WILSON: This is Angene Wilson and I am interviewing on December 3, 2005 a return Peace Corps volunteer for the Peace Corps Oral History Project. What is your full name?

GREENE: My name is Elizabeth Greene.

WILSON: And where and when were you born?

GREENE: I was born in Virginia on October 22, 1980.

WILSON: Okay, can you tell me something about your family and something about growing up? Were there things in your growing up or in school or friends that perhaps led to joining the Peace Corps?

GREENE: I think when I first--You're trying to find out when I first got interested in the Peace Corps?

WILSON: Well yeah but you can tell me generally about growing up and your family.

GREENE: Okay I mean generally growing up my family was very liberal, open minded, encouraged cultural understanding and I didn't have--I 1:00mean my parents are political, politically minded but they didn't pass that on to us at an early age but they always encouraged us to learn. And when I was in college I became interested in studying abroad and I wanted to go to Africa. So I went to Kenya and I did a semester there and that's when I really--Before I went I took a class on Africa, politics, economics, social life. And that's when I really got interested in the politics of it and development and economic aspects of it. And then after I came back from Kenya I decided to change my major from anthropology to international relations and focus on development in Africa. So that was one of the main reasons why I decided to go to the Peace Corps.

WILSON: Okay let's go back just a little bit. Did you in high school 2:00have any did you learn anything about Africa then? You went to a high school here in Lexington?

GREENE: Yeah I went in Lexington.

WILSON: To Tates Creek, is that right?

GREENE: No, to Lafayette.

WILSON: To Lafayette, okay.

GREENE: I don't remember being that interested in it really in high school. I mean I was always interested in other cultures and the world but it wasn't a passion for me. It wasn't something that I read about or kept up on the news on and stuff like that. I'm not really sure I think just going abroad is really what did it for me.

WILSON: Okay so you went to college in what years?

GREENE: I started in 1999.

WILSON: 1999? And graduated in 2003?

GREENE: Yeah in 2003. And I guess I was always interested in cultures because I had known I wanted to major in anthropology from the beginning. And I can't, I don't know why that is. I can't tell you why.

WILSON: Because you hadn't had anthropology in high school or anything like that.

GREENE: Yeah it just seemed really interesting to me. Well, in high 3:00school I wanted to major in psychology. I was interested in psychology. And then I kind of moved on from the individual to cultures and then more onto the entire world, the political, the economic, everything.

WILSON: So when you went to--You went to the College of Wooster in Ohio?


WILSON: And for your first two years you were majoring in anthropology?

GREENE: My first year.

WILSON: Your first year. So you study, you went for study abroad in your second year?

GREENE: My second year. My first year I majored in anthropology and then I heard about this program that was only going this, it would have been my sophomore, fall of my sophomore year, which is early for people to go abroad. But it was the only time this program was going and I didn't, I had no interest really in going to London or Australia or any of the major places people go abroad.

WILSON: Now was this a College of Wooster program or was it--?

GREENE: Yeah it was the College of Wooster in Kenya. And a professor from Wooster went with us and he taught two classes and they had a 4:00couple professors from the University of Nairobi teach a couple classes.

WILSON: So you were in Nairobi but--?

GREENE: I was in Nairobi for about a month and a half and then we traveled. We traveled a lot. We went to Tanzania, we went all over Kenya, the coast, and yeah it was nice.

WILSON: And so that's as you said what really got you started on being interested in Africa.

GREENE: I think that's what got me to change my major because it gave me a little more focus about what interested me in the world and that was development.

WILSON: What did you do in Kenya that got you interested in development?

GREENE: You just see you know the reality of the situation in Africa and I don't know if there was any specific event that--I mean like I said a prerequisite for going abroad for the semester abroad was this one course on Africa and the political climate.

WILSON: Was it a history of Africa or?

GREENE: It was political, economic, and social life of Africa. So 5:00that got me really interested in the politics and economics that are there and I guess probably as my courses went on after Kenya I started to become more interested in development and looked towards that for a career.

WILSON: Okay, now I know that the College of Wooster has independent study. So what did you in junior and senior year for your independent study that related to international relations?

GREENE: Junior year I did the effects of democracy on economic development in Mali.

WILSON: In Mali? Okay.

GREENE: In Mali, and senior year I did looking at how effective World Bank development programs were, three case studies in Africa different parts of Africa.

WILSON: Which countries?

GREENE: Ghana, Zambia, and Kenya.

WILSON: Wow, and how did you get your information for your independent study?

GREENE: For the data for that I used--I had a data query from the World 6:00Bank so I used primarily their data and I had some UN statistical books that I used. And I just got on their website and they have histories of their projects and compared them to histories of what was going on in these countries at the time to see. It was primarily looking at what their effect was on human development in the countries, but I didn't ignore economic development either. But I wanted to see how it was impacting health and education.

WILSON: Right, so you were using like the Human Development Report and those kinds of things?

GREENE: Yeah and then just development indicators that they had collected data the World Bank had on these countries.

WILSON: Right, and what were your conclusions?

GREENE: That they were not effective. They didn't have any significant positive impact on human development.

WILSON: And why do you think that is? Why did you think that is as a student as opposed when you get to--?

GREENE: Well I mean there were a couple different levels of the study. Part of it was in the early '90s they changed. Well okay it's been 7:00a while so I'm trying to figure out exactly the dates, but at some point in time they changed from focusing on like market liberalization to saying in their rhetoric that they want to focus more on the human development side of it. So I was looking at how their policy translated into reality and I mean basically I found that they just even when they change their rhetoric they've still focused on economic issues more. And sometimes those economic issues, just health and education weren't priorities in there. So I don't know how effective my study was.

WILSON: Did you let the people at the World Bank read it?

GREENE: No. My IS advisor joked that everyone who always criticizes the World Bank ends up working there.

WILSON: So you'll see. Okay, well I think that's interesting because 8:00I think that that maybe is a change from when people went into Peace Corps years ago. You had a lot of preparation academically and then also had a semester experience in east Africa before you applied to Peace Corps, right? So when did you apply to Peace Corps?

GREENE: I applied my senior year, fall of my senior year.

WILSON: And was that something other people at Wooster were doing as well?

GREENE: I knew of two other people that did that in my graduating class, so not many.

WILSON: So what was it like to go through the application process? Did you apply online or?

GREENE: Yeah it was I mean it's a time consuming process and there's a lot of waiting so it was kind of not fun but it was okay. I started in August so you know they--It's a slower process for people starting 9:00earlier because they're not as rushed to get your stuff done. So it wasn't bad. I mean I didn't have problems filling the application or--

WILSON: Okay, so you filled out the application online. Did you get an interview or a phone interview?

GREENE: I got an interview. I went up to Cleveland for an interview.

WILSON: For an actual interview?


WILSON: When did you actually find out that you were?

GREENE: Well he pretty much told me in the interview that I would be nominated. And then that was probably that was in the, that was probably in the fall late fall November or December somewhere around there. And so it took, they then had to formally nominate me and then I had I believe I had to do all of my medical clearance first. So I did all my medical stuff and then when that was done I was notified of my placement in March.

WILSON: Okay, so you knew well before you graduated.


GREENE: Yeah, was it March? April maybe no March yeah.

WILSON: And was Niger the first?


WILSON: That was what was offered and you accepted that?

GREENE: I accepted it.

WILSON: And the job that you were nominated for and accepted was?

GREENE: Community health agent.

WILSON: Community health okay. And then what happened in the process when you reported to?

GREENE: Like my acceptance of it? I just called and talked to the country desk officer and accepted and that was about it. They sent me a packet of the starter packet with all the information, the forms you need to fill out and everything a little later, maybe a month or so later.

