WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project. Peace Corps Oral HistoryProject interview with Don Stosberg. February 21st, 2005. Interviewer Jack Wilson. Don if you would please give me your full name and where and when you were born.
STOSBERG: My official name is Donald S. Stosberg. I usually go by Don.I was born in 1941 August 3rd in Louisville, Kentucky.
WILSON: And did you grow up in Louisville?
STOSBERG: Yes I grew up in Louisville. I'm a Louisville downtownCatholic. I went to St. Martins School in Shelby and Broadway. And went to one year of Trinity High School and then I went to St. Thomas Seminary where I did three years of high school and two years of junior college before I went to St. Minory College where I got a B.A 1:00in Philosophy.
WILSON: Ah. Okay. And you have family, brothers or sisters?
STOSBERG: I have a brother and two sisters. I was the oldest of fourchildren. I was raised by a single parent mom. My father sort of abandoned the family when I was about six years old.
WILSON: Okay. Tell me again something about college.
STOSBERG: Well I was studying to be a priest and I was in St. Minoryand I didn't, we didn't get off campus in those days in the Catholic Seminary. It was basically a liberal arts education. There was one thing that happened in college that I think is critical to my joining the Peace Corps that I think I should mention. Actually it started happening in high school. We had a professor in high school who was 2:00not a very interesting teacher. He was boring to most of us. But he would come in and read us the New Yorker Magazine and we always cheered when he got out the New Yorker Magazine. But this particular professor, his name was Father Tiereny, preached against parochialism. And I assume, just for those who would know what they term mean it's the word properish which means get out of your neighborhood. In other words get beyond your boundaries. And even though I didn't like this professor that concept was valid to me and stuck with me. And umm when Kennedy announced the Peace Corps I was actually still in the seminary cause I was in the seminary till 1963 and he must have announced the Peace Corps in 1961. I was immediately interested. I had probably, maybe didn't even know I was going to leave the seminary. But by the time I had made my decision to leave the seminary I knew I wanted to go 3:00into the Peace Corps but I didn't I think I was ready to go the year I got out of college so I taught at Trinity High School one year and then applied to the Peace Corps at that time.
WILSON: So you would have gotten your B.A in--
WILSON: 63. So you taught 63-64 at Trinity.
STOSBERG: Right. Right.
WILSON: And what did you teach?
STOSBERG: I taught English. I got a teaching minor in English thatsummer between the year I graduated from college and enough to get qualified to teach English and then I taught four levels of English at Trinity High School in the Freshmen, yeah four different freshmen levels of English. And I was, by the end of the summer of that year I had been accepted in the Peace Corps.
WILSON: Tell me something about the application process or what you did,4:00how you--
STOSBERG: I don't really remember. You know I was probably prettygood at conforming to whatever the rules where in those days, probably less than I am now. (laughs) But I don't remember too much about the process but I do remember getting a letter from Sergeant Shriver in what appeared to be his own handwriting saying I'd been accepted. And it was a great thrill to me. And my original training was to go to Columbia in Latin America. And I actually went through a full Peace Corps training program in the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to go to Columbia. And because of all the Latin that I'd had and the other romance languages I had in the seminary I was able to carry on a conversation in Spanish by the end. I remember walking across the UNM campus speaking in Spanish at the end of that training. I'm sure 5:00it was crude level of Spanish but I was keeping a conversation going after only three months of training. But then they decided that I wouldn't work well in an unstructured situation probably based on the seminary training. I didn't do too well in the field work. In Taos, New Mexico I was assigned to this artist project out in Taos and didn't go out drinking at night not really because I don't have a problem with drinking but I just didn't hang out at the guys at night and I think they must have thought I was kind of a not a sociable person or something and so they didn't think I was so bad I shouldn't be in the Peace Corps but they decided that I should be in another project. And that's when then I got transferred to the Malawi project after a few months.
WILSON: So the, the Columbia project was a community development project.
STOSBERG: It was a community development. That's what they were doingin those days. And that was ya know, Tom, oh whose the fellow in 6:00Louisville that was in Columbia one. I would have been in Columbia three I think. Tom Boyd, no that's not right.
WILSON: No, Tom Boyd's in Berea.
STOSBERG: Tom, the guy who comes to the picnics. Umm, I'm blankingon his name right now. But anyway, we did the outward bound training at that, in those days at the University of New Mexico. We repelled off stadium walls and later off the hills of the Pecos Wilderness. We hiked for three days and took all our gear. It was a wonderful experience and learned about Columbian culture and learned Spanish and the politics of Columbia and all that. It was an excellent training program. And then we did the same thing in Malawi though the language education was not as well. I went to Syracuse University for my Peace Corps training to go to Malawi and we learned African politics etc. 7:00but they just plucked some principals and teachers from Malawi and stuck them in the campus in the University of Syracuse and they had no training in teaching their language and it was really not very strong language training. So we went to Malawi with really minimal training in the language. I try to use it. I was always interested in language.
WILSON: Tell me, tell me something, was the switch from Columbia toMalawi, was that a decision as a part of the selection process by Peace Corps?
STOSBERG: Peace Corps made that decision basically. Most of the peopleI knew in it was my experience. They took what assignment they got them in those days. They were kind of, here I'm joining the Peace Corps, I'm going to do what my Government wants me and so the first invitation I got was Columbia and I didn't say, I mean if you really 8:00knew the process you could probably say no I don't want that, give me Ecuador or something and they probably would have given it to you. But most of us didn't know that. And I had actually met people in both training projects that said thirty days ago I decided I was going to be in the Peace Corps, here I am. Mine was little more thought out than that. And then the second invitation they offered me was Malawi and I didn't say, I don't want Malawi, give me Nigeria. I just looked it up on the map. In fact I guess it was called Malawi by that time but it had only been called Malawi, it wasn't even Malawi on most of the Maps. It was Nyasaland. The old Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland as you know an African person you probably studied the African map a little bit yourself.
