WILSON: --Peace Corps Oral History Project recording of return PeaceCorps volunteer Tara Lloyd, April 8, 2005. Interviewer, Jack Wilson. Tara, if you would start by giving me your full name and where and when you were born.
LLOYD: (laughs) Tara Louise Lloyd. March 15, 1977, in Mount Sterling,Kentucky.
WILSON: Okay. And tell me something about your family and your growingup in Mount Sterling or wherever.
LLOYD: Well, I think I learned in thirteen houses before I was nine,or something like that. My mom and I added up recently. My family moved a lot. We owned a house in Mount Sterling through most of my childhood, but came and went from the house, moving around as my dad 1:00did different portions of his medical training in different parts of the country. He worked for NASA for a bit and we lived in Texas, and in Florida. He and my mom lived in Germany for a while, and I spent some time there with them. My dad was in the Air Force. He was a navigator in the Air Force and so he had some really strong ties to Germany. And people came and went from our house. We had exchange students when I was a kid. We lived in Baltimore when my dad was getting a public health degree in Johns Hopkins. But mostly Mount Sterling felt like my home. My grandparents were from West Virginia. I don't think either set of my grandparents had ever really traveled outside of the country. So we sort of came and went from their old home as a kid. Those were the memories that I had.
WILSON: Both your mother and father from, well, Kentucky and WestVirginia.
LLOYD: That's right. Right. Right. Both from West Virginia. And2:00then came to Kentucky when my dad took a position at UK right before I was born.
WILSON: Okay. So where did you do your primary school and yoursecondary?
LLOYD: Well, Mount Sterling and Texas and Baltimore, all of thoseschools as an elementary student. And then by the time I was in fifth grade, we had moved to Lexington permanently. So I went to Sayer (??), which is a private school here for a couple of years. And then onto public school at Morton and then Henry Clay. Graduated from school in Lexington.
WILSON: So you graduated from Henry Clay in?
LLOYD: In 1995.
WILSON: And went to college where?
LLOYD: Went to college at the University of Virginia. I felt like Iwanted to get as far out of Kentucky as I could get. (laughs) UVA's 3:00not that far to have gone away, but I'm the oldest of four children and my mom was resistant to my going even out of the state. My dad's the traveler and dreamer. My mom's the nester and homebody, and not very interested in doing too much outside of her own comfort zone. So she wanted me to stay within driving distance. And I went away to college and lived with my cousin and sort of stayed pretty close to home, in my opinion. Came home on the weekends and things.
WILSON: And what did you study there?
LLOYD: I was a cognitive science major, which was a new interdisciplinarymajor that somebody came up with at UVA that was essentially the study of the mind and thought processes. And I had to take different courses in computer languaging and the philosophy of language, and old linguistics courses about languages that aren't spoken anymore. 4:00And my specific study was autism and the loss of language in children with severe disabilities like that. So I wrote a thesis about autism in young children. And worked at a school with an applied behavior therapy approach to those children. So I worked all throughout college as a teacher at this school doing one on one work with autistic kids.
WILSON: And when you graduated, what did you do next?
LLOYD: I joined the Peace Corps. (laughs)
WILSON: And how did you decide to do that?
LLOYD: Well, I had worked all of my summers at a camp in California forkids with disabilities. And I knew I wanted to do something in the special education field. I didn't want to be a teacher. I had enjoyed being a one on one teacher at this school, but I knew I wasn't ready for 5:00public school classrooms. I didn't have an education degree. Didn't particularly want to go work for a group home here in America. I had been abroad as a junior to Italy. I went to art school for the year.
WILSON: Where in Italy?
LLOYD: At Florence, at the art institute there. So I sort of had thetravel bug, not a lot of money, on my own. And I had thought about doing something just totally, just packing up my bags and just setting out to see the world by myself. And I realized that probably taking my mother into consideration I needed to do something a little bit more accountable. Peace Corps seemed to me a very reliable, accountable organization. You know, medically, politically. I felt like if I were to get into some sort of trouble, that they would have me home. If my grandmother got sick, if I ended up getting hurt, if the situation 6:00in the country where I was sent became unstable. And so in that way I felt like my mom could probably stomach the idea of my being gone for that period of time. And also, UVA when I graduated in 1999 was like a hotbed of investment banking and consulting firms coming to snatch all my friends away. And I didn't even ever go and interview. We had on-grounds interviewing. Everyone in the world went and interviewed for these big hundred thousand dollar a year starting positions working ninety hours a week at Goldman Sachs or something. And I just couldn't, I didn't get it. I couldn't even imagine what was happening. And Peace Corps was setting up interviews and I just thought, I think that's what I want. I had met a lot of people who said they always wished they'd joined the Peace Corps. And I guess my fear was that ten or twenty years down the road I'd be saying the same thing. That 7:00I should just go while I had the nerve to go. So I just interviewed right there, on grounds, and I think in September of my senior year, I left that following November.
WILSON: So had you known people who had served in the Peace Corps? Orhow did you learn about the Peace Corps?
LLOYD: I did have a very close friend who was in Paraguay in the early'90s. Her name was Kelly. And she was the camp director at the camp that I mentioned that I worked at in college. And she was a real hero of mine, somebody I thought who was living their life right. And she talked to me a lot about Paraguay. I somehow was already interested. I mean, I don't remember Kelly introducing the Peace Corps to me. But I definitely wanted to see her pictures every night and listen to the tapes that she sent home to her mother about her experience. And I felt like I had somebody sort of holding my hand through the process of 8:00the very, very long application. I mean, the process of wading through all of that. So she's the primary person that I had to lean on during all that time.
WILSON: Okay. So tell me a little more detail about that longapplication process. What you had to go through, and so forth.
LLOYD: Yes. Well, I think I'm the sort of person who gets an idea andwants it to happen. And I knew I wanted to join the Peace Corps. Like I said, my friends were interviewing for these jobs. And I just wanted to have an answer for what on earth I was going to do after my college graduation. But that answer did not come for a long time. I applied in September of 1998. And I did not arrive in Lesotho until the following Thanksgiving of 1999. So my application took over a year. 9:00Primarily that was because I wasn't really, obviously I couldn't go until I graduated. And then I really wanted to be a special education volunteer. I felt like that was my only area of expertise at all. I think some of the sort of philosophy of the Peace Corps to send college kids away to other countries in the world to teach them something was not really something I was totally comfortable with. I felt much more like I was going to learn. And if I had anything to teach, it might be a little something about special ed. But certainly not just because I'm American do I have something to share with the world. So I stuck to my special education thoughts. And there were only a couple of countries in the world that Peace Corps served special education volunteers at that time. I think there were four. So it took a long time to wait 10:00for a country to come along that needed a volunteer that was going to leave about the time that I could leave. And then in the process of waiting, some of my medical records expired because you only have a year from the time that you first go to the doctor and the dentist and all that to actually get on the plane. So I had sort of a chaotic experience towards the very end of my leaving after I got my assignment to go to Lesotho. I think I was called maybe a week or ten days before I was supposed to depart and told that my dental records had expired and there was no way they could get me on the plane to Lesotho, and that I was going to have to wait until February to go to the Dominican Republic instead. But, like I said, I had wanted an answer for so long about where I was going. And in some ways, I'd just been making up answers to people, saying, "Of course I'm going to Lesotho. Yes, it's 11:00all worked out and I know exactly where I'm going to live and exactly what I'm going to do." And tired of everybody saying, "How can you go do something when you're not even sure where you're going to live?" So I didn't let go of Lesotho. I said, "I'm sure that we can get new dental records in less than a week." I went to my dentist, begged that he would take out my wisdom teeth and everything else that needed to happen. And I was there! Showed up at the Radisson. They just barely allowed me to still come. I got to the Radisson Hotel in DC where we did our staging before we departed for Peace Corps training. I wasn't on any of the rosters. I was sure they didn't have a plane ticket for me. Nobody seemed to know I was coming. It was a little alarming. But fine in the end. It was just the hotel that had messed up, not the Peace Corps. They did have a plane ticket for me. No big deal.
WILSON: And you had your dental records in hand.12:00
LLOYD: I had my dental records and my wisdom teeth were gone. I wasready to go. So in that interim, I went back to camp for one more summer. I came home in September and my father has a Christmas tree farm, so I just worked up there and tried to take it easy. Said goodbye to everybody in my life. Visited friends. Just tried to keep my bags packed and ready to go, keep my mind clear and open if I could. I mean, I was definitely nervous about when they were ever going to let me know for sure. But in the end, it was all right.
WILSON: You mentioned that you'd actually interviewed on campus.Tell me something about the interview process or the actual formal application. Is there a test, or was it--
LLOYD: No. Just a really, really long application. Lots of questions.It was my impression that the Peace Corps was pretty hard to get into, and that I should be as open minded as I possibly could. And when they 13:00asked me questions like did I have a country of preference, did I have a church I needed to be near, was I worried about leaving my boyfriend, all of these sorts of questions, I was as careful as I could be to not say anything incriminating. I said, "You can put me anywhere in the world you want. I don't have a boyfriend that I'm going to miss. I don't need to be near a church. I can be sent as far away from here as you can send me. Fine." But really, I was pretty anxious about being sent to Africa. That was the one part of the world that I, naively so, was a little bit uncomfortable about. Because I didn't know anything about it! And I thought I'd much rather go to South America or Eastern Europe or somewhere that I have some context for, and that seems a little bit closer to home. And I think I voiced a little bit of that in the interview process. But not enough to get me in trouble. I just 14:00remember it being kind of fun. The woman, Eileen, who interviewed me was great. A returned Peace Corps volunteer herself. I think she'd been in Malawi or somewhere near where I ended up going. And I felt comfortable and excited about it. And I just remember there being a lot of questions and a lot of stages of medical examinations and things like that. But yeah, nothing too specific about the actual application. It's just that the process of going from paperwork to plane ticket took a really long time.
WILSON: Was there a, some people that I have talked to from the earlierdays talk about a language aptitude test. And I was interested, given your linguistics background, was there such a thing as part of your process?
LLOYD: No. No, not part of that process. Our language training alltook place in country once we arrived. We were all at different levels 15:00of understanding about language structures in general and foreign languages. And we were sort of all thrown into the same pot. And then trained over the nine weeks that we were in training. And then there was a language aptitude test at the end of that process you had to pass with some degree of basic conversation skills in order to be placed in your site.
WILSON: Had you had a particular language in college?
LLOYD: Italian was what I had taken in college.
LLOYD: And then spoken in Italy.
WILSON: Okay. All right. That connects those two things.
LLOYD: Right. Right. So I felt, and I'd spoken some German because ofthe exchange students we had. And my dad is a fluent German speaker, reads the German newspaper every day. So I mean, I had been exposed to foreign language in that capacity, the idea that it's not impossible to 16:00learn. But I certainly had absolutely no background in Sesotho, which is the Bantu language that's spoken in Lesotho.
WILSON: Okay. Tell me then something about, further about the stagingprocess, and then your in country training, which you've already started. But give me a little more detail.
LLOYD: Sure. Staging was just a couple of days in Washington, DC. Iremember having some feelings that I was going to be probably the most conservative person any of these Peace Corps volunteers had ever seen. I pictured Peace Corps volunteers to be grungy, dirty, hiking boots underneath sort of rag skirts. And probably all graduates of NOLS, which is this National Outdoor Leadership School, where you go spend six months in the bush. And I thought oh, gosh, wait till they see me. I'm just going to be the most conservative person they've ever seen. 17:00And I walked into the staging room at the Radisson, and I thought for sure I was in the wrong room. Because all I saw were women, first of all, in skirts and sweater sets and brand new never used hiking boots, and you know, people talking about how they'd never really been on a plane before. I sat next to a girl who became one of my dearest friends who said to me on the plane ride, "Wow, this is so amazing!" And I said, "I know, I can't believe we're flying to Johannesburg," you know. "It's the longest flight in the world." She said, "No, this plane. I've never been on a plane." And I thought what? I thought everybody had to work up to Peace Corps in exactly the way I had. You have exchange students, get brave enough to go to a foreign country. You try it out for a year. You come home. Then you get really brave and you get on that plane for two years to somewhere you've never been. But she'd never left the state of New York. And did just great. So 18:00staging was sort of about getting to know those new people. I remember that they said, "Look around this room. These people will become your closest friends. You may marry someone in this room. This is sort of your departure from the life you've known into this life where this is your new family and support structure." And I remember thinking well, that's ridiculous. I didn't come here to say goodbye to my friends. I don't need new friends. I love my friends. And I'm certainly not going to marry any of these women. (laughs) So I don't know what they're talking about. We were a group of sixteen. Four were men. But that, and actually that was as many men as had arrived in Lesotho in a long time. We arrived to a lot of the Peace Corps volunteers who were female greeting us at the airport because they had heard four men were arriving. (laughs) I guess they were a little starved for attention.
WILSON: Was there any explanation for why so few men?19:00
LLOYD: No. Just the case in Lesotho. There were about a hundredvolunteers during my time of service, and about eight or nine men in total, including the married couples. It was just a really, I think because Lesotho did not have agriculture volunteers, we just had education volunteers. It's a country where a lot of people who were older came because so near to South Africa that medical care is a very easy thing to deal with. So some of the people whose cases were considered medically fragile came to Lesotho. And for whatever reason, they were just a lot of women. A lot of teachers. And that was an interesting experience. But staging was fine. I remember being homesick and nervous. And I guess I thought everybody would be right about my age, right out of college. And it was very interesting to me to see people in their mid-career or retirement coming. I felt like 20:00for some reason it was much braver of them, because they were leaving an established life. And I was just packing up the few things I had, which was almost nothing. I shared a room with a woman who was just my mother's age, who got on the phone crying to say goodbye to her daughter just before I got on the phone crying to say goodbye to my mother. (laughs) So it was amazing to me that it wasn't just parents saying goodbye to their kids, that a lot of these people were leaving their children. And definitely that was a comfort. I mean, she and I still talk about that moment of feeling like, well, I guess you can be my surrogate daughter, or mother. Just kind of looking around feeling like we're all in this together, no matter where our backgrounds are, it doesn't matter now. And lots of getting to know you games and things like that that felt a little contrived but necessary. A lot of 21:00people were worried about South Africa having such a high incidence of rape. A lot of the women voiced that concern, that they wouldn't be safe. My primary concern was that I wouldn't be able to eat anything. I'm scared to death of food, anything other than my sort of comfort food. And I think we were all asked to draw an illustration of our biggest fear. Some people drew some pretty unpleasant assault like illustrations, and I drew a plate with eyeballs on it. (laughs) So there you go. That was my fear.
WILSON: So you survived the staging and got on a plane.
