WILSON: This is Angene Wilson and I am doing an interview for oral, Peace Corps oral history project on December 24th, 2005. What is your full name?

COLLINS: My full name is Susan Elaine Collins and I go by Lainey Collins.

WILSON: And where and when were you born?

COLLINS: I was born December 28th, 1966, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

WILSON: And tell me something about your family and growing up and whether there was anything in your growing up maybe that related to joining the Peace Corps later.

COLLINS: Yeah, we uh, my family moved to the South when I was really young and we grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I have an aunt, I call 1:00her Aunt Winkie. Her name is Wenn Demick and she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil in, I think, 1964. She was the first group there and I used to go visit her a lot and she had, she has two scrapbooks that are about her experience in Brazil and I was always really impressed with--she had a letter from President Kennedy thanking her for her service and some other neat stuff and she had met a lot of people over there. She was a nurse, working in Brazil and she always told me stories and even--I'm now almost thirty-nine years old, I was visiting her a few months ago and still looked at those books when I was there so they were a big part of my childhood and I think that's where I first kind of got the seed planted in my head about the Peace Corps. My dad wasn't really for it. He didn't like the idea of me going away for two and a half years to a foreign country but I did it 2:00anyway and I left. Decided after I graduated from school that I was going to apply and I applied and left a year later.

WILSON: So where did you go to college?

COLLINS: I went to a small school called the University of the South, that's better known as Sewanee.

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: It's a tiny liberal arts school in Tennessee and I studied art history cause I liked it, that was why. I'm not really doing anything with that now but I really enjoyed the school and the size of it.

WILSON: Were there things there that were, got you interested also in international kinds of things or were there other students there who were interested in Peace Corps or not really?

COLLINS: I doubt--I had one friend who started the process but didn't kind of make it through the end. The process is very tedious and you have to call them, you know, all the time and sort of stay on it so she quickly sort of lost interest but I didn't have any friends, I mean, I 3:00have great friends that I met over there--


COLLINS: But didn't have anybody that was sort of doing the process with me and you know, in school, I did I guess a lot of community service in the community working with kids and Head Start and at the local elementary school but never really had an international interest, you know, our family didn't travel over seas at all. I went to Germany one time as an exchange student but that was really the extent of it. I think with the Peace Corps, the big draw was more the sort of helping a community, not that it was necessarily international or policy oriented. It was more like the idea of helping a community of people.

WILSON: And that did connect them to things that you were doing--

COLLINS: Yeah, right

WILSON: In college?

COLLINS: And I think, you know, even when I was younger, I spent a lot of time at summer camp and early on was a counselor and a junior 4:00counselor and counselor in training and all of that as sort of working with kids and, you know, helping different populations and so--

WILSON: So you graduated in what year?


WILSON: Okay, and then, after you graduated, you--at that point, knew that you wanted to join the Peace Corps and were trying to go through as you say the long process of doing that so what did you do for the year in between?

COLLINS: I--I moved to Boulder, Colorado. Near my aunt that I talked about and did a bunch of odd jobs. I worked on a popcorn farm, I sold falafels on the mall, I don't know--

WILSON: I know what you're talking about.

COLLINS: I worked in a retirement community with older adults which I loved and I just had a lot of odd jobs while I was out there just sort 5:00of trying to pay rent and stuff like that.

WILSON: So just talk a little bit about what the process was for trying to get into Peace Corps.

COLLINS: I guess I applied as I was graduating so in May or June of '88

WILSON: Did you talk to a recruiter or--?

COLLINS: I talked to a recruiter in Atlanta. Had an interview with a recruiter sometime during that summer and pretty quickly was accepted into the community development was the--I guess that's where they put a lot of liberal arts sort of people that--because I didn't really have a skill in medical or anything like that--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: And so they put me in that and then, I stayed in Atlanta for the summer and then I decided to move to Boulder to kind of wait it out.

WILSON: Did you put in a request for a particular country?

COLLINS: No. I was waiting and I guess I kept calling and I cleared 6:00you know the medical clearance which takes like months and months and months and I remember the dentist was like a big deal because if you even had an inclining of a cavity or --. You had to fill it.

WILSON: Or a wisdom tooth or something?

COLLINS: Right, right so, but it was a lot of time on the phone and finally got cleared medically and then, they called one day and they said this is where we're sending everybody in the community development piece this year is Micronesia and I was like "Where is Micronesia?" And I think, I think just because of kind of person I was at that time, they had three different choices. One was Chuuk which was sort of a major island, a sort of placement and you were sort of be living not really with a family but maybe in an apartment or something and working 7:00in a major, what they would call a major city. It was a very small town. Then the other placement was on Pohnpei which was even more developed than Chuuk and the last one they said well, you know, we're sending people to the outer islands of Yap and it's a really difficult assignment and you'll--you won't see any other volunteers for months and months at a time and you may be you know, days away from the main island by boat and of course I said well, that's where I want to go.

So I kind of stuck on that one and then as I you know kind of learned a lot more about Yap, I was just really intrigued by it because it was a place that you know, you couldn't just go there as a tourist, I mean, it was sort of it was kind of a special place to go and they seemed like a community that was very still living off the land and didn't have a currency really or any of that sort of stuff and so I decided 8:00that's where I wanted to go and I called them and hounded them you know for a while more and I think--I do think that's part of their sort of way of weeding people out as you know, if you're not calling, then you're not interested so they sort of let you weed yourself out-- so finally I got a date to leave in May of the--so it took just about a year to get in and get the whole process done.

WILSON: And so then, you were, you went to staging at--

COLLINS: We went to Hawaii for a few days.


COLLINS: Not very long, the University of Hawaii

WILSON: In Hilo or in--

COLLINS: Yeah, ?. We were in the dorms at the University of Hawaii and then, all of us went out to Pohnpei for about a month of training and everybody was together, all the Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap volunteers.

WILSON: And you were all in community development, that was --right?

COLLINS: Community and youth development, yeah



COLLINS: It was sort of like different divisions and we stayed in this--I don't even know what it was, it was sort of like an abandoned school or something. And all the females stayed in this one building that was sort of like we were sleeping on the floor and in hammocks and stuff like that and then, there was another part that was where the males were staying and we were pretty secluded from everybody else but you know, got to really experience some really neat things like a feast and you know, once they let us out of training, I guess, and I sort of remember training as a blur a little bit, that part of training.

WILSON: Did they do language training too?

COLLINS: They didn't do language training then because there's forty- three different languages over there. So that this was sort of like we learned how to teach English as a second language because that was sort of a big "in" for us on these islands--


WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: Cause the islands really wanted that so we got trained to do that. And we did a lot, I remember a lot of workshops just about community development and how you go in and assess a community and how do you go in and become a member of a community because we were all living with a family and sort of adopted by different families over there.

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: And then after, I guess a month or five weeks, we went--we separated into our three groups and the Yap volunteers went to an island called Ulithi which is a tiny plane ride away from the main island of Yap and we spent the next six weeks I guess at the outer island high school and this was summer time so there was no high school going on and we--they did I guess, three or four different language classrooms. Once again, I had decided that I wanted to go to the 11:00farthest island. And I remember they kind of gave us a choice and they said this island has an airplane, this island is so many days away by boat and there was a volunteer that was leaving that was sort of telling us about these islands and he started talking about this one island called Satawal that sounded really neat and he said well, you know, they would never send a woman there because it's very far away and I said well, that's where I want to go. So I ended up there which was a great--it was ten days away by boat. And it was very secluded, they hadn't had a volunteer on the island in ten years or fifteen years, I think because it was so remote. But the people were great and it was a perfect match for sort of my personality and so anyway, I was doing, I did language training one on one with somebody because that 12:00island, that particular island has one dialect that nobody else speaks.

