WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project interview with Sally Spurr, January 27, 2006. Interviewed by Jack Wilson. Okay, Sally, if you would, give me your full name and where and when you were born.

SPURR: My name is Sally Ann Spurr, and I was born here in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1949.

WILSON: Okay. And can you tell me something about your family and your growing up?

SPURR: Yeah. I have an older sister and a younger brother, and we lived here in Louisville again in the suburbs and had a very suburban childhood. And went to a large high school, and did normal high school things. Part of my experience during my childhood, though, that encouraged me to want to go into the Peace Corps was that I spent 1:00a lot of time out in the country. My father's mother and dad, my grandparents, they lived in, it wasn't really even a town, out in the country. On a creek. I spent a lot, my brother and sister liked to stay in the city more. I liked to be out in the country, and would go down and spend the summers with my grandparents and then my other country cousins and stuff. So I did a lot of country stuff.

WILSON: And where was that?

SPURR: It's in, the name of the town is Waterford, Kentucky, and it's near, it's in Spencer County.

WILSON: Spencer County.

SPURR: Spencer County. So, and my mother's family was in Mount Washington, and I spent a lot of time over there, too. So I was always, my parents have always said I was always adventurous and always liked to do things that the rest of them didn't do. (laughs) You know how kids are. I really loved being out in the country with my family 2:00and relatives.

WILSON: So were they farmers?

SPURR: My grandfather was a tobacco farmer. You know, straight out of all the stories of the not a gentleman farmer, a hardworking, all of his life, farmer. And their life was around farming and their church and reading the paper every day, and watching Oral Roberts and Billy Graham on TV. (laughs) And that was kind of their thing. My grandfather chewed tobacco and worked hard all of his life. He had corn and tobacco and a garden. My father was always a gardener, too. So we always had wonderful homegrown food. And my dad and I 3:00especially always loved to do stuff like that, to garden.

WILSON: Okay. And so you went through elementary and high school here in Louisville. And you went where to high school?

SPURR: I went to Seneca.

WILSON: Seneca? Okay.

SPURR: Seneca High School, which was a very large high school at that time.

WILSON: And graduated in?

SPURR: '67. And then I went to Western. Not really knowing what I wanted to do. Went to Western, and spent four years in Bowling Green. And did my, ended up getting a double major in psychology and sociology and teaching certification. Still not knowing what I wanted to do. But that's what I was interested in, so that's what I got my degree in. I didn't really have a career goal for any of it. And after college I applied to the Peace Corps and was not accepted. I think that was in 1971. And of course when I was in college, that's 4:00the Vietnam War era. And so there were a lot of people trying to get in Peace Corps at that time. It was kind of a cool thing.

WILSON: Were you given a particular reason?

SPURR: I was too much of a generalist. I didn't have specific skills that they were looking for at that--

WILSON: In 1971?

SPURR: In 1971. And so I just said okay. I'm sure that there were a lot of people applying. And I knew it was-- but anyway, I had the goal, at that time. And I don't even, as I think back, I don't know how I even knew of Peace Corps.

WILSON: I was going to ask you that. Like what motivated you in the first place?

SPURR: I wanted to do something different out of the country. And loved the idea of helping others to, at that point, to give my life some 5:00meaning, I think. I was very much into this political side of the, of the movement here, of the anti-war movement, and very much a peacenik. And a lot of people were going back to the land. A lot of my college friends, we had farms, and people had done farms. And some people grew crops, and some people made farming ventures, and some people grew pot, and made that kind of venture. So we talked a lot. And there were a lot of, I had a lot of friends from up east. For some reason, a lot of Easterners: New Jersey, New York people, ended up at Western. And there was some, I don't really know why, some kind of a pipeline. And so I had gotten a lot of other people in my life from other places. So some 6:00of them, I'm sure, were talking about Peace Corps. I mean, people were going to Canada to not go into the war. And there were, then a lot of people were returning from Vietnam. So then I lived with a couple of guys who returned from Vietnam and then came to Western, who I'd known here in Louisville, buddies of mine. And so we all lived together. There were four of us that lived together. And we actually had a huge house. And some other people lived next door. And we all knew each other. And there were, of those, there were two Vietnam vets in there.

WILSON: So when Peace Corps turned you down, then what did you do?

SPURR: Then I came back to Louisville to make some money. And I worked in a mental health hospital, mental hospital, Central State, as a night 7:00person. And that was an interesting experience. And I substitute taught during the day. So I did a lot of saving of money. Because at that point, my girlfriend Lynn, who was still at Western, she was from New York. And she and I wanted to go to Europe. So I worked very hard that year And saved a lot of money. She graduated and we left for Europe in May, right after she graduated. And stayed over there for six months. And the way I describe that experience is, well, it was six months and I spent, including my airfare, around a thousand dollars. (laughs) So we were hitchhiking, sleeping in tents and plastic, I bought plastic and we used that as a ground cover, and we just did the travel around Europe. Which of course what that meant 8:00was that you were traveling with all people your own age from different countries. And so I really got a feeling for other countries, for people from other countries. I met people from South America. I met people from Israel and the Middle East. And I traveled with a woman who had lived in Israel for two years and was kibbutzim. So she and I ended up going back to Israel. I went with her. So I really got a flavor for Israel at that time. We stayed there three weeks. That was a wonderful experience. And then she and I also, on the other end, went to Morocco, and got a real Middle Eastern taste. So it wasn't just the European countries that we did. And I never went into a restaurant. We bought food in the markets. And toured everything 9:00we could. It was student fares, those days. For example, going from Greece to Israel, to Haifa, was twenty-five dollars on a ship. Twenty- five dollars. But we were on the top of the ship. We weren't allowed to go down below where the real paying people were. So it was an adventure. All of that was adventure. And fun. And I really got the feel for traveling. And for people from other countries. And my goal after that, after returning, was I wanted to go either to Africa or to South America. I wanted to see how people lived in other continents, you know, subsistence, or what we called Third World at that time. And that's what I did. I came home and worked again, saved money, and went to, it just so happened, I would have gone to Africa, maybe, but some friends of mine that I met in Europe, a couple who lived in California, 10:00were going to South America and had a van and invited me to go. So I met them in Costa Rica and they had decided not to go any further.

