0:00

WILSON: This is Angene Wilson on May the eighth, 2006. I'm interviewing for the Peace Corps Oral History Project. What is your full name?

BAZELL: My full name is Dianne Marie Bazell.

WILSON: And where and when were you born?

BAZELL: I was born in Chicago, Illinois, May 6, 1953.

WILSON: And can you tell me something about your family and something about growing up? Was there anything in your growing up that you think might have led to or that related to joining the Peace Corps?

BAZELL: I wasn't expecting that one. I was thinking more immediate things I can talk about, immediate influence. But I think I always felt, I saw myself as a citizen of the world, from the time I was very, very young. And wouldn't have been able even to articulate that. But I was always interested in international things. One of 1:00my closest friends in high school was Greek. We would go to her house and her yaya would bake and cook and I remember bringing back, always having feta cheese in my mother's refrigerator. It would drive her crazy. So I was just interested in many, many cultures and many, many things. And different ways of doing a thing. And I think when I got to college, I was, my roommate, I went to Bowdoin College in Brunswick Maine. My roommate was one of the very few African American students there. And within about two weeks, she began dating one of three Ethiopian students on that campus. They were all soccer players. And 2:00they knew each other back home. Well, because of that, all the African students knew each other on this small Maine campus.

WILSON: How big was that?

BAZELL: I think at the time it was about eighteen hundred students. Within a year, one could always recognize everyone by face, if not by name. So I knew all the Africans on campus. I knew a Zairean, I knew a couple of Nigerians. Just because they would either visit our room, or I would see them . So I was interested in Africa. And to me, again, it was a foreign place. I really didn't see them as being anything other, more exotic than perhaps any European student. We had German exchange students, we had all kinds of students. So I didn't appreciate until I got there, which I wasn't thinking about at the time, but I didn't appreciate what kind of a cultural leap that these students had made by coming here. And by living in Maine and all of 3:00that. I came to appreciate, also, I knew all the African American students there, and I knew there were distinctions among them. I started understanding some of the political, cultural dynamics among those students. But I remember, I expected, I had been told for years that I was going to go into law. I expected to go to law school when I graduated. I majored in religion and philosophy. I was used to thinking about systems of meaning and ideas and all that. And I could write. But I knew I couldn't go right on to graduate school. And I thought, to think about what I could do with my life that would make sense rather than just getting a job and putting off graduate school. I had heard about the Peace Corps. I knew about it from some of those 4:00students. I knew about it from other students. And I said well, I didn't want to go overseas and just go to England or France. I think I said this to you the other evening. I wanted to see the world through a set of cultural lenses other than ones that would be very familiar to me. So I asked, as you know, you couldn't select your country, but I asked to go to an African country. And I asked to go to a French speaking African country because I was already, I wouldn't say fluent, but I was already--

WILSON: But you had French?

BAZELL: I had had French. I'd studied French. So I ended up being, finding that I was slotted to go to Zaire, which my stepfather pronounced as Zare. (laughs) At the store, "Oh, Dianne's going to Zare." (laughs) And his idea was that if I wanted to go to law school, why didn't I just become a legal secretary and see what life in the law firm would be like. And I couldn't think of anything more deadly. So, not that there's anything wrong with being a legal secretary. (laughs) But I really wanted to see the world. And I remember even as 5:00a freshman reading in American literature course, we were reading Moby Dick, I mean reading Herman Melville's Typee. And I was weeping in the library, thinking I didn't want to be reading this, I wanted to be on a whaling expedition. (laughs) I knew that I had to go someplace and see things very soon. That's a long winded answer.

WILSON: No, it's fine. What about earlier in school? I mean, you said you felt like a citizen of the world from the time you were small. Are there other examples of things you did as a kid? Or as a high school student?

BAZELL: I never went overseas.

WILSON: But just in terms of learning, or of being interested. You mentioned the Greek friend.

BAZELL: Mm hmm. My friend, yeah, Leah.

WILSON: What about your family? Was your family interested in--

BAZELL: Well, I can't say that they were, particularly. But when I 6:00think about the people, I'm of a certain generation. I'm, what is that that makes me, most of my grandparents came from Europe. My mother's father came over, an immigrant from Holland. My mother's mother came from a farm in Illinois, but her parents were Dutch. It was a very typical story. No money, no English, they came over and then worked to have their other siblings and parents comes over.

WILSON: So you knew, you knew about that.

BAZELL: So on that side of my family, I knew that. On my father's side, his parents had come over from Lithuania. They were Lithuanian Jews from just outside Vilnius. His father was a rabbi. I never knew them, those parents. But I probably had, I think even when I think about who I am and the people I feel most comfortable with. Not the people 7:00who I think are better people in the world, but the people I don't have to explain reality to. They're third generation Americans whose ancestors, whose grandparents came over from either Europe or Eastern Europe. Their grandparents spoke with an accent and cooked with an accent. And those of us, I don't have to explain life to them. And my friends in college who were, I could understand, we could mock in the same way, we could make fun of certain accents in the same way. Our grandmothers, or people we knew in our family spoke in a certain way. It was just the oddest use of syntax. We all knew what we, I could know what they were talking about, and they, me. So perhaps that sense of newcomerhood made me appreciate, I never had a sense of being, 8:00although I always had a sense of being American. When I went overseas, I always understood myself as being an American. I didn't try to be anything else. But I also understood the sense of being other.