WILSON: Which is called?

COLLINS: They call it Satawalese, the islanders don't really call it that but that's what they, I guess--

WILSON: So, so, how do you spell Satawal?

COLLINS: S-a-t-a-w-a-l


COLLINS: Is the--

WILSON: And the people then and the language are also Satawala or Satawalese?

COLLINS: Satawalese, yeah.

WILSON: And are they--if there's forty languages in Micronesia, are they mutually intelligible at all or--?

COLLINS: They're--you know, my language was similar to some of the islands around mine and also, some of the outer islands of Chuuk because even though they were in a different what was called state, they were sort of more similar to our island. You know, there would be major differences in some words but then, sometimes it was just a letter like an "L" was an "N," you know, it was like switched like that--


WILSON: Right, right. So how big was the island?

COLLINS: A half a square mile. It was tiny--hahaha

WILSON: Ooh, and how many people?

COLLINS: It varied, I would say between four and six hundred--

WILSON: And they lived in sort of a village or scattered homestead plots or something?

COLLINS: There were--there were clans and then, there were villages and I think, I think there were nine villages and I lived in one of the villages that was with one of the chiefs. They had three chiefs on the island. And I lived with a family and they sort of took me in. You know, I became their daughter and you know, for all--

WILSON: ----------(??)

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah.

WILSON: So what--what was it like? You said that you really wanted to go 14:00to the farthest place.


WILSON: And so forth and you didn't know exactly where Micronesia was at the beginning. . what was it like first of all to arrive in Yap just generally but then, to arrive on your island? What do you remember about it as opposed to what maybe you thought it was going to be like?

COLLINS: Right, I--when I arrived in Yap, it wasn't that big of a deal because it was--I remember the airport was really funny because it was an open-air airport. And there were a lot of people with a lot of--you know, they would give us flower leis and stuff. Not like a Hawaiian leis but a different way of making them to people that were coming in and it was just like such a different custom but the main island of Yap had a very different culture to the outer islands and a very, very different language which I could never figure out any of 15:00the main island language and even, like as I got to know some of the main island Peace Corps volunteers, we--there was no way that we could even draw you know, any sort of match between those two islands, it's like they came out of two different places. So the outer islands were really a different place and the people were very different. They seemed more laid back and they didn't really have a currency and they had different customs and they still really wore like traditional dress and stuff like that where as on the main land, they had adopted a lot of Western ways, Western medicine. There wasn't a lot of that on the outer islands. But we got on this boat called The Micro-Spirit and basically, it's a, I think, Japan donated it or they got it really 16:00cheap from Japan and it was a freighter but they had built these decks on the back so basically, you were sitting on a big wooden deck and I think back on some of that stuff and I'm like wow, if that thing had sunk. I know a lot of things that I did where I think back at some of that stuff like life jackets and things like that but we got on the boat and there were eight of us going to outer islands and we were all going to different islands and I remember that it was almost like each day somebody would get off the boat and so we would be you know, seven, and then, six and finally, then, one day I figured that I was going to be on the boat by myself--


COLLINS: So we dropped off Sophia, who was kind of the closest to me and then, it was another day and half or two days to my island and you know, I think Satawal is unique because it's not in--it doesn't have a atoll but it's a very small island so there are many times where you 17:00know, you couldn't go fishing because the water was rough or the boat would come out and it couldn't really dock ever there so it was usually a very quick thing but I think it made the people like a certain, gave them a certain kind of strength because they had to sort of fight those things.

WILSON: How, just out of curiosity, how often would people who lived on the island get off the island? Never?

COLLINS: It depended. I mean, they're--not very often, you know, the family that I lived with, we went in once together and it was because we had, I had a small brother, he was probably born about the same time that I actually entered Micronesia to start training so by the time I got to my island, he was about you know, three months old and he got very sick during, sort of after my first year and came in--we started 18:00to bring him in on the boat and he actually died on the boat.

WILSON: Oh, gosh.

COLLINS: But those were--usually people didn't really travel in unless it was to go to the hospital or there were some people that sort of worked in the government and stuff like that.

WILSON: But it really was how many days?

COLLINS: Ten days

WILSON: Ten days just to--

COLLINS: Yeah, just to get there because you know--


COLLINS: It was cause you stopped a lot along the way.

WILSON: Right, right

COLLINS: There was one time where I actually rode in on a-- like a Coast Guard boat. But it still took three days and that was going straight in on a pretty fast boat so it was pretty far out.

WILSON: How--how close, then the closest island was a day and a half? Is that what you said?

COLLINS: About yeah.

WILSON: Yeah, okay.


WILSON: So back to--

COLLINS: When I got there--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, when you got there--.what--?


COLLINS: Well, when I got there, it was really interesting because they- -you get off the ship in this really precarious way onto a little boat, a little power boat because the ship can't really pull up to the island so you get onto this little boat and then, you take that boat into the beach and I remember coming into the beach--

WILSON: So there's no real, with what you were saying earlier--


WILSON: Not it being an atoll, there was no, no bay--


WILSON: No real area to go--to go into.

COLLINS: Yeah. So you were sitting out there and the ship was going up and down and the other boat is going up and down so finally, you know, you get in the boat and then, you go up to the beach and I remember our going up to the beach and there are a lot of customs that they have on that island that I later learned as to why this happened but I saw like, I mean, I thought there were like a hundred and fifty kids and I remember thinking like are there any adults on the island? But all the kids come out and sort of greet the boat and somehow, you know, they 20:00figured out that they knew exactly where to take me so the kids were the ones that were, that took me up onto, you know, off the beach up into my village and I met my family and sort of stood there and I had learned some language but you know, it's hard to sort of really know it unless you have to speak it everyday so my mother, she took me to the other side of the island which is where they had these kind of fresh water pools that you could bathe in. She took me over there, gave me a lava lava, which is what they wear, the women wear--

WILSON: And a lava lava is a like two yards of cloth--?

COLLINS: Fabric that you wear around your waist.

WILSON: Fabric for around your waist, right

COLLINS: So they gave me a lava lava and a belt to hold it up and we went over there and bathed and then, she took my clothes. Then, all the women on the island are topless

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: And she took my shirt and I said, I was sort of like--and from 21:00that day on, I mean, it was an expectation that the--it was taboo for men or women to wear shirts on the island.

WILSON: So you didn't wear a shirt?

COLLINS: No and so--


COLLINS: Hahaha, yeah, I know, I tell people and they're like what??

WILSON: And did that take some getting used to?

COLLINS: Um, not that much, I mean, it really didn't--I think a lot of the children on the island had never seen a white person. Because they hadn't even had a Peace Corps volunteer for ten or fifteen years so a lot of the children that were under that age had no idea so I think it was getting used to sort of how people reacted to me. And you know, in the sort of in our culture, there's certain boundaries and there, you know, they'll--you know, scratch something on your back where normally we'd be like don't touch me there.

WILSON: Hahaha, yeah, more private space.

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, their private space were different than ours so- 22:00-but it was I mean, I think after--it was much easier, I mean, because you think about having to wash all those shirts that you're wearing and there's--

WILSON: Oh, yeah, no, you're saying you were essentially, saying you were wearing lava lavas--


WILSON: The whole time. And in contrast to breasts which were okay, were knees not okay?

