WILSON: And I am interviewing Abby Gorton on April the 5th for the Peace Corps Oral History Project. Abby, what is your full name?

GORTON: My full name is Abigail Suzanne Gorton.

WILSON: And where and when were you born?

GORTON: I was born at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 1, 1977.

WILSON: Okay, and can you tell me something about your family and something about your growing up? Were there things in that growing up that led to Peace Corps and other kinds of international experiences?

GORTON: When my parents were first married my father was in the army, so they lived overseas in different places--Korea and Germany. And they loved to travel. And then growing up we hosted several international students from the University of Kentucky, and so I think I've always been exposed to international things and been curious about other cultures.

WILSON: Where were your, where were the international students from that 1:00you hosted? Do you remember any of them?

GORTON: Well we hosted students from China, India, Spain, Africa, other places in Europe, from all over. We kept in, we've kept in touch with some of them and actually two of them still live in the US and one of them helped--Shipoe, who is from India helped coach my soccer team when I was ten. And he still works in Ohio, and so we you know we email and talk on the phone a lot. And so that's been really phone to have that connection and I actually went to India a couple summers ago and it was like, "Oh! I get it." I understood why you know we had three Indian students who didn't necessarily speak the same language and you know could only speak English to each other because there were different dialects. And so that was a lot of fun to see where our international 2:00student had come from and understand his culture more and we were able to have really good conversations after that about India and more in depth. When I was in high school, well in middle school I guess I took Spanish and then in high school and college, and just have always loved to travel and studied abroad.

WILSON: Why don't you talk specifically Abby about those international experiences that you had?

GORTON: When I was a junior, the summer after my junior year of high school I went to Argentina. My Spanish teacher had a family that she was good friends with down there and they liked to host students through an exchange. So I went for I guess almost three months and lived in Co rdoba. And then when their daughter came up and lived with us for a few months that next year--

WILSON: Oh that's nice.

GORTON: And so it was a fun exchange and really that kind of sparked the 3:00real, "Oh! I like traveling and I definitely want to do this more." And I enjoyed the language study and I enjoyed meeting the people.

WILSON: So did you get pretty fluent in Spanish at that point or beginning to sort of?

GORTON: Beginning to, it was a good basis. And more than anything just the culture and the different way of doing things and the food, you know just the travel--it was amazing. And we've kept up you know with that family as well, which has been really nice. And Gabi, who is the sister that I, that came to live with us for a few months is now married and living in Connecticut. So you know it's kind of, it's amazing the connections and it really is a small world. And then when I was in college I studied for a semester in Chile in Valparaiso and that was a lot of fun. My school actually went on strike for a couple of weeks 4:00so I was able to really travel around the country and also up to Peru and Bolivia. And you know made some great friends and I stayed with a host family again. I stayed, of course, in Argentina and then in Chile and that was I think it's really fun to see that, you know to be part of a family and to see how other people live and you get to learn the culture much more quickly because you're celebrating the holidays and you're cooking and you're cleaning and you're laughing and you're meeting the families and the family's family and that's a lot of fun.

WILSON: What were you studying in Chile?

GORTON: Well, I was a Latin American Studies major in college and political science. And I took geography, literature--Spanish literature, and a Spanish class, language class. And then we had several cultural, I went with the International Studies Abroad Program. So there were several organized kind of trips and things like that so--


WILSON: So let's go back and get some dates here. You were in at University of Kentucky from when to when? When did you graduate then?

GORTON: From 1996, the fall of 1996 to the five year program so until I graduated in May of 2001. And I was in Chile in the spring of 1999.

WILSON: Okay. So then you graduated with a degree in a Latin American Studies and political science?

GORTON: And a degree in political science.

WILSON: And a degree in political science, and then what did you do after college?

GORTON: I decided to move to China and I went, I was originally supposed to teach at a university in Shandong Province. And for some reason we had it all set up and then I just kind of never heard again. So I had a friend that was teaching at a private school and decided that might 6:00be fun you know because I really wanted to go to China.

WILSON: Why did you want to go to China? After having majored in Latin American Studies one might have thought you would have gone to--

GORTON: We did have some host students from China so there was that exposure. And my grandmother went, took a trip to China. When it first opened she did a people to people tour like in 1980 I think.

WILSON: Oh really? Wow.

GORTON: And so I think I kind of heard stories about that and it just, it was just fascinating to me. You know I think the world's a really interesting place and so I went to a little town near Dalian, which is in Province. And the town where I was called Jinzhou and it was a small town of 700,000 people, which you know Lexington is quite smaller. But that was really neat because I was one of--I think there were seven foreigners that actually lived in the city. And so it 7:00was kind of fun. I mean you kind of had to learn some of the basics for the language because nobody really spoke English. And the kids, you know the parents it was a private school but parents were really concerned about education. And so they were kind of scraping to send their kids to school to this private school. And I felt like you know teaching children is so much fun because they just pick it up really quickly and you can have a lot of fun and play a lot of games. And the public education system is very different than what I was used to growing up in the United States and learning how to reason and you know be creative and things like that. And so it was really fun to see these kids you know we sang in class and we drew in class and we you know played games that were educational. So they were learning but they also really enjoyed it, and that was a lot of fun to be able to expose them to a different kind of learning and a different way of 8:00thinking. And I also substitute taught in some of the public schools and that was an eye opening experience. But then I, so I stayed in Jinzhou for six months and then I moved to a city called Jinan, which is a little bit further south and it's kind of across from South Korea in Shandong Province. And I taught for a year there. At the same, it was the same company but they have schools all over China. And I guess in the fall of, well my parents came to visit me in China in the spring of 2002 and I was in China for 9/11.

WILSON: I was going to say yes that's where you were.

GORTON: Yeah and that was really interesting because I was also teaching for a coats thread factory for their business because a lot of businesses want their employees to be able to speak English. And you 9:00know some of my students said, "Well, you deserved it," and there was no sympathy. A lot of people were very you know they were horrified and felt bad, but it was really interesting to see really you know what people thought. And actually after I'd been there for a while and my Chinese improved I would tell cab drivers. I would say, "Oh! I'm Canadian," and I would get to hear the full spiel about Americans. Or, "Oh, I'm American." "Oh, well you're wonderful," and you know so that's kind of interesting to be able to see what different people thought you know because you know I think it's important to know, you know, to know what's going on in the world and all. So I moved to Jinan in the spring of 2002 and then in the fall I went back home for a couple months to apply to graduate school and to see my family and I took the Tran Siberian from Beijing to Moscow for two weeks, which is really fun and just so amazing. Because it was in September so the 10:00tourists, there weren't many tourists; there were some but a lot of the people were the people that just take it all the time. They're traders and the, you know, the business people and the, you know, just kind of there were Russians and Chinese and it was really amazing. And I also was able to meet people who spoke English and you know kind of hook up with the group to go with the different tourists. But I also got to see a lot of local people and so that was a lot of fun. And then I came back to China for another six months and lived in Jinan and that's actually, it's near Qingdao, which they're going to have the sailing events for the Olympics in Qingdao. And Qingdao Beer is also the only beer that China exports, so that's its claim to fame. And it was, China's such a huge place and there's so much diversity. My brother and I were able to travel together. He came over for about a month 11:00and started in Hong Kong when I came back the second time, started in Hong Kong. I had a friend down there and she let us stay with her and showed us around and then we went up through the a little bit west. We were going to Guangzhou, but we heard of this virus that was killing people so we thought, "Well let's skip that," and we went to Macau. And later come to find out it was SARS.

WILSON: Yeah right.

GORTON: So we were glad we skipped that and kind of traveled all up through China and that was a lot of fun to do together. But then I came back to Lexington.

WILSON: So what more did you learn from being in China off and on really for two years that you hadn't already learned from your experiences in Argentina and Chile and from all these international students?

GORTON: Well I think the main difference, I mean Chile and Latin America 12:00is fairly similar in a lot of ways to our culture in the United States.


GORTON: In terms of food and entertainment and you know Latin America is mostly Catholic so a lot of the religious values are similar. China is totally different. It's you know there is so much diversity. You know people think of, some people I've talked to think of China as being all the same but it's not. It's you know there are the languages, the dialects, the everything is different, the history and so it's not as homogenous as people think. And I didn't realize that. I thought, you know, I knew there were differences but north to south, east to west it's very different. I think I learned a lot about how to be, I mean 13:00I made so many mistakes in China. It was just a constant; you know I learned how to laugh at everything because many things were opposite or just completely not something that I would have expected in many situations. And you just kind of, it was nice to be able to learn to just kind of throw away your assumptions and just go with whatever was going on and know that you know I mean I think people were good, basically very good and I kind of let down the not my guard but I just went with things and people took care of me and they showed me things that if I had been really concerned or unwilling to just sort of go with it that I wouldn't have seen. And I really just found out that the hospitality is just amazing and I also think it was interesting 14:00to be able to be such a foreigner and not speak the language and not understand the culture and I kind of got a better perspective for what maybe when people come to this country they might be going through. So I think when I went to school at the Patterson School, you know we had international students and it was kind of, you know, I can kind of think well maybe they don't want to come out with everybody and maybe they, you know, it was easier to sort of relate to people in the US that are from another country because you go, "I totally understand that you feel completely confused." And so that I think that perspective is a nice thing to be able to have now.

WILSON: So you came back and went to the Patterson School? And talk a little bit about that program and what you did as part of that.

GORTON: I, the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce 15:00is a professional and academic program, graduate program. And it's a year and a half, so it's three semesters typically. I was a diplomacy major and I minored in intelligence actually. And we have professors who have had experience. One of our professors is a former diplomat and a consul general. And we also have professors who are very academic and have done wonderful field work in Africa and all over the world and so it's a really diverse program. It's about 80 people or so at any one time. And in between your first year and your last semester everyone is required to do a summer internship. And I did my summer internship at the US Consulate in Chennai, India, which used to be called Madras. And I was in the political and economic and public affairs section. A lot of people go on vacation in the summer so 16:00interns get to really fill in and do more than they probably normally would if everyone was there. And that was really interesting. I got to do a lot of work with Dalit rights, which were formally known as untouchables. And went around with a USAID worker to different local NGOs that were working with AIDS victims and their children, and that was really fascinating to see. And I also got to see the diplomatic side of life, so it was kind of an interesting balance. And I worked in the American Citizen Services for a couple weeks because I was just curious to work in all the sections. And that was interesting to see what American citizens, what kinds of issues American citizens come in with. And I was there for about three and a half months. One of my 17:00classmates at the Patterson School her family's from, she's from Sri Lanka and her parents still live in Colombo, so I went and visited them and then traveled in India a little bit.

WILSON: And then you came back and finished in the Patterson School?

GORTON: Finished Patterson graduated in December of 2004.

WILSON: And then?

GORTON: And then applied for the Peace Corps and in, I think I found out in February that I would be going to Peace Corps and I left in July for Jordan. Well no I started applying, I found out in May I think. I can't remember the timeline but so--

WILSON: So Abby after all these other international experiences because you have had a lot before you went into the Peace Corps, what made you decide that Peace Corps was something you wanted to do?

GORTON: It's always been something I've wanted to do. I mean I kind 18:00of started to fill out the application when I was at UK several times. But then I thought--

WILSON: As an undergrad?

GORTON: Two years as an undergrad, two years is a long time. Do I really want to make a two year commitment? Because that's to me that was a long time at the time. And so you know when I went to China I made a one year, I did a one year contract. And then you know and then I decided to stay on but I wanted to go back to school because I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do after college. So I thought well I'll make shorter commitments. Then after I graduated from the Patterson School I thought, "I don't have any responsibility," you know I don't have a family yet or you know any financial responsibilities that are big and so this is a really good time to do Peace Corps because I can give two years and I can you know so that's fine. I'll only be 30 when I get out so.