WILSON: And then where was staging?

GREENE: Staging was in Philadelphia.

WILSON: And you were there for just?

GREENE: Three days.

WILSON: Three days, and how many people were in the group?

GREENE: About 33.

WILSON: All doing the same project?

GREENE: No. Niger is what they've done now they have four sectors now. 11:00They have community health, community and youth education, which they called CYE. My program they call CHA, community health agent. And then they have ag/agriculture and then environment or natural resource management. And so my group was the CHA/CYE with the health and the education volunteers. And they did every six months they did ag and CHA/CYE.

WILSON: Okay, and how many volunteers were in Niger altogether at that time?

GREENE: Probably around 100. Well, not sure when I came in I was the first group that they used to do it just have a new group every year once a year. And so with my group it used to be they'd come in around December or January every year. My group was the first to come in in July. So they probably didn't have as many because they weren't constantly filling in groups. But yeah they probably had around 100.


WILSON: What did you do in Philadelphia for the three days?

GREENE: I don't remember that that much. A lot of paperwork they tried I mean we did some role playing and situations that you would be in. I mean they had a book and they went through it, safety issues and medical issues, and dealing with unwanted attention. I remember watching a video.

WILSON: Did there seem to be a lot of concern about security?

GREENE: Not I mean they were--

WILSON: Because you went in after September 11 and after the Peace Corps was adding security people I think to the in country staff.

GREENE: Yeah we had security people. I mean I think they didn't have 13:00anything special for our country for security. I think it was just what they did. It seems they did focus a lot on security and your safety and your medical health, but I mean they didn't have much specific to Niger. These are the--I mean yeah Niger is a very safe country so there wasn't a lot we had to worry about.

WILSON: Okay so you went to Niger, arrived in Niamey and what was training like?

GREENE: Training was--It was long.

WILSON: How many months?

GREENE: 11 weeks.

WILSON: 11 weeks, okay.

GREENE: We arrived in Niamey and went to Hamdallaye which was about 30k outside of Niamey. It was a village in which in the 80s they had built this huge training site there which had could house you know a couple 14:00hundred people and a kitchen and a not a cafeteria but like a dining area and technical.

WILSON: Right, right now has Peace Corps been in Niger continuously since?

GREENE: Yes, they've been since '60 oh I should know this '62 or '63.

WILSON: Really? Okay, that's what I thought.

GREENE: Yeah so the first two nights we stayed on site in the training site and then they prepared us you know how to use the latrine, how to wash your own clothes, how to setup your mosquito net and all that. And then we had host families and we were paired with, most of us were paired with another trainee so I had a roommate in the host family. And in the host family they had built us our own hut with our own latrine and shower area.

WILSON: And this was also in this same area?

GREENE: In the village.

WILSON: In the village where the training center is, okay alright.

GREENE: Which I mean it was nice to have the ability to have a training 15:00area where we could come and have a specific place to be able to have these sessions and eat and do everything we need to do. But the training area had been there for so many years that the village was just I think the village had just been ruined by Peace Corps. Not--

WILSON: Because that's sort of their main occupation is taking care of you all.

GREENE: Yeah, I mean if you think about it twice a year for three months, two or three months a year it's almost half a year that they have Americans there, Americans who are naive, ignorant of their culture, who don't know any language. I mean it's yeah I mean it's funny because when I went--I was invited to help with the training after me and so when I went back for the first one I was walking out with some trainees in the village and I heard some kids walk by me and say in the local language obscenities at me.


WILSON: Oh okay and they didn't understand?

GREENE: Which they didn't, the trainees didn't understand but they probably didn't think I would understand either. And I just turned around and I was like what did you say? I think they were kind of surprised.

WILSON: So what do you mean that you think the village had been ruined?

GREENE: It just doesn't seem like a real village in Niger. They've just been around Americans too much and it's hard to get the real experience there.

WILSON: What were you doing in training?

GREENE: Most of it was language.

WILSON: And you were learning?

GREENE: Zarma. There are two languages, well three. Zarma is the western side of the country, Hausa is the eastern side of the country and then for the CYEs, the education volunteers, they lived in cities so they were taught French.

WILSON: And did you have any French before you went?

GREENE: I did, I had some French yeah. And so they changed, my training 17:00group was the last to have the type of program that we had. They changed it after my group but for my group it was 11 weeks. Half of it was language, half of it was technical. There was some, a lot of cross cultural sessions about you know how to do this or that, Islam, how to ride bush taxis, how to take care of yourself basically, and then security sessions, safety sessions, and medical sessions. I think that's it.

WILSON: So what would be an example of things you had learned in the technical part say?

GREENE: In the technical parts we did basic healthcare lessons. And a lot of it was trying to incorporate the local how to do this, how to teach them this not necessarily teaching us this. But things that were relevant to villagers' lives such as hand washing and making ORS for diarrhea.


WILSON: Which is?

GREENE: Oral rehydration solution, salt water, salt and sugar water solution. And the three food groups, they have three food groups in Niger.

WILSON: Which are?

GREENE: Energy such as grains.

WILSON: Okay and their grains are?

GREENE: Millet is primarily, sorghum and maize and rice, which they don't not much of the country grows it but they get some of it sent in. And oil and stuff like that and then vitamins and minerals, vegetables and stuff like that--

WILSON: What kinds of vegetables?

GREENE: Vegetables there: tomatoes, cabbage, onion if you want to count that as vegetable. They count that as a vegetable there. Carrots, green peppers, eggplants, those are the main ones there.

WILSON: Any fruits?

GREENE: Cucumbers--Fruits yeah mangos are real big in season in the hot 19:00season, which is from about February to July. Mangoes are everywhere, which is good. They have various bush fruits which I don't know how I would describe those. But I don't think they had much nutritional value. They seemed mostly starchy. Dates, they had a lot of dates. What else? They had pomegranates sometimes, guavas, bananas which they imported from usually from Benin, oranges which were again usually important.

WILSON: So have we done the three food groups?

GREENE: Oh no that's two.

WILSON: Grains, vegetables--

GREENE: Vegetables and then meats.

WILSON: And meat.

GREENE: Protein, so that included peanut butter. They mostly ate goats and sheep and chickens. Cows were more--I mean they ate them but beef was more expensive.

WILSON: They were growing ground nuts for peanut butter?


GREENE: The grow ground nuts. They grow cow peas, beans and yeah those are the two protein sources that they grow. And they make peanut butter and they make something called kuli kuli which is the peanut butter they roll the oil out of it so it's like the peanut butter resin almost and then they fry up that in little pieces. So it's pretty much straight protein, straight fried protein. So they pound that and use it as a spice in sauces.

WILSON: Okay, so what about in your cultural training? What are examples of that?

GREENE: Cultural training, well the first session is kind of funny. They do what it's going to be like at your host family. So they have, they take two of the trainees who can't speak any language and 21:00they have about ten language instructors who are all really great and understanding and have been with Peace Corps. And they're great at acting. Nigeriens are just great at acting. So they come in and they set you down on a mat and you know like you're coming into your host family the first time and they place food down in front of you and they're yelling at you to eat and everyone's talking and it's crazy. And the trainees sitting there are just like what is going on and that's exactly how your first day is at your host family and then you have nothing to say to them because you can't speak. So it's funny; they often do funny skits. But it's just things like that. I can't remember a lot of them, but that was a big one and then--

WILSON: It's pretty much culture specific as opposed to--

GREENE: Yeah definitely culture specific but they have Islam, they have gender issues. They have transportation in the country. I'm trying to think what else. It's definitely culture specific.