LLOYD: Flew through Amsterdam. I got off and went to the Anne Frankhouse, even though we were told absolutely, absolutely under no circumstances were we to go into the city of Amsterdam. We were 22:00to stay in the hotel for twelve hours during our layover. And I thought that seemed a little crazy to me. I had a friend who lived in Amsterdam who was meeting me to have lunch and go to the Anne Frank house, so I just went on into town anyway. But at the expense of being kicked out. Had anyone found out that I was at the Anne Frank house, I would have been in some serious trouble. I guess that was the beginning of some of Peace Corps' handholding, which was also a surprise to me, the idea that as adults we needed to be supervised to that degree was sort of a surprise. But we flew through Amsterdam. We arrived in Bloemfontein, South Africa. We were picked up by lots of sort of screaming, singing, happy Basutu women doing dances for our arrival, and a lot of Peace Corps volunteers who came to meet us to take the bus ride back with us. And they sort of sat with us on the bus and answered our questions about where we were and what it was going to be like and how their Peace Corps experience had been. This 23:00has all stopped now in Lesotho because they've decided that the capital city is too dangerous for the Peace Corps volunteers to be in and out of. So there's no greeting the volunteers and driving into the capital with them anymore, or anything like that. Which is unfortunate, because it was a nice, a nice thing to feel so welcome. And then we went straight to our training area, which was a convent. It looked a little like army barracks. We'd been told we were going to live in a university town during training, with families. I imagined we were going to get just dumped right into the culture. I was excited about that. The university town turned out not really to have a university at all. And we were very, very protected. We didn't go into town for the first week at all. We stayed on the convent grounds. And it was a 24:00long while before we started taking sort of cultural expeditions to the taxi rank or to the local market to see where we were. And that was kind of a complaint of some volunteers that they felt like we've come all this way, and we still don't really know we're in Africa. We'd like to see what it looks like outside these walls.
WILSON: And what was the, what were the training components? Or how didthat develop?
LLOYD: Training was great. I think it was really well organized. Alot of it had to do with language. A lot had to do with culture. Primarily teachers who were on their summer break, because we arrived in November, so the height of Lesotho summer. Teachers on their summer breaks lived with us. Lived, ate, showered.
WILSON: In this convent.
LLOYD: In the convent. Right. We didn't share rooms, but we sharedeverything else.
WILSON: And these were--
LLOYD: Mostly women. Yeah. All Basutu. Mostly women, some men. And25:00they had structured training such that we had a very tight schedule. We knew where we were to be at all times. We spent a lot of time just in a classroom type setting, sort of lined up listening to different things happening. We had a certain number of hours of language instruction every day. We pretty quickly got divided into groups based on our abilities and how quickly we were learning the language. I was amazed by the language process, which was, I think, by far my most positive experience of Peace Corps. I kept asking questions about when we were going to learn how to conjugate verbs and why we weren't learning anything about the grammatical structure or how to read Sesutu. And they kept saying, "Because it doesn't matter. You're learning to speak this language and hear this language." And they would come to us and sort of put their hands on our throats and say, "No, no, the sound is more guttural than you're making it. You should feel it here. Up towards your tongue, and not so far back." Really hands 26:00on language listening and learning and practicing. We had to go into this sort of dining hall area and only ask for food in Sesutu or they would pretend they couldn't understand us if we spoke English. And it was great. We learned a lot, we learned it fast. There were women in their seventies who said, "I'm never going to learn to speak this language" who passed their proficiency tests just fine. It was just very intensive, very well put together language. And Peace Corps has been in Lesotho for thirty years. So they know a lot. These teachers knew a lot about Americans and what we've learned about our language, maybe, and what our holdups are in terms of learning Sesutu sounds that we can't make that you learn to make only as a child. Things like that. And then the cultural thing was great, too. It was very 27:00much like what would you say about American culture and what we take to be kindness or rudeness or acts of graciousness. And a lot of us were sort of uncertain until we did different little exercises that showed us that oh, we do think eye contact is important. Oh, that's interesting, I didn't really realize that. In Lesotho, eye contact means sexual suggestiveness. So bad idea to approach an older man and make eye contact to show you're serious about something, like maybe a county official or something. That would be my invitation to him that I'm sexually available. So, you know, there were some pretty serious things we had to learn pretty fast. We learned a lot about dress code. They had asked us to wear, I mean, also my impression of a Peace Corps volunteer in Birkenstocks was very wrong. We had been asked to not bring Birkenstocks, not bring Tevas. Both sorts of sandals. And to 28:00dress, it was called business casual, smart casual, I think, is what they called it. And they wanted us to have a long skirt with a slip, ironed every day. And to not expose any part of our legs. We could wear tank tops, sort of sleeveless things, if they were modest. But we were supposed to look pretty professional. Which was hard, living in a mud hut with no electricity. But something that's very important to the culture. The impression of Basutu about Americans was that we were dirty, we don't take enough showers, our hair is much too long and gross. The women would always say to me, I have long hair, they would say, "Your hair is so old. It's just unfortunate that you won't shave it. You would be so much prettier." (laughs) So anyway, there was actually a girl who came with dreadlocks who got asked to leave. She was an African American girl. She got sent to a village. The 29:00village said, "We think she's dirty looking." I mean, here this African American girl thinks she's going to Africa finally, she's going to be accepted in a way she's never felt accepted in a primarily white school that she's grown up in here, I think it was Ohio. Got to her village and was told, "If you don't shave your head, you can't stay." And so she got taken into the Peace Corps office and they said, "So what are you going to do? Are you going to shave your head or are you going to go home?" And she said, "I'm going to go home. This is absurd. I've been growing my dreadlocks for twenty years," or whatever. So it was really a different impression. I mean, we had to behave in a very different way than I'd imagined. But still, training was a pretty insular experience. I mean, we were driven around in Land Rovers everywhere we went with big American flags on the side. And not really a participant in the culture until training was over. I was just going to say that rather than actually getting a taxi to see what a taxi 30:00felt like, we put all twenty people in a Land Rover to see how crowded a crowded car can feel. But I mean, a Land Rover is a Land Rover, wherever you are. It wasn't particularly Peace Corps.
WILSON: And did you have any particular job preparation? Were you all todo the same kinds of jobs?
LLOYD: We were all teachers. I kept raising my hand during training,saying, "But I'm not a teacher. Maybe you don't realize, but I'm not qualified for this job." Everyone else had graduated from a teaching college, except me. And I kept thinking they don't know I'm not a teacher. Something is really wrong with this situation. But I had care experience, so they kept saying, "You know how to take someone in a wheelchair to a toilet. You know how to deal with behavior situations with these kids." We were not all special education 31:00volunteers. There were six of us who were special education, and the others were to be teacher trainers in early childhood education and primary education. Nobody was going to actually teach a class. They had decided that the day the Peace Corps volunteers taking local people's jobs and fulfilling just a very specific need while they were there for two years were gone. What they wanted was a Peace Corps volunteer who would teach the teachers some interesting new techniques that would hopefully reach sort of farther in terms of, I guess, scope of training to lots of teachers. And so special education volunteers were to be placed at the university, where we were told where we would conduct a classroom setting, or be the teacher inside of a classroom for a group of people learning about special education for the first time. But they had never, I guess they had never had special education 32:00in Lesotho. It was the first time they were ever to introduce children with disabilities to their school system. There had been a big UN Rights of the Child sort of declaration passed right before I became a volunteer that said every child has a right to an education. And Lesotho had adopted that philosophy and called in Peace Corps to say all right, we'll bring these kids to school but we don't know what to do with them. So the six of us that were special education volunteers were taken aside during training. We were taken out to see a school at one point. We were taken to the university. There's one university in Lesotho. Taken to the national university to see what a classroom looked like for the teachers. We went to meet with the head officials at the Ministry of Education. All of these things, of course, just seemed like part of training to us. We didn't realize we were meeting the most important person in the country in terms of education or being 33:00the only university. And when we all look back on it we think gosh, we should have been taking notes. We should have been introducing ourselves to these people. We should have been figuring how on earth to get a meeting with them. Because after training was over, we sort of lost those connections, and we could never have gotten back into the head office of the education building. But we sort of knew what we were prepared for, I guess a little bit. We were told that two of us were going to be selected from the six to not work at the university. One was going to go and work at an orphanage for deaf and handicapped children. And one was going to go and work at the only pilot school in the country to try having special education students before the teachers had been trained. And that volunteer would go find students, well, find kids in their homes who'd been, basically, sleeping in a back room for years because people were worried that maybe they had 34:00been bewitched, things like that. Tell the parents, "It's fine for your children to come to school. Your children are not bewitched. They will be just as accepted at school as anyone else, and I'm going to help them through that process." And then sort of set up a way for the teachers to handle that at the school. Teach the teachers what it means to have a child with a disability in your classroom. Help them learn how to take a child to the bathroom who cannot toilet themselves. What to do with an autistic child in your classroom who's banging his head against the wall while you're trying to teach spelling lessons, etcetera. So I was very firm in my interviews during training that I didn't want to be that person. I wanted to be the volunteer sent to the orphanage. I thought that that was my sort of best chance at knowing what I was doing. Because those kids would require just regular care and schooling. But I wouldn't have to be such the focus of this new program in the country at the only pilot school, or teaching in a 35:00university when I'd never had any education courses myself. We were interviewed during training every week. Asked how we were doing, what was the likelihood we were going to quit, what was the likelihood we were going to stay, what site most appealed to us. Did we want to live in the city, in the mountains, near other volunteers, not near other volunteers, sort of what was the hardest thing for us this week.
WILSON: And were you given feedback as to how you were perceived youwere doing?
LLOYD: Pretty well. Yeah. I mean, I think that they did that a littlebit. I remember being told that I was doing fine but I wasn't wearing my slip often enough. (laughs) And that my skirts weren't always ironed. And I thought I don't really know how to iron here, because there's no electricity. But things like that that I needed to clean up my act a little bit with my slips. But yeah, that your language is coming along well, those sorts of things. So I was very firm about 36:00wanting to live in the mountains. I wanted to live very far away from other volunteers. I had not come to Peace Corps to just sort of reinvent college and hang out with people. I wanted to be immersed in the culture, and I wanted to live somewhere beautiful. And to me, the cities and towns in Lesotho were not beautiful. But the mountains were beautiful, and the little villages. And that's where I wanted to be. And I kept saying, "The orphanage is the only position I'm qualified for." So, towards the end of training, we were all revealed, it was revealed to all of us where we were going to live. And our trainers had gone out and taken a video snapshot of our lives. They had videotaped our bedrooms and our bathroom facilities, if there were any, the village, the school--
WILSON: So there were predetermined housing?
LLOYD: Uh huh. Yes. Exactly. Peace Corps had determined sites for us.And everybody knew, the village knew to expect a volunteer. And in 37:00some cases the village had sort of asked for maybe an older woman, or a man, or somebody who knew what they were doing or, you know, whatever. But I think the Peace Corps trainers were, during the whole process of training, trying to see who was the best fit for what place. And so the time came to have our sites revealed. We all sat in front of this television and one at a time saw where we were going to live. Some people clapped and were excited; some people cried. Some people's sites were much, much nicer than others in terms of whether their house had windows, and whether they seemed to have a family that was excited. And, you know, I guess everyone had sort of different parameters for what made it a good site or a bad site. But I cried. (laughs) I was given the only site in the country I really, really didn't want. Which was living in the middle of camp town in basically a shed where sheep 38:00had lived before me, with burglar bars on my windows, teaching at the only pilot school in the country, trying to be the model for all the pilot schools to come. And I just didn't feel qualified, and I didn't feel like they had listened to me in terms of not wanting to live in town. The town where I was to be placed had Peace Corps volunteers about twenty years before that, but then had been deemed too dangerous a place to live for Peace Corps volunteers. So I was to be the first person sent in to see whether it had cleaned up its act or not. I was sent actually with another Peace Corps volunteer named Adimu, who was from Compton. And he was an African American man who was going to be a primary school teacher. And he and I were friends in training, so it was sort of a comfort to have him going with me. We lived, obviously, in different houses. But I lived near a lot of volunteers. During 39:00the time that the capital in Lesotho became too dangerous for the Peace Corps volunteers to live, they closed what was called our transit house, and the Peace Corps office asked me to be the transit house. So I had volunteers visiting me all the time. Coming through my home on the way to the capital, because I was the closest site to the capital. To you know, sort of go to the post office or the bank or just have a little home base while they went into the capital for the day to have a meeting or check their email or call their mother and then come back and stay with me at night. I had a two-room house with one bed in a little bedroom, and a kitchen that was pretty small. So having constant visitors was really not what my Peace Corps idea had been, you know, at all. And I learned when I got to the school that the group of teachers selected to be the pilot school teachers didn't choose to be the pilot school teachers. And it took me a really long time so sort 40:00of figure out who in fact had identified this school to be ready to be a pilot school. Because none of the teachers seemed to really know why I was there. And I was asking them to do a lot more work than they had been previously doing, of course, having special education students come to a really overburdened school as it already does. Teachers in classrooms with a hundred kids. No functional outhouses or bathrooms at all. It was pretty rough setting. So to say, "You've been selected to have special education students sort of join the rank," was a pretty big deal. And difficult for me to figure out who had decided this was a good idea, who had asked me to come, who had decided that I should set this program up. It turned out that like a district official who was not related to the school at all had made this decision. So the teachers had to be enrolled into the idea that they even wanted this 41:00to happen, that it was a good idea to be a pilot school. But I sucked it up and got excited about it. And we got placed in our site. We were there for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the millennium new year during training. So we'd all sort of been through a lot emotionally in terms of missing our families and things. And I think it was January twentieth, maybe, or thirtieth or something that we were placed in our actual sites and told to begin our work.
WILSON: So that training process, you said, was what, nine weeks?
LLOYD: About nine weeks. Yeah. Yeah. We got there a couple of daysbefore Thanksgiving, and sometime toward the end of January we were placed. But they had worked it out well. The school break was over for the summer and school was back in session just a few days after we were placed in our site. So there wasn't a lot of downtime to get depressed or be worried about what on earth you were doing there. And my teachers were very gracious about giving me a long time to just 42:00observe the school, figure out how it was functioning as is. Was very welcome. They sang every day. They made me a traditional dress to match the uniform of the other teachers. They called me their little girl. They, you know, the teachers would come in the evening to take me places, to the market or to the post office. There was a whole list of things Peace Corps made them do to ensure my safety, like practice emergency response calls from the police station on the radio to the capital when, you know, it was sort of a big deal that there was a white girl in town. There really had not been a Peace Corps volunteer there for a long time. And Edemu (??) and I were, sort of shared a lot of that training process. But because Edemu (??) was African American, he was accepted completely differently than I was. He had a girlfriend. He went out at night to bars. He was sort of this fun 43:00new person who'd moved to town. But much, people didn't believe he was American, at all. And they just liked him. He was fun. He just kind of became a part of the culture while I sort of stayed in the fishbowl, I wonder what she's doing in there kind of, people were very nice to me but very interested. Wanting to touch my skin and my hair. Apartheid in South Africa had only been over for five years. So it was still a very new concept to see a white person in the country. And people assumed that I was an Afrikaner or a Boer. And so I had to speak the language, and speak it well and speak it fast before people assumed I was there diamond mining or something like that, or in some sort of exploitation. I mean, that was just, you know, it was an adjustment to get used to that perception of what people would think of me and how to 44:00get on everyone's good side fast.
