WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project, interview with Ashley Netherton, December 5th, 2005. Ashley, if you would please, give me your full name and where and when you were born?

NETHERTON: Okay, my name is Jane Ashley Netherton and I was born in Morehead, Kentucky on May 17th, 1978.

WILSON: And so you grew up in, in Morehead?

NETHERTON: All my life, yup.

WILSON: Family?

NETHERTON: My parents are Mary Joe and Larry Netherton. I don't have any siblings. I'm an only child. I have some extended family in the Bowling Green area but we're all pretty much from Southern Kentucky.

WILSON: Good solid native Kentucky

NETHERTON: Yes, hahaha.

WILSON: Okay and so you went to primary and high school here?

NETHERTON: Yes, I graduated from Rowan County Senior High School in '96. 1:00Then, I went to college at Hanover College in Southern Indiana.

WILSON: And what did you study at Hanover?

NETHERTON: I was a biology and French double major there. After I graduated from Hanover, I went to UK and I did my masters in biology at the University of Kentucky.

WILSON: Okay and what did you have in mind to do with that Biology?

NETHERTON: Well, hahaha, I, I guess I originally thought I might go into academia but I had a mentor in, in college at Hanover who had been a Peace Corps volunteer in the seventies in Senegal and he had done Peace Corps between his masters and PhD work and had thought that that was a good idea and I'd always wanted to do it and so I would sort of, when 2:00I planned my graduate school I thought well, I'm going to do my masters and then, try Peace Corps and see where that takes me.

WILSON: So when do you, when do you think you first heard about the Peace Corps or thought about the Peace Corps?

NETHERTON: Well, I remember back in the eighties when I was a kid, they had all those TV ads. I just remember all those, you know, toughest job you'll ever love TV ads and you know, you'd see these people on TV in some exotic looking locale. And I'm sure it made some sort of impression on me then because I honestly can't remember where the idea popped into my head but I wanted to join the Peace Corps. I just, it had always been something that I had been interested in as far back as I can remember and so after I finished my masters, it just seemed like a good time to do it.

WILSON: To do it and did you, did you have any part time jobs through 3:00those summers when you were in college or before you went to grad school?

NETHERTON: Yeah, I, I worked a little bit the summer after my freshman year of college but I just came home and had an office job here in Morehead and then, after that I mostly traveled during the summers. I did study abroad programs different places and mostly just studied.

WILSON: Like where? Give me an example, I mean, as your program at Hanover, for example?

NETHERTON: Mm hmm, yeah, I, I, after my sophomore year, I spent that summer in France. I studied with a course from Hanover and then, I had a couple of small, unpaid jobs I guess in France working with--the first of them, the first job was working with American primary school students in a sort of exchange program with some French primary school 4:00students and so I worked with that and then, I also worked with the Louisville Sister Cities Work Exchange Program so I had a job down in Montpelier, France and I worked at a ecologically based day camp for children in southern France that summer. My junior year, I did a study abroad in Belize with Hanover College and then, I did some more research for school in France for my French major and then, I did some research in Australia for my biology major for that summer.

WILSON: So you were both in France and in Australia the same summer?

NETHERTON: Yeah, in the beginning, beginning of the summer, I went to France--


NETHERTON: For a little while and did research and then, later on, to Australia and did other research.

WILSON: So you were busy?

NETHERTON: I was a little busy, hahaha.


WILSON: Okay, so you had the Biology and French major?


WILSON: Okay and then, you went to UK?


WILSON: In biology and tell me something about the Peace Corps application process.

NETHERTON: Well, let's see, I, I guess I started it in the fall before, I left for Senegal in March of 2003 so I had to get, begin the process in the fall and it was really quick. I had heard that it was kind of a long drawn out process but it was pretty quick for me. I did all the medical exams and all that fun stuff and did my paper application and--

WILSON: So you didn't do it online?

NETHERTON: Oh, yes, I guess, I did do it online actually. I was just, hahaha, I remember yeah, just typing up all the essays and things--


NETHERTON: But yeah, it was ultimately, it was online and then, had an 6:00interview over the phone and then, I just waited and there was only like a month or two after my interview that I heard from Peace Corps so--

WILSON: So you didn't have any contact with a Peace Corps recruiter either at Morehead or Hanover or UK?

NETHERTON: No, no, just over the phone. I had talked to the people that work in the office in Chicago so I had to talked to them on the phone but I hadn't met with them yet previous to that.

WILSON: Did you request a particular country?

NETHERTON: I didn't request a particular country but I did want to go to Africa and I, I wasn't given, I guess some people are given choices between Pacific countries. I, I, they just said North or Sub-Saharan and I said Sub-Saharan so--

WILSON: Did you indicate a preference for, for francophone Africa or--?


NETHERTON: Well, because I spoke French, that was sort of a foregone conclusion, I think they, they need French speakers so, so I had an inkling that I was going to West Africa.

WILSON: So things went pretty smoothly and you were notified then in the spring?

NETHERTON: I was notified, I was notified of where I was going in early January and then, I left in March--

WILSON: And that was Sen---


WILSON: Senegal


WILSON: Okay, so you'd finished up your graduate work in December or January?

NETHERTON: I, I finished, it was, it was ironic. I was, I was just writing my thesis. I had finished up all my course work in May of 2002 and so I was just writing and I, I just mended my thesis and like a week later or two weeks later got on a plane so hahaha, it was--


WILSON: Good timing

NETHERTON: Right there at the end

WILSON: So in March, did you go some place for some staging or whatever they may call it now?

NETHERTON: We all, we all met in Philadelphia for two days of staging and it was actually, the, I'll always remember it because it was the day that the Iraq war began that we left for Senegal so yeah, we were there for two days and then--

WILSON: What did you do those two days?

NETHERTON: Oh, it was a lot of sort of getting to know each other as a group and it was talking over some basic rules and policies and just going over the goals of Peace Corps and things like that. Just 9:00preparing for cross-cultural situations so it was, it was all little, it was vague. It wasn't much about Senegal specifically. We got shots and that was it.

WILSON: Had you any background on Senegal before that or--?

NETHERTON: We were sent information in the mail. We got a little book about Senegal and it had a lot of basic information about the country and the climate and stuff and things like that, what crops are grown and you know, sort of basic information about it and you know, a packing list and stuff like that.

WILSON: Okay, let's, let's do a quick check here. Okay, so then, you 10:00went directly from staging to Dakar.


WILSON: Tell me something about that arrival and what you did after you got there.

NETHERTON: Well, we had had, we flew, we flew from New York to Paris and then, Paris to Dakar and we had this horribly long like eight hour layover in Paris so by the time we all got to Dakar, we were horribly jet lagged but it was in the middle of the night when we got there and so we flew in, we couldn't tell anything about the county at all because we couldn't see it from plane and so we got to the airport and we loaded up all of our stuff onto these buses and from there we traveled to Thies which was where we were going to have our training and that's the second largest city in Senegal and it's about seventy kilometers from Dakar so we traveled in the dark and again, we couldn't 11:00tell anything about it so it was, it was kind of frustrating because here, we had just gotten to this place. We were going to spend two years of lives and we couldn't tell anything about it so, so we got there in the middle of the night and all of the training centers staff came out to welcome us and we're all miserably exhausted and so we just got to our rooms and dumped our stuff and crashed.

WILSON: How many were in your group?

NETHERTON: Initially, we had fifty-three in our training group and we lost three of them during training but we swore in with fifty.

WILSON: And what, what were you programmed to go to do, all of you?

NETHERTON: Well, we had different sectors in our group--


NETHERTON: I was in Agroforestry and there was also Agriculture and 12:00Environmental Education so there were three sectors and we were pretty much evenly divided among the three.

WILSON: Okay, so you got to the training center in the dark and the country in the dark, crashed. What happened next?

NETHERTON: Well, the next morning we all, we all woke up to birds and trains and other sounds in Senegal and basically, began our training and yeah, it was, it was all very fast. They had, my training group was the first one that the Senegal program had implemented this, the thing that they called demystification so we were going to be in the training center for four days and then, we were going to be sent out, scattered out throughout the country visiting volunteers in their sites 13:00to get an early taste of volunteer life and so we had sort of a crash course in Senegalese culture, a little bit of Wolof and all that--

WILSON: In four days?