WILSON: So that's okay.

GORTON: So that's okay!

WILSON: What did you think a Peace Corps experience would allow you 19:00to do or would add to your understanding about the world that these previous experiences wouldn't? Or what were you hoping it would?

GORTON: In the previous, when I was in China I was teaching for a private school and so I was earning a decent salary and I was, I had Chinese neighbors but I did hang out with a lot of expatriates. And I taught with Chinese teachers but we all hung out together with you know a lot of people spoke English and all you know. There were some opportunities for volunteer services or you know activities but it was very limited because the government was kind of sensitive about letting foreigners into certain places, especially orphanages which is the main place we tried to go in. And I as a student it's a different perspective. I've kind of grown up talking to the different Peace 20:00Corps volunteers, Angene being one of them. And my parents have always you know, we've always kind of talked about oh you know Peace Corps is interesting and neat and oh that person was a Peace Corps volunteer. You know and I've just sort of always been fascinated with it and you know I think they had recruiters come to campus and I went into some of those programs. And it's an experience that's unlike anything you could ever make yourself. You know going out on your own I mean it's really it's local grassroots making a difference, not giving money and you know throwing money at something. It's you know meeting people and having that one on one contact, which I think is essential. I mean I think just even though I wasn't officially doing any volunteer work in China or India or anything, when you meet people face to face and you get the impression of that country and you give the impression of the US and you exchange. There's so many exchanges that go on that you 21:00don't even realize and they don't even realize. And so I think with Peace Corps it's more a focused way to do that because you are most of the time the only American in a village or the only you know foreigner that someone has ever met and sometimes you might have skills or they might have skills that you can exchange and it's just, I think it's a wonderful program. So I think I could learn a lot.

WILSON: So you knew that it was going to be obviously different from being in the embassy in India for example?

GORTON: Oh yes.

WILSON: And you wanted that experience? I'm just curious, were there returnrd Peace Corps volunteers among the 80 students who were at Patterson School when you were there? And or did anybody from the folks 22:00who were there when you were going through the program go into Peace Corps besides you?

GORTON: There was a returned volunteer and she actually, I didn't realize this, but she was actually in Jordan as a volunteer. So when I found that, after I applied for Peace Corps I went back and tried to talk to her about her experience in Jordan. But she was evacuated or she left Jordan for some reason and then she went to, after she graduated from Patterson she went down to the Caribbean and the hurricane hit so she had to be evacuated. So she kind of had several Peace Corps experiences. And there was a guy named Pete at the consulate in Chennai who was a returned Peace Corps volunteer who was in Africa. And he was the one Foreign Service officer that sort of got outside the US expat community. And like his girlfriend was German 23:00and he played rugby with local people. And it was kind of, it was interesting thinking about possibly going into Foreign Service myself, it was really neat to see his perspective versus some of the other. And the other foreign services were great, but his perspective was really different and he was much more comfortable going outside that circle and being you know relating to people and not necessarily just sticking to the events with the high officials and the, you know, kind of the crowd.

WILSON: Right, right.

GORTON: At the consulate so--

WILSON: Yeah it would be interesting and I don't know what the statistics are now. But of course that was one thing that I think a lot of people hoped when Peace Corps started was that Peace Corps, returned Peace Corps volunteers would change the Foreign Service and would change USAID. And I don't know what the percentages are now. I 24:00know USAID is heavily returned Peace Corps volunteers. I don't know what the percentages are in the Foreign Service, but for that exact reason. And there certainly have been returned Peace Corps volunteers who have been, become ambassadors and have gone you know all the way up the ranks. So that's an interesting point. Okay, let's talk just a little bit about what last year when you were trying to join the Peace Corps, what was the process of joining? Because that's changed over the years--

GORTON: Right, I filled out an online application and then I spoke to the recruiter. I think we had a phone interview and then he actually came to Lexington and had an in-person interview and then a follow-up phone interview again. And then in between that time I had several forms to fill out. And then with the medical clearance and the 25:00background investigation and that was it. So it was--

WILSON: And were you offered a choice of countries and did you ask for a particular country?

GORTON: We were allowed to choose like kind of our top three regions and then specify which countries we wanted in those. And I, Jordan was actually my first choice. And I found out in talking to several other volunteers that a lot of people don't, I mean they don't necessarily assign you--You know it's kind of what they need and what your skills match up with and so it's kind of, it's not random but it's kind of the overall picture taken into consideration not just what you choose. And I think China was my second choice, and then I can't remember if I put a third choice down. I kind of had in my mind that I wanted to go to Jordan but because I'd never been in that region and I didn't know much about the middle east, but I kind of more than anything wanted to 26:00do Peace Corps. I mean that was kind of my first commitment because I think if you go in, I mean if I'd gone into Peace Corps. I mean I could have gone to Jordan in other ways. I mean there's study abroad programs and there are, you know I could have gotten a job outside of Peace Corps with Jordan. So I wasn't dead set on Jordan I guess, but I just happened that I did get my first choice.

WILSON: So then you went for staging? Where was--?

GORTON: We went to Washington D.C.

WILSON: Washington D.C., okay.

GORTON: And we had three days, two nights of staging.

WILSON: And there were how many people in your group?

GORTON: There were 32 in Washington.

WILSON: Okay, in Washington, okay.

GORTON: And then--

WILSON: How many men? How many women?

GORTON: There were about 10 men and the rest, 22 women. But I think only 31 of us actually went to Jordan. And we left--


WILSON: Okay, and what do they do at staging these days?

GORTON: Well, we stayed in a hotel and had a few kind of introductory sessions, not much culture but more Peace Corps culture than anything else. And then kind of an all day meeting, workshops, some getting to know you kind of things and just preparation for travel, getting our passports and all that kind of stuff and last minute details. We had some free time so we were able to kind of explore this city and you know hang out in D.C. for a little bit too. And then we left for Jordan and we arrived at 2:00am at the Amman Airport and drove for an hour and a half to Irbid, which is where our training took place and--

WILSON: Okay, so what was the assignment? Was this group composed of 28:00people who were all supposed to be doing sort of the same kind of thing?

GORTON: Well there are three programs in Jordan. There's special education, English teaching--ESL, and then youth and community development. And our group was a mixture of all of those things. It was mostly TEFL people, Teaching English as a Foreign Language and then maybe there were six special education volunteers and a few youth and community development volunteers. So it was a mix but the majority were teaching English as a foreign language.

WILSON: And how many volunteers were already in Jordan?

GORTON: There were 20 some volunteers. They had re-entered --when the ambassador was assassinated Peace Corps pulled out of Jordan --and 29:00so they had kind of slowly been reintroducing volunteers to Jordan. We were the J9 class so we were the 9th group of volunteers to come to Jordan.

WILSON: So when did Peace Corps open Jordan?

GORTON: 1990--

WILSON: Okay so there weren't--

GORTON: It hasn't been there very long.

WILSON: There weren't volunteers in Jordan before that.

GORTON: Right, so it's not a--

WILSON: And then they reintroduced them after 9/11?

GORTON: Right, that's correct. And so we were the third group to come back after they reintroduced people, the volunteers.

WILSON: Okay, alright. So you arrived in your host country and went to training?

GORTON: To training, and they got us up bright and early at 8:00 that morning, which is good to get over jetlag and we did just some 30:00introductory sessions. And we stayed in Irbid for about a week and then we were assigned to training villages. And there were five or six volunteers in each village around Irbid. And so and we each had a language and cultural facilitator, an LCF who was Jordanian and who spoke English really well but also and was also really well educated about customs in the villages. And so we stayed in host families in our villages. And each volunteer had their own host family but there were five of us in each village, or five or six of us in each village. So we would come together with our LCF and have language classes and cultural classes and then spend like evenings visiting other people in the village or with our host families.

WILSON: So and training lasted from?


GORTON: It was 10 weeks.

WILSON: So you arrived in?



GORTON: And we were sworn in on September 15, and we stayed with our host families most of that time. I think there were probably about two weeks that we weren't with our host families throughout, not all at once.

WILSON: Okay, what would a typical day have been like during training?

GORTON: We had class from, language, we had Arabic language class from 7:30 or 8:00 depending on, it was pretty flexible up to our LCF and to our group until noon. And then went home for lunch to our host family and then came back for class from like 4:00 to 8:00. And sometimes it was both sessions were language class and sometimes it was language class and then cultural courses. And our LCF, each group had a different training experience. My group, which was just wonderful, 32:00we had a really good LCF and he made sure that we visited like each night of the week we would go to one person's host family's house. And the host families were really different. There was one, Andy and Mike were two of the volunteers and they lived with an older couple because it was difficult to place young men in families that had daughters or wives. So they lived with an older couple and we would go, he was about 95 I think and she was 75 or 80. And so we would go there and we would visit with them and they had grandkids that would come in and you know the sons and daughters would visit. And then there was, Cassie lived in a, she was another volunteer and she lived with a host family that they had formerly been involved with oil somehow and so they were very wealthy and they lived in this huge house on the other side of the village. And so we got that experience, you know. We didn't sit on the floor and on the mats, which are called farscha. We were sitting in chairs and it was very formal things like that. So 33:00and then we had you know my family was kind of out farther away from the others and my host father was a retired military, retired soldier. And they you know had several fruit trees and raised cattle, well they had two cows. And then my host mother didn't work outside the home. And then another host family, Amy's host family, had a car and they lived. You know, they had some farms, a farm and her father was a former intelligence guy of some sort and he spoke English pretty well actually. And Cassie's family had some people that spoke English, but Andy and Mike and I--our families didn't speak any English at all. And so that was really fascinating. My host family had five children--two 34:00boys and three girls. And so that was a lot of fun to get to see them on their first days of school and you know help them with their English homework. And so we did our language classes and cultural classes for the first month and then we had a practicum where we taught. We actually went and taught kind of a summer camp, an unofficial summer camp where we just taught English in the school in our training village. And the three female volunteers taught, co-taught the classes because it was, I think it was only four hours a day. And then and Amy had experience teaching in China as well and Cassie had never taught before and I had taught before, so we kind of traded out and we were observed by some Peace Corps staff. And then the boys taught in a separate village at the boys' school.

WILSON: So there was some training of, there was some teacher training 35:00involved too?

GORTON: Some teacher training yes. And then one day a week actually we went into Irbid, which is the main--the big city.

WILSON: Meaning how big?

GORTON: Meaning maybe half a million people.


GORTON: I mean Jordan's population is like four million people total, so it's four or five so it's small. And there we did, we broke up into our different groups, the special education, the youth and community development and TEFL teachers. And so we did get teacher training there and we did some group cultural training classes and health education classes and security. Security was a big deal over there and so and then after our practicum we did do a site visit. We took a weekend and went to the village where we were supposed to, going to be placed permanently. And then we came back and had I think another week 36:00with our host families and then were sworn in on September 15.

WILSON: Okay, let's talk a little bit more specifically about aspects of the training. What was how was it to learn Arabic?