WILSON: So what was the Malawi project?
STOSBERG: The Malawi project was education.
STOSBERG: And apparently they were really pouring teachers into Malawiin those days and we were called rather, I never liked the term, we 9:00were called Malawi five add-ons. (laughs)
STOSBERG: There was a Malawi five, and we were Malawi five A. And wecame like a month or two later than the others. I don't know how we caught up or acquired the mechanics why it worked that way. There were about thirty of us I believe in Malawi five add-ons. And little tangent here and I guess you say that's okay, just recently I've taken up biking and I do this bike across Kentucky project and I was working with a guy in Frankfort named Ed Studola and we were biking together. He's pretty close to my age and we're biking down the road and somehow it came up he'd been in the Peace Corps and I said, oh I've been the Peace Corps too. Oh where were you, Tanzania. Oh where'd you have your training, Syracuse. Oh I had my training in Syracuse. We had been in the same Peace Corps training project and didn't meet, didn't 10:00even know we existed in Malawi. And I went back and got my book and there was his picture.
WILSON: But he was going Tanzania?
STOSBERG: He went to Tanzania. The Tanzania and Malawi people were bothtrained at Syracuse. And we probably had different courses on Tanzania and Malawi. Like different language things. Like he was studying Swahili and I was studying Chichewa or something. So, and then just to show you how even forty years later all this stuff is living with you, the story I just told you when we had the gathering, had a little reception for these people who were raising money for this bike across Kentucky thing he announces at this reception this story I told about how we didn't know each other and both been at the same Peace Corps training and he tells it, and he said, and then he mentions that we had both been in the Peace Corps. Well after the break in the reception a 11:00young man comes and he said I was born in Zambia. An just last night Jack I was at his house for tea and this guy has become my friend and he teaches at KSU and he's into organic agriculture and I've been coaching him on bike, rail trail paths and so these little things that you do, and I guess this is why if you students listen to this that you do early in your life just keep rippling around in many ways. But I digressed from your question.
WILSON: No, that's fine. That's Fine. The Malawi training them was aneducation, where you all teachers or did you get some special teacher training preparation.
STOSBERG: Yes we did have, I don't know what term was correct then itwas called TEFL at one time. Teaching English as a Foreign Language. [phone rings]
WILSON: Okay. Sorry. Don you were talking about TEFL training.
STOSBERG: Anyway, we had training as teaching English as a second12:00language. And that was actually pretty good. I don't know what other courses we had but we were prepared somewhat to be teachers. We did have the usual Peace Corps thing about being prepared for the culture and culture shock and stuff like that.
WILSON: So then you went to Malawi. What do you remember about arrivalin Malawi?
STOSBERG: We had a little bit of orientation in the headquarters townin Blantyer. And after two or three days we were put on a bus. My first assignment was at Encoma Teacher Training College. There were four of us, actually there were six of us. There was a married couple and four guys that were sent up to this school and I remember arriving at dark at night and kind of walking through some dark woods with our 13:00suitcases. We were warmly received by the Afrikaans Missionaries that were there on the mission. I'm sure they gave us a cup of tea and we starting having tea four times a day from then on. Servants brought us tea in the morning, in the middle of the morning, at lunch, middle of the afternoon and evening. I don't know if you experienced that or not but basically I had a pretty good experience there. I was not real, I did not have and partly it was my, I mean I probably would get along better with lots of different kinds of people now than I did at that age but I wasn't, didn't have natural rapport with the four guys in my particular room.
WILSON: These are Peace Corps--
STOSBERG: Peace Corps guys yeah. We had kind of an odd shaped housethat was in two sections, one part contained a kitchen and dining area that was kind of an add on and maybe for us coming and then there was two rooms with a bath in between. It just had a bathtub and it 14:00had running cold water and then a hot kind of wood stove, wood barrel outside that they could heat the water and make it hot. But you didn't have hot water unless you built a wood fire. And I shared a big room with one person and then there were two guys that shared another room. This guy was a writer and journalist and he is still writing for I think the Baltimore Sun Times or something. His name is Dale Peters.
WILSON: But you were all teaching.
STOSBERG: We were all teaching various things. No we weren't allteaching English. One of us was teaching math another was teaching, oh I think I taught some History. Maybe a couple of us where teaching English. I don't remember. We taught a whole range of subjects. The 15:00Peace Corps in that particular school at that time when the faulty picture was taken there was six of us Peace Corps, a couple Afrikaner white guys, no maybe three or four Afrikaner white guys and maybe two or three African teachers. So the Peace Corps was almost half of the teaching faculty. Now what they did before we arrived I don't know.
WILSON: Was the headmaster Afrikaner? Or Malawian?
STOSBERG: I think the headmaster was Afrikaner. There was an old manthere, or well he seemed old to me at the time, he might have been in his 50's had he been responsible for first writing down Chinanga, the local language.
WILSON: Hm. And the purpose of the Peace Corps program at that pointwas just to upgrade the-- 16:00
STOSBERG: Educational system.
WILSON: Educational system.