NETHERTON: In four days, yes and we had more shots and you know, all this some health crash course stuff and of course, because we had left the day the Iraq war began, we were on "stand fast" because no one was really sure how that was going to play out in the rest of the world particularly in the Muslim world which was where we were and I mean, it was not the Arab world but Senegal is a predominately Islamic country so we weren't sure how if, if any implications there would be of the Iraq war and so we couldn't leave our training center so 14:00again, we were, we were all very frustrated because we weren't seeing much of this country yet. We were just seeing our training center and trying to get this rapid crash course in culture and you know, food and language and all that stuff really quick before we were going to leave to go visit other volunteers.

WILSON: And you were able to do that after the four days?

NETHERTON: We were. It was yeah, it was the only the four days that they kept us on "stand fast" because it was pretty quick that they figured out that there really wasn't going to be any, any repercussions to that. Senegal is a pretty laid back place. It's the most politically stable country in West Africa now so it was, it was very calm and there, there didn't seem to be any, any problems so after the four days, we hopped on some Land Cruisers and went out into the 15:00interior to the volunteers.

WILSON: And what was that like?

NETHERTON: It was interesting for me. I, I had gotten I think a little bug from the airplane food or something, I don't know so I wasn't feeling my best and Thies is well, Dakar is on the coast and even though Senegal is a very hot country, being on the coast, Dakar is in a really pleasant climate and Thies is not very far inland and so it also has a very pleasant climate and in March, early March, it's not, it's just not really that bad. It's, you know, it actually, you know, gets chilly at night and you need a fleece or something so you know, we got there and we were like Africa? What? This is great! This climate is wonderful and so you know, even though I wasn't feeling so fabulous, I thought well, how bad can it be?


NETHERTON: And so we get in the Land Cruisers and we head out on a nine hour bumpy ride into the interior to the Tambacounda region which is 16:00where I ultimately ended up being stationed so I got a real taste of what life was going to be like for me and you know, we're in these air conditioned Land Cruisers and after nine hours, we get out of the car in Tambacounda and it's a hundred and thirteen degrees, hahaha. And it kind of hit you like a ton of bricks. It was definitely a shock to the system and I just remember getting out of that car and being like oh my God, I don't know if I can do this! Hahaha because it was just, I was, I was feeling pretty rough to begin with and that, the heat was a real shocker and it's dry heat so it just sort of sucks the moisture out of you and, so we got there and that, all these volunteers who had been there for a while and you know, they're just like bouncing 17:00around all this energy and we're wilting in the heat so we all sort of scattered out and went to different villages with the volunteers who were stationed in that area and I stayed with a really nice young woman named Allie and we, she was also an Agroforestry volunteer so we got to do some training with some folks in a local village to teach them how to start a tree nursery and just hung out with some of her, her family and her village and, and looked like complete idiots because we couldn't speak any of her language but--

WILSON: There were all Wolofs?

NETHERTON: No, they were all Peular, the Wolofs are mainly in the Western part of the country so not much Wolofs out where we were but, but yeah, they were all Peular so they were cow herders and we couldn't say a word to them but, but they were so nice and they were so excited 18:00to have us there and they cooked for us and they were so friendly and just got a kick out of us not being able to talk to him but, but yeah, they were super friendly.

WILSON: And they were not French speakers either?

NETHERTON: No, no, it was a really tiny little village of like gosh, like a hundred and fifty people maybe, and they, they had one guy who spoke a little bit of French but, but not much so it was, it was interesting. There was just no common linguistic ground at all so Allie had to serve as translator but it all worked out.

WILSON: And how long were you there for that part of the training?

NETHERTON: We were there with Allie for about three days and then we all piled back in the car and headed back for training to Thies.


WILSON: Okay and then, you're back in Thies doing what and for how long?

NETHERTON: The total of the training was eleven weeks and we, we learned language. We found out pretty soon after we got back to the training center, we stayed there for a couple more days but then, we were assigned to families and so we individually went off to, to live with different families and--

WILSON: In the--?


WILSON: Community?

NETHERTON: Community of Thies, yes and they, the families that we lived with were of the ethnic group that we would be living with in our eventual villages that we'd be assigned to so we knew, we didn't know where we were going to go in the country. We did find out what language we would be speaking and so I was assigned to a Bambara family and Bambara is a major language in Mali but not so major in Senegal so 20:00but the, the mother and the older daughter of the family spoke French so that made it a little bit easier to begin with for me anyway because I could at least talk to them in some mutually understood language but yes, we moved in with families and began training in our, our languages and then, in our work sectors and then also in cultural and of course, medical sort of issues.

WILSON: So was the, the language was all in local ethnic groups, not in French?

NETHERTON: Only the Environmental Education volunteers learned French if they needed to, some of them already spoke it and, and in that 21:00case, they were assigned to classes where they would learn the language that, that they would be speaking in their villages but because they were going to be working with the schools and in Senegal, teachers are assigned to school, you know, teachers come from all different parts of the country so a teacher might be assigned to a school in a village that say Peular but that teacher might be Jola or something and so they don't necessarily speak the local language and so the Environmental Education volunteers needed to learn French which is what the schools taught in Senegal. So they needed to learn that in order to, to be able to communicate with their teachers which was important.

WILSON: Okay, so you had training in Bambara--


WILSON: Some cultural--


WILSON: Training and specific skill training for the Agroforestry, what was that?


NETHERTON: We had, we had training in, we learned a little bit about the environment of Senegal and the local trees that were grown there plus non-native trees that would used in farming and we learned some basic low tech farming techniques, just learned to garden with little hoes, and just most of us were not used to gardening in really arid places and so it was a lot of just learning how to grow things in very, very dry environment. We also were shown techniques that we would be using with our villagers to start tree nurseries and out plant trees. Also, grafting fruit trees, we learned a little bit about that and protecting them and basically a lot of that instruction was just 23:00showing, learning, for us to learn how to teach other people how to do these things in an environment where they didn't have a lot of tools or resources so it was trying to come up with ways to do the work without having to spend money to buy new tools or polysacs for the tree nurseries or you know, watering cans or fertilizer or pesticides, things like that. We were just learning different methods that would be available to our farmers in our village.

WILSON: And so that was about, would you say eleven weeks?

NETHERTON: Eleven weeks.

WILSON: Eleven weeks, okay and then what?

NETHERTON: And then, we swore in, in Dakar and we were the fortieth anniversary bunch. Peace Corps has been in Senegal for forty years 24:00when we swore in so it was a big celebration and they had former Peace Corps volunteers. At that point in time, our ambassador was a former Peace Corps volunteer from Burkina Faso, Richard Roth, and so he was, he was fabulous. He came to our swearing in and stuff and he's a great guy and so we all, we got to bring a family member from our family that we'd been staying with in Thies and so of course, that was a big thing for them and everybody got dressed up in Senegalese clothing and it was a big party and then, the very next day, we got into public transportation and headed out to our regions to begin moving into our villages. We had, because we had a pretty large group that was spread up over nearly ten days because we were meeting, we went to the region 25:00capitals and met with government officials there just to introduce ourselves so that they would know that we were going to be living in their regions and what we were going to be doing there and then, we were dropped off in our villages.

WILSON: And your village was?

NETHERTON: My village was Courbambey and the small village of about three hundred and thirty people. It is in the Kolda region which is in southern Senegal below the Gambia but, but it was about half way between the region capital of Tambacounda, the Tambacounda region and Velingara which is a smaller city so it was about half way between those two cities. A little bit off of a main road and right on the Gambia River on the board of the country of the Gambia as the river 26:00went in from Senegal into the Gambia so it was a tiny little village but it was a nice setting because it was on the river. Yeah, it was--

WILSON: And so let's see, the Bambara came that far down?

NETHERTON: No, the Bambara in terms of their distribution in Senegal, a lot of them, as the railroad was being built between Dakar and Bamako in Mali--

WILSON: Right.

NETHERTON: A lot of Bambaras came from Mali and so if you look, there's a distribution along that railroad line, you see a lot of, of Bambara communities. Also, because of the Niger River in Mali, there's a lot of fishing communities there and so as my village had only been around, hadn't been there for very many generations and they were fishermen who had come over so it wasn't because of the railroad but they came over 27:00and moved from the Niger River valley to the Gambia River valley.