WILSON: When did you graduate from college?

BAZELL: 1975.

WILSON: 1975. Okay. So right after, when did you apply to Peace Corps?

BAZELL: My senior year.

WILSON: Your senior year. Okay. But you had heard about it in college? Did you hear about it before that?

BAZELL: When I was a young child. I think we had a, when I was maybe twelve or so, we had a college student take care of us in our family, who came to stay with us one summer. And she ended up going into the Peace Corps in I don't know where. In some Latin American country. My 9:00mother had contempt for that. She thought that this was just stupid. My parents did not appreciate this move and this decision. (laughs) To such an extent that I, you know, and it's funny. It wasn't until many years after my return that I even put it on my resume, because I thought it was irrelevant to, you know, I thought well that was something I did for myself, and that was something I did-- but within the context of my family, and no personal friend of mine had ever done it.

WILSON: Had ever gone.

BAZELL: No.

WILSON: And nobody at college?

BAZELL: I think there was another person whom I didn't know very well who ended up going to Nepal, but I didn't know her very well. This was not something that was commonly done. In my family, this was just Dianne going on. (laughs) A strange adventure and expedition.

WILSON: And there was not a lot of, was there interest or learning by them afterwards?

10:00

BAZELL: From my family? Not really. No. My mother's biggest interest when I came back and they picked me up at the airport was showing me the Water Tower Place, and that had just been built in Chicago. And there was a big argument about where we were going to park. And I just watched this in the family. This was completely irrelevant. When I would hear, for example, other people in the Peace Corps whose families would visit, I just couldn't think of anything more impossible or out of my reality.

WILSON: That wouldn't have happened.

BAZELL: Never ----------(??). It would never have happened.

WILSON: And so even when you came back, there were not, people didn't talk about what value this might have or other things in terms of a career or something like that.

BAZELL: No.

WILSON: No. Within the Peace Corps or--

BAZELL: No. Certainly not in my family. When I was placed in Zaire, once we went, this was a period when we were trained in country, 11:00but we were processed initially out here. So we were processed in Philadelphia. And then we went over to, in our case, to Bukavu in Kivu province. And we were told that we wouldn't have a choice, again, of where we would be placed. But one of the people who was working there was at a particular place. And I thought that that was a pretty good place. And I also wanted to be, I thought it would be smart to situate myself in a Swahili speaking area, because if I chose to go to international law or any international relations, I'd get the Swahili--

WILSON: Oh, okay. So you did think about that.

BAZELL: Oh, yeah. I really, I was really thinking about that. And whether it would be international law or international policy or economics or anything like that, that that would be a good thing to do. As much planning as I could, not knowing what I was going to be doing. But at least it would get another language under my belt. Which I did. I got Teach Yourself Swahili, and I brought that with 12:00me. I can't say that I mastered Swahili. I was able to bargain in the market. I had marketplace level Swahili by the time I left. I could say, "This is way too expensive for a green pepper." (laughs) I couldn't tell you how to do that now. But at the time, I could.

WILSON: You could. You could. So you applied to the Peace Corps as a senior. And how, what was the process like in terms of how long it took for them to accept you? What do you remember about the process in terms of medical stuff and FBI checks and all those good kinds of things?

BAZELL: (laughs) I forgot about that. We were tested, and I had, apparently my wisdom teeth had not come in, or they'd all sort of come in but I had one doctor, I remember going through the exam, and I was perfectly healthy. But they said they wanted me to pull all my wisdom teeth out. And I said, I'm not doing that. I was one of these, 13:00you know, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. I wish I had done it at the time. I had to do it many, many years later. It was relatively nothing.

WILSON: But Peace Corps did not force you to do it?

BAZELL: Well, they were going to. And I put up a fuss.

WILSON: Because they did for lots of people.

BAZELL: I know. They eventually didn't. I said look-- they were worried about infected teeth. Nothing ever happened there. And that was it. But that was an issue, I do remember that. I'm trying to think of what else. Oh, I had a mole removed, a birthmark on my foot. I mean, I went over things, doctors looked me over in ways that they hadn't previously quite looked me over, and so I had that. But I was really quite healthy. (laughs) And there was no, I don't remember any difficulties in the process.

WILSON: And so when did you leave for Peace Corps?

BAZELL: I left in July of '75 and returned in July or August or whatever of '77.

14:00

WILSON: So that was a fairly quick process right after--

BAZELL: Very quick. And I remember one of the essays, you're supposed to get a letter from people who knew you best. And I had one of my, well, someone who knew you and someone who knew you best. Most people had their mother, there was no way on earth I was going to have my mother write a letter for me for this because she had no idea what I was doing. So I had a friend write it for me. And then I also had my roommate, who has really opened the door for this, certainly unknowingly. And she ended up marrying this Ethiopian student.

