turns than most Americans can envision in a life time on just one trip there. And also there was a railway, the narrow gauge railway went down there, just a two or three car train where the diesel engine was part of one of the cars or something. And you could take 84:00that also and I once rented a bicycle in Asmara and rode half way down there to where there was a Peace Corps volunteer. Snd that was kind of interesting. You hoped your brakes worked because if they didn't, you were going to burn the bottoms of your shoes off trying to drag them off to stop on that. And then put the bike on the bus and go on the train and go back. But I did go to the city on the Red Sea a couple times, a port city there. And that was an international city. People from everywhere, small ships coming in, and it was entirely different. We had a warm dry climate where I was. There, they had sticky, hot. The place was called one of the hottest port cities in the world. It was not uncommon for it to be a hundred and five degrees in what seemed like ninety-five percent humidity? They had ceiling fans and that was it unless you were rich and could stay in an air 85:00conditioned hotel which Peace Corps volunteers didn't do. and that was an entirely different, you know, in entirely different surrounding to, different culture, different food. You know, I should probably bring this up. While I was in that town out near the Sudanese boarder that I mentioned, the town of Tesseney, something happened that I learned about when I came back. I went out there with, well, two girls from my town, two Peace Corps volunteers. We rode the bus out together and stayed in this house of volunteers who'd gone off on their own holiday trip and then, returned to Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea which had a Peace Corps district office or whatever they call it. I think it may have been the only other one besides the one in Addis Abba, the 86:00Ethiopian capital. Well, I was there, and I don't know, spending a night there perhaps out shopping or eating and someone from the Peace Corps office or another Peace Corps volunteer saw me or found me and said Harold, they want you back at the office or used the name of the director for whatever, or assistant director for the country. And he didn't say what for. You know, it was the first time anybody had said "you need to go." We'd go in and check for mail and stuff like that. It wasn't uncommon to go there but it was the first time I'd ever been told that I was needed or wanted there. So I went there shortly thereafter and found the director or assistant director in that office and made some kind of joke, you know, "what have I done? Why am I being sent to the principal's office," or whatever. And he didn't respond in any jocular manner and told me to sit down. And then told 87:00me that my roommate from Adi Ugri who had not gone to Tesseney with the three of us, he had gone to the southwestern part of Ethiopia, he had flown there and had been killed by a crocodile in a river. And that was the farthest thing from the mind of anybody who might have been in there. You know, Peace Corps deaths were not common and that's the only one that I knew of in the whole time I was there but we were left or I was left, I guess, as a roommate, not with having to inform his parents or anything. The Peace Corps hierarchy took care of that. But I packed up his belongings and shipped them or actually, I think I communicated with them by letter and they said well, whatever the students or folks you might find useful there keep there and send 88:00back personal stuff, things like that. But indeed this was Bill Olson who was a Cornell University graduate and was from a town in upstate New York, near Cornell. Cornell is in Ithaca and he's from Spencer, New York, I believe. Well that was, that was the biggest shock of my entire time in the Peace Corps. And of course, the school went on. There was no replacement at the last half or the last semester coming up so I don't remember exactly how. Bill taught biology and I don't know whether some of our other, or the rest of us, or someone else filled in in his classes. Now, I can't recall. I know that I didn't 89:00because I had a full load of classes. Or whether the students just didn't get the last half of their last semester of tenth or eleventh grade biology. Another volunteer was sent the next year so I did have a different, a new roommate the next year. They assigned someone else in there to teach the same sort of thing that Bill had been teaching. In the summer time, back to your original question, in the summer time, we were encouraged or well, instructed, I think, to spend a month doing a project. And then, take a month for vacation and a few people did projects in their towns of assignments if they saw something they thought they could do that would help things there, and if they didn't wish to travel elsewhere. I wanted to see a different part of the country. I went to Addis Abba and worked in a mental hospital, not 90:00a very high level but this was a very low staff hospital. It was the only mental hospital in the country at the time as far as I know. It had all levels of folks from those who were completely uncommunicative but would keep their clothes on. They'd just squat in the dirt and spend their days that way to folks who had maybe bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia or someone who at sometimes could function and at a high level and were educated and could converse with me in English in an interesting manner and maybe play scrabble or checkers or something until they had an episode that set in. You know, the depressive or the manic state would take over and my job was just to try to give these folks something to do. I would collect magazines and take them in even they were in English. It would be something for them to look at. They had nothing. The beds were a couple feet apart lined up like, sort 91:00of like a prison dormitory or jail or something because they had more people than they had room for. Just try to provide a diversion, you know, a conversation, something along that line. It was not any sort of therapy beyond whatever that provided. But I lived again, I lived in the home of a Peace Corp volunteer who was off going somewhere else and, and took a couple of buses across town and walked a ways to get to this hospital. So it let me see a good bit of Addis Abba and then, I got to visit with other Peace Corp volunteers I'd known in training but hadn't seen for a year and take advantage of what a large city has to offer, movies and see the big government buildings and landmarks and things like that. Then, during the actual vacation, I spent thirty days or so in what had formerly been British East Africa: Kenya, 92:00Tanzania and Uganda. Peace Corps volunteers who were stationed in Addis Abba arranged cheap transportation for us. They bought a block of seats on Sudanese Airways to fly from Addis Abba to Nairobi and we all went on one day. You know we were able to save a lot of money by doing it that way and come back at the same time but once you got to Nairobi, you were on your own. Small groups of us, one fellow said oh, let's rent us a Land Rover and a driver, guide and go see some of these game parks and things that we can't find on our own. You know, it'd be too expensive for one or two people to do but I think eight of us did that so we did that for a while. And one girl I was with in this group wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro which never even occurred to me. She couldn't talk anybody else into it so I said well, okay. We hadn't 93:00come equipped for Mt. Kilimanjaro which is, you may recall,19,200 feet high and it was fortunate that if I was going to do it any time in my life, I did it while I was twenty-three years old and had been living at 6,000 feet and occasionally traveling to 7,500. Because it was by far the hardest physical undertaking I've ever done. And I, after that have been in the Army and gone through basic training and been to Vietnam and stuff but. But it wasn't the equivalent of taking a leisurely stroll for three and a half days from--
[Tape one, side b ends; tape two side a begins.]