WILSON: Okay and you were the only volunteer in the village?


WILSON: Tell me, tell me something about your settling in, what, what your living conditions were like and so forth.

NETHERTON: I was assigned to a family who was one of the wealthier families in the village which wasn't saying a whole lot but they, they had a big compound and most people live in small mud brick thatch huts and my family had a couple of batiments, of buildings that they had built out of cement bricks so that was sort of a sign of status and, and so, they, but because the compound was very big and they had built 28:00these buildings, there was no room to build a hut for me and Peace Corps has some requirements, you know, that we have to have our own living space so they had to build me my own hut and because there was no room in the compound, I kind of got stuck out by myself but, but that wasn't all bad. It was, it was kind of nice. I had, I was right under a tree so I had a little shade and it was just kind of off on its own. It was a four by four meter mud brick thatch hut with a little fenced in backyard area where I had my latrine and my shower area and small space that I, I ended up, I had a little garden the first year but then, I ended up putting a bed out there the second year because it's so unbelievable hot to sleep inside, hahaha, pretty much everyone 29:00sleeps outside except in the cool season so, which is like almost six or eight months out of the year, you sleep outside.

WILSON: So and this hut was one room?

NETHERTON: Yes, mm hmm.


NETHERTON: Four by four meters.

WILSON: With a veranda or anything?

NETHERTON: I, well, my, my parents came to visit me around Christmas. I'd been there about nine months and because my parents were coming to visit, my, my brother thought that I should have a veranda in the front so he built me this, this sort of shade structure. He put logs up and, and a thatch over, over the top of it so I had this, this little sort of front porch kind of set up for when my parents came so, so I had that and then, he built me another the second year in the back so that 30:00I had a little shade over my outside bed.

WILSON: Okay and in terms of meals and so forth, you cooked for yourself, local food and what was that like?

NETHERTON: In the beginning, I ate always with the family so I got there in June which is you know, right before the rains begin and it's the beginning of what they call the starving time because pretty much everyone's food reserves have begun to run out by that point because the, you're getting ready, you're plowing your fields and you're preparing to grow the next year's crop and so there wasn't a whole lot of food so we pretty much just ate rice for lunch and dinner and 31:00we had what they called, well, they had these three different types of porridge that were either rice, pounded up corn or cornmeal based porridges and so that was what you ate for breakfast and then, rice occasionally with peanut sauce but by that, the peanuts had pretty well run out so, so that was, those were lean times in the beginning but, but after the harvest, they had squash and more peanuts and millet so had a little bit more variety of food after the harvest but--


NETHERTON: It was mostly rice, most of the year.

WILSON: Some fish? You were talking about the people being fishermen.

NETHERTON: Yes, they, they would catch fish. I'm a vegetarian so I don't eat fish but--



NETHERTON: The family would. Sometimes, they'd grill it or sometimes they would put it in the sauce, the peanut sauce so that, pretty much the rice and peanut sauce was the staple lunch and dinner food. On occasion, they would have and for holidays, you know, they would kill a sheep or something and then, I would go to the market once a week and try to buy vegetables because even though the kids were getting a little bit of protein from the peanuts and some fish on occasion, they weren't getting much in the way of vitamins so I would try to get them vegetables as much as I could, I mean, the market didn't have, have too much in the way of vegetables but I would, we were all encouraged to contribute some, either some monetarily or in kind to our families and I prefer to, to give them food than to just give them money as 33:00my contribution.

WILSON: Yeah, and how was it living as part of that family or slightly, outside the compound but a part of the family?

NETHERTON: Well, it was interesting because we're all giving Senegalese names because they cannot pronounce our names for anything so it's not even worth trying so, so my family, my family name was Keita but in Senegal and I'm sure a lot of places in West Africa, some, some last names have a female and a male version and so the female version of Keita was Sadio but I was, I had sort of half man, half woman status because I was white so I was Keita and not Sadio and that was confusing to some people but my brother insisted on it and so I, I just, I said okay so my name was Sadio Keita and Sadio is the name given to the 34:00child born after twins so I don't really know why exactly my brother decided on the, most, most people named Sadio have another name; they're just called Sadio because it's a, just a and there's a lot of that in Senegalese cultural actually. You know, you think you know someone's name and it's not really their real name, it's just their sort of nickname I guess but my, my, my brother's, my family so, the mother had died some years before and she had been called Sadio and so I was, I was named I guess for her and, and it's a big thing to be named after someone so, so there's also a little girl in the family named Sadio so she was called my, my toxomane which is like my, my namesake and so they're always a big connection between the person and 35:00their namesake so, so yeah, so I just, I had a little girl that was sort of my instant connection when I got there and my family was big. There are four brothers and a sister and the sister was married to another man in the village so she lived in a separate compound but the four brothers all lived together with all their wives and all their children and so there were tons and tons of people in the family and the dad was still living. He was, he died right before I left but he was, they didn't really know exactly how old he was but he was probably around ninety when he died so he was there but he was no longer the head of household because he was just too old so the oldest brother was the head of the household and so it was a, this huge enormous family and so because my one brother was my, my working counterpart in terms 36:00of my agroforestry work--


NETHERTON: He was sort of my more immediate family and so his, his wife and he and he was the youngest of the brothers and so the one just five years older than him, those two lived in one of the buildings together so their, their wives and their children and the two brothers lived in the, in the rooms in that building and so that was sort my immediate family and so my, my brother Makha who was my counterpart basically he and his wife took care of him and his, his wife early on was really skeptical of me because even though Peace Corps sends people out and explains why, you know, you're getting a volunteer. This is why they're here and this is what they're going to do; they don't really understand when they're just told that and so when I got there and I was immediately working with her husband all the time, I think she thought that I had come to marry her husband because in Muslim society, 37:00a man can have up to four wives and he only had one so there was room for, for additional wife taking there and so she was sort of cold to me in the beginning because I think she thought I was there to marry her husband and finally, I, I think I made that clear to her that no, no, you know, we work together, abana, finished, and so after that, she was like oh, okay, great! And she ended up being my best friend so that worked out.

WILSON: And describe for me the work.

NETHERTON: Basically, because Senegal is such a dry place, there's only rain during roughly three months of the year and that's when most of your work happens with agroforestry so in the dry season leading up to the rain which is when we would start preparing our tree nurseries 38:00and so we would work with the farmers. We'd get big groups together and my brother and I would lead these training sessions or we would show them how to, to prepare a nursery using polysacs or, or digging a bare root bed in the ground and planting seeds in there and we would collect some local seeds from trees in the area or the, the Senegalese basically, their Forest Service would give out trees out that had been, or seeds that had been bred to have, you know, better properties, better fruit or stronger food or whatever and so we would get, we would get cashew seeds from them and we would grow, grow those and you could also get, you could also request trees from the Forest Service Tree Nursery in Velingara which was about fifty-five kilometers from where 39:00we lived and so we did that that first year because I got there in June and we hadn't, hadn't been there in those dry months to prepare a tree nursery so we requested some trees and we would, we would plan different projects so that first year, we planned a wind break project so we would, we designed it, my brother and I designed it together and then, we just, we talked with the different land owners because no one really owns land in Senegal. You just have land tenure I guess and the chief of the village assigns plots of lands, of land to people and so we talked to him and we talked to the people who were farming on the land where we wanted to put the windbreak and we explained the benefits of it to them and how it would help prevent fires within in the village and how it would help protect the crops from the wind because when the rain, rainy season comes, the winds are really fierce and so we wanted 40:00to help protect the village from that and they had had trouble in the past with, with roof fires that the wind would just blow a cooking fire up under the roof and a nearby village had burned to the ground from that so it was a really serious problem and so we planned this windbreak to help deal with that and to protect crops so we planted that that first year and that was our main project. We also did some, some fruit trees. We requested some mangos and some citrus trees and some guava trees from the Forest Service.

WILSON: What would the, what would the windbreak be? What kind of trees?

NETHERTON: We used, we had three line windbreaks so we used cashew, eucalyptus and mesquite. So we had--

WILSON: And those are all native to--?

NETHERTON: No, none of them are.