COLLINS: No, knees and thighs were--

WILSON: Taboo?


WILSON: Yeah, taboo so you had to wear--


WILSON: More, yeah--

COLLINS: Yeah, it was--very interesting and I--the customs were--I remember first being there and thinking that they were all wrong, you know? But then, taking the time to learn why they have certain customs, it really opened my eyes a lot to you know, like--it's probably the first experience I ever had outside of my own like Southern, you know, culture which was very kind of ingrained in me when I was growing up so--

WILSON: What was an example of another custom that you thought was--



WILSON: Wrong at the beginning and then, decided maybe it was okay?

COLLINS: They had very strict rules about clans and who you could marry and all that sort of stuff and I began to understand a lot of this like after my first year and things like that because it wasn't--it was hard to find people who would actually sit down and like could feel free to talk about that. And so as a woman, a woman would have a lot of brothers because a brother would be somebody who was your biological brother but also, any of your male cousins were considered brothers and they did that for a reason so that it was very clear about who you would be able to marry and who couldn't. And, so they had--there was kind of a custom that if a man--say if I was there, I was a Micronesian woman and I was--my brother was at my hut or wherever--


WILSON: Yeah, right.

COLLINS: And he was sitting down eating a meal, then, I couldn't stand up and walk around wherever he was sitting, like, they were very careful about that so you know, sometimes, you would see women like sort of crawling or on their knees. And you know, at first I was like this is ridiculous, you know? Why are they doing that? And then, you know, as I learned, it was really about--it was an older custom about because the thigh part of your body was, is so taboo I guess.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, right.

COLLINS: It was a way to be really careful about a woman not arousing a brother or a male cousin.

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: In any way or you know, even thinking that she, you know, could or that he could see her in a different way.

WILSON: In a different way.


WILSON: So where did they put you?

COLLINS: What do you mean?

WILSON: Well, in terms of who you were--

COLLINS: I mean, I--you know--

WILSON: Because I think some Peace Corps volunteers experienced--I mean, 25:00I know this happened in West Africa sometimes that women became sort of honorary males--

COLLINS: Ah huh.

WILSON: In terms of some kinds of things


WILSON: But, but if you're--you know, you're living with, with a chief then were you supposed to be in a particular relationship where--

COLLINS: It wasn't--

WILSON: People--and what was their expectation of you in terms of just your sexuality? Who you might be attractive to?

COLLINS: Right, I mean, I think that, I certainly wasn't expected to you know, crawl on the ground or--


COLLINS: Or any of that sort of stuff.

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: I mean, I feel like I was respectful of it though.

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: I mean, I certainly, like some of the teachers that I worked with in the school who are male, I had a different relationship with them than maybe they would have with you know, if I was their sister--

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: Or if I was sort of a woman that lived on the island but they 26:00were--and as I was there, it was really neat to meet other women who had decided, you know, they had decided not to marry and they sort of were treated a little bit differently too so it was really--

WILSON: Oh, that's interesting

COLLINS: Yeah, it was interesting

WILSON: And that was okay?

COLLINS: That was okay and there were--

WILSON: For women not to marry?

COLLINS: Yeah and there were men that it was okay for them to-- you know, sort of known that there were men that were with other men--


COLLINS: On the other side of the island and then, that was just the way that they were.

You know, I remember being really intrigued by the--there were hermaphrodites but there were quite a few. And just the way that sort of they were treated as sort of they were kind of special and they were sort of allowed to do male and female things.

Which is--it was really interesting--it's so different than like you know, here in America, we're like that's weird, you have to be one or the other, you know?

But it was really, they sort of saw it, I think, as a special gift. 27:00Maybe in a lot of ways but I felt, I mean, I wanted to be really respectful of sort of the way that they did things and you know, they had certain things about when you're having your menstrual cycle, you do not prepare food and that's. And so I followed those things feeling like that it would be disrespectful for me not to.

WILSON: How, how much of that cultural difference were you prepared for in your training?


WILSON: They didn't?


WILSON: Partly because you were going to such different places that they expected you to learn it there? Did they talk about how you might learn or how--?

COLLINS: Well, I--you know, I--I think a major thing about our sort of in-country Yap training specific--

WILSON: Yeah, right

COLLINS: Is that it was all male trainers so that--


COLLINS: You know, certainly I had like a--a trainer, Joe was his name. 28:00that was his island name.


COLLINS: He was great and I absolutely loved him

WILSON: Who was the one who was teaching language--

COLLINS: And he was teaching me language and he would--


COLLINS: Teach me about customs but I think it was not cool for a man to sort of talk about that kind of stuff. But when I got there like the women, I mean, I spent all my time with women. I never went to the men's house, you know, I did all the things that women--I went to the garden. I never went fishing. Because that's was what men did

You know, as women, we went out and looked for fish in the--you know, an octopus and things like that.

WILSON: Right, right, right

COLLINS: And I never like felt like I wanted to push that stuff. It just didn't feel right so--and I really loved the women on the island, they were hysterical like the--I laughed for two years straight, I mean, they were so funny and they were you know, like I didn't feel 29:00like I needed to go outside of that. And I spent a lot of time with the kids too which I really liked.

WILSON: What was a typical day like? I mean, go through the whole thing, getting up, eating, how you ate, what you did--

COLLINS: Yeah, it's amazing like what you get used to at ----------(??) When I first got there, I--I--we had a big family hut which was basically a one room thatch roof hut and then, there was this really small little wooden hut right next door to it and when I first got there, I stayed there and I'd usually have one or two kids that would come stay there with me and it's basically sleeping on a wooden or rock floor on one of those thin pandamus mats with no pillows and like a sheet and that's it and it was amazing how comfortable I could be and how much--how fast you get used to that so--


WILSON: Any--and the temperature?

COLLINS: It was tropical.

WILSON: Tropical the whole time?

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, we had rainy seasons but--

WILSON: Yeah, right, right.

COLLINS: So I'd wake up in the morning and, and you always go down to the ocean in the morning and sort of wash up. We didn't really have a lot of fresh water so all of our bathing was done in the ocean and then, you know, you'd do that and usually we would go down as groups with you know, my sister, my mother, um and then, come back and you know, we would have rice and taro, I mean, you ate the same thing at every meal. Sometimes, there was fish--

WILSON: Rice grown?

COLLINS: No, it was all sent in.

WILSON: Imported?


WILSON: Taro grown?

COLLINS: Taro grown, bread fruit--

WILSON: In the garden? Okay

COLLINS: We had rice from time to time, it kind of depended. And then, I would go off to school which was really close. It was this tiny little school they had and I worked with what they called the eighth 31:00grade. They sort of followed, I guess, at some point, they had had an English school system set up because I found those old English readers that they used, that are ridiculous to use in that culture.

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: But there was not really any sort of curriculum and there were no books so I went to school and I worked with 8th graders which ranged in age from probably twelve to sixteen years old and a lot of people on the island didn't really know their age or their birthday or the year they were born but that was basically the age that I worked with and I, I don't--I don't really remember how I started but I remember that we did a lot of, most of the talking was in their language and then, we would have sometime during the day where we would do some English reading but that we were also--that I was also teaching them math and 32:00sort of how--what a clock is and how to tell time and just things like that.

WILSON: So you were in a community development group but really, you were teaching English as a second language?


WILSON: Or what was the job description supposed to be?