GORTON: It was really fun. The way Peace Corps kind of teaches you what you need to know right away. I mean we did numbers and well no we did greetings and food and health issues and then numbers. And my--We were kind of I don't know exactly how they grouped us, but they kind of observed us in trial classes, Arabic classes with different teachers, and so they kind of paired up the learners that learned in similar ways with an LCF that would, that they saw kind of agreed with the style of the learning. So there was some thought you know put into the groups but I don't know how much exactly. They didn't tell us. And so we, I mean we started--Our group wanted to learn to write even though we 37:00weren't really supposed to, we copied down things as we were going through and while we were learning you know the basics and we didn't really understand what we were doing, but it was fun to copy. And Arabic is actually much easier than Chinese. I did not--I can speak taxi-cab Chinese but I did not learn to read or write because there's no alphabet for one thing. But we did learn the alphabet and we learned some of the basics in grammar. And of course we got a lot of practice with our host families. I mean it was kind of fun because even though I wasn't really speaking Arabic my host mother and I really connected and she would know what I wanted before I knew what I wanted in many cases because they were kind of in tune with this strange American that was you know in their house. And that was kind of fun to communicate. You know you don't need language necessarily to communicate and so--

WILSON: So you did learn to write a little bit and read a little bit?

GORTON: Yes, yeah because they do have an alphabet.


WILSON: Right, right.

GORTON: And so you know you can once you can identify the characters you can sound things out and you know make sense of things.

WILSON: And what did they focus on in cultural training?

GORTON: Well a lot of it was sort of the visiting. Visiting is just a huge part of the Arabic culture and we you know most of our cultural training came from visiting families and learning how to eat. What you know like showing the balls of your feet to someone is very rude so you know little things like that; you know, not turning your back to someone if you're sitting down, what to say. I mean there's you know if someone says hello the response is different than you know what do you say for certain occasions and visiting and greetings. That was 39:00really important and also--

WILSON: And as a woman you would not shake hands with a man in Jordan? Is that correct?

GORTON: Usually not, usually you put your hand on the center of your chest and you just and the man does the same thing. And it was really interesting because there were some people that you know we, the women in my village we just took cues from the people. You just take cues from the people you meet and there were some men who just said, "Hi! How are you?" you know and shook your hand. And some people had traveled outside of Jordan.

WILSON: And were comfortable doing that.

GORTON: And were comfortable doing that, but you just kind of you know kind of saw what other people did. And also learning how to, like there were several small conflicts with like host families or you know kids in the village throwing rocks at us or things like that that we really looked to our LCF. Because I mean if these things happened in our village we would need to know how to appropriately respond. And so you know the, it's really complicated the chain of you know if --Amy 40:00and I for example were walking to school one day and there were these two probably early 20s guys walking behind us and they started yelling really obscene things at us in English. And so instead of reacting to that we called our LCF and we told him because since he's a man he can come defend us. And there was another incident I mean just several, it's not --saving face is very important and so direct confrontation is not acceptable. And so we kind of learned you know and like when the neighborhood kids would come in and start getting rowdy in our classroom or you know interrupting us and things you know Ahmed would say, "Come in!" He was our LCF; he would say, "Come on in!" and instead of yelling at them to go away he would invite them in and they would go ohhh and they would run away. So it's things like when someone says something do they really mean it, are they being polite, do you 41:00accept it or do you say, "Oh you know thank you but I can't." And it's very subtle and very situational and we kind of learned how to read the different, you know, the body language and learn the spoken language as well. And as you know as women we learned how to sit on the bus. Men and women are not allowed to sit on the bus together and so, there's kind of a shuffle, a little dance that goes on when if there are seats that are you know if a man has a single seat and there are two empty seats here. Then a woman gets on the bus so the man will stand up and the woman will you know switch and it's a little bit complicated so we kind of learned that sort of thing and how to buy products. There wasn't much bargaining but you know when it was appropriate to bargain we learned how.

WILSON: You said earlier that security was really important and I know that that's changing in Peace Corps. What kind of security training 42:00did you have?

GORTON: We, well the Peace Corps has a head of security, a guy who came in and did briefings with us. We learned--

WILSON: Yeah every country now has a security officer, correct?

GORTON: Yes. And we learned how to respond to local issues. I mean like when we had rocks thrown at us or you know things like that who to call, what to do, what not to do. The phrases that are appropriate for, especially for women you know. If a man --a lot of times as Americans and we're not covered, our heads aren't covered, and even though our clothing I mean every day I wore shirts down to my wrists and past my wrists, pants past my ankles and still as an American, a women without a hijab on, you know people would say or do things that 43:00were inappropriate. So we learned the appropriate responses like you know leave me alone or don't you have sisters or you know things like that that were important to say. And then also you know how to vary our routines, what to talk about and what not to talk about.

WILSON: Like what could you talk about and not talk about?

GORTON: Well, like volunteer locations, other volunteer locations. We would never want to reveal that to someone who was not--You know I would never say oh my friend Cassie's down in this village; she's up on a mountain by herself as an American, you know. And so I guess also we had emergency action plans and different you know stages of you know like stand fast if like when the Amman bombings happened we were in stand fast. And so we stayed in our villages and we were to you know maintain our normal routine but just don't go outside your village. And you know we had consolidation points where if something were 44:00to happen that we couldn't stay in our villages we would go to that particular point and stay there for however long and things like that. We were advised to you know we had several warnings like from the embassy and like the you know don't go to this area of Amman or don't go to this place or avoid you know public places and things like that at various, according to what security risks were like for terrorism and things like that.

WILSON: So you all had cell phones?

GORTON: We did. We weren't officially required to have them but if you didn't have one it was very difficult to get information from your warden or from you know--

WILSON: Who's your warden?

GORTON: A warden--each area of the country had a volunteer who was kind of in charge of informing the other volunteers in that area about any messages that needed to be communicated. And so and also it was nice 45:00to be able to text other volunteers, text message other volunteers because you're kind of by yourself you know out in the middle of nowhere. And also for emergencies, a lot of times like if I was on a bus or walking or something and I didn't, I felt like I was going to get unwanted attention I would just pretend to talk on my cell phone. So it was nice to even just to have that or if I was in--We didn't, we weren't really supposed to take taxis very often because they were expensive and because it was unsafe and because it would ruin our reputations if we showed up in a village, in our village with a taxi because it would be kind of scandalous because who were you with, what were you doing, that kind of thing. But in the taxi it would be nice to, I would always call and either stay on the phone with somebody or pretend like I was talking on the phone with somebody or say I'm in a taxi and I should be home at this time, so if you don't hear from 46:00me you know that kind of thing. So it was really convenient to have a cell phone and everybody got one eventually I believe. Some of us said, "Oh! We're going to hold out and not get them." And by the middle of training I mean I got one in the middle of training and I think everybody pretty much broke down and got one.

WILSON: But Peace Corps didn't provide those? You were getting those out of your allowance?

GORTON: No, right.

WILSON: You talked about the bombing in Amman. What happened then? You were told just to stay in your village and that was the safest place to be anyway?

GORTON: Yeah, and I actually--

WILSON: And was there a fallout from that?



GORTON: It was I mean we all--I talked to a lot of the volunteers and we all felt really safe in our villages so we, I mean we were far enough away. I was far enough away from Amman that I didn't go in very often anyway and so it really didn't affect, I mean I watched it on the news 47:00with my neighbors but and actually my neighbors across the street were really sweet and the father of the family said, "Do you want to come stay with us?" You know it was the night after the bombing and why don't you stay at our house tonight, that will make you feel safer and you won't be alone in your house. So that was nice and I did spend the night over there, but there wasn't much. A lot of the youth in our village went and protested, did peaceful protests in Amman after the bombing. But there wasn't a lot of fallout and their security is really tight in Jordan in general. There are lots of checkpoints; there was a checkpoint to get to my village so I went through that every day. And so I think I mean it was just, it was mostly in Amman and it affected the volunteers near Amman.

WILSON: Thinking about technology since you are a very recently returned 48:00volunteer and I have just seen some of your pictures, did everybody also have a computer with them?

GORTON: Most volunteers brought a computer or ordered it once they got there. And it was, I didn't have internet access and most volunteers don't have internet access. But it was really convenient for watching DVDs and for you know taking pictures you know and loading pictures on the computer and then I also typed a lot of emails, long emails at home because I had to pay for internet time and it wasn't always available. And so I would put them on my flash memory disk, card, stick.

WILSON: And then take it.

GORTON: And then take it to the internet cafe and just plug it in, and then I could spend my time reading emails and just have my group sort of update or update to my parents ready to go and just send it and maybe change it a little bit. But so that was really nice to have. 49:00And I mean we weren't you know--

WILSON: And how often would you get to an internet cafe?

GORTON: I went in once a week.

WILSON: Once a week? Okay, to?

GORTON: And I went to Irbid. I was about an hour, well about an hour or more depending upon the bus system from Irbid. So that was convenient and there was a volunteer in Irbid so she and I could meet up sometimes too, which was nice. But internet access, the University Street is what it's called in Irbid and it's in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most internet cafes on one street.

WILSON: Oh my goodness.

GORTON: So we had, there were plenty of options for internet, which was nice.

WILSON: And how much would internet cost?

GORTON: About $.35 for half an hour. So it wasn't too expensive at all.

WILSON: And at this point you are getting how much as a living allowance?

GORTON: We received 145 Jordanian dinar each month and that's about, 50:00it's almost, it's about $200, $220 I think a month. And it was, I never really ran out of money. I mean because well I wasn't allowed to shop in my village because I was a woman, a single woman. So I had to go to Irbid to buy things, so I didn't really buy things that much. So I ended up having more disposable income than I thought I would.

WILSON: Because that is how many, how much American money?

GORTON: About $220.

WILSON: About $220, okay alright yeah you said that.

GORTON: Which and I didn't I mean--

WILSON: You had to pay for your housing or your housing was provided as part of the?

GORTON: Well we got an allowance for our housing too. My rent was 55 JD a month, which is $75 I think. So we got that on top of our living allowance. And then we got, we also got a travel allowance of like $26 51:00a month, US dollars a month. I think it was 26 that we could you know in case we were traveling or whatever.

WILSON: And in Jordan you were allowed to leave the country? You were allowed to travel?

GORTON: Yes if we had, well there were certain restrictions. Like we, you know we couldn't leave our village for the first month and then we could leave our village once a month for two nights. There was vacation but we weren't allowed to use vacation for the first three months. So and to travel outside the country you had to get permission from the country director. So it was very controlled, I mean it was very controlled but we were allowed to leave.

WILSON: And as part of security as well, they want to always know where you are.

GORTON: Oh yeah, exactly.

WILSON: Okay so now you've finished training and you felt fairly well prepared at that point?


GORTON: I thought the training was wonderful. I mean I, it was you know very--I felt very, when I arrived in my village I felt like I could comfortably visit people that I had never seen before or met before and not totally screw up. You know I mean the big difference between China and Jordan for me was that in China if you mess up you're a dumb foreigner and you laugh it off and it's not a big deal. But in Jordan if you mess up it can affect your reputation and therefore your effectiveness as a volunteer and your safety. And so it was more important to get things right because otherwise you know that first impression you know not that people weren't--People had a great sense of humor as well but since the dynamic between men and women is different you know if a man interpreted something you did. You know if I accidentally spoke to the wrong person or made eye contact in a way that was wrong that could lead to you know somebody might think oh well 53:00she's an American and I can try this with her because she's you know she's not Jordanian. Which I mean I had very--For example, in my host family I one morning I was, my host mother had to take the youngest son to the dentist. And so all the kids were gone to school and my host parents left and so I had the house to myself. So I thought, "Oh! I'm going to eat my breakfast in front of the television," because I never really I mean I never really watched TV and certainly never watched English programming, not that there was much on. But it was just nice to be in the house alone. And I didn't realize that the host father hadn't gone to the dentist and he came in through the back door. And normally I mean I just don't, there are things that you just don't think of being raised in the US and you know lessons that 54:00I learned very well. And he came in and he sat in the room with me and what I should have done is immediately get up and leave, but I was almost finished with my breakfast and I thought well I'll just finish my breakfast and then I'll go. And okay two minutes in the room with this guy is not going to be, I mean he's my host father. He's my host father. And so I was finishing my breakfast and he reached over and started petting my hair, which is extremely--I mean it's hard to describe the--Because the segregation is so complete and very clear that was a major, major violation of disrespectful to me, disrespecting the culture, you know very bad thing for him to do.