WILSON: I wondered--

NETHERTON: None of them are and, and that was something that was kind of, I had done, you know, I had studied in biology and in my master's program, studied a lot about invasive species and using non-native species and I had, it kind of didn't sit very well with me to go out there and start, you know, encouraging people to plant these trees that were not native to their environment and that were you know potentially harmful. I mean, eucalyptus trees require a lot of water and so they, they often dry out the area where they're planted so you know, they have these benefits of being tall and being good windbreak trees but at the same time, they compete with, with, with crops for water and so it was, it was kind of a double-edged sword so it was, I was a little conflicted in some of that encouraging use of trees that had you know 42:00draw backs as well as benefits.

WILSON: Were those three trees recommended by the Senegalese government or--I mean, that was part of their program that was not a Peace Corps?

NETHERTON: Well, both. The, they were encouraged by, by the Forest Service as a good windbreak tree and also, The Gambia, the Peace Corps in The Gambia had developed an agroforestry manual and they had a lot of demonstration sites that had used different combinations of different species and they had found that, that some of the, that those combinations were, were good ones in terms of, of windbreak so because you know, you're thinking about structure of the windbreak you need a tall tree in the middle and you need some lower ones to block 43:00out wind that might come through the lower parts of the taller trees and so it's, you know, it was a strange, it was a strange sort of setup because it was yeah, it was this recommended method but at the same time, I knew that there were going to be drawbacks to, to what we were doing and that was explained to the, to the farmers because they, they also, my village had a banana plantation that was started by a Senegalese man who lived in a near by city who was kind of a venture capitalist of sorts on a small scale but he set up these banana plantations along the river in different villages and so, you know, along the river valley, there is a lot of wind and the bananas are 44:00weak plants and they're not woody so they fall down very easily and the fruit gets damage and that can really decrease your yield so they were very concerned about putting a windbreak there but I even talked with the, the guy that had started the plantation and we both agreed that it would be a bad idea to put eucalyptus out there because bananas require so much water that it would be a real detriment to the plantation if we were to try to use that as a windbreak and so we instead, we used another non-native species believe it or not, leucaena which is a Central American species but it's also a nitrogen fixer and so it was good in terms of giving nutrients to the soil.

WILSON: And cashews and mangos are edible crops--


WILSON: With which the people were familiar?

NETHERTON: Yes, mangos had already been growing there. There was a 45:00variety called the Sierra Leone variety; that was pretty common and that's a small mango that's kind of stringy and that was kind of your garden variety mango but that one also has good root stock and so it doesn't get any, you know, any root diseases that would cause a tree to die and so that one is sort of the one that you encourage seed collection and planting of that for the root stock and then, you would, you would get, you could get other mangos from Guinea or from southern Senegal that were bigger that were grafted mangos so we would basically, Peace Corps would encourage grafting of those instead of planting of those seeds because you never really knew what you'd get if you just planted the seed from some of those grafted mangos.

WILSON: So, so how long was this windbreak?


NETHERTON: It was, we had two arms of it so it was basically about, I think, about a half a kilometer on each, each side.

WILSON: Designed to, to protect the village?




[Side a ends, side b begins.]

WILSON: Side two of interview with Ashley Netherton--Ashley, we've, I guess we've sort of talked about, you talked about your first year's project--


WILSON: Tell me what else was a part of your job and what you went on to do.

NETHERTON: Well, in, in the off season, I mean, once, once the trees were out planted and--

WILSON: And those were planted--?

NETHERTON: During the rainy season because you want to get them out as early as possible so that they can get roots in the ground as deeply as possible before the rains stop because well, ideally, if you get them in the ground early enough then you won't have to water them in the off 47:00season when it's not raining but generally, you do have to, at least the first year, water some but anyway, so when it wasn't raining, we did a variety of things. I worked with the schools a little bit. That was mainly my second year to do some environmental education work. We did health work. My brother, who was my counterpart worker, was a nurses aide and so right before I moved into the village, the village had acquired what they called a health hut and the Danish Red Cross had funded it and it was basically a two room cement block hut that was used for health services and the area where I lived had no electricity or any water so it was pretty basic. They couldn't keep any, anything that had to be refrigerated so it was, it was mostly just first aid 48:00and then, they had a midwife to help women delivery children because the closest city was forty-five kilometers away and I mean, that's only about thirty miles but in terms of getting there with public transportation, it's not so easy so it's, it's nice to have someone around who can, who can help with health issues and so, so my brother was trained a little in, in basic first aid and, and then, we also worked with the local nurse for the, what they call the communautes rurales which is basically the, the local government structure and that was just a grouping of about I think it was like twenty-five villages in this geographic area and so they had a nurse in the seat of that 49:00Community Ural and so we worked with him to do public health sorts of things like we did vaccinations for kids and we did--

WILSON: What were they being vaccinated for?

NETHERTON: Most of the ones we did were yellow fever and then, I think measles and basic childhood diseases, things like that. We did also vitamin supplements for newborns and postpartum mothers and we did a lot of work with, with infants with nutrition because that was probably the biggest, the biggest problem. Malaria was a problem but it wasn't, from my personal observation, I didn't, I didn't see it as being quite the problem that nutrition was for small children and so we did a lot 50:00of work with, with weighing babies and showing, charting their growth on a chart and showing the mothers, you know, we had, it had like a red zone and then, a green zone and a yellow zone and so if the kid was in the red zone, you know, that was a visual representation for the woman. She could see that's bad. Your kid isn't doing well. It needs to be in the green zone on the chart and so that sort of a visual representation was something I think that they could relate to a little bit more.

WILSON: In terms of how the child looked in complexion or what was--?

NETHERTON: No, we were, it was mostly, it was weight and age.

WILSON: Weight, okay.

NETHERTON: We were charting it, you know, weight against age and so--


NETHERTON: You know, you would see a lot of just really teeny, tiny babies that you know were older than you'd think they were because they just weren't getting the right nutrition and most, I mean, women breast feed because I mean, they can't afford formula so I mean, at least they are breast feeding but sometimes, they start them on water too early 51:00and they get really sick from diarrhea and other intestinal--

WILSON: Because the water is contaminated?

NETHERTON: The water is contaminated and it's, you know, you try to get them to filter it and we would explain, we would do certain health animations like we would have little skits where, that would show a guy, you know, going to the bathroom and then, not washing his hands and then getting really sick and, and so I think they, that connection, I think they got that but a lot of it was well, you know, you're fighting against just ingrained cultural tendencies. You know, there was the whole, the inshallah attitude, basically, if God wills it, it will happen and so if God didn't will them to wash their hands, then they weren't going to. And so, you know, we had, we had some fun with that but, but basically, I think that they, I think that that 52:00connection was made well enough, the hygiene thing but the nutrition was, was difficult because there were cultural issues that, that, that prevented small children from getting much protein because you know, there was a whole hierarchy in the family and if there was any meat available, it was going to go to the dad before it was going to go to the three year olds so you know, we kept trying, we kept explaining you know, you need to give the kid, when you have fish, you need to give the kid fish or when you have meat, you need to give them meat and they're just like but he's the, the kid, you know, and so it was really tough to emphasis that to any effect but, but some of them, I think some of the worst because it was all, it was done in a group setting, you know, you could see some mothers had some pretty, pretty small babies and so I think other mothers would see that and become, you know, concerned so that was but you know, there's so many little 53:00cultural nuances that are tough to get, to wrap your brain around and I, I don't think even after two years that I really fully had a, had a handle of it all because you know, there's so many little family, family politics and village politics that, that prevent you know people from getting what they really need so it was interesting but I, I hope, I hope that I, I had some sort of impact on them in terms of making them understand the situation at least. Now, whether they were able to do anything about it, hard to say.

WILSON: Your brother who was your counterpart--


WILSON: Did he have an understanding of these things and what was his educational level?

NETHERTON: He, he didn't have much education. I think he had maybe a primary school education and that was it but he was a really bright 54:00guy. He's, let's see, he's about forty-two now but he has, he speaks I guess about five languages. He, he speaks pretty good French which helps and he can read which is good because that's not that common in the village. There are hardly any women who can read or speak any French.

WILSON: Was there a primary school in the village?