WILSON: Oh, really? Oh, okay.

BAZELL: So I visited them. I mean, she married him, they didn't get married in college. He was two years ahead of her. But they both went on to graduate school in different places, ended up in Washington, DC. And she was exploring, too, in her own way. She had grown up in, what town in Maine. Gardiner, Maine. And for her junior year abroad, she 15:00went to Washington, DC to see other African Americans in this country. That was very interesting. That was her adventure. But we stayed together for two years, and then, but she was still--

WILSON: Someone that you could have write a letter?

BAZELL: Absolutely.

WILSON: So you went to Philadelphia. You were there a couple of days.

BAZELL: They tried madly to dissuade us. You know, do you really, don't go now, this could be your-- (laughs)

WILSON: And how many of you were there?

BAZELL: I have no idea. I don't know. A hundred and fifty or two hundred people.

WILSON: That's a lot.

BAZELL: Yeah. A number of people that filled what I now recall, I hadn't thought about this for thirty years, I guess, a ballroom. And they talked about culture shock. And I really didn't know. They kept saying, "This is what you do, look for familiar things. If you like drinking tea." I ended up drinking so much tea, it's amazing I didn't float away. But that also had other effects. Sort of elementary 16:00effects that were very good, in the circumstances in which I had found myself. But they talked about how it was going to be very difficult, and if we had any qualms, go now. And I remember thinking gee, am I making the right decision?

WILSON: And were there people who left at that time? Do you remember?

BAZELL: You know, I don't remember. There were people who left during what they called stage in Bukavu. There were people who dropped out there, which is what they were trying to avoid.

WILSON: Right. Right.

BAZELL: But I remember--

WILSON: Was the entire group doing the same thing? What were your programs, what were you being programmed to do?

BAZELL: I think we were just all in these plenary sessions, I believe, as I recall. And I haven't even thought about this, I don't think I took any notes at the time.

WILSON: But were you, were the jobs all going to be the same?

BAZELL: Oh, no, I thought you meant, sorry. No. I was going in, really, to do the only thing that a humanities trained person could do, which was teach English as a foreign language. But there were others who were going in for agriculture, and others that were going in for, I 17:00mean, agriculture--

WILSON: So there was a variety.

BAZELL: There was a variety of things. I think a lot of people were going for TEFL teaching.

WILSON: Okay. And there were already volunteers in the country?

BAZELL: Oh, yeah.

WILSON: Yes. So you were--

BAZELL: I was not a first timer there.

WILSON: Right. And you were not a first timer where you ended up.

BAZELL: No, I wasn't. I was filling a place for someone who had left. And my coworker was spending her second year there my first year. And she reupped for a third year. And then they closed the program at our school. And there were other volunteers who came in in '77, but shortly after that they closed the program in the country because it was dangerous. This is getting into the next part of it, but there was a war going on each year I was there. One was, they weren't able to go back.

WILSON: And do you remember how long the Peace Corps had been in Zaire 18:00at that point?

BAZELL: No, I don't.

WILSON: When, I don't know when it started in Zaire. So, you arrived. What do you remember about arriving in Zaire?

BAZELL: The smell. The smells and colors. The odors and color. You could smell red earth and the odor of the soil, more than anything else. I can smell African grass, you know what I'm talking about? I can be around it and have exactly, have that recognition. I remember walking in our area, there was a place to walk, and being amazed by the varieties of green there. There was quinine, there were bananas, there were palms, oil palm trees. There were so many different kinds of green, with a backdrop of this very, very red soil. And it was a beautiful, beautiful surrounding. Later, reading the papers twenty, 19:00twenty-five years later, that was the place of the slaughter of the Rwandans. And I know exactly, the soldiers housed at the school, little school where I trained.

WILSON: Oh my goodness.

BAZELL: It was, I think it was a boys' school. The bedroom partitions didn't go quite up to the ceiling. It was a crazy place for adults to be cooped up for two months, but there we were. But it was a beautiful setting.

WILSON: And you flew from Philadelphia to where to get that, do you remember?

BAZELL: Yeah. We flew from Philadelphia to JFK, I believe, and then from JFK to, I think, I've lost my geography, to Dakar. Stopped in Accra, and stopped in Kinshasa. And then I think we switched planes, 20:00probably, at Kinshasa. We were on Pan Am. That existed. (laughs) That's a dating point.

WILSON: A lot of us remember Pan Am.

BAZELL: And I remember looking at the food and thinking I don't want to eat this. The meat was tainted, and a lot of people got sick on the flight.

WILSON: Oh, really?

BAZELL: It was a seventeen-hour plane flight into Kinshasa.

WILSON: Oh, dear.