WILSON: Peace Corp Oral History Project, tape two of interview withHarold Freeman, February 18th, 2005--Harold, you were talking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
FREEMAN: Yes. I won't spend much time on that but I will say that94:00even though I was young and I thought healthy and in reasonably decent shape, I was put to shame by, and this is, by the way, the only thing that I really did as a true tourist in my two years as Peace Corps volunteer, including my six weeks spent traveling home through Europe. But because we didn't know what we were doing and because they required that you have at least a guide, you know, the national government there in Tanzania, we had a guide and we hired porters and we rented boots and jackets and I mean heavy weight coats and that sort of thing and they provided food for us. And you had to carry your own fuel and you had to haul your own trash back down, I mean, the crew did. Well, all I carried basically was my camera which turned out to be plenty once you get above 15,000 feet or so. But the porters we hired started off and we were at times, part of the time, you went through thick forest and it looked damp and there'd be a little path 95:00along the side of the hillside and we'd be careful, And some people I was with, the various groups that go together, some would use hiking sticks. Well, the porters are carrying forty pounds and wearing flip flips and not having any trouble with their footing. But the rest of us are being careful and sometimes grabbing a tree or a vine or using a stick or something. And they'd give us a break every now and then. You know, you climb 500 feet or a 1000 feet of elevation, you stop and have a fifteen minute break, ten minute break or something. Well, the porters sit down, put their forty pounds down or whatever and, and sing in harmony. You know they're the ones been doing all the work and they've got enough breath to sing. So you can see where you wouldn't want to get into the marathon race with these folks. And there are 96:00actually a couple of ladies of British heritage there who were in there upper sixties or something like that who went up to 12,000 feet. They'd been up the mountain several times before and they just wanted to go that far. They weren't up to going farther but it was great. They were gray haired ladies going up here to 12,000 feet. I can't complain about that. And, in fact, I didn't have any trouble. We started, as I said at 4,500 feet or so and spent the first night at 9,000 and the next one at 12,000 and the third one at 16,000. And by this time, we were well above the tree line and it's pretty much just this little scrub vegetation and mostly loose gravel and dirt. But I didn't have much difficulty there. And we spent the night in a hut which just had kind of shelves in it and the sleeping bags that we had rented from this place. Slept on that and it got cold in the night. And they had told us that in order to get the spectacular view of the sunset from the summit over an adjoining mountain which was tall but 97:00not nineteen, you know, 17,000 feet or something like that, we needed to be up there at sunrise. So we could get up at two o'clock and I remember getting up at two o'clock. And they fed us a little breakfast or something. And made our visits to what was called, the label inside the door said the coldest outhouse on this plane which indeed it was in the dark at two a.m.! And even though, this was, I'm talking July and only, you know, a very short distance from the equator here, but the wind is twenty miles an hour, thirty miles an hour or something. And it was dark at night so we started off up there and even though I had had no trouble up that time, I mean, I got tired, I guess, we were walking several miles a day and up a fairly steep incline, by the time I had taken maybe fifteen or twenty steps from this hut where we'd 98:00spent the night, I felt like all my capillaries were wired to 220 and that whatever oxygen carrying capacity my blood had had, had been left back at the hut and was just gasping for breath there. And our guide, there was a Canadian guy with us and his guide on him at the same time too, but our guides were carrying a lantern and a thermos of tea. And they were looking back at us and we were slowly going on. And you know, I'm thinking boy, this is, we've got 3,000 more feet of this to go (laughs). I don't know, you know, this is not possible and I think probably some stupid male twenty-three year old pride or something saying this girl is in front of me. If she can make this, I can make this. And that was probably the only thing that got me up there. But we would stop and we would climb on this loose gravel they called scree 99:00so you had to just go back and forth and back and forth. You couldn't go straight up. It was like climbing a pile of gravel and we did get up there indeed before the sunrise which was indeed spectacular. And once I got up there, it was okay and the girl who had been my motivation for going and got altitude sickness and she didn't feel good at all but once I was up there, I was all right. Coming back down was really interesting because we came down in a day and a half while it took us three and a half days to go up. And we came down back to that hut in about an hour what had taken us four hours to go up and we could have done it faster except that this girl, ----------(??), from Rochester, New York was feeling bad so she wasn't up to the kind of exertion. Basically, you just took a giant step over the edge of this stuff and planted your heel in this loose gravel and your heel would carry 100:00you on two or three more feet. So you felt like you were Paul Bunyan just taking giant strides across the countryside there. I also got to go to Mombasa and see the sea, and take a steamer trip across Lake Victoria and see lions and flamingos and elephants and giraffes and in the game preserves, see Nairobi which is a fascinating city. Eat a lot of Indian food, saw a play. Anyway, it was just a considerable break from Ethiopia being in a relatively small town. And didn't have any responsibilities there, you know, so we could do whatever we wanted.