WILSON: Okay, what would be examples of what they taught you in each of those, in Islam, in gender issues, and transportation?

GREENE: In gender issues I mean they teach you things that you need to know such as if you're a married woman you don't ever offer your hand to a man to shake, what to wear that's appropriate. That's pretty basic stuff.

WILSON: What is appropriate for a woman?

GREENE: Knees are not appropriate. Knees cannot be shown; well it depends on the area of the country. The eastern area, the Hausa land, is more conservative because it's closer to Nigeria. And there they usually don't show any shoulders. They have long you know short sleeves or long sleeves but no sleeveless shirts, long ankle length skirts and usually I mean they were pagnes, the sarong material. And 23:00some women wear headscarves. I mean the Nigerians all wear headscarves out there but some volunteers opt to wear just to cover their heads because it's more appropriate.

WILSON: Did you?

GREENE: No. I was in Zarma land and so not as conservative.

WILSON: And so you didn't have to?

GREENE: And I even wore sleeveless shirts sometimes. I never showed my knees but shoulders were okay in my area. Yeah Islam I mean they taught us basic fundamentals of Islam like the five pillars which they taught us. Well for transportation how to use the transportation system in the country because it's very intimidating at first. And they did a skit with that, which is really funny because they have. I'm sure you know they have bush taxis.

WILSON: Yeah, but remember the person listening to this doesn't so.


GREENE: They called them navettes. They were 19 seaters almost like a minivan that sat at the most comfortably 19 people. And they would shove about 22 or 23 in there if you're lucky and goats and chickens and luggage and babies and everything. And so they did a couple skits on that, which was funny.

WILSON: And that was the way you got around was by? What do you call them in Niger?

GREENE: Bush taxis.

WILSON: Bush taxis? Okay.

GREENE: I was afraid of them. I well you don't have many options for transportation but it's not very safe. They go really fast and you know there's no maintenance and they're overloaded and who knows when they've been serviced last. But you really sometimes you don't have 25:00a lot of choice. I lived on a dirt road so the road that I had the cars were pickup, big Land Rover pickup trucks with metal bars welded onto the back of them. And then they would shove about 30 people into the bed of the pickup truck. So there were people sitting, there were people riding on the bars, there were people standing over the people sitting. There are goats tied up there and things tied on the roof and that was very uncomfortable of a ride usually because you're stuffed in a really small space and you can't move and your muscles start to spasm. But I felt more safe on them because they went a lot slower. And so I figured if something happened you have, you can just you know. If they're going to tip over you just roll out of the car.

WILSON: No volunteers had motorcycles or--?

GREENE: No, no, no they took those away I'm sure. I think in all of the countries probably at the same time but yeah. They had had a lot of 26:00accidents in Niger with motorcycles and even--

WILSON: And a bicycle wasn't a possibility either?

GREENE: I had a bicycle. The problem in Niger is that there's sand and so. Yeah. When I lived in the city I rode my bicycle often and I had two villages in the bush. My second village was on a latterite road, so I could ride along the latterite road on my bicycle, which was difficult because it was still kind of sandy and rocky and bumpy. But it was a way of transportation. And we also we would hitchhike on the main roads, which was pretty safe. And if you could sometimes get NGO cars and project cars which were air conditioned and--

WILSON: That would be really nice.

GREENE: And then they also had their bus system was getting really building up a lot by the time I left. So they had about five bus lines, big almost like Greyhound busses that went. I mean Niger has basically one, two paved roads one going east west, one going north 27:00south up to Agadez. So and all volunteers were there. Their like regional capital was along the east west road. So that was an option too to get you to get places.

WILSON: You said that your training was the last time they did it that way but you were involved in training later. How did training change?

GREENE: They decided to shorten it. And they shortened it to--First they tried eight weeks, eight and a half weeks and nine weeks or some combination of that. I think they settled on nine weeks or something like that. And they took most of the technical stuff out.

WILSON: Why did they do that?

GREENE: They because they were very adamant about your first three months are only supposed to be for cultural integration and learning language and you're not supposed to be doing any projects. So there's really no point in teaching you all of this information about how to 28:00do projects. And so that was moved to the IST which was at the end of your three months.

WILSON: What is IST?

GREENE: The in service training or early service training.

WILSON: So at the end of the three months then you would get the project training?

GREENE: Mmmhmm.

WILSON: What did you help with when you were helping with training?

GREENE: The selected, they would select a couple of volunteers from each sector to help with the training. And it was basically they wanted us to be there mostly for support for the trainees and to help share our experience with them and encourage them and support them and answer questions about what it's going to be like and but also to give some information I mean practical information on what our projects had been like. And we ran, we helped run some sessions and we just kind of helped out.

WILSON: How many of the people in your group had had previous experience like you had in Africa?

GREENE: Not too many in Africa. My roommate in stage, in the training, 29:00had done a semester in Cameroon so she had also but there were a couple of people who had done a lot of traveling just taken a year off and traveled the world but that was about it.

WILSON: Do you think that made a difference for you having that experience in general ahead of time?

GREENE: For me? Yeah I can't say what it would have been like if I hadn't have. I can't say if I even would have joined the Peace Corps if I hadn't have had the experience in Kenya. But it was definitely easier adapting to the physical conditions. The culture's different and the language is different. So there were different issues there but it helped me be okay at first.

WILSON: How did you become well let's see, let's start with so after training you went where?


GREENE: I was posted in a village that was, it was about 100k out on the paved road west of the capitol. And then 7k down excuse me down a laterite dirt road and then 8k into the bush that I had to walk or ride an oxcart or something.

WILSON: Okay, and were you the only Peace Corps volunteer there?

GREENE: I was the only one there.

WILSON: And had there been Peace Corps volunteers there before?

GREENE: No, I opened that village.

WILSON: Okay, and what was that like the first couple, the first week or the first couple of months when you're supposed to be getting acclimated and getting into your village?

GREENE: Well we have the two weeks before the end of training you do a live in. So you go for a week to spend a week in your new post. And then you come back for a week and a half to training.

WILSON: Oh okay.

GREENE: And so that first time you're there a volunteer who's already 31:00been posted spends the first night with you and has a meeting with the villagers and tries to like settle you in so you are okay. And that was okay. It's just it's a little intimidating when the car drops you off there and you're all alone, especially when you're being installed and it's the real start of your service. It's more uncomfortable because you just don't know what to do. You don't know if you should talk to people or set up your house or you know.

WILSON: And what was your house like?

GREENE: My house--

WILSON: The village provided the house for you?

GREENE: Yes the village provided the house. My first house was it was a mud hut a round, a circular mud hut with a thatch roof. And it had a shower and latrine area separate and it had a millet stock fence around it. It had a pretty big yard concession we called it.

WILSON: And the village had built that for you before you arrived?


WILSON: That was part of the--?

GREENE: That's part of the agreement, yeah. That village I mean it 32:00was--They had never had a white person live with them, so I remember driving in and there was just all of the village children running behind my car. How big is the village? It was probably about 1000 including children, so maybe about 500 adults. And they were, it was a good village at first. I ran into problems in the village because my village chief decided to take a romantic interest in me, a persistent romantic interest. Nothing dangerous, I mean my safety wasn't you know at risk or anything. But he was very persistent about his wants for our relationship and--

WILSON: He thought you would make a possible another wife or--?


GREENE: Maybe or girlfriend, I don't know. It was a big learning experience for me because I you know you go into their into the village and the women in Niger are very hard to get along with at first, to feel comfortable with at first because especially--

WILSON: The women.