WILSON: And you knew that.

GORTON: And I immediately and I was like oh my gosh, and I immediately you know like put my stuff in the kitchen and was going and he kept 55:00following me around and came into my room and just was inappropriate. And I was like trying to get because I was on my way to school and so I shut my door, locked it, and left. And I you know showed up at my because the other volunteer Amy and I, her house was on the way to school so I walked over there and I was pretty upset. And I was kind of like you know--

WILSON: This is how long have you been there?

GORTON: I'm not sure, about three weeks maybe but so not very long. And you know I got to school and I was so upset and I you know I told my LCF and he was really good and called the security guy or the guy in charge of home stays and he was out there that morning talking to my host father. And they told me they said you know don't tell anybody because that would ruin that family in this whole village and that would just be awful.

WILSON: Sure, yeah.

GORTON: So the guy, the Rifat is his name, talked to my host father and that was very you know cleared up pretty quick that he was not to do that. And so you know I went back and everything was fine and you know 56:00nobody in the family knew and--

WILSON: And you stayed with that family the whole time?

GORTON: I stayed with that family.


GORTON: Because it was, I mean I had really bonded with the mom at that point and I knew that the father had been talked to. And I wasn't really comfortable but Peace Corps was like, "Well we'll move you if you really want us to." But that's going to look bad for that family, they're going to lose the income, and I didn't want to. I mean they were nice kids and it was two months. My door locked so you know.

WILSON: And he never tried anything again?

GORTON: No but yeah but so it was fine. But you know it was just one of those things that you kind of you had to weigh the good and the bad and he was creepy and I could just kind of put up with it so it was fine. But when I talked to my language, my LCF was really good because I said what you know okay something broke down there because that's, I 57:00felt like that was something that I should be able to stop and he said, "Well you should have just left the room immediately. As soon as he walked in the room you shouldn't have even let him sit down by the time you were out of there." And I you know my sense was, "But I was there first and I was eating my breakfast and I was watching TV!" But you're a woman, he's a man, and its his house. I mean but even if it wasn't his house, I still should have left immediately. That was a good lesson. You know I mean I learned several things like that in training, little things that I wouldn't have been aware of to even do otherwise.

WILSON: What was that? What other illustrations are there in training and your experience that have to do with male/female relations? And was that really, I mean I would guess it would be--

GORTON: How long do you have?

WILSON: Yeah, well I would guess that would be the toughest part of being in Jordan.

GORTON: Yeah, that was probably the main sort of cultural issue that we all had to kind of get our minds around. And the men too, I mean the guys, it was really interesting and dynamic because the women got 58:00invited to people's homes and to you know visit their children. We got invitations to tons of things within the home. We weren't allowed to go out you know I mean to go outside.

WILSON: As individual women or with men or whatever.

GORTON: Right, but the guys you know they always got taken out with the men but they were not often invited into homes because the male members of the household didn't want their daughters and wives exposed to strange men. And that's unfamiliar you know strangers, and that's even for Jordanians. I mean that wasn't because we were Americans that's just the cultural dynamic. Like there was when my I'm trying to think who was--When the--When one of the Peace Corps, well when my LCF 59:00would come to my host family's house like he was not allowed to see my host sisters. I mean he did towards the end because they got to know him a little bit more and so they would be, you know they would come out on the porch and give us tea and then go back in. But they were always covered and that was okay. But like I would if the men would be meeting in the front part in the men's visiting room and like my LCF was there I would be allowed to go in and be in a room full of just men because I was American. And it would be different you know they were--

WILSON: You're an honorary male.

GORTON: "Come talk politics with us, come--" yeah exactly. But at the same time it wasn't I mean it was so confusing because it was like well you can do this and this and this but don't do that. And if you--You know it was just a different system whereas you know when my fellow volunteers came over, the male volunteers, because we would all visit 60:00together as a group we would visit my host family.

WILSON: This is in training?

GORTON: In training.

WILSON: Right.

GORTON: So we would be on the porch and if the male volunteers were there the girls were inside. I mean that was, the mom was--My host mother would come out but the girls were generally inside except for the younger, you know the much younger ones. And that was an interesting dynamic, just different you know the sitting on the bus. In my village, in permanent village Makraba it was really fascinating because like my friend Hollah and her family they lived across the street from me. And I spent practically every evening there and that's who I spent the night with when the bombings happened. And so I was close to that family and I was able to see every, I mean I talked with the twins who were 16 year old guys and the oldest son was 20. And you know I was very much like a sister to them, but in public we 61:00didn't acknowledge each other. I mean towards--After a while you know I would say, "As salaam alaikum," you know I would kind of greet them under my breath and they would do the same to me but it was never a, "Hey! How you doing?" kind of greeting, and her father too would never acknowledge me in public. And but that was a sign of respect and so I was grateful that for that. But I also knew that if I was ever in trouble they would be right there to help me. I mean because they were my family even though they couldn't really because I was not really family they couldn't talk to me because it would look bad, it would make them look bad, it would make me look bad. It would just be bad. And my neighbor Syham's husband was very nice. I never actually had a conversation with him, well I did when I visited their family in another village. But it was the big you know the grandparents and all the uncles and aunts and so it was all, it was a big family gathering 62:00so I was in the room with everybody and that was probably the most I'd ever talked to him and it wasn't much. And when I would see him on the bus you know we didn't, there was not even no nod, no eye contact, no nothing. But I knew that he knew I was on the bus and I knew that he was on the bus. And I knew that if something were to happen he would probably help me you know. And to contrast that with like my landlord's family whose brothers would talk to me in the street and you know follow me around. I mean it was very, it's a very clear line. It's very easy to see when someone is not behaving in a normal way.

WILSON: And so the landlord's family was not behaving, those men were not behaving in a normal way?

GORTON: Right.

WILSON: They were trying to take advantage of you as an American woman?

GORTON: Well I think there were a lot of things going on with that and I don't know. Do you want me to?

WILSON: Go ahead, whatever you feel comfortable with.

GORTON: Well the--There was and there were also people that I met that 63:00were men that spoke English and were just so excited to try and speak English that I mean it wasn't a big deal to shake their hand or speak to them.

WILSON: In your village even?

GORTON: Not in my village because I controlled that. I didn't want, I didn't acknowledge anybody unless it was in a private home. Or in my training village, it was easier because my LCF was there and so he was kind of my brother you know father type.

WILSON: Right.

GORTON: And that's okay. Like if the father's there it's okay. But in my village I didn't have anyone really like that and so I did not, I felt so rude doing it but I ignored people and just you know kind of only women that I talked to. And that was I mean to keep my reputation in tact. I mean I you know, but those brothers would talk to me on the bus. The one brother who shared my house, like he and his wife lived 64:00in the front part of the house. You know, "Okay Abby! We're here! Let's go!" And you know because the bus would drop me off at my house, and that was just you know I would cringe every time because and people the family--In a small village like that the families know who acts some ways, so it didn't hurt me that badly but one of the brothers who is mentally ill and who they put, they put him in a hospital when I got there but he came out a couple months after I had been there. And he would talk to me in the street in English and he would follow me. And one day my neighbor Hollah she told me, she said, "You need to make sure that stops because people will think badly of you if you let him follow you." And I'm like I don't, I don't want to talk to him! And then he, she told me some things about him. I mean he had raped an 11 year old girl and her family had to move out of the village completely because it was so shameful for her and her family. And he started 65:00waiting for me at the house.

WILSON: But her family had to move out, not his?

GORTON: Right, exactly, right. But when he started waiting for me after school at my house that was my like oh we're not having this anymore. And I called Peace Corps but just to let them know it was going on. But since direct conflict is not, you know I didn't ask them to come out but I went to his aunt, the brother's aunt and I said, "I don't want him waiting for me after school. That's inappropriate." And she said, "Oh but he's a little bit sick," and I said, "Oh but that's not okay. You know you would not let your daughter, that happened to your daughter you would not let that happen to your sister you know." So she told her husband who told my landlord who told his brother to stop doing it and it stopped. But it was kept in the family.

WILSON: Right.

GORTON: And I went to the woman who then communicated to the husband who then communicated--I mean so it's a very--

WILSON: And you had learned how to do that? That was suggested to you as 66:00a way of dealing with it or that's something you'd learned over being there?

GORTON: Well I mean that just seemed to be the right way to do it. And then I called Peace Corps and I said, "This is what I've done locally but I want you to know incase something else happens," which did and they had to send their security person out and you know talk to the family and stuff. But yeah handling it first within the family, save face and not you know. And then it would be inappropriate for me to talk to a man directly and so that I mean--

WILSON: Okay but then when it escalated or when he didn't pay attention to what they said.

GORTON: Well it was a different--

WILSON: Oh it was a different?

GORTON: It was a different situation.

WILSON: Oh okay.

GORTON: The brothers all started having coffee right in the middle of my sidewalk, which was my only entrance to my house, which and they would never do that to a Jordanian woman. Never because the father or the brother, they would get in major trouble. And at that point I felt like I needed to let them know that I do have a father, you know my 67:00Peace Corps father because me doing it was not an effective. I'm not really you know.

WILSON: And your family across the street really couldn't?

GORTON: They have to live in the village for the rest of the--

WILSON: In the village and so that wouldn't work.

GORTON: You know I mean so that wouldn't--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah it's complicated isn't it?

GORTON: And I didn't, you know I went to them and I said this is what's happening and Hollah said well you should talk to me you know for advice because I was really like part of their family. And she said, "Oh you should talk to the wife of the landlord," and she, I was not comfortable with that and so we kind of I mean they when I left the brother that lived in the front part of the house came over. And I don't know that he would have physically attacked me but he verbally confronted me big time because I was leaving. And I was lucky because Hollah's family was there and they stand, they did say, "You need to 68:00calm down and stop that," and so I was lucky I was at their house at that time. But I think so I think if I had been in physical danger they would have helped me.

WILSON: But you needed the Peace Corps too?

GORTON: The power dynamics of the village and you know it was just kind of complicated, so it was better for Peace Corps because they don't have--I mean they can come in and say, they could come in as a male and say. And what they did it was actually really interesting. Two of the staff members came in and talked to the landlord's family, and what they said was, "We've overtrained her. We've trained her so much to be so sensitive that she's not comfortable with public attention from men. And so please don't you know, she's just too--" You know so like I mean it was saving their face.

WILSON: To saving their face, wow.

GORTON: But letting them know that Peace Corps was aware and please don't let this happen. And then of course the advice they gave me they 69:00said, "Oh well you need to have the landlord's wife over more and make sure she's included with everything," and--

WILSON: That wasn't?

GORTON: That wasn't, I mean that was pretty not fun.

WILSON: To try it?

GORTON: To try to be around her and it was you know it was complicated but anyway. So it was really interesting the problem solving, and some of that is similar to Chinese culture in the saving face way. But the male/female interaction is very different. And so you know I, being raised in the US I'm used to confronting and dealing with. You know if I had a problem with someone following me I would probably turn around and yell at them and say, "Go away!" or I would you know--

WILSON: But you can't do that?

GORTON: But you can't do that; it was interesting.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah. Would you say that the male/female relation thing is the hardest about Jordanian culture?


GORTON: Maybe, I guess what's--It's definitely one of the hardest if not the most. But also the knowing what you can do and what you can't do, figuring that out because a lot of the rules like women weren't allowed to walk faster than a certain pace because otherwise people would think badly of you. But then at the same time you know like I guess being, I had to play more, like kind of my friends that were Jordanians played by the rules but they tried everything in their power to break the rules, like to get around the religious, the cultural norm.