WILSON: So you spent two years, you came to the end of your term in '67?101:00
WILSON: And then, what? Tell me something about your departure and--
FREEMAN: Well, I ought to mention a couple or other things--
FREEMAN: I haven't brought up the fact that Eritrea didn't liked beingattached to Ethiopia or at least a significant number of the Eritreans didn't like that and there was a separatist movement afoot and so the government was on guard and, and we heard. We had a student musician in our school and I have heard sing a song called "Shigei Abuni" which means "Give me Freedom." Which wouldn't have gone over well with the government if he'd been heard singing that and indeed, at one point, well, I need to back up one more step there. I mentioned the headmaster who was a quite distinguished gentleman, gray haired, 102:00looked like he should have been a headmaster or an executive corporate level or something, who really had, as far as I could tell, really had his students' welfare at heart. And I had been in his office one time talking about something and he said and there was no one else in there and I think maybe he said this because I was a foreigner and his compatriots would not be hearing this. He said, "I have no money for, even for chalk. What am I going to do?" You know, he had no money for supplies. The government was paying the teachers. He didn't have to pay the, you know, he didn't have to come up with the money for teachers, whatever. They hired, they were paying. But if teachers needed chalk and students needed paper and so forth, it was just really hard to come up with, with anything along those lines. Anyway, during 103:00the school year, we were told something and this ranked up with the death of my roommate here, that his daughter had found him, I think on a Saturday, not on a school day, had found him hanging from the shower at home. And this was an absolute total surprise to us. And I don't know whether, well, I just don't know what it was. I don't know whether his task was overwhelming or that it was something entirely personal and had nothing to do with that or he had a medical problem that precipitated this or what not. But it was just a complete shock and so after his death, then, back in the school week, there was to 104:00be a funeral procession to pay respects to the family. And we were to walk from the school which is, I've said, a kilometer and a half or so outside town, back in town, past my house and on up toward his house and/or the church or a community gathering ground where they had festivals and stuff, the Easter celebrations and things. Anyway, on the way, we had this long procession of you know, most of those twelve or fifteen hundred students going along this and it spread out for a kilometer or more. Along came some police or government agents and snatched at least one student out of this procession and hauled them off to Asmara for questioning of the less than polite sort and this student was one of my students. Had been a junior, an eleventh grade 105:00math student, was then a twelfth grade math student and he was gone for several days, you know? When he came back, we got the word that he had been interrogated about anything he might know about the separatist, the independence movement and that his head was dunked under water and things like that. So we already had this funeral procession and the death of the headmaster hanging over this. And then, we had the uncertainly while Asgedom was gone and then, the tales which I guess he wasn't at liberty to say outright when he came back, you know to the student body or anything or he would have been considered even more suspicious but that was certainly unsettling. Asgedom, by the 106:00way, become a lawyer in the capital city sometime after, later on. But anyway, that was, those things transpired before the end of my term there. And there wasn't any big ceremony or departure or anything. We just made our own plans to leave. The Peace Corps said it would buy us a ticket for the direct route home or give us the equivalent sum if we wished to make our own arrangements and you know, if you wanted to take a tamp streamer and take six months getting home, whatever. I took the plane ticket which allowed you, you took the direct flight but you were allowed to make a bunch of stops around. I think the airlines are much more restrictive now but instead of flying back home the way we 107:00went over, which coming over was Nashville, New York, Rome, Addis Abba, and then, onto Asmara, I went from Asmara to Athens, to Belgrade, to Vienna and Rome, Rome, Florence and Venice, Zurich, Amsterdam, London, Montreal. I thought I was going to the World's Fair. Turned out that you can't get into town where there's a World's Fair, you know. They didn't tell me this in London when I left. They let me buy a ticket to there and when I got there, I asked them about my reservations that Air Canada had made for me. "Reservations? Ha!" they pretty much said. SoI left Montreal immediately and went, stopped in Detroit and visited 108:00relatives there, an aunt and uncle and their family. before coming back to Tennessee but one little sidelight. My time to come home, I had intended to perhaps do something different and because of politics in the region, you couldn't just go from any one point to another point. If say you wanted to go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, you had to go to some neutral point, Nicosia or Athens or something first and then, trying to come back toward where you had been. And I had thought about doing that but you couldn't fly from Addis Abba to there or something. Well, if you, we're both old enough to remember what happened in June 1967 in that part of the world and it's called the June 1967 War, as a matter of fact, the preemptive strike by Israel on the gathering forces of the Arab world and so going to any part of the Arab world 109:00or to Israel didn't look promising at all. As a matter of fact, for about oh, two or three, that was early in June, I think and then, I was going to leave in mid-June or something. It appeared to get to Europe, I was going to have to fly south back to Kenya or something and then over into Central Africa and then up to the Mediterranean way, the dickens west of all this. But the week before I actually departed, Ethiopia decided that things had settled and I mean, the war did not last very long. And so they considered air space safe again and they wouldn't be showing any partiality at all to Sudan by flying over Sudan or something. So I was allowed to take a reasonable, just fly to 110:00Athens without going four to six thousand miles out of the way and I, because by the time I had traveled in Ethiopia and East Africa cheaply as Peace Corps. By the way, I mentioned that my pay was a $125 a month the first year. They decided that was too much. We could live too high on all of that so they cut it to $100 a month which was, you know, both of those were in the range of what a college educated Ethiopian secondary school teacher would have made. But in essence, there were no college educated, well, there was the one that I told you about who had the Fiat and so we could live better than a teacher, an Ethiopian teacher who had a wife and two children. None of us had wives or children we had to pay for. He could live if he had only a tenth grade 111:00education, he wouldn't be paid as much as those of us who had college education so they cut down on that. And we really couldn't complain because we could survive quite well and even save a little money if you didn't smoke or drink or buy great gobs of souvenirs or local art or something like that on a $100 a month with your health care provided such as it was. Most of us didn't need a lot of health care and with the rent supplement took care of that. So I traveled through all those countries I mentioned on the way home for six weeks out of a suitcase and an airline bag which served as my camera bags
WILSON: Came back to Tennessee then?