GREENE: Okay the women were hard to feel comfortable with at first because especially in that village where they hadn't, they weren't used to living with an American they were really curious about me and they didn't know how to express that. So most of it would come out in them laughing at me or and they're not patient with language learning. And I was pretty I mean my language came pretty easily but I still got a lot of you don't hear Zarma, you don't hear Zarma, you don't hear Zarma. And a lot of repetition and when I would wander around the village and talk to people every single household with women would tell 34:00me to pound. Oh do you know how to pound? Pound! And then laugh at me. Or what's this? What's this? What's this?

WILSON: And by pounding you mean pound?

GREENE: With a mortar and pestle.

WILSON: With a mortar and pestle.

GREENE: A big one that they pound grain in.

WILSON: Okay, alright and that's hard work.

GREENE: It's very hard work. I don't know how to do it so they thought it was hilarious. And so it was a lot of--It got frustrating after a while just okay this isn't funny anymore you know. It's hard to really get them to open up or feel like get a relationship with them. And so what happened was I became friends with my chief because he had traveled the world, not the world but he had traveled West Africa a little bit.


GREENE: And he had a little bit of broken English and he was interested in asking me questions about America and you know cultural exchange, and so it was more stimulating of a conversation than someone laughing 35:00at me pounding. So I kind of bonded with him a little bit, but I guess he mistook that as and that was one of the things in the gender is be careful of men because men are not friends with women in Niger. Men only see women for one thing, and I learned that the hard way. So and what actually happened was in the Zarma language when you say, if it's at night and you say you want to come chat with somebody it means you want to go have sex with somebody. So every night he was asking me if I could come over and chat with you and I just kept, I kept thinking well he wanted to come over and give me the goodnight greetings. There's greetings that you go through at night, and so I just kept saying okay sure. And I didn't realize what I had been saying until it happened to another volunteer. Her best friend had asked her to come chat with her at night and then that's when I understood the entire 36:00situation and I was like oh no. And I went back to my village and when he asked me again I said no you know this is not okay, I don't want you to ask me that again. I'm not interested in you. And he was very persistent in saying the last thing he said was I'm going to ask you every night until you say yes. And so that is when I went into my hut and hid there for about two days until my, luckily my country director was doing a tour of that region and he came a couple days later. And I explained to him the situation and he was very, very upset at my maigri, my chief. And immediately went with, we have drivers every region in the that has volunteers in Niger has a regional hostel transit house with a car with a driver who's d kind of like our--He's 37:00kind of like a fatherly figure but a supervisory figure. He's I mean he's the one that we go to if we have problems in the--

WILSON: Well and if you had medical problems, that's the way they would get you out as well?

GREENE: Medical problems are different.

WILSON: Oh okay.

GREENE: I mean if we had--If he was, he might have been easiest to communicate with but you know if we have some kind of issue going on in our village or wherever we're living he is very, can be very helpful in trying to work that out with who to go to, who to talk to about it.

WILSON: But now how would you get in touch with him?

GREENE: You would have to leave your village and go there or find somewhere that had a phone.

WILSON: Okay because you had no phone? You had no--

GREENE: No, I basically either had to leave my village, which was a long trip into the capital. Or I just waited because I knew somebody was coming two days later in car. So they went and got the chief of my chief, the chief of a bigger village that was my village was included in it. And they went and had a talk with my chief and scared him and 38:00gave me the option. They were really supportive. The Peace Corps was really supportive of me if I wanted to stay in my village or if I wanted to go somewhere else. And at first I didn't want to leave, I didn't want to make an issue out of it, I didn't--Most of it was that I cared for his family a lot, I had grown really close to his children and his wife, and I didn't want to bring shame upon them because that's what it would have done if anybody found out about it. And so I went back with a friend and I took a couple days and tried to figure out you know if I was okay there and I decided that I wasn't. It would be--It would make it for a very awkward experience you know two years.

WILSON: And this is how long after you've gotten there?

GREENE: This was in December so I had been there for about a month, two and a half months in the village.

WILSON: Oh okay.

GREENE: And so I decided to switch villages. And my country director was really supportive of that and so it was a kind of a long process 39:00switching, actually switching the villages right around the holidays and you had to schedule the cars and everything. But I think it really was for the best. I loved my second village and it was, I was in a unique position to be able to go into a village with language. So--

WILSON: Because by that time you've learned a lot more language.

GREENE: Yeah I had a couple months out of the village, about a month and a half. And I was visiting friends so I wasn't just, I was trying to still you know be integrated in the culture. And it was about February that I finally got placed in my next village and the first day I just loved it. I mean I could go around the village and I could chat with people. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all around the women. I felt friendly with them and it was just great and I loved it from the start. So I think it was a bad experience at first but it worked out for the best in the long run.


WILSON: Talk a little bit about because that's really hard when you come into a village for the first time and your job is really to get to know the village. What were the days like? What did you do? You talked about everybody wanting you to pound grain in the mortar but--

GREENE: Yeah, that was probably the hardest part for me about Peace Corps was just the boredom of it. The first you know six months or so when you're not you come from a very fast paced lifestyle going into one that's not concerned with time at all, and I would do things I mean to the extent that we have dirt yards. And my first concession I had a very large yard so I would schedule which days I would sweep which part of the yard. I was that desperate for some kind of--

WILSON: Structure.

GREENE: Structure in my life.

WILSON: And what were you sweeping with?

GREENE: I was sweeping with sort of a whisk broom that you bend down and 41:00you sweep the dirt out of the dirt. They have a skilled way of doing it. But most of the time I would spend a couple hours in the morning walking around the village and just chatting with people, go home for lunch, relax a little in the heat of the day, and then in the afternoon around 4:00 or 5:00 go back out for a couple hours and just wander around and talk with people. And then both in my first village and my second village I had a family. My first village was my chief, well my second village was my chief as well, their family that I would go eat dinner with. So I kind of--It helped me feel not so alone at night and yeah it was nice.

WILSON: Right, so what would you eat for breakfast and lunch that you prepared? Is that right?

GREENE: Yeah I prepared breakfast and lunch. Breakfast, breakfast was hard because there's not much you can eat out there. There was a time where I was buying cereal and eating the powdered milk with water.

WILSON: What kind of cereal?

GREENE: Just corn flakes.

WILSON: Oh you could get corn flakes?

GREENE: You could get them in the capital.

WILSON: Oh okay.

GREENE: But they're bulky and they don't last very long and they're 42:00expensive. So I gave that up and I started eating kuli kuli for breakfast, which was the fried protein.

WILSON: Oh that's good.

GREENE: Which I mean it was alright. I'm not a big breakfast person so I didn't need--They also they have a millet, a traditional millet drink that they make. And there's a warm one and a cold one, and they would bring me the warm one every morning. So I would have a couple things of the kuli kuli and some cups of this warm millet drink.

WILSON: And what about lunch?

GREENE: Lunch I would usually make some kind of pasta or couscous. My parents sent me soft packets that you can get like cheese packets or stuff like that, so and they also have laughing cow cheese that you could buy in the capital, which remarkably doesn't need to be refrigerated.

WILSON: And which is ubiquitous and has been that way for years and years and years, 40 years.


GREENE: So that was always on hand and good for making sauces.

WILSON: What was your house like? I mean I'm talking about the first placement now but maybe--

GREENE: My second one was also a round mud hut with a thatched roof.

WILSON: Okay and what was inside? You go inside and--?

GREENE: Inside on my right was a table, a wooden table just a basic wooden table that I covered with a cloth. And I had my water filter and my stove and my gas bottle was under the table.

WILSON: Okay how big a stove?

GREENE: Two burners, just a flat one that sits on the table. And then I had three metal trunks, and two of them were pretty big and one was about medium sized.