STOSBERG: In the country. And while I was there to show you howimportant the Peace Corps was they'd started the first national track meet. You know how important running and track has become in Africa by now. They had the first national track meet while I was there and I think the Peace Corps staff were like half the coaches of the teach that came to the national meet. Peace Corps were the ones who coached, helped these kids learn how to just run a track meet. And it was a very popular and I heard, this stuck in my memory, some things might become folklore but they broke, the second year that they did that track meet they broke every record that they had set the first year. So I think that was an example of how the Peace Corps was having an impact on the country at that time. We were supplying I believe, well 17:00I might be repeating myself, about half the secondary school teachers in the country. And I remember it was near the end of my term before I met the first college graduate from Malawi. West Africa had been a lot more developed, for a little longer period of time than East Africa because Europe got to that part of the coast before they did to that part of Africa. I had a great experience in Malawi. I was very well treated, very warmly treated. I'd love to go back there. Go ahead, let's, better stick on some questions that gets me on the right track.
WILSON: Do you have any memories of any particular adjustment problemswhen you went?
STOSBERG: No. The main thing I felt, people think of living in Africa18:00or the 3rd world as the hardships of maybe not having running water or not having electricity at certain times or things like that. The hard part for me was more psychological. Loneliness, but some of that might have been my own personal development at the time or it may be just normal for my age. I didn't have, I had left the seminary because I wanted to date and there wasn't a lot of people for me to have social interaction with. That was the really hard part for me. I remember it being hard adjusting to, we had pretty much European style food where our cooks had learned to cook from the British. And the food was fine and we ate a lot of goat meat in one place and some of my roommates didn't like goat meat. I thought goat meat was fine. I didn't have any problem with it. And we had a load of, an order of food that 19:00would come up from the long way, which was about thirty miles away. It either came once or twice a week. And it would bring us things that the local people wouldn't eat that much of like cheese, maybe certain kinds of things that people wouldn't eat like pasta or something. I don't remember too much. Some fresh beef. We did buy some meat on the local market but we could also buy some meats from the grocery store that we couldn't get in the local markets.
WILSON: Describe for me if you can kind of a typical day.
STOSBERG: Uh. Actually a typical day as a teacher might be fairlytypical to the day of a teacher anywhere. You get up, you have breakfast, I remember corn flakes on the table that where one side of the box was in Afrikaans and the other side was in English. (laughs)
STOSBERG: And then we would go to the school and go through the routine20:00of going through our various classes. I had very few discipline problems, if any, never. I was thinking about that on my way over. Discipline with the students was not a problem. They were theoretically supposed to come to classroom knowing English but they really didn't have a very good command of English.
WILSON: And you were teaching what grade level.
STOSBERG: At Encoma TTC, Teacher Training College we were teaching whatwould be, 9th, 10th, 8th, 9th, 10th grade maybe 11th. So this, they would be going out as teachers with what would be equivalent here of a couple years of high school.
STOSBERG: That's how much demand there was for teachers.
WILSON: So the product of this school was going into primary schools andelsewhere in the country.
STOSBERG: And be primary teachers, right.
STOSBERG: And then in the afternoon, we would go to a typical day that21:00we would here, about 3 o'clock or something. I taught in what was called the evening school, what was really the late afternoon, and there was one student that just loved what I did and he wrote me for years afterwards and I gave him a couple books that he thanked me for profusely many times. One of them I remember was Quabiina and the Leopard. And the other one was Chakazulu and something, I remember. And I'm sorry I've lost touch with this guy, I tried to send him money a few years ago. I probably could still find him, if he's still living. He was last I heard in Kasungu. What else about, in the evening we read. We had electricity on certain, on the mission we had electricity at certain times of the day. But it would go out at 10 o'clock at night. So you could read by kerosene lamp after that. And 22:00my roommate was a profuse reader. And he would get, sometimes, if they had emergency surgery, they would kick the generator on in the middle of the night. Then you'd have lights in the middle of the night. There were tennis courts on that mission and I played tennis with a woman her name was Bompsee Coetzee. C o e t z e e. And toward the end of that year we were playing two or three or four times a week. And I played with my also my fellow Peace Corps people. It was a clay court. Because it was kind of a conservative religious group they didn't allow us to play on Sunday and that really made me mad. Cause it was one of the only things we could do on Sunday. What else can I-- One of the 23:00things I did to entertain myself was just take walks in neighborhoods around there in villages. And people would always come out to greet me and I brought a few pictures here of smiling kids, wearing kind of ragged clothes that would come up and talk to me and I would speak to them in my kind of street Chicanga. Because Chicanga or Chichewa was the local language in the area where I was. What else-- We would occasionally take trips to the bigger city for a movie or weekend trips to Blantyre when Peace Corps would call us down for some training.
WILSON: How long a distance was that or how did you travel?
STOSBERG: We traveled by bus. As the local people did and the long waywas about thirty miles away. You could sometimes catch a rise with, one of the missionaries had a car in the long way. I think, we found 24:00ways to get in the long way on the weekends though we didn't go every weekend. Blantyre would have been more-- these distances have kind of lost me now. But it would be more like 100 miles. A little bit longer. One interesting thing about the roads in those days, and I met someone from where I always, that remembers those days, I don't know if you encountered this anywhere in Africa but they would pave one lane down the center of the road and you would drive down the center until you met an oncoming car and then you would go off on the shoulder and put one wheel on the shoulder and one wheel on the pavement and when you got past the car you go back down the center of the road. Obviously it didn't have a heavy traffic load. And sometimes you would hitchhike and typically it was the Europeans who had the cars and it was easy to get a ride. The problem would be low traffic. You get 25:00out on the road and nobody was coming.
WILSON: What's the weather like in Malawi where you were?