WILSON: So what did you, what did you actually do with the school? Howdid you set up this pilot?
LLOYD: Yeah. Well, I took a little while to get my feet on the groundand understand the way the school system worked. And then I just called my Peace Corps volunteer colleagues who were special education volunteers and said, "I really need your help." And one at a time, three different trained teachers who were teaching at the university who had been my Peace Corps friends in training, came and stayed with me over the course of a couple of weeks. Maybe a few weeks each, I can't really remember now. And they taught me what a special education program in America looks like. They showed me how to test the children 45:00for all sorts of different disabilities. They showed me some ideas for how the teachers could make adaptations in their classrooms. They just helped me figure out what it was I needed to do. And I sort of took it one piece of the project at the time. I let my friends show me how to figure out who had a disability, an then I did that for a few months. And then once we had decided that these certain children had these different needs, I set up a schedule for myself where I was going to work one on one with a certain number of kids at a certain schedule every week. I was going to work in a small group setting with all the children who had what I considered to be a learning disability, or who were visually impaired, or had a hearing impairment. And then I was going to go into the classroom certain periods for different 46:00teachers and observe their teaching, and help them stay-- I mean, I had teachers coming to me saying, as soon as they knew what a disability was, I mean, the first thing I had to do was have teacher meetings in the afternoons and say, "Okay, one hour per meeting we're going to focus on each different disability. Here's what a physical disability looks like. Here's what a mental disability looks like. Here's what a learning disability is." So we could all sort of learn what they were. And then--
[Tape one, side a ends; tape one, side b begins.]
WILSON: Side two of interview with Tara Lloyd. Tara, you were talkingabout what you were doing with teachers, and how you were teaching them what a disability was.
LLOYD: (laughs) That's right. So I guess where I was going with thatwas that pretty soon the teachers decided everyone had a disability. Everybody who ever did anything wrong was disabled. And they would send these children to me, and I would say like, "Okay, today is my day 47:00for testing all the standard two students," which would be like second grade. "Anyone you suspect has any sort of impairment, send them to me. I'm going to do hearing tests and visual tests and memory tests and attention deficit tests," and whatever. And I would have every single one of their student lined up outside my door, sure they had a disability. And then I would go into the classrooms and I would find the teachers standing at the chalkboard with the students facing away from the chalkboard. So they're facing the back of the classroom, chalkboard's in the front of the classroom, teacher's in the front of the classroom, and the teacher's saying, "Can you believe they don't pay attention? They don't even write down what's on the board. They're all disabled." And I would say, "Well, maybe we could switch the benches around. They could face the chalkboard. And then they'd be more attentive. How about that?" And they would try it, and maybe it would work and maybe not. I mean, it was very interesting. There were classrooms with really a hundred children, mostly not at desks 48:00or even seated on benches. Many without pen or paper, doing a lot of rote memorization of, the radio program would come on in English and it would say, "Hello, girls and boys. This is Thabo Mpele saying hello to you from our nation's capital. Hello, girls and boys." And they would recite, "Hello, Thabo." And then they would do this whole rote memory, "I am a girl. I am in standard two." And that was how the lesson went. Not even really involving the teacher, but involving this radio program, for a lot of the younger students. And then they would just have different English lessons. All the school was taught in English. So many of the children spoke only Sesutu at home, didn't speak English, and didn't understand a lot of what happened at school. Not because they were disabled, but because they were being spoken to 49:00in a language that wasn't their primary language. So I just got really involved in trying to figure out where to start that made sense for all of us. Because it seemed to me that it wasn't just the integration of special education students that needed to happen, but perhaps backing up a few more steps to figuring out how to better organize a classroom and how to better teach from your own experience rather than just from these rote English lessons that had been memorized. And many of the teachers didn't speak wonderful English. And they were to teach in English. And I kept wishing that we could just return to Sesutu, teach a science lesson in Sesutu so it's not English that you're trying to learn, but science. But it had recently been passed at a national level that all school had to be in English. So there was sort of no turning that around. But I just had a little office at school. And I had teacher meetings in the afternoons, and I saw my students that I 50:00was working with individually at certain times. And I had a couple of students who I really took on as my personal project. Sort of three kids in particular. One little girl was in a wheelchair, so she, somebody had to go and get her in the morning in order for her to be able to come to school. And I was always trying to entice different students to go and do it by giving them some kind of reward at school. Because it was about an hour journey from the school to her house and back. Uphill, most of the way. Lesotho is all mountains. It has the highest, I think, average elevation of any country in the world. So when you're talking about sending the kids away for an hour to go pick up a girl in a wheelchair and push her uphill the whole way back, it's kind of hard to talk them into doing it. But a lot of the kids were helpful and excited to help me, this American needed something from them, and that was exciting. So that little girl became somebody I 51:00really focused on. I had to teach the older girls to take her to the bathroom. And you know, in America we have like all these two and three person policies. You would never have somebody alone in the restroom with somebody else. You'd worry about abuse and all these other things. And certainly never send children to toilet other children. But I really didn't have an option. Because sending a teacher meant taking her away from a hundred kids. So we got that little girl's program set up. I had a child that I thought was autistic, which was interesting because in America during that time there was a lot of talk, and I guess there still is, about autism possibly being related to over-immunization. This kid had never been immunized for anything. So I thought it was interesting that he displayed all the same signs of a child with autism here. His mother's father had left her because he had, the way autism happens, a child develops normally until they're 52:00about two, and then they start to regress. And that's when it happened with this little boy. He had started to lose his language skills, start urinating on himself, stop being able to feed himself, started doing all these like repetitive, impulsive behaviors, like banging his head against the door, and things like that. And so the father had just decided that the mother was crazy. She'd bewitched this child. He left her. And she was devastated, and thought she had, actually, in fact caused this to happen. She'd been to see different physicians in Lesotho and South Africa. Nobody knew what it was. They told her that maybe she had caused it. And an interesting thing happened with that little child. Peace Corps sent us Newsweek magazine every two weeks, I think, and we got all this clutter, clutter, clutter mail. And I would let the kids just cut them up and make posters out of them or whatever. But one Newsweek magazine arrived that had a child 53:00on the front who was autistic. And it say, "What is autism, what is happening to our children." And I brought it in to one of my favorite teachers and said, "This is what Thabo has. This is what autism is." Because my just talking about it hadn't seemed to really resonate. But here was this article in this international magazine with a white child on the front and a white mother saying other people have this, and it isn't your fault. And here's what happens, and here's how you can help. And the teacher that I was working with helped me translate the whole article for this woman who sat in our office crying that maybe she wasn't the only one. And so thankful to know that. And so I became that child's one on one teacher. And I set up lots of different programs for him to be able to communicate. Like I cut out pictures from the Newsweek magazine of lots of different foods and things that 54:00he might be trying to ask us for. And I just used a lot of the things that I had learned in the school in Virginia to give this kid some language. We did all these different things with him. Like I made him a board. I went to South Africa and bought Velcro and a piece of like Masonite board. And I made him a communication board that had all the different things he might need during the day. And he was supposed to come up to you and tap you on the arm and then hand you a picture of an apple or something like that to say he wanted an apple. And then be able to get an apple from a teacher, from a student, from somebody at a grocery store in town. So that to get an apple he wouldn't strip all his clothes off and grab one from the nearest girl and go running off screaming with it. Because he was quickly becoming sort of what the town considered the crazy kid. So that was a really rewarding part 55:00of my Peace Corps experience, working one on one with this child. I was trying to teach him to go to the bathroom. He had cinder blocks where he was supposed to go to the bathroom. And he kept just taking all his clothes off and peeing in the middle of the classroom, which was obviously very disruptive. He didn't have a toilet, so I couldn't cut a toilet out of the Newsweek magazine to give him to show people when he wanted to go to the bathroom. So I drew a picture of a cinder block and made that one of his communication keys. And he was to walk up and tap you on the arm and hand you his cinder block picture whenever he needed to go to the bathroom. And then walk with him to the bathroom, help him take his pants down and go to the bathroom, you know, whatever. He was six or seven years old. So he was sort of learning all these things just for the first time. And then there was one other child who had a pretty serious physical disability but could walk. He also had some sort of mental disability as well. And he 56:00was one of my good friends, Teboho was his name. And I also made home visits to his house and tried to help his family better understand how he could participate in normal things like gardening and helping them out around the house and stuff. So I think I probably did less for the school itself and more for those three children because it was really more what I was comfortable with and what I felt good at. And I kept trying to help at school, but truthfully just a couple of months into my Peace Corps experience, one of the teachers at school died of HIV. Nobody was saying it was HIV, but it was quite clear it was HIV. Her husband had just died and her daughter was sick and she was wasting away. And it was becoming clear to me that a lot of the teachers were sick. Many weren't saying they were sick. But even though I'd gone to do special education and I was supposed to be doing that at school, I 57:00was realizing that if the teachers were going to be dying, it was not really going to be worthwhile to work on some long term sustainable program to bring the school up to par. If the teachers were sick, that seemed to me to be the most immediate problem. And so my project started to sort of shift focus around that once I realized how many people were probably infected where I was living. But interestingly enough, Peace Corps had not really addressed that during our training. Lesotho currently has the third highest HIV rate of infection per capita in the world. At the time, it was the fourth highest. But the Peace Corps office was in a lot of denial about it. And our training was about how not to get infected ourselves. But there was no addressing what it might be to get out in the village and realize our colleagues were dying. And so none of us had been really that 58:00prepared. I mean, I certainly didn't go to Africa thinking I wanted to be a health worker and maybe I'll get sent to the middle of the AIDS epidemic and have a real chance to help and get involved. That was not my intention or even interest. But I was placed in my site in January. By June, there was the first workshop around HIV awareness the Peace Corps had ever hosted. Some volunteers from Zambia who had started using something called life skills training in the school systems came to talk to our Peace Corps volunteers, just the ones who were interested, in how they might start to use HIV training in their regular projects. So even though I was still working at school and still working with the three kids I was working with, I quickly became really interested in becoming an HIV focused volunteer. And I went 59:00to that workshop in June. And things started to sort of fall apart for me at school. My experience at the school lasted for one year. Towards the end of the year a scandal that became, I don't know how to describe it but sort of a big deal, broke out at the school. My mom is a teacher here in America. And she wanted to send some books so we could have a library at the school. I went to the school and said, "Do you think it would be nice to have a library? My mom wants to have a book drive." They said that would be great, why don't you go to the board of directors and ask them if you can use what's called the building fund to build this library. Because the kids pay school fees, and they've been paying fifteen rand a year for many years to the building fund, each child. There's like seven hundred kids at school. And the money's never been used. So this will be great. So I go to the board of directors and say, "How about letting us use the building 60:00fund to build a library?" And they said, "The building fund has been squandered by the teachers. Years ago, they stole the building fund money. So I don't know why they would send you to ask us that." So I went back and said, "The board of directors said that you stole the money. So I guess we can't build a library." And I mean, I just got sort of put in the middle of a mess. It became a huge question. Had the teachers stolen the money? Had the board of directors? The building fund was gone, where was the building fund? Radio Lesotho, which is the only big radio station sort of in the country got a hold of the story. We started having these huge parent/teacher meetings where I had to go dressed up in my traditional Sesotho dress with all the teachers in the middle of the summer, wearing a blanket, because that's the traditional dress, over my dress. So sweating to death, sitting in these parent/teacher meetings. Understanding very little of what was happening, but hearing my name over and over. Knowing that 61:00somehow I'd caused this, but I didn't know why or how. It was very scary. And Peace Corps basically came to me and said, "The situation where you are working has gotten much too political. The radio knows that something's happened, that your teachers have been fraudulent. The Peace Corps cannot support this project anymore." And I said, "I still feel like I have a good relationship with the teachers. I'm still working with these kids. I'm still working at school. I'm not uncomfortable, even though these meetings are sort of weird and I'm not really sure what's happening. I don't have to have a library. That's fine." And Peace Corps said, "No, it's not really your choice. You can either go home, early terminate," which is what that's called. "Or go to a different site anywhere in the country that you'd like. Or find a different project but stay in the house where you are and continue 62:00to live in the town that you've become comfortable living in." So I said, "Okay, I choose to stay in my house, and in the town where I am. And I'm just going to shift gears and do HIV work, primarily." So I made an arrangement with the teachers. They were, Peace Corps came in the Land Rovers, screeching up to the school. "We're taking Tara. She's not your volunteer anymore. You messed up. But we hope that you understand that she still wants to live here and she still wants a relationship with especially the three students that she's been working with at home." I was living in a house that the school was paying for, with furniture that the school had provided me. And the teachers were gracious enough to say that I could still live there and still have the furniture. Apparently a lot of the building fund money had been spent on my furniture, which was certainly never something I would have wanted to have happen. I thought I was going to live on a straw mat on the floor. And I got there and they had bought me a bed from South Africa and a kitchen table from South Africa. And all this rat 63:00proof storage stuff for the kitchen. And painted my room this really scary color of yellow. But apparently it was very expensive to do all this. And I was really sorry to learn that. But the teachers decided I would continue to live in the house and I could just do whatever I wanted to in town. And so that's when I officially became an HIV health educator, and left my position as a special education volunteer one year into my service.
WILSON: Okay. So then what did you do as a HIV health educator?
LLOYD: Well, I went to this workshop in June. I was told that Icouldn't come to the workshop unless I had a counterpart from the local community who was doing HIV work. Because they didn't want just the Peace Corps volunteers to learn about some interesting new practice. So I tried to figure out who was doing HIV work in town. I went up to the local Red Cross, which turned out to be just sort of a dirt 64:00floor, no electricity, very small building with one woman inside named Mpho who was working, she wasn't really working, she was sort of just sitting there, trained in HIV education. But with no funding and no transportation, no telephone. So she wasn't doing a whole lot, but she was kind of ready to go. So I said, "Would you like to come with me to this weeklong workshop at a hotel to learn about something called life skills?" What life skills is, is rather than directly talking to children about sex, you talk to them about good decision making and how to say no, and what it means to respect yourself. It was sort of the idea that we could get safe sex practices across to these adolescent kids if we could put it in a different context. And you know, the ABC. Abstain, be safe, or condomize, which is what everyone sort of has as their lingo. 65:00
WILSON: And did that program exist in Lesotho?