WILSON: So this was 1963?

SPURR: No, no. '74

WILSON: Oh, I'm sorry, '73.

SPURR: '74. Well, actually, '73 - '74. Because I spent almost a year traveling. And what happened was, I ended up going to South America with just one other female person, traveling, backpacking. And we met Peace Corps volunteers everywhere. I sort of did a Peace Corps circuit. From Colombia, I met some Peace Corps volunteers. And they just kind of introduced me to other Peace Corps volunteers. In Ecuador, especially, I visited, put my tent up outside of Peace Corps people's houses. And went in actually and met the Peace Corps director 11:00and such like that in Ecuador. Then I went to Peru. And in Peru, I also hooked up with Peace Corps people. And I lived in Cusco for six, some period, maybe three months. I was going to say six months, but I was in Peru for six months. But it was about three months in Cusco. And there I taught English, and met some Peace Corps people--

WILSON: So you picked up some local odd jobs.


WILSON: Earned enough to feed yourself.

SPURR: Yeah. Yeah. So then, when I applied to Peace Corps, I actually had, went back to Ecuador and had the director there, I don't know whether he requested me or he put a word in for me or something. But--

WILSON: But anyway, so after that travel you came back to Louisville.

SPURR: To Ecuador. And then I came back to Louisville.


SPURR: And by that time, my application, I had applied like, they called it a field enrollee, I think, where the country requests you, which 12:00doesn't really happen, usually, except that I really wanted to be in Peace Corps. And they knew that I was acculturated and really wanted to be there, and had a bachelor's degree at that time. So they were going to, I went to Ecuador on a nutritional small, let's see, what did we call it? Community development. Community development. So then when I got, so I came back home to Louisville after a year in South America. Came back home. And then went, returned to Peace Corps. It took nine months to process everything.

WILSON: Well, that's what I was going to ask you about. Now this second time around, what about the application process?


SPURR: It took nine months to process everything. So, and you know, anyway, that's how it happened. ----------(??)

WILSON: Did they raise any, I mean, you noted that you'd applied once and turned down and applied again?

SPURR: No, nobody ever said anything about that.

WILSON: Nobody ever asked that question.

SPURR: I never went there at all.

WILSON: And you were, you requested Ecuador?

SPURR: Uh huh. Uh huh.

WILSON: And were granted Ecuador.

SPURR: Uh huh. Uh huh.

WILSON: Where did you do your training?

SPURR: In Ecuador. See this was, I went in in '75, in August of '75. And we did six weeks of cultural and language training in Quito. Lived with families. And did our cultural language training there. 14:00And at that time, we were meeting with our program managers and such like that. And I can't remember exactly how it happened, but I started talking to the horticulture program manager, Tomas Guerrero. And I asked if I could switch to his program. Because I really liked the farming and agriculture and horticulture aspect a lot more than the small community development. Because I didn't really feel very connected with children and families. You know? I had spent a lot of time by myself, and had not ever really been around children very much. And maybe it would have been a really good experience for me. But I thought, my idea was if I could, and they ended up letting me 15:00do it, to go into the horticulture research program. And it ended up being just great. It was a great match, and I loved what I did. Which was, I was, there was a program in Ecuador at the time which was a horticulture research program. And it was, because of Ecuador's physical layout, Ecuador is a coast, a jungle, and a very high mountain range, with a Altiplano in between the mountains. So it's basically two, two peaks, ridges of the mountain range was an Altiplano. And either side, you go straight down. One goes right to the coast, and one goes to the jungle. And so all agricultural products, horticulture is totally dependent on the altitude, but yet you're also on the equator. So the equator means that everything gets the same hours of 16:00sun every day. Which is very unusual in that aspect. Or not unusual, it's just what it is down there. And then of course the mountains also cause all these microclimates. So there's just all this diversity of climatology and growing conditions in one country. And so what this project was was going, was administered through the ministry of agriculture and through the universities, through the technical colleges. Where we would grow the same crops or similar crops and see how they adapted to each of the regions. So some people were doing mountain crops, high altitude crops, and some people were doing rainforest crops. Where I was, we were doing, it was high altitude. We were more or less in the Altiplano, what they call the Altiplano. So the crops that we were concerned with were actually, my project 17:00was on peas. And my coworker, a Peace Corps volunteer, hers were on onions. So we were doing production and adaptation trials.

WILSON: English peas. Green peas.

SPURR: Green peas. Green peas. Aravejas. And she did cebollas. And in a country like Ecuador at that time, there had been no production, adaptation testing. So that's what we were doing, was to see what--

WILSON: Was this run by the Ecuadorian government?

SPURR: It was the Ministry of Agriculture. And I was at a university. Universidad Tecnica de Ambato. And Ambato is the third largest city in Ecuador. Big country town. Kind of like we used to call Louisville. Big country town. Very much in an Indian area of the 18:00country. And Ambato was where all the Indians brought their wares. We had a huge market there on Mondays. But it's not a market like Otavalo, which was crafts and tourist things, or became that. Ambato's was strictly things you could use. Tin ware and whips and animals and plastics and all that kind of stuff.

WILSON: And produce.

SPURR: And produce, but large quantities of produce. This was more the kind of market where you buy farm implements or things that you would use in your everyday life.

WILSON: And did you, had you picked up some Spanish before you went into Peace Corps training?

SPURR: I had. But my language background at that point, I had three years of French in high school, three years of Latin in high school. So I had some background, but not any Spanish at all. And so when 19:00I was traveling in South America, I studied some, but I didn't really learn that well. I mean, I didn't study and come out with good pronunciation and things like that. But I was able, during the six weeks of our training, we did Spanish training every day. And that was great. Total immersion. I was very, I was very influenced by our teachers there. They were wonderful.

WILSON: And you were living with families?

SPURR: Families.

WILSON: So you had to use it.

SPURR: Uh huh. During that six weeks. And they did not speak English. My family did not speak English at all. And I mentioned the teachers in our training programs because they were so wonderful, and influenced me to then, I came back and got a degree in Spanish, teaching Spanish and English as a second language. Because I just loved the way that 20:00I was taught, and felt really a kinship with the language learning process. So that ended up being what I came back to the United States and studied, after Peace Corps.