STOSBERG: It was pretty pleasant, warm during the day. Actually it wasnot as unpleasant as it is in Kentucky in the summer. It wasn't near as humid as it is most of the time. It was cool at night. We slept under blankets. There was a rainy season. It would rain certain times of the year but before I went there I thought the rainy season meant it rained all day but it didn't usually mean that as you probably know it meant. Every afternoon from 2 to 4 o'clock it would rain for a couple hours and then the next day every afternoon. The next day it might rain from 1 to 3 o'clock. And it would do that pretty regular during the rainy season. And of course you don't get those rains in some of these parts of the world, then that's when the crops dry out. And they are having problems with that in Malawi now.
WILSON: What about school vacation? Were there such and what did you do26:00during those breaks?
STOSBERG: Yeah we did have school vacations. I took two differenttrips. I took one to South Africa with a friend and I forgot how we got there. I think we took a train maybe to, I don't think we got a train out of Malawi, maybe we took a bus to Salsbury which is now Hurarey and then took a train down to Johannesburg and then eventually I got down to Cape Town. I can't remember all the details now but I either hitchhiked from Cape Town to Durbin or vice versa. And I remember a European picking me up and put me up in his house half way between Cape Town and Durbin, the next day we got out on the road and went on our way. And those kind of things were pretty common. I remember 27:00going to a couple parties in Cape Town. How I got invited to them I don't know. I remember having a lot of arguments in South Africa about Apartheid. I found very few people in those days who criticized it. Near the end I found one person who criticized the Apartheid policy. But it was still pretty radical to criticize the Apartheid policy. And when were hitchhiking and you were Americans they'd say what do you think about our country and it was kind of like here and raised in the 50's. They really were asking you what you felt about the race policy. And I probably wasn't smart enough in those days to not get in arguments sometimes. But-- Let's see. I had a second vacation where I may have mentioned that I trained with some people from Tanzania 28:00and I had a female friend who was saying somewhere in Tanzania and I don't know even how we communicated, we didn't have telephones, I think we communicated by letter. But it somehow, I arranged to go with her and some missionaries, some Catholic missionaries on a trip to Kilimanjaro on one of my vacations. And I met up with them. It was a party of about eight of us. One of her friends, about three or four Catholic Missionaries, a couple other people. And we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and as you probably know they still do that today. Though I understand the mountain is getting cluttered with liter. But they have huts at 9,000 feet, 12,000 feet and 15,000. And you hike first day and get to 9,000 second day you get to 12,000 third day you get to 15,000. And on the fourth day you get up at 2 o clock in the morning, you walk with your walking stick and climb the last three or 29:00four thousand feet. At that height you're right reaching the margin where you can breathe without oxygen. And literally Jack, you would walk about ten or fifteen feet and you'd lean on your stick and you'd go (struggles to breathe). And you'd go another twenty feet and you'd lean on your stick and puff and at that point some people got sick and turned around. That was a great experience and sometime when I was going through my career councilor and they ask you unusual things to do sometimes when you're doing ice breakers about some interesting thing I've done I'll put climb Mount Kilimanjaro just to sound exotic. It's really not, it's not like it's a physical feat. But it is something that not too many people, not everybody gets to do.
WILSON: It's more a tough high altitude hike as opposed to rock climbing.30:00
STOSBERG: Exactly. That's a pretty good summary. But I'm glad I hadthat experience.
WILSON: Okay. What about, what about other host country nationals.What kind of interaction did you had with Malawians? I know you said your staff was heavily Peace Corps--
STOSBERG: I did have a few Peace Corps friends that I interacted with.I mean, Malawian friends and got together and talk to them but I didn't socialize as much as the Peace Corps theory would have you do it. And it was not because I wasn't open to it. It just, the way the system was there it wasn't very easy to happen. But I was certainly 31:00friendly with the local Africans. I mean there was a little different culture there. I was fairly moralistic in those days and you know the African men they go out and go drinking and get involved with women and stuff and I just didn't want, I wasn't part of that kind of party system. But other interactions, the second, I wanted to say too and I've been concentrating on my experience at Encoma Teacher Training College, at the end of the first year because I didn't have this great relationship with my roommate I asked for a transfer and I was put in a house where I'd had a friend that I got along well with in Peace Corps training. So I was transferred to a day secondary school in Acodacoda. 32:00So I had a different experience in that year.
WILSON: Is that, Encodacoda, is a different town?
STOSBERG: It's a different town and it's a little further up, too bad wedon't have video here, but I have a map of Malawi here, And it's on the coast about half way up the lake and Encoma was about thirty miles away from ----------(??). They were both in central Malawi but Encoda was on the lake. And we would get a lot more fish there. We had Tambo which was the fish that we caught em in the lake. We could get about three ----------(??) a piece. And we had fresh fish every day. And that's when I first came to love fish. The other thing I haven't mentioned is the politics. You see I have here in front of you and I can describe it, a cloth that the women wore on their back to carry their children. And it was kind of a commemorative cloth of the Republic of Malawi in 33:001966. It became independent in 1964. And then it became a Republic in 1966. And this cloth I have has the Malawi flag and a picture of the president. Can you imagine carrying your baby with George Bush on your back? (Wilson laughs) And that's effectively what they were doing.
WILSON: That's right.