BAZELL: And I didn't eat the meat. And then we flew Air Zaire, which you heard me say the other night was sometimes called, which I didn't know at the time, Air Surpris, or Air Peut Etre, it was so irregular. Maybe you get there, maybe you don't. And there was a funny story I'll tell later, when we were going to our post. But I do remember those flights. I remember about seventeen hours. I remember that my suitcase was, they had told us, the things they told us to bring. Bring spices. I brought, for some reason, a lot of chili powder. And I brought a lot of shampoo. Well, the shampoo burst in the suitcase. 21:00So I had a suitcase full of shampoo, Flex shampoo, and chili powder all over everything. (laughs) Two years later, I mean, I got over it. But it was really a complete, you can't imagine. I think you know, within the country, I think between Philadelphia and the Pan Am flight to, I guess it was Northwest Airlines, why it was up there, I don't know. But I remember thinking how could you destroy plastic and metal containers? But anyway, that's an aside.

WILSON: You remember that.

BAZELL: I do remember that.

WILSON: So you arrived in training. And what you're saying is that you were training at a school in the same place where the Rwandans, well, it's Kivu province, right?

BAZELL: Yes. Right. In Bukavu.

WILSON: In Bukavu. Okay. And what was--

22:00

BAZELL: And the name of the school, I should have looked it up.

WILSON: No, that's, but what, so what was training like for two months? You already had French.

BAZELL: I had French, but we were still taking more French.

WILSON: Taking French, okay.

BAZELL: We were taking French, we were taking pedagogical, how to teach English as a foreign language. And that was pretty much what it was like. And then there would be social occasions that are kind of a blur for me. But it was, we would have parties and expeditions. I remember one in particular, one expedition we had to, let's see. Mount Kahuzi, I think it was. It was Virunga National Park, with the gorillas there. It was a national preserve. And we climbed the volcanic mountain there, which it was bamboo. So it was like climbing a ladder, it was so steep. But we, they'd take us out and explore different areas. And I remember swimming in Lake Kivu. That was one of the things, it was a, we were told there were snakes at the bottom of the lake. But we 23:00were told if we just didn't swim to the bottom, we'd be just fine. And our, oh, Willard, what was his name? The director. I want to go back to think about him. He was swimming in it, so I figured I would swim in it. And I remember hearing that our director had swam across that particular finger of the lake. So by golly, I was going to swim across that. And I did.

WILSON: And you did.

BAZELL: And I did. So--

WILSON: And you didn't get bit by a snake.

BAZELL: I didn't get bit by a snake. (laughs) And I walked around everywhere. We didn't, you know, we didn't have a whole lot of free time there.

WILSON: You were studying most of the time. Were there cultural studies, too?

BAZELL: There were cultural, I think there were cultural studies. There were Zaireans who explained things. Yes, it was led much more by Zaireans than by Americans. And we had our various classes. And part of the methodology of doing the French was to study how you would teach a foreign language to someone in that foreign language.

WILSON: Were you learning any of the languages of Zaire itself?

24:00

BAZELL: I didn't there. I didn't learn any Swahili until I got to my post. And I didn't know--

WILSON: And it would have been different languages depending on where people were going.

BAZELL: It would have been somewhat different dialect, you know.

WILSON: Not everybody would have been going someplace with Swahili.

BAZELL: No. No. In fact, most wouldn't be. I ended up in Shaba Province. But a lot of people went to Lingala and Tshiluba, and Tshiluba speaking areas. And you know, one of the things I learned, well, the national language is French. But typical of colonized, previously colonized countries, no one part wants another section to have linguistic supremacy. So everyone holds their own language. And they would much prefer to have the colonial language be the national language. And that was how things were. So it was more, it was most important for everyone to learn French.

25:00

WILSON: And so after these two months, then you were told where you were going to be posted. And they decided that. I mean, the Peace Corps decided.

BAZELL: They did. I asked, because I knew one of the trainers there, people working there, who said, "There's a post opening where I am." So I asked to be sent there, because it sounded as if I would be with someone. It wouldn't be completely out in the middle of, well, it was out in the middle of nowhere. But it was a relatively, the big draw was that there was running water. And I thought well, okay, you know, that sounds good enough to me. And that, it sounded as if it was an interesting place. It was run by, well, it wasn't exactly run, one of the interesting things, actually in education you'll find almost the world over, there was a big debate about the quality of education 26:00there. And the missionary school, it was a Catholic missionary school started by, started by a man a the school, a memorial for his wife. It had been a copper mine. The whole place had been a copper mine, and the houses that we all lived in. We lived next door to the village teacher, who had the honor of living in one of these houses. And then the rest of the faculty, the teachers in the school, this was a junior, well, actually it was a K-12, a K-12 school. And the primary teachers all were girls who, all young women who lived in kind of in one or two houses. And then there were the other teachers who taught for the junior and secondary school and senior high school, they were all the houses of the workers on this copper mine.

WILSON: Okay. Now where, Zaire, now referred to as Congo, was, it is a 27:00very big place. So you were in--

BAZELL: I was in Shaba province, which prior to my stay there had been Katanga.

WILSON: Okay.

BAZELL: If you've read O'Brien about Katanga.

WILSON: So there was no more copper mining in that place.