WILSON: Tell me something about what a typical day might have been for you as a part of your, not just your job but your living as well.

SPURR: Well we were in a town that had a little suburb, sort of the first suburbs in Ecuador, in Ambato, anyway. So there was this neighborhood. It was all gravel streets. The houses were all pretty much newly built, concrete block, two stories. You know, you had, they were all square and concrete block. You had the rebar hanging out of the top of them. And everybody had their lavanderias, their laundries, 21:00on top of the buildings and such. But this little neighborhood, the other Peace Corps volunteers, most of them lived in that neighborhood, or a couple of people lived in town, and then a couple of people lived out in the countryside. And I'm saying, there were quite a few volunteers in Ambato, but in various programs. There was small business program that was real successful. They were going out to the Indian community. And school construction program. There was also a bilingual program whose purpose was to use Indian dialect for first, second and third graders and bilingual with Spanish. So it was to help them through their first three years of school so that you'd start where they only knew their Indian dialect, and in three years they would be able to be taught in Spanish. That was the goal. I 22:00don't know how well all that worked. But it was a very interesting program, and was flourishing when I was there. So there were a lot of volunteers that were involved with that. And what they were doing was really interesting. And I did some of it with them, just accompanying them. And what they did is they would go have an Indian contact. And they would go out into the villages and collect stories. So they had, that meant that they were learning Quechua, some of them. And I helped them do a Quechua/Spanish dictionary, just some of the grunt labor on it, really. Putting things together. But that was a really interesting program. And again, reinforced my education teaching field. And I taught a little bit. We were not, at that time, Peace Corps was not teaching English as a second language because that was considered exploitation of the culture. Cultural exploitation. So, 23:00and in Ecuador at that time, the political, and in South America at that time, the political scene was quite far different than what it is now. It was very leftist. The climate was very leftist. And this was post-Che, but you know, Che lived on. And the-- thank you. (pause)

WILSON: Well, I'm not exactly sure where we were, but you were talking about kind of what the conditions were in Latin America at that time period. And what you were doing as a job. Maybe you can tell me something about how you lived.


SPURR: Yeah. We, well, I started with, well, there was this little neighborhood. And what, in that neighborhood, the local people would build a house. A family would build a house and then rent out either the first floor or the second floor. So maybe three or four of us lived, not on the same street or anything, but in this neighborhood. And--

WILSON: But you lived by yourself in--

SPURR: Well, I lived in three different houses there. And one was, the first place I lived, I lived on the first floor with another Peace Corps volunteer who was living there. So I just moved in with him, and we lived separate lives and stuff. And he was an artist for the bilingual program. He was illustrating the books. And that was the 25:00first place I lived. I moved out of there and moved in with the person I worked with, Lucy. And Lucy was from Boston. And she had been at the farm, where we worked, for a year before I came. And so she was the only person there, the only Peace Corps volunteer at that time. So she and I worked together, and then we moved in together. And we lived on the second floor of another house where the family lived on the first floor. Then there was a person who was the coordinator of that bilingual program was leaving, but she was going to return. And so her house came open. So Lucy was returning to the States, so I moved into that house, and by myself. So that was the first time I lived by myself. But now that house had a refrigerator. That was the first refrigerator I had down there. Refrigerator. We all had the little 26:00stove with the butane tanks, the gas tanks. Everybody had those. And we had electricity. But that was the first refrigerator I had. And to describe the houses, they were very comfortable. Very, you know, you're in the mountains. It's very cool at night, very warm during the day. You're high altitude there. So there was no need for heat or air conditioning. Maybe there would be now. Maybe people think so. But there really--

WILSON: But there were two, three rooms?

SPURR: Yeah. In each place we had a good sized living room and a very small kitchen. Kitchens were small compared to our kitchens here. And at least two bedrooms. One bathroom was all, only one bathroom in any 27:00of the houses that I was at. And then you would have your lavanderia, where you would do your laundry. That was always on the roof of the buildings. And you always had access to that. There were holding tanks that were cement, concrete holding tanks where, because water was the issue where we were, as I think it is in many countries. So the tanks were on the roof. And they were to hold water. And then also you did your laundry up there. So these were open tanks. And then they also would have a water tank that you would pump water up to, that water was pumped up to. In this town, in Ambato, there was city water. But the water would run out. And the electricity was on a schedule where they would turn off the electricity in the barrio. So each barrio knew when the electricity was going off, each neighborhood. 28:00So our barrio, I can't remember what day it was, but we never had electricity on, say, Friday night. You know. And sometimes your electricity would go very low, so you just had low voltage. And water pressure, same thing. Water pressure was, so a lot of times, we used the water out of the tanks because there wasn't enough water pressure to pump the water up into our pipes in the house.

WILSON: Were those tanks filled by the public water system?

SPURR: Well what the tanks, what the people would do is they would fill those tanks up when the water was running.

WILSON: Yeah. Yeah.

SPURR: So you had the reserve. And I learned to always have a reserve of water in the house. So you always saved a couple big pots of water just to wash with or something.

WILSON: And was the waste water reused, or used for watering plants, or 29:00just--

SPURR: Not so much. Not where we were, because that was suburbs. Now I did have another village that I moved to later. And there, we didn't have running water in the houses. If I wanted to shower, I took a shower in-- all over Ecuador, and maybe other places, the public showers were where they made caskets. Because that was the wood to make pine boxes from. And Ecuador, because you're high altitude, there's not very many trees. There were not very many trees. There were eucalyptus trees that had been planted, and there were pine trees that had been planted. But so far as indigenous trees, there weren't many. So wood was a premium. People, it wasn't, you didn't have wood, you didn't have fires and things like that, because there wasn't wood to burn in that way. To waste. So wherever the public showers, 30:00and also in Ambato, in our neighborhood, there was a public shower up there. And it was also a place where they made pine boxes. Because what they were doing was using the waste from making the caskets.

WILSON: Oh, to heat water.

SPURR: To heat water.

WILSON: Oh, oh, oh.

SPURR: For the hot showers. Of course, nothing was hot. There wasn't any hot showers. Now, I take that back. People bought these little things. Because we did have water. And you could put that little heater right directly on the shower head and heat the water in a trickle as it came out. So you know, I did various things. If I wanted a really good hot shower, I went to the casket company and took a really good hot shower. But when I didn't have, when I was 31:00in Otavalo I lived in Otavalo later. That's another era. Well, what happened in Ambato, now my normal day, we lived in that little neighborhood which was out of the valley. The valley was where the city was. And this was up on kind of a ridge. And I said I worked for the university. Well I actually was at the university field, their farm. The university farm. And so it was about a twenty, thirty, about a twenty minute walk from the house. So every day we walked up from the farm. And there was a little cement block building. And that was our office. And we had coworkers up there. So there was Lucy and myself, and then Roberto and Ermel. And Roberto was the, Roberto Marinovich was the head of the farm. And so Roberto did things like 32:00drive the tractor around and talk to everybody. And Ermel did whatever Roberto told him. And Ermel was, now they were more Spanish. Less Indian, more Spanish. I mean, all over Ecuador, that's your measure of you know, what's going on there. So they were more directly Spanish. And white guys. Sort of, you would say. So they did their thing. And we got along very well with them. But Lucy and I, Lucy and I had overalls, jeans, straw hats, work boots. (laughs) And they had good looking pants. They never got themselves dirty. They never dressed in 33:00farm clothes. We dressed in farm clothes. And it was so funny because also Lucy and I happened to be, I think I might be, I think we're right the same height, and I'm five-eleven. So we were giants. We were the big girls. (laughs) It was really funny. And here we were in our T-shirts with overalls and straw hats, like I said. And always with a hat, because the sun was so intense. And we're out there, we did the labor. So we were out in the fields doing the labor with the peones. And the peones were the workers. And they were all Indians. And so we had, we got to know the workers somewhat. They were very, of course, very, very respectful. In Ecuador it was still, at that time the era was that the Indians were very oppressed still, and had lived with oppression so long. I mean, they were called mijito, little 34:00boy. I mean, they called the Indians "little boy" all the time. And just as slaves in American history, it was "boy." There it was mijito, which means "little boy." And mijito this and mijito that, and do this and do that. So they never assumed to make friends with us, okay. We hung out together, though. You know, hung out at the farm together. And the women would bring the food up to the men in those three-tiered enameled dishes. Enameled tin dishes. They had them all over Ecuador. They were so cool. They were like three pots on top of each other, you know, one, two, three, stacked. And then there was a handle that went around them. And so the women would bring those up. And they'd 35:00have their babies and things like that. So we hung out a little bit with them. It was hard because the women did not speak English, I mean Spanish. They'd speak Quechua. And the men knew some Spanish. And that was true all over Ecuador and Peru at that time was that, and Bolivia, the Indian countries. Was that if you did commerce in the city, or commerce anywhere, then you learned some Spanish, if you were an Indian. Otherwise, they spoke their Indian dialect, which was Quechua, and variations of Quechua, throughout the mountains. So some women were commercial, but a lot of that was done by men. So it tended to be that men knew English, knew Spanish better than the women did. It was always interesting to me because as second language speakers we 36:00were both, we were all second language speakers. We were all speaking Spanish, but from a different point of view. So it was nice to talk to Indians, because they were coming from a second language point of view, too. So your vocabulary was a little bit limited in the same way. And once a week I went to a local Indian guy who was very educated and did lessons in Spanish. I tried to continue with just getting, what am I saying right, what am I saying wrong kind of thing, just talking with him and being corrected. And he was good. That was a nice thing to do. I enjoyed that a lot. And then so far as relationships with the people, we had, Roberto and Ermel were great. They both were single. They were not big macho dudes or anything. They didn't try to-- (laughs) They thought we were funny.


WILSON: But they were your counterparts.

SPURR: They were our counterparts. That's right. And you know, we had a good relationship. We also had a good relationship with the person from the university who was connected with us. Heine, I can't remember his name. But he would come up, and he was Roberto's superior. What ended up happening, Lucy left. Her time was up. And about the same time, they were building classrooms up at the field, up where I was working. So I haven't talked about my work specifically, but I loved what I did. I did different kinds of peas. And we started with just getting barrels of peas that you would buy in the market, whatever you would buy in the market, and started separating them out, because they had never been separated. So people didn't know what they were buying. They were just buying peas. Well there might be, you know, different varieties. So we were separating them and beginning at the germination 38:00stage to see which ones were the same and which ones were different. And our goal was to get clean strains of peas, so you could actually buy this one that you knew was going to grow well at this altitude in this area. So that was the goal.

WILSON: But that's a long term kind of project. That's not just a one or two year project.

SPURR: That's correct. Although doing, you know, I did, the growing season was about seven months, I'm thinking. Seven months. And so every three months I would start another group of twenty-four pea patches in different locations. And we had to do the rows, you know, with the, that's the kind of work I did with the peones. We had the azedones, which are the huge hoes that you made the rows with. And the 39:00rows were for irrigation. We had an irrigation ditch that ran through, or an irrigation canal sort of thing, that ran through the farm. And the way you would irrigate your field is you always flood them down. And then you would dig into the irrigation ditch and flow that water through your circuitous path, you know, the back and forth paths. So you had to bank the rows so that it would hold the water long enough that the crops would get enough water. So the water couldn't flow too fast or too slow, and you had to bank them so it would hold it longer. And of course these peones were artists at that. They knew exactly what they were doing. And Lucy and I did as much as we could. We sort of ran all the show. And when it was harvest time or when it was planting time, we were all out there working really, really hard. Lucy and I and all the peones. Not Roberto. Roberto would do the tractor 40:00stuff. But anyhow, so I learned, of course, a lot about indigenous agriculture and growing techniques and things.

WILSON: That reminds me, what were the primary food stocks for people?

SPURR: Well--

WILSON: And did you eat those, too?

SPURR: Yeah. I ate everything. And I went to Ecuador as a vegetarian. And you just couldn't be a vegetarian. And you couldn't refuse to eat the meat that people gave you. Because when anyone gave you meat, it was huge. You were the guest of honor. Yeah. And you couldn't-- and eggs. People would give you an egg, which is a huge thing for them, because, or give you four eggs. Just when they appreciated something that you'd done. Or if you came to visit them, they were 41:00always trying to give you things. And guinea pig was the favorite dish of the Indians. And I had guinea pig several times. Cuy. And they fix it with potatoes and peanut sauce and all sorts of stuff. There were thirteen varieties of potatoes. And we were in the high mountains, so it was potatoes, abas are those very large beans. I forget what the little white bean was called. But they tasted nothing like beans. They weren't frijoles. They were like we'd say black beans or kidney beans or anything like that. The habas were like a horse bean. They're huge, and very starchy. And supposedly very full of protein. We also ate quinoa. Quinoa was a grain there, which everybody, now they sell in the health food stores here. It's a highly nutritious grain. And it's kind of like semolina, like tapioca. You 42:00know, that couscous. Kind of like couscous. Kind of a hard white grain. Although when you cook it up it becomes clear and has a little string on it. Very delicious. You could use it in any way that you would any other kind of grain, like rice or anything like that. So yeah, we cooked that a lot. All the time. And vegetables. And of course you could buy, we had no vehicles. So we walked everywhere, or took the buses. We didn't really in Ambato do too much in cabs, either. We did mostly walking and buses. And that's, of course, how everybody else traveled. Indians and everybody except the more wealthy people traveled that way. There were a lot of people in cars, but we didn't, Roberto did, Ermel did, but anyway, we didn't bother, we didn't 43:00care. The market was wonderful in terms of you could buy any kind of vegetable or fruit because we were so close to both the jungle and to the coast. So you had fresh pineapple, fresh avocado, fresh tomatoes. The abundance. They call Ambato, this town, "the city of the flowers and fruits." Because everything either grows there or is nearby. It's just the center for everything in terms of flowers and fruits. Beautiful things. Beautiful flowers.

WILSON: But you lived then out on the farm the second year?

SPURR: No. Actually what happened was, after Lucy left and they built these classrooms up on the farm and the students started coming up there from the university, and they were, it was one of those bad experiences where people were very rude to me, refused to talk to me, made fun of 44:00me, that kind of stuff. And then ultimately called for the oust of the Peace Corps brigade, which we all thought was very funny since there was only one of me. But you know, they were going to strike and--

WILSON: This was at the university.

SPURR: Yeah. And see, we had been so quiet, they didn't even know we were there, I guess. Or nobody had put the impetus into politics of it. Because Peace Corps at that time, everybody said, you said you were Corpos de Paz, they said, "Oh, un espia de la CIA." Because this was just post-'73, when Allende was assassinated. And everything was very leftist. And the big thing in Ecuador you would see in all the painting and graffiti was, all the graffiti was pro-Lenin or pro-Mao. 45:00So the big thing in Ecuador was whether you were a pro-Lenin communist or a pro-Mao communist. And that was what the universities when they had, they had a riot. One riot when I was there, and one person, or maybe two, were killed. And it was in that, that was what they were rioting about. Pro-Leninist and pro-Mao. And that's probably a gross oversimplification. But anyhow, I was kicked out for that reason.

WILSON: Okay, let's stop the--

[Side a ends; side b begins.]

WILSON: Side two of interview with Sally Spurr, Peace Corps Oral History Project. Sally, so, you were saying, you were kicked out of the university and there was a strike and so forth. So you moved where and did what?

SPURR: Well, I consulted with my program manager, Tomas Guerrero. And 46:00of course he knew all about this. And the university, the people that we worked with, the administration, was very apologetic and everything. They, it was just, that was just what was happening at Ecuador at that time. So I could have gone home. I had about six months left of my Peace Corps time. And I asked if I could stay. I'd wanted to do, and we had been doing this in Ambato, also, small gardening. And I was very interested in what at that time we called French biodynamic intensive gardening. And that was where you, the technique itself is a bed technique where you double dig, meaning you aerate the soil really well. And then you companion plant this maybe three foot wide, or it could be wider, plot. It could be any length. So basically you're 47:00raising the soil. It's going to be a raised bed with companion plants that protect each other from the sun and the elements so that the leafy plants will grow over non leafy or more delicate plants, and you could have both shade and sun plants in the same bed. The water use was much less than other ways of planting, because you would sprinkle from the top. And because of the companion planting, it would stay moist longer. And then the aeration of the soil helped the root crops, and so on and so forth. So this was a technique which now everybody kind of uses. It's bed gardening. But at the time, it was like perfect for high mountain gardening in the Andes. Because if you've ever seen pictures of the mountains with the crops going way up to the top of the mountains. You know, you have all these different colors. There 48:00would be red quinoa over here, and they all would be grown with the rows, which is very hard labor and hard to irrigate. Almost impossible to irrigate. So I thought this was a great idea. And my Peace Corps program manager thought so, too. And so I went to a village where there was an existing Peace Corps group there. And I knew about them. And one of the people in my group who we entered the country together and so we knew each other really well, he was doing field crops there. He was doing beans and corn. So I asked, and then one person was doing nutrition, and one person was doing methane gas, so there was a methane gas project there. This is a village, an Indian village. And that was 49:00really what I wanted to do. It was a really wonderful experience. Got to know villagers, had the support of other volunteers. We all lived in Otavalo, which was a beautiful little town. So this was a gorgeous area of the country, also. But again, you're still high mountain, it's still high altitude. And about the same climate as Ambato. The soil was different, because the soil in Ambato was very sandy. This was a more rich soil. But I lived alone there in a little house. And this is the house without water. And another family lived in part of the house, too. And my landlady lived across the road in an old house. And where I lived was a mill, part of it had been a mill before. And 50:00it was right on a creek, a little mini river. And that was a really, really nice experience. I enjoyed myself a lot there. And I did about six months at there, basically I was in Peace Corps for two and a half years. And I'd gone in in August of '75, and I left Christmas of '77.

WILSON: So you extended a little bit.

SPURR: Extended a little bit. Not a whole year, but a little bit. I went home because it was Christmas and my parents really wanted me to come home. And so I said okay. I didn't necessarily want to re-up for another year or two. I didn't know, just wasn't sure. So my mom had rheumatoid arthritis. She'd gotten it just right before I went home, really, and she was in a lot of pain and really wanted me to come home. 51:00So I came home without too much consideration of extending at that point. So that's, there's a lot more things to say there.

WILSON: Well, I want to ask you this. What about recreation? And did you travel?

SPURR: Very fortunate. I was very, very fortunate. Because working as I did in agriculture and horticulture, I mean, we worked very, very hard, say, to plant. And it would take weeks and weeks to get to the point of planting. But once you planted, and if the others weren't ready to harvest, then you had a couple of weeks free. And I took them. (laughs) And I went to, oh, went to the beach once or twice, but went to the jungle several times, because it was very close. We were very, very close to the jungle there. And from Ambato, the town where 52:00you entered the jungle was called Banos. And Banos is a place where Ecuadorians go for vacation. And it's hot baths. And it's right at the edge of the rain forest as you really plunge into the jungle. So the roads from there went into the jungle. And that's where we entered the jungle. So I was in Banos a lot, because it was easy to get to. We enjoyed that a lot. And Peace Corps, I'm sure other volunteers had the same experience, everybody comes to visit. If you had time off, you go visit the other Peace Corps volunteers who are in other areas. Because you have people who live in interesting areas. Where I lived was sort of on a main drag, because it was between Quito and all points south. So I had several volunteers visit me. And I always 53:00had a decent, we always lived in decent places where there was room for people to stay. So I had a lot, not a lot, but you know, a regular, people from my group, or people who were going out, like the small construction guy lived in a village that was really hard conditions. And he had to walk two or three days to get there. So when he would come into Ambato, he would stay at my house. So we did a lot of in country travel, and in country socialization among volunteers. Went to Quito a lot. Quito was a wonderful, wonderful city.

WILSON: What was it like coming home?

SPURR: I cried all the way, basically. I really did not want to come home. Coming into Louisville, and it was close, it was maybe the day before Christmas or something. And you could see all the lights, and all the Christmas tree lights, and I just cried because I didn't really 54:00want to come home. And I knew I was leaving what I loved, and coming to something that I really didn't want and didn't know what I'd be doing.

WILSON: And so how did that readjustment go?

SPURR: Well, what happened was I was of course involved with my mom, especially, trying to help her with the, I'm the holistic health person, and I was trying to get her to drink carrot juice and things she didn't want to do. (laughs) So but I got home in December and my very good friend who was also my boyfriend various times in the past, we'd always been close. But you know, I'd been gone for two and a half years, and it wasn't like, I wasn't coming back to be with 55:00him or anything. But I came back and when we got together, we were closer than we'd ever been. And shortly thereafter, we started getting together. And he fell after, in his sleep, he lived in a house down on the river that had an A-frame. And he fell and broke his back. And ended up being paraplegic. And so I went through his stuff with him. And not, he did not in any way want me to stay with him as a girlfriend, because he was, you know, that kind of a, something like that hits you, you have to work through it yourself. And he was more the kind of person who said, "No, no, no, I'm doing this myself." So that made it easy in some ways, and more difficult in others. But I stayed with him for about six months during the adjustment till he really wanted to be on his own and needed to be on his own. And then 56:00we remained friends for years, from then on. So I spent my Peace Corps money and time here in Louisville with Dan. And then started looking for jobs. I was trying to do like Job Corps, or my fantasy job was to be a park ranger. And so I went to the Corps of Engineers, and they offered me a park ranger job. Because you still had your, as Peace Corps, for a year after, you have civil service status. So that I was in line for any kind of a civil service job. And so I went to the Corps of Engineers. And it was also the time of women, needing women in agencies. So they needed women.

WILSON: So this was 1976?


SPURR: No. I returned in '77, Christmas. So this was the end of '78. End of '78. I started, well, anyhow, I didn't take the park ranger job because they explained to me where I was going, and that most of my job would be in the courts, you know, arresting people and giving citations and carrying a gun. And that wasn't the kind of park ranger I wanted to be, but that's the reality of it. So I did take a job with them as a lock and dam operator on the Ohio. And I have often said that this was more of a culture shock than Peace Corps ever was. It was me, I was the token female, and everybody else, there were sixteen men. They were all veterans, most of them from World War Two. The youngest person, he was in his mid forties, the next one. And so it 58:00was, what an adventurous job. It was a great job for me. I loved it. But some of the guys really resented me. Some of the guys really took up for me. So it's about fifty/fifty.

WILSON: Here on the Ohio.

SPURR: Ohio River. Down in about, it's between here and Evansville, Cannelton.

WILSON: Cannelton. Yes.

SPURR: Cannelton. And I lived in a little trailer right on the river, in bend of the river. And I grew the best crops I have ever, vegetables, I could not believe. It was like ----------(??), you know, because I was right in this area that flooded every year. So it was all the, you know, all the river--


SPURR: Silt. The silt. That's the word I'm looking for. And carrots that were just incredible. I've never grown carrots like that. Chard 59:00and you know, so I had loads of vegetables. And worked a swing shift. So you worked three weeks at mornings, three weeks at I forget the hours, three to eleven, and three weeks at eleven PM till seven AM, something like that. And got to know the river. Got to know the big lock and dam. It was really, really interesting. Of course, it's a culture unto itself. What finally, what gradually, as the year went on, it was apparent there was no place for me to go there. I mean, the only job there was lock and dam operator. And I had that. The only other things to be would be the lock and dam master, lock master. And I would never know enough about the river to do that. It didn't matter how much college I had. I would never have the confidence, 60:00myself. Other people, maybe, but myself, I would never. Those guys had grown up on the river, knew every nook and cranny of the river, knew every ship. They could tell, anything that was going to happen, they were able to predict and interpret in ways that you know by having experienced it as growing up with it. You know, it's second nature to them. And so I could see that there wasn't really anyplace to go. And socially it was a zero for me. Although I did have some friends who lived in Owensboro, and that was fun. But anyhow, some college friends. So I decided to go back, either go back to school, or to go to New Orleans. Because I had friends in New Orleans and I was thinking about going down there and working with my friends who made sails and worked on boats. That sounded like a lot of fun. And the other side was to go back to school. And I had friends in Lexington. 61:00And so I wanted to study Spanish. So I went to, ended up going to UK. And lived there for, worked on my degree for two years. Did Spanish and English as a second language and got my master's in education. Did teaching certification in Spanish and English as a second language. And that was great. I taught at the university, taught as a T.A. And taught ESL, adult ed. That's how I made my living. And those were both really good experiences. And that sort of really, from then on, I was a teacher. You know, that was my career direction. And although I did do other things. After college I couldn't really get a job in teaching ESL. There were too many, not that many jobs in it. So I worked, by 62:00that time I'd hooked up with Michael, who I later married, who was also a Peace Corps volunteers. Michael Koepper. And he had a daughter who had Down's syndrome. And I got very interested and worked, started working with people with disabilities. I sort of have always had people with disabilities, people with second language and international people, and helping professions, teaching, ever since then.