STOSBERG: There was Swiss doctor in Encodacoda that kind of becamefriends of us. And he let us go watch surgery one day which was something I probably couldn't have got done here. I was like as far as I am from here to you next to the surgery. And the guy was taking basketball sized tumors out of people and stuff. And he just let me, let me watch it. That's one experience I remember. I was asking my kids, I talked to my son on the way over here and I said, Steven, what 34:00stories that you remember growing up that I used to tell about the Peace Corps. What he, he mentioned Kilimanjaro. The other little story that he mentioned was in Encodacoda where, in both places we had cooks and house boys because it was just the way things were done then. My cook had rescued an injured Baboon and it was a baby Baboon and so the cook would be walking around the kitchen stirring up a lunch and dinner whatever he had this baboon clinging to his leg. And the baboon stayed with us like that for a month or so. And then unfortunately he got a little bit bigger and some dogs got a hold of it and I think it got killed. But that's just a memory that's kind of unusual.
WILSON: And what were you teaching then the second year?35:00
STOSBERG: The second year I was teaching English too, mostly English Imight have taught a little history.
STOSBERG: And these were about the same age students.
WILSON: And again you had a Peace Corps roommate or--
STOSBERG: It was a three room house, bedroom house and there were threeof us guys in there. And then there might have been some other Peace Corps people in another house on the campus. Maybe it was a four bedroom house. I remember three or four people. I'm not sure. One thing was there were four of us I guess because three of them played bridge and I didn't. Well you guess who learned to play bridge. By the end I got to be a fairly good bridge player but I probably couldn't play it very well now.
WILSON: So you had quite a bit of contact with other Peace Corps36:00volunteers.
STOSBERG: Right. Right.
WILSON: And I think you said you traveled with--
STOSBERG: One of the things I did, talking about interaction with thestudents and the Malawians, while I was there I helped do a play with the kids and here it says Encodacoda Day Secondary School Dramatic Society presents The Quarrel and the Wheelbarrow. And it names the students that are in the play and its who did the costumes, the musical direction, the assistant director and the director, D.S. Stosberg. Now what my qualifications were to do that play, how that came about I can't remember. But this play was produced on October 8th, 1966 at 8pm. And the dramatic society presents their sincere gratitude to our 37:00headmaster Mr. Entowa Kiera. Without his encouragement, assistance and cooperation the production would not have been possible.
WILSON: Well, good. So that's an example of something beyond theclassroom.
STOSBERG: Beyond the classrooms right. Right.
WILSON: So you finished your Peace Corps service in 196--
WILSON: And what was it like coming home? Or how did you come home. Didyou come directly home.
STOSBERG: No I didn't come directly home. I had a friend who was goingto be ordained a priest in Rome. And I happened to, I was lucky to arrange my travel, you may remember that you get so many miles on a 38:00ticket that you can go out of your way as long as you don't exceed the miles, cause the Peace Corps gave you a ticket home. So I think I stopped in Nairobi, then I stopped in Athens, I stopped in Israel, then Athens, And then I landed in Rome about the time he was to be ordained. So I took an extra two or three weeks there so I would be, I think I got out in like early December and I was at his place in maybe around Christmas time. Or about mid December. It didn't take that long but probably a week or so to get to there. And then he and I traveled on to Germany, Paris, then Germany, then to London. So I had for many years that was, all that travel meant a lot to me. And as you know, 39:00that experience of being out of your own country, a feeling of the needs of the people of seeing the poverty in Malawi, all that kind of thing, that'll live with me for many years. Now I didn't later get a chance to travel back to Europe.
WILSON: What about coming home. What did you do, how did you feel aboutyour experience?
STOSBERG: An interesting thing that happened, a lot of the Peace Corpspeople had already planned to go to graduate school and I came from a class, working class of people who thought you were educated when you had a BA degree. I never had thought about going to grad school but being around the Peace Corps people made me begin to think about grad school. So I did decide to apply for grad school. I must have applied from overseas because I was admitted to UK in Political Science by the 40:00time I got home. Another interesting thing, that was about the time of the Vietnam War, and I got a draft notice when I was in Rome. I was honest enough to tell them where I was. And I got back and I got my, I had to go for my physical, and I wasn't quite radical enough in those days to probably run to Canada but I felt that I'd done my service to the country and I didn't want to do another two years in the Army. So as I was going through my physical I had never had very good eyes, I'd always wore glasses, they did some of these real quickie tests and my eyes didn't show up very good so they pulled me aside and sent me into an optometrist. I presume for a second round of tests. And while I was in the chair, I had always heard that you wouldn't get out of the Army because of your eyes. I'd probably still have to serve in those days. But I made sure I told the optometrist that I'd just come back from the Peace Corps and I don't know if he ran the numbers up or not but 41:00I was put on whatever category it was that meant if the war got really bad they'd pull you in. but I didn't have to, I ended up not getting drafted because my eyes were bad enough. And I always like the think that the optometrist gave me some good numbers, I don't know. (laughs)
WILSON: So then--
STOSBERG: Oh then, I'm sorry, you were asking what it was like whenI got back. Well then after I got out from going to the Army, I did that test like between Christmas and New Years, I immediately went to grad school and I was feeling a little lost and little lonely. It was hard. But I really wanted to meet women at that time and then I met my ex-wife at a party for ex Peace Corps volunteers and there was about six of us ex Peace Corps volunteers. You know my wife Julie, former wife now, and we ended up dating and then after about a year or two, 42:00I got back in January of 67 and we got married in October of 67. And then I was at UK about a year and a half and got my Masters Degree in Political Science. Too dumb to know that if I interested in politics that I should have gone to Law school instead of Political Science.
WILSON: I guess that gets us talking a little more about what you, whatyou've done since. You got your masters--
STOSBERG: Well, yeah, I'd like to, I mentioned one way how the personI had met from Zambia just recently. I'd like to mention a couple things where the Peace Corps influenced my life that I think are 43:00pertinent to this discussion. One is when I was in, a job as an executive director of an association in 1996 and I had put myself on a list of for international volunteer projects and I got a call while I was unemployed about volunteering in Bosnia. And I actually almost went to one project for some reason that got delayed and I got a second call. And ended up volunteering as a voter registration, a UN volunteer supervising voter registration centers in Croatia. I did that for three months in 1996. That was a very interesting experience, again not necessarily a fun experience cause I was over there with an interpreter and isolated in an apartment, one person by myself and my interpreter was off in the evening but it gave me a great insight about the Bosnian War and the Croatian War. And the Croaks and the Bosnian 44:00Croaks and all that stuff. I understood it a whole lot better after being over there. And so I was very glad to have that experience. And I sometimes mention that as an interesting thing that I've done. The other story that I, we're jumping all around here but, the experience of taking the risk in the Peace Corps was an experience that enabled me to take career risks or bold steps later on in my life. And I want to tell a story. When I was, by the way, I had my first airplane ride in my life as a result of the Peace Corps. I didn't come from a middle class family, I'd never been on an airplane. My first Peace Corps ride was, airplane wise from Louisville to Chicago on my way to Albuquerque to go to my first Peace Corps training. But as I was going to Malawi 45:00we flew out of New York in Kennedy Airport and I knew that in those days, there wasn't cell phones and satellites connections and all that, when I got on that plane I wasn't going to be talking to my mother or my family for a long time. And I still, I have that feeling of calling my mother for the last time from Kennedy Airport and it seemed so massive and knowing that I was going to take that jump across the ocean and there wasn't going to be any leap back. I pretty, it wasn't like I was about to turn back but I can still remember that feeling in my gut of getting on that airplane and how it felt to call my mother to make that leap across the ocean. And I did it and I was very glad I did. I never regretted taking that risk, well-- that experience stuck with 46:00me at other times when I had difficult decision or challenging decision and when I made a decision to leave my safe job which may not have been a wise decision but I left my safe job and ran for Senate in 1990 against an incumbent legislator on minority party, it was drawing on that experience of taking that risk in the Peace Corps that enabled me to do that. And eventually it led to some interesting--
[Side a ends; side b begins.]
WILSON: Interview with Don Stosberg. Don you were telling a story aboutleaving your job and running for the State Senate.
STOSBERG: Yeah. Well it was when I was making that decision that I drewon that memory of taking risk to go across the ocean. I called it kind of leaping out of the airplane of hope that parachute will catch you. And I have a, I talked to my girlfriend about it and I talked to my 47:00family about it. I think, I believe in the importance of taking not wild abandoned risk but psychological risk as an important element in personal growth. And I preach that message to people. That's really the end of the story.
WILSON: Well tell me something about that campaign. And you know, whatmotivated you to do that and what you learned from it because that's an example of the third goal of the Peace Corps to serve at home.
STOSBERG: Yeah and I can think of another third goal thing after I tellyou that story.
STOSBERG: I worked for the legislature as you know for about wellat the time I did that I'd worked there about fifteen years. But I 48:00should probably mention a little bit about how I got there. After I got my Masters Degree in Political Science my wife actually got a job in Frankfort teaching at Kentucky State and then I got offered a job in the revenue department as a research analyst which is a really boring job. I went to a number of other state agencies but eventually after about five years or eight years or so I landed at the legislative research commission as a budget analyst and that was a very important step in my career and it was in that process where I was involved in public policy development and that kind of thing and it's where I got to see the legislative process up close and a lot of my friends, and you might be one of them would say Don you don't seem like a Republican, Don you're not a Republican and how I came to be a Republican was I saw the downside of working up close with the 49:00process of the overwhelmed, of the dominance of one party. How many, and you probably know this as having been in senior management in state government, how many decisions in government are in the legislature are made by the leadership of the party? And how often the minority was having the luxury of speaking the truth. And I really thought that Kentucky politics had suffered by not having a competitive two party system. And I also saw the trend toward the state becoming more republican and while I never did really turn to the right, I did turn a little more fiscally conservative. I didn't think we ought to spend any more than we really need to but as far as the social I'm a social moderate and I'm quite critical of the current Republican administration and some of the stuff they are doing. But any rate, I decided that the 50:00incumbent senator was mostly fluff and needed to be challenged and that I was really Jack, too far ahead of my time cause as you now know, the Republicans control the Senate and if I had run maybe even four years later I might have been in the time when they would have poured more money in. But I ended up raising 22,000 dollars. I got 33% of the vote in the time when the Democrats owned about 10 or 12 or 15 percent of their registration. Way more than a republican had ever gotten. And near the end of the campaign they were really worried that I might actually win. But I was challenging a guy who'd been elected twice in Franklin County and who was the incumbent. I did everything the hard way and don't really now feel very appreciated by the republicans for 51:00some of the pioneering stuff that I did because I ran two other times for the house. One time challenging an incumbent, one time as an open seat. And in all of those processes I feel that by giving competition I made the system a little more accountable. And I really think it's regrettable when you had people in the ----------(??) because there is nobody out there perfect. Umm, but I've learned from that experience. I made a lot of friends and I'm not sorry I ran. I did, I did financially I've been hurt by taking the risk. I went on after the running for the Senate though and became director what was then called the Kentucky Association of Homes for Children. I ran it for five years. It started with a budget around 100,000 and when I left 52:00it had 400,000. And I happen to run into some political problems on my board and I think one board member got me so to speak. I think you had some experience with that kind of thing. And so then I had a very tough time after I lost the job at the Children's Alliance. I ended up working at Lowes for seven dollars an hour for a while and then I got this current job I have as Executive Director of the Kentucky Recreation of Parks Society. I've been there about three years and but I'm not making, I'm doing interesting work but I'm not making very much money. I've probably lost from where I was at the Children's Alliance a couple hundred thousand dollars in income. So I've taken my risk in life but I walk around with a fairly decent conscious about what I've done. There was one other thing I wanted to say, oh, because of my 53:00idealism about the world when I came back, I knew a person in Frankfort who had mentioned, I was interested in keeping my finger in world affairs and I found out about the United Nations association and Bill Miller I think will verify this story, I was recruiting people to come to our little chapter meeting. It was like six or eight or five people at that time. Well one of the persons I recruited was a person named Bill Miller who worked at the Legislative Research Commission. Well as you know, Mr. Miller has gone on to be Mr. UNA and built the chapter and stayed into a very strong United Nations Association Chapter. And I recruited Bill Miller to get involved and I stay involved in that chapter. I still am a member and have kept my finger in international affairs all these years.