LLOYD: It never had before, no. It was started in Zambia by some HIVhealth educators there and some Peace Corps volunteers. And it was really working. They were doing all these skits where the girls were saying, "No, I don't want to come back to the house with you alone after dark. No, thank you!" And they were practicing saying no, and they were practicing saying, "That makes me feel uncomfortable." And learning what it meant to stand up for yourself, sort of sexually. Understand what assault was, understand what incest was, understand what HIV was. But in a less threatening context than just a sex education class which their parents would never have let them attend, for one. But they also wouldn't have been that comfortable with, Lesotho was a Catholic country. The schools were run by the Catholic Church. Ninety-five percent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church. So there wasn't a lot of talking about your body at school. 66:00So life skills was a new idea. Mpho said sure, she'd come to a weeklong workshop at a hotel. She'd never been to a hotel. She knew that we'd get good food and probably have a toilet, which sounded great. And so we went up to the local hotel in town and there were a group of Peace Corps volunteers from all over the country with their counterparts, come to learn about HIV in southern Africa, really. And we watched a video about Uganda where the government had really taken a strong stance against HIV and sent a lot of public awareness messages about it. And there's a young woman who's HIV positive named Olivia in Uganda who became a huge spokesperson for standing up and saying anyone can be positive, you don't have to look sick. And really was a very brave woman who kind of went first in a lot of sort of public speaking about HIV. So we watched, this group of us watched all of these 67:00things and we learned about life skills and we practiced life skills lessons. And we all made action plans for our community. What should we do in order to figure out how to start talking about HIV? People were not admitting it was happening. Clearly more people were dying than had died before. But everyone was saying people were dying from tuberculosis. And so Mpho and I had a great week. We became friends. We felt like we can do this. We can figure out what's happening. We lived in a town called TY, Teyateyaneng is the name of the town.
LLOYD: It's T-e-y-a-t-e-y-a-n-e-n-g. So we said all right. Our actionplan was to go to the head of TY and say what's happening. What HIV education have you done, where do you think we should start, what's your plan here at your office for addressing this. But then secretly, 68:00or not secretly, Umpo (??) and I were thinking what we're really going to do is take life skills to young adolescents. We want to have youth clubs. We want them to talk about sex. We want them to understand HIV. We want them to know why they're burying their parents. Let's talk about this. The district secretary, who became a really good friend of mine, and who I was really blessed to work for, said, I was blessed to work for him because he didn't treat me like a woman. Women in Lesotho don't have rights at all. Absolutely no right to open a bank account or to make your own sexual decisions, or make your own medical decisions. And you certainly as a woman in Lesotho would not walk into the district secretary's office, pull up a chair at his desk and say, "I've come to talk to you about what on earth it is you're doing about HIV." Never. You know? So I sort of, there was a line out his office, you know, all the way around the block and around the next corner. And I thought I'm never going to get anything done if I don't 69:00just go in there and say, "You have a meeting with me." So I think he thought this girl is kind of nuts, but I sort of like her. And we became friends. And Mpho and I said to him, "What's going on?" And he said, "I'm sorry to say, nothing is going on."
WILSON: But he was aware of the problem?
LLOYD: He was aware of the problem. And in many ways, he was much moreprogressive than-- Lesotho's broken up into ten districts. He was the head of one district where we lived. And he said, you know, "Nothing's going on. But I understand why people are dying." Which was a huge thing for him to start with. There was something called a District AIDS Task Force, which was a top down, head of Lesotho government deciding each district would have a task force. A representative from each of the different banks and post offices and I don't know, law offices. Whatever. People would come together and be the task 70:00force and do something about HIV in their districts. But our district had all these people appointed by the government to be on the task force. They had no idea what they were supposed to do or why they were just now supposed to come to like Saturday meetings. Which they weren't doing. There was no incentive. So nobody had ever met as the District AIDS Task Force; they'd just been appointed as such. And he said to both of us, "You will never be allowed to talk about HIV in the community, to our children, unless we believe it's here. And we don't believe it's here. I believe it's here, but that's because I'm educated." And you know, whatever. "But most people don't believe that this has happened. And especially the village chiefs don't believe it. And so whether or not you want to go talk to the young girls, the people you've got to talk to are the chiefs. And I will help you." And so we decided that we were going to launch the first ever HIV/AIDS Chiefs Training Workshop, chiefs and traditional healers. He 71:00also thought the traditional healers because they're sort of the noble people in the community should be addressing it as well. So we said okay, we'll train all of the chiefs in the whole district of Berea, which is where TY is sort of the head town. And I thought well gosh, there could be what, like thirty? That's great. Let's start with the chief. And he said, "There are, in total, five hundred." (laughs) So Mpho and I are both thinking how do you train five hundred chiefs? What are you talking about? But he had a plan. He said, "They are required to come to a yearly meeting at a certain place. There are sort of like five focal points where the chiefs come together. So there's like a building where they already know what to do when they're called to this place." And he had jurisdiction over a certain area. And he could say, "It's mandatory that you come on February the first to a weeklong HIV/AIDS workshop." And you can't say you're not coming. 72:00And so he sat with us. We looked at the calendar. We decided when it was planting season, when it was different sort of, we couldn't do it during different important periods of rituals for the community. There's still, circumcision school still happens for both men and women, so it couldn't be during circumcision school because the chief presides over that. It couldn't be during planting season. And so we picked that time, and then I approached the Peace Corps for funding for our project. And I got something a SPA grant, which is a Small Project something, SPA, it's an acronym grant to host these workshops, a series of five workshops. So about a hundred chiefs at each workshop were called together to come. And Umpa (??) and I started designing what we thought curriculum should be. And we had learned a lot of 73:00things from our workshop in June about how to talk about the immune system. People wanted to know often where you'd been bitten, why you can't see that someone is infected. A lot of people didn't have any basic science training. So you couldn't just say, "HIV attacks the immune system." You had to say, "The immune system is what we have to protect our bodies," and do skits and things like that to show what a pathogen is and what different, I don't know, sort of functions of the immune system are. So we designed a curriculum, which we got some help with from different people who were doing HIV work in the capital city. And we basically translated all of our worksheets into Sesotho, we called different people in from different organizations to come and present the material. We got funding to pay their transportation 74:00reimbursement. We had to cater the event with local women supplying food. In Lesotho, an event is not an event unless there's an animal slaughtered, and unless you have tea twice a day. So here I am as an American thinking we've got to pack as many sessions into each day as possible because we're paying all this money to have people here every day. Let's not have a weeklong workshop, let's have a three-day workshop. Forget that. If you're having tea twice a day, you can't have, you know, nothing happens. So I was sort of always the center of everyone's frustration in a joking kind of way. Ach is the word people say, a-c-h, when they're upset with you. And they would say, "Ach Ausi,," which means "sister." And my name is also Mpho in Lesotho, which means "gift." "Ach Ausi Mpho" you'll never let us have our tea. She is such a stickler for this time clock." And all this just sort of funny talk. But we started the workshop and we said, "How many 75:00people think that HIV is here in Lesotho?" And maybe one or two of a hundred people would raise their hand. "How many people notice that more people in their village died this year than maybe five years ago?" More hands to come up. And we would sort of just do this sensitization around where are we now, what do we believe is happening, what do you think is happening to people? Everyone said, "Oh, tuberculosis is happening." And then we just conducted the workshop. I did none of the training myself because I'm young, I'm a woman, I'm a foreigner. There are a lot of myths that foreigners brought HIV, that we mean to be killing people, that condoms are killing people, that condoms are infected with AIDS, that women don't know anything, anyway. So we did as much asking older men come in to speak as we could. But we also had Mpho who was at least a local woman present some of the sessions, 76:00once people got more comfortable with the subject matter. You know, we had all sorts of interesting, crazy things happen. I decided, because nobody was coming on time or staying the whole day. They were coming, because they had to. But then they were sort of coming three hours late and leaving three hours early. So I set up a system where they only were reimbursed for their transportation if they arrived on time and if they stayed the whole time. So I was sort of the bane of lots of people. Frustration, they would say the same thing, you know, "Ach, Tara, she makes us stay for all the sessions. Grr-r-r." You know. "Don't you know we have to get home?" A lot of them had come by horseback. A lot of them had walked. I couldn't afford, I couldn't find money to pay for them to stay anywhere. Because it just meant so much more in terms of preparation. Lesotho people don't show up and just sort of hack it on the floor. They need to be comfortable. They 77:00need to be able to iron their slips in the morning. There's sort of a ritual to the day that can't be disrupted. And I just couldn't figure out how to make that happen. So Mpho and I would go with other Peace Corps volunteers and other presenters up to wherever it was in the rural area that we were to have our weeklong session. And depending on how welcome we were by the community, we'd be given anywhere to sleep from the chief's house to a rat-infested corn shed, which was the worst that ever happened to us. Or maybe someone's empty office. So we would sort of set up shop, sleeping on the floor, cooking on a little camping stove, bathing together, really, in a bucket. And all this was sort of not okay with Mpho, the local woman. But I guess she chalked it up to weird Peace Corps volunteers sleeping on the floor, and tried it out herself. But our workshops were a success. 78:00It was very exciting. We sort of had different measures for that, but we certainly had a lot of just more openness as the week went on about how comfortable we were with HIV in general, and saying that it was happening. Because it's a really important thing that when a chief buries a person, he doesn't say, "One more person lost to tuberculosis," but says, "One more person lost to HIV." Because if people don't start to acknowledge what's happening, it's obviously nothing is ever really going to shift. And so that was a pretty big deal to get the chiefs to say that yes, they might be able to consider starting to admit that at funerals. Of course that brings with it all sorts of implications for the family, who then could be ostracized or might not receive life insurance because right now the South African companies that people have life insurance policies with don't pay if you died of HIV. So the families often don't want to write that on the death certificate, which is a pretty big problem, obviously. But 79:00the chiefs have some role in at least making it public. Maybe not that public a manner, but sort of talking about it among themselves. We had one really successful workshop that we still laugh about where at the end of the session, we'd gone on a week and we said, "Okay, we are going to leave these condoms up here on the table in front of the room. And we're going to leave. And we'd love you to take some if you'd like some back to your community. Here's all the information about where to get more for free. The National Drug Association will deliver them to your village. You just have to be comfortable having condoms dropped off at your house. If you don't want to take them, we understand." And we left. And the number of chiefs that got up and ran for the condoms that were sitting on the table were so many that I have a picture of this pile of like eighty year old people with canes flying 80:00on a table that they broke with the force of just their excitement about running to grab these condoms. So Mpho and I are both sort of standing outside, peeking in, thinking oh my God, this is amazing. They so want these condoms that they broke our table. Not good, but, you know, we'll figure out what to do. And we had to run in and help people get up from this pileup they'd caused. And just a sign, we thought, that this was actually helping and working. Then they were all to sit and make action plans for their community. How were they going to take back the information that they had learned, how were they going to make HIV/AIDS education something that was accepted in their village. They were told where they could get different people to come in and do education groups with the women, with children, with whoever, so that they had some way to take this information back to where they were in charge and make some kind of systematic change. And then when 81:00they invited us, we did a follow-up awareness day where we went out to the village. Well, we went back out to one of the five local points of the district, and found a big wall that was public. Like once we used the side of a church, once we used the side of a district secretary's office. Once we used the side of a hospital to paint a huge mural that said, "Unity in the fight against AIDS" in Sesotho. And then anyone that wanted to have their hand painted and put on the wall. And we did a big AIDS ribbon. And the chief spoke about what he or she had learned at the workshop. And then we gave out AIDS ribbons and condoms and had skits. And we just called it an Awareness Day. And the intention was that people in the village would see their chief standing up for this. And so we were excited that all five of the focal areas where we had worked invited us to come back out for an Awareness Day. 82:00And when I went back to Lesotho to visit just this last year, in 2004, I saw all the murals that we did still functional, still in full display. Nobody had built a house in front of any of them or painted over them or whatever. And so it's, I think, been a really neat thing. We definitely ran into some resistance. There was one place where the mural actually reads "Unity in the fight against the fight against AIDS" which of course contradicts itself. (laughs) And that was just somebody playing a game with me. I was the one that painted it, sort of tricking me into writing something that didn't mean at all what I was trying to say. And then the village came and apologized to me for embarrassing myself. This is on a huge main road, where everyone sees it all the time. So we had to go back and fix it, of course. Which was a lot of work and a lot more work and a lot more of my trouble and 83:00everything else. But it's just sort of, I guess, par for the course. And then what happened with the workshops is that because Berea was so successful, my district, because our district secretary was so helpful, we decided, Peace Corps office decided that this project could be reproduced countrywide. And so I became sort of the first HIV/AIDS educator the Peace Corps ever really recognized. And I came into the capital a lot and had meetings at the Peace Corps office about what exactly the volunteers needed in order to be successful. That everyone needed this life skills training, that everyone needed their district secretaries talk to about what they might be able to do for the Peace Corps volunteers. I wrote an application for grant money to the Bill Gates Foundation, and we were granted enough money to reproduce the chiefs workshop around the whole country. And then the intention was, 84:00of course, that once the chiefs were trained, then you'd go on to the different leaders in the community and different groups particularly at risk. And that Peace Corps volunteers wouldn't have to be so in the front line of this, but that other groups would come in, the Red Cross and CARE and some other people who were working in Lesotho. When I went back in 2004, I found the Peace Corps volunteers still conducting chiefs workshops. Which it's sort of become a joke. A couple of the Peace Corps volunteers said to me now, "Oh, can you believe these stupid chiefs workshops that we've been doing forever? All the chiefs have been trained by now. I don't know why we still have to do this." And I thought ooh, obviously they don't know I was any part in starting this. But also, it just sort of means that like the next step wasn't taken, which is a little worrying. I'm not really sure why. But Peace Corps is in a totally different place in terms of acceptance of this. 85:00I mean, now the Peace Corps training, life skill training is a part of training from day one. They're told they've landed in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. They're told what that's going to look like, that they may lose colleagues, that they're going to see children die. People are talked to about it during the application process. Do they think they can handle living in a country that's under this sort of stress? And Peace Corps is approaching it in a totally different way, which is definitely a comfort to see. And the biggest success was towards the end of my service, after I had worked with Peace Corps office for a while, HIV/AIDS became something that all the volunteers were talking about. Of course, everyone was having the same experience I was, watching the teachers at their schools die. Watching children get sick and feeling like wait a minute, maybe talking about like how to better farm corn meal isn't the most urgent situation right now. 86:00Maybe I need to think about being a health educator even though I don't know anything about it. So we were able as a group to talk the Peace Corps office into inviting health educators, people who were trained, from America, to come and be not education volunteers but health volunteers. And so there are about thirty people in country right now who have been a part of this program now since about 2001, I think, when the first volunteers arrived. First group of health educators had two women who had master's degrees in public health come to be health volunteers. And then I think the next group had about ten. And this last group, I think, eighteen. And so altogether in country there are a lot of health educators. And it's just sort of become an accepted part of Peace Corps. Nobody really worries about how it started. But I think that the country is in a totally different 87:00place in terms of acceptance. I mean I don't, my experience in 2004 was not people saying, "HIV doesn't exist," but saying, "I've lost most of the people in my family. One in two women are affected." Young women, fourteen to I think twenty-four. So I guess maybe the denial phase is over and they're sort of into a new phase of trying to figure out how anything around this issue can really shift.
WILSON: Well it sounds like the second year then was a very successful,satisfying job year.