BAZELL: No. Well no, no. There was some mining. There was processing of, well, just historically, and I learned this after I had gotten there, because it was more significant for me, Shaba was a very, it was the wealthiest province in Zaire. It had been the site of all the copper mines, which affected the soil. It also had been the site of the uranium that was used to process the bomb in World War Two. So it was a very valuable place. It was very important that this not get into the hands of people that it shouldn't be in the hands of, which is why it was politically so, such a hotspot.

28:00

WILSON: So did you learn as part of, as part of your cultural studies, did you learn the history? So you knew about what happened in 1960 when Congo got its independence? And Lumumba and Kasavubu.

BAZELL: A little bit about it. Not much. We learned a little bit. I read a lot. Really, what we were told, we were told, gosh, we were told never to joke about the CIA. And never to use those letters in any correspondence. Never to talk about anything like that. To always remember that we were ambassadors of the United States. Not to be political figures in a direct sense, but that we were representing this country, that we should be careful about what we said. America was a, there had been a history, there was a very sensitive history about the 29:00involvement of the CIA in the Congo.

WILSON: And the killing of Lumumba. Okay. So that was something that you learned--

BAZELL: It was something that we had been prepped, but it wasn't really, it wasn't, that I recall, terribly stressed.

WILSON: And that never came up in conversations with people the two years you were there? Or you were just very careful when you talked about that?

BAZELL: You know, it did. What was interesting is what I was mentioning to you earlier in the week, that with all that history, even with the United States history of involvement in the Congo's politics, and Mobutu and everybody knew, we all knew, and all the Zaireans with whom we interacted knew that the United States government was propping up Mobutu. At the same time, we were, I remember one of my neighbors saying, "Go back home and tell them how much we've suffered." And I 30:00was there during the election of Jimmy Carter. I can't tell you how popular Jimmy Carter was. Jimmy. (laughs)

WILSON: That's interesting. Because they thought he would do something?

BAZELL: They thought he would be sympathetic to them. And of course he's the president that emphasized human rights for the first time. But that was something that was very much on the minds of my Zairean coworkers, my colleagues. They understood Jimmy Carter. They cheered when Andrew Young was made ambassador. They were, American politics was not at all bizarre to them. Now how they interpreted American publications, that was something really interesting. We used to get free Readers Digest International and, I think, I'm trying to think of whether I got Time. I think it was just Readers Digest, which was silly. I subscribed to Ebony magazine. Because I was at a girls' school. I should go back. This was a school that had 31:00been founded as a memorial to the copper owner's wife, L'Institute St. Marguerite. It was then run by Ursuline sisters. And it was designed to train Congolese girls to be appropriate wives for what the called the evolues, the Europeanized men. It then became probably the best school. It was a school for girls, with a European, so there's three tracks of humanistique, scientifique, and pedgogique tracks in the European schooling system. So it was the place where everybody wanted to send their daughter who was anybody. So we got lots of politicians' children and we got lots of well to do, girls from well to do families who wanted their daughter to have a good education, and then go off to Belgium for college. Or UNAZA. They still expected 32:00the University of Zaire system in Lubumbashi, and there were branches everywhere. I mean, that would be a possibility. But they certainly wanted them to have a good, basic education. And possibly go on to university. And to marry well. That was important. So one of the things I did was subscribe to Ebony. They were very interested in les noires Americaines, black American women. So we'd use pictures and photographs and look at hair and dresses and English texts so that they could do something with their, of great interest to these girls. And to the nuns who I would lose issues of my magazines if it went through the mailing system. Because they were interested in this, too. American news, I was thinking about this, one of my next door 33:00neighbors, his name was Mfashingabo Muchocholi, he was a Tutsi, and he came from Rwanda. And I remember him looking at one of our, I think it was a Newsweek magazine, and pictures of huts in South Africa. And thinking, saying to me, "Look, this is propaganda to show how good life in South Africa is." And this is when I realized that pictures were not worth a thousand words. I said, "Look, no, this is to show how bad life is." Because life is so poor in most of Zaire. Well, anyway.

WILSON: Talk a little bit more about teaching English to the girls. You talked about using Ebony magazine. What else worked in terms of teaching?

BAZELL: I tried to learn to play guitar. My coworker played. We would sing songs. And they had a British book that they used as a 34:00reader, a tutorial. And I remember thinking and saying to them, look, and in retrospect it's even more shocking when I hear discussions about whether foreign language study is appropriate for Kentucky, and throughout the United States. I was eventually assigned, in addition to the high school classes, beginning English for the seventh grade girls. But all of these girls came to the school with their tribal language, their regional language, which was Swahili, in our case. But they came from, some of them came from other regions. But in this case, then they had a couple of regional languages. And then their national language, French. And English was their fourth language. So every one of these little girls was beginning to be quadrilingual. And it was, so when I tell what students can learn and can't learn, it's 35:00phenomenal. I used the reader, I used news examples. It all had to be in English. But then homeroom, I was a homeroom teacher, and they would speak French. And they were so used to addressing nuns, instead of saying "Soeur Noel" or "Soeur Marie Claire" or "Soeur Cecile," they would call me Miss. Miss Dianne. That's how they addressed me. So I was Miss Dianne. And for homeroom I would do lots of other things with them. We would go on walks in weekends. We'd go to someplace that they called the desert and pick mangoes. And that was always a treat for them and for me, quite frankly. And we planned, I always said to them I was learning so much more than they were. I understood that. And one of the things that I remember thinking, that it took a while for them to understand that I wasn't there, here was this white person, 36:00and in Swahili, it's mzungu. I was this person who was coming in. I wasn't a missionary. I wasn't evading the draft. They asked me if I had to go back to the army when I got home, and no, I didn't.