WILSON: And Bill Miller was a Peace Corps volunteer.54:00
STOSBERG: Bill Miller was a Peace Corps volunteer too.
WILSON: Changing the subject just slightly and I don't want to take youoff other stories you may want to tell and you're welcome to do that but what do you think the impact of Peace Corps has been generally and what was its impact on Malawi from your perspective?
STOSBERG: And I was thinking about that yesterday and from what I readand know about Malawi today it almost seems like it's in worse condition that it was when we were there in the mid 60's. And it seems from what I've read there, in many parts of Africa it's like that. So whether we made a net gain for Malawi I'm not sure. I think the greatest impact is the impact that is carrying around in the ex-Peace Corps volunteer 55:00and in our attitudes toward the world and what we know about the world when you're considering there's a few hundred thousand of us by now. That is the greatest impact is having all those people, all around the world. You're aware that the Malawi Children's Village which was started by some ex-Peace Corps volunteers won the Shriver Award last year. And that organization works with Aids orphans in Malawi and was founded by ex-Peace Corps volunteers and dumps money into Malawi every year for seeds and bicycles for volunteers and t-shirts and medicines and so that's the impact that I think the Peace Corps is having in the long run. I don't know what the world, maybe, if Kennedy hadn't 56:00announced the Peace Corps we probably would have come up with something like it maybe. I don't know. As you know if you look around our society today and when people are reading this or listening to this in fifty years from now you go into Downtown Lexington and there's Chinese restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants and Ethiopian restaurants, every city in America is full of people who are born somewhere else in the world and those of us who've been in the Peace Corps I think have a better, we're better able to deal with that change that's going on and understand it better and I think we still as a country have not caught up with the impact that the world is having on us. We are still, it's still a sleeper issue and it's going to be for the next twenty years I think. But I don't know where I'm going with that but-- 57:00
WILSON: Well, are you, and I guess this was sort of going to be myfollow up question was what was the impact on you?
STOSBERG: Well I think I've told the impact in that it made me awareof the world. It made me willing to take calculated risk. It made me appreciate African culture. I went to sleep sometimes, I don't remember whether it was Encoma or Encodacoda but I heard the sounds of the drums in the background and whenever I hear African drumming it touches some feeling down in my gut. I think it probably makes me able to reach out to people that are of different color, different culture 58:00in a way that's more comfortable than I would have been had I not had that experience. So it lives with me all the time but I'm probably not doing a very good job of articulating out the--
WILSON: No that's fine. In what ways are you still in contact withanybody from that Peace Corps experience? Either Malawian or other volunteers.
STOSBERG: As I said earlier I had one student that I stayed in contacta long time. I've lost him so there is no Malawian I'm in touch with. There is a couple of ex-Peace Corps volunteers that I exchange Christmas Cards with but I guess I've pretty much lost touch with most of them. There are some ex, my most, strongest Peace Corps in 59:00connection is with the ex-Peace Corps group that gets together here in Central Kentucky. And a few of them are good friends. You know Terry Anderson very well and Terry was in Ghana. And he and I are very good friends. And I have other Peace Corps people like that. That's probably the strongest and the fact that you still want to go and be around those people tells you that it's important to you.
WILSON: You've mentioned both sort of final telephone call before leavingthe U.S. from New York to your mother and you mentioned your son in reminding you of a couple of Peace Corps stories. What would you say 60:00the impact was on your family? How did they feel? How did your parents feel about you going into the Peace Corps and how do your children--
STOSBERG: Well, my mother was not, she was always wise enough to notsay don't do something. She didn't try to talk me out of it but she was not enthusiastic about me going to the Peace Corps. I think after I did it she was very proud of it and understood it. And I wrote her every week and she wrote me every week and as I said, my father was not very involved in my life. As far as my kids it probably, we had, we ended up having an adopted biracial child and one of her closest mentors was an African girl that we helped come over from Nigeria. My former wife was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria and we helped a 61:00woman named Uzoma come over here. And she then eventually brought many of her family over here, nearly all of whom got advanced degrees and Uzoma's children have all done very well in school and one of them got a scholarship to Penn State in Basketball. So that is really a ripple effect from just touching one family and my daughter still stays in touch with this African woman Uzoma and there probably are other, I'm having a Peace Corps pig roast at my farm on April 30th so it is still touching my family. My son Mark went on international exchange to France and probably that was more natural for him because we'd been in 62:00the Peace Corps. My ex-wife, the mother of my children you know, has a degree in Geography so the world is, the big world out there they've probably heard about it a lot more.
WILSON: You mentioned your Bosnian Croatian experience, have you had anyother international experiences since the Peace Corps?
STOSBERG: Yes. I got involved in folk dancing in probably around theearly 80's and in 1985 I went on a dance exchange to Demark with some people from Kentucky and Michigan and that exchange was one of the highlights of my life. Then I went on another one about three years 63:00later and that exchange was one of the highlights of my life. And then later I went on a dance exchange with the Berea country dancers to England and did an English country dance at Stonehenge. So there is some connection. Quite a few Peace Corps people are drawn to dancing. Terry Anderson is a dancer. Between my folk dancing I think, I guess an interesting cross cultural activities and I still remain an active folk dancer today.
WILSON: So do you look to further international experience?
STOSBERG: I love to take, I might when I retire I might do some morevolunteer work as a possibility. I'd like to travel to the Caribbean. I don't know how much more service I might do but I wouldn't close the door on it.
WILSON: Never been back to Malawi?
STOSBERG: Never been back to Malawi. I'd like to go.
WILSON: Yeah. I guess you've answered the next question so I'll skip64:00that. What do you think the role for Peace Corps ought to be today?
STOSBERG: Hmm. Well I think it probably ought to retain its basicrole. I would suspect that it has to be a little more focused with projects that really, since many countries don't need, basic things can be developed internally, maybe taking certain kinds of technology. One of the things, as you see the conflict in the world, in the Middle 65:00East and Iraq, I think that we ought to start focusing on what is probably more difficult and less tangible but teaching people about organizational systems and tools, how to build, how to do small group work, how to build an NGO, how to take a group of people and build a consensus. That's one of the things we do very well in America I think and one of the things that if we have a problem, we form a group and we find a solution. I remember a conversation I had with my interpreter in Croatia and I ask him about why this little town where we, the two of us were, didn't have any art museums. And his attitude was, 66:00Zograbon, which was the capitol, won't let us have any. So for him art and improvement came from the capitol. Not that it was something that a group could get together and produce and I think it's that sense of initiative. It's not just confined to Americans but I think these are the next frontier. George Soros does some very interesting work. I don't know if you are familiar with his work in open society. And it's about teaching about governmental systems. A conflict resolution, if we don't teach groups like the Sunnis, I mean Bush is getting a lot of criticism. I'm a little bit, the doors still open on whether, he didn't know there was a lot of people being killed, if it ends up being 67:00a seed for changing the way peoples make their decision in their lives it could be a positive thing in the long run.
WILSON: In Iraq you're talking about.
STOSBERG: And that kind of thing is needed in Africa cause there isa lot of ethnic conflict. It's needed in many parts of the world. Conflict resolution. And I'm not saying that force is the answer I'm not a militarist at all. I used to get, when I was young I used to get nervous when I saw a person in military uniform. I thought we were way over putting way too much money in military. And we probably still are. But I think we have to have a different way. We have to have a different way of thinking about what we do and we have to not train so many people in defense. We have to train people in NGO building.
WILSON: That is--
STOSBERG: I seemed to have an opinion on about anything you ask me.
WILSON: Well that's good. That's good. That completes the more68:00structured questions I have. But What have I not given you an opportunity to talk about? You have other Peace Corps stories or things you'd like to share?
STOSBERG: I'm sure I'll think of ten of them on my way home. I haven'ttalked too much about food in Malawi. The native food, people ate a cornmeal mush called Encima. And they would have a relish with it called Endiwo which they would be greens or meat or something. It was pretty bland food. I didn't eat too much of it. We tend to eat European food. I thought I should comment on that. There was also, most people lived a subsistence life and the women would grind the corn in a mortar and pestle type thing. It was a wooden, which ones the mortar and which ones the pestle. The bowl was wood, made of out 69:00wood and that was interesting. And then during the time when they were pounding the corn the chickens would lay eggs because they would get the little bit of the hulls that would be coming off of the corn. I have a little book here and I'm just trying to see if it rings any images of farming or if it brings any stories. I mentioned walking through the villages and kids were often dressed in ragged clothes. We did see a little wildlife around. Here's an image of a woman carrying a bundle of sticks on her head which was used to do the cooking with. And a child walking past her down a dirt road. One of the things that's happened in Malawi and all over Africa is the deforestation because people are taking the little bushes that grow and burning them for food and it's really a sad story and there's a lot of work to be 70:00done there. And-- but the uh-- here's a picture of a thatched hut. So out in the villages there was thatched huts and that's what the average person lived with. And here's the Peace Corps Manual. My Peace Corps ----------(??) Malawi. It is a Manual that is written in English and Chinanga. And here's Air Malawi with a bunch of Peace Corps volunteers just getting off the airplane. And some general questions about the Peace Corps. How does one become a Peace Corps Volunteer. And it's written in Chinanga, how does one become a Peace Corps volunteer.
WILSON: And the purpose of that manual was for volunteers or for local71:00people.
STOSBERG: Well it looks like it might have been for local people causeit's in both languages. Are the volunteers paid a salary? No. As you know we were paid a living allowance. And I managed to save half of that. We were paid about eighty dollars a month and I think I saved forty or something. And there were some of my fellow volunteers I remember ----------(??) is in this picture. So I don't know when this thing was printed.
WILSON: Did you, did you get any particular preparation for return tothe United States from the Peace Corps?
STOSBERG: No. I don't remember much preparation. I don't remember itas being particular traumatic. I gave a few talks in those early days 72:00and I was probably bright eyed and idealistic when I came back. I thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.
WILSON: Well, thank you for your time and interest.
[End of interview.]