LLOYD: Yeah. Largely because of the support of that district secretary.I mean, he gave me transportation, which is huge. He assigned a driver from his office to do whatever I needed. Drive around and 88:00pick up paint for the Awareness Day murals. Take all the condoms out the site for the weeklong training. I actually had to keep the condoms in my house, which was sort of a funny thing. I had at one point 9000 condoms in my bedroom. (laughs) Well first I had them in my kitchen, because if I put them in my bedroom there will be all this talk about me. People will think I'm a prostitute, which they did. But the kitchen was apparently worse because people could see in there. And I invited people into my kitchen. So they said, "Put them in your bedroom." And then, of course, that was all pandemonium. "Did you know our Peace Corps volunteer is a prostitute?" And all this crazy talk. Because it's just a weird thing for a woman to live alone, period. But especially with 9000 condoms. (laughs) So I found myself coming home at Christmas saying things to my family about condom demonstrations, and my mom saying like, "Argh! Could you please not 89:00talk about that at the kitchen table? You've gotten so inappropriate." And my grandmother cracking up, saying, "Tell us some more, Tara!" But like here's this person not at all ready to walk into the middle of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but finding yourself thinking what else are you going to do about it? And then coming home, having all these crazy stories about condom demonstrations. Because that was just my experience. I mean, I felt like I didn't go to Peace Corps to do this, but I've landed in the middle of a very important part of history, essentially. And a tragic time. And I'm watching this happen. And I can't not do something. That was not every Peace Corps volunteer's experience. Some people said, "You know what? I came to talk about the environment and I'm going to talk about the environment. And I don't know how to help and I don't want to help and it's too--" I dated somebody who never once conducted any HIV education sessions period, at 90:00all. He just felt like it wasn't his area of expertise and he wasn't comfortable. He was scared. You know, I see that, too. I understand that, too. But your question was was it a better year for me, and it certainly was. I finally felt like okay, this problem didn't really take any expertise. Nobody in the country knew what to do. It just took somebody saying well let's just do something. And then having the access to money that I had because I'm American. And Peace Corps was right there saying I could have a SPA grant. I mean, I had some conflict in my mind about that. I didn't want to just look like access to money to everyone. But I also felt like if I don't go write this grant, how is this ever going to happen? And I tried to involve Mpho along the way so that she would learn some grant writing skills. I mean, the grant we sent to the Gates Foundation was handwritten on legal paper. So I have to commend them for even reading it, really. 91:00But I think that they thought here's somebody and some organization trying to do something. And it's cause they don't have a computer. It doesn't mean we should ignore them. So yeah, I think there's a lot of really positive stuff going on in Lesotho as a result of this. But still, the numbers rise and Lesotho's overall incidence of HIV.
WILSON: So you finished up in Lesotho with Peace Corps in--
LLOYD: I came home the day before Christmas in 2001.
WILSON: So how was coming home?
LLOYD: Rough, for sure. A lot of my friends had graduated from collegeand gotten an apartment and a car and were dating someone or getting married. I felt really behind in some ways, like I was still sort of 92:00twenty-one and didn't know how to buy a car or, in some ways I felt like my friends had grown up without me. Cell phones had happened, which was, you know, I was like at the video store thinking, people seem to have lost their minds. Everyone's talking to themselves. And then realizing that they have little ear pieces in their ears, and they're in fact asking their wife what movie they should rent. And thinking like what has happened? Is this for real? People are on the phone at the grocery store? You know, I don't want to hear your personal conversation. Shut up! And just really, I mean, the world changes when you leave like that. And I was a little bit shell shocked. My computer skills were a mess! My friends had all gotten really, the Internet was sort of introduced during my first year of college in terms of people actually emailing each other. So I knew in 93:00college how to access the Internet, how to use a computer, of course. But two years being gone from that, I mean, people's skills were far surpassing what I felt comfortable with. So getting a job was kind of an overwhelming prospect. Peace Corps had told us, "You're qualified for anything in the world you want to do now, because look what you've done. You've gone to a foreign country and adjusted to their culture, learned their language and made something positive happen. Don't be intimidated when you go.
[Tape one, side b ends; tape two, side a begins.]
WILSON: Tape two of interview with Tara Lloyd. Tara, you were talkingabout coming home and sort of being intimidated, although Peace Corps said you shouldn't be intimidated.
LLOYD: (laughs) Right.
WILSON: Tell me more about that process and, you know.
LLOYD: I remember they said that you might feel more like a foreigner inyour own country than you felt in your host Peace Corps country, which I thought was crazy, like how can that be. But I came home and in 94:00some ways I did. I mean, I think what I was about to say when the tape ended was that I felt like I was talking about things that people didn't really want to listen to. Which I know is a very common experience. You know, everyone says, "Oh, yeah, I got out my pictures and somebody looked at about three of them before they thought good God, you know, you're boring me to death." But basically I just felt like what sort of an isolated life we live here in America. And how my friends, who are very open minded and very intelligent people, really have no idea that HIV is killing a lot of people right now. Or they know and they care but their lives aren't affected by it in any way. And I just found myself out at bars talking about the rate of HIV among young women in Lesotho. And people sort of like yeah, okay. Feeling like I was being 95:00really inappropriate and making people uncomfortable. And not at all trying to make people uncomfortable. But everyone was saying, "Wow, I can't imagine you've been gone for two years. What's it like to come home? And you've done so much. And tell us about it." And then you'd start to tell them about it and they'd be like oh, they'd want to make a joke out of it, for sure. Like what funny story do you have about giving a condom demonstration to eighty year-old men? Maybe we like the story about how you saw a condom put on someone's fencepost to ward off AIDS. That's a good one. But like anything about "and then your neighbor died," uh uh. And I just felt like who am I going to talk to about this. I have all these visions in my mind about being at the funeral of a child. And I'm trying to be normal. I want to be normal. I want to be in people's weddings. I want to have a job. I want to stay connected to Lesotho and my friends there and my Peace 96:00Corps friends, but I also want to just be accepted here. And it was difficult. I mean, I had close friends sort of saying, "Oh, don't mind Tara, she's shell shocked." Or, "Sorry about Tara's hiking boots--" -- which I was still wearing in someone's nice house -- "She just got back from Africa." Thinking like why are my friends apologizing for me? This is not all right with me. And feeling like I just needed to take it slow. I couldn't really imagine being able to function in traffic and at Wal-Mart and with the number of choices that we take so for granted every day. I mean, sometimes I'm amazed that people can go into Wal-Mart and make a decision. How on earth are you supposed to decide what kind of toothpaste you want? I mean, there are five hundred choices, you know? And I have the same experience everyone has, standing in Wal-Mart crying. Crying that we have so much toothpaste 97:00in America. And my mom saying, "You know, honey. Just choose Crest. It's fine. Let's just go." And I'm like, "No! It's not that there's too many choices. It's that there's no toothpaste for anyone in Lesotho!" And you know, what is happening, and why such disparity? Why this distribution issue when I think the world has enough resources? Why did I have to watch people lose their children and think that that was normal? And then I come home here and I sit through Christmas, I mean, good God, it was my fault, I came home on Christmas Eve. I intentionally skipped the Christmas season at the mall, because I knew I couldn't take it. But I didn't want to be at my mother's Christmas dinner table crying. And I was trying not to, because my sister, I mean, I was so glad to see my family and my sisters. But everybody with their like, "I don't want margarine. I want real butter." All these like seemingly really silly, weird things to me. Like "God, 98:00aren't you thankful to just have anything to eat" stuff was circling in my head all the time. And I was trying not to say it, and I was trying to just feel okay. And I just thought, I'm not ready for this quite yet. So I moved up to Fleming County, which is in Eastern Kentucky, to my parents' tree farm. And I lived in a cabin with no electricity and running water, in a really isolated environment, because it felt like Peace Corps to me. And I did manual labor on the tree farm for a year. I wasn't ready to try to get a job. I went into town, into Flemingsburg, which is a really little town, about once a week, just when I felt like I could do it. Go to the Dairy Queen or whatever, and get some stuff at Kroger and come back to the farm. And sit on my porch and swim in the pond. And I had a boyfriend in Peace Corps whose father came about a year into our service to tell him that he was dying of Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS is what it's called. I mean, 99:00I guess that's everyone's Peace Corps nightmare is that something at home, something really tragic is going to happen while you're gone and you're going to have to decide what to do about it. And you're going to have this sort of separation from your family either way, because you've been away, you can't possibly understand what's really happened, and all of that. And so that boyfriend of mine, whose name is Garrett, came home at about the same time that I did. He stayed a few months after his father told him that. But then he eventually left his service early. He had come after I had come to Peace Corps. So he wasn't done with his service. But he quit and he came home. And he essentially lived at the farm with me because we were both like nobody else understands us. And felt like we needed each other. And here I was, thrilled to see my friends, thrilled to see my family, and then 100:00at the farm, not returning phone calls. Because I just wasn't really ready, I guess, to breeze through how your two years had been. And I would ask people, "How have your two years been?" Not wanting to be separated from their experience, wanting to hear about their wedding or about their new job or whatever. And people would say, "Oh, nothing's happened to me. Big deal. I don't even know. Two years have passed and I can't even really tell you what's happened." And I guess I just felt really on my own there. And I mean of course, as time went by and the months passed, I spent more time sort of part of the world. And came back into my own kind of, I guess grounding a little bit more. September eleventh, of course, happened while I was in the Peace Corps. September 11, 2001. So I was coming home to a very changed America. A very fearful America, in my opinion. And people saying 101:00to me, "You'll never understand what it was like, because you weren't here. So you didn't watch the World Trade towers fall." And I guess it's going to be a like where were you when Kennedy was shot question. I didn't, I wasn't here, I didn't experience it as an American. And that was a subject, that was mostly what people wanted to ask me about. I would start talking about HIV or about my little boy with autism and what an amazing thing it was for his mom to read this Newsweek article. And people would say, "What happened when September eleventh happened? Did you get put into quarantine? Did they come for you? Were people angry with you for being American?" And I would think, that's not what I'm trying to talk about at all. I mean, I guess my September eleventh experience was interesting. I did watch some of it on television. The only people who lived in my town who were not Basotho were two immigrant families, one from Sri Lanka and one from Northern Ireland. 102:00Both fleeing civil wars in their own countries, essentially. I mean, not quite civil wars, but almost. And we had been having a conversation the week before it happened about how Americans of my generation, I'm twenty-eight now -- so I was then twenty-three -- have no concept of what real national tragic loss is like. What it's like to be at war. Real world experiences. That we just live our little fun lives and don't think a thought about the rest of the world. And I was agreeing with them, saying they're right, I don't really have any experience of what that might be like. And then a week later, I'm sitting on their floors watching CNN on a satellite powered by a solar panel. Just, you know, in total shock. I saw one of my friends who worked in Goldman Sachs running from the trade towers on CNN. So I experienced this 103:00just like a lot of people in Lesotho, worried to death about people at home. We didn't have telephones. We couldn't get through. Peace Corps was fairly slow to bring us all together, which they did about two weeks later. They brought everyone into a hotel so we could watch the footage, because many people hadn't seen it. Like I said, I lived close to the capital. I did have access to this television sometimes. So I had seen it. But many people hadn't gotten to call their families. So we came together to the hotel to do all of those things. And the ambassador came to speak to us and make sure we were all feeling comfortable and safe and calm. The ambassador said, "Now the main thing I want you to be aware of is that gathering in conspicuous groups is ill advised as Americans." And we were all thinking well then why on earth did you bring every single one of us here with a fleet of Land Rovers outside? You know, with American flags on them. And then you say we shouldn't try to look American. What? You know. Because 104:00I think most of us felt fine in our sites. There was a Muslim grocer in TY who came to me the day after it happened and said, "I just want to express my sorrow to you. And you know that we, my family very much loves you and we hope you will still shop at our store. And we just couldn't be sorrier for your loss." He sent his little boy first, actually, to see if it was okay for him to come. I guess not sure that I would want to see him. I mean, of course I didn't feel anything like anger with him. I don't know. The whole thing just felt very surreal to me. A lot of people thought that I had lost everyone in my family. And my friends at school would come and say, "We can't imagine what you must be experiencing for every one of your friends and family members to be gone." I mean, they didn't understand New York City from America. They thought someone had blown up the whole country. You 105:00know, some people. Other people had a lot more understanding of it. So my friends at home were right to ask me about September eleventh. But it just didn't seem to me to be my entire Peace Corps experience. I had traveled a lot. I went to Madagascar and Botswana and Zambia and Capetown. And I wanted to show my pictures of my fun, and I wanted to show pictures of the kids I worked with and my house. And in some ways I found people who were audiences for that. And in other ways, I guess the people I expected to care didn't always care, and that every once in a while there would be someone I would never have expected to be interested who wanted to look at every one of my pictures.
WILSON: That makes me think of an area that we didn't cover. Aboutduring your Peace Corps experiences, travel outside the country.
WILSON: Recreation or vacation periods, if there were such things. What106:00did you do with those?
LLOYD: Well, I took a lot of vacations. I think I realized that theemotional level of the work I was getting involved in was pretty stressful. And so I allowed myself to take some breaks. South Africa was an easy place to travel in 2000, 2001. We hitchhiked everywhere, which I'm sure seems crazy. But people would pick us up. It was still a very racially charged place. I mean, post-apartheid, people would pick us up and say, "Get in the car! Don't you know the white people might kill you?" Or the reverse would happen. "Get in the car! Black people will kill you!" And we'd say, "Oh, gosh, really? Okay." I mean, of course sort of thinking it was all ridiculous. But realizing we were taking a very measured risk. We didn't have a lot of money as Peace Corps volunteers. Public transportation was not safe. The taxis 107:00had holes in the floorboards, drove like maniacs. The taxi drivers were drunk. Then they'd take you to a taxi rank in the middle of a town you'd never been to where you'd get pickpocketed. And so we sort of decided maybe hitchhiking was safer because people would slow down. We would have a conversation with them. We'd get a feel for whether there was a woman in the car, was it a family, how did they seem to receive us. Sometimes I would ask to see their trunk, to see that there weren't guns in there. And then get in the car.
WILSON: Did you travel in pairs?
LLOYD: Yeah, usually. Or a couple of people together, maybe. And wehad some amazing experiences being picked up by people who would say, "You can't hitchhike in this country. Get in this car. That's not safe. We're taking you to the beach." And take us with them on like a family vacation to their beach house. And say, "You poor people. You haven't had a shower in so long. And when is the last time someone cooked you a steak?" I mean, really gracious people who took us in and said, "We can't believe that you live there in Lesotho. We've never 108:00even crossed the border. But wow, good for you. And we'd like to treat you to whatever for doing this work." Or some people who said, "I can't believe you live with the black people. You're crazy! But we'd like to treat you to whatever." People always asking us about race. If you're American, you must have an opinion. "We know you think that we're racist, but here's why we're really not. Black people just aren't as intelligent." Things like that. All the time. And so we would always sort of be sitting in the back seat like oh my God, what's the code for "get out." We had all these codes amongst ourselves. Pull your ear if you think he's going to hurt you. Whatever. Like if the conversation has gotten so awful that you can't take it. Because we would challenge people to some degree, but when we were in their car and the doors were locked and we were flying down the freeway, we weren't doing a lot of saying like, "Well you are a racist" from the back of the car. Thinking like that can't be a good idea. But we 109:00also had some, I said we didn't have a lot of money, but we were paid about a hundred dollars a month. And at the time, the US dollar was so high. We were trading our dollars for twelve rand apiece. Right now in 2004, it was five to one. So it was costing us about six dollars to stay at a backpacker's, which was like a great youth hostel that was usually like some lighthouse or art museum or library turned into a youth hostel with really creative paintings and free granola and yogurt for breakfast. And we went to the beach. We rented cars and drove to the game parks. I went up to see Victoria Falls. I was in Zimbabwe the day that Mugabe was elected again. I mean, during the time that Zimbabwe was really experiencing a lot of serious, serious tragedy with people being killed and driven off their farms, and Mugabe in power. 110:00I think we felt like we were learning a lot about the world. We were listening to the BBC all the time. And we knew what was happening in Rwanda and in the Sudan. And, I mean, things I would never have known about from America or known to pay attention to. So we were sensitive about being in Zimbabwe, worried about being white in Zimbabwe and that we might get in trouble. But crossing the border to Zambia and seeing Victoria Falls, which is, you know, one of the wonders of the world, and amazing. It just felt easy and fun. I went to Madagascar for six weeks in the middle of my service. Which I should never tell out loud to anyone who's a Peace Corps official. But it was during the time of a lot of that unrest at school for me. And school break was six weeks long. And I thought I would just stay in town. But all the teachers were like, "Well, where are you going? You must be going somewhere." 111:00It was the middle of winter. It was cold and snowy. I didn't have any heat in my house. So cold is a totally different thing when there's no heat. You just never get warm. (laughs) I would boil water and sit in a hot tub of water in the middle of my living room and try to warm up. And walked around in my sleeping bag with my foot sticking out all the time. But when school break came and things weren't good at school, I thought I will just go to Madagascar. And I had an amazing experience, and seeing the lemurs. It was hard. I don't speak French or Malagasy, so I didn't, I mean, I went with my boyfriend and we did the best we could. Yeah. I mean, I had some adventures that I can't even believe I survived, and some that I feel like I'll remember forever. It's just the time of really feeling a lot of freedom and excitement and lots of 112:00really neat, fortunate things happening to us. And I understand that we took a lot of risks. I don't think I would re-live it in terms of the hitchhiking and some of maybe what we did, we had been gone for so long. I just think we thought oh, it's safer than the taxi. But then I would come home and tell my friends, "Oh, you wouldn't believe who picked us up when we were hitching. The prime minister's secretary. So then we went to this place--" They're like, "You were what? Hitching? That's stupid!" But my dad came to visit. My sister came to visit. We traveled. I had a friend come and visit. So they'd stay at my site. They helped me with my HIV/AIDS workshops. My dad's a physician, so he saw firsthand what the AIDS epidemic looked like and was blown away. He's now since gotten people involved medically in what's happening in Lesotho in supporting different endeavors. And it was great to have people from home come, because those people will 113:00forever be the ones that I don't have to explain it to. They saw my house. They saw that it wasn't such a big deal to not have electricity or running water. When my sister came to visit the first thing that happened was that my very best friends, who were the children in my neighborhood who took such good care of me and protected me and came to my house every day and learned to make pancakes and tortillas and all these American and Mexican foods. The second they saw my sister, the first thing they wanted to do was wash her hair, because they loved to wash my hair. I would go sit outside and lean my head into a bucket and they would all take turns because it's so long and so different than hair for them. So they saw Haley and they thought, ooh, more hair to wash! And she let them, on her first day, washed her hair. So those are sort of my most positive memories, I guess. 114:00
WILSON: What, you've made different references at times to Peace Corps'sort of in loco parentis, the restrictions and so forth. And yet you're-- and security issues. And yet you're talking about hitchhiking through South Africa. Tell me something more about the security issues and about how Peace Corps handled those. And your feelings about them.
LLOYD: Well, I mean, I was definitely breaking rules. I guess rulesthat I felt like were a little too restrictive. Peace Corps has changed a lot, even in the five years since I've been finished. When I went back in 2004, I found a very different set of rules instead of, I guess, enforcement. Because when we were there, we weren't supposed to be leaving our sites as much as we were leaving. But nobody was 115:00really checking. The intention wasn't to throw out good volunteers. If you were doing your work and being a positive influence where you were, it was all right if you crossed the border to buy Velcro for your student, or even if you were gone for longer than you said you would be. Not okay if they caught you. But it was sort of the feeling that nobody's looking to catch you. Nobody wants to throw you out. Unless your community came to the Peace Corps and said, you know, "She smokes pot all day," or something like that. Which would have been instantly excused from your service. Their big points were that you kept up a good sort of impression. If you were suspected of doing drugs, even with no evidence, you were thrown out. If you suspected of having an affair, you were thrown out. With the thought being that you might be putting your life at risk. Somebody might come to kill you if you were sleeping with their husband or their wife or whatever. Or with the HIV situation, if they decided you were taking risks that seemed like you 116:00were not making good decisions, then you were also excused. But during the time that I was a volunteer, it sort of felt like if you were doing a good job and you were well intentioned, if you went to Madagascar, no big deal. In terms of the security issues, there had been really big riots in the capital city in 1998 in this area. They had one of the first democratic elections. It wasn't the first, there had been another one. But this was the first one that had ever been really contested or ever really, it had more candidates than they'd ever had before. And riots broke out when party that wasn't supposed to be elected took power, basically. And it wasn't riots that were really very, I guess riots are never very well informed. But this was kids looting stores because some people had started to riot. And something like 80 percent of the infrastructure in the capital was destroyed. So we showed up to a really barren, burned out, scary looking place. And 117:00I guess as they started to rebuild, Peace Corps was, they were worried about us being in the capital, but they weren't that worried about us going to Capetown. And hitchhiking was illegal, riding in the back of a truck was illegal, riding on a motorcycle was illegal. Lots of different things that over the years Peace Corps volunteers had done.
WILSON: Illegal in Peace Corps terms.
LLOYD: Yeah. Illegal in Peace Corps terms. Right. Grounds for beingexcused if they caught you. But the vibe when I was just there now was like they're looking to catch you. They're trying to find you to throw you out. But when I was there, it just felt like take your own sort of measured risks. As long as you're not in the capital, we don't want to know about it. That's where the office is, in the capital. So you can't be driving around in the back of a pickup truck in the capital and expect not to get caught. Yeah, I mean, I guess that's sort of my only feeling about it. I thought they were extremely overprotective in 118:00terms of medical situations. In some ways I though the medical staff was fantastic. I've never had such a good doctor. Because the doctor really knows you. She knew all of us as friends. She was worried about whether our houses were comfortable and whether we had a rash and whether we were getting HIV. I got new glasses. I had some trouble that I needed an ultrasound for, and I got sent to Johannesburg to this very fancy hospital. I didn't feel medically like I was in any trouble, but I also felt like Peace Corps was saying, "You're living at the level of the local people, being paid a local salary, living without electricity and running water. But if you stub your toe, we're going to show up in a screeching Land Rover to pick you up and whisk you to Johannesburg." Where, of course, nobody in my community would have been treated like that. And it just sort of felt like a game a little bit. Like I don't want to be treated so differently than the people that I live around who don't have those options. Not that I want to sit here 119:00with a broken leg because nobody else has access to a hospital. But it was just kind of, I guess just something I thought about a lot. And a lot of the older volunteers felt very controlled by the Peace Corps. At one point, Peace Corps took everyone's passports because they said that it was important that they hold onto them, I guess it was around September eleventh, in case we needed to evacuate. And people thought like how absurd is that? I'm closer to the border than I am to the Peace Corps office. I can't make my own evacuation decision? You're going to evacuate us together somewhere? And how will I even know it's happening? And some people just paid a lot more attention to the rules than other people did. I guess that's always true.
WILSON: I diverted you when we were talking about your coming home andwhat you were doing. And I left you up in Flemingsburg at a tree farm. 120:00
LLOYD: (laughs) It's true.
WILSON: Tell me-- [doorbell interruption] So tell me a little aboutafter Flemingsburg and what you're doing now and so forth.
LLOYD: Okay. Well, yes. I emerged from Flemingsburg. Well, I spentthat first year that I was back, I said I was dating somebody and I lived in Flemingsburg. We traveled a lot. We saw actually all four coasts, ocean coast lines, in one year. We had been, we had traveled a little bit before we came home. And then we'd been out to California to see a friend. So we'd been on the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean in Capetown and Durban, in South Africa. And then we went to California to see a friend. And put our toes in the Pacific Ocean. And up to Alaska for the month of August. So I got home at 121:00Christmastime. And by that August, Garrett and I were on a road trip in Alaska. We'd left Fleming County for an organic farm in Esther, Alaska, which is outside of Fairfax, where we went to work for six weeks or so. And we drove what's called the Dalton Highway, which is a four hundred mile dirt road that's like the haul road for the oil companies from Fairbanks -- I said Fairfax. Fairbanks -- to, well, past the North Pole and to the edge of the Arctic Ocean. So, I mean, obviously I wasn't very settled. Our lives were sort of the topic of conversation for everybody who thought we were crazy and who was jealous, I guess. You know, his sister would say things like, "Yeah, you know, while most of us are working nine to five, you people are hanging out at the Arctic Ocean. This is not normal. When are you planning to get a job and be normal?" I was in some weddings that 122:00summer. You know, sort of slowly coming back to life and getting more comfortable in town. Then that relationship ended and I moved to Lexington and got an apartment and lived fairly near my mother and some friends of mine. And just decided that it was time to sort of grow up a little or slow down a little or however I felt about it. But just that it was maybe time for me to see if I could handle at a desk and what that might be like. I got a job for a farmland preservation nonprofit book called the Bluegrass Conservancy, whose mission was to preserve bluegrass farmland. And I thought it might be nice to sort of see what it was like to do something that I cared about but that didn't keep me up all night every night. I'd seen a lot of loss, I 123:00guess, and knew a lot of people infected with HIV. And I just wanted to sort of see if I could maybe do something that was a little bit less emotional. And I worked at the Bluegrass Conservancy for about two years. And I enjoyed it. But nine to five life really isn't for me, I don't think. (laughs) I did it. And you know, I had some frustrations working there, and some successes. And I worked on my own, primarily, because it's just such a little small thing that I, I missed having my Peace Corps friends around. I missed doing things with other people who all care about the same issue and dive into things together. I mean, I felt a little bit isolated working on this sort of grassroots cause up against the development community in Lexington, which is definitely winning this battle about who's going to develop what land. 124:00I mean, we lose something like 130-some acres of farmland a day in Kentucky. So it was hard feeling like we weren't really making a lot of progress. But I found some neat places in Lexington. The co-op and some bookstores and places where there was organic food for sale. And started to feel like if I shopped at the farmers market and walked where I wanted to go and made friends with the artists in town, then I could live here just as easily as anywhere else. And I did that, then, for a while. In June of 2004, a Peace Corps friend of mine, whose name is Ken, who had never come home from Lesotho, so he went with me in '99. And then he took a job running an NGO in the same town where he lived as a Peace Corps volunteer. He had started a community 125:00health program doing outreach work for the children who were living in child-headed households, which was sort of the new lingo for orphaned kids who weren't really being brought in from their homes to any kind of institution. But just trying to make it on their own. Like a nine year old taking care of her five and three year old sisters, or something like that. Largely because the communities can't absorb all of these children. I mean, so many more children are being orphaned than there are adults to care for them in a very poverty stricken country that Ken was really noticing that a lot of these kids just needed some support. And they needed to know that, I don't know, like that the government was offering them free school fees. How are they ever going to know that if someone doesn't go tell them, help them get their school uniform and show them how to get to school. And organize things like I guess sort of cooperative ways of taking care of each 126:00other's younger siblings. Like one kid will stay home from school on Monday and watch all the little kids, and then go to school the rest of the week. And they had community gardens that they were starting together. And so Ken's NGO was starting a lot of these projects. And I was following his work, and I was thinking about it a lot. You know, I mean, I was feeling kind of funny sending him emails about getting a new car when I knew he was out there working with these kids that weren't getting enough to eat. And I was feeling a little bit on the other side of the line that I discussed earlier. Feeling that ooh, nothing I have to say is very important in comparison to what you're doing and what you're seeing. So what if my niece was born, you just saw five children die yesterday. And having a lot of conflict about coming home. I mean, I came home not necessarily because I was ready to leave my work, but because my Peace Corps service was up and I had 127:00promised my mother, her biggest fear was that I would never come home. And I had promised her that I would come home. And I thought if I don't go now, I'll never go. So I better go try it out. So I was keeping up with Ken. I knew what he was doing and I was sending him money. I was raising money for him. I decided to order a bunch of weavings from the only sort of craft women in Lesotho do is make these beautiful hand woven weavings at co-ops. So I contacted some of the women I had worked with. I had helped them make designs and things. And they sent me weavings, and we have something called the Woodland Arts Fair in Lexington. And I, I guess in August of 2003 had a booth at the art fair trying to sell weavings to raise money for Ken's project, which was a terrible idea. It didn't work at all. Nobody wants to buy a wool weaving in August. It was too hot for people to even touch them. I was getting a sunburn standing in this like wool 128:00cave I had made for myself of all these weavings. So I ended up stuck with all the weavings that I had paid for raising not a lot of money. But I was asked to write an article for Ace magazine, which is our like weekly independent free paper about my experience and about why I was selling these weavings. They did a nice front page article about "the toughest job you'll ever love, a Lexington native comes home" or something was the name of the article. I was asking people here to get involved in the project. I proposed in my article that people could work one hour per week and donate that hour of work to these children in these child-headed households. And Lexington would do this neat thing and we'd raise all this money. This was like, I don't know, the beginning of the summer. I'm getting my dates a little bit mixed up. But somehow I had this thing set up so that by Labor Day we would 129:00have this huge culmination of how much money Lexington had raised for these kids. And we would send it away and wouldn't it be so fun, and we'd all meet at Woodland Park, I guess at the festival then, and make the contribution. And I thought, you know, if you're in high school you can babysit for an hour a week and give five dollars to the kids a week. If you're a lawyer, you can give three hundred dollars a week to the kids, because that's what you get paid per hour. And at the end we're going to have this really neat thing and won't it be fun. So it didn't work at all. No one responded to my article except a few people who sent me an email and said they were really touched by what I was doing, or a few people who recognized me from my picture and said they were so glad I was doing what I was doing. The only person who made a