WILSON: How did they know about that?

BAZELL: Well, it was not too long after the Vietnam War.

WILSON: The Vietnam War, so they knew that.

BAZELL: People knew about the draft. They knew that people would do lots of things to avoid it. And I wasn't there selling them anything. At least overtly. You could say that the Peace Corps is a selling job of some sorts, selling of ideas. But it's no more than teaching. But once they understood that, there was an enormous amount of credibility that one had. And even with that history, I think we talked in another time, even with the history of the United States and Lumumba and Mobutu, the fact that I wasn't European and I look Belgian.

37:00

WILSON: Yes. Right.

BAZELL: I could look Dutch. But once it became known that I was American, it was very different. No matter what we had done in Southeast Asia, it was a very different attitude that people had toward Americans. Africans, generally speaking, were so positive toward Americans. And I hitchhiked, I did a lot of things I wouldn't advise other young people to do at this time, but that's always the case. I was really quite dependent upon strangers in many ways. But I generally speaking felt safe.

WILSON: Now were there, you mentioned an American Peace Corps volunteer who was there with you. Were there other Europeans? At the school? In the town?

BAZELL: Yeah. No one, we were six kilometers away from the main road.

WILSON: Okay. So you're really isolated.

BAZELL: We were--

WILSON: In the bush.

BAZELL: In the bush. And we were, oh, gosh, maybe forty miles, say, 38:00sixty kilometers, away from Likasi, which had formerly been Jadotville, north of Zaire on the main paved highway. And then about maybe seventy-five kilometers, I don't know how many miles, maybe thirty-five miles and even more kilometers away from, a hundred kilometers from Lubumbashi which--So we were quite a ways away. We were dependent on the school van to get our groceries. And then eventually, I started to say earlier, the school had been run by missionaries. This was a Catholic site. There was another Methodist site north of where we were, and I just blanked on the name. Which I think was Tshombe, the other main candidate for the position of president early on. And what I learned once I was there, that the various missionaries, mission 39:00sites, had taken positions, pushing their candidate. The Catholic missionaries were pushing Mobutu, the Protestants, particularly the Methodists, were pushing Tshombe, as I understood it at the time. So in any case, but, and so my first year, or sometime before I arrived, the laity had ousted the missionaries for control of the schools all over the country. And that included the varieties of Protestants, the Catholics, and then a kind of indigenous Zairean group called Ebonga.

WILSON: Another religious sect.

BAZELL: That began, I think in the southwest part of the country.

WILSON: That was an independent Christian church?

BAZELL: The were independent, yeah. Kind of building on another, it was an African Christian tradition. So they took over, the laity took over 40:00from the missionaries and wanted to have control of the school.

WILSON: So if there had been Belgian missionaries or people from wherever, they were gone.

BAZELL: Well, no, they were there. They were just subordinate. The laity had taken over, by the time I got there, Le Laigue? of whom we had one, two, had taken over the school. But they had taken over all schools. And by the time--

WILSON: And Le Laigue is?

BAZELL: Laity.

WILSON: The laity, yeah, okay.

BAZELL: The nuns. The laity.

WILSON: Yeah. Okay. I'm thinking of the transcriber.

BAZELL: Okay. The laity had taken over, the lay people.

WILSON: Okay.

BAZELL: And by the second year, I had gone away for summer vacation. The nuns had retaken the school my second year.

WILSON: That's interesting. How did that happen?

BAZELL: Well, there was kind of a backlash. I don't know how it, whether it happened just completely piecemeal. There was some agreement that was reached among various missionaries, the varieties of missionaries, and some of these political people.

41:00

WILSON: How many of the missionaries at that point, or the nuns at your school, for example, would have been Europeans? And how many would have been--

BAZELL: I would say they were, there were too, that I can picture right now. There were two Belgian nuns at my school. And probably twelve to sixteen Zairean nuns.

WILSON: So it wasn't that the Belgians were taking over.

BAZELL: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. It was the church.

WILSON: It was the Zairean nuns. Okay.

BAZELL: And it was a very interesting situation. Eventually, but I didn't know at the time, I ended up going back into the study of religion and going to medieval studies. And particularly looking at it from women in political power. If you wanted, and this is actually true, if you wanted an education in many of these -- many, not just 42:00Zaire -- but in many African colonies, and probably in other colonies in the world, you needed to become, or at least declare an interest in becoming a religious. So there you got your educational opportunity. Now many people opted out after they got their education. But they got it starting out. Now if you were a woman and you wanted fiscal influence, administrative power and all of those things, there were very few avenues open to you other than being a religious. So those sisters. They weren't nuns, they weren't cloistered. But they were sisters. They were very ambitious and strong and assertive people. So they were able to--

WILSON: To take it back. Yeah. So this is a boarding school.