NETHERTON: There is a primary school in the village, yes and it serves about six, six or eight surrounding villages as well so, so that helps but a lot of the girls don't go for very long. I mean, they'll go in the beginning but then, the girls are always needed to work around the house and so they'll get pulled out of school or you know, they'll go up until you know, maybe the fifth or sixth grade and then, and 55:00then, after that, you have to go to a different town to go to school so what, what we know is like middle school, they have to go away to a city for that and hardly anybody has the money to send their children away so to keep them in the city for the entire school year and buy their books and feed them and it's just, it's just too much for most of them so there's very few, very few kids who, who get any sort of real education. I knew a few who had gone on and graduated high school but that was just a handful, maybe three or four people so--

WILSON: Can you, can you describe for me what might have been a typical day from sort of the getting up--


WILSON: To the laying down?

NETHERTON: Well, throughout most of the year, when it wasn't raining, I would sleep outside and so I would basically would wake up when the sun--

WILSON: Is this in a bed or a hammock or--?

NETHERTON: It was a stick bed. It was a, basically, this platform that 56:00had been made out of sticks and I had a little foam mattress that I put over that and hung up a mosquito net and I slept under that and I would usually wake up when the sun came up because when you sleep outside, it's hard not to and the chickens and the donkeys get going about then anyway so it's hard to sleep in late, that's for sure. So I would get up and I would make tea in my hut for myself and, and I would sit around and read for a while in the morning and then, I'd usually go over to my family's house and hang out for, for a while in the morning. It depended on what we had planned for the day. If we had a training planned, then, we would usually get going early in the morning because we would either have to travel to another village or at least, get things set up in our village for that so, so that would 57:00get going in the morning. If we didn't have anything planned for the day, then, then, it was just a lot of hanging out, hahaha, with the family and socializing. After the harvest, there was a lot of cracking peanuts so you'd sit on the concrete floor and smack peanuts on the ground and, and crack them all open and do that for hours and hours on end. Lunch was usually around two-ish in the afternoon. We'd have rice and peanut sauce and everybody would crowd around the bowl except I, you know, I had special status so they gave me my own little bowl by myself. So I would, I would eat, sit on the little stool on the ground and eat my, eat my lunch and, and everybody, well, not everyone, the women usually have to work but a lot of people just take a little 58:00nap in the afternoon after lunch and when it's the hottest part of the day especially during the really hot season, it's just deadly and you can't really do much. People would rest in the afternoon and then, later on, get up and start preparing dinner and so some of the girls would be pounding corn or millet and, or with peanuts, sometimes, they'd be grinding. They'd roast the peanuts and then, grind them with a peanut sauce. I also, there was some of the kids in my family that I absolutely adored and I would play with them some in the afternoon and sometimes go for walks, I mean, we lived right on the river and the river at sunset was gorgeous so sometimes, take walks in the woods and go see, see sunset on the river and--


WILSON: So there was actually forest land there or near by?

NETHERTON: Yes, it was pretty open forest. It wasn't very, it wasn't dense, what you would think of in terms of you know, in eastern United States forest or anything like that. It was lower trees and more open but it was definitely, definitely forested on the outskirts towards the river.

WILSON: Okay, what did you, what did you do for recreation?

NETHERTON: Well, let's see, I, I'd ride my bike a lot. Most of that was for personal transportation but I went to the market once a week.

WILSON: Which was where? In another village?

NETHERTON: It was in another village. There are weekly markets all over Senegal so they have them in different places at different times and 60:00so there was one, one direction that was on Monday and then, one in the other direction that was one Tuesday and it depended on what I needed as to which one I went to but I usually went to the one on Tuesday and that was a seventeen kilometer one way trip and so I would bike there early in the morning and that's where my Forest Service counterpart lived because we were all assigned to a person with the Forest Service who can help us get materials and trees, seedlings and seeds and things like that and, and he was also a good technical resource. If we ever had problems or if we need to hold trainings and it helps to have someone with some authority so you know, when they see the guy showing up in the Forest Service uniform, they, you know, they tend to respect them a little more than a grungy Peace Corps volunteer. Sometimes but 61:00I would go and, I'd go to the market and I would leave my bike with my Forest Service guy, Stanley and then, go and do my shopping for my family and you know, you'd get, you go once a week and so you get to know these different venders and so I would see, you know, go, always go to the same ones and I'd see them and talk to them and joke around and buy whatever it was that they had to sell that day and usually, I'd get a coke because they had, they had gas powered refrigerators in that, in that town so I could get a cold drink once a week and then, I'd go back and hang out with my Forest Service guy Stanley and his wife was just the nicest lady and she was from Dakar so she had been raised in the capital, in the big city and then, you know, with the 62:00Forest Service, they just get sent to wherever they get sent. They don't really have much choice in that matter so you know, they were in a really rural area and so her life was very different from what it had been in Dakar and she was, you know, better educated and she was just the sweetest woman and so I would hang out with them all day and, and they were Jola which was a different, that's an ethnic group that's in the Casamance which is in the lower, southern part of Senegal between the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau and so you know, they had just different food that they ate and different, different, a whole different language and just different culture and so they were, they were an interesting, interesting family and so I would just hang out with them all day long until the evening when the sun was a little less hot and I could get back on my bike and bike back to my village but that was sort of my once a week like fun time.

WILSON: Any other recreational, if that's recreation, that sounds a 63:00little bit like it's part of your every, everyday life but I mean, did you ever travel to Dakar or to--


WILSON: Any of the other cities? So you visited other volunteers, any of that?

NETHERTON: I did. My second year, I was a Peace Corps volunteer leader and so I was living part of the time in the regional capital and, and working out of there and so I, I had other responsibilities and I did see, I did see other volunteers much more that second year than I did the first year so and I was also traveling to Dakar a lot more and Dakar is very, it's just so completely different from the eastern part of the country. I mean, we would go and you could, you could go to a nice restaurant and you could take a hot shower, hahaha, you could sleep in air conditioning and it was very weird. It was, the first time I went up there, I, I was in a car accident my, early in my first 64:00year and I had to go up there for medical purposes and so that wasn't so much fun but the first time I went up there for fun, it was, it was a bit of a culture shock to go from the village to, you know, to this enormous city of like four million people and, you know, all these amenities and you know, it was, I could eat pizza if I wanted to-- and you know, it was very, it was very interesting but, but I didn't go there very often because it was such a painful ride because the roads are so terrible. It was, it was a really, you know, you had to really talk yourself up for the trip. I mean, once you were there, it was nice but the road was so bad that we didn't go very often but the, Tambacounda was the regional capital that was, was where I worked my second year a lot and it was, I think it's about sixty thousand people but you know, it didn't have a whole lot but--

WILSON: But it had electricity?


NETHERTON: It had electricity, it did and running water most of the time so, so that was, that was nice I guess and you know, you could, there, there were a couple of restaurants where you could go out and have French fries and you know, things like that but yeah, other volunteers would come and that, we had a house there for Peace Corps volunteers and it was an office where you'd come and do, we had a computer and you could work on the computer if you needed to and, and it was a place to crash if you had stuff to do in the city or just needed to get away from the village so, so volunteers would come in and we would, we would hang out and play games and mostly just do a lot of hanging out. We, we built ourselves a ping pong table the second year so we had that but hahaha, but yeah, it was, there was just yeah, I guess it's funny to say when you're recreational, we didn't, we didn't really play sports or anything like that that much. It was mostly just a lot of hanging out.


WILSON: What about over all health issues? I mean, you mentioned when you first got there, you had a little bit of a bug. Now, you've mentioned something about a vehicle accident. Malaria--

NETHERTON: I never had it. Some people did. We were given a malaria prophylaxis so--

WILSON: And you took them?

NETHERTON: I was, I was pretty good about taking it but you know, I have never, misquotes have never really liked me that much so I, I'm probably not your typical case because I just didn't get bitten that often so if you don't get bitten, you're not going to get it, ha, so I didn't, I didn't really have trouble with that sort of thing. I think everybody gets intestinal adventures at some point in their service so yeah, we all had--


WILSON: But you did boil and filter water?