financial donation to my cause was my best friend. So. I guess I learned from that or what I sort of had people tell me was it was just too generic an approach. Nobody felt particularly asked themselves 130:00to do it. They all thought that's nice that she's doing that. I'm sure someone will give her some money. Fine. But nobody felt like I was saying, "Will you please help these children?" They just read the article. And I did get a lot of nice response about the experience of reading it. But nobody, really, to help out the project. So I guess I had this stuff percolating in my mind, and I'm still working at the Conservancy, still trying to raise money for Lesotho, still trying to find people who will look at my pictures. I'm starting to like go out to lunch with people who are about to leave for Peace Corps, and about to leave for Lesotho. And I got interested in the Kentucky RPCV group, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. And I went up to Natural Bridge, is that right? Natural Bridge in September of 2003. I think to see what it was like to be part of a group like that. I'd been out 131:00in Portland, Oregon, with some friends. And I had seen that they had a Peace Corps group that went to the same bar every month and all met together. And that there were hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers in Portland. And all these neat people meeting each other because there was a Peace Corps event that was organized monthly. And I wondered if Kentucky had anything like that. So I went out to Natural Bridge and I met some great people. That's when I met you guys, I think. Or maybe I had already spoken for Angene's class. I can't remember. But I was sort of doing stuff like that. I did go speak for Jack's wife Angene's class, to a group of teachers who are about to go abroad about what it's like to go abroad. I also, I think, spoke at a Peace Corps event here in town about what it's like to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I don't know, some kind of recruiting thing. And so then by that June, I was still sort of following things in Lesotho. And I was working 132:00at the Conservancy. And Ken called me and said, I've decided to open up my own home as an orphanage. I've basically been doing this child- headed household outreach work for a long time, but the sort of group of people I feel like is being most neglected are the infants in the hospital whose mothers die, and then there's no breast milk for them. And the grandmother or like third cousin they get placed with already has eleven orphans living in her home, and can't afford anything but regular old cornmeal for an infant. And so by the time they're about three or four months old, they're dying. And the social worker had come to him and said, "This is the only area where nobody else is helping." Like CARE and UNICEF and some of these organizations that are out there trying to run workshops for the orphans and stuff are not really addressing the infant death rate. And what are we going to do about it? And it's such a critical period for these kids until they're 133:00three or five or some point where maybe they could be adopted by the grandmother with eleven orphans because now they can eat cornmeal, but until then, it's not really enough nutrition. And some of them are infected themselves. And nobody wants to take an infected child home, because they're afraid they'll give their other children HIV. So Ken called me and said, "It doesn't feel like a very big, I should do more, but the least I can do is open up my home that's paid for by the NGO, because I've got extra rooms, I've got heat, I've got electricity, I've got running water. I can't live here alone and watch these kids die anymore. It feels awful." So he said, "But I need your help because I don't really know how to set myself up as a 501C3. I'd like people to be able to make charitable contributions to our cause." He said, "I'm going to call the effort Six Degrees of Love." His intention there was 134:00we're all connected in this world, but we so often feel very far away from children on Save Our Children, Save the Children commercials where they say for nineteen cents a day this child doesn't have to die if you would just stop drinking coffee. You know, he said, "It just seems like you can turn that off. But what if you said to your uncle, 'Hey, my friend Ken has got these kids living in his house. Do you think you could give him some money every month?'" And so we talked about that idea. Yes, that maybe we would be able to reach our own friends and family if you said, "I actually know these children, and maybe you could help us out." So I started researching that idea. I wrote a letter to everybody I thought might help, you and your wife included. You and your wife were some of the only people who responded. Definitely it was better than the magazine article. But I have twelve uncles who are all physicians. And the one person who responded was my uncle who's 135:00an unemployed home economics teacher. Which I think sort of shows you that you never know who's going to help. And sometimes the people with the least give the most. And I absolutely got more response from the returned Peace Corps volunteer group than from anyone else. You know, my own friends who are investment bankers making more money a year than I'm sure they would admit, said it just didn't seem like they could remember maybe every month to write the check. Or maybe later. And things like that. I mean, I guess a lot of my struggles is sort of figuring out how to be okay with that. And then go out to dinner with them and watch them spend fifty dollars and think, okay. You know, I guess it's hard to understand people's experiences and what resonates with them and what doesn't. But it's been a big part of my life to have people come and support this. And yourself and other people who 136:00have come and listened to me talk about it and been supportive. So the evolution of this is just that I wrote the letter, I'm sitting at work in my Bluegrass Conservancy office alone day after day after day, sitting there nine to five, feeling like what we're doing is not really working. And I just want to be back in Africa. And also feeling like if I'm going to champion this cause of this orphanage for my whole life, or for a long time, I would rather talk about my personal experience there than my friend Ken's experience. Feeling like gosh, if I go to church and say, "Here's what I saw," people might donate some money. Rather than if I say, "My friend Ken is doing some really good stuff. Here's what he saw." So that's what I did. I gave two months notice at the Conservancy and said, "I really just feel drawn back. I'm sorry to leave you all and it's not that I don't like this job or that I don't want to live in Lexington or that I don't want to be near my family. I just feel like I've seen too much sort 137:00of and I want to go and help, and I want to see what they're trying to do, and understand the issues that they're facing." So I left at the end of August and I went back. I didn't go back to my Peace Corps village, but to Ken's. Although I did visit my Peace Corps village. And I showed up and I kind of dove in and I tried to help with what's happening with the orphanage. And I learned a lot about where some of the money that we think is getting to those children is really going. Global Fund money and the Gates Foundation and UNICEF. And that a lot of that money gets stuck in really sort of training of trainers who've already been trained, you know, government officials who want to go to the hotel for another workshop about how to talk to orphans about loss. But then they never really go talk to orphans about loss. Or they get a tote bag that says, "I Care. Do you?" And they carry it to the hotel. You know, it's pretty hard to see some of it. But then 138:00there are also people who are really doing a lot of good. And people I met who are making a lot of neat things happen. And I learned a lot about women's rights issues that I'd not known much about as a Peace Corps volunteer. There was a huge article in the New York Times, a cover, a front page article in July about the feminization of the AIDS epidemic. And Lesotho was the spotlight of the article, about how one in two women are affected, and about how many mothers are being lost. And about how in twenty years you'll sense and see the loss of women in southern Africa, and what is that going to mean to the world. And why is it really a women's rights issue when you get down to a woman who can't refuse sex or can't choose birth control for herself. I came home and said to my eighteen year old brother, "You know, if Dad died, because I'm not married, you'd be in charge of me." Which he thought was funny, and it seems funny to us, but it's not funny at all, you 139:00know. So I got really involved from this Labor Day to Christmas period of time with the orphanage, with issues around what they're doing, but also with the larger issue of children's rights and women's rights and what's going to have to shift for anything to really change. I found a lot of people saying, "We know all about the ABCs. Abstain, Be Faithful, or Condomize. But most people choose D, die." People just come right out and say that to me. Or I'd get like picked up hitchhiking by somebody who would ask me to have sex. And then I would say, "Don't you think that with HIV being the issue that it is, you really shouldn't be just sleeping with anyone in the world?" Then they would say, I mean, one man in particular said, "I would like to learn a lesson from you about monogamy. Because I see in your books and movies that you value finding your one true love. And I think I don't understand this issue, and maybe you can teach me about it." 140:00
[Tape two, side a ends; tape two, side b begins.]
WILSON: Tape two, side two of interview with Tara Lloyd. You weretalking, Tara, about going back recently to Lesotho and your experience there.
WILSON: You were there for six months?
LLOYD: About four.
WILSON: Four months.
LLOYD: Yeah. From about the end of August until right before Christmas.
LLOYD: Of 2004. So it had been about five years. When I arrived, ithad been almost five years since I had departed for Lesotho the first time. So then almost three since I'd been home. And yeah, I found the country, much more acceptance of the fact that HIV was there. But really still not a lot going on to change the situation. A lot more graveyards, a lot more infant graveyards. A lot more cell phones, a lot more satellite dishes and solar powered stuff. I don't know, 141:00people sort of talking about it like what are we going to do, the public health nurse who's been at the hospital for twenty-five years saying, "I'll do anything, just what do you think? I'm willing to try anything." Issues of women's rights starting to be talked about. Lesotho making international news in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. I happened to meet the woman interviewed for the article who's got a PhD in sociology and works at the national university, who's been to Chicago many times to talk about the issue of women in Lesotho because, I guess it's becoming one of the kind of focal points of women's rights work in the world right now. And she asked me to be on a panel called the Law Reform Commission of women trying to do something about this and create an equality in marriage law and a sexual offenses act, and things like that. I said I don't know as 142:00much about the women's rights movement in America as I wish I did. I mean, I'm just sort of a product of somebody else's fight. But I care and I want to learn and I want to help. And she said, "All we need is an emancipated woman to tell us what it's like, really." And so that's been a very powerful experience. And I think coming home a second time, older, more committed to this as sort of a lifelong something I'll always sort of talk about and carry with me, my friends have been much more receptive. Maybe I have friends who are more like minded now. But a lot of my female friends cannot believe what I have to say about the situation of women in Lesotho. And people can identify with that. And I guess in some ways it seems like a cause that can be fought. We know that in America it wasn't that long ago that this was happening here, and so people sort of feel some attachment. I've 143:00had a lot of people offer to help me if there's any way I can think of for them to get involved. And then people interested in helping with the orphanage, I think, because children are children. And innocent children dying is something that anybody wants to see stopped. And so it's not quite as hard an issue to get people to talk about as maybe we should give condoms out at the Catholic school. So right now I just find myself in the position of trying to figure out how I want this to play a part of my life. I know I'm committed to this work. I don't really want to live in Lesotho. It's a very oppressive country. It's so far away from my family and friends. I have a one year old niece that I love to death and don't want to leave. I met a missionary when I was there this last time who said she's been there for thirteen years, and she's been praying for God to release her from the calling to be there the whole time, and he's never released her. And I guess 144:00in some ways I feel a little bit like that. Like why can't it be like Brazil, where I am so interested in everything that's happening and want to go and work. Because maybe I'd prefer to live in Brazil than Lesotho. In some ways, it's a very beautiful country, but it doesn't really speak to my soul. Barren mountain above tree line, really lunar landscape with no animals that are still living, because they've all been killed off. I saw one marmot in four months and was pretty excited to see a living creature other than cows and sheep and herd animals. You know, it's really environmentally devastated. There's a lot of erosion. The diamond mines have terrible impact on the country, both in the loss of life in the mines and the terrible treatment and distance from your family, and then also in the retrenched miners coming home now that they don't have employment anymore because post-apartheid South Africa means local South African companies hiring 145:00local black African labor rather than Lesotho men to come and cross the border. So now there are all these unemployed men home, drunk. Things are getting worse. Gap and Old Navy have opened factories in the garment district, which is just sort of accelerating the pace of women going to work in sweatshops, being away from their families. So the fact that any family can survive intact through all of this is pretty astonishing to me. And there are certainly some that do. But a lot of women are forced into sexual slavery and trade sex for money and sex for rent. And there are very few monogamous married relationships. And that's just kind of a product of a lot of environmental factors, I guess. And so it was difficult for me to see, it's difficult for me to come home again. I'm having the same experience of sitting, you know, 146:00in the mall, shopping with a friend, thinking I guess it doesn't matter which pants you get. At least your children aren't all dead. And terrible things like that that I don't want to think, and I don't want them to know I'm thinking. You know, I'm just in this sort of conflict about how to live my life and what's right and is it okay for me to live a modest lifestyle in America as long as I recycle and talk about Africa and go once or twice a year to help? Or am I only going to be satisfied if I up and leave my entire life and go live in Lesotho? But I have a boyfriend and I care about my family. Sometimes I feel like I just wish I didn't even know what it was like there. Or sometimes I think maybe I can build on all the experience that I've had and find a job with an organization that works in many different countries. Or maybe I could try working in these issues in India or somewhere that 147:00might speak a little bit more to, maybe if I could just live on the ocean. Or I don't know. Maybe it doesn't have to be so hard. The work is always going to be this hard if I'm going to work with HIV around women's issues and the loss of mothers and those things, it's not going to ever be easy. But maybe it could be closer to home, or more comforting to me in some other aspect. And so right now I've been home since Christmas. I was supposed to go back in February to Lesotho because I took a job at Ken's NGO running his orphan outreach program for him because he's basically as tired as anybody could be and needs a sabbatical big time. But when February came around, I had spoken I think about twelve or thirteen times about my experience this fall at churches and medical schools and in front of different 148:00nonprofit groups, different women's organizations. And raised a lot of money. Gosh, the First Presbyterian Church in Lexington, the congregation gave me $6000 in a three-minute time that I just stood up and said, "This is the church I was raised in. here's where I've been. Here's what I've seen. Here's how I think you can help. I can take the money myself. Not a penny of it will be spent on anything but the kids." So people seem to be ready to help if I could just get myself in the right place to continue to be able to think about this as much as I have been. But I found myself at the end of these speeches showing my slides and people inevitably saying, "What about your own psychological health? You've just told us what it was like to bury a child that was two days older than your niece and how devastating those losses are to see even from the outside. How can you possibly come home and be the maid of honor at a country club wedding? Are you going 149:00crazy?" And thinking sort of I am going crazy. I don't really know how to make some of these decisions. And I guess I'm just sort of still thinking about what to do. But the big question was my psychological health. And I found myself saying as long as I'm strong and at peace with myself, I can do it. And February came along and I just didn't feel it. I didn't feel like I could do it right now. Trouble with my boyfriend's parents getting divorced. I just think you've got to have your own personal life in some sort of order to be able to take on those kinds of things. So I've switched gears a little bit. I've continued to raise money for the orphanage and for the, continued to stay in touch with people doing the women's rights work, hoping maybe I can support them from here because I have access to grant foundation money, and I have access to the Internet, and I can figure out what's 150:00happening. And my current hope is that I'll get the University of Kentucky to sponsor my research in southern Africa and maybe I could be on board with the sociologist or physicians work because of what I do know from being a Peace Corps volunteer and the language skills that I have. And maybe there is international work to be found in Lexington that would sort of allow me to live both lives. So we'll see. I'm working on it. And right now, one of my biggest successes that I'm excited about is that I spoke at the University of Kentucky in January and a medical student who heard me talk is coming with me to Lesotho in July. It means I have to go back. (laughs) Which at the time I was very committed to it, and I still want to be committed to, but I think it's going to be a good thing. I'm going to probably just go for the month of July. Or maybe a couple of months. But stop making it so hard for myself. Stop saying I have to say goodbye to my boyfriend 151:00and my niece and everyone and hope that I can maybe keep something at the university going that would employ me part time to do this work and come and go from Lesotho a few times a year and maybe, so the medical student is hoping to do just the baseline study of the situation. You know, what the district without a doctor will look like when a hundred thousand children have been orphaned and there is no doctor in Lesotho. Many of the doctors that were there when I was a Peace Corps volunteer have left because it's too hard. There's not medicine, there's not treatment. The government never pays them.