BAZELL: Mm hmm.

WILSON: You're living in-- were you living by yourself?

BAZELL: I was living with my coworker--

WILSON: With your coworker.

BAZELL: --in one of these houses just alongside everybody else's, every 43:00other teacher's house. The nuns lived in their cloister area. A priest lived on site. Our first year, when the laity ran the place, he had a shower, a hot running, water running shower in a room next to him that he would let my coworker and me use. It was absolutely, there's nothing, they lock their separate rooms, they said, "Okay, go ahead and use it."

WILSON: But nice to have a hot shower.

BAZELL: Very nice to have that. So for my first year, I had a hot shower. The second year, when the nuns retook the place, they wouldn't let any laity on the territory. So we ended up in one of the outhouses there. And we had a bathtub with running cold water. But it was much better just to go out with everybody else and use the shower. We'd all notify everybody else we were on our way in. So I had cold showers my second year there. Now one time I went in, took my shower. My coworker went in, took her shower, we came out. And out slithered 44:00a viper. And we knew very well the word for viper, for snake, in Swahili, nyoka. All the primary school teachers screamed, "Nyoka, nyoka nyoka!" and stoned this snake. But there we were. We were invaded by army ants, we had every wildlife story. (laughs) We had in or around our home or someplace.

WILSON: So describe your home some more. What was it like? You walked in the door and-- Go ahead.

BAZELL: It was, under the circumstances, it was the lap of luxury for, but it was equal to everyone else there, but that was a, it was a lovely place, relatively speaking, in which to live. It was where the, it was metal, it was plaster. It was not a brick house, but it was a--

WILSON: Concrete block?

BAZELL: Concrete block house, yeah.

WILSON: Concrete block house. With a tin roof?

45:00

BAZELL: Metal roof. We had running water. It was cold. We boiled our water religiously, all the time, even to brush our teeth.

WILSON: How many rooms?

BAZELL: We had a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and actually we had two bedrooms. One each. We had separate--

WILSON: And what kind of furniture?

BAZELL: Whatever was there. We had some African furniture. We had some industrial school furniture. It was sort of nondescript. The living room had a couch and some African chairs that slanted to one another. It's hard to describe. The dining room had a table and a few chairs.

WILSON: What about the kitchen?

BAZELL: The kitchen had a concrete sink. It had a stove. We had a small refrigerator. Whatever food we got once a week, we would refrigerate. We had lots and lots--

46:00

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

BAZELL: --wanted to be independent, they didn't want people working for them and all of that. We were not being polite. It was a social faux pas not to hire someone. So we hired a villager by the name of Placide who did our laundry. And who cleaned up around, but not the house itself. And we did our own cooking. As I said, we lived on mainly rice and mackerel, these cans of mackerel and tomato sauce. And we 47:00went to, once a week, to the grocery, which would be in Likasi. It was like miles and miles away. The first year in the school van, because the laity ran the place. The second year we weren't allowed to use, we were on our own. So I would hitchhike with some of the teachers to go grocery shopping. And we would get, among other things, what was called filet Americain, American filet, which is hamburger. (laughs) So we ate a lot of spaghetti, we ate a lot of-- and this, I suppose, is one example of what that was like. Our immediate next door neighbor was this fellow who was a teacher there who was from Rwanda. The house next to him was occupied by the village schoolteacher and his wife and their son who got around on a board with wheels because he had polio. 48:00And she would come to visit me, the wife, and she spoke only Swahili. She didn't speak French. He spoke a little French, because he was in school, village teacher. And she would come to visit, and I would give her tea. And I would go to her place, and she would offer me tea. And she brought over some-- well, first I offered her, I think we were going to exchange meals at one point. And I know I gave her some spaghetti and spaghetti sauce. And I realized only afterwards I think she brought me back what had to have been some kind of forest rat. Which I had to eat. But I realized how appalling what I had given her must have looked like. It must have looked like worms or something terrible. You know. But anyway, so we all lived through whatever we were eating. And I learned a lot about food while I was there. I'd go to colleagues' houses, I'd go to fellow teachers' houses, and it would be like here come the newcomers, or particularly me. And they would 49:00place anything down and see, like give it to me to eat. And I remember at one point, is she going to eat it or not, and all of this would be in French, usually. That was my first language of contact. So I remember at one point, you know, we'd all eat with our hands. It was a ritual of politeness to wash your hands communally in this plastic bin with a bar of Palmolive soap. I can smell it, and see the green, and the film across the water. Everyone would have to go through the-- and you would never, ever, ever refuse to do this. Your hands were in such worse, much worse shape after having had fifteen people washing their hands in-- but in any case, we would do that, and then we would eat with our hands. Only our right hand. And we would eat the, I started saying we made a meal, I made the traditional meal with my students, my homeroom class, one time. But you'd have, everyone had to start with what in some places is called bukari. In Lingala it was called fufu. 50:00But it was cassava root.