FREEMAN: Yeah, came back to Tennessee. And while I was over there, Ididn't, I'm again, here I am once again, aimless and directionless. I didn't know what I was going to do when I came back. I knew I'd have to do something here to put food on the table or go back to school or something. But about midway through the second semester of 112:00my second year, I got a surprise letter from a former teacher of mine at Tennessee Tec who's not the teacher I mentioned earlier, someone who'd been hired to help him while I was there. But in my sophomore or junior year. And he said that the other teacher, the one I had mentioned first had moved on, gone back to school, something and that the letter writer needed assistants and would I be willing to help him with advising the school newspaper and teaching Introductory Journalism courses and doing some things along that line. I said, "Well, I would have never applied for such a job given my qualifications but you know them and you know me," and he said, "Oh, by the way, we know you don't have a graduate degree and so forth so this has to be approved by the Dean of the Faculties but he knows you and he's already approved this too. So I came back and did that for a year and in fact, they 113:00asked me. I was an instructor of the lowest level. I was one step above graduate assistant or something like that. But they asked me if I would like to do it another year and I said no for two or three reasons. I still didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew that in my own mind or in my heart, I didn't know what I needed to know to teach Journalism to these folks and then, on the other hand, I had a bunch of students who didn't, not all of them by any means but many, who didn't want to know what it was that I did know. They were not journalism students by choice. They were Secondary Education English majors and the curriculum writer had thought, oh, Secondary Education English majors are going to probably be the advisor to the school year book or literary magazine or the newspaper or the student radio station or whatever so all these people have to take at least one or two 114:00courses in Journalism. And they didn't want to be there. They wanted a grade that would let them pass and that was it, so it wasn't terribly satisfying from that standpoint and the only attraction was one, and I couldn't do this in good conscience, was by this time, Vietnam had heated up to a considerable degree and there was drafting right and left, and I was twenty-five years old and single and as long as I taught. There was a teaching department bye, you know, but I thought, given those other situations that it really would not be a matter of an action of the highest integrity to stay there doing something that I thought that I didn't really want to do and didn't think I was truly qualified to do for the best of the students' benefit to just keep me safe in essence, while there were lots of other folks out there who 115:00could be drafted who didn't have the option of just being safe and that's what they wanted. So I didn't teach and then I got called up for my physical and declared 1A which meant prime draft meat. And so I had a temporary job with a mapping company running around the back woods of Tennessee looking at property lines to see if they were actually where the property was and so forth which was kind of interesting but not a life's work. Then I got called up and drafted by the Army and spent my twenty-sixth birthday which was the cut-off date for being drafted in basic training in the Army at Fort Campbell. I had an interesting encounter before that and once I found out I was 1A. I was, you know, some of the way between ordinary American and conscientious objector 116:00but I couldn't claim conscientious objector status in good conscience either because I could've seen if I had been that same age when Hitler was invading Europe and Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor, I wouldn't have claimed conscientious objector status. And they didn't allow you to pick and choose your wars so I went to the draft center in Nashville and asked for the oath that you had to take when you went in because I was kind of iffy about what it was I could promise to do. Well, they wouldn't give it to me and furthermore, they threatened to have me arrested if I didn't leave, and I might have gone along for that, not ever having participated in a demonstration or anything. Tennessee was kind of behind the rest of the world with the hippie revolution and people demonstrating and protesting and marching, but 117:00I had two people waiting for me where I had left my car. I was going to give them a ride to another town, including Velman, and Velman was a Belgium journalist and I thought well, I best not leave him stranded in Nashville for two or three days while I get myself in and out of jail. So I did leave but then I wrote to the Senior Al Gore who's a Senator from Tennessee at that time and told him of my experience and said that I thought I should be able to find out the contents of the oath that I was going to be asked to take. And he thought so, too, and sent it on and I got a letter from a Colonel at the Pentagon who told me that yes, indeed, I was entitled to such information and here it is. So then, when I was indeed drafted, you know, I had to show up at this same induction center a couple of months later. They knew who Harold 118:00Freeman was because they'd heard of me from the Pentagon. But I did not take the oath because it said I would obey all orders or all lawful orders or something to that effect and even though the My Lai incident had not yet come to light, if it indeed had actually taken place at that time, I was not comfortable saying that I would do anything that they told me to do. So I just got inducted without taking the oath which kept them giving me a security clearance. Which didn't keep them from giving me three jobs that required security clearance. So I've been in the Peace Corps and I've been in the war corps and I prefer the Peace Corps to a high degree over the war corps.
WILSON: Did you actually go to Vietnam?119:00
FREEMAN: Oh yeah, I was sent to Vietnam and when I got there, they sentme to, well, they sent everybody to a personnel warehouse where they had you fill out a form, a long form and hand over your personnel records. And they said on this form, there's no place for this, but if you can type, put the approximate number of words per minute out in the margin some place. Well, all they ever saw on my form was name, rank, serial number and forty to forty-five words per minute or something. And they said, "Freeman, you're going right over there" and pointed across a valley to another place and a post there so I was a paperwork warrior. Turns out that paperwork warriors are more--you know, they used to say the Army travels on its stomach. Well, by that time, the Army traveled on its paperwork and documents and I was given an opportunity to, I was sent to a civil affairs company and some folks have heard of civil affairs companies now in Iran and Afghanistan. They're supposed 120:00to help military aspects coordinate with local governments and work with whatever's necessary, public engineering projects or education or health or public safety, whatever and the same thing was true in Vietnam except that it really didn't much if it got done there and I don't know whether it's getting done in Iran or Iraq, I mean, Iraq and Afghanistan but mostly it was a make work job, saying that we achieved our goals. We had -- my company was an unusual outfit -- operated in seven provinces in Vietnam and one of my jobs in the headquarters was to keep in touch with all those folks and help all of them keep up with their paper. You know, if somebody out there was, payment to his wife back home was not reaching home, then I'd try to fight the paperwork battle to get that. Do reports and stuff like that. Pull guard duty every third or fourth night and sat out by a machine gun hoping nobody 121:00would show up on the other side and intrude. Nobody did though you never knew there. You know, they told me stories when I got there that a rocket had landed in the mess tent up the hill, I mean, the dining hall, the mess hall, some time before that so not to be too complacent. They offered me the chance to go out to one of these seven provinces, a location where I might actually have some contact with Vietnamese and I said yes, I would prefer that but by that time, I had helped them do the annual report which was due right when I got there, you know, two weeks after that so I spent two weeks doing this and they said oh, you can go out here if you want to and the Colonel who had given me that option was rotated back to the states. His time was up and his right hand man, the Major, executive officer, yanked me right back in there because I was one of those clerks who could actually type. Their writing came out better when I got through with it than it did when 122:00they finished it so that was, I had nineteen days out there with the people. Other than that, it was mostly with the Army.