COLLINS: Well, they called that community development but they--they sent us in first as a teacher. With this ESL teacher skills. Because that's a way to give you a role right off the bat

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: And then, as I was there, we developed a project that we did in the community--

WILSON: Okay, okay, okay.

COLLINS: That was not related to school--


COLLINS: But it was a really good way to sort of--you know, it's easy to be like well, I'm here as a teacher and then, you sort of build those other relationships.

WILSON: So school went from--not that time was important right?

COLLINS: I don't know--probably eight to--and then, we would have a big break during the middle of the day and then, most of the students would come back, sometimes they wouldn't. And then, we stopped around, 33:00I don't know, three or four and a lot of students would hang around longer and then, I would go back home--well, I would go home for lunch and then, a lot of times during lunch, what I really liked to do was I used to try to walk around the island every day.

WILSON: Which would take you how long to walk around it?

COLLINS: Half and hour, I mean, forty-five minutes

WILSON: And sort of saying hello to people or--.?

COLLINS: No, it was on the beach.

WILSON: It was on the beach?

COLLINS: Yeah and it was--.it was one way to just sort of--it was important for me, I think in the beginning to sort of get my bearings and to have some time because you're constantly like surrounded by people like all the time and people are watching you and all this. And it was one way to sort of kind of get away from that and--

WILSON: And there was beach all the way around?


WILSON: So you could walk, walk around?


WILSON: Oh, that's nice.

COLLINS: And then I--that, I did that in the beginning and then, had to stop because there was a--.there was a--the chiefs got upset with 34:00somebody who--what did they do? I don't know, they made this local alcohol, coconut, out of coconuts, fermented coconuts--

And somebody had been stealing somebody's or doing something. They are very particular like everybody had trees that they owned and there had been some of that so they cut off access to half of the island except for very specific times so you know, during that time, it was pretty rough and you know, I obviously couldn't walk around the island and we had less I think access to gardens and things like that that were over there.

WILSON: How long did that go on?

COLLINS: Um, probably four or five months.



WILSON: Because the island is already pretty small.

COLLINS: Yeah so we were all like confined--everybody lived on one side. And then, the rest was all gardens and trees and stuff like 35:00that but I would usually try to do something like go to the water or do something that just sort of sit by myself during the lunch and then, I'd go back to school and be busy with the kids until I don't know, four, five depending and then, I'd come back home and usually help with cooking and have dinner and then, I--we'd do something at night. Usually, we used to go sit on the beach at night and sort of talk and tell stories and there were some games that they would play or I would read or the kids would--you know, kids would come over to my house and we would play games and it was just very mellow sort of um--and then, on days when we didn't have school, I would go to the garden with the women. And that was to the taro patch and we would do that which was really fun and then, the second year was very different cause we had a 36:00typhoon, a hurricane flattened our island.

WILSON: Oh, my gosh! While you were there?

COLLINS: Yeah, while I was there and so there was no school the second year.

WILSON: What was that like?

COLLINS: It was really amazing--

WILSON: So you had some idea what Katrina was?

COLLINS: Yeah, well, it was really interesting because I remember like the devastation in Mississippi seemed so huge but I think because there's so much stuff to knock down--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah

COLLINS: Where as, there I mean, we lost--what was devastating was like the trees--

WILSON: Of course.

COLLINS: And all that stuff--

WILSON: Right but did you lose any people?

COLLINS: No, amazingly, we didn't--

WILSON: How did people--?

COLLINS: Somebody, there was--

WILSON: You knew that it was coming?

COLLINS: There was a two way radio--


COLLINS: And somebody from Chuuk, a Chuuk island had gotten in touch with somebody on our island and had gotten a weather report and so we had probably an hour or two to prepare but mostly, they sent--they got everybody to go to the school building because it was the one building 37:00that sort of had some cement. You know and that would be sturdy so like everybody was in the thing and then, we were there for hours and then, there was a lull at when--like the eye crossed over and they, a lot of the men went out and got the rest of the people that like the older people, they hadn't made it there the first time. But yeah, nobody was injured, it was amazing.

WILSON: So the next year was different and--

COLLINS: The next year--

WILSON: How was it different?

COLLINS: There was no school. We spent a lot of time in the garden because the water washed up over the island on many--cause it was only, you know, what?


COLLINS: Ten feet above.

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: And so, we spent a lot of time replanting and sort of getting the salt water out of the gardens, um, rebuilding, cleaning up and then, also, during that time, we did a sanitation project on the island where we had written a grant to get money for--to do water seal toilets 38:00because they didn't have anything and there were a lot--there was a very high infant mortality rate. I think just because of the waste on the beach. And so, that was a big project that I worked on the second year as all these other rebuildings was going on. During that year too, that's when my brother got really, really sick so a lot of time was taken up with that and just sort of sitting with him and--it was just a very different--I always say that like my first year was sort of getting used to it and my second year, I really felt like a community member, a family member, a sister, a daughter, you know? All that stuff--

WILSON: And so you were--

COLLINS: Yeah, like they counted on me to do certain things. Which was great, I loved it, yeah

WILSON: Did you ever get off the island during those two years?

COLLINS: Yeah, we--after a year, Peace Corps brought us in during that summer at some point for an in-service training. And we actually all 39:00went to Hawaii, well, not Hawaii, Guam. And we spent four or five days there doing in-service training and I don't remember what we did. It was a blur but we saw a lot of the volunteers--

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: And then, a couple of us traveled for a week or two just around--

WILSON: Different--

COLLINS: Like Thailand and--

WILSON: Oh, okay, so you did get out?

COLLINS: Get out to another country?


COLLINS: In the Peace Corps, I guess they give you two days of vacation a month but for us, like, it all gets sort of--

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: Piled together.


COLLINS: And then, we came back out in August--

WILSON: And then, were there for--

COLLINS: And the typhoon happened probably in September--

WILSON: Oh, okay.

COLLINS: Right after September or October--

WILSON: And then, you--

COLLINS: And then, we were--

WILSON: Were there for another year?

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah.

WILSON: When your project was the toilets?

COLLINS: The second year.

WILSON: Which you completed and--?

COLLINS: We completed, yup.

WILSON: And did somebody then replace you as a volunteer or--?


COLLINS: Not the next year, they--I know somebody came two years later.

WILSON: Is there any way you are still in touch with people--?

COLLINS: I was--

WILSON: There, because this is not, I mean, some people more recently have had, which is amazing in comparison to earlier years and in places like you have been, have had e-mail contact and you know--


WILSON: Real different.

COLLINS: I had--it was actually really fun. My brother, while I was over in the Peace Corps wrote an article--he was writing for some small town newspaper in South Georgia and he was writing about--it was around Thanksgiving and he was writing about me being overseas and this article about family and. Well, and it mentioned Micronesia and he has, I guess, a website with some of his articles on it that have been up on the internet somewhere and one of the kids, Sam, who was in my seventh- 41:00-he was a eighth grader when I was there, a great, great kid, very, very smart and definitely one of those kids that was leaving the island to go to high school and I got an e-mail from--actually, my brother got an e-mail from him about a year a year ago saying I was doing Google: Micronesia, Satawal and this article came up and he was like "Lainey!"

WILSON: Oh, my!

COLLINS: And so my brother sent his--sent my e-mail address to him so we've been corresponding a little bit through email which has been fun.

WILSON: Oh, that's fun.

COLLINS: And he's at the University--he's in Guam--

WILSON: At the academic--

COLLINS: Yeah, at the University of Guam

WILSON: Because if people wanted to go to high school, they would've had to leave the island and did people--I mean, that was an unusual thing cause--?