NETHERTON: I didn't boil. I had a, I had a filter that Peace Corps gave me that, that filtered out pretty much everything and then, if it was really nasty water, we'd put some chlorine in it on top of the filtering but, but yeah, I, my water didn't seem to, to bother me too much in my village because once I filtered it, it, it was pretty clean so it was only when I was someplace else and I just had to drink, you know, whatever and I would carry a little bottle of chlorine and, and hope that that did the trick, most of the time but you know, and then, food, you know, you never know because of the animals aren't kept in pins or anything. They just sort of roam around and so you know, you have your food bowl sitting out on the ground and you know, the goat comes over and knocks the top of it and starts eating out of it so 68:00you never know what has gotten into your food and I did get, I did get pretty sick on a couple of occasions. Well, I had one pretty terrible intestinal bug and the nasty fever and then, it's very, very dusty so I had, I had a few bad sinus infections from the dust but that's nothing you can't get here.

WILSON: And you had access to Peace Corps medical?

NETHERTON: They gave us medical kits. So we had first aid and general medication. We had, they gave us some antibiotics that we kept so if we really needed them, we could call and say I'm sick. I need this and they would tell us, advise us on how to take it so I had that but I, I was pretty lucky. I didn't get anything really nasty, you know, 69:00malaria or dengue or anything like that so--

WILSON: You mentioned calling there, I was going to ask you about that earlier. What were your communications like either with Peace Corps or the Peace Corps staff or people at home, how did you communicate?

NETHERTON: Well, ironically, I mean, the telephone infrastructure outside of the cities is pretty bad except in the far western part of the country where a lot of small villages actually do have telephones but so, but ironically, the cell phone industry has really been booming because they can put up a tower and Senegal is so flat, you know, you can, you can get reception for a pretty good distance and that sort of, this sort of leapfrog technology has been happening and so a lot, a lot 70:00of volunteers had cell phone reception in their villages. I did not but there was a village three kilometers down the road from my village and this one family there had a few family members who had lived in New York and so they had sent money home and that had given them enough money to bring the telephone line out to their village and so they had this telephone which didn't always work--most of the, a lot of time, it didn't work but--

WILSON: A land line?

NETHERTON: A land line.


NETHERTON: They brought a land line out to their village and so I had, I had a land line that sometimes worked three kilometers from me and so if I really, if it was an emergency, I really needed to get in touch with someone, I, I used that. Otherwise, I usually just waited until I went into the city because phone service was much more reliable there and then, I could call home or, or even email from there.


WILSON: So there were internet cafes or something in the--?

NETHERTON: Mm hmm, yeah, actually, they made a lot of progress the two years I was there. It started out that there were only I think one or two internet cafes and they only had a couple of ancient computers and horrible, horrible slow dial up connection and by the time I left, they had several internet cafes with DSL so you never know, progress! Hahaha so--

WILSON: And that was between 2000--?

NETHERTON: 2003 and 2005

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, okay, okay, are there, well, I know what I wanted to ask you. In the, the recent years, it's my understanding that the Peace Corps has had an increasing concern about volunteer safety and 72:00you mentioned at the very beginning going in at the time of the Iraq war began and being sort of held for a few days till people sorted out what that impact might be in a Muslim country such as Senegal. Can you say anything else about safety issues as far as how that worked whether Peace Corps was or wasn't concerned about it or how you responded?

NETHERTON: I think they were definitely concerned about it. A lot of it, I mean, a lot of your daily life, they can't, I mean, you can't control for everything and when you're out in a village, you know, in the middle of nowhere, I mean, there's not much Peace Corps can do to, to control for, for whatever might happen but Senegal is such a calm place in general that it really wasn't too much of an issue. There were some areas of the country that were more conservative and, and 73:00they just sort of encouraged us to stay away from, from those places in terms of, of maybe Islamic militantism and that wasn't really much of an issue at all. It started to be right before I left, there were a few local incidents in Dakar but it was mostly, you know, a city, a city thing and, and so honestly, I mean, Peace Corps, the Senegalese people are so nice and they're, they're not, they're not, for the most part so conservative that, that we would be just in our normal day to day life that we would be doing anything that would be offensive to them. I mean, I mentioned that I had a car accident but that wasn't really anything that, that Peace Corps could control. I mean, the public transportation vehicles there were often in bad condition but--


WILSON: What was that public transportation like? What was it?

NETHERTON: Well, most of, they were, they were basically two primary categories of vehicles. There were the car rapide which were these big bus like things that they would cram twenty-five to thirty people in and, and a few goats and chickens and what not along the way and pile luggage, you know, as high as the--

WILSON: But these were a bus or a mini bus kind of?

NETHERTON: It was a, they had some that were mini buses but you know, they were pretty good size.

WILSON: Full size buses, okay.

NETHERTON: They weren't long like a school bus is here but they were, but they were big, you know, big buses and so that was sort of your cheaper transportation and they had those that would run sort of regular routes up, up and down the roads and they'd just pick up people along the road and take them into the city and then, they had these other things called sept place or seven place cars and those were 75:00Peugot five-o-five station wagons and they had the driver and then, seven passengers crammed in there. Those could go a little faster than the ironically named car rapides and, and so those were mainly your long distance travel vehicles but sometimes, between, you know, two, like between Velingara and Tambacounda which were the two cities on either side of my village, you could get a sept place between those two and that's what I was in when I had my accident but, but you know, they, these things are all twenty, twenty years old or more as the time and they're, they're in bad condition often but, but somehow they make them run, hahaha.

WILSON: You've talked a little bit about the, your, your brother as, as your counterpart. What other kinds of interaction with local people 76:00did you have and, and I think you mentioned something about his, his wife being a close friend?

NETHERTON: Yeah, in the beginning, I thought I would never make friends with any of the women because hardly any of them had any education at all and I thought what are we ever going to have in common? And I thought I would never have anything to talk about, you know, because I, I didn't have any children and I, their work was very foreign to me because I had never had to do any of that sort of physical work. I mean, they, they took care of kids. They washed laundry, they cooked, they pounded, they farmed. They did all this stuff. I mean, they, the women are truly incredible because they work constantly and they just, I mean, I know they're tired but they just, they just go on and it's, it's really impressive but, but it turns out that, that 77:00three of the women in my family turned out to be my absolute best friends and they're, you know, they, they end up, you know, you just have to spend a little time with them but they have this great senses of humor and, and so I ended up just hanging out with, with some of the women just while they would be taking care of babies or you know, preparing, you know, sitting by the pot and stirring it for, for dinner or something and, and you know, they, these women are, they're just incredible and, and you know, sometimes, we would have discussions about potentially sensitive issues because you know, I, I did ask, once I felt comfortable enough with them, I would ask them how they felt about the fact that their husbands could have four wives and they don't like it. I mean, you know, everyone says oh, well, you here, from the men, you hear oh, but you know, these co-wives, they're just 78:00like sisters and I'm like no they're not. They don't like to share anymore than anyone else would so it was interesting to hear about, about their, their views on that and, and also their views on you know, their husbands just wanting as many kids as they could have because it's prestige to have large families so one of my best friends, she was about thirty-two and she's had eight births, five living children and I just remember having this conversation with her and she just turned to me and she's like I'm tired. She was like I'm just so tired and I can't even imagine, you know, having, having had eight pregnancies and eight births with no anesthetic or no anything and you know, it was, they, they're strong women. I have a lot of respect for them and, and I feel for their situation.

WILSON: I gathered that you, you became very comfortable in the language.


NETHERTON: I was, I'm sure that in the end, my language skills were never, they never got to be to the point where I didn't make stupid mistakes all the time but I was able to communicate well enough that I think people understood me. I'm, I'm sure I always made mistakes but there were so many. It's not like learning Spanish or something where you have common ground or common just ways of thinking and ways of expressing yourself. I mean, there were so many just, it was the way you would express a very simple idea would just be so completely different than the way we would do it in English that there was no literal translation of anything so it was difficult for me to learn but I got by so--

WILSON: Okay, are there any particularly memorable events or stories 80:00that you can think of that you'd like to share?

NETHERTON: Oh goodness--

WILSON: Adventures or--?

NETHERTON: Adventures, hahaha, gosh, that's hard to, I, it's hard to pick one specific thing. I think my whole experience was just kind of one, one crazy experience after another but--

WILSON: Well, you were there, you were there two years, right?


WILSON: Okay and then, you had to prepare to come home. What was, what was that like and did you travel some internationally coming home or what did you--?

NETHERTON: I did. We had what they call a COS conference, a close of service conference at the end. and so that was to sort of get us back 81:00thinking in sort of a more American frame of mind and start thinking about preparing a resume and all that good stuff and, and that was, that was a little weird to try to get back into that, that mindset but you know, I had been and everyone says oh, it's so much harder to go home again, to readjust to American life and so I was kind of, I worried about that. I thought it might be weird to go back to the United States after two years in Africa but, but I had gone home for a visit half way through my service and, and it was a little bit weird to go home. I remember that first night at home, I woke up in my bed and I didn't, I didn't really know where I was and I, I felt for my mosquito net and it wasn't there, hahaha, and so that was a little disorienting but and I remember going into the grocery store and just kind of 82:00being paralyzed by the enormity and variety that all so that was, the grocery store is something to definitely stay away from when you first come home but, but it was, it wasn't, when I ultimately came home, it wasn't, it wasn't so bad. I didn't have that much trouble readjusting but I did take a trip between the end of my service and arriving in the United States. I was, one of my other fellow volunteers and I did a five week overland trip from Dakar to Paris, France so--

WILSON: Oh! Tell me about that

NETHERTON: We, we left Dakar. We went up through the St. Louis up the coast in Senegal, crossed over the Senegal River into Mauritania and we had met some Mauritanian Peace Corps volunteers who had come to-- the Embassy in Dakar hosts something called WAIST which is the West 83:00African International Softball Tournament and it's, every year they have this tournament and it's mostly folks from different Embassies and other expatriates that live in, in the Dakar area but you get Peace Corps volunteers from all the place. There are teams from Benin and Mauritania, Mali, Gambia so it's, it really is an international event and, and so we had met some volunteers from Mauritania and so we, we went up and visited them and toured around Mauritania which was very different from Senegal--

WILSON: And this was public transportation?

NETHERTON: Again, yes, this is all public, hahaha, so yeah, we, we traveled around and went out into the desert and rode camels and, and went all over Mauritania and then, traveled over land through Western Sahara and Morocco. Spent about three weeks in Morocco which was a fascinating place. We took the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to 84:00Spain and up through Spain into France and then, finally flew home from there after five weeks of traveling so it was, it was sort of gradually reentering the developed world from Mauritania to Morocco which some what was more developed and then, into Spain and France and then, back to the United States so I think that helped with my readjustment because it was little by little, baby steps, hahaha.

WILSON: So what do you think your impact of your service in Senegal was on Senegal--


WILSON: Or the villages that you worked in?

NETHERTON: I wondered as I was leaving if I had any impact because so many projects fail and you, you know, you get excited about doing a project and then, the goats eat all of your trees and you're like well, that was all this hard work down the drain.

WILSON: Did that in fact happen to you?

NETHERTON: Oh yeah! It happened a lot and you know, you, you'd try to 85:00keep a smile on your face and you keep encouraging people, you know, okay, well, it's good that you out planted these trees but you know, you really need to protect them from the goats because otherwise, they're just going to eat them and that was tough because they knew that. I mean, they knew it. It wasn't like they didn't realize the goat was going to come along and eat it but it was just, it was a lot of work and they work so hard anyway that you know, sometimes, I, I found it hard to be you know the nag and be like come on, you really got to protect these trees when I knew they were just exhausted from being out in the field, you know, bent over at the waist with a hoe in their hand, you know, farming all day long.

WILSON: And, and was that women's work too?


WILSON: The protecting of the trees?

NETHERTON: Yeah, some, I mean, the women mostly, they watered the trees mostly and then, were, at least the ones that I worked with would out plant more and, and they were the ones supposed, that were supposed to protect them but you know, it was, it was tough and plus, you know, 86:00being a female is tough to, to say you really need to do this because they're not used to listening to a woman tell them to do anything, hahaha so I mean, that was tough and I remember thinking, going, you know, God, have I, have I done anything at all in these past two years and, and then, I guess a couple months after I was home, my brother called me on the phone and I, I can't believe he did it because it must have cost him a fortune. I mean, he called me here in Kentucky to let me know that they had just out planted some more trees in the village and so it was something that he had just done, you know, with some guys in the village on his own, I mean, I hadn't, you know, told him to do it. I hadn't been on his case about it or anything so, so that was encouraging that he had done something just of his own initiative and I don't think that, I think that I had probably a cultural exchange in, 87:00I mean, I know I must have had some cultural exchange impact with them because they'd never seen an American before and so you know, they had some, some really interesting ideas about Americans. I remember, this is a funny story, this wasn't my village but another fellow volunteer told me this that her, in her village, Arnold Schwarzenegger had been elected Governor while I was, of California, while I was there and so it was right after that election that this guy came up to my friend Eleanor and said you know, you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger is now the Governor of California because they get radio and they hear all this stuff and she said yes, yes and they said but I just can't understand how they elected him. He's killed so many people and it was just, you don't really think about that, that they, you know, that's what they see. They see, you know, they get TV, I mean, it's the state runs one channel of television but they see, you know, the Terminator and God 88:00knows what else and I never really thought of it that way but some of them just don't really understand that it's fake and that all of that stuff if just fiction and so it was really interesting to try to, you know, explain to them how that's not what America is really like and, and a lot of the things I would tell them about my country, they were like oh Sajo! You're so full of it but, but yeah, it was, it was, it was definitely interesting. I don't know what they think about it now but hopefully, I've given them, at least a positive view of the United States.

WILSON: What was the impact on you?

NETHERTON: Oh gosh, well, you know, I don't know what. I can't remember what I thought, what I expected from Senegal but I don't, you know, 89:00I guess I just never expected them to be so welcoming and just so accepting of me. I mean, they, they laughed at me plenty, that's for sure but you know, they, they were just like well, you know, that's, that's Sajo. She's our white family member who's a little weird but we just look at her differently, you know, and I, yeah, I don't know, it's hard to say now looking back on it what I, what I expected but it was, yeah, it was just such an incredible experience to live for two years, you know, with these people who are, are just so different from us and yet, in, in a lot of ways, you know, they, they still have the same wants and needs as the rest of us just of a different variety so, I don't know.

WILSON: Are you still in contact? You mentioned your brother calling 90:00you. Are you in contact with any other people in Senegal or with other volunteers you served with?

NETHERTON: A little bit with some volunteers. It's really tough to stay in contact with my family or my villagers because like you said, there's no phone right. There is in a near by village but it's, it's really complicated and so many, so many of them don't, don't read that I can't really write them letters so that's, that's a little tough to just not be able to, to get in touch with them and find out how they're doing because it's just so hard but yeah. I do keep in touch with some of the volunteers I served with but, but you know, but most of us I think are in that similar situation where you know, we just can't communicate with them.

WILSON: What do you think the impact was on your family?


NETHERTON: My American family?

WILSON: Mm hmm.

NETHERTON: Well, they came to visit me and, and they, you know, it was a real shocker I think because it was, you know, it was a very rapid trip and, and they, well, they both got sick, of course and, you know, it was all this, you know, it was just, it was a very intense, you know, an invasion of culture and they, I was afraid that they would, they were just worn out and had not really enjoyed themselves and right as they were getting ready to leave to go back home, my mom turned to me and she said this is the best vacation we've ever had and that meant a lot to me because it was, you know, I was sharing with them something that had become very special to me. I mean, even though I had only been in my village for about nine months, you know, it was, it, you 92:00know, those people were important to me and it was an important place to me and so I was really happy that my parents could appreciate that and, and then, after they went home, it was such relief because I could call them on the phone and I'd be like oh yeah, you know, Hawa, dah, dah, dah and they knew who Hawa was. So before, before they came to visit, you know, I would tell them about these people but they didn't know and they just, you know, they, I think they tried to listen and understand what I was telling them but, but you know, after they came for the visit, they, they really know who I was talking about and they could appreciate my stories a little more so I think that, it was nice because now we have that, that common bond because they've been there and they know.

WILSON: Okay, if, well, what have you done since you came home? Describe that for me.


WILSON: You came back in July of 2005--



WILSON: So just a few months.

NETHERTON: Yes, just a few months. I visited family and tried to catch up some with friends and family and, and then, I, I decided I wanted to go back to school next year so I just, I've taken a couple--

[Tape one, side b ends; tape two, side a begins.]]

WILSON: Tape two of interview with Ashley Netherton on December 5th, 2005. Ashley, you were about to tell me something about your life since you came home in July and what you're headed off to do.

NETHERTON: Right, so I'm hoping to go back to school next fall so I've just been taking a couple of classes and that's been different to get, to get back into the academics and the mind frame after two years of just being able to basically, you know, set my own agenda for the day 94:00and do whatever. It was all very self-directed so it's, it's been interesting to come back and have a much more structured life so I've just been taking classes and working. I teach a class in leadership skills at Morehead State and I work in a bookstore.

WILSON: And you're starting a PhD program?

NETHERTON: No, I'm actually sort of switching horses in mid-stream so to speak.

WILSON: Ah huh, okay

NETHERTON: I, after Peace Corps, I, I knew that, before going into the Peace Corps, I'd always been interested in, in sort of political and policy issues surrounding environmental topics. I had studied, in my master's program, I had studied plant ecology but more specifically, restoration ecology involving tropical forests so I have always 95:00been interested in environmental issues and but I had always gone at them from a science perspective and so after being in Senegal and dealing with development issues and living in a developing country and dealing with the other things that affect, like a social impact and the social effects on the environment, I decided that I wanted to pursue a professional master's degree in Environmental Policy with an international focus so that's the plan anyway for next year.

WILSON: And you're just putting in applications for that--?


WILSON: Now? Where would you like to do that?

NETHERTON: Well, I'm looking at a few schools so, sort of depends on where I get in. And all of that but--

WILSON: Well, I guess what I was asking was where, where are you 96:00applying? Where would you like to go?

NETHERTON: I'm looking at Indiana, Maryland, American University so--


NETHERTON: Some in the D.C. area so--

WILSON: Well, you answered the, my last, you answered my other question which had to do with career path. And does Peace Corps have anything to do with that. Do you look forward then to some other international experience?

NETHERTON: Oh, I really hope so, yeah, I mean, I really loved working internationally and, and I have traveled some elsewhere in the world too and I just, I've really enjoyed it so I'm hoping that, that studying international environmental policy will give me a chance to work abroad again.

WILSON: Do you, do you think that your Peace Corps experience has had any impact on the way you look at the rest of the world?


NETHERTON: Oh absolutely.

WILSON: How would you describe that?

NETHERTON: I don't, I don't see how it couldn't but I, I definitely, you know, I think I had always, I mean, this is just specifically dealing with environmental issues but I think I had always thought of, of developing counties as you know, I guess I never really thought of, of their, their own problems from an economic perspective at all. You know, I never realized how day to day life is just so hand to mouth in a lot of places and how that just shapes everything that you do and, and you know, a lot of folks in Senegal probably would plant more trees or cut down fewer trees if it didn't mean that you know, not cutting down that tree means I don't eat tonight so I think that the immediacy and the urgency of some of the, of the problems that they are dealing 98:00with, I just, I don't think I fully appreciated that and so, I think that being in Senegal for those two years just gave me, I mean, I think it gave me more questions than it answered but, but I don't see that as a bad thing I think it's just, just opened up a lot of windows for me in terms of viewing the developing world and its problems because I think I just didn't, I didn't fully appreciate what poverty can do to you in terms of just framing the way you view everything about life, you're day to day life so it was--


NETHERTON: It was definitely an eye opener.

WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps is about?

NETHERTON: On me or on--?

WILSON: The world

NETHERTON: The world? I think that Peace Corps is incredibly cheap 99:00public diplomacy. I think that it is a great bargain for the federal government honestly because I just discovered just being in Senegal, I mean, Peace Corps had a great reputation there. I mean, people were like oh! You're Peace Corps! Yeah! You know, they really, they really liked it. They, you know, some folks would be like oh yeah, you know, I had this Peace Corps, you know, English teacher back in the sixties or you know, I had this, you know, Peace Corps volunteer that lived in my village and it's just they remember that and they remember it with a, you know, with a positive glow. I mean, it's always, I have never been like, I've never encountered anyone in Senegal who's been like oh, yes, we had this horrible Peace Corps volunteer in our village. You know, I think that Peace Corps does a good job of picking people who, who are really, you know, interested in, in committing to two years 100:00in, you know, in a village somewhere in the world and I think that you know, we've, we've made a positive impact. Now, now, whether we've made, you know, a huge development impact, I think that's arguable but I think that nevertheless, culturally, we've had a very positive impact on the countries that we've served in just in terms of, of giving a positive view of the United States and of Americans because sometimes, there are things that are going on the world that the United States are involved that aren't so positive and that, that other counties are, you know, they see that very negatively and they, and they get negative views of Americans and I, I think that Peace Corps has helped to, to balance that out a little and, and just show the rest of the world that, you know, that we're not all terminators or greedy corporate citizens or whatever you want to call us. You know, we, we're very, 101:00you know, human individuals and think that, that, I think it's been, overall, I think it's been a very positive, positive thing.

WILSON: What should the future role of the Peace Corps be? You may or may not seen or heard about a recent article in USA Today--


WILSON: Where somebody, you know, took the Peace Corps to task about what it is and what it ought to become. What's, what's your view of where the Peace Corps ought to go?

NETHERTON: Mm, that's a tough question to answer. I did see that article on and I think that, I don't know, I read, I read a biography of Sargent Shriver when I was in my service and I think that after reading that, to an extent, I did see how maybe Peace Corps had gotten 102:00away from its original vision and I think that that's, I mean, I think all, you know bureaucracies are, are prone to, to just becoming their own culture and, and I think that, I think it's, I think it's good that Peace Corps still has, you know, the turnover and getting fresh blood in, into, into the folks that work even in Washington and else where but I, I think that you can't expect Peace Corps to be this efficient, well oiled, development machine because that's not the only reason that we're there and I think that you know, people forget that there are three goals to Peace Corps and you know, development is only one of them and I think that it's important to realize that we are having other impacts particularly culturally and public diplomacy impacts 103:00on the rest of the world and I, I don't know if I have any great answer to, to what, to what should be done to, to make Peace Corps better in the future but I think that, that, that maybe critics of our development impact are, are not seeing the whole picture.

WILSON: Okay, that's all the questions I actually have except what question haven't I asked you that you would like to answer?


WILSON: Or story, anything that occurred to you as we were going along that you didn't get a chance to talk about?

NETHERTON: I'm trying to think if there's any story that I haven't told. Yeah, I'm sure I'll think of one tonight or something, hahaha.

WILSON: Yeah, let me, let me ask you one last thing because we started talking about this before we went on, on the tape and you didn't 104:00mention when you were talking about what you're doing now. You're about to go off--


WILSON: For a period?

NETHERTON: Yeah, I'm going off to France for only three months which is short compared to two years but, but yeah--

WILSON: To do?

NETHERTON: I'm going to be directing a study abroad program for university students--

WILSON: Here at Morehead?

NETHERTON: There, just, no not, there are actually none that are from Morehead but they're students that are from schools that are consortium members of the Kentucky Institute for International Studies so they'll be studying at the International Center at the University of Burgundy in Dijon and they'll be studying French language and culture and literature and music and things like that so I don't know. I thin 105:00it'll be interesting to, to take some folks over there. I mean, it's, Europe is so much more like the United States than, than a lot of the developing world is but it's still an interesting opportunity for a cross-cultural exchange so I'm looking forward to it.

WILSON: Do you ever see yourself coming back to settle in Kentucky?

NETHERTON: Maybe. You know, it's, I have, I have trouble picturing ten years down the road. It's hard to say what I'll be doing next but, but Kentucky's been very good to me and I really like it here so --

WILSON: Well, you grew up here, did, are your mother and father originally from Kentucky?

NETHERTON: They're both from a tiny town in Southern Kentucky called Smiths Grove which is not far from Bowling Green.

WILSON: Okay, so you have good Kentucky roots?

NETHERTON: Good, good Kentucky roots, yes



NETHERTON: Not eastern Kentucky roots but southern Kentucky roots, yes, hahaha

WILSON: Okay, well, thank you for your time.

NETHERTON: You're welcome.

[End of interview.]

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