WILSON: So you spent time in Vietnam, then, you came back nd what haveyou done since?
FREEMAN: Well, didn't know exactly what I wanted to do then eitherexcept I knew it wasn't military. I got out of the military as soon as I got back.
WILSON: So that would have been '69, '70?
FREEMAN: Well, I went over, I left the United States on Thanksgiving Dayof 1969 for Vietnam and came back and while I was over there, toward the end of my time there, they started winding down. They started the initial troop withdraw so I, everybody went over for a year. I actually came back in about a year, I mean, eleven and a half months or something like that. Then, I did a couple of short term things, you know, my wife and I, I met my wife. We got married. I took her 123:00on a trip to Ethiopia, and she'd never been outside the country except to Canada before. She'd been to Hawaii out toward the west but had not been anywhere else and she heard me talk about the Peace Corps and Ethiopia a lot and she wanted to travel besides. We took a big trip that took us to the Bahamas and through some of Europe, some of the area that I had traveled on the way back home and then, we went Addis Abba and Asmara and my town Adis Ugri and she was greatly impressed with the people there and hospitality that we were shown. This was 1973 so it was six years after I had been back and we found some of our people and my old landlord let us stay in the house where I had stayed and found the assistant headmaster who had become the headmaster after 124:00the suicide of the original headmaster. He had us to his house and found some of my students who had moved to Addis Abba to go to college there and had stayed there and so forth so she enjoyed it. She got a real taste for we traveled for more than a month, I think. So she got a real taste for international travel and living overseas so she was a nurse in a hospital in Nashville that turned out to be the beginning of the Hospital Corporation of America which eventually decided to expand overseas and its first hospital was in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh. And so she signed up for, or got us in on that where she would be head of cardiac care there. And they opened it, when they opened this hospital and I would do a bunch of ancillary stuff for the almost, with 125:00a primarily international crew because the Saudis didn't have people who could staff a hospital to the level they aspired to there. It was going to be a medical center for the Middle East, if not the world, and so we went over there and spent six months and she got to liking that sort of thing and went back to school and ended up getting a doctorate in teaching nursing at the University of Louisville where she initiated their first nursing courses abroad and she's taken students to England. She's a Florence Nightingale Scholar and did some area study there but also has taken them to Germany and some to Russia because she got into an assistance program after the fall of the Soviet Union. A hospital here was in a government cooperative program to assist hospitals in the former Soviet Republics and so she's been there a couple times, took students one time and we've had those folks here who just got 126:00interested, you know, in international things. We have taken students from the International Center from the University of Louisville. We've had Chileans and we had three guys from the United Arab Emirates help us put up our Christmas tree one time. All Muslims, you know. We've had Taiwanese and we still keep up with the Chileans, the first one we had here, a Chilean. We've kept Russian businessmen overnight through the Louisville International Cultural Center business exchange program, you know, just a number of things.
WILSON: And what you've done here was with the--
FREEMAN: When I mentioned that how I went back to school, that was inAugusta, Georgia at the Medical College of Georgia and even though I had been editor of my high school paper and managing editor of 127:00my college newspaper and when I was in the Army, one of those three jobs that I wasn't allowed to have because I didn't have a security clearance was working on post newspaper and one of the interim jobs I had was a small printing company where I edited some customer's stuff a little bit along the way. When we were in Saudi Arabia, I did the hospital newsletter which was just done on a copying machine but I wrote the stuff and put it together, you know, as I said and then the Army after that and when I taught at Tennessee Tech, then I was advising the school newspaper. So I'd never really been away from publishing, printing, editing, writing very far. And so I went to the newspaper, morning newspaper, down there in Augusta, Georgia and got a job as a reporter shortly after we arrived there and then Linda got herself a couple of degrees there, and I knew an editor up here at The Courier-Journal and put in a call. She had said well, if you 128:00want a job, if you're interested in a job up this way, give me a call and so I did and got an interview and got a job and I've been here since February of 1978, this now being February of 2005, just passed my twenty-seventh anniversary here. I came here -- I was a reporter in Augusta -- I came here for an introductory copy editing job and I did copy editing jobs and other sorts of related editing jobs all along. I'm an assistant metro editor of The Courier-Journal now.
WILSON: So what do you think the impact of Peace Corps was on Ethiopiaor your particular time there?