COLLINS: It's probably more usual now, it was fairly unusual for people on that island cause it was really far.

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: I had a sister that was really smart and by, I don't think 42:00that--

WILSON: This is a sister--oh, let's be sure that--

COLLINS: Not a sister

WILSON: People are just getting, I brought up sisters because you were just talking about your own--

COLLINS: Yeah, no, I had a--

WILSON: Biological brother, but you're talking about a sister--

COLLINS: A sister on the island--

WILSON: A sister on the island, okay, right.

COLLINS: Who was really smart but I don't, I don't know, she never got to high school cause you know, a lot of times for the women especially, there's stuff that they need them on the island for. I think it's a real struggle like you know, this thing about do you go and get educated but that means you're taking people away from the island and that you really depend on having that, you know--people there to sustain the older people and all that.

WILSON: Would, would men be more likely to go--?


WILSON: And then, would they--was there any tradition of men going away to work and then, spend money back or--?

COLLINS: Yeah, a lot of that.

WILSON: Yeah, okay.

COLLINS: And it was actually a matrilinealsociety so--


WILSON: Oh, okay.

COLLINS: The women--it was important for the women to stay there so it--say, if you were a woman from that island and you married somebody from the island next to us--


COLLINS: That man would come live with you--


COLLINS: On Satawal, whereas, if a man married a woman from another island, he would leave--

WILSON: He would leave?

COLLINS: Satawal so it was--

WILSON: And, and was that expected in terms of marriage that you would marry somebody from another island?



COLLINS: No, people married from that island

WILSON: ----------(??) yeah, because of what you talked about earlier--


WILSON: In terms of ----------(??)

COLLINS: Yeah, I had a, a--there was a guy, he was the son--one of the sons in my family. And he worked on the main island of Yap with the chief's Council and I learned a lot from him just about plans and he was telling me that out of the whole island, there were two women that he could marry.

WILSON: That he knew!

COLLINS: Out of an entire island, yeah because of all these rules and like, stuff like that so--which is pretty--so a lot of this stuff was 44:00you know, a lot of it was arranged. You know, it was just expected that you would do that and you know, they had other things like if your first child, after it got to be a certain age, you always sent it to live with your parents and they sort of adopted that child so there was a lot sort of you know, adopting of children around.

WILSON: Okay, let's turn over the tape because it's blinking red now and then, we'll go on--

[Side a ends, side b begins.]

WILSON: What are several particularly memorable, meaningful stories from you being on the island and why are they still meaningful? Why are you still telling them?

COLLINS: One of them is sort of a bunch of stories mixed together but 45:00it's um--I had some really interesting interactions with local people there about medical issues and then about using local medicines, listening and "it happened to me," like there was a time when--I mean I'm sure every Peace Corps volunteer had like stomach problems and I was going through a time where I had a lot of high fevers and stuff and my--you know, they give you a Peace Corps medical kit, but we really didn't have--there was no doctor out there. It was really, sometimes, really difficult--they give you that book Where There is No Doctor but it's difficult to sort of figure that out--

WILSON: What, what's in--what was in your the Peace Corps kit?

COLLINS: Everything.

WILSON: Everything and then some?

COLLINS: It was like you know, ten different antibiotics, I had a bee sting kit, I had you know, aspirin, Tylenol, lots and lots of stuff.


COLLINS: Because we were so far--



WILSON: And then, you had this manual that said--



WILSON: What to do?

COLLINS: Which was a great book. And then, we had you know, sort of a weekly radio contact with um, the main Peace Corp offices in Yap where you could you know, do some of that stuff.

WILSON: Did anybody ever come to visit you from--? It's a long ways away.

COLLINS: From the main--no. No, my--you mean like my country director?

WILSON: Yeah, yeah.

COLLINS: No, he didn't, he never came out.

WILSON: But, but you had this radio contact--

COLLINS: Yeah, once a week.

WILSON: Where they check in with you every week.

COLLINS: But my mother one time made me something out of coconut and different kinds of leaves and plants that you would eat and I remember like it solved like all of my problems. And then, I had gotten a--I had a lot of ear problems when I was there--

And the chief in my village like did this big ritual with um, heating up rocks and dropping hot rocks into this liquid and then, they'd smoke 47:00it into your ear. I think it's a, like to clean out your ear and stuff and that was really interesting and another one was I had poked my eye so it had a blood vessel, you know, that was really red and this woman like chewing leaves and blowing through a papaya stem right onto my eyeball and it cleared right up.

WILSON: Oh, my.

COLLINS: But it was, it was--I mean, it was interesting because I felt like--most people I tell this to are like "You're crazy," like why would you do that kind of stuff? But it was memorable in the fact that I really felt like that I had a trust that I had in those people and then, I really felt cared for by them which was really special to me because they were you know, using these things on me like I was their daughter or their sister or whatever.

WILSON: Well and did you see how some of these things worked with other people too?


WILSON: So you had some--


WILSON: Belief in them because of that?

COLLINS: Right and I also saw you know, things that didn't work. The 48:00chief in my island--in my village though, he was--did incredible things with massage with broken bones and stuff. Incredible and I certainly saw that work but you know, I think to take such a huge thing, to take like a foreigner and take them into your home like that and then, also, you know, sharing some of those sort of rituals with them I think was really special. Another one is I kept bothering my father, his name was Rapoke and I kept bothering him that I wanted to ride on an outrigger canoe because they had these beautiful outrigger canoes that they built by hand. And I was amazed by them and--

WILSON: And women weren't supposed to do that?

COLLINS: Women, women went on them but--and they certainly like, I don't know if you've ever seen them but they have the hull and then, the big foot that kind of balances it and then, there's this little canopy off to the side and that's where women and children would normally ride and 49:00sometimes they would take women on these things and what--so my father comes to me one day and this was the first or second, maybe my second summer there and he said I got you a ride on a canoe and somebody was taking a canoe out to one of our garden islands that was I guess two days away and we would go to that island and they would--we would get lots of like bread fruit and stuff like that and bring it back to the island and so I got to go on this canoe and it was amazing because you know, it was like we didn't even have--you know, the navigator was looking at the stars and that's how we got there and we spent several days on the island like collecting food and preserving it and doing all these different things and fishing and we brought back a lot of smoked fish, you know, but it was amazing, you know, the whole experience of doing that.


WILSON: How, how did--how--and they, they also somehow knew what was going to happen with weather?


WILSON: Right?

COLLINS: Yeah, they did--they did, I mean, I've seen some um, there's been some like PBS specials. On that island specifically--

WILSON: Oh, really?

COLLINS: Which I've watched after--


COLLINS: Which, I mean, I think it's fascinating and all that stuff but they can, you know, by the--they look at the birds and the waves and the way that they move and everything but I mean, that was incredible that they would take sort of a risk of taking this person on it but also, I think, for myself like again, it was sort of that trust thing. I mean, I didn't even take my life jacket with me which--you know. You know and then, not even thinking about that but just knowing that I would be safe and it would be fine.


WILSON: Did you swim a lot?

COLLINS: It was really hard to swim on our island because it was so rough. I mean, you could go in the water and you would you know, what they call shower and stuff like that.

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: But there was no lagoon or anything to swim in.

WILSON: And ----------(??) so it wasn't--

COLLINS: Right, which--

WILSON: But did people know how to swim?


WILSON: I mean--

COLLINS: Oh, yeah, they went spear fishing and all that stuff.

WILSON: Yeah, because you'd have to know that to be safe, I mean, I'm thinking about on your canoe, right?

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah, everybody knew and I'm--you know, I'm sure if there's a problem like this, you know, the thing floats--


COLLINS: And all that stuff. Those things are pretty incredible. But that was really, really, really memorable one of them and uh, I think the other one is just sort of the experience of loss on that island of like family member and a couple of people died while I was there that were sort of members of the family that I lived with but you know, the 52:00biggest one definitely was the baby. T.J. is what they called him but he--just the whole experience because death there is such a different thing, I mean, when somebody's really sick, I mean, it's like you have thirty people in your house sitting with that baby and you know, experiencing like the local medicine man--the one who knew a little bit about Western medicine, the priest and then, the--not the priest, whatever they called it, catechist--

WILSON: The candidate? No?

COLLINS: Cat---it wasn't a priest but it was somebody who did that--they had sort of a versions of Catholic church and that--

WILSON: Oh, Catholic church, okay.

COLLINS: Having that person come and then, having the local spirit guy come like all of this happening around and being able to experience all that and--

WILSON: What did the baby die of? Do you know?

COLLINS: Meningitis

WILSON: Meningitis, oh, wow.

COLLINS: Yeah, it was--

WILSON: ?, yeah

COLLINS: And the funeral and stuff like that and just being you know a 53:00part of all that.

WILSON: And death means more?

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, some, you know--

WILSON: More, more real than here--

COLLINS: Yeah, I never, you know, somebody dies and they--you lay in your house for several days and you're bathed, you know, several times a day by your family and people come visit you and you know, it's a very different thing than being sent to a morgue and pumped full of-- You know, whatever so that was a really--that experience was special in the sense and it's-- again, it's that whole theme of like feeling really a part of that family which I don't know that everybody has that kind of experience.

WILSON: What was it like to come home?

COLLINS: Oh, God--Hahaha, it's really funny--well, first of all, I 54:00looked very different.

WILSON: How did you look different?

COLLINS: My hair was white from the sun.


COLLINS: I mean, it was like bleached blonde. I was very dark. My teeth were red because we chewed beetle nut over there--hahaha--and I don't know, I just--I traveled for quite a while. I traveled for several months.

WILSON: Where?

COLLINS: Up through Indonesia into Thailand, you know, all the way through sort of Singapore and around there, sort of went up and then, flew home from Thailand and that helped a little bit sort of--

WILSON: Were you traveling with other Peace Corps volunteers and you did, I didn't really ask you about that, I guess you did have friends from the Peace Corps group, right?

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah, I did and I didn't. I would do some by myself and then, I would hook up with people and then, when I flew home, I guess 55:00right before Thanksgiving and it was--it was just really different. I mean, I remember calling my dad and saying, "Dad, you need to make a dentist appointment for me!" And he was like what for? "I'll tell you when I get home!" But just like those kinds of things and I guess when I got back I sort of what I decided to do is I had two really good friends that were in Yap on different islands. One of them was from New York City and her mom had this huge loft in Soho and her mom was sort of in and out of the country and it was a place that we could go live for like two hundred dollars a month so Sophia and Joe and I went there and we lived together for probably six or eight months and mostly what we did is we'd wake up in the morning and drink tea all morning and talk about Micronesia and do everything free that there is to do in New York and then, after--you know, my first real job, I think was at 56:00a camp in New York City with you know, urban children so I had a lot of time to sort of process with people but it was difficult, I mean--

WILSON: Yeah, why? Why do you think coming home was so hard do you think?

COLLINS: Yeah, you know, I had that coming home from Hurricane Katrina too.

WILSON: That's interesting

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, it's certainly not at the scale that--I was bothered by I think materialism a little bit. I remember living on an island and in two years, like I had maybe a bag of trash that I had like gotten the whole time I was there and then, I made sure I took with me, you know, off the island and here--you know, I was in like--it was actually really good to be in New York because it was a 57:00different, it was a place I'd never really been before or lived before and there was you know, people--there was a diverse group of people so that you were sort of surrounded by a lot of difference which I liked and I don't know. I don't feel like New York has as much waste because most people use public transportation and you're living in these small places and stuff but, but I remember finding it really hard just to-- you know, and I had this expectation that all my friends would be like doing all these wonderful things and they had changed so much and they were exactly in the same places as when I left. You know, you worry so much about everybody like--

WILSON: So, so what do you think the impact of your Peace Corps experience was on you and what do you think the impact of your Peace Corps experience was on your job?

COLLINS: Well, I mean, I'm a social worker and I think that that 58:00definitely--like I didn't always want to be a social worker. I didn't really even know what it was and I remember coming back from Micronesia and I'd always wanted to go to--I'd done a lot of landscaping and stuff like that and had decided I was going to go to either landscape architect school or something similar or historical preservation and I remember applying to the school like going through all the things like you're supposed to--okay, we gotta get on with our lives, getting accepted to Savannah College of Art Design--

WILSON: Hmm, impressive.

COLLINS: And not being able to tell them I wasn't coming so I just sort of moved right before. You know, and sort of realizing in that, that you know, I needed to look into other things and wanted to work with people and I think that was one thing that pushed me into doing social work and so in New York, I went back and you know, got my degree in 59:00social work. You know, and I think sometimes I feel like I have sort of more of a global perspective on things or can see the bigger picture a lot more than some people that I work with or people that I talk to and maybe--sometimes it's hard for me to see the smaller picture which maybe is not so good but I, I look at things in a really big way and I think that being in Micronesia and there, there's something about having a lot of time to just think and being in a very different place that I think has given me that, I think it's like a gift sort of to be able to do that and I think, you know, the way that I work with kids now a days is different probably because of having those experiences and being in a culture that's very different and because most of the kids that I work with in New York do not come from the culture that I came from but I feel like not that I really know exactly but sort of have a--am able 60:00to have a perspective where I can sort of learn from them. But I do, I think it's why I'm a social worker, I would say. I certainly didn't even--I didn't know what that was and then, the people on my island--

WILSON: Interesting.

COLLINS: I--you know, it's interesting to hear from Sam because he was very much like--he was like saying stuff like it was incredible to have you as a teacher and you know, when you work with kids, you just don't know that.

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: And then, to hear them like fifteen year. I was like wow!!

WILSON: Yeah, I can imagine that.

COLLINS: So I think the students that I worked with in my class I did, I think definitely my, the family that I lived with, I had an impact in a way of sort of I don't know, maybe they just have a different 61:00idea about what's out there because they were very sort of focused on the island and have never been off the island and there was a lot of interesting conversations and sharing sort of you know, like I remember trying to explain like what's an elevator. What's an escalator. Like they have--you know, they don't have electricity so how are they gonna understand that and just having lots and lots of time to have those conversations, I think, you know, enrich both of our lives in certain ways. You know, maybe Sam's in college now because of that experience. I don't know, I know some of the other kids in that group went to college but I do think there was this one girl in my class, Tomata, that I really think that she did not get pregnant and have sex with boys because of me. And if that's just one person, then, you know--



COLLINS: But I--I don't know, I think people maybe they got a different idea about the world a little bit.

WILSON: What--do you think there was an impact of your Peace Corp experience on your own family, your parents, your brother? I mean, you talked about your aunt as having an impact on you.

COLLINS: Yeah--I think my dad--I think it sort of maybe gave him the ability a little bit to sort of let me go, that was a big deal for him to let me go.

WILSON: Yeah, cause you said he didn't want you to go.

COLLINS: It was a huge deal and I remember when I first got to my island and you know, they are like oh--and I called them right before I was leaving the main island. On one of the satellite phones and I said I'm going to my island on this day. You know, the boat doesn't come but once a month, so you're not going to hear from me probably for two 63:00months. Well, so they dropped us off and the boat didn't come back until after Christmas--

WILSON: Oh, wow

COLLINS: Because it was, you know, a million things.

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: And my dad didn't know that but all he knows is that he hasn't heard from me in five months and he's like what is going on? And so I remember getting this radio call one day, emergency radio call and I was like oh, God, something happened and my dad had called Peace Corps--

WILSON: Peace Corps?

COLLINS: National Peace Corps, where is my daughter???

WILSON: Where is she?? Yeah--

COLLINS: But I think just going through things like that he sort of has more trust in sort of that his children can take care of or at least I can take care of myself--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: And that that was meaningful and I think you know, he's a medical guy--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: I mean, he's grown up in that and I think--you know, he's proud of me for being a social worker. And I think that's a huge step for him because he's not always thought that was a lucrative career--

WILSON: Career.

COLLINS: Or anything like that--

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: But I think sees that differently--


WILSON: Mm hmm

COLLINS: And I brought him back a canoe, a model of a canoe that the chief had made on my island and then, he said to give it you know, for your father--


COLLINS: That was a big deal for my dad too. You know, stuff like that--


COLLINS: I--you know, he says he's nervous and all that but I know he told a million people and talks about it all the time. So I know he was proud of me so--

WILSON: Right, you already talked about you are a social worker because of Peace Corps. You came back in 19--what was it? '90? '91? No--

COLLINS: Um--late '91, probably.

WILSON: Late '91.

COLLINS: Ah huh.

WILSON: You talked about your time in New York. Then, you got a graduate degree in social work there?

COLLINS: Uh huh, at CUNY.



WILSON: Okay, and you've been doing social work since?

COLLINS: Uh huh.

WILSON: Tell us a little bit about what you've jobs have been since--?

COLLINS: I worked in a community in Brooklyn called Sunset Park 65:00for about five years after I graduated doing, running a huge youth employment program so working with teenagers in schools and in after school programs and it was a very community based sort of you know, we did a lot of groups and a lot of the program was really helping teens to gain skills to go out into the workforce and hopefully finish high school and all those sorts of things and then, while I was doing that I--camp has always been a huge thing in my life. I started going to camp when I was seven and there's an agency called The Fresh Air Fund in New York that has five camps and they--camp director positions don't ever come up and I had done a little bit of work with them in graduate school making extra money on the weekends and stuff and the director of the girls camp was leaving and called me and said, "I'm leaving. Will 66:00you take my job?"

WILSON: Wow, so this was when?

COLLINS: Five--a little more than five years ago.


COLLINS: And so I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and have been doing that for the last five years which I think is you know, camp is such a great place to do social work and it's, you know, inner city girls ages eight to fourteen or fifteen and then, we do a lot of year round programming so we do weekend camping and stuff.

WILSON: And where is it? Where is your camp located?

COLLINS: It's a--the camp is in Fishkill.


COLLINS: But our offices is in the--

WILSON: In the city?

COLLINS: In Manhattan, yeah/

WILSON: And then, you most recently did Crisis Corps in--

COLLINS: Katrina, Hurricane Katrina

WILSON: In Hurricane Katrina so talk about that.

COLLINS: You know, I love the Gulf Coast.


WILSON: Oh, okay.

COLLINS: I meant, yeah--

WILSON: Well, you grew up in Atlanta--

COLLINS: Growing up in Georgia--

WILSON: In Georgia, so you've been to--


WILSON: Down in Mississippi--

COLLINS: And I love the South even though we live in New York, I don't--

WILSON: You're still a Southerner?

COLLINS: Yes and so when that happened, I felt really sort of affected in a lot of different ways and wanted to do something and sort of was thinking about it for a while and I was talking to a friend on the phone one day and she was like I heard the Peace Corps is like doing a thing and I had applied for the Crisis Corps a long time ago and ended up e-mailing them and they called me right back and they were like when can you go? So ended up leaving pretty soon after and went down for thirty days and I--we went to Orlando for training. We worked with FEMA. It was sort of a contract that they had with FEMA to--to help get people out into the disaster recovery centers, you know, working 68:00directly with the--

WILSON: So how many of you were there for--

COLLINS: Um, I--over I think 224 went. There's still some down there now. But over that time span of I don't know how many months it's been--

WILSON: Ao you were training other RPCVs [Editor's note: returned Peace Corps volunteers] or other--?

COLLINS: No, we--

WILSON: You were training other--

COLLINS: We got trained with FEMA and--


COLLINS: Then, we went down and we were working in disaster recovery centers a little bit helping people who had been affected by Rita--


COLLINS: Well, Katrina, mostly and I went with five other people to Mississippi and we started in Jackson and then, we sort of were separated for a couple--for the first week and then, we ended up all in Biloxi and spent the rest of our time in Biloxi and a lot of what we were doing at that point was training local people from Mississippi to do some of the work that we had been doing in disaster recovery centers 69:00so how to use computer systems, how to talk to people about what, where they can get their needs met and all that sort of stuff. Which I thought was great because it felt like we were not affecting just one person--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: But giving somebody a job who really needed it and helping them help their community so we did that for--we probably trained--the six of us probably trained close to three hundred people.

WILSON: Great.

COLLINS: Yeah and I was--and that was really fun cause I--I was really, I think I was really lucky because most people my age can't leave work for a month and all that sort of stuff--

WILSON: But they were willing to--

COLLINS: Yeah, I think--you know, our agency after 9/11, we did a lot of stuff with families in New York City--

WILSON: Oh, okay.

COLLINS: And taking them to camp and all this sort of stuff and I think felt really fortunate to be able to do that and my executive director, 70:00when I sort of brought this to her, she was like "Absolutely."

WILSON: Of course.

COLLINS: Because we want to do something so she sort of saw it as that but you know, I got to spend a lot of time with a lot of people who went to the Peace Corps in the sixties.

WILSON: And was it--was it fun to be with other RPCVs?

COLLINS: Yeah, it was fun

WILSON: You all had a common--

COLLINS: Yeah, oh, you know, you meet people like that and you're like you feel like you've known them forever--

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: And I was the youngest in our group of six and it was really funny cause they would always been like, "Okay, Lainey, you need to organize us." So--but it was fun, it was a lot of fun and really, I think really, it was hard--I didn't realize how hard it was until I came back and then, I sort of had a hard time adjusting, similar to the Peace Corps like at--I remember coming back and then, going to camp pretty soon after that with a group of teenagers from some of the housing developments in New York City and they're, you know, walking 71:00around with their cell phones, I-pods and I was like looking at them--


COLLINS: You know what I mean? You know, normal stuff that doesn't bother me--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: Or I know is typical but I had a couple of weeks of that sort of reaction I think.

WILSON: So were you pleased with what you saw of the Crisis Corps? I mean, I guess this is the first time they've ever done anything in the U.S. but do you think that's got possibilities?

COLLINS: I think--

WILSON: I know about it but I've never talked to somebody who's done it.

COLLINS: Yeah, well, you know that's interesting cause I met somebody from the Red Cross who had done Crisis Corps in another country and she was talking about--I believe she was a nurse, maybe, something like that but she was talking about all the frustrations of working with the agency in that country cause they hook you up with an agency in a country. And our agency I guess was FEMA but it was very similar frustrations so--I'm sure that it's just part of the nature 72:00of the animal I guess. Because we did in certain ways feel very not unfulfilled but sort of stuck because wanting to be creative and train people in ways that we all know how to do it but feeling bound by having to follow curriculum and all this. It was a very like interesting sort of struggle that we went through as a group--

WILSON: We have bureaucracies just like other countries.

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah, yeah but it was--I mean, it was just interesting to--there's a lot of power in being involved with FEMA but there's also a lot of sort of judgment that other people of you.

WILSON: Yeah, oh, sure, I mean, particularly given--

COLLINS: Yeah and I--and we were talking to people and they're like, "You're volunteering?" And I was like yeah, and they're "Why?" You know? I'm running across people like that but I--you know, I do feel 73:00like that the people that I met down there and helped them, I feel like I did some good and maybe you know, only a handful of people that I really feel like I really, really helped them a lot but I feel like our training was really a way of helping people to help their communities.

WILSON: Right, right.

COLLINS: You know, and a lot of times people that live in the communities can help their community members better than somebody from New York City who they are like, "New York City?"

WILSON: What international experience have you had since you were in Micronesia? Have you been to other countries since?

COLLINS: I have only for vacation though really. I haven't--

WILSON: Do you have plans or--?

COLLINS: No, I mean, I go like we--sometimes I go out to London for work but just to--cause we take some international counselors sometimes in the summer

WILSON: Oh, that's nice.

COLLINS: But I don't know, I never--


WILSON: That's not something on the horizon is doing something international?

COLLINS: No, I'm very sort of domestic oriented.


COLLINS: I'm really interested in like policy for kids and schools and for sort of the way that we--yeah, mostly in schools or education.

WILSON: What about, because you said earlier that you thought one impact was that you had broader perspective, global perspective--How did that manifest itself in terms of the fact that you're interested in policy issues or whether you're interested in what happens because of the tsunami as apposed to--


WILSON: Katrina or whether you think that the kids you're working with are also begetting a global perspective? Ideas?

COLLINS: I'm trying to think--


WILSON: Well, the bigger question is what sort of--what has the impact of the Peace Corps experience been on the way you think about the world?


WILSON: Yeah, you know, that the big question.

COLLINS: Right--I--I mean, I think as far as like sort of making people more aware of the bigger world. You know, we do that through programming at camp and sort of you know, using the continents and the other countries and having kids read about them and dress up like them and stuff like that. I mean, that's a really simple way I think but I think as far as like it's almost like teaching children especially how to think differently where you're not just thinking about yourself in your neighborhood in your building or wherever it is that there 76:00is a lot more out there and exposing them to things like here are my pictures from Mississippi. And look at what this--what--you know, what would that be like--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: How would you feel in that--?

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: I don't--I'm not--I don't know if I think so much internationally like that but as far as opening kids' minds up more in a, a broader way in their thinking like it's--you know, they don't just have to think in the way that they, everybody else in their community thinks or whatever and sort of letting them have bigger dreams and goals maybe cause a lot of kids don't get that when they're growing up in those communities, maybe all communities, I don't know--

WILSON: What do you think that the over-all impact of the Peace Corps has been over almost forty-five years and what do you think it's roll ought to be today?

COLLINS: I--I mean, I think it's--there are two things, you know, I 77:00think about, I feel impacted by the Peace Corps--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: Just having had that experience. And I think that that having people in this country being able to have that experience whether they're young or whether they're you know, retired or wherever they're at in their life, I think kinds of brings a different sort of thought to the communities in this country which I think are really important because the Peace Corps volunteers that I meet think differently than you know, other people who maybe haven't had a similar experience like that and I think that's a real benefit to this country. There probably aren't enough of us maybe but as far as other countries, I mean, I found it really, not empowering but I felt really good about my 78:00service because I knew that the country had asked for that. And that they were a part of the process of saying this is what we want Peace Corps volunteers to be focusing on and doing in our country in this year and that's how I understood that it happened and I'm, I'm assuming it still happens that way and I think that that can be a really nice sort of partnership that other countries can have with this country. I was disappointed, I think, when I was leaving Micronesia in that a lot of the experiences are not like the one I had in Micronesia so much anymore. I feel like, I'm not sure because they were--at that point, they were bringing people in with MBAs to work in--

WILSON: To do business stuff.

COLLINS: Yeah and I remember being upset about that but I think that there is value in that too cause a lot of people that I met in Katrina who had just gotten back or were more recently or doing a lot more 79:00of that sort of work which is a very different kind of community development that I saw myself doing because I don't--I don't think there are a lot of placements like that. Really, seemed like one in a million almost--I mean, even talking to Billie about her placement. Her placement was very different and she went in the sixties and I was like--

WILSON: Right.

COLLINS: Weren't they all like this??

WILSON: Yeah, she was in Sierra Leone.


WILSON: Yeah, right. I mean, that's one of things about Peace Corps, people think there's typical volunteer but there's not really a--

COLLINS: Yeah. There's not--you know and I mean I think you know I had a good friend that was applying that I worked with and she withdrew her application just recently for a lot of reasons but I remember 80:00her talking about being concerned that you know, was the Peace Corps diverse enough as far as the volunteers we're sending out and I don't know enough about sort of who's going out now and stuff like that to really know if that direction is really happening or what. I know this, the Peace Corps volunteers that I went with were not that diverse as far as you know, race and ethnicity. Maybe where you came from in the country and sort of you know sexual orientation and class were different but you know, we all sort of look the same I guess.

WILSON: What--is there a question that I haven't asked you that you want to answer?

COLLINS: I don't know.

WILSON: In other words, is there anything else you want to say?

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean--you know, something that was really nice about going down for Katrina is I feel sort of renewed to want to--you know, 81:00cause you have the Peace Corps and then, you come back and you get those newsletters and then, you forget about it but feeling a renewed sense to sort of want to get back involved is nice for me, you know, meeting people that went a lot of different years. I think they're--it be neat to get involved with a group of people like that that are maybe in New York or wherever. You know and sort of do some kind of work with them.


COLLINS: Yeah, I don't know.

WILSON: Thank you.

COLLINS: Yeah, sure.

WILSON: Okay, so, let's, let's continue for a couple of minutes here--


WILSON: So, your future is?


WILSON: You know, your present and your future, are that you are--

COLLINS: Working on a PhD in social welfare.


COLLINS: From the graduate center, the CUNY Graduate Center.

WILSON: Graduate Center.


WILSON: Okay and what's your--in your--working on a dissertation right now?

COLLINS: I finished course work and I'm working on my dissertation 82:00proposal.


COLLINS: On my way to a dissertation.

WILSON: Oh, okay.


WILSON: And what's the topic?

COLLINS: I'm--I'm working on a--I was a major in social group work--


COLLINS: So I'm really interested in sort of all the principles of practice around groups and how we can work with children specifically and girls and how working with them in groups is really meaningful and helpful to sort of their development so I'm doing a case study on the camp that I direct because we--part of the program is we have a lot of social group work principles in that program. And we--you know, using like the voices and stories from the girls--

WILSON: Oh, great!

COLLINS: So it's very qualitative. Yeah but I, I mean, I'm really interested in taking some of those things into the school system and changing some of the way that we teach children and bringing them out on to nature more and using all those sorts of things, you know, and 83:00changing policy, I don't know. The--the way that we've gotten with children about testing them every year is not helpful so, so you know, that would be my bigger policy issues I guess so--

WILSON: Great.


[End of interview.]

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