WILSON: So how would you, how would you summarize the impact of PeaceCorps on you?
LLOYD: Hmm. Well, I mean, I think it's the most significant sort of152:00experience when somebody asks me who I am right now today in my life, that's the first thing I talk about. I am a returned Peace Corps volunteer. I don't necessarily like the lingo. I had a hard time with some of what Peace Corps tried to help us with in terms of saying here's how you're going to feel at three months and six months and nine months and after two years of return, as though we're all sort of going though exactly the same thing, but in many ways I think I do relate to this being the really most unique experience of my life and something that's forever changed the way I see the world. And I find that most of my friends now have had some international experience. Most of the people I most connect with and understand have been in the Third World, if that's what people want to call it, and have seen that something's 153:00got to shift about the way we're living if there's ever going to be any sort of more equitable way of dealing with what we do have, and the resources we have been given. And I find myself attracted to people who want to talk about that. And I mean I guess I'm hoping that I can find some resolution with all this in Peace Corps' philosophy that you do as much good at home just having this perspective on the world as by living abroad. If you want to be home, you still have plenty to offer. And I think that's true. I think that if the University of Kentucky can start a long term relationship with Lesotho's HIV problem because I was able to help a medical student go and see the problem for himself and come home and start something really neat and long term, then maybe that is just as powerful as my living in Lesotho if here's where I'm happy and I'm more fulfilled on my own. But yeah. I mean, I think 154:00about it a lot. I want people to look at my pictures even now and just sort of try to get what it is like and what it's like to come home.
WILSON: What about the impact on your family? From your experience.
LLOYD: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I'm the oldest. And soI've done a lot of things first, I guess, like you have to. I have a sister. Actually my sister came to visit me at Christmastime. She's been in Lesotho, so I expect that she would really understand what I was experiencing. And I came home at Christmas and she was not being nice to me. I don't really know how else to say it. But she started picking fights and making me feel very unwelcome and saying I left my hair in the shower and I better go clean it up. And sort of feeling like gosh, couldn't you give me a break? It's my first shower in four months. And then finally I said, "What is going on with you? Why are 155:00you treating me like this?" And she said, "I'm scared to be close to you right now. I'm afraid you're going to get killed. I just don't know that you're making wise decisions. You're out there, part of this women's revolution in Lesotho, saying you're going back in February. And what if you do get killed? How do you know you're not going to be the next sort of martyr for the cause or whatever? Somebody's going to say we'll teach this girl a lesson." I mean, I have to be aware of that. I guess in some ways, but not everybody understands why I'm doing this, and it definitely has a big impact on me. I don't really want to have this, have my work mean I can't have my family's support. I mean, I think that that issue is very, I mean, a bigger deal than most people have made out of it. And mostly it just needed some talking through. But my mom is really nervous. You know, she wants to support what I'm doing but we are really in a different, sometimes I wish I wasn't in 156:00such a different place from my mom. She wants me to go shopping for wedding presents for these friends of mine that are getting married, and I just could care less whether they get their china or don't. And I don't want my mom to experience that as me not caring about her, but that's how she takes it sometimes when I get frustrated and say, "I said I didn't care." And I don't usually lose it. I keep usually sort of thinking in my mind, stay calm, say the ivy looks better than the flowers, but you know, nobody will worry about it as long as I just answer. But sometimes I get tired of being sort of, having to talk about those things. And I say, "It just doesn't seem like it really matters, Mom. You know, their families are healthy. So who cares what happens at their wedding?" I don't know, you know. I just, my dad is thinking long term about being part of whatever I want to create, which is fantastic. But some pressure on me to create something. He'd like to bring emergency medical physicians that are friends of his out 157:00to Mokhotlong where I've been working, maybe in conjunction with the university to really think about some big time changing of the system because he sees a lot of potential. He sees a lot of wind power and solar power and things that Mokhotlong is not tapping into that might be able to generate enough money to pay a physician so they don't have to have this story about broken X-ray machines and no doctors. You know, yeah. My family's happy to have me home, and happy to think I might be staying home. And I think just hoping that I'll work out some resolution that I can live with. And I think my mom would be fine with me going in July and maybe again in December. As long as I'm home and having dinner at home and babysitting.
WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps has been?158:00Either in Lesotho or throughout the world?
LLOYD: Well the first thing that comes to mind for me is I think itshould be mandatory. (laughs) Well, not that it could really work to be mandatory. But I think what a world we would have if everybody had to go and experience what it's like to live in a country where you don't have access to everything in the world you might want. And that actually you can live on a bucket of water a week and be clean and have ironed slips and have nice looking hair and life goes on. Because one of my biggest concerns is the way we consume resources here. And it's one of the reasons I have the most trouble living here in the land of SUVs and Wal-Marts. I just think what an eye opening experience it would be for everybody in industrialized First World countries to just take a few years and go and see what it's like. And then be able to 159:00sort of modify our own existence to realize that it does matter to pay attention to the rest of the world and it is helpful to drive a car that doesn't waste gas and to recycle and to host people from other countries in your home, and that sort of stuff. But in general, I think that Peace Corps in Lesotho is, I have mixed feelings about it. In some ways I think thirty years is too long. And people expect their Peace Corps volunteers to show up, build a library, get some grant money, be worth some money. It's sort of a dependency cycle which I don't, I don't know. I mean, I've heard a lot of international development talk about dependency creating dependency. And I don't really like thinking of people in that sort of collective herd like mentality. I mean, I think about people in an individual way. And 160:00some issue with sort of how patronizing that sounds. But I do see a lot of expectation. I see a lot of begging children, you know, do a certain thing when they want to ask a Peace Corps volunteer for money. It's even like a greeting. Children say "Lekho [Editor's note: white person], give me your money," as a way to say hi to you. Which I don't think is a particularly good sign. (laughs) I just wonder if the experience of these young college kids getting sent somewhere really far away couldn't maybe be modified. I think the more powerful volunteers were the older people who really did have something to teach and offer. I think the retired volunteers did a great job. I guess maybe I think Peace Corps should move on once they've been in a country for that period of time somewhere else and sort of hope that enough has happened that they've had a positive impact and their volunteers have 161:00moved something important. And there are always sort of new countries that might have something that Peace Corps could pitch in and be a part of. And I think that it does an amazing job in terms of international agencies. I didn't see a lot of other people living in the field. I saw a lot of people living in the capital. Irish aid volunteers, German agro action volunteers, British, I forget what their corps--
LLOYD: Yeah, the VSO volunteers. Mostly not living way out in themountains, speaking the language, on their own. So I commend Peace Corps for that, and for the number of volunteers that have gone, and for the logistical nightmare it must be to organize the whole effort and the amount of money that goes into it, and I think it's a really powerful organization that I'm proud to have been a part of. But I guess my experience in Lesotho sort of was that maybe we've been there 162:00for long enough.
WILSON: And how would you, how would you summarize, you've talked a lotabout this in different ways, but how would you sort of summarize your Peace Corps experience in terms of how you view the world, the rest of the world, today, versus before you went?
LLOYD: I don't know. In some ways I see a really big shift in myself.And in other ways, I think I always suspected what I found, that I remember first working with special education kids sort of because it made me uncomfortable and I thought I should deal with that issue. And because it gave me, well, what I found was that it gave me a lot of perspective on my own life that as a high school student worried that I didn't look right or wasn't quite whatever enough. You know, 163:00when you're working at a camp for kids who are in a wheelchair, some who were my own age, one girl who was actually born on the same day I was, you start to think you sure have a lot to be thankful for, and maybe you should stop worrying about whether you're thin enough when this person can't walk. And that's sort of what Peace Corps does for me now. It's like this grounding perspective offering experience where anytime I sort of get caught in my own stuff, in my own feeling sorry for myself or thinking that I don't have opportunities other people have, or feeling stuck or feeling like I don't have options or whatever, I think about that. And about what I have been given. And I'm grateful and sometimes a little scared of it. I wonder, I think a 164:00lot about why. Why my female friends in Lesotho are infected with HIV and taking care of kids who are dying and my friends here are picking out china? I think about that discrepancy a lot. And I guess, I think it's something I'll always carry with me. I imagine if I ever have children that I will take them abroad all the time, if I don't raise them abroad. That I'll have a house like yours, full of art from all over the world where every once in a while they'll wonder where that came from or what it means somewhere else. I just think it's important now especially with the access countries have to each other that we, you know, I guess sort of cross those cultural lines as much as we can. I mean, I saw a lot of people watching Britney Spears videos on their 165:00satellite dishes. Solar powered, no electricity, no running water, but Britney Spears. And I think somebody's got to go counter that. That can't be everyone's impression of America. And I think that the sort of biggest challenge right now for this entire country is just getting outside of ourselves and crossing those country lines, and realizing why it is people don't like us, and what it is we're doing in our everyday lives that might be having such a big impact on the world. And Peace Corps is an awfully easy way to do that. It's free. You just sign up. And I'm thankful to have had that experience. And I feel now like I could go anywhere in the world. That I could just buy a plane ticket to really anywhere. And get there and have some basic coping skills that would allow me to make some decisions that would get me somewhere safe and get me a meal and introduce me to some local 166:00people and help me find the way to be part of what's happening. I don't feel like a tourist, I guess, so much anymore. I choose to be a tourist sometimes, but I also know how not to be. And that's something that I am grateful for.
WILSON: Okay. That's probably all the sort of structured kinds ofquestions I have. But what have I missed that you would like to talk about? Or is there a, you know, a Peace Corps story that you'd like to share or anything?
LLOYD: Well, the only thing that comes to mind for me is that I didn'ttalk about a friend of mine named Jennifer who adopted three children while we were there. And that's been a really sort of characteristic, I don't know exactly how to say it. But the fact that Jen, who was 167:00colleague of mine in Peace Corps, brought home three children. She was the one that got placed in the orphanage where I wanted to be placed. So as life turns out, she was the right person to be placed there because she was thirty-seven years old, single, a teacher, not at all going to Lesotho to find children to adopt. But all of a sudden living in an orphanage and feeling like she was there because she was supposed to adopt these children. And it's been an amazing experience to watch that happen and really given me a way to connect to my experience in Lesotho forever. I mean, I'm a part of these children's life in a way that I'm very thankful for. They remember me as Ausi Mpho, but they've been to the tree farm in Flemingsburg. And they live in Texas now, and they're like American kids. We've tried our best to speak Sesotho around them, and Jen videotaped their home and their culture and any 168:00family members that were still living. And videotaped them in Lesotho as they were, dirty kids in T-shirt, not being that well taken care of. Taking care of each other. So that they would always know where they were from, and always be able to return to those memories, and hear themselves speaking Sesotho. And she made this beautiful book of the process of adopting them when she first knew that it was right. And their first Rice Crispies. It's been really amazing to see. And they have adapted to this country in a way I sure wish I could. They've taken it on. They're thrilled to be here. And they remember what their lives used to be like, but they don't worry about it. And they're just gracious, beautiful kids. The boys are now seven, so I first knew them when they were two or three. And the little girl is turning ten this year. The boys are twins, and then there's a sister who's older. And there's just something about them that hasn't changed. They don't, 169:00I don't know, they don't throw temper tantrums. You know, sure they fight over Disney movies and stuff, and the recite them ad nauseum. But they, I don't know, there's just something balanced about them. They still have some perspective about some kids they remember who didn't have enough to eat and then died. And they talk about that. And I really am amazed by what they bring to me and to all of us. I mean, we had a Peace Corps reunion, we've had a couple of reunions, and we had a reunion last year and they came. And I mean, what a beautiful thing it is to still be called Ausi Mpho and have these kids run and jump on you and say, "Tell me again the name for snake in Sesotho. I have forgotten it." Jen had an amazing, really horrifying experience with the INS. She was nearly not able to come home. She's got so 170:00much paperwork she can't even file it in one cabinet. I mean, it's amazing what they put her through -- hitchhiking to Johannesburg with passports only to be told that this name is spelled incorrectly, or you know, she'd come all the way, it's like a day's journey to Johannesburg hitchhiking. She'd get all the way there and have a meeting with someone who forgot to come, or be told that she should have used a raised seal. And she'd say, "There are no raised seals in Lesotho." And they'd say, "Well, then I guess you can't adopt them." And just really absurd experience where she was told that she was really living a precedent-setting case. That HIV was taking off in this country in a way no one had expected, and there would be a lot of orphans, and a lot of people trying to take home children, and they had to do it right because her case would be looked at. Not that she was the first one. She couldn't have been the first one. But you know, this was going to happen again. Peace Corps volunteers were going to want to take home children. And there were things like, sheets about could her income support these kids or would they be put on welfare in America. And so 171:00she has no salary because she's a Peace Corps volunteer, and they said that made her not eligible to take home the kids. And she said, "Well, but I'm a Peace Corps volunteer. Which you must understand since I'm here in a government office, hello, I have an income at home. I have a tenured teaching position I'm returning to. It's just been these couple of years I haven't had an income." And amazingly bureaucratical just cyclical questions and messes. And she was so patient. And now she's home and the kids live here and they're saving money to go back and visit Lesotho. And she often misses Lesotho and thinks maybe she shouldn't have brought them home. Maybe she's exposed them to too much in this country, and maybe they should move back to Lesotho as a family. But you know, I'm thankful to have that connection to the country for sure. And one thing that I'm thinking about now as I'm getting more and more involved again with the country is the thought of adoption. And what if this country really is carrying more burden than 172:00it can handle. What about international adoption, is it a good idea or not. And right now it's a total mess. There's a Peace Corps volunteer that I'm trying to help who was a volunteer in Lesotho ten years ago who wants to adopt some children from our orphanage. And we have had a really, really hard time figuring out how to make that happen. You know, I spent days having like a sit in at the social welfare office in the capital waiting for the only woman in the entire country who's in charge of international adoptions to actually come to her office. And this girl Amy had sent this woman emails and phone, because she called her and she sent her emails and all these things trying to get through to her about how to begin the process. And when I finally went to see Me Monseki is her name, I said, "Why haven't you responded to anything that Amy has sent you?" And she said, "Oh, because I was waiting for her to send a personal representative to speak to me." And I said, "Well, how would she have known that?" And she said, "Well, I don't 173:00know. But now that you are here, we can begin the process." (laughs) Okay. So of course, we're not that much farther six months later. But I guess in some ways I think about the Peace Corps, the coming home of the Peace Corps volunteers, is there potential for children as well to come home, to come back with Peace Corps volunteers and what does that mean and what might that be like as something that sort of starts to evolve as this orphan crisis gets more and more out of control. That's it. I'm going to see them next week. Jen's turning forty and we're having a surprise party. So I'll get to see all the children.
WILSON: In Texas?
LLOYD: In Texas.
LLOYD: Yeah. Yeah. They have cowboy hats and all.
WILSON: Well, Tara, thank you for your time and sharing all of that.
LLOYD: Of course. Of course. Yeah. Thank you.174:00
[End of interview.]