WILSON: Cassava root.

BAZELL: It was mashed, pounded cassava root. The leaves of the plant were like spinach, but they were called sombe. They would be cooked and boiled with palm oil and peanuts, crushed peanuts and peppers. And meat was a condiment. You never knew what you were going to have. So I would eat that. And I remember them sprinkling this thing, offering me this substance. It turned out it was roasted termite. And I thought, you know what, they're here, I'll eat it. And by golly, I thought. So it was like bridge mix. So I ate it. And you got an awful lot of credibility just by being willing to eat--

WILSON: Had you seen them catch the termites?

BAZELL: No.

WILSON: Did they catch the termites in, because termites come out at a particular season.

BAZELL: They come out, they would be on our doorstep many nights.

WILSON: Because they come to the light. And then they catch them.

51:00

BAZELL: I had not seen them catch them. I had, however, been invited, my second year there, to a New Year's Eve party at another neighbor's, yet another house down the row. This is a row of houses with these metal roofs that I loved to hear the rain in the rainy season, pounding on. It was very, very noisy, but it was very beautiful. Anyway, one of my neighbors invited all the students, the teachers, there to this New Year's Eve party. And midafternoon, come around then, and there was a howling you never heard in your life. It was a goat being slaughtered. Freshly, in their yard, for the guests. We got there and were treated royally. We had this goat meat, of course. (laughs) And all the trimmings. And sat around with one of the few products that were made in Zaire, beer. And then cigarettes, and beer, Simba beer and Tembo beer. The lion and the elephant. Drank beer. And I suppose 52:00that was maybe eighteen months into my period there, my stage there. And I remember at some point in that evening, maybe it was earlier than that, but I remember being at one of these occasions where I had forgotten everybody. My coworker had left, and it suddenly occurred to me that I was the only woman in the room, the only white person in the room, and the only English speaking person in the room. And of course once you remember that you've forgotten that, you remember it again. But I realized that there was, it was very important to, even though it was very important to know who you were and how you were being perceived. And I was very conscious of that in most of my interactions. It was also very liberating to lose that sense of all those demographic categories and just be there. And I thought oh, I've adjusted. (laughs)

WILSON: That's an interesting point. Because did you find that there 53:00were times because you were a white American woman that you were in situations where there were all males, that you were sort of an honorary male, that you were not treated as a woman?

BAZELL: Yeah.

WILSON: As a woman in Zaire would be treated.

BAZELL: That is quite true. I think there's a Japanese word for it. It's called gaijin. That means you're almost a third gender. And I was, you certainly are different. You're not expected to be an African woman when you're a white woman or a foreign woman. And that's quite true. And it gives you an independence of treatment and stature and maneuverability that you wouldn't have if you were seen as part of having to fit in in quite that way.

WILSON: How many men, it was a girls' school. How many men were around, were there? And what were the relations like between men and women, 54:00Zairean men and women, but also with you as a, with the women and with the men?

BAZELL: The primary schoolteachers, the primatrice, were all young women. The secondary teachers were generally men. I can't think, except for nuns, which is another gender all unto itself.

WILSON: Right. Right. Now the young women were unmarried?

BAZELL: They were unmarried. And it was clear that at least one of them at the time had an affair with one of the teachers at the time. And that provoked a huge, huge screaming battle which the entire compound heard. My coworker was dating one of the teachers also. I 55:00wasn't with any, I was on my own. (laughs) The men, this is going to be history, so no one's going to hear this. One, I was going over my journal, I'd forgotten. We went to the grocery store in Likasi in a van. We stopped off at a place to have drinks. What I didn't realize until I was sitting there for about fifteen minutes and people sort of disappeared, then they all came back. Let's call it twenty-five minutes. This was a house of prostitution. And I was downstairs drinking apple, no, what did they call it? Not chinzana, it wasn't an alcohol. It was little red, pomegranate juice. Sitting around talking with people who were strangely made up with pink rouge and. And I realized oh, I'm in a whorehouse! (laughs) And I reread this last night 56:00and I was like, wow. Not in the United States. And you know, what do you do? So I went back and these were all people who had wives back at the school. And that's the way they were. That's the way life was. There was a real sense, I remember, again, my next door neighbor saying, for example, when he was talking bout a particular priest who was on site. He said he was one of the few priests who didn't have a family, wasn't homosexual, or didn't have a family in the bush. And that homosexuality, Africans were convinced that homosexuality was a European phenomenon that was brought in by white people. This did not exist in Africa before white people came. Speaking of that, this was 57:00'75 to '77. It was before AIDS had been identified. But there was something called ----------(??) and you could see people who looked like walking skeletons walking in the street. There were people who were--

WILSON: Leprosy?

BAZELL: Beyond leprosy. It was a different look. And it was only what, '77, maybe five years later, when was AIDS, when was SIDA, that's what it's called there. So that was something that was--

WILSON: So AIDS was already--

BAZELL: Was already there. And I don't know whether I saw that in, I might have seen it in the capital, Kinshasa.

WILSON: Oh, in Kinshasa, I see.

BAZELL: