WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project interview with Capp Yess ofMorehead, Kentucky, April 1, 2006, interviewer Jack Wilson. Okay Capp, if you would please give me your full name and where and when you were born so we have that on the record here.
YESS: Alright, my name is Capp David Yess and I was born in Waseca,Minnesota the 30th of May, Memorial Day in the year of 1957.
WILSON: Tell me something about your family and your growing up inMinnesota.
YESS: Alright. Both my parents were born and raised in Waseca County insouth central Minnesota. My mother was a farm girl and my dad lived in town, and I was born there, and then we quickly moved from there. My dad became a teacher and we went to another town in southern Minnesota, 1:00and then moved a couple of times before we settled in rural, small rural town north of the twin cities called St. Francis. And I spent my elementary school years there, and then when I was in middle school we moved to a suburb of St. Paul, and I graduated from high school there. And then I left to see the world.
WILSON: Any siblings?
YESS: I have two younger brothers and two younger sisters. The threeof us, there are three of us sort of close in age, and then my youngest brother and sister are twelve and fourteen years younger than I am, and I am the oldest of the five.
WILSON: Okay, you say you graduated in St. Paul?
YESS: Yeah, West St. Paul from Henry Sibley Senior High School.
WILSON: And what year would that have been?
YESS: 1975, so I was one of those lucky people who not only missed2:00the draft, but I didn't even have to register. And so I missed all of those things for that little period of time there while we were adjusting after the war.
WILSON: Okay, let me do a sound check here. So you graduated in '75and you said to set off to see the world. What next? You go to college or--?
YESS: I did.
WILSON: And where was that?
YESS: I went to the most distant regional university in Minnesota,which was five hours away from the twin cities in a small town called Bemidji in the northern part of Minnesota. So I went to Bemidji State University.
WILSON: So going that far was purposeful?
YESS: Yeah, it was time to leave the nest. Yes, my--You know being theoldest of five and my father being a very pragmatic German fellow, he told me very straight up that if you stay here, you're going to pay rent. And I told him very frankly, "If I'm going to pay rent, I'm going to pay it to somebody else." And I went off to college. 3:00
WILSON: And what did you study?
YESS: I was a physics major, always, from day one. I did quit schoolthree times, but I never changed my major.
WILSON: So tell me something about the quitting school. Did you go offto work or what?
YESS: At the end of my sophomore year a couple of friends of mine and agirlfriend of mine all went up to Alaska together, and we didn't really have a plan, but I ended up staying there most of the year. And so I quit school for one year with the full intention of coming back, but you know how plans go. You never know quite what's going to happen. Turns out I did come back, and so I started school after saving some money and working in Alaska for a year, and then went back to Bemidji, and graduated a little over two years after that. And then actually I was scheduled to go into the Peace Corps, but like all college students I was looking for a lot of things and not sure what I was really going 4:00to do. And I was accepted in the Peace Corps, and I was assigned I think to Ghana, which would have been fine, but I also received another job offer teaching at a small community college at a small town in eastern Wyoming. And I decided I was going to do that, so I wrote the Peace Corps and explained to them that I was going to be busy for one year and I couldn't go in with that offer to Ghana. And they were pretty good about it, they said, "Well alright, if your intention is to join later, just get back to us when you're ready." And so after teaching for a year in eastern Wyoming, that's what I did.
WILSON: So how did you happen to think about the Peace Corps in thefirst place?
YESS: You know it's hard to remember back that far. I'm not sureactually, I can't say there's any one event that I remember where I said, "I've got to go into the Peace Corps." I know I was aware of the Peace Corps, and I did like to travel. After going to Alaska 5:00and traveling through Canada repeatedly, and through much of the United States; I had been to Florida and Maine and California, and I had traveled a bit by the time I had graduated from college. I knew I wanted to go overseas more, and I liked the idea that I would be able to go and do something, live there, be with people, be part of the place, be helping, but I don't remember any one incident where I decided then I have to go into the Peace Corps. The funny thing is, as it turns out when I finally got my acceptance and came home and told my family, my parents said I was going in the Peace Corps. My brother had also independently applied to go in the Peace Corps, my younger brother, and he ended up going to Africa the same time I was in Fiji, and we also had a cousin of mine who was in Costa Rica at the time, and 6:00another cousin who was in Senegal. So my grandmother had four of her grandchildren overseas in the Peace Corps at one time, and none of us knew when we were applying that any of the others were applying. So I just don't know.
WILSON: So the Peace Corps must have been in the genes somewhere.
YESS: There was something, yeah or in the water or I don't know exactlywhat it did. But we all did this thing together, and that was really neat to be able to come back and share that.
WILSON: Okay, so you went to Wyoming to teach you said at a communitycollege.
YESS: Community college in--
WILSON: Just say a word or two about that and then the decision to--
YESS: Yeah, well so I just left, I had just gotten my bachelor's degree.I was probably 25 years old and somehow I landed this teaching job at a community college, which I was really not very prepared for. So I 7:00worked really hard for one year trying to keep ahead of my students who some of them were taller than I was and many of them were older than I was.
WILSON: And you were teaching?
YESS: Physics and computer languages, BASIC and FORTRAN, and generalscience course to people in community college who were destined to go to the University of Wyoming. That's what most of them were trying to do. And the town I lived in was a little cattle town, it was just a little Wyoming town but I really enjoyed it. I had a really good time there for Wyoming.
YESS: I learned a lot.
WILSON: And so how did you decide to go to Peace Corps the second time?
YESS: That job was a terminal job; I was replacing someone who was on ayear sabbatical.
WILSON: I see.
YESS: So I knew when I declined the offer to Ghana and I told them, thePeace Corps Office, the recruiters that I was intending to come back in 8:00a year, I knew that. That was already as part of the time table, so in the spring of that first year of teaching I got in touch again with the office and the recruiters, and I said let's start the paperwork again. And this time I got an invitation to go to Fiji, and I know it's a hardship spot and I know it's rough, but I decided someone had to do it, and I would be the person who would head out to the South Pacific.
WILSON: Did you know anything about Fiji at that point?
YESS: Very--No, not really, no.
WILSON: Okay, so and what was the program invitation for Fiji?
YESS: So I told the recruiters that the one thing about me that Iunderstood pretty well was when I was done with my two years in Fiji I needed to have some sense of accomplishment. And having already taught a year and having my degree in science and knowing that that was a 9:00common program, it was pretty clear that that would be a good way for me to go, that I would know what I was supposed to do. I would at the end of two years feel like I had done what I had expected to do, and I would be happy with that. And it turned out I was right; that worked really well.
WILSON: So you were part of a teaching program?
WILSON: How many people in your group?
YESS: There were about 25 of us and--
WILSON: Where did you--? How did that process work?
YESS: Yes, yeah, we were given a questionnaire after our training askingus what sorts of things would be our preferences. And in Fiji there are two really main populations; there's indigenous population, which you might know, and then the other approximately half of the population are Indian immigrants who had been brought over by the British to work 10:00on the sugar cane fields, and of course now had been there for two, three, four generations. So one of the things you had to decide is did you want to teach in a predominantly native school or a predominantly Indian school, and the other question was did you want to teach in the city, a city school or a rural school. And I told the people who were performing our training and then making our assignment I didn't care who I taught but I would prefer to be in a rural setting, because I had lived in a rural setting when I was a youngster, and I kind of wanted to return to that. And so I ended up at one of the few Indian schools that was rural on the island of Vanua Levu, which is the second largest island about fifteen kilometers outside of the city of Labasa.
WILSON: And can you tell me something about the training, where it was,what it was, how it prepared you. 11:00
YESS: Actually I know a lot about it because after I was finishedbeing a volunteer I did stay in the country for nine months working with training, but as far as my training went, we got there and we were introduced to the training staff. We had a day or so of sort of adjustment where we let the jet lag and things wear off, and there were a few scheduled things but basically we were allowed to just relax. And then we started a fairly intensive language and cross cultural training to begin with, and all of us learned one either native Fijian language or the dialect of Hindi that people spoke, and all of us were also introduced to the culture. And we had sort of that immersion type training where we lived with families and we met as a group in part of the day, and we went to various places and had activities where we got to know sort of some of the features of the islands. For instance, 12:00we would go to schools since we were going to be teachers and tour schools, but we would also go to the Ministry of Education and we would go tour the beer factory and other landmarks and cemeteries, and just things that might be dissimilar and might be different from what we were used to. And all the while our trainers would try to talk to us about how people who grew up in Fiji would view these things. We were encouraged to go to church since that was a big part of people's lives, and also to the other Hindu temples and the mosques. And when that part was over--
WILSON: And that was how long?
YESS: That lasted about three or four weeks.
YESS: And of course one of the hardest parts about that was then leavingthis family you had been living with. All of us had been living independently with different host national families.
WILSON: And where was that?
YESS: In a small town outside of the capitol city. It wasn't really a13:00town; it had a place name but like all places in Fiji it has a place name, but that doesn't really mean it's a town. And then we went back after that cross cultural part, we went back and stayed in the capitol city and because it was school vacation, we were housed then at the Nausori Teachers School, where normally students during the regular school year would be taught how to be teachers. And so that was a fitting place, and we were given some basic teacher training, and then we ran a short summer school that the Peace Corps sponsored to give us some experience in the classroom before we were actually sent out on our own to work with different schools.
WILSON: And how long was that component?
YESS: Six weeks.
WILSON: Six weeks.
YESS: So total training was about ten weeks, and during that whole timewe had our language training.
WILSON: And so did you have Hindi or Fijian language?14:00
YESS: I learned Hindi.
WILSON: You learned Hindi.
YESS: Yeah, and I learned, well I quickly learned that with 27 somethinglike that different consonants, it was--The untrained American ear couldn't hear the difference between all the different types of g's and all the different types of t's and all the different types of k's, so we actually requested to learn how to write it so that we could recognize visually the sounds we were trying to produce with our mouths, and that seemed to be the best way to learn it. And I would say in the three years I was in Fiji, at the end of that three years I spoke about as well as a three year old, but I could get around. I mean if I wanted something I could get your attention, but I would never say I was truly proficient, but I didn't have any trouble traveling or getting around.
WILSON: Alright, so you had started to talk about your assignment andthe process of that assignment. Is there anything else about training 15:00you want to talk about before we go onto that?
YESS: Oh, no except it was incredibly intense. And of course for manyof us being young people just out of college, it was the first time--I mean when you're in college you live with other people you don't know, so you're out of your family setting but you're sort of in the midst of other people in the same boat. This was probably the first time most of us had ever lived with another family while they were in training, so we were adjusting to someone else's family while we were adjusting to all the other things in Fiji. And I remember the host family I stayed with and they were lovely people, and even though they had a very simple home and they were by no means, you know, well off, I was given one of the bedrooms to myself. So I know that caused other family members to have to adjust to my presence, and then after I met 16:00everyone the first day, I remember they took me to my room and they showed me my room and they brought in my suitcase. And I thought, "Alright, now they'll all leave me alone for a little while," but that--No. Everyone from the father to mother on down to the smallest child watched me unpack every single thing from my suitcase, and they helped me put it all in someplace or another in that room, and I got the feeling I was a part of the family.
WILSON: Was this an Indian or Fijian family?
YESS: This was an Indian family.
YESS: Yeah. I stayed with an Indian family. I did stay with a Fijianfamily but for a very short time, just to give everyone a taste of, you know the other culture that was on this part of Fiji but that you probably would not be interacting with for the most part.
WILSON: Okay, so then you were assigned to go to this community outsideLabasa on Vanua Levu. 17:00
YESS: Yeah, it was what we called a settlement. Native Fijians lived invillages, Indian people tended to live in what were called settlements, and they were physically very different looking. A village would look like; they would look like what you would think a village would look like often. Whether the buildings were thatched in bamboo or whether they were tin roofed in wood, they would still be sort of collected around the central courtyard, and there would be perimeter areas and there would be gardens surrounding. That would be your typical Fijian village, but the Indian settlements were more individual family units, even though they might be extended family they looked more like a farming countryside with little compounds dotting the countryside surrounded by family fields of usually rice and sugarcane, and then you know just a little ways down the road would be your next family and your next family, and every once and a while there would be a small 18:00store. And where I lived we were definitely out on the gravel road. There was nothing but gravel roads out where we were, and so it was just a rural farm community.
WILSON: And tell me something about the school.
YESS: So in Fiji you have government schools and you have what are,they're not called private schools but essentially they are private schools. This school was governed by a school board of local people, and for the most part with some government assistance they paid for the building of the school and children paid fees of course to go to the school. The school did receive government support but you had to pay tuition; you couldn't go there for free. And almost all of my students were Indian students and farm children. There were a few Fijian children there because they happened to live close by or maybe their 19:00family even farmed. That's possibly; they could have done that. And it was a fairly large school because, not because the population was so dense by the means where the school was located, but it drew from a large area because being north of town like that there weren't--There was only one school further north of us on the whole, that whole end of the island. So we drew from a large area and we had a couple of hundred students, and we have an elementary school sort of associated with us so you could go from kindergarten all the way to what we would call twelfth grade, and they called form six in the British New Zealand sort of system. And from then you would apply and hopefully get a scholarship to go to the university, and almost all our students needed a scholarship. They would never have been able to afford to go to the university without a scholarship. Now the year I came, and one of 20:00the reasons I was posted at this school was because they were actually starting a new program, which would be a year beyond your traditional high school and it was called the foundation year of form seven. And that was meant to be the same kind of curriculum that you would have if you went to the university for the first year, and the idea was that if you did well in the next foundation year you could reapply again for a chance at a scholarship to go to the university. And so for the most part I did teach some twelfth grade classes and even occasionally a fourth grade class, well no. Form four, tenth grade class, but for the most part I taught physics, chemistry, or mathematics to this form seven class, and I had about in the two years I taught there six or ten students depending upon the subject. So that's pretty ideal for a teacher.
WILSON: Per class?
YESS: Per class, yeah. Yeah, because it was a new program and we weretrying to compete with the government school that was in the city of 21:00Labasa, and for the most part I think it was a prestige thing for my principal and one of the school board members that they were trying to bring this form seven class to the rural school because we didn't have any equipment. I mean we couldn't support this program at all, but I actually was very proud that a number of my students did do well and in fact I think the first year one of my students got the only A grade on the whole island, which means they were better than any student at the government school, and that was sort of the elite school. So that helped us gain a little recognition, and then those students who did well did go on to either the university or teachers college or Fiji Vo-technical School.
YESS: So that was good. That made you feel good when you knew youhelped someone who didn't have a lot of options actually get somewhere in life.
WILSON: And when you say the school was not properly equipped, what do22:00you mean? What did you have and what didn't you have teaching chemistry and physics and math?
YESS: Well so we didn't have anything to teach physics, and we actuallyended up dropping physics. So even though my degree was in physics, shortly after I arrived I convinced the school that we should not teach physics because our students would have a real disadvantage trying to pass the physics examinations that they would have to pass at the end of the school year. So we even dropped that subject and the chemistry we taught, we had a very minimal chemistry store room. Most of the chemicals were supplied by the government through a program; some of them we actually purchased. But it was very minimal, and so our sort of practical side of that class was very limited, but we worked hard on the theory so the students could do all the problems and that kind of thing and pass their class. But I'll give you an idea of the way 23:00things were. So here you are in Fiji in this little school and you have almost nothing to work with, and one day you get a box from, oh it could have been something donated from the States or something the federal government bought for some reason, and we did get a box like this one time. And it was a large container of sodium, sodium metal. Well I wasn't a chemist so I didn't know much about it, but another friend of mine at another school got some and he knew enough about it to know that if you just take a piece of sodium metal and put it in water, it will react with water spontaneously producing hydrogen, and it's exothermic so you will get a small explosion eventually just by throwing the metal in the water. And it came in paraffin, so you got this big plastic container with chunks of sodium in it, and then it's all in paraffin. It's actually very dangerous and it should not be stored at a high school under any circumstances, but--So he told me the story that he was demonstrating to his faculty at his school this 24:00reaction, and so he threw a small amount of sodium metal in just a container of water, and the thing sputtered around and eventually heated up and it blew up, and the piece of sodium ended up being lodged in the ceiling of his chemical store room, and it started the ceiling of his chemical store room on fire. Of course they got it out and ran around and all that, and I thought the story was amusing. But I thought, "Well I'm not going to make that mistake." So I, but I really wanted to see this. So I told my students I'm going to demonstrate this really cool reaction to them one day, and we went outside. And I took a small piece of sodium and I threw it in a coffee can with some water in it, and it sputtered around for a little while, and then it kind of blew up. And I was pretty proud of myself, I said, "Well that was pretty neat, wasn't it students?" And they were like, "Yeah that was pretty neat." And then just about as we were going to go back in, one of my students said, "Sir, the principal's sugar cane field is on fire." And I looked over the ditch right on the edge of the school, and sure 25:00enough I started my principal's sugar cane field on fire. So luckily there were some pieces of cardboard down there for some reason I don't even know, but my whole class ran down and then other classes saw that we were down there trying to put out this fire. And pretty soon the entire school was down in this sugar cane field stomping on the ground and using different pieces of cardboard and other things to try to put out this fire, and everyone except the teachers and especially this other volunteer teacher from England who sat up by the school and just watched us were out there putting out this fire. And we got it out thank goodness, but that was--I never did that experiment again.
WILSON: I was going to say, what did you do with the rest of the sodium?
YESS: I just put it back, I just put it back.
WILSON: Did you have any laboratory at all or any laboratory equipmentat all?
YESS: Very little, I think we had a simple balance, a couple of testtubes. We did have some chemicals like I say, and most of them I 26:00think were this kind of sodium thing where they were stocked but probably were considered too dangerous for American schools or American laboratories, so they were being removed and then you know donated overseas so that we could destroy ourselves or something, yeah, but very little of that stuff.
WILSON: And so where did you live in this settlement? How did you live?
YESS: I don't know why. Because it was a rural school, the school hadhouses for faculty to live in, and many of the faculty that I worked with did live in a small lane of houses, but I wasn't offered one of those houses, maybe because I was a single person and they were big enough generally for a family. So I lived in a little converted classroom that was actually in the compound of the elementary school in 27:00a sort of a side building that had a classroom attached to my house and then not far from that was the elementary school building itself, and then behind my house were the bathrooms and for some reason my shower was in the girls' bathroom. So every morning I had to get up and make sure I had taken my shower before the kids started arriving for school, so they could then use their bathroom. And occasionally I was a little late, and that would be alright because I could lock the door and the girls would know that if the door was locked that I must be in there taking my shower. But the problem was the kids of course would be walking a lot of them to school and they had plastics sandals, and so one of the first things they would do customarily is wash their feet on these taps that were on the side of the elementary school. But if they turned on those taps, then the water pressure to my shower shut off, and so often times I had to crawl up sort of above the shower and peek 28:00over the wall and yell at the kids to not wash their feet for a while so I could finish my shower. And eventually they figured this out; if I just made noise they knew I was in there, they didn't wash their feet.
WILSON: So your toilet was the school toilet?
YESS: The school toilet, yep, yes it was.
WILSON: Okay, and the converted classroom was one room or--?
YESS: I had a--It was a slab floor, it was actually a cement floor andI had a piece of linoleum on the floor for my carpet or floor covering, and bamboo laced walls, and a tin roof, which worked pretty well. And I had a little entryway and I had a kitchen, a place to sit sort of a living room, and then a back room that I used as a bedroom. And there were no closets and no dressers and it was just.
WILSON: A bed?
YESS: There was a bed with a mosquito net, thank goodness. And then I29:00had a kerosene stove to cook with and a little cupboard to kind of keep things in, but of course you would have to put little bowls on the feet and then fill those bowls with kerosene or oil so the ants couldn't crawl into your food cupboard. But I didn't have a refrigerator or anything like that. So everyday I would usually walk down to the little store and I would just get whatever it was that I was going to eat for that day and cook it, and try not to have too many leftovers.
WILSON: Didn't have electricity?
YESS: I did not have electricity, no. I didn't have electricity. Ihad running water a few hours in the morning and occasionally in the evening for an hour or two. But no, we didn't have electricity.
WILSON: So you used kerosene lanterns?
WILSON: Or lamps?
YESS: Coleman style lanterns or the Tilly Lamp, the English equivalent30:00to that. Yeah, that's what we used. And nobody, I mean nobody had electricity so I was no different than anybody else. There were a couple of families that had generators and they would use them occasionally, but for the most part everyone was just like me. We went to the store every day and we took out of the freezer there what we were going to eat and went home and made it.
WILSON: You cook for yourself or--?
YESS: I did cook for myself although being a single man in a villageof Indian people they were really, really good to me, and they assumed that I couldn't cook like most of their sons and husbands and fathers. So people often invited me to their homes and in fact I remember it must have been the first week of school someone saw--And I made lunch for myself and it would have been a fine lunch, but somehow the ants got into my lunch at school and I was sitting there brushing ants out of my lunch. And someone must have seen that, and I don't know if it 31:00was someone on the faculty or students, but I swear for the next three or four weeks somebody brought me a lunch every day until I figured I didn't need to make my own; they just kept bringing me lunches. So they took really good care of me, and I never knew how that was organized or anything. I just, sometimes someone would come and give it to me, and sometimes it would just be there in my office.
WILSON: And what would that lunch be?
YESS: Usually it would be what we call roti, which is sort of an Indianstyle tortilla. Probably two of those with some kind of curry wrapped in it, and then the wax paper just wrapped around it. That was a typical lunch for students and then faculty.
WILSON: And what did you cook for yourself? You said you cooked some.What would you have cooked for yourself?
YESS: Yeah, so I learned to like lamb because being near New Zealandof course lamb, frozen lamb chops were real common in the stores, 32:00and chicken--a lot of chicken. Of course you couldn't buy beef in an Indian settlement, which was fine. But and I could cook it anyway I would cook it at home, but I actually learned. I wanted to learn and people helped me learn how to cook the local curry because I found if ever I wanted someone to come and visit me, if I invited someone to my house there weren't very many American dishes that they cared to eat. Occasionally they were adventurous and kind of wanted to try it, but usually they would prefer if I made something they were familiar with. And then one time I made a mistake, and I tried to make spaghetti for people, which seemed simple enough, and the people coming over--there were some students and some other men from the village that I knew who wanted to try this. And they probably had heard of spaghetti, but the problem was when I went to the store and bought tomato sauce to make my spaghetti out of, what I didn't realize was in Fiji ketchup is 33:00called tomato sauce. So in fact what I ended up making was spaghetti with ketchup sauce on top of it, and it was really sweet and it was disgusting. And one of my guests I think threw up on the way home, and people didn't come to my house for a long time after that. I had to really work at, you know, changing my dining image.
WILSON: What--? Tell me something about how you became acclimated orwhat was the most difficult part of becoming acclimated in Fiji?
YESS: Well like I said people in my village were really, really goodto me. And I was invited to people's homes often, which is nice. But you do--It does wear on you to be staying with someone else often, so 34:00I had to sometimes sort of postpone visits to certain places to just let me kind of get my bearings. But there was also really a very nice family who lived in the elementary school compound with me. They had a separate building; they actually had a home and it was the principal or the headmaster of the elementary school, and he and his wife were really gracious to me. But even better they had one, two, three, four, five; they had five sons. And one of them was about my age and the rest of them were close to my age, and they really befriended me. So in the evenings those were the guys that I would sit down and talk with or walk to the store with, or go to the festivals at the temple with, or be invited to maybe the wedding of their brother or the wedding of their cousin or something like that, or we all joined the same soccer 35:00team--that kind of thing. So they really helped me become part of the community by inviting me along on things that they would normally do, and that made it easy. But one of the things that was really hard to get used to and I had to learn some coping techniques to adjust was, and this is sort of pragmatic, it wouldn't be too different from even the town I live in now here in Kentucky, but being a 25 year old single male I was a pretty good catch. And in a society where the tendency is still to arrange or at least the parents are really involved in the marriage arrangements of their daughters, I was invited to a lot of homes where there was at least one of the daughters prominently displayed and usually serving us things and occasionally I was just asked flat out if I was interested in their daughter or not, and that's a pretty tough question to answer especially because I was pretty much 36:00of the opinion that doing that, to marrying a young lady who would have no idea what my life was like or what America was like would be--that would not be the right thing to do. That would be taking advantage of a situation the way I would have thought about it. So I was not interested in that at all, and I had to be very diplomatic sometimes in refusing the offers of my host to become involved with, well not to become involved but to actually just marry their daughter. And one of the ways, I figured it out later, one of the ways I would get out of it would be to say that I would be interested in their daughter, but because I'm an American we would have to arrange, do this arrangement from the style I was used to, which would involve dating before marriage. And that was never something that the fathers could 37:00even consider, so we just politely agreed that that was probably not a good thing to do given my background and their background, and that was usually the end of the conversation. Yeah.
WILSON: Well that sounds like a couple of things you weren't preparedfor in advance. What do you feel you were prepared for when you went?
WILSON: Either in your job or living.
YESS: Yeah, so I was smart enough because I've had teaching experiencethat I knew that was something I would be able to do pretty well, and I was right. I think I was a pretty good teacher, however even having experience doing that doesn't save you from all the problems. For instance, they have a very different style of teaching in Fiji than I was used to or that of course I was trained in, and I can honestly 38:00say my principal and I didn't get along very well in any respect. But this is how it would go in a faculty meeting, he was a very, very stern principal, and he would literally start in the first grade and point to the teacher and say, "Where are you in your syllabus?" And then he would go to the second grade, "Where are you in your syllabus?" And the third grade, and he went around the faculty meeting like that, and the expectation was these teachers are supposed to finish their entire syllabus by the middle of the year so they could spend the second half of the year revising that same syllabus. And I thought that was ridiculous, so I told him so one day in private that that was not going to be the way I taught. And because I was a Peace Corps volunteer and because he really needed me for this new form seven program that he was trying to establish, I had some leverage over him that other teachers did not have. I mean he could have them fired in a heartbeat, but he couldn't replace me in a heartbeat. So when I told him I wasn't going 39:00to do what he thought was best, the way he handled that was when he got up to the twelfth grade and asked the twelfth grade teacher, "Where are you in your syllabus?" And the twelfth grade teacher told him, he would just look at me and stop the questioning and go onto the next thing. We sort of had a truce; he would leave me alone if I would just not try to undermine his authority among other teachers, and that worked just find.
WILSON: Can you tell me what a typical day would have been like for you?
YESS: Umm, yeah. So I would wake up, usually I didn't need an alarmclock to wake up because of course there was no electricity; we didn't stay up real late at night usually. But on a typical day I would wake up pretty early, I would cook my breakfast, I would go have my shower, and I would get ready for school. By then the kids are starting to 40:00come off the city busses; there were no school buses of course but they rode the public transport to school or walked. And I would walk up to the high school, which was about a block away from where my house was, often times with the students. And so I talked to them on the way up, and then I would teach--We had 35 minute periods--
WILSON: But that was close?
YESS: Yeah, yeah, very close. I lived a block away from where I taught,and we would have 35 minute periods. I think there were eight of them in a day, and most of us teachers taught about six of the eight periods, and I would teach my classes whatever schedule was for that day. And of course the students were responsible for keeping the school clean, so at the end of every day and during the middle of every day we had chores. And us teachers would oversee the chores, whether they were cleaning the bathrooms or sweeping the floors or cutting the grass or whatever they were doing; we did all that. And then at the end of the school day the students would run to get the buses, and the teachers 41:00would stay sometimes to grade for a while, sometimes not. I would get home fairly early, and if it was soccer season then the first thing I would do would be to go play soccer after school with other people in my village--some students and some just farm workers or neighbors of mine because we had a soccer team and we played on the school soccer field. And then after that I would eat my supper and do my dishes, and then usually the headmaster, my neighbor, would mosey over sometime in the early evening with his little bowl of yagona, which was a local drink kind of like coffee in that most a lot of people drank it; it was pervasive. But the opposite of coffee in that it didn't sort of wake you up; it sort of calmed you down. And he had had a couple of sips of his yagona and shared that with me, and we'd chat for a while about the day or whatever, and his son or two may have come with him. And after 42:00we were done chatting he would leave and I would probably grade some papers for a little while and go to bed, and that was a typical day.
WILSON: Okay, what did you do for recreation?
YESS: Well I was on a soccer team, the students or the boys in thevillage--the settlement invited me to be on this team, not because I was a good soccer player. I was a lousy soccer player.
WILSON: Had you played soccer before you--?
YESS: Not much, not ever as an organized sport, just goofing around.And of course at my age most people didn't play soccer. So I knew what the game was but I had never played it really. And I started out playing barefoot like a lot of them, and I did that for a little bit until I mean, the first opportunity I had to buy shoes I bought them. But I didn't, you know there were no places to buy shoes in my village, so I started out like all of them played barefoot. And the reason they wanted me to play on their team, and occasionally we did go into town and play in some league matches was because I was 43:00a novelty. And so they enjoyed the fact that they had a white guy playing on their team. And I might have been lousy but I was bigger than most of them, so they at least had to watch out that I would kick them accidentally or just push them down. And so people kind of--I never did score. They did prevent me from scoring but they tried to stay away from me as much as possible because I was so awkward out on the field that they didn't want to get hurt by me. Besides that, every week every Thursday night, I think Thursday night, the way the temple is organized you would have a couple of local temples near where I lived, and within the temples there would be different groups depending upon where you live, and those different groups would go around every Thursday night to each other's home and do what's called Ramayan, which meant that they sang songs out of one of the sacred books, and actually 44:00they were singing the text of the Ramayan but it was always done in song. And then we would play instruments, and there would usually be someone with a little harmonium, and then we would have little cymbals and other percussion instruments, and we would do that and then we would have what's called persad, the religious blessing and a couple of sweets and special things like that, and then we would go home. And that was a typical Thursday night activity.
WILSON: Okay let's--Side two of interview with Capp Yess. Capp, youwere talking about recreation and I guess the last thing were the Thursday evening visits to temples, other things that you did weekends or evenings?
YESS: On the weekends, like I say I was often invited to spend aweekend with a family, usually one of my students' families. And many times those invitations would coincide with either religious holidays where the family was doing something special or perhaps there was a 45:00wedding in that family, and so they would invite me to join them for a wedding of one of their sisters or cousins or something like that. And those are always large joyous get-togethers of neighbors, and I got to a point where I understood what was going on well enough where I would help out. Either I would help them build the shed that they would build to make sure in case it rained you could still come and be underneath the shed, or I even helped with you know making food. We would make puri ahead of time. Usually the men were in charge of cooking, so I would help with the cooking. It depended upon how well I knew the family and how comfortable they felt with a guest of theirs actually doing something. Sometimes if I didn't know the family very well, as a guest I wasn't expected to do much more than just sit there and politely talk or maybe take a walk around the compound or something, but not work. They wouldn't want me to work, so I preferred when I knew them well and I could do whatever I wanted to do. I didn't 46:00live far from the beach. I didn't live on the beach, but I didn't far so occasionally students and I or neighbors and I would go to the beach fishing or spearing or catching tiny little crabs called puka, and we would bring them back and cook them up as hors devours with our beer in the evening, if we sat down to have some beer. So we were always doing something, camping up in the mountains, we just--
WILSON: Were you the only volunteer in your settlement?
YESS: Yes. I was. There had been a person there before me, but at thetime I was--Well I shouldn't say that. The first year I was there I was the only volunteer in my settlement and the only volunteer on the north side of the island really. There were some volunteers in Labasa and other places on Vanua Levu, the island, but I was the only one on 47:00that end of the island. And then the second year that I was at this school an Englishman came as part of the VSO volunteer organization, and he was also assigned to my school, and he for some reason got to live in this brand new house--three bedroom house up on the hill by the high school. And I don't know if it was because VSO had more clout than Peace Corps or if at the time they just didn't have any other place to put him. I wasn't--It wasn't really--I would have rather lived where I lived frankly because it was just by more people, but he did have a nice place. He had the nicest place in the whole school compound.
WILSON: What was your interaction like with other Peace Corps volunteersor other expatriates?
YESS: On a normal week I would never see them, so I would have to makearrangements to go into Labasa and since we--There wasn't a way to 48:00communicate except maybe sending word with someone who was traveling into town that I might be coming, it would be hard to let other volunteers know that I was actually coming. So it was kind of hit and miss; I might go in and I might find them and we might spend some time together, or I might even stay with them for the week, but I might go in and they aren't there. So I would have to make sure I had a way to get back home on the bus.
WILSON: And how did you travel?
YESS: By bus.
WILSON: This is public?
YESS: Public bus, yeah. And since I was on, you know, near a main roadthat was going towards the north end of the island, there were two or three busses a day going one way or another, so you could usually find a bus. That was, well I'll tell you in a minute another story about that. It was never a problem, but sometimes you would have to wait. You know you just had to know the schedule, but I would see other volunteers occasionally, and then I had other volunteers in my group who would visit me. There was another young man who taught at a school 49:00on the south side of the island, and he would come up to visit me on the weekends occasionally, and I would go down to visit his village. He worked at an Indian village, and we enjoyed visiting each other's places because they were so different. But for the most part, except for being called back into the capital city by the Peace Corps for some kind of workshop or school vacation sort of time or something, some meetings; I didn't see other volunteers very often. And then when this young man came from England and worked at my same school, I made it a conscious point for about the first two months that he was there I hardly spoke to him. And when we eventually got to be friends he even asked me, "You know when I first got here you went out of your way to not even speak to me, and I wondered what, you know, what that was about." And he asked me, "Why didn't you, you know, befriend me? 50:00Why did you obviously sort of leave me aside?" And I told him that one of the things I enjoyed when I got there was I was the only volunteer there and people had welcomed me, and that was a real special time and I got to know a lot of people because I was new, and I didn't want him to be associated with me when he first got there so people would think I was going to act as his sort of host in the village, so I purposely ignored him so that the village would embrace him before he and I got to know each other, and that way he would have a similar experience that I had getting to know the village before he and I were associated and people thought we would be, you know, sort of doing things together. And that made a lot of sense to him after I explained it to him, and he actually thanked me for that. But we did get to be good friends and we spent a lot of time together in the second half of his first year there and my last year there, and I was really happy that 51:00he was there because he was a really neat guy. But I was also really happy that I let him get to know people without me being crowded first, because there is that aspect you're going someplace new, part of the reason you're going there is for the challenge and the experience of the newness. And so I didn't want to invade on his time where things were fresh and new and exciting and wonderful, even though I was an American and he was an Englishman I knew we would have a lot in common.
WILSON: I think you were going to tell me a transportation story.
YESS: Oh yeah, yeah. So this wasn't so unusual, but this is the waythings sometimes worked. I had a friend visit; a young lady visited me while I was there. And I arranged for her to stay in my settlement, but one weekend we wanted to travel to a neighboring island and I wanted to show her some of the sights of Fiji. And the way we had to travel to that island was to take a long bus ride down to another city 52:00where we would then catch a ferry over to this other island, and this island was a rather famous beautiful sort of, I couldn't say tourist destination, but it was a well-known beautiful island. It had its reputation so I wanted her to see it. So we got on the bus one day and we headed out on a Saturday morning as I recall, or maybe it was a Friday; maybe it was a long weekend.
WILSON: This is toward Labasa or back north?
YESS: We went through Labasa and then south to Savusavu was this littletown, and in fact we didn't even stay there. We had to go out of Savusavu down to a place where there was a boat dock on the ocean in the bay to meet this boat, and the only thing that was there was a little store and then there was some homes scattered about. Again, a few people farming and a few people living there outside of Savusavu, and so we got the bus. In fact we had to make a couple connections, and we finally ended up you know where the boat would be, and there was a dock there. And we got our luggage and we walked out onto the dock, 53:00and we--I think there was one person on the dock and I found out very quickly the boat had left. We had missed our transportation. And I sort of said, "Alright." And he said, "But there will be--It will be coming back in the evening and it will leave again tomorrow morning." And that's all I needed to hear. I thought, "Alright." And of course there's no way to find any of this out beforehand. There was no one to call; there was no phone. I just only knew there was a ferry or knew of a ferry, but that was the best you could do where I was and given where the ferry was. So my friend said, "Oh my goodness, what are we going to do because there's nothing here?" And I said, "Come with me; let's go have a cup of tea in the store." And she said, "Well don't you think we should try to get back to some village and find a place where there's a hotel or a guest house or something?" I said, "Oh no really I think we should have a cup of tea." And I kind of suspected what was going to happen. So we went to this little store and we sat 54:00down, we had a cup of tea, and you know you could tell people were kind of noticing us. You know, who are these two visitors to our little place? And they, you know, they knew there was a ferry there so I think they put two and two together. And within about a half an hour while we were having a cup of tea, a young man came up and introduced himself as the nephew of the ferry driver, and he said the ferry had already gone. I said I knew that. And he asked me what we were going to do. And I said we're going to catch the ferry tomorrow, and so he said, "Well would you like to come to my house and spend the night so that you don't have to travel anywhere and then we can bring you back here tomorrow morning in time to catch the ferry?" And I said, "Well thank you, that's very nice of you." And so that's exactly what we did, that's exactly what I expected to happen, and my friend visiting with me at the time she just looked at me and said, "You knew that was going to happen, didn't you?" And I said, "Yes, I knew that was going to happen," because I know or I knew at the time there was no way that those people who lived in that area were going to let us stay there all night with nowhere to go. That would never happen in Fiji, not to a visitor. Now that would never happen. So I didn't know who was going 55:00to come, but I knew someone was going to come and offer to keep us for the night, and that's exactly what happened. And then we went on the next day after getting a really nice breakfast.
WILSON: Good story. What about school vacations or breaks, did youtravel then? And if so where or how?
YESS: I never left the country of Fiji the whole time I was there. Itraveled a lot in Fiji; I went to various islands. I visited people and other volunteers during breaks; I even went with you know friends to visit their family on other places. I really got around but I never, I didn't even have a desire to leave Fiji. I thought since I'm here and I may never return, I should exhaust all the possibilities while I was in Fiji. But one of the things as a teacher, one of the 56:00things Peace Corps wanted you to do, because other volunteers didn't get that long summer break is they wanted you to have some kind of project that you would try to do during that break to make it a little more fair for everyone who was volunteering. So me and about four other teachers from my group were brainstorming one session one time when we were together, and we decided there were a lot of things about the Fiji educational system that were real different from the way we were educated, and some of those things we liked and some of them we didn't. But we thought we would like to try to form a summer school and introduce some things that we really wanted to do and teach. So we invented something called the problem solving summer school, and most of us were science teachers. But we were doing things completely outside the curriculum, and we got Peace Corps to donate a classroom full of computers. Now this was back in 1983, the summer of 1983 and 57:00so computers weren't even that commonplace in the United States.
WILSON: You were, now tell me again. You were a volunteer in Fiji from1980--?
YESS: '82 to '84.
YESS: So this was in the first summer of our volunteer status, and PeaceCorps was generous enough to take some of the computers they had in the office and donate them to us so we could run this summer school that would incorporate computers, and the way we did it was we contacted a school in Labasa to start because a couple of us were from that region. Although none of us taught actually in Labasa, but there were a lot of kids--That was towns; there were a lot of kids available and it was summertime so a lot of them were looking for something to do. And we advertised a summer school and we arranged with Peace Corps Fiji to fund the little funds we needed and supply these computers, 58:00and we had a number of different classes. It was really fun actually. We wrote the whole curriculum; it had nothing to do with the regular school, and then we advertised it and we taught a summer, summer school in the mornings for a group of students. And about five of my fellow volunteers joined me on Vanua Levu in Labasa and we all lived in a hotel while we taught this summer school, and then we had the afternoons to ourselves kind of to enjoy ourselves and prepare for the next day. But that was a great project; we really had a good--
WILSON: And how many students would you have had?
YESS: We had six classrooms of students, and there were six of us. Sothere were 20 to 30.
YESS: And we had to turn students away. The first day, I rememberthis actually very vividly, the first day of class--We had a pre- registration but on the first day other students came hoping to get into class, and we could accommodate some of them but not all of them that came. So I met them in the courtyard and I said, "We're going to have a lottery." And some of these students were even students from the 59:00school I taught at out of town, and so I knew them. And I said, "We're going to have a lottery," but I explained, "Not all of you are going to get in, but most of you will." So I passed out numbers or something. I can't remember. And we called off numbers or names and then the students who were chosen would walk over and be registered for school, and I remember one of the students who was not from my school, in fact was a town boy because they had to wear their regular school uniforms, so I knew the school he was from but I didn't know him. One of the boys said in Hindi something to the effect of, "This is bull shit." And I just turned. I didn't really want to talk to him. So I turn to one of my students from my school and I said in Hindi, "You tell that boy I understand what he said." And my student didn't even have to say it. He just turned and looked at that boy and that boy was so embarrassed that he had said that, he just lowered his head and he turned around 60:00and he walked away because he knew that he had done something really out of character and improper. And that's just the way it ended. But I liked knowing the little Hindi I knew because most people didn't expect me to really know Hindi, and I didn't always know what people were saying but I knew what he said. Yeah.
WILSON: Well so you did a fair amount of travel throughout Fiji itself.
YESS: I did, yeah, and I had visitors come and yeah.
WILSON: So are there any other particular memorable stories that youwould like to relate through your time as a volunteer?
YESS: Well there are lots of them. And I would be less than honest if Ididn't end this by saying that my tenure in Fiji ended with me marrying 61:00a Fijian woman. We'll get back to that later.
YESS: But I guess, you know if you ask me if there's anything memorable,I guess I would have to say I do remember that. But I do remember one story that I really enjoy telling and it was just one of those things that just happens is on a weekend while I was in training actually I decided I was going to go to a Fijian church. I had been to a Fijian church but only with all the other volunteers as sort of a trip, and I really enjoyed them because most of them didn't have organs but people sang. I mean you knew when church was in session because you could hear people singing. There was no hesitation for Fijians to sing and so I enjoyed that part of it, and I thought there's a little teeny thatched roof church right down the street from where I was staying, and I was just going to go all by myself. So I went down there and it was a Fijian church, a Methodist church, and I wasn't real familiar 62:00with Fijian culture, so I thought, "Well I'm going to wait and just see how people--" I see where they sit, I kind of understood that the men sat in one area generally and the women and children tended to sit in another. That wasn't a hard fast rule but it was sort of a typical cultural thing, and so I thought well I'll just wait and follow someone in and then I won't embarrass myself or them because I didn't know anybody in this church at all. So this one middle aged gentleman came and he had his bible in his hand like most people did and he walked up to the church, and I thought, "Well I'm just going to follow him. He's a single man. I'll just sit where he sits." So I walked in and I sat down with him and we were sitting on the floor actually on mats.
WILSON: No pews?
YESS: No pews, and there was kind of--There were sort of separationsthat were--I don't know if they were just little pieces of wood on the floor, but the mats kind of formed separations also. And we were sitting in a section and it was adults for the most part, and I think 63:00it was actually men and women. I didn't--I felt real comfortable; I just sat down and a couple people greeted me and it seemed pretty normal, you know, for church. And I said good morning and all that stuff, and you know the service started and the pastor got up in the front and like I expected, you know, you weren't going to sneak into a Fijian church a, you know, American citizen and not be noticed or as any kind of newcomer and not be noticed. So the pastor got up and the first thing he started to say was, "Well we have a visitor here today and I'm sure you've seen him. I would like to give him a chance to introduce himself to all of us, and I'm really excited that he decided to join the choir on the first day with his visit to us," because that's what I had done. I had followed this man into the choir section, and of course I went beet red and the people around me kind of snickered but they were so gracious. And I sat there through the whole service; I just stood up with the choir and sang with them. I just thought, "What the heck?" you know. And they were really sweet to 64:00me and I did and I introduced myself and he welcomed me and said, "You know, thanks once again. I hope you don't mind singing with us," and I said nope and that's how the service went, yeah.
WILSON: So your volunteer service ended when?
YESS: In 1984 at the end of the school year, so that would have beenin November. Their summer holiday of course is in our winter, so over the Christmas sort of break that's the end of the school year. And then most of the people from my group went home then, and I was asked by a Peace Corps office and especially the person in charge of training if I was interested in staying on and working on contract with the next training mission that was coming. And I thought that was a wonderful idea, I really was excited about that. It meant moving 65:00from the place I was living into the capitol city; I was also excited about that because that would be a really interesting change. And that also meant getting paid considerably more than I had been getting, you know, under my just living allowance because it was a real job, and so I did that. And when I moved into the capital city, of course there were volunteers already that I knew in the capital city, and so I got together initially with them and started to meet their friends. And one of their friends was a young lady who knew a lot of my friends; I had never met her before but I had met her when I moved to the capital city shortly after. And it turns out the place they arranged for me initially was in the same block that she was living in. And she was a single Indian woman who uncharacteristically was living in an apartment by herself working for the ministry of aviation and transport right downtown Suva. She had family that lived in Suva but she chose to live 66:00in an apartment by herself, which was a little unusual, and we started jogging in the mornings and going to the Olympic pool in the evenings together and just because I knew her and she lived near by and she enjoyed doing those things that I also enjoyed, and you know all of a sudden we were going out to dinner together and we had about a nine month romance while I worked there for training in the capital city. And then at the end of all that work, I left Fiji and she of course stayed in Fiji. And I left Fiji to travel throughout Southeast Asia, and traveling alone for six weeks I had a lot of time to think about things, and so one of the things I thought about was calling her and proposing. And so I did that; I called from Bangkok and I proposed to her over the phone and she accepted and I said, "Alright, I'll call you tomorrow." So and of course I had to go to a special place to call, you know, in those days. You just couldn't call from--I didn't stay 67:00in a hotel; I stayed in a guest, a very simple--But I had to go to the international phone office to call, so the next day I did that again, and this is towards the end of my travel so I had just left India and I had come back to Thailand, and I was on my way home through Hong Kong, and I asked her, "Are you still sure? You know you've had a chance to sleep on it for a whole night." And she said, "Yes, I'll marry you." And I said, "Alright, I'm going to go home back to the States then and as soon as I get there I'll call you and we'll make the arrangements." And I left the phone booth, I went from there directly to the hospital because I wasn't feeling very well, they admitted me and I spent a week in the hospital with chicoloric dysentery, and I still tell her today that it wasn't the dysentery that put me in the hospital, it was the fact that she accepted my proposal, but that's what happened. And after getting out of the hospital and going back home, of course we did talk and I eventually then spoke to her family and we arranged a date for the marriage. And my mother and I went back from the United 68:00States, in fact back from Minnesota to Fiji for a week, I was married, I came back to Minnesota without my wife Manju, and then she attended to her affairs and sold her things and rented out her apartment and quit her job and arranged for the immigration papers, and luckily working at Peace Corps some of my friends knew embassy people so they were able to help her, and on December 22 of 1985, that would have been 5, she flew from Fiji to Minneapolis, Minnesota and we lived. We went to our apartment and started our lives together.
WILSON: Had you met her family before you left Fiji?
YESS: No, at her request. Because like I said, dating in the Indian69:00community is not a customary thing. And even though she was a very independent woman and had her own place and lived alone, her two brothers lived in the same city and she also had a sister who lived in the capital city, she did not want to introduce me to her brothers. I did meet her sister but she didn't want to introduce me to her brothers while we were just dating. Once I proposed to her and we were going to get married then it was alright, then she was willing to do that. But she wanted to avoid all those obvious complications if we were just going to date.
WILSON: But you then met her family by telephone?
YESS: I did. I spoke to her oldest brother because of course he had toask me what kind of wedding I wanted, because in the Hindu tradition the boy gets to call the shots. And so I told him to talk to his sister and whatever she wanted he was supposed to do. And I could 70:00tell even over the phone he kind of bit his lip and went "Okay." But I wasn't going to cross her; I knew there were things she did and didn't want to do because the Indian wedding is a very involved thing. And even though I was willing to do the whole three day ordeal, I knew she didn't want to do all that so I just told her brother you just ask her what she wants and whatever she says that's what we're going to do.
WILSON: And is it the older brother then that you worked--the oldestbrother that you worked through rather than the father and mother?
YESS: Yes, because Manju's father and mother were fairly old by thistime, and so the older brother had actually sort of taken over the leadership of the family in the sense. He was responsible for paying the school fees for many of his younger brothers and sisters; he was married, he had a home. My wife had lived with him while she was 71:00going to school, so he was really de facto the head of the family by this point. He was old enough and settled enough where he was the one responsible for those things so--And I knew that, so I just asked him to work with his sister to make all these arrangements.
WILSON: And what kind of a wedding did you have?
YESS: We had a civil wedding. We were married in the Parliament buildingby a justice of the peace named Illiasoni Tabuatamata whose name I will never remember. I mean I will never forget his name; I love that name. He was a Fijian man, yes. And then we left the Parliament building, we had a small reception in a hotel where my mother and a friend of our family's was staying, and then that evening we went to her brother's home in a suburb of the capital city where I had even helped arrange for a shed to be made, which is typical. And we had a reception that involved some of the rituals of a Hindu wedding, but it was sort 72:00of Hindu wedding light. And her whole family came and friends and neighbors just like you would expect, and then friends of mine too that lived in the city, other Peace Corps volunteers, and we had a reception for our wedding but we were technically already married.
YESS: Yeah. I have to say, like I think I mentioned earlier, I used togive speeches to Peace Corps volunteers that I thought it was actually a form of abuse. I think I even used the word abuse for an American to come and marry a typical woman from Fiji, and it was even very problematic and I viewed it as often skeptical that a woman would come from America and marry a Fijian man whether Indian or native Fijian. And I would make the argument because people in Fiji knew so little 73:00about our culture and most of the time, like I wasn't, in fact by Fijian law I wasn't allowed to stay in Fiji just because I was married. If an American lady was to marry a Fijian man she would automatically be a citizen under Fijian law, but if a foreign man married a Fijian woman, he would not automatically be a citizen. And in fact the expectation was that the bride would go to his country. And so I tried to argue that it was generally not a good idea because people were agreeing to things that they didn't understand very well, and I still believe that, but the woman I ended up marrying was a very different woman than your average Indian young lady. She like I say was very independent, she had her own apartment, she had traveled a bit, and she was much more worldly--
WILSON: She traveled outside of Fiji?
YESS: She had traveled outside of Fiji, yes, and she was much moreworldly than the typical Fijian woman would have been. So you know 74:00there's, like in all places there's a--Of course she lived in the capital city then which was a much more cosmopolitan place than the typical Fijian town, and so even though I might have been a hypocrite, I wasn't as big a hypocrite as it might seem at first.
WILSON: That kind of speech or instruction was that--Are you sayingthat was part of what you were doing in the training program for the new volunteers?
YESS: That's right. I would have been--And I did that voluntarily, Imean that wasn't something I was instructed to do; that was something I thought was a good idea to at least make them think about this, because these were all young people in sort of that time of their life where they were ready to start settling down and thinking about families and careers and jobs and things, so it wouldn't be unusual that romances would develop into marriages for people that age. I just wanted them 75:00to make sure that they had considered all the possibilities of what they were getting into.
WILSON: What were your actual responsibilities relative to the trainingprogram?
YESS: So I actually held three contracts while I was there. The firstone was I acted as an assistant for an education training, which made sense since I was an education volunteer. And in that job my actual function was to arrange the summer school training, so I worked. I coordinated with professors at the teacher training college and at the University of the South Pacific to run classes for teachers, for teacher trainees. And then I organized and ran the summer school; I acted as the principal for the summer school that we hosted at one of the local high schools as part of their training. And then I was a, for a short time the director of training actually left the island to take a vacation home, so I acted as the temporary director of training 76:00and prepared for another group to be coming; that's what I was doing while he was gone. It was a pretty light time in his job where he would have been able to leave, but I held that post and I assisted with an education--health education training where I was the director of that training. That was my last contract before I left.
WILSON: And then you said you traveled for sometime through SoutheastAsia?
YESS: Yes, through Nauru and Thailand, Burma, India, Hong Kong, and thenback home. I really wanted to go to India. I mean I knew enough Hindi where I felt I would be comfortable going to India. I had lived with Indian families and people for two years; I really wanted to see India so I did that.
WILSON: And so what was it like coming back to the U.S. at that point?77:00I mean there's this whole piece about getting married.
WILSON: But what else?
YESS: Well like everyone else there is a shock to coming back, and a fewthings really stand out. I mean it's hard to describe all of what you experience when you've been gone from someplace long enough to sort of let it leave your mind and then come back to it, and especially because it's had a chance to change. I was gone almost three years, and so the things I remember--I remember my principal in Fiji we made a video for some reason of some celebration and he said, "Capp, do you want a copy of this video?" And I said, "No, where would I ever watch it?' And he said, "Capp, everybody in the States has a video player." And I said, "No they don't, but oh yes they did." When I got back everybody had a video player and there were lots of satellite dishes in people's yards that didn't exist before I had left and things like that. I mean 78:00technology changes so fast that you go away for a few years and you come back and stuff has changed, but in addition to that I remember the first time I went in a large grocery story after coming back and just walking through the aisle and seeing everything so clean and so bright and so stocked and organized and I just was amazed. I just had forgotten how consumer oriented we are and how you know the choices we have and how the standards of everything how clean and prepackaged and that sort of mode everything was. I had just sort of forgotten about that, and I was kind of in awe of it again. I remember wanting to just meet my friends and sit down and talk to them, and every time I did 79:00everyone kept saying the same thing over and over again they said, "Well what do you want to do?" And I was saying, "Well I'm doing what I want to do. Can't we just sit here and talk?" And I remember them, "Don't you want to go bowling? Don't you want to go to a movie? What do you want to do?" I was like, "I don't want to do anything." And I realized in Fiji I got used to a much simpler way of life where a lot of it was just talking and visiting people and sitting up and telling stories in the evening together because there was no other entertainment. And that struck me too; I didn't expect that kind of difference in my life. But of course I had an accent and of course I wobbled my head a lot. All my friends saw that kind of stuff. It all just quickly left, you know I quickly readapted and things became familiar again.
WILSON: And you came back to Minnesota?
YESS: I came back to Minnesota and I lived in the same town for thatfirst year with Manju that I had lived in where my parents lived, 80:00and I attended the University of Minnesota for that first year of our marriage and Manju worked at a place in Minneapolis, or actually in St. Paul. And then we moved after the first year to Bozeman, Montana where I attended real graduate school. I applied to go back to school and went to graduate school.
WILSON: So it wasn't graduate school that you were doing--
YESS: No I had gotten back too late so I went to the University ofMinnesota on some special status for a year.
WILSON: Okay, okay. And then to Bozeman?
YESS: Bowsman at the University of Montana, actually Montana StateUniversity and we spent two years there and then we got pregnant, and I left school again. And we moved to New York to start our family and I taught at a community college in New York while we started our family.
WILSON: So did your finish your graduate degree at Bozeman?
YESS: Yes, I had a master's.81:00
WILSON: Physics, okay.
YESS: Yeah, and then we went to New York where I taught for two years.And then we had an opportunity. I applied for a job in the Virgin Islands and we just sort of--We liked the prospect of spending some time back in the tropics, especially with our child. We had a two year old son and we really wanted him to experience island life. It's you know as near to what his mother had grown up with as possible, so we went to the Virgin Islands where I taught at the University of the Virgin Islands for three years, and then when he was five we moved to Lawrence, Kansas where I went back to graduate school to get my doctorate. And we stayed there five years, and in the last year of that my wife and I separated. Then we moved all of us, even though we were separated, to Morehead, Kentucky because we had agreed even though 82:00we were separated we were going to try to stay together to raise our son together, which meant us living nearby to each other. And when I got a job at Morehead State University Manju came with us and lived with us for a month and then she moved to Lexington and has lived in Lexington ever since, and I have lived in Morehead with my son ever since. And the two of us, you know, raised our son back and forth, mostly in Morehead and Manju would come to visit us there. And now he's graduated and he lives, well he's going to school at Northern Kentucky University and lives up near Cincinnati, and Manju lives in Lexington and I live in Morehead. And the three of us get together on a pretty regular basis to do things together.
WILSON: Interesting, okay. What do you think the impact of your PeaceCorps experience was on Fiji and people in Fiji? 83:00
WILSON: I mean you said very specifically when you went that you knowyou wanted to be able to accomplish something.
WILSON: Do you feel you did that?
YESS: I did, I do feel I did that because the program I was in was newand it may have happened at that school without me, but it may not have. I taught two of the four classes in that upper program and it was students, it was hard to get teachers of that level to come to that rural setting to do that. So you know it may have happened without me, it may not have. But at least I was integral to the fact that it did happen, and many of my students--most of my students, even though they were small classes over those two years were able to take that experience of that last chance at a year of education and pass tests 84:00at a level where they went onto a professional school. And that made me feel really proud because the only options they would have had other than that would have been to stay on the farm or to maybe work at some very menial kind of town labor or something like that, so I felt really good about helping my students go onto something where they would earn a really reasonable living for the rest of their life.
WILSON: And what would you say the impact was on you?
YESS: Oh it's just, it's just immeasurable certainly. But withouta doubt it has given me a viewpoint on the world and on politics in particular that I would never have had without traveling, and not just 85:00traveling but actually living and getting to understand what life is like somewhere else. And I was lucky. Fiji of course had a lot of prejudices towards Americans, but they were positive prejudices. I was a well-educated, sophisticated, well-off financially, very positively viewed person in Fiji because I was an American. I mean I was given the benefit of the doubt I often times didn't deserve because of the way people felt about, not visitors in general because Fijians are very gracious, but Americans in particular and other some other Europeans, so I hope I squashed some of those sort of over the top perceptions 86:00of Americans because they weren't always very accurate. But there is no doubt that my outlook towards the world and especially like I say the politics, the geopolitics has been greatly affected, and I think differently I think than most people who have never had that chance to live outside of the United States and see your own country from outside. It's a whole different view from outside than it is from inside, and there's no way to gain that perspective except to live outside.
WILSON: Are you still in contact with people from your Peace Corps days?
YESS: Actually last night, I was telling you earlier that there was afellow who taught at a school just south of where I was living and we would visit each other. He called last night and we spent about two or 87:00three hours talking on the phone because we haven't seen each other for about a year. And his wife is from New Zealand, she was a New Zealand volunteer, and of course I know her and I know they have a son, a thirteen year old son. So he and I have always, we've been very close friends ever since we met in Fiji. And there are a couple of other volunteers that I actually see, and some of them I just get a chance to talk to occasionally either by email or I hear about them in the Fiji newsletter that I get occasionally that comes out of Washington D.C.. So there's still sort of a network; I hear about some of them through other friends and some of them I get a chance to see and some of them actively see still to this day, yeah.
WILSON: Any contact with the people in the community in which you livedor other Fijians?
YESS: I had the advantage of special circumstance of being married tosomeone who grew up in Fiji, so we took our son back there three times 88:00so far in his life to visit his family and just to see the place, just to know where his mother you know was raised and how she grew up. His family, his Fijian family has been little dispersed since the coups. So now he has an aunt living in New Zealand who he has visited, and he has an aunt living in Australia who he has visited. And so he has had a chance to really travel the world trying to keep up with his family, but we have been lucky enough to do that. I don't, other than when I go there and visit, I don't keep up with anybody who lives there anymore, no. But when I go back I always try to see people that I knew from my village.
WILSON: Okay, I'm sorry. Tape two of interview with Capp Yess April 1,89:002006. Capp, I'm sorry. We were, you were talking about the impact of your Peace Corps experience on your family and your coming to Morehead.
YESS: Right, and so I'll finish all that by saying that one of theways Peace Corps has helped me directly is when I came to Morehead to interview I really liked Morehead because I was looking for a place at the time where my son and I could live and he could be raised in a small town environment. And a lot of universities aren't in small towns, so I was very interested in Morehead. And after I got there one of my fellow faculty members told me that the fact that I had put Peace Corps experience on my resume was to them a really positive sign because Appalachia, which is the region Morehead serves tends to be a little bit behind sometimes the rest of the country in certain ways 90:00and has its own sort of hardships. And he thought Peace Corps would be a good background and good training for putting up with the kinds of things he thought that we would be putting up with in Morehead, and I don't know if he was right or not but I was glad he thought that.
WILSON: I think you've told me most of what you've done since PeaceCorps except maybe other international experience. You talked about teaching in Virgin Islands, right?
WILSON: And have you done other travel? Describe some more of that. Iguess you talked about you taking your son back to Fiji.
YESS: Right, and of course being a Peace Corps volunteer was just thefirst step and it was a conscious step in doing international travel as a young man something I really wanted to do in my life. And I have 91:00been fortunate. When I was in graduate school I've had the opportunity to travel to Europe and to Sicily and to Tunisia, Northern Africa, and like I say we've been fortunate enough, my ex-wife and I to take my son back to the Pacific on a number of occasions, and he's been to Australia where I haven't been, but he has to visit his family. And we've all been to New Zealand, and when we lived in the Caribbean you know having traveled and lived in another country you just have much more competence I think about your ability to travel. So we went to the Dominican Republic and we went to Puerto Rico and we went to the British Virgin Islands and places like that, and then for his--For my son's graduation from high school just last year my ex-wife and I decided we wouldn't give him something as concrete as some of his other classmates were getting, so we chose to give him something a little 92:00more intangible and in fact he was really excited that we arranged to all three of us go visit Peru for a few weeks. And that's how we celebrated his graduation from high school, and that part of our lives, the fact that we travel together and like to share that experience together I think goes way back to my experience in Fiji and just how positive it was to be somewhere else and see other people and enjoy other surroundings and other people, and that will continue. I've also been fortunate enough; I had a chance to go to Antarctica when I was in graduate school. And you know it's a place few people ever even get the chance to go, and I was lucky enough to spend six weeks there and it was one of the highlights of my life.
WILSON: Was that when you were working on your doctorate?
YESS: I was working on my doctorate, but I actually went there with93:00another professor, a meteorology professor because he didn't have a graduate student at the time and he just advertised that he wanted someone who could go winter camping and someone who knew how to cross country ski and someone who knew, you know, enjoyed cold, relative cold. And I just walked into his office after seeing that announcement and said, "Well I grew up in Minnesota, I've lived in Alaska, I can cross country ski, I go winter camping, what else do you want to know?" And he said, "I think you'll do." And so I got to go.
WILSON: And you did your doctorate in physics?
YESS: Yeah, actually--
WILSON: I don't think you ever said.
YESS: Specifically cosmology. I studied the large scale structure ofthe universe for my dissertation, so I'm an astrophysicist.
WILSON: Okay, so what are you teaching at Morehead?
YESS: Since we don't have a graduate program I teach in the--I teachgeneral physics of all levels. We do have an astrophysics degree so I 94:00get to teach, you know, upper level astronomy courses, which I really enjoy. But typically in a small school I teach and over the years I'll teach everything we probably offer at one point or another.
WILSON: Okay, you said earlier and one of my last questions alwaysis related to that, which is what was the impact of the Peace Corps service? What has it been on the way you look at the world? You said it did have an impact on the way you look, but can you be more specific about that?
YESS: Yeah, you know I think I could give an example of somethingthat really would explain what happened when you get the chance to 95:00travel and live with other people. When I went to Fiji I was, well I was astounded. I can say I was truly astounded but not in a good way about the practice of arranged marriages. I found that practice to be problematic and difficult. I mean it was kind of abhorrent to me, and of course I'm coming off of you know the liberation movement in the United States and a very sort of progressive time, you know having grown up in the late '60s and middle '70s and then coming to Fiji in the early '80s, and then being exposed to a culture that was very different and at the same time older than my culture, you know more ancient than my culture, but also in some ways--And I hate to 96:00use this word, but at the time I would have thought so--more backward, you know just not as progressive as the culture I had come from. And I guess the main aspect of that culture that really hit me was the marriage kind of scenarios, and I think partly because it was so personal. Many of my friends and some of my students got married in the two years I was there and I saw how their lives changed and I saw how the arrangements were made, and I found it very perplexing and often disturbing, but, and I'm really glad for this, I lived there long enough to see those marriages through and to know enough people who of course had been married for years under that same sort of arrangement and system so that as I became more familiar with it and became wiser and certainly more informed about it, I began to realize that in the 97:00end you know when you boil it down to the end that system worked about as well as ours did, and they had as many criticisms of the way I was used to as I probably did initially of their systems. And I had enough time fortunately to allow myself to be able to rethink the whole thing and realize that I wasn't as superior as I had originally thought I was, and then in fact they had worked this out over the years and the centuries and the generations as well as we had, and we both had problems we were trying to overcome, and we both had aspects of the way our upbringing and our culture dealt with things that worked. And I think that one example typifies sort of the whole change in my thinking about a lot of things. That as Americans, and I don't just mean 98:00Americans, I think anyone who's kind of isolated and only used to one way of doing things, the way they were brought up in and the way they are used to, you develop a sort of, well in my case a superiority sort of complex or if nothing else at least an aversion to different things in your isolation. But when you're forced out of that and you get to see that other things work just as well as what you had always thought was so much better, it just adds some humility to your life and some understanding that the world is much smaller than we think it and our differences are actually much smaller than we think they are; we are much more similar than we are different. I learned that.
WILSON: Okay, what do you think the overall impact of the Peace Corps99:00has been in the 45 years?
YESS: I wish everyone could go in the Peace Corps. I wish the impactthat it has could even be more pervasive; I think there would be a lot of problems that would go away in this world if more people had a chance to travel and see other parts of the world and then come back here. But as an institution I am a huge fan of the Peace Corps, and I say that as a former volunteer, I say that as a former employee who worked with training, I've also done subsequent volunteer sort of activities with Peace Corps since I've left and come back. I've worked with CREST trainings and different aspects stateside, and even now I volunteer at Morehead State University any chance I get to speak to 100:00groups and work with career days and support the Peace Corps and try to inform young people about the opportunities in Peace Corps. I am a big Peace Corps fan because the effect it has, and that is to broaden our understanding and our perspective of the rest of the world I wish was enhanced. I am a real proponent of that, and you can't do it by just visiting. You can go, and I visited a lot. I've visited a lot of countries, but you won't have a chance to understand them unless you live there with them and experience the problems that they have and see how things are worked out. It takes years to really be able to do that with other people, but even having done it once you learn a lot. So I'm sure in the long run with the number of people who have gone and come back from Peace Corps that it has affected our whole social policy and our whole social attitudes in some degree, and I just wish that 101:00degree was even more so. And that's not to say I haven't seen Peace Corps fail for people; I have especially as a trainer. I mean I've seen people for whom Peace Corps was not a good idea at that prime in their life or maybe never, and I've seen situations where Peace Corps probably didn't live up to its obligations for people as well as it maybe should have, but all in all I think it's a wonderful organization and it might have been rough sometimes for people, but I think it was valuable for everybody who was involved.
WILSON: So from your perspective is Peace Corps more about changingAmericans or is it about establishing relationships or is it about 102:00development? Maybe or is not the right term.
YESS: Yeah, well of those three I would put development towards thebottom. I'm not saying we don't do good, I just don't think that's where our largest impact actually is, and some of that I'm even not sure is necessarily so good. The relationship part is huge on an individual and even on a collective level, and I think we do a lot to, as volunteers, as just Americans, average every day run of the mill Americans even for as different as we all are, I think we do a lot to foster understanding of the host countries that we work in, because I know I got asked a lot of questions and I tried very hard to give 103:00the best answers that you know to explain to people as well as I could what, you know, my country was like, my home was like. But I think the best benefit is the understanding that Peace Corps volunteers bring back with them from serving in somewhere else to the rest of their lives and their service here in whatever capacity they end up working or serving here back at home, because that's going to last for, you know, a lifetime. You might spend two years in Fiji or some other part of the country or the world, but you're going to spend decades back here, and I think the affect you have back here in the long run is the greater affect.
YESS: And that's a good thing.
WILSON: And how would you see that thus that you've impacted Morehead?104:00
YESS: I go out actually and speak to elementary school and middle schoolgroups almost every year; I speak to social studies classes about Fiji, and I bring my few little trinkets and all those things and I try to make it a real experience for them. Of course in my case we had a living representative of Fiji because my son of course grew up there and even though he doesn't think of Fiji as his home certainly, he's been there enough and he's different enough from most of the people in Morehead where he has a story to tell that other children, his peers and his friends would never heard if he wasn't there. But yes I actively do go out in the community and try to share with people a little bit of what I was able to gather while I was in Fiji, but I think also just, you know, I'm a member of Rails to Trails and I volunteer at the 105:00local free hospital, and I do things that I think other Peace Corps volunteers would be inclined to do, and I continue to do them. And so people see me doing those things, and they also then know that I was part of Peace Corps, and so there's associations made between the kinds of things you do all your life and the kinds of things a Peace Corps volunteer would do, and I think that's a good lesson for people.
WILSON: Okay, that's really all of the sort of formal questions I'vegot, but what haven't I asked you that you would like to answer?
WILSON: Or other stories of any type that you would like to share?
YESS: Well, no there's nothing. I mean there are lots of stories of106:00course; there are many, many stories, some of them humorous and some of them sad and some of them just poignant. But one of the things for me that is hard to share here because there is no tangible sort of pieces of it, but especially being fortunate enough when I lived in Fiji to live next to a family that had young men my age so that I could form really strong friendships with people who were, you know, my age and doing just kinds of things I was doing; one of them was a teacher. And having that opportunity to really get to know people that grew up in such a different way than I did, I will just carry that with me all the 107:00time. And even though I don't get a chance to speak to them often now, I'm lucky enough that occasionally I do go back and at least I get to see them and we get to carry on that relationship.
WILSON: So you still have contact with those men?
YESS: I do, yeah, and now of course they have families of their own andall of that, yeah, that I will carry with me all my life.
WILSON: Okay, Capp, thank you very much.
YESS: Thank you.
[End of interview.]