FREEMAN: Well, I should have said something that I've often said topeople that I think the Peace Corps. My two years in the Peace Corps was worth more to me than any Master's degree I could have got in the 129:00same time. I never did go back to graduate school but I did explore it before coming to Louisville. And the long term effect in Ethiopia: there have been two wars between Ethiopia and Eritrea for separation and eventually, separation was accomplished and the entire fabric of life there was disrupted. Eritrea lost pretty much a generation of young males to the war. I have an acquaintance here that works in a restaurant downtown who's from Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea. He lost two brothers. He came here for medical treatment and is still here but he lost two brothers in that war and he said there are no people. There are young people and there are old people but there are no male people at least, you know, his age, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five so forth in there, maybe on up into their forties 130:00and facilities were bombed and shelled and things like that. I don't know what's become of my school at this point but I do know that for a time at least there was no school so folks who survived didn't get much education there. I do know, on the positive side, while I was there, actually, before I got there, the Peace Corps volunteers before me had started, were aware of the American Field Service foreign student exchange program that was not known to me. There were no exchange students at my high school and I hadn't been connected with any anywhere but they had already initiated the process somehow and got applications coming so I was involved in writing letters of recommendation for some of my students that I had the first year and 131:00we had quite a good success rate. We got three students from that one student were accepted by American Field Service and one of them became a lawyer and one became a geophysicist and the other I don't know what he became but he was the son of the imam at the mosque. My town by the way was roughly half and half Christian, Ethiopian Orthodox Christian or Orthodox Christian, Eastern Orthodox and Muslim. There were others, also some Protestants or Catholics; there weren't many Protestants but there was an Italian Catholic Mission there. There was a church or an convent monastery up on a hill there too, so we were able to get those kids there and unfortunately, those that are educated and who were in 132:00danger if they were for independence, then they were in danger from the central government and some of them came over here and stayed and some did not. But while we were there, we had questions that we didn't know were going to develop from this but, you know, we did, we taught what we were assigned but had to agree to that. You know, I was teaching trigonometry. The other people were teaching geography and some were teaching English and there was some need for all that but sometimes if you came to, went to work for the school and you saw many mothers with small children who didn't know to get the flies out of their eyes, you know, to wipe their noses, didn't know anything about sanitation, you thought why am I spending five days a week doing this when there's such a need for other stuff there? And you could go the other way, well, 133:00you can never teach all of the uneducated mothers about germs, I mean, to why they need to do these things because they don't even know the existence of germs and you can't show them to them and so forth. They have to have a certain basic education before you can make this change and you know, the change is going to come a few years down the road so these people you're teaching are going to become teachers of others and their own children are going to be better cared for than if you weren't here. I had two students who had only one arm and it wasn't because they were born with congenial deformity but because they suffered an arm injury sometime in childhood and then the only treatment was amputation. I had another student with a permanent limp who couldn't walk any distance except with great difficulty he had to ride a bike and he used it with one leg to do all the pumping basically. Out of a hundred math students I had, only two wore glasses. Well, that's not 134:00because Ethiopians are born with perfect eyesight, it's because they don't have money for glasses or access to glasses, testing for glasses and some of them had oh, what's that disease? Trichoma that causes whitening of the cornea, clouding or so forth in one or both eyes and so sometimes we questioned what we were doing and when we had trouble to, you couldn't get chalk for the blackboard or you had to teach from a textbook which was an old British textbook that was using examples about natural gas and therms. Well, Americans don't know what natural gas and therms is unless they work for a gas company. There wasn't such a thing natural gas in my town so you were better off making up your own examples and then people would want to know why you weren't using the book but we were lucky to have a book at all because some schools didn't, you know. Two kids would have to share a book or there 135:00would be more or there wouldn't be any textbooks at all. The teacher would have a textbook if he or she would like to so there were a lot of things there and again, looking back on it, I didn't do the best job of teaching, I know, and part of that was being young and stupid and not experienced. On the other hand, it's hard to get people who are experienced and adept in their profession to pick up and leave their parents or their children or their homes and their jobs and take off and go to Ethiopia for two years. Plus, it's harder to ride a bike, you know, five or ten kilometers a day now or deal with the diarrhea that you occasionally get or deal with the dust or whatever hardships that didn't seem like much like hardships then but are different if you're forty-five or sixty-five or whatever.
WILSON: What would you say was the impact on you?
FREEMAN: Well, I came from, you know, even though my parents were136:00educated and so forth, I grew up in a place just by happenstance of birth and geography where I knew practically no Catholics or Jews, didn't go to school with any black people because it was segregation time in Tennessee still in, in the public schools. Now, in college, there were Indian students and a few black students and, but it didn't have a lot of cultural exchange, you know, first hand knowledge of anything. I found out I liked that sort of thing. You know, I didn't grow up with prejudice against it. I just didn't have exposure to it, had no first hand knowledge and I like those things and that's been born out as I told you. We've kept up contacts with and we try to be of some assistance to the international community here and we travel some. I've been in twenty-five countries now from Iceland to Iran, 137:00from Australia to Mexico and you know, Uganda to St. Petersburg, Russia and a lot of Americans haven't done that. And I probably would have if it had not been for the Peace Corps and it's made me aware. I still every now and again, I mention to somebody that you know the people in Ethiopia wouldn't believe we're throwing this away. You know, now we're trying to recycle at work, we're trying to make it so people recycle their plastic water bottles and their aluminum cans and we have been doing that but the fact that you would throw one of those, even consider throwing one of those away is something that my students or their parents in Adi Ugri, Eritrea, Ethiopia could not have fathomed because you couldn't afford what came in the cans in the first place and once you emptied the can, then you used the can or the bottle as a jug for something else. You certainly wouldn't throw it out in the 138:00trash or even consider not recycling.
WILSON: You mentioned a lot of travel since and a different worldview, what do you see in the future? You see more, more travel as a possibility?
FREEMAN: Yes, and actually, Linda is more interested in travel now thanI am. I found out, I'm beset by inertia and I haven't traveled abroad now since '94 when I went to St. Petersburg, Russia for a week but I'll probably do some more of it some time. She's trying to talk me into a trip this summer. She's going already for her stuff. She went twice last year for her work. But I don't know, I'd like to see more of the United States. You know, there was a lot of that that I hadn't 139:00seen. And I have tried to rectify that some and I've been from Miami to Seattle and then, from San Diego to Boston, through I haven't seen New England and North Dakota and Montana and Idaho and I'd like to do some more of that. I like to drive and get off on back roads and she doesn't. She likes trains and planes and get there and be over, but I like the traveling itself and you know, I like to get off interstates and just follow my nose through small towns and stop and talk to people and see what's different there from what I'm accustomed to.
WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps has beenover the last forty-five years or forty-four years, I guess?
FREEMAN: Well, as they noted when they started out, you know, there's atwo directional aspect of the Peace Corps. Part of it is to help the people you go over there to help and help their nations and individuals 140:00and part of it is to inform Americans about the rest of the--
[Tape two, side a ends; tape two side b begins.]
WILSON: Side two, tape two of interview with Harold Freeman Peace CorpOral History Project, February 18th, 2005. Harold, you were talking about what you thought the overall impact of the Peace Corps has been.
FREEMAN: Well, you know, there are a few hundred thousand folks in thiscountry now who know a lot more about the world than they did before and there are probably a few million people in other countries who can say that they have met an American who was not a soldier, who was not on the TV screen or on a movie screen and that's all for the good. There are a lot you know, we didn't make a lot of wholesale changes 141:00that you could see right away. When I got to Adis Ugri, there were a few girls, just a handful of girls in the eleventh grade but they all disappeared right away, before I even had, you know, probably a week or two worth of lessons. They went off to specialize, nursing school or something like that I don't even know what type, a low level nursing school, probably an LPN equivalent or something. So I had no female students in the eleventh or twelfth grade. That needs change, and we didn't change that. We couldn't change that, and we couldn't tackle all the problems all the time. We didn't know how and we weren't supposed to in the first place. You know, there needs to be a lot of changes made in just one place. And the same sorts of things that may not be the same problems but the same sorts of things in different 142:00place, deforestation, there was a lack of water period and a lack of safe water even greater. Agriculture needed to be adjusted to what was available. They're wearing the land out using all the resources that were there. They didn't know so much about not planting the same thing over and over in the same ground, having land depleted of nutrients. So there was education to be done on all the fronts, you know, public health and communications and transportation and just a whole array of things. And the Peace Corps can't solve all those problems. If you put the entire resources of the Peace Corps into Eritrea which used to be just one province and is now one nation, you 143:00know, ten years from now, still all the problems wouldn't be solved and that's to be expected, of course. We haven't solved problems in our own country with all our huge array of resources so it's disappointing that we didn't make more headway. But it's better that we made whatever headway we did than that we didn't try at all because there were some successes. And if nothing else, we opened some eyes to possibilities and provided some possibilities and you know, even though I taught trigonometry which didn't seem like much of a step forward in terms of the needs of the country but it made it possible for some of those students to go onto university where they were required to have trigonometry even if they didn't, you know, go on to use it in a law career or, or whatever although some of them did. The one who became a geophysicist couldn't have done it without, you know; he had to go on and take calculus and things like that so there was some help there.
WILSON: And so what do you think the role of the Peace Corps ought to144:00be today?
FREEMAN: I think it ought to keep on doing more of what it's been doing.I think it's probably some of the best money the U.S. government spends. Again, I think it was a lot better spent than the money I saw being spent in the military. I said only somewhat facetiously that if one Peace Corp volunteer hadn't accomplished more than my whole company did in Vietnam, that the Peace Corps would have died before it hit 1970 and lots of folks will discount that as a bias. But whatever it is, that's what I believe. And you know, President Bush has said one thing about what, doubling the size of the Peace Corp, something of that kind 145:00of gone and that's kind of gone by the wayside with the last budget. I don't know if you can double it efficiently anyway in a short period of time and you know, not everybody's qualified to be a Peace Corps volunteer and of those that are qualified, not everybody is interested in being a Peace Corps volunteer. You can't just grab the first one hundred people you meet or even the first one hundred college graduates you meet or the first one hundred people that have proved themselves competent in their fields of endeavor and pick them up and send them to Armenia or Afghanistan or, or Ethiopia or Uganda or Nicaragua or Fiji, whatever. So there still needs to be care in whom we pick and whom we send. And I think we need to see that the projects that we take on are 146:00not just for the benefit of the governments in power there so that they look good, but I don't think there's been too much of a problem with that, I don't know, a certain amount to be sure but the governments are taking a risk, too, particularly those that are, if not despotic, not the sort of, open sort of thing that we'd like to think our government is, That you're going to get new ideas from Peace Corp svolunteers that do not emanate from the information ministry of whatever country is involved. Does that deal with some of what you're--
FREEMAN: Not very specific, I'm afraid, but every Peace Corps volunteerhas a different experience and probably a different evaluation of things.
WILSON: Exactly and that's all the sort of structured questions I have.But what have I missed? Do you have another story or two you'd like to 147:00tell me or something that I've overlooked that you'd like to include?
FREEMAN: Oh, there's probably a lot, I already talked a lot but Ithink I could say that, you could offer the question "Would you do it over again knowing what you know now?" Yes, I would. I'd try to do it better and I would even consider doing it again at some time if, you know, I thought about it. Well, maybe sometime, if all those other restrictions that I talked about before that make it hard to get someone in mid-career and I'm in end career more than mid-career now. I'm aged, I'll be sixty-two in a couple of months but I still have my mother's still living at age eighty-nine and needs attention and my wife's parents are both living in their mid-eighties and need attention. And if you go, you've got to do something with the house and you know, sell it or rent it or whatever and wonder about it and your health problems are likely to become more frequent at age sixty- 148:00two than they were at twenty-two or seventy-two if it comes to that. So maybe you don't want to be out in Adi Ugri and I want, I didn't mention that my second roommate was stricken with a kidney stone attack that woke me at maybe three a.m. not knowing what he's complaining about pains in his back and I think it was his first one so he didn't know what to expect. There was one Italian doctor in my town who did not speak English and could not be found at three o'clock in the morning because I tried, And I tried to then try call the Peace Corps doctor in Asmara again, you know, an hour and a half away and the buses didn't start till six. I did mention that because of the separation anxiety of a whole different type there that travel between six a.m. and six p.m. was all that was allowed. That's when private vehicles and buses ran so there was not, there wasn't even an option of putting him 149:00on a four a.m. predawn bus. There wasn't such a thing, to head him up that way. So I tried to call him on one of the few telephones in town and I lived a short distance from the center of town where the government switch board was and the police and I went to the police who have a telephone but they wouldn't let me use it. They told me I would have to wake the switchboard operator who slept in a room behind the switchboard exchange right next door and so I woke her up and she told me that I couldn't use her phone either. I would have to use the phone at the one gas station in town and the gas stations were hand pump, that sort of thing. This was not a big convenience mart with, you know, twelve island things. This is one pump but fortunately, the night watchman there was one of my students so he let me in to use the 150:00telephone to call across the square. I mean, half a block from where I had been, to call up the woman who I'd just spoken with in person to get her to call the Peace Corps doctor who told me that, you know I can't remember what exactly, but to get my roommate, Larry, Larry Johnson on the first bus up there so that the doctor could examine him because if the doctor came down there and then he needed something, then he would still need to go back up there because there was nothing that could be done right there and so that sort of thing, you know, is not the sort of thing you want to go through in any time, much less when you're older and you know, farther along in years. There was one thing I didn't mention also and this is entirely out of this context but it's probably worth mentioning. I did mention that there was a high level of frustration of what we were able to do, given what needed 151:00to be done and the lack of resources and maybe where resources were allocated by the government, as few as they were. But at one point we had a dog. You know we had to vaccinate our dog ourselves and we'd never done that before but we got it from the Peace Corps doctor and he said well, you don't have to worry about, you know, you don't swab the dog's skin. They're pretty much immune to infection for some reason, you know. Just give the dog the shot and the dog had puppies and we had one of the puppies. But then, one day-- I mentioned that we had a compound with the wall out front and then, a fence, a kind of old, rusty wire fence with vines and stuff growing up over it in the back. Well, one day, we found this dog that really looked suspicious outside trying to get in our compound. I think it must have been a weekend. I was home in the day time. Maybe it was a lunch time but I saw it coming in and I really didn't trust it at all. It was coming around and he found a hole in our fence and it was lunging at the fence, you 152:00know, completely out of character with any kind of dog and so I picked up what amounts to a mop handle. We didn't have mops there but you had a long stick with a cross piece on the end. And you put a rag down on the floor and you push it back and forth which was better than getting down on your hands and knees, you know? So I had this thing there and watching this dog and it found a hole after it had just lunged, you know, blindly it seemed like into the fence, just throwing itself into the fence so it started to get, to stuff in that hole that it was big enough for it to wiggle through. Well, I popped the dog on the nose kind of underhanded like using a shovel or something with that piece of wood, right on the nose of that dog and it didn't seem to faze it. Well, you know, a pit bull would have been fazed by that under ordinary circumstances I thought. So I'm thinking, well, for sure, we've got us a problem here and I couldn't keep the thing out 153:00and it came in and I didn't want to be out there where I was standing flaying wildly at it and being subject to the thing. And so I went and I hurried up and warned all the others and it came in there and then, we got it through, we had an interior fence so we got it behind that. It kind of locked it into a smaller part of the compound and then, I went to get the cops to come shoot it. You know, again, it was just a short distance, like a block from my house. A four minute round trip. Well, I went and got the cops. Well, they didn't know what they could do, whatever, and well, anyway, they wouldn't come. Well, it must have been a weekend, I remember now because the landlord showed up and he was from Asmara, the city, the capital city. Well, he showed up and he had a pistol. By this time, the dog had gone under his car in the little shed in the garage thing and we thought, he got his pistol out 154:00and well, maybe he would shoot the dog but then, he was afraid that he wouldn't hit the dog or that he would hit his car. I don't know but maybe the cops would not take kindly to having a shot fired in town here, who knows. Anyway, he didn't shoot it and the cops never came and even though, this guy was like a former senator and he had a title of nobility, Dejazmatch, which is like count or baron or something, you know. So I figured if you can't swing the weight to get the cops to come shoot this thing, we're totally out of luck and eventually, the dog got out and got into the field behind us. Even though we lived right in town, we were still, there was a field behind us or garden and it was plowed back there and there was a kid down there and later on that day or the next day, a kid got bit by this dog and I found the kid and took him to the hospital clinic there that the nuns and the Italian 155:00or Spanish doctor operated at to get him started on his shots which at that time were given in the abdomen. So that was the hottest I guess I ever was at the establishment there. I came back in and wrote a letter that I semi-coded by typing double spaced on an air letter. And then went back and typed in between the lines there so that if a person for whom English was a second or third language was going to have a dickens of a time trying to ----------(??). I didn't write to my parents because my mom could not know that I had rabid dogs in my yard but I wrote a college friend this letter just detailing this stuff and my utter disgust at that and, and there were violators of communication. There were things you could tell, you know. You didn't write grandma, granny, and mom and dad some of these things. The information about 156:00my roommate being killed by the crocodile in the river down in the southeastern part, I mean, that was national news in the United States and you know, a small item about it appeared in the National Banner and The Tennessean, too, I'm sure. But my mother had the clipping for me when I got home and so you couldn't keep everything away from them but, you know, certain of your friends got certain information and certainly your relatives got a filtered version of some of that.
WILSON: Okay, Harold, thank you for your time.
FREEMAN: Well, I was happy to do it. Thank you for taking on thisproject.
[End of interview.]