WILSON: Were these trunks that you brought with you or you got them there?

GREENE: No they sell them there.

WILSON: They sell them?



GREENE: So one I had my food in, one I had my clothes in, and one I had 44:00just odds and ends. And those were always placed on cans because so critters don't go under them and hide.

WILSON: What kind of critters?

GREENE: Scorpions, crickets, ants, anything.

WILSON: Did you have driver ants?

GREENE: Well, what are those?

WILSON: Driver ants are the kind that come in in a line and can just take over everything.

GREENE: No, I had many ant holes in my floor. They seemed to be able to bore right through the concrete floor. But we have black biting ants in Niger so they bite, they bite and they hurt. But they don't bite too often. There aren't hoards of them.

WILSON: And what about a bed?

GREENE: Bed I--We most of the year we sleep outside but I had a metal cot that was woven with string and just a thin mattress that I bought and a mosquito net and I usually kept the cot outside because it took 45:00up a lot of space in my hut. But I had a room, I had space for it in my hut when in the cold season when I slept inside I would just keep it in there. The cold season is December to February about.

WILSON: And the cold season means what temperatures?

GREENE: It means about 90s during the day and 50s at night.

WILSON: Okay let's stop there and turn it over. So the cold season is December to--?

GREENE: Mid November to March, I'd say.

WILSON: Mid November, and that means how cold?

GREENE: It gets down in the 50s at night so it gets pretty cold. It's the desert and it's that dry cold. So yeah in cold season I would sleep inside my hut inside my mosquito net on a mattress on my cot in a sleeping bag with sweatpants and a sweatshirt on and socks.

WILSON: Wow, okay.


GREENE: Yeah and it gets into the 90s, upper 90s during the day so there's a big gap.

WILSON: So you brought a sleeping bag? I mean is that something you needed to bring?


WILSON: And in the other, what did you call the seasons?

GREENE: There's cold season, there's hot season, and rainy season. And they have another one which was harvest, and they have well which is kind of what we called mini hot season. So November to March was cold season. March to June was hot season. June to September was rainy season. And October was mini hot season; the rains stopped and it just got hot again.

WILSON: And how hot?

GREENE: 120s.

WILSON: Okay and how much rain?

GREENE: In the height of the rainy season it depends on the year. This past year was a good rainy season and it rained about I'd say at most 47:00two or three times a week. And it would rain, there would be big downpours. A storm would roll in and just the sky would turn orange. There would be a dust storm then the black clouds would be behind it and it would just pour for about a couple hours and then it's done maybe a couple days and maybe it would do it again. But the year before that was maybe once a week it rained in the rainy season, and that was when they had the drought and food crisis after that.

WILSON: Alright so we've talked about your house. What, so then you went to the second village and at this point you're feeling comfortable and it's time to start your job? And what was that like? What did you 48:00do? What would be a typical day when you were doing your job?

GREENE: A typical day, a lot of it was just going around to houses and if there's a sick child helping the parents make the ORS solution or encouraging them to go to the disponsaire, the health clinic. There was a dispensaire six kilometers from me so I would ride my bike there or walk there or take a car there every once and a while. And I tried to go a couple times a week at first. And they had certain days where they did baby wings and certain days where they did prenatal consultations. So I would go in on those days and help, mostly I mean I don't know if they needed me as much as I just wanted to build up trust with them and get to know them and then the chief doctor there, the majeur, was just a great guy and really wanted to work and really 49:00invested in helping his community. And so we talked about things we could do and he said that he thought we really needed to do a midwife training. And so pretty much from the start we had planned on doing that. And this disponsaire had about 29 villages in about a 30 kilometer radius that it was responsible for. And so he wanted to find midwives from each of these villages and bring them to the village and train them so we started working on that just a few months after I got there. And it was a process getting the application in, getting the proposal in and getting money and meeting with the staff and trying to get people, trying to figure out how we're going to do it.

WILSON: And so that's something that you were doing was trying to find women who would be--?

GREENE: That was later after I got the money and set up the project. We 50:00took one day-- there was a hospital in the nearest town on the paved road from us about 40k north of us and they had cars and they agreed to let us have a car and a driver if we paid for gas and per diem for the driver. So we went and took the car out into the bush around and just had a village meeting with all the villagers. And it was good because he was very established in the community and they had quarterly community health meetings. They had a health committee setup in the village in the surrounding community with the 29 villages. And they had a delegate from each village, so we had them come to a meeting. We told them what we wanted to do, we told them to pick a woman and get their money together because they had to have a community contribution and then come to a meeting and so it worked out well.

WILSON: Good, what did you do for recreation?


GREENE: Mostly I read. I read a lot of books.

WILSON: Where did you get your books?

GREENE: We had--There's libraries in the transit houses all across the countries, just volunteers who have books. You read them and then you leave them for somebody else to read, so it's good. I tried to pick up embroidery. They do embroidery there sometimes, the women who can afford to buy the yarn and the material, and they embroider cloths to carry the babies on the back. So, one of my friends in the village taught me how to do that so I had a phase of doing that.

WILSON: And you said that your interactions in the second village were much more comfortable so you got to know the women in that village.

GREENE: Yeah, it was nice. My concession that I lived in, I lived 52:00with my maigri, my chief's family and he had his wife, he had his children, and one of his children was a grown man who had married and was living right next door to him. So they also lived in that same concession. And the man was away, they go on exode. They go, a lot of the men go on the off season, not the harvest season to the coastal countries to look for just labor work to get money and bring it back. So he had been gone for a couple years, but his wife was there and she had a little kid and they were, they became--She became one of my best friends in the village. And then also his brother also lived next door in the same concession too, so his wife also became one of my good friends. And then the schools they have a director for, we have a school in my village. There's a director and there were two contractual volunteer teachers who are just paid less and so one of 53:00them she also lived in the same concession. So it was a good group of women in that concession. It was nice and the kids were great.

WILSON: What would you do together? Sit around and talk?

GREENE: Just yeah I mean that's really all they do. Yeah they just sit out. They have shade hangers and sit under there and talk or when they're pounding I'd go talk to them or I play with the kids a lot. Yeah, I became good friends with my school teacher, the director's wife. She's the one that taught me how to embroider. So she was a lot more curious and a lot easier to talk to. I mean she would ask me a lot of questions and because they had a TV that they would hook up to a car battery which they had a solar panel to recharge, a little solar thing to recharge. So she kind of--She would and her husband followed the news and he a lot of times I got information about what was going on in the world from him because I didn't have a radio. So he was 54:00educated and tried to follow what was going on in the world, so she would also ask me things about that. So that was nice.

WILSON: What about other volunteers? You talked earlier about having visited people while you were between villages but did you, you went around and visited other volunteers in Niger and they came to see you?

GREENE: Yeah, our country director was really lenient with traveling. He was a great country director and he didn't want to police us. He wanted to let us make the experience what we wanted to make it. And for most people it worked out well. For some people they spent most of their time in the transit houses watching movies, but you know that's their own choice. But some country directors make you take vacation days to travel to other regions of the country and he didn't at all. He viewed it as a cross cultural learning experience, so and it was 55:00more it was also for mental health. They understood that like if you're having a bad day in your village and you just need to get out there's no problem in going to another volunteer's village and just taking some time off or--

WILSON: So you made good friends with other volunteers?

GREENE: Yeah one of my best friends lived in the town with the hospital that was on the paved roads. She was kind of, she was in a well traveled area. She was right on the intersection, right on the main road or intersection for another region. But I would go to her house a lot. The other, the only other volunteers closest to me were really far out in the bush. There was one 12k in the bush, there was one 17k in the bush, so it was not easy for me to go visit them.