WILSON: Women?

GORTON: Women.

WILSON: Yeah, like what?

GORTON: Like smoking, you know women smoking is so bad and that's horrible for your reputation but you know my friend Hollah and it shocked me because she did this. I had known her for about six months and when I saw her smoke for the first time I was like, "Ah! What are 71:00you doing?" And she's like well you know, there's just so many hidden things that women do behind closed doors or that men do when they're you know. I mean a good example unfortunately is pornography. I mean the male volunteers, see we got to get together and exchange stories and see what each you know because the men had different challenges than the women did.

WILSON: Yeah, totally.

GORTON: As volunteers totally different, and you know I think I hate to say that the women had it more difficult but the men were able to get away with more stuff and not have to worry so much about their reputations. They did a little bit but it was really interesting to see the way that I mean like the front that's put on in the name of religion and culture and these are you know and then to see what goes on behind the scenes. But as an American when you're behind the scenes a lot of the values, even though they're not you know a woman might be 72:00smoking. But if I smoked it would be a different value judgment on me than, I mean I don't smoke but if I did--

WILSON: Yeah, yeah.

GORTON: That would be a different you know even though they were doing it, they would still apply the same judgment as if it--It was just complicated, and as an American you know they get Oprah and they get WWE wrestling and they get 90210, Beverly Hills 90210. I mean so they see a lot of movies and television shows that portray American women in a certain way. And so you have to really fight really hard to keep that stereotype you know even though some of the girls in my village, the teenagers or the young women in their 20s would wear like tight jeans I would never wear tight jeans because I made sure you know everything was covered at all times because as an American people would take, would see that and go oh typical you know like and take advantage. But whereas a Jordanian woman wearing tight jeans but covered with hijab 73:00and grown up in that village it's a different, it's just a different dynamic. And it was just kind of hard to navigate. You know you kind of always had to be, even with your close friends, on and you couldn't. You know like things with religion I mean if you know if you were Jewish you weren't, you were recommended not to tell anyone.

WILSON: And did you have Jewish volunteers?

GORTON: I don't know.

WILSON: Oh, you don't even know.

GORTON: Nobody--

WILSON: Nobody said anything, wow.

GORTON: And for example like my brother is serving in Iraq in the army right now. He's studying biology at UK you know I mean.

WILSON: Yeah you would never have let that out.

GORTON: Yeah and like I would walk into homes and there would be big portraits of Saddam Hussein and like my friend Hollah's mother Miriam she loved Saddam Hussein. She, when his trial would come on TV we would be in the visiting, the women's visiting room and her husband 74:00would say, "Miriam! You know your future husband's on television," and she would run in and I mean just loved Saddam Hussein, and a lot of people felt that way. And so that was really kind of foreign as well because we don't think that way here necessarily. And I was in the northern, most northern part of Jordan so I could see from Hollah's roof we could see the Sea of Galilee on the right hand side in the distance but we could still see it, and then the mountains of Israel straight across. And so that was, I'm thankful that I didn't understand Arabic for some cases because some of the volunteers that did said you would not believe some of the hateful things that are said. And I mean in any part of the world there are people who you know are racist or whatever, but that was a big issue. And there are so many different, you know there's Jordanians who hate the 75:00Palestinians that are in Jordan, and then it's so complicated but it's really it's just fascinating. In different areas it's a very tribal society and so like you can tell. You know if you hear a last name you can say, "Oh! You're from this village or you're from that village," like my village everybody's last name was Azzam and so all of the, I mean everybody's last name was Azzam. And so when I would say I was in Makraba everybody would go, "Oh! Al Azzam," and know where you're from, so that was pretty interesting too.

WILSON: So all the politics of what people thought about Israel or Palestinians or Iraq or Syria or whatever?

GORTON: And a lot of in my training village some of my neighbors were Syrian, like married a Jordanian from Syria. And it's so close to the 76:00border, you know my village was so close to the border and then I had you know there were some people in my village that were from Iraq. And that was you know that was interesting. Like my friend--

WILSON: Who would have moved there from Iraq?

GORTON: Married a Jordanian and came to--

WILSON: Married a Jordanian, right.

GORTON: And then you know there were also people that you know a lot of soldiers. My village was primarily soldiers, farmers, herders, former government people, I think we had one doctor, and teachers. And a lot of the soldiers had been in Haiti with NATO, with the UN I mean so it was kind of a different. I guess children don't grow up thinking, "Oh! What do you want to be?" It's kind of what you kind of end up being and 77:00so those were the main jobs in that area of Jordan.

WILSON: But you wouldn't have had an opportunity to talk about a person's experience in Haiti because they were men and you were women or?

GORTON: Right, right.

WILSON: So you just knew that part?

GORTON: Through the women, oh my husband's in or just got back from. It's amazing the information that is passed. I mean I knew a lot about several of the men that I saw, but it wasn't because I'd talked to any of them it was because the women you know would talk about them.

WILSON: Right, right, and so what kinds of things? So you were when you were doing things with people in your village you were with women?

GORTON: Right.

WILSON: So what kinds of things did you do with them when you were across the street with your--?

GORTON: A lot of cooking.

WILSON: Okay so like you were making, you were showing me pictures of making a--?

GORTON: A dessert for--

WILSON: A dessert for?

GORTON: The festival Eid el fitr, which is the festival after Ramadan. 78:00Most women spend three or four hours cooking each afternoon for either the lunch meal or sometimes the evening meal, like depending on the husband's work schedule. The families eat at different times, and so a lot of the day would be spent cooking or planning to cook for the next day. You know we would dig out squash in the evening, sit around talking and you know digging out the insides of squash to make d for the next day.

WILSON: And what's dawali?

GORTON: Well dawali is the grape leaves with rice and kind of a meat mixture stuffed.

WILSON: Okay and how do you spell that? D-I--?

GORTON: D-A-W-A-L-I and then cusa is the C-U-S-A is the squash that's stuffed with rice and meat and spices.

WILSON: Oh okay, good food?

GORTON: Excellent food, oh all of the food was really good. And it was 79:00and there was plenty of it and people would share even if they didn't you know I mean it was amazing hospitality. But then a lot of times too in the evening the men would occupy the main part of the house with their friends or you know and so the women would be in another room and we would sometimes put on music and dance or just sit around and talk. Some women did a lot of embroidery.

WILSON: Talk about what?

GORTON: Mostly cooking. The children gossiped about the neighbors. There wasn't a lot of interest--sometimes I would try to ask questions and share America and there wasn't a lot of interest in learning about what my life was like in the US.

WILSON: Oh that's interesting? And that was different from your experiences in other countries or at least a little bit?

GORTON: A little bit, yeah. And because I think I know I had several 80:00conversations with Hollah who spoke English very well, so it was easy to get pretty--I could understand her answers to my questions, which was nice. I think she assumed that my life in the US was like her life there.

WILSON: Oh really?

GORTON: And so she didn't really ask.

WILSON: Even though she had seen television and had stereotypes of Americans?


WILSON: But she assumed that you cooked and you did?

GORTON: Mmmhmm, and it was really hard. I mean people would ask me. There was a lot of conversation about food and like the teachers at my school we would talk about school and they would say, "Well what do you eat?" And I would say, "Well I eat rice and I eat chicken and I eat beef." And they would say, "Oh so you eat mansef?" which is a traditional dish. And I would say, "No, I've never had mansef. I prepare it differently," you know because there are about nine dishes that are prepared. There's no, there's not a lot of experimenting when 81:00it comes to cooking. It's pretty much you know everybody learns what's cooked and that's it. And of course most people like don't go to restaurants in my village. You know there were a couple times during Ramadan that I broke fast with other volunteers at the Pizza Hut in Irbid, which was really exciting. But I couldn't you know I couldn't tell my village that. You know we went to so and so's house and cooked was the story. And so I think there just wasn't a lot of interest or there was, if she did know she didn't, she thought it was unfair and didn't want to--This is me guessing but I mean probably she knew there wasn't anything she could do about it and so why bother learning what. I mean that would be my guess. And I didn't--

WILSON: What about younger women?

GORTON: Well, Hollah was 19.

WILSON: Oh Hollah was 19? Oh okay.


GORTON: She was in college and she was--

WILSON: Oh okay so that's close, yeah.

GORTON: And I mean it was really interesting one afternoon. She was going to university in Amman and so she commuted three hours each way every day to her classes. And one day she had a test real early in the morning so she spent the night at an uncle's house in Amman. She came back and she said, "You wouldn't believe his house," she said, "They have two cars. My aunt and uncle each have a car. They have you know when you have tea or coffee a different sweet comes with it. They have the kids there are four boys and they each, two of them share a room and two of them share the other room. And they have a TV and a computer in each room and they have heat in the house." And she was telling me all this and just really like, "Wow! Can you believe this?" And it was fascinating, I mean it kind of felt good because I thought well she thinks I'm you know and I do live as her family does kind of across the street. But it was sad that she had no concept of what 83:00our life in America, what my life in America was like. And I didn't I mean I didn't say anything you know. I kind of felt sort of ashamed, oh well we've got what we have here. But I think there's not a lot of travel outside in some families. Some families are different; I mean it varies. And of course Amman, the capitol is you know people are far more technologically advanced than you know I am, so it's just a wide variety that you encounter. And it's just interesting.

WILSON: Let me go back for a moment because we haven't really talked about either where you lived and what your living conditions were like or your actual Peace Corps job. So start with your house. I've seen a picture of it but go ahead and describe that.


GORTON: Okay, I had a cute little house I thought. It was a stand alone home and the front path was occupied by a newly married couple and then I had the back half. And I had a pretty big bedroom with a, the neighbors gave me a rug and there was a bed in there and I bought a closet. And then I had a small kind of long, longish rectangular living room and lots of windows. And then I had a kitchen that was pretty good size, and Peace Corps gave us a refrigerator and a stove top, you know gas burners. I had a sink and then I had a bathroom with a shower and a Turkish toilet, and we had a hot water heater. They required all landlords to put in hot water heaters if there wasn't one already, 85:00which was so wonderful. And of course but water conservation over there is not only necessary but it's cultural. You know you wouldn't, even if you had the water you wouldn't want to use it unwisely.

WILSON: So your shower would last?

GORTON: Well two, a lot of times I did the turn the water on, get wet, soap up, turn it, you know. And then my host family in my training village I took bucket baths so I mean. So I took a shower about twice a week and then sometimes towards the, like a few months in I found a gym in Irbid because I wasn't allowed to walk outside so I was kind of going a little stir crazy. So I could run and walk on the treadmill but they had hot showers there too.

WILSON: So that was nice.

GORTON: So I kind of upped my shower days when I joined that. And so and then outside of my house was absolutely gorgeous. Across the street was an empty field and they were growing onions in the spring, 86:00and then beyond that there was another field where Bedouin people came in the summer and fall and setup tents with their camels and their animals and worked the fields. And then there were olive trees all around my house, so it was--

WILSON: But now you could not walk outside? Is that right? You couldn't go for walks?

GORTON: No, I walked to school because that was a purpose and you know everybody was walking to school because nobody had cars.

WILSON: How long did it take to walk?

GORTON: Maybe five, ten minutes or so. I mean it wasn't that far. But I couldn't just go outside and go for a walk. And there were a couple of times when Hollah would come with me. I would say, there were a couple times when I went, "I've got to get outside because it's so beautiful out and I have not walked, haven't moved," because a lot of the social time consisted of sitting around and drinking really sugary 87:00tea and eating.

WILSON: Did you gain weight?

GORTON: Oh yeah, oh yeah, which was kind of the opposite of what Peace Corps, you think of Peace Corps volunteers doing. But it was you know and it's rude to say no to tea or coffee. I mean you can't, you wouldn't want to offend your host or hostess. But I wasn't allowed to go in stores in my village. Older married women could but I would have to find a kid on the street, just grab a kid off the street and send them if I wanted something, send them to the store for me.

WILSON: I'm watching this and it's going to go off here so let's stop.

Tape two with Abby Gorton.

WILSON: Abby, let's finish talking a little bit more about your living situation. I just was asking you about water. How did you deal with drinking water? We talked about your shower but--

GORTON: Well, drinking water we boiled the drinking water and not--Some 88:00of the families thought that was a little bit odd because they drink just straight tap water. But it was not clean and my digest--you know, not safe to drink so I boiled all my drinking water. And it was delivered I think once a week. I know in my training village water came once a week and so the family, you had to parcel, you know, parcel out your water.

WILSON: So that water came?

GORTON: Was in a tank on the roof.

WILSON: Was put in a tank, okay.

GORTON: And most families either had wells or they had a tank on the roof. And so since I was living by myself I never really had a water problem running out, but some of the families I know in my host family we ran out of water a couple times sort of right before it was going to come. And so and there are certain days that you do washing and certain days that you take baths. And so to conserve and make sure you 89:00know you have enough water.

WILSON: Where would the water have come from?

GORTON: It's trucked in.

WILSON: It's trucked in from?

GORTON: Yeah from Irbid or--And some families had wells and so they kind of had unlimited and the well water was safe to drink and actually tasted pretty good.

WILSON: But if you went to somebody else's house like across the street, you were drinking tea so you were hoping it was boiled? And how did you deal with that?

GORTON: It was sort of boiled. I like to tell me self that it was sufficiently boiled and just kind of go with it. I mean I had giardia once when I was there, but I tried not to look too closely. I mean the other thing, not so much to do with water but when you were in a group, like there were several times when I would have a meal with 30 other people. And after dinner when you're served the Arabic coffee in these little cups there was one cup, and so if you were at the end of the line you drank after all 30 people. And I mean you get, and you can't 90:00say no because that would rude, and so you just I mean I just kind of-- Most people don't get sick there very often and so I figured oh heck I'm fine. I washed my hands, you know I tried to be cautious about what I drank and ate but you know.

WILSON: So in terms of health you were okay while you were there?

GORTON: I was pretty healthy. I didn't have, I never really--

WILSON: And what kinds of, we didn't talk about that I guess. What kinds of health things did they do in training?

GORTON: Well we had a--There's no malaria there, which is nice so I mean we just kind of went through the health book and did basic first aid kind of.

WILSON: But there weren't, you didn't have really any health concerns?

GORTON: No, just the basic normal you know travel sicknesses. So in that way I was really lucky to be in Jordan.

WILSON: Okay so let's think about a typical day and what you would do 91:00from sort of morning till night. Your job was?

GORTON: I was an English teacher.

WILSON: Okay, you were an English teacher.

GORTON: And I taught 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 7th grade and then I had a remedial 1st grade class of four students. They were so cute.

WILSON: Okay, so what was a typical day like?

GORTON: Morning assembly would begin at 7:45 at school.

WILSON: And before that you've eaten?

GORTON: Well before that I've eaten--

WILSON: You get up at?

GORTON: I get up at probably 6:30 or 6:45, listen to the BBC. That was the first thing I did was I turned my radio on every morning and every night.

WILSON: The BBC is important.

GORTON: And then I usually had oatmeal. Some mornings I would go have coffee with my neighbors, but most of the time I was running late to do that. So just grab a quick bite to eat and walk to school. Of course 92:00I didn't have to shower or anything so and morning assembly depending on--It was really interesting. Depending on the time of year we had morning assembly if the weather was nice. If we didn't, school starts at 8:00 so we wouldn't worry about the 7:45 thing. And I eventually learned that most of the teachers didn't even show up until 10 till or so, but that changed so it was kind of hard to gauge. Get to school, have morning assembly, teach classes.

WILSON: Now you had classes by yourself? I mean the kids were coming to you for English classes or you were going to their classes or how did that work?

GORTON: It varied. Each grade had their own classroom and so the teachers rotated between classes. I, sometimes I co-taught with one of the--There were two other English teachers at my school and Noor was fresh out of college so it was her first year of teaching. And 93:00then Rawan had been teaching for a while and she actually was getting ready to have a baby when I first arrived. So when she left to have a baby I took her classes. The, sometimes I co-taught, sometimes the teachers said, "Oh just go teach by yourself," and so I would go teach by myself. At the beginning I tried to lesson plan and really have every minute timed out, but depending upon which teacher was in charge of ringing the bell that day the class would be anywhere from 30 minutes to 50 minutes long. So I kind of just had in my head what materials I was supposed to be teaching for that day and kind of tried to cover as much as I could. The Ministry of Education was, their main goal was to get through the book. And so as an English teacher that was really frustrating to me because the kids weren't necessarily getting any of what I was saying but I had to finish that book. And if I didn't finish that book then that was the worst thing in the world. 94:00And so I tried to make, to do activities that were outside the book but there was so much material to cover. And you know classes would get cancelled some days, some days would be cleaning days, and I didn't really know what--I just kind of went in not expecting anything and tried to do the best I could and tried to prepare and--

WILSON: Had there ever been a Peace Corps person in this village before?

GORTON: No, I was the first volunteer in my village.

WILSON: And was, were all of you teaching English in elementary schools, in primary schools?

GORTON: Some people taught in high schools. There were no college teachers teaching.

WILSON: Right, and there wasn't--The idea was to teach English. Was the idea also to maybe be a model for English teachers that were in the schools? I mean was there anything else there?

GORTON: I think so. I think my job description and then what I ended up 95:00actually doing was very different, were different things. The teachers were extremely, they were kind of like, "Why are you here? What are you doing? We don't want anything to do with you," for the first few months, which was fine. I mean we kind of--I could kind of understand.

WILSON: That hadn't been part of--?

GORTON: They--None of--My principal lived in another village, a different village.

WILSON: Okay, so he's the one who had requested you?


WILSON: She requested you?

GORTON: I don't know who requested me because she wasn't principal when they requested a Peace Corps volunteer.

WILSON: Oh okay.

GORTON: Most volunteers had a counterpart.


GORTON: I didn't have a counterpart.

WILSON: At all.

GORTON: Right and the two--My principal and the biology teacher came to the conference for Peace Corps. Neither of them lived in my village so and neither of the English teachers I mean they had no idea what Peace Corps was, why I was there. And when I asked them to volunteer to be 96:00my counterpart they kind of went, "No, I'm not going to do that." You know kind of it was a challenge to--I didn't even try to teach what Peace Corps was about. I just tried to get along with the teachers because naturally they're--I was an outsider and I mean it's a very small community. So that was and of course and the other thing is that the principal gave me my own room as an English room to set up to you know they wanted me to set it up. And it was wonderful because I was able to have remedial classes in there and keep resources in there and so that was great. But you know the other teachers were like, "Why does she get a special? You know she's an American," and I mean there was a lot of--I mean by the end of, I was really proud because by the end of the semester we had exchanged cell phone numbers and we had texted each other for holidays and they wished me a merry Christmas and I wished them a happy Eid through text messaging. So it was like 97:00I was kind of starting to break into the fortress of that inner clique, which is really hard to do. But the other thing is that the teachers, I mean the workload it was really different than the way we do it here I think. And I've never taught in the US so I can't say how different it was but--

WILSON: Well you can compare it to China I suppose?

GORTON: My experience, well to China yeah. When I taught in China, well I think most teachers teach all the class periods that day. But in Jordan in my school there would be a class and then you'd have a break. You know there were like maybe three or four classes a day at the most, maybe even two. There was one day when I just had the first two periods of class and then the rest of the day I liked it because I could make visual aids and I could you know get stuff done. I don't like to sit around and waste time. And most of the day consisted of drinking tea and sitting around and wasting time and going to class ten minutes 98:00late and leaving class ten minutes early and it was very unstructured. And the principal didn't have, didn't want to or have a grip on the teachers or the students. And so that was frustrating to me because to my thinking you know I wanted to plan my lessons, know what I was doing, have my 45 minute class and get you know get things going, you have a routine. And the teachers they would switch my classes on me and not tell me until that class. And so that was for the students I mean I can't even imagine being a student there because you know there was no routine. Some days you'll have English this period and some days it will be you know switched, and so it was fairly unorganized. But and at the same time you know coming into the situation I couldn't just say, "You need to do this," because who am I to say that? You 99:00know and I'm not worried about, you know, I didn't have a husband or a father at home yelling at me and telling me you know. This was kind of in a way now that I look back at it kind of a way for them to socialize and to be in charge and have control over that situation.

WILSON: And they couldn't do that in other parts of their lives.

GORTON: Right, and the other thing is they were raised in a school system like that so it was normal. That was all normal and I had trouble.

WILSON: But in the other situations, the other volunteers you talked to who had counterparts, did they still have problems with the education?

GORTON: The organization.

WILSON: The organization.

GORTON: Yeah, yeah I mean the switching around and the disorganization I should say. And when the supervisors, the supervisors would come, excuse me, maybe once a month and they would just come in and just criticize, pick every little thing apart for the teachers. But then 100:00leave and not really I mean there was very little outside management happening. And I mean my principal I you know I, she had a really rough life too. I mean it's like all these things going on and you know so I had to kind of force myself to sit and drink tea because that was as important as getting the English stuff done.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GORTON: And so like eventually some of the teachers became interested because I was trying to get an adult English class going for the teachers. They wanted nothing to do with that. And then eventually like one of them was working on a master's degree and as I got to know them they would come to me with questions and we would have fun group learning discussions, but it was just a very slow process for getting into that group. And my landlord's wife was one of the teachers and 101:00she was very, I think she was threatened by an outsider coming in. And so I think she was really insecure and so she kind of made things you know she would, it was like I felt like I was in 8th grade or something. I mean it was you know talk about me and spread rumors and you know stupid vicious things that really made it difficult to actually do what I was there to do. And eventually though I kind of feel like I was in the community to just sort of be there to say hi and I don't think Peace Corps necessarily wanted me to teach English. I mean they wanted me to teach English but being in the community and getting to know the community was more important than, because a lot of teachers weren't even from the village. So just exposing that, and maybe future volunteers will have at least they'll have an idea of the village will have an idea of what an American's like and what you know 102:00how I teach so that might--It was kind of a groundbreaking kind of thing. I mean because all the teacher training we got was great but when we got into the schools it just wasn't real. I mean it was and it was so frustrating. I talked to one volunteer who had been there for, she was almost there for I guess a year. She had been there at least a year when I got there. She said, "Yeah now I only cry once a week at school," because I mean it's so stressful to have all these different. And then the form of discipline I think the thing that bothered me the most was that hitting and beating on students was the form of discipline. And so A) that was hard to watch, B) the kids didn't know any, didn't respond to anything else and I wasn't going to hit them. And so my classes were just, we couldn't get anything done especially with the 3rd graders. I had 27 3rd graders and it was a co-ed class and most of my time was spent trying to get people calmed down. And 103:00I made the mistake once of saying, "Oh I'm going to get the principal. You're going to have to go to the principal's office." And so we had the principal come up and she literally just beat these children. And I was like, "I'm never doing that again. I'll have a rowdy class and we won't get anything done," but you know. I mean and I guess the positive side to that is that a lot of the kids you can walk into the classroom and you know that those certain, you can see the kids that have been told, "You're stupid. You're slow. You're not anything," and they're just, they're tuned out. And there were a couple of my 7th grade girls that when I got were just completely tuned out. And they were kind of, I mean I talked to, I mean there were only--I only had 14 students in my 7th grade class so it was a great size class because I could engage each of the students. And you know these girls by the end 104:00of the semester, that first semester they were raising their hands and I wasn't--because I would call on them, I would make them you know they weren't used to being; they were used to being ignored. And so that was a really wonderful change to see and of course the older you know the older girls didn't need so much discipline so it was easier to actually teach English and you know easier to sort of zip through the activities that we had to do that were kind of pointless and do other things.

WILSON: And do things that you wanted to do.

GORTON: That would be more effective. And I found that a lot of the books were so far above the level of English that they were doing. And everything's geared toward this national exam to get into this college and so there's not. It's just kind of a disconnect with learning English and you know now they teach it from 1st grade up so that's going to be better. But they used to just teach it starting in 5th grade, and so my 7th graders had just learned from 5th grade and they had these books that were designed for somebody who had been 105:00learning English for--so I don't know, there were a lot of challenges with teaching.

WILSON: Okay, what--Let's go back to the typical day for a second. So you might teach anywhere from two to four classes?

GORTON: Wel, school's out at 2:00 unless they decide to shave off the 6th period. So sometimes it was out at 1:00 depending. And so after school everybody goes home to lunch and I kind of liked having. It was really sweet because on my way home everybody would, "Oh! Come in for tea! Come in for coffee! Come in for lunch!" and so sometimes I did stop for coffee or tea but not every day because often times I was just so kind of worn out from teaching or yelling or something. And so I would 106:00go home and have lunch and a lot of times people would bring me a plate of food or invite me to their home for lunch. And so I would sometimes do that and you know it varied. I did very little cooking for myself, which was really surprising because I don't mind that. But and so in the afternoon I generally did not visit in the afternoon. I kind of took that time to write, catch up on letters or read, sometimes watch a DVD, just kind of relax. And then around 4:00 that's when visiting would start. And that was just unbelievable. I mean you go from, and of course being a newcomer and a guest I got invited out more than--

WILSON: Other people?

GORTON: --other people because you know I didn't know everybody yet. And so I would literally just go kind of from house to house and drink tea and coffee and visit and you know. And then a lot of times in the 107:00evening I would end up at Hollah's house and just go in and hang out with her family. We would watch TV or you know so I worked with her six year old brother a lot with English. I had a couple workbooks that I brought from home that he liked to color. And so we would color and you know kind of do activities together. And then I would usually go home and they would always say, "Oh! It's so early. Why do you leave so early?" And I would leave at you know 9:00 or so and go home and either write in my journal or read or something and then go to bed. So I guess I usually went to bed around 10:30 or 11:00.

WILSON: And how often would you get into the bigger city where you had done your training?

GORTON: I went in--

WILSON: Maybe once a week or something?

GORTON: I went in once a week usually on Saturdays because those were fairly free days. We had Friday and Saturday off; that was our 108:00weekend. I started going in a little more frequently once I figured out the bus system because I knew the bus drivers and who would be actually running their buses on time. There was another volunteer who lived in the city who I got to watch her cat when she went out of town, which was really fun. But it wasn't really a bad trip in and back, but I had to be back before dark because well the buses stopped running. It would look bad for me to take a cab and probably be unsafe. I got to Amman maybe once a month to pickup my mail and just go into the Peace Corps office and just check in and see everybody.

WILSON: And then did you travel outside the country at all while you were there?

GORTON: I had a friend studying in Paris so I went to visit her.

WILSON: Oh nice.

GORTON: Which was really fun, it was a nice break.

WILSON: You did that at Christmastime or?


GORTON: I did that in January.

WILSON: January.

GORTON: Yeah and a little bit of February.

WILSON: That's good. What were your interactions with other Peace Corps volunteers like? Did you--I mean you talked about the person that lived in--

GORTON: Irbid.

WILSON: Irbid.

GORTON: Well she had been a volunteer in the Philippines. She was about 65; I think she was 65. And I had very limited interaction. A lot of the volunteers, I didn't find this out until Christmas at the Christmas party, I found out a lot of volunteers would go to Amman every weekend.

WILSON: Every weekend, uh-huh.

GORTON: And I was like, "Oh! Okay, that's why I don't know you guys as well as you know each other," but that's not. I mean that's not why I was there so I didn't really worry about that. There was another volunteer Suzanne who actually lived in my training village, and so I guess we would get together for lunch maybe once a week sometimes. 110:00And of course at the internet place you--Everybody, there aren't that many places to--There was kind of a circuit so you'd wind up seeing volunteers you know at the internet or at a certain restaurant or at a certain you know on the street and stuff. So I didn't have much. We had a holiday party for Christmas at the country director's house, so I saw all the volunteers then. And then we had a couple of training meetings where I saw them and others, and so but it was fairly limited. I mean just--

WILSON: You've told a lot about the culture I think, Abby, and that's nice and helpful to know. Are there any particularly memorable stories from your Peace Corps service that you want to tell that you haven't had a chance to tell?

GORTON: I think one of the best days I could have ever even imagined 111:00was well when I first arrived in Jordan you know there's olive trees everywhere. And so they weren't ripe yet. I kept asking people, "So when do you pick the olives? When is the olive season here?" just out of curiosity and it was a good conversation starter for new people. And some people gave different answers so it was fascinating. And finally it came to be the season to pick olives. And my neighbors, of course all of my neighbors picked and it was a long, you know it was a big job. There were lots of olives to be picked. And so one afternoon I came home from school and Hollah's family was out picking olives. And I was so excited! I ran home and changed clothes and got my camera and came back over and learned how to pick olives. And we spent several, a few hours picking that afternoon. And you know they were getting this tree done and then moving to the next tree and then you know. So that was a lot of fun. And then I was able to go. Hollah's 112:00mother's sister lived in another village, so I went with them. And we didn't actually go to pick olives but it turned out they were picking olives so I helped them. You know and it was just the interactions. I think those kind of interactions, I went to so many weddings and that was a lot of fun. Even though I didn't know very many people there it was such a festive time and actually the first wedding I went to in my village all the women were on one porch and the men were kind of over. And this guy, of course a lot of guns are shot you know up in the air and he shot a gun right next to where we were all sitting and all the women ducked and went, "Ahh!" and so it was kind of a funny you know bonding experience to have early on. I'm trying to think of good--I mean there was just so many wonderful things. You know I got to, sadly I went to some funerals and also the month of Ramadan I think was 113:00probably--I felt so lucky to be there and I fasted with everybody and then broke a fast. You can get up in the morning and eat at like 3:30 before the first call to prayer. And then you fast; you don't drink or eat all day until the sun was setting around 5:30 or 6:00 when I was there. And it's such a wonderful time and everybody's so excited and you eat that first date and then it's you know just a wonderful meal, a time to be together. And I ate at different, I ate at like 19 or 20 different houses during Ramadan.

WILSON: Oh my goodness, wow.

GORTON: And I never ate at my own home because it's bad to eat alone for Ramadan, so I was always out. But I always went to Hollah's house if I didn't have another invitation and sometimes just to take a break from socializing because it was really a lot. And ate in several different villages because people would say, "Oh! Come with me to 114:00visit my aunt in such and such village," so we would go you know take the bus however many miles away. And so that was, I mean Ramadan was just a fabulous way to know people and you know. Strangers who you know no introduction needed they would invite me over to dinner or you know, and those were some of the times when there would be like the women would get together and there would be 30 women of all different generations you know eating mansef, which is a traditional dish of chicken and rice and kind of a yogurt sauce. And that was just, it was fascinating to see that interaction. And you know the veils come off and the hijabs come off and it's a party, so that was a lot of fun.

WILSON: How did religion influence what happened in other ways besides Ramadan? I mean you were talking about relations between men and women, 115:00you talked about how you, the kind of clothes you wore, but as a woman and as an American woman, what about the prayers five times a day or other kinds of things that I guess we think of that are manifestations of Islam, practices of Islam?

GORTON: It was surprising to me how well the prayer times just fit. I mean it's just so it's built around; the day is built around prayers. So it's not unusual to be driving along and see a police officer praying on the side of the road or you know I would--Sitting in someone's living room and they would say, "Oh I'm going to pray," and they'd stand in the corner and they'd do their prayers. And at first that was a little bit I thought, "Oh well should I leave or should I say?" you know. And it was just part of life and so it didn't really 116:00disrupt, it didn't disrupt daily activities in any way. And you know people, the men didn't have to go to mosque every time, which I was surprised. I didn't really know how that all worked and--

WILSON: Did the women go to the mosque at all?

GORTON: One time they brought in a speaker for the women in the village and they were allowed to go to the mosque, but no, they prayed at home. The other thing that I was surprised about was how much culture influenced their religion because there were a lot or things that weren't, that were cultural that were not religious but that were part, but that were kind of under that guise of religion. Well, that's how we do it kind of thing. And one thing that I thought was fascinating was the covering because there's such a wide range of reasons that women 117:00cover their heads or their whole faces. And I kind of thought well it's all religious, but it's not. And so I had several conversations with women who growing up they didn't cover but then they decided that they were in a place in their faith that they wanted to, and so that was their choice to wear the hijab and for religious reasons. There were a lot of women who just grew up wearing it. There were some women whose fathers or husbands when they got married said you have to wear it. There were some women who wore, like a few teachers at my school wore the full burka with the eyes, even the eyes, there were eye slits.

WILSON: To teaching?

GORTON: Well, they would take it off in the class.

WILSON: In the class? Okay, okay, but to come to school.

GORTON: But yeah and anywhere else outside they were covered. And in 118:00talking to several people about that, there are different reasons. Some of the women were so beautiful and I think their husbands wanted them to cover. Some it was just because that's the way their family did it, and some of it was economic because you don't have to worry about your hair or your makeup or your clothing if you're wearing all black. And so a lot of university students who were not very wealthy would do it for economic reasons.

WILSON: Oh that's interesting.

GORTON: Some of it was for respect. I mean you get more respect the more you cover from men, and so that was kind of a safety about it. It's fascinating.

WILSON: That's real interesting. But you never wore it?

GORTON: I--My host parents in my training village were constantly trying to get me to wear hijab so I did one day and it actually happened to be the day Cassie and Amy, the other two volunteers, did too because that was like the most exciting thing for the host families. And we kind of debated it and we said, "Well is that disrespectful or is that being respectful?" And so you know we'll try it for a day and we actually got rocks thrown at us. And not for that reason but we were like, "Well 119:00we're not doing this again," you know.

WILSON: If the rocks are going to be thrown at us this is not good. So why did you decide to come home?

GORTON: I think it was a combination of things. The Peace Corps offered to change my housing situation to another place in the village, but that I think would have offended more people than it would have--it probably would have made things worse with my landlord's family, and it would have meant I would have had to get into a whole new--I mean the neighborhoods are very close. And getting accepted and being a part of that neighborhood is a very big deal, and I think I would have offended my neighbors big time. And also when I--

WILSON: And you were really close to the neighbors across the street?

GORTON: And I was very close to across the street and down you know like on the other side.

WILSON: So the Peace Corps had come in and things were okay for a while and then?

GORTON: They were never really okay.


WILSON: They were never really okay? Okay.

GORTON: But they had stopped. It got to the point where I would come back from Irbid or come back from Amman I would just get so upset about having to go to my house because this brother in the front of my house he was just obnoxious, creepy, and doing things just pushing the limit. And I couldn't say, "You're doing this and it's inappropriate," but like knowing it and plus when I did the night before I left actually he came over and directly attacked, I mean directly confronted me and was yelling at me and really, really nasty. So I think if I had stayed and moved houses I don't know if my safety would have been okay.

WILSON: Wouldn't have helped, yeah, yeah, right.

GORTON: Because he was pretty mean but--

WILSON: So did Peace Corps offer to move you to another village?

GORTON: No, and I'm not sure that I would have. I don't know. I mean 121:00I had been there for five months in my village and the teaching thing, the teaching thing was really hard too. Just the kids--

WILSON: So that was part of it as well?

GORTON: That was part of it. My brother's in Iraq and my parents; I didn't realize how worried my mom was because they never, they would never say, "We want you to come home!" They never said that but when I got home I realized that it was a really good thing just for her sanity you know I came home. And I think I don't know bird flu and there's a million, it just didn't quite work. And the support, the Peace Corps staff I think was well intentioned but the support the Jordanian staff gave was--I don't know how. It wasn't very helpful. It didn't, it was just kind of different. And the attitude, sort of the--Janet, who was the volunteer in the Philippines who's in her 60s, I mean she's having 122:00a rough time too. I think I mean I was the 10th person to leave from my group.


GORTON: And there's about a 50% rate of, and I know a lot of people who were planning to leave in the summer but they stayed for a year because the benefits were better if you stay for year, but I wasn't willing to sacrifice. I mean sanity and you know health are much better than you know.


GORTON: So there were several reasons. I mean I think it's a really difficult program to run and I think politically it's probably important and it's good to have a show of volunteers there, but I don't know that single women should be placed in a village by themselves.

WILSON: Right.

GORTON: I think that's--

WILSON: And had they done that before?

GORTON: Oh yeah.

WILSON: And they've had a 50% attrition rate on a regular basis, is that right? Did you all know that going in?

GORTON: No. Well, coming in it was really interesting because coming in the lady I spoke to who actually called to say, "Would you like to come to Peace Corps Jordan? Oh but wait, there's some things you need to 123:00know." And she said, "You won't be able to drink and you won't be able to have male visitors in your house," and I said that's fine. I mean you know.

WILSON: Yeah you don't need that, right.

GORTON: That's fine, but if she had told me I wouldn't be able to walk outside, I wouldn't be able to go in stores, and I wouldn't be--I would need to be so on guard for any little miss--And there are some dynamics that are just really hard to explain there. And she told me about the clothing and I was fine with the clothing and stuff like that. But I mean maybe if they put two female volunteers together in a village or you know. It's just a really difficult place to have Peace Corps volunteers. And the teachers aren't really going to teach, they're going to be present because all the education system, all administrative education wants is to get through the book. That's the goal.

WILSON: Yeah and you're not there in a teacher training situation and you didn't have a counterpart either.


GORTON: Right, which and I, when I brought that up it was sort of like, "Oh somebody will fill that role naturally." But it's really, I think it's really comforting to go into a situation with somebody that knows about Peace Corps and knows about, has been a little bit trained and is excited for you to be there. I mean I don't even know, I mean my village I think overall was very supportive. But there wasn't really, and they were very sweet and hospitable in many ways but there wasn't someone going, "We wanted--You know here's why we asked for you."

WILSON: We asked for you.

GORTON: And it was kind of like so I mean--

WILSON: Did you get a chance to talk about your concerns or suggestions before you left like maybe having two volunteers in a village or whatever?

GORTON: There was an exit interview but basically she said, "Oh well we've heard all this before. You're just one of--"

WILSON: The third that's leaving or the half that's leaving.

GORTON: So I don't know that it was very effective, but I do feel like I 125:00made--I at least got Hollah thinking about things. I know that. And I got some, I'll never--I don't know but I don't think, I think it needs to be advertised differently or changed somehow because the Peace Corps the way it's structured is just not effective there. I mean they're--

WILSON: Well yeah and what you were just starting to say. That's really the next question. So what do you think your impact was during the time you were there and what do you think the impact of the experience was on you?

GORTON: I think I mean I was--I hope that they put, well I don't know that I hope that they put another. I hope they put another volunteer there, not with that landlord's family. But the women in the community were excited about learning English. They were excited about learning about, I was going to teach an exercise class. We had in the spring we had kind of set that up to go, and so I think there's a lot of 126:00potential. I think the people, the women especially are very excited about getting out and doing things. And I feel like--

WILSON: And you thought you got Hollah thinking?

GORTON: I know I got her family thinking too, and I think I made a difference with Senat, her younger brother. And I think--

WILSON: Are you still in touch with them?

GORTON: I am, yeah. I've called them a couple of times and they've actually called me too.


GORTON: So it's a good relationship. I left on a good note with everybody and I just kind of forgot about the landlord's family. I think with the kids at school you know there were a couple girls; I don't know what kind of an impact I made. But the kids that got ignored I think really enjoyed being acknowledged and "Good job" and that kind of thing. And so I hope that they felt--

WILSON: Maybe some of the 7th grade girls?

GORTON: Yeah some of the 7th grade and the other kids that kind of get picked on and stuff like that, so I don't know. I mean I don't know 127:00what impact--I think Peace Corps, and I think going into Peace Corps I knew that you can't really define that or measure it because you never know.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, and what about the impact on you? I mean it's early but--

GORTON: It's early, I don't--

WILSON: You've been home for?

GORTON: About a month, a little over a month.


GORTON: I mean it was interesting. I don't know that I've--It was very stressful and so I think I'm not quite ready--

WILSON: To think about that?


WILSON: What was it, as you look back at least at this point, was it not really what you thought it was going to be?

GORTON: I don't--Well I think in some ways it was--

WILSON: And part of that maybe because it was Jordan but you know--

GORTON: Well in some ways it was very much what I thought it was going to be.

WILSON: I expected to have a lot of time by myself and you know away 128:00from communications and things like that. I think that the women's situation was way worse than I thought it would be. And the fact that there was a known rapist outside my house every day, and that girl is now you know in some other village, has ruined her chance of--That was really stressful to just think about what, you know the way that society treats--And it's just different, and I know that probably some of that goes on here and it's just that I've never been kind of directly confronted with that, and there's nothing I can do about any of the things--You know I found out one of the English teachers who was my good friend actually who just had a baby, her husband was the sheik of the village, which is the village's kind of religious leader. And I found out that he beats her. I mean what do you do with that 129:00information? I mean it was like there were all these things and it was like I couldn't do anything about and so it was like just kind of a very--And I mean you know it was stressful to get on a bus and be the only woman and know that I had to go do things, but having to--It was just a lot of stressful interaction with people. I mean there was one time when I just got off the bus in the middle of nowhere and walked because it was so scary being on this bus with these guys kind of fighting with each other and you know not knowing what they do to me and you know. So stuff like that just kind of after a while kind of wears you, you know wears you down and you kind of go, "Well I could be much more productive or happier or you know--"

WILSON: Doing something else.

GORTON: Doing something else and you know.

WILSON: I think it is interesting that they, and I gather that was 130:00true for all of you that they put you one person, one woman by herself because they didn't do that at all at the beginning of Peace Corps. So they always put two women together.

GORTON: Oh really?

WILSON: Yeah they didn't leave people. In fact in our time they put, always put two people together.

GORTON: I think that would be an interesting--

WILSON: That's interesting, but apparently they don't do that now. I know that you're just back, but what are you thinking about doing next?

GORTON: Well I'm actually running--My mom's running for office and so I'm managing her campaign. It actually worked out well and she kind of drafted me, which was good.

WILSON: Absolutely.

GORTON: I'm working, also working at a public relations firm part time, and so I think I'll be here in Lexington until November and probably after the primaries start looking in earnest for a real job. I've 131:00thought about international development. I kind of hadn't plan to think about this for like another year so I'm kind of in that thinking phase right now. I'm not sure.

WILSON: Is Foreign Service still a possibility?

GORTON: I'm going to take the written exam on Saturday. And so I did an internship in the consulate so I kind of got an idea of what it would be like and I might like to do that, but I wouldn't be--It's not sort of my goal. It's something if that worked out then I would think that's what would be meant to be, but it's not something that I'm really intent on doing.

WILSON: Would you ever go back to the Middle East?

GORTON: I might. I mean I think it's in many ways it's wonderful. I would not live by myself in a small conservative Muslim village for sure, absolutely. But I mean Amman is a wonderful city and the people in the village I mean I loved overall. I mean there are, if I wasn't 132:00living there it would be really fascinating. But if you didn't live there, you wouldn't get into the meeting people, so it's kind of a dual--It's different. I really know, I know Jordan's supposed to be more open than some other places. So I don't know that I would go anywhere else in the Middle East, but I'd like to travel there for sure. And if I, you know if I got stationed there as a Foreign Service officer I think it would be interesting.

WILSON: So the last question here, well no there are two more questions here actually. What has the impact of Peace Corps, specifically being in Jordan, been on the way you think about the world and what's going on now? And I guess I would amend that question to say particularly in terms of the Middle East and our understanding of the Middle East and 133:00foreign policy and the war and all of that--

GORTON: It's fascinating to--The culture, I think it's, it comes down--I mean a lot of it, so much of it is just cultural. I mean there are, I have heard this argument. I have made you know argued with people about it I mean in a good way. But religion I mean there's not, there's not a lot of--I can understand why it's so hard to come up with a compromise or peace in that area because there is no bending. It is very difficult to change sort of the religious. I mean it's very-- religion is deeply embedded and the culture is very--I'm trying to think 134:00how to say this right. There's no room for compromise; there's no room for cooperation I guess. And that was interesting to see.

WILSON: And so when you think about Iraq and Iran?

GORTON: I think about Iraq and Iran, and I think about Iran and I think I would like to think that diplomacy is the way to do things. And I think it is; I mean I personally believe it is. But you know here I talked to my brother. He calls about once a week and he actually called me in Jordan too and it's just different--it's not, you know you can't force your way of life on people that don't want it. And that I think in Iraq especially I mean we're trying to put this system in that is not necessarily what people want and it's not. I mean I don't know. I mean I hope there's some resolution and that eventually there 135:00can be peace. But the other thing too is that Christians and Jews and Muslims have been living over there for thousands of years and have had conflicts and also had times of peace. And so when you draw official boundaries and you--you know I mean it's a very tribal, it's just a different world and you know, I don't know. I'm probably, I understand some things better now and I am completely confused about other things.

WILSON: Well sometimes that's what happens, right? What, and we've gotten into this a little bit earlier Abby but let's finish off with this. What do you think the role of the Peace Corps ought to be today based on your experience in Jordan?

GORTON: I can, in talking to people that have volunteered I mean I have a friend right now who's in Africa.


WILSON: Where? What country?

GORTON: She is in--I want to say Zimbabwe?

WILSON: Zambia maybe?

GORTON: Zambia, maybe in Zambia.

WILSON: We're not in Zimbabwe.

GORTON: But I mean like I got an email from her and she's doing a project working with AIDS. And it's a very concrete project and she's getting, you know, kind of able to make a difference. I felt like in Jordan it's a fairly developed country. There aren't a lot of health issues and it's more political, I guess. And that's okay, but I'm not sure the people of Jordan want Peace Corps there. I would say they probably don't just from my experience and maybe find it a little insulting in some cases. I mean I do think the one, the individual grassroots effort is very--I still believe that's the best way. So I 137:00don't know, I mean I think it depends on the country and the, you know, I think probably it's evolved. Peace Corps has evolved with the times, so I mean I can't comment on other countries. But I think Peace Corps Jordan definitely needs re-looked at and probably re-structured and.

WILSON: Is there anything else you want to say? Is there a question you want to answer that I haven't asked?

GORTON: I don't think of any. I think we've talked a lot.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, well thank you.

[End of interview.]

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