SPURR: Put it all together.

WILSON: What do you think the impact of your Peace Corps service was on Ecuador?

SPURR: Our Peace Corps director, when I actually joined Peace Corps, it had changed, it was a different person. His name was George Baldino. 63:00And he was a former Jesuit priest. And he said to us during our training, we asked lots of questions because of the spy thing at that time. And he said, "Your Peace Corps, don't forget, it's a 50/50 proposition. Don't get discouraged. Because you're not going to save the world. You're not going to save these people. You may not accomplish what you think, or what you would hope to accomplish. But remember the other side of this experience is what you learn, and what you take home. And so I thought of that many, many times when I was in Peace Corps. Because I think everybody, you get to the point where you know that you're not making this life impact on people. You're not changing things hugely for the world. And there's a lot of hassles. 64:00And maybe job hassles, and it doesn't seem like the world's going to move one way or another. So I always said well, okay, that's okay, I'm taking it back with me, too. And I really enjoyed people in the country. So that kept me there, too. Excuse me. But so far as the impact, now many years later, I can look back and say that after I did that small gardening project, Tomas made that a part of all of the agriculture, horticulture volunteers all did that. He got real into this French biodynamics is what it was called. So that became a part of the horticulture, agriculture program, that everybody did the raised beds wherever they were. So I felt like that was a little impact, you know. And then so far as the horticulture, the hortelesa, I suspect 65:00that what we did will be used. You know, at least in that area, at least by the university people we worked with. They liked it. They were going to use it. Now whether the Indians ever used it, whether it was ever used to help poor people, I don't know. But probably for profit people, it probably helped.

WILSON: What about the impact on you?

SPURR: Well, that also, I didn't realize it was so great. As the years have gone by, I've seen that it really made a huge difference. Of course, part of it is that as soon as you tell people that you were in Peace Corps, they ask questions. Or have a vision of you right away, you know? Whatever their filter is, they have some thought about that. 66:00Some people admire it, and some people think it's silly and such.

WILSON: Are you still in contact with either volunteers that you served with or people in Ecuador?

SPURR: A lot of volunteers that I served with, we still keep up with each other. And there's a group of us that get together every year or two. Probably every other year now. So that's, we were mostly in Ambato. All those different people. And some of those folks, three of them live in Washington, DC, and have, well, pursued their Peace Corps goals. Although I don't think any of them are working for nonprofits or nongovernmental agencies. One's with the World Bank. One's with 67:00the International Monetary Fund or something like that. And one is with the Department of Defense, who's the least likely person, Department of Defense? Yeah. Least likely person to ever be with that, but he studied co-ops. He got a degree in cooperative extension work, really. He got it here in Kentucky. He's from Boston. His name is Don Simon. And he was the one who did the small business program and helped form cooperatives in Ecuador. I think his impact was wonderful. So anyway, he's up in Washington, DC. So we still keep up and have-- oh, and one person is an educational consultant. You know, people do some interesting things. Nationally and internationally.

WILSON: What about international experience? Have you had other international experience since?

SPURR: Yeah. Yeah. I actually went back to Ecuador. We have two 68:00organizations here in Kentucky: Partner for the Americas, of which Kentucky and Ecuador are partners; and Sister Cities, of which Quito and Louisville are sister cities. So I've done a lot of sister city things, and Partners for the Americas, also. I had people from Ecuador come stay at my house while they, and Partners of the Americas, you do these teacher exchanges. So I've had two teachers come and stay at my house, and I took them around Louisville. And then I went to Ecuador and taught, did a teacher training, through Partners of the Americas. Which is always really interesting. When they come here, you just show them around. But when you go there, you work your tushy off! (laughs) We work really hard. I worked really hard. I was the only one that went. But did teacher training in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, and then back in Ambato, too. And met with people in Quito and that was wonderful. It was a great experience for me to do. And 69:00then also I had the opportunity about three years ago, KCTCS, who I work for now, the community and technical college system, they had, Quintana Roo, the province in Mexico where Cancun is located, they wanted to do a, requested teacher trainers. So I volunteered to go to Cancun for the summer and do a teacher training. And that was a great experience, too. They were just wonderful. It was middle school and high school teachers. And the one in Ecuador was also, mostly high school teachers. And what they really want in both cases, they want some method. They want some teaching methods. But our methods are really so inappropriate for them in some circumstances, that sort of we 70:00have more technology behind us than they do. And so they end up being more language training. They want to improve their English, and they want somebody they can ask a lot of questions. And so I taught ESL, basically, as a teacher training. But we also did teacher, as many teaching methods that were appropriate for them.

WILSON: What do you think the impact of your Peace Corps service was on the way you look at the world today?

SPURR: Well, I can imagine what life is like in other countries. For 71:00example, I can imagine what life is like in the mountains of Uzbekistan. You know? And I can imagine what life is like in villages in Africa. And part of that is my experience being in Ecuador and living with people who were subsistence, and who were in developing countries. And part of that is from other volunteers, and being connected with international, people who've done international things ever since Peace Corps. So I have an understanding of what life is like in not only developing countries, but in developed countries as well. I bring a lot of that. I bring that to my students a lot. I tell them about it, and tell them about, we do research projects. I try to bring global 72:00issues into the classroom, and try to live it with them a little bit. They have no idea, many of our students have no idea what life is like anywhere else. For example, when we did Afghanistan, when the Taliban was there, and so on and so forth. And the students thought that Afghanistan was just this dusty, horrible, dirty place. That really was the predominant idea. And my goodness, Afghanistan is a beautiful, beautiful country, with all the weavings and the jewelry. So I shared some of that with them and brought pictures and things. I haven't been to Afghanistan. I just know what it would be like. So I guess it's an understanding of the rest of the world, and how people live, how people 73:00really live without electricity and without water.

WILSON: And that it's possible to do that.

SPURR: Yeah. And be happy, and not have that be a big deal. You know, not feel terrible about it, and sorry.

WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of the Peace Corps has been?

SPURR: I always look at it both ways. I think it's the impact it's had on so many volunteers who've been to other countries, so many Peace Corps volunteers who come back home and have their lives changed by that experience, or have that knowledge of that reality of other cultures and other ways of living. And then for the countries where 74:00you work, maybe the program has changed some things for people. Maybe that gardening idea helped. But the real change would be in all the people that we got to know well, and you could see it from another perspective and understand who we were.

WILSON: So relationships, perhaps, more than economic development.

SPURR: Yeah.

WILSON: What should the role of the Peace Corps be today? Should it continue?

SPURR: Yes. Yes. Overwhelming yes for that. But it's changed. And I'm not sure, they do a lot of teaching in Peace Corps now, where they 75:00didn't when I was in Peace Corps. And a lot of English. And ESL. A lot of business training, I think, over in the Eastern European countries. So it's changing a lot. And I'm sure, in Africa, so much health workers working with the HIV. I think that's one of the most important places to be. Probably Ecuador and South America haven't changed all that much. You know, it's slow to change. So I think that every friend that you make and every chance that somebody from another country has to see somebody else and understand them, not just see them. That was the same as being a tourist, you know, going through South America was so different than being a volunteer. You're outside of 76:00the culture all the time; you're an observer. And when you're in Peace Corps, you're a participant. You're part of the culture. You're part of what's happening. You're part of the work force, you're part of the culture, and it's just an experience both ways that's very different. Everybody talks about the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracies in different countries. But we can see how people operate differently, one by one, person by person. I think it's very important.

WILSON: Okay. That's I guess the structured questions I have. But what haven't I asked you that you would like to answer? Or do you have just a story or two you'd like to share?

SPURR: Well, I was quite interested in the politics down there. And 77:00that, I know, is old stuff for everybody. But it really, that made an impact on me, was understanding other people's perspectives on these hot political issues. You know, and how everybody in South America, gross generalization, but people generally saw the United States as an exploiting country, you know, an exploitative country. A country that uses other countries. And that was huge to really understand. And of course I came out of the counterculture movement, so I was willing to look at it. But the actual experience of reading a newspaper talking about something that was going on in Europe that I knew what was being reported at home being so different, you know? And not being untrue. Gave me a whole feel for world politics and 78:00what's said and what's not said. You know, just a real education you just can't get just anywhere, or just visiting another country. But understanding why people saw it this way, and understanding bias and a different perspective. I was always, I was just fascinated with the ways people's minds worked in Spanish as opposed to English as opposed to Quechua. You know, those things are very interesting to me. So the language aspects. And then I was twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six in Peace Corps. You know, we were young, unattached females. So there was a lot of, there's a whole wealth of stories there. (laughs) 79:00You know. One time, this is just one that just kind of set the tone. I was at a party when I first got to Ambato and I'd gone with Donny Simon. And we weren't together or anything. And this guy kept asking me to dance. And he was darling, and I was having a great time talking to him. His wife was there in the kitchen with all these other women. I wondered why they were being so, you know, they wouldn't talk to me, wouldn't look at me and stuff. And I had no idea, you know? And there you are. Did I have any friends in that group in Ambato? That was one of the groups that I might maybe could have made friends with? And zoop, there that went. And of course, so you have an eye opener to the kinds of cultural things that go on with the sexes there, and the sexism and the gender stuff was pretty amazing. But I made a lot of good friends. And mostly men, because the women, at that time, because 80:00I was in a male dominated profession, there weren't very many women. And it was hard to make women friends there. Just as it was hard, this was all the guys would say, they couldn't get dates down there. Nobody, no self respecting, no families would let their daughter go out with a Peace Corps volunteer, or with an American guy. They'd all seen those American movies, you know. Now the girls, though, because the men were free to do whatever they wanted to do, the guys were free to do whatever they want to do. They were after us like crazy. So that was another thing that the other volunteers, we always laughed about how the guys couldn't get a date, and they wouldn't leave us alone. And another funny thing was in Quito, I did spend a ---------- (??) of time in Quito, every year we would have a Thanksgiving football match between the Peace Corps volunteers and the Marines, because the 81:00Marines guarded the embassy. This was a small community, you know, international. And that was another really fun thing was getting to know people from all over the world in this expatriate community. In Quito, there were lots of British people, Germans, Frenchies. Not many French, but German and British and American. And a lot of intrigue kind of things you could see and all this stuff around. You know, smugglers. And also, we had, in Ecuador, oil. So we had a lot of Texans. So when we went to Quito, you could, if you went to parties and things, you were there with all this variety of people from the States and these other countries. But anyhow, so this football game was, we won it every year. The Peace Corps always beat the Marines. (laughs) Because, I mean, I didn't know these things. But the Marines 82:00were chosen to be smaller, and most of them were dark haired, so they would fit into the culture. And the guys in Peace Corps, they were six foot or ----------(??). Kent was six-six or something, big guy. (laughs) This was always funny. That was really funny. And another opportunity that was nice being in Peace Corps, in Quito, anyway, in Ecuador, was that the ambassador invited us to his mansion. We were at the ambassador's. If you wanted to, you could take advantage of those things. I met Roslyn Carter. I met the mayor of Louisville, who was down there with Sister Cities. So those were really nice things to see. And then you get that whole other expatriate feel for living in another country.

WILSON: Okay. Well.


SPURR: That's ----------(??) good.

WILSON: Thank you.

[End of interview.]

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