WILSON: Did you travel outside of Niger at all?

GREENE: Yeah I took, well my first vacation I met my parents in Spain for a week. But I also traveled for about three weeks. I did like a 56:00West Africa loop. We went to Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.

WILSON: Oh great.

GREENE: And then back to Niger.

WILSON: And did that on public transportation?


WILSON: Yeah, good. And how did you find that? Were you, did you find lots of similarities, some differences? What was it like to go to the other countries that you hadn't been to?

GREENE: You cross the border into Benin and it's a whole other world. Niger, you realize how poor Niger is. But there are still some of the same things. You know the houses are constructed a lot alike and the I think Niger has some of the nicest people in the region, people are really nice. We didn't spend a lot of time in Benin. We spent a couple days in Togo and just being by the beach was really nice. In Ghana 57:00it was nice speaking English for once. We met nice people in Ghana. Other volunteers complained that the Ghanaians were not, some of the Ghanaians they met were not as nice. So I don't know, we enjoyed it.

WILSON: So you were in Accra and then went up through Kumasi to Tamale?

GREENE: We were in Accra and then we went along the coast. We went to Cape Coast and then farther west to a small beach town.

WILSON: Oh okay, right.

GREENE: And then spent some time in Kumasi and then went up to Burkina and only spent one night in Burkina. But yeah it's very different from Niger. Ghana is very different. It's almost western.

WILSON: What are a couple of memorable stories from your Peace Corps experience that you maybe have had a chance to already tell people or 58:00that you think that when you're talking to people about your experience that's sort of the way you'll share it?

GREENE: That's a very open question. I mean I've had some memorable experiences there. One of them was working with this little girl in my village who was really handicapped. She, not sure why, I know that she was dropped on her head when she was about two years old. Her parents were in a fight and she was, her mother was carrying her in a basket and her father grabbed her and then grabbed the pagne and the child fell off. But I don't know if she was able to speak before that but or make noises or if she crawled. But she couldn't, she was seven years old and she couldn't walk and she couldn't talk and she was very mentally handicapped and neglected I think. Her I mean her mother 59:00also had three children from her father's first wife who had died and two others of her own children. So and the father just wasn't taking care of them like he should. And he sold meat and all of his children were malnourished, which shouldn't have been the case with him selling meat. But so when I met her, her mother came to me and said is there anything you can do for my daughter, will you look at her and see. And I immediately grew attached to her. She's a gorgeous adorable little girl but her legs were just like toothpicks. And you could pick her up and she was probably about I don't know how tall, three feet tall maybe for a seven year old, very malnourished, very undernourished. And she couldn't, if you were holding her, her legs bent backwards almost. That's how little strength they had. She couldn't hold herself up 60:00at all. She would just immediately fall forward. And so I hooked up with an NGO that worked with handicapped children in Niger and I, there was a man who was the representative in my region and he came down to my village once a week and he taught me some exercises that I could do with her to help strengthen her legs. And I would go over there every day and I would do these exercises with her and just give her attention because that's what she needed. Basically before that all her mother would, and you can't blame her really but she would just leave her lying on the floor and she would just kind of play with her hands. But that's all she did all day was lie on the floor or sometimes sit, she would soil herself. She couldn't go to the bathroom; she couldn't get up to go to the bathroom. So that was not very sanitary for the other 61:00children I'm sure. So I would go over there and do these exercises and eventually she started to build up some strength. And I also tried to talk to her father. He was not very approachable and not very open to changing but I tried really hard to encourage him to give her protein because without it there was no way of her gaining any strength. She would eat a little bit of millet every day and that's about it. She couldn't feed herself either so her mother had to feed her. So when I left she could if I stood her up she could hold onto something and she could stand up. She still was bending over a little bit but she could hold her body. She was starting to be able to hold her body up, which was an improvement. It was good. It was a sad ending because I worked really hard with them and I the nine months before I left I moved out of my village. I took a job with an NGO in the city and right as I was 62:00leaving my village this handicap NGO worker told me that it would cost not too much money, we could bring the child and her mother to Niamey and get her fitted with a brace and try and rehabilitate her. They would feed her, they would house them for three days. And I think he was asking me to pay the money for it. And I didn't have a problem with paying some of the money for it, my only stipulation was that the father paid something because I was just tired of him not taking any responsibility for the family. So that's what I told him. I said go to the father and you convince him to pay. I don't care what it is; I don't care if it's five francs. He has to pay something and then I'll pay the rest. So finally about a month before I left he said I talked to the father and he agreed to pay five mille, which was about $10 which was a quarter of the price, which was good. And I said okay get the money and I'll pay the rest and we can get this thing rolling. 63:00And he went back to the village a week later and the entire family was gone. And he had taken them, they went on exode, he had taken them to the Ivory Coast. And I'm sure that he knew he was going to do that the week before when he talked to my friend.

WILSON: So you don't know what happened?

GREENE: No, I didn't ever get to see her again and I can only guess what's going to happen, what her life is going to be like you know.

WILSON: Other stories?

GREENE: Other stories, I'm not good at just coming up with stories.

WILSON: It's okay. So you were in that village for how long?

GREENE: A year.

WILSON: A year. And then for the last nine months you were?

GREENE: Well, the last six months of my service.


WILSON: Service, okay.

GREENE: And then I extended for I guess it was the last seven months of my service and then I extended for about two months. I went with I took a job with an NGO and they, I was still a Peace Corps volunteer. They just had, they were just had a closer relationship with Peace Corps and gave us an option to have a volunteer work with them, be sort of a project assistant. They would provide housing and Peace Corps would take care of the rest of--

WILSON: And was this a common thing that Peace Corps and this NGO did or was it something that you had found out about and thought would be an interesting?

GREENE: No, it was something that they were starting to do more and more in Niger, something that they thought was sort of a solution to Peace Corps having not much funding to do projects with. So they thought it would be good for volunteers to be able to use NGOs' resources and the skills that they learned working in the bush and with the 65:00local language, which in theory sounds good but didn't really work out in practice. There were some other, there's--I worked with Plan International and there was CARE that did that and CRS.

WILSON: Which is Catholic Relief Services.

GREENE: Catholic Relief Services, and when I was leaving UNICEF had just opened up a position for a volunteer.

WILSON: Okay so in theory the idea is that you're using your experience to be to work in their project?

GREENE: Yeah and benefiting from their resources.

WILSON: Right, right okay.

GREENE: The problem with that for my organization at least was that they didn't have the resources to support me in ways where I would be most useful, which would be in the bush working with people in the bush. So what it turned into was more of an administrative job in the city for me. And I did get, I did get to go out into the bush a lot and work 66:00with people but this was just part of the problem with this job. But a lot of it, oh I could go on and on. It was not a good experience, it was a learning experience but it was not a positive experience there. I got really disillusioned with NGO work.

WILSON: Yeah talk a little bit about that because I think that's interesting. Did you talk to Peace Corps about your concerns so that maybe they won't have somebody else have your experience?

GREENE: Yeah, what actually happened was I had planned on staying until March. And I was so unhappy in this job that I decided to come home in November, which is why I'm home now. What happened was they put me in this job with a specific job description, which was to do a malnutrition project in six villages training people, training the village health workers in these villages to do the, to run the project. And then also using village women who can set a good example and then every day the mothers of malnourished children would come in and 67:00we'd teach them how to cook nutritious meals with locally available ingredients, which was okay. It kind of ignored the aspect of the problem that the fathers are the ones responsible for paying for the food and buying the food, so you can teach them to cook whatever but it doesn't matter if they don't have the ingredients and the fathers refuse to pay for them. And I brought that up with my supervisor there and she didn't seem to think that that was much of an issue. So that was my first disappointment. And they went on vacation for a month. It was planting season so you couldn't really do much work because the entire village was out in the fields planting. So when we started up again it was right after the food crisis. And they decided to entirely revamp this program. And UNICEF had donated tons and tons of plumby nut, which is peanut butter fortified with vitamins, minerals, sugar, 68:00and unimix which is a maize flour with sugar and fortified with other stuff. And this was to give rations to the malnourished children, so the first program we weighed the children. We evaluated their nutrition based on weight for age. And the second program we evaluated based on weight for height, which yielded far lower malnutrition weights than the first one, which is complicated because you don't know which rates you're believing. It's also disappointing because we couldn't compare, we couldn't re-weigh the children we had weighed at first on the same chart and see if any actual change had happened. So they just kind of totally abandoned this program and didn't follow up with it. And so we found the malnourished children based on the second the weight for height and they were instructed, their mothers were 69:00instructed to come once a week and the children were weighed and they were given rations based on how malnourished they were. And from the start I was opposed to this because essentially it's just food aid and I don't agree with food aid, especially in an area that wasn't hit hard by the drought and especially because it wasn't doing anything to bring about sustainable change. The education aspect was completely removed, which I was not happy about. And I told my supervisor all of this and I said you know I understand that I've made a commitment to work with you all and the best way for me to do that is to do what you need me to do because that's the best way for me to help you. But I'm telling you honestly I don't believe in this program. I don't think it's doing anything; I don't believe in food aid. And she said I agree with you and I said okay.

WILSON: So why can't you do it differently?

GREENE: Yeah and she said well this is the first step. We want to get the rates down and then start doing other things. And I didn't 70:00understand why they're wasting all of this money. It was a lot, a lot of money they were spending on buying balances to weigh the flour, buying big metal basins to mix the flour and buying spoons, buying scales, I mean it seemed like a complete waste for maybe a few kids are going to gain weight in a month and then they're just going to lose it again. Because the problem with malnutrition is it's an enormous problem. It's multifaceted and it's something that doesn't change overnight. It's something that changes generationally and I really felt like they just wanted to get the numbers down fast and have something to show for it. And I also felt like that wasn't something that was unique to them as this organization. It was something that many NGOs probably did. So you asked about changing career paths and that pretty much changed mine because I had wanted to do development 71:00work before this and that's why I went into the Peace Corps. And then when I got real development work experience I just became so disillusioned with it that I just didn't want to ever think about development or Africa again. And I've calmed down since then and the job that I'm applying for now is international development related, but it was a hard experience.

WILSON: So do you feel as though you made your point before you left and made a difference in that way or--?

GREENE: I struggled with that because I kind of felt like I should, like I could--Well I felt like maybe I should do that, maybe I should try and do something. But on the other hand to them I'm just this lowly Peace 72:00Corps volunteer. I know nothing about development and I'm you know they're not going to listen to me basically. They hadn't listened to me before. And the other problem was that on a personal level I really liked the people I worked with and I really thought they were devoted to their cause, they were just a little misdirected. And it just would have killed me to see them work so hard every day and then for me to go in there and just totally discredit their program. So I just told them I was leaving for personal reasons and I left it at that. On the other hand of that there was another volunteer working with me in the same job who was also a little embittered by this experience and I don't think he's going to be so diplomatic in his feelings with them.

WILSON: What about writing to Plan International itself?

GREENE: I have never thought about that but I will think about that. When I was leaving, me and this other guy that I was working with 73:00there we brought our issues up and concerns up with Peace Corps.

WILSON: With Peace Corps so they know.

GREENE: With our APCDs [Editor's note: Associate Peace Corps Directors] and they were really concerned about it because they want this, obviously they want us to have a good experience. The other problem of the job was also that while this food crisis was going on everyone in my office left to go a different office. My supervisor was hardly ever there and he wouldn't tell me his schedule. He was not a very good supervisor just in general. He was really a disorganized, wouldn't ever pay attention to what was going on, wouldn't ever remember things, and the job was turned into a lot of administrative work. I wasn't ever trained in any of that and it's all in the foreign language and there's all these papers I have to fill out and nobody told me how to do it. And so it became really frustrating for me to go in there every day and a) not believing in the program I'm doing and b) having to do all this paperwork that was just confusing me and there wasn't anyone 74:00for me. There was one person who was there who helped me through a lot of it and I was really thankful for having him there. It wasn't his job to do it but he was the one I'd go to.

WILSON: But do you think that you made the case to Peace Corps so that somebody will not have the experience like you had again?

GREENE: Yeah, we made a huge case to Peace Corps. We wrote, I wrote my country director a letter explaining all of it telling him why I wanted to leave. I wrote my APCD a letter explaining all of the problems with the job and there--

WILSON: Say what APCD means for somebody else.

GREENE: Associate Peace Corps Director in charge of my sector, which was health. And I made suggestions for how it could possibly be better. And I think in order to be most effective working with Peace Corps volunteers it would be better if they just placed a Peace Corps volunteer in the PLAN villages because PLAN had villages that they worked with. And so in that way you could use the language, you could use the trained people that are there, you could use any projects that are going on in the village and you could support those projects rather 75:00than having to support 36 villages. One project can turn six villages which is you know.

WILSON: What about, the next question is what do you think the impact of your Peace Corps experience was on Niger or the village where you were before whatever? And what do you think the impact was on you?

GREENE: I think the impact was definitely greater on me, but hopefully I touched some people's lives in my village and my community. And I mean it's hard. Development work is hard. It's very slow; you don't see results right away. And I've always believed that you know building things is not the way to go in Peace Corps especially. And there's a great article. We lost SPA funding, SPAs, Small Projects Assistance 76:00funding; it's USAID based. It was one of the biggest funding sources for volunteers in Niger. There's no USAID office in Niger so they took that away, and so it was kind of an issue because volunteers were kind of freaking out about what are we going to do. And our country director responded by printing an article written by another country director from Guinea I believe and basically it was just saying you know don't think you have to build memorials to yourself. And it was an article that really put my experience in perspective and really like affirmed what I had always been trying to do. And it was something that I told every training group that I worked with, I told them about that article, I let them read that article. Basically it just said don't build something that you think is going to be a memorial to you, 77:00a school building or something that you think just because your village or you think it will make your villagers remember you or you think it will show that you've done something there. Your biggest impact you're going to have is on people's lives. And he told a story about when he went back you know the school he built was just in ruins, but the people remembered him, and I think that's really what Peace Corps is all about.

WILSON: It's interesting that you say that because there's a recent--I don't know that you've seen it but there's a--


WILSON: USA Today article which is talking about Peace Corps ought to be more about development than relationships and I think that you would find that most returned Peace Corps volunteers would disagree with that.

GREENE: We were all incensed by that article. I know our country director wrote a response to that article. I don't know if it was published or not but it was yeah it was, no I don't agree with that at all.

WILSON: But on the other hand you thought you were interested in 78:00development.

GREENE: Yeah I mean--

WILSON: So what happens?

GREENE: I understood that Peace Corps was very grassroots, and what I understood from Peace Corps was that if I'm going to work in development, I should have an understanding of what it's like on the ground level, and that's why I did it. I didn't go in there thinking that I'm going to do all these projects and yeah. I don't I mean I did a couple training projects and I don't really know how lasting those are. I mean hopefully I made, I was part of building some kind of base of knowledge for these people, but I don't think my projects made a huge impact on the community and I'm not upset about that. I mean I did what I could do and it's a slow process and it was a learning experience for me and it was a great experience. And I taught them a lot about America and about me and that's all I can ask for.


WILSON: Do you see yourself ever going back to Niger?

GREENE: Not immediately. There's other places in the world I'd like to travel.

WILSON: Go first.

GREENE: But I'd like to go eventually in my life.

WILSON: What's on your list?

GREENE: I'd like to get to Asia eventually, Eastern Europe maybe.

WILSON: Okay yes you're right. One of the questions is what has the impact been on your career path and what have you done since Peace Corps. Well since you've just been back it's a little bit--But you are interviewing for a job in Washington D.C. that is?

GREENE: It's for project coordinator for the International Center of the Urban Institute.

WILSON: What kind of job description?

GREENE: Basically it's project management. There's a lot of--This is what they've described to me. I'm not really sure yet but budgeting, writing budgets and being a liaison between people in the countries 80:00they're working with and--

WILSON: And what countries are they working with?

GREENE: Mostly transitional countries in Eastern Europe.

WILSON: Okay so that will be--

GREENE: Emerging democracies, yeah so it would be different.

WILSON: And if you didn't get that job, what other kinds of jobs are you looking for?

GREENE: Well as I was leaving I was kind of like I'm never doing anything with international development, so I looked for some jobs with health policy also in D.C. So I applied for some of those so--

WILSON: And at this point you're sort of not sure what you want to do next, right?

GREENE: No, at this point all I know is that it's important to get some experience before I make another decision. And I don't regret Peace Corps at all. I mean I'm not sure if maybe I'm going to still stick with international development, maybe I won't. I learned what I don't want to do for sure, which is work with NGOs. But I think 81:00yeah experience is really necessary before. I'm interested in doing something with public policy, but I want to see what it's like on a day to day basis.

WILSON: And the public policy might be international?

GREENE: It might be international or it might be social health, welfare, something like that.

WILSON: You came back in June and you've been gone for two years, is that right?

GREENE: I came back in May and I've been gone for almost two years.

WILSON: What was it like to come back from a country like Niger to a country like the US?

GREENE: Actually for me it was actually harder for me before I came home in the steps of leading up to me coming home. I had a lot of anxiety about coming home the months before so--

WILSON: Because?

GREENE: I just didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if I had changed. I didn't know if my friends would still be there. I just didn't know. I don't know. And when I got home I was completely fine. 82:00My mother called me adaptable. I wanted to go shopping immediately.

WILSON: You weren't freaked out by all the stuff in the grocery store or whatever?

GREENE: I, the only thing I can tell right now is that I have a lot of problem making decisions. It takes me a long time to pick out what kind of cereal I want to eat or what I want at a restaurant or which restaurant to go to.

WILSON: Because you didn't have all those places before. Right, what and this is sort of related to what you were just talking about in terms of international development, but what do you think the impact of Peace Corps service has been on the way you think about the world and what's going on right now in terms of current events, whether it's the war in Iraq or the fact that there's been a crisis in Darfur or Niger.


GREENE: Yeah, I think that's probably not a good question to ask me right now because I got really kind of bitter at the whole sensationalism that goes on in the media while I was there. And I don't know if I crossed the line into overdoing it, being a little too inhumane or I got really upset when they had the food crisis in Niger and they would just go to the Doctors without Borders clinic for malnourished children and take pictures of the children, the starving children with the veins popping out and the IVs in and that's all they would take pictures of.

WILSON: Right, and there's more to Niger than that.

GREENE: There's more to Niger than that and I think it, I mean if anything it's made me realize that don't believe everything you read about. You know you have to experience it. There's a lot behind what you see on the outside. So you know sometimes I just if I hear 84:00anything about Africa in the news or there's a news program about people, some American children going over to Africa and giving them clothes and helping them in their fields and I just immediately went ugh, turned it off. I don't want to listen to it. That's how and I don't know if that's okay if I should feel, if I should be happy for them doing something. It's good that they're doing something but I just feel kind of like it's fake. That's what I feel like.

WILSON: Right and it's interesting there as you know is not and these are not only Americans who are saying these kinds of things but Africans too that that kind of aid has not been helpful.

GREENE: And I'm a very strong believer of that. I mean that's a change I think I went through a lot as I was there because I remember when I 85:00went to Ghana I went with one of my friends and she's a little older. She traveled the world a lot and she's really intelligent. And we were sitting in a restaurant which was overlooking a huge market area in Ghana looking down at all of the packages of clothing that had been shipped in from Goodwill. And she just said you know they should just burn all of that because it's just hurting the local market for clothing, like my tailors don't have any business anymore because everyone's buying the cheap clothes that come from Goodwill. And at first I was like you know that would be such an enormous waste, I mean what would we do with it. But eventually I came to see that she's completely right. I mean we're dumping on them. A lot of our aid is just dumping on them. I've become really, really disillusioned by aid.

WILSON: Well it's not only aid in terms of Ghana. It's the Europeans have sent frozen chicken in there that is cheaper that the chickens 86:00that the Ghanaians are raising themselves.

GREENE: Oh I didn't know that.

WILSON: And so they ruined that market. But you're right, the same thing is true about cloth. This goes back I think that you've really in some ways already answered this, but what do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps has been over its almost 45 years and of course it's been in Niger a lot of that time? And what do you think its role ought to be today?

GREENE: I really think well for the first question I think the impact it's just gotten people aware of America, of the real side of Americans not what they read about in the media or you know McDonald's and I mean I know that in Niger it has been there for a long time. And there were people that would say my teacher was a Peace Corps volunteer. You know there are people that remember that know them. I think Niger has a 87:00great view of Americans because of Peace Corps probably. They're not- -They're a 90% Muslim country; they're not hostile at all to Americans. They don't have a lot of--What's the word I'm looking for? Mistaken views about our culture, I mean it's very hard for them to understand America but they--I don't know if it's because they have a lack of media resources that they just don't know at all but I think it's made a great impact on Niger. I can't say for the rest of the world what it's done but yeah in what was the second part of the question?

WILSON: Well what should Peace Corps' role be today?

GREENE: Should be? Yeah like I said about the USAID article I don't think it should change at all. I mean we're not a development organization. If we wanted to spend $80,000 building a road, that's not the purpose of Peace Corps and that's not what's going to make us effective. And it would essentially destroy Peace Corps if they did 88:00that. So I think it's a great learning experience for Americans. It's definitely opened my eyes to--I mean I don't even know if I know the real impact it's had on me yet, you know? And it's just about building relationships I think between people mostly.

WILSON: Okay, is there a question that I haven't asked you that you want to answer? That means you can--Is there anything else you want to say?

GREENE: I think I'm alright.

WILSON: Okay, thank you.


WILSON: Okay one more question, what is the current readjustment allowance, the allowance you get when you get back?

GREENE: It's $225 a month for each month that you served.

WILSON: For the number of months that you were there?

GREENE: Including training and they tax that.

WILSON: Oh they do tax it? That's interesting.


WILSON: And you also get health care for a--?


GREENE: You get health care for 30 days and then you can opt to buy it, which is what I did which is the $145 a month, which is not super and there's no dental.

WILSON: But at least it's something.

GREENE: It's something and it's a little better than other temporary--

WILSON: Kinds of things. And when you were there your allowance, living allowance was?

GREENE: It varied on where you lived. We had three different types of, we had three different levels. The first was the bush, people living in the bush. And that was about $220 a month. Is that right? Yeah.

WILSON: And then it would be a little bit more if you were in the city?

GREENE: It's a little, it's about $20 more for living in the city working for an NGO because they paid for your utilities, and a little bit more living in the city working as an education volunteer because 90:00you were responsible for your own utilities.

WILSON: Okay, thank you.

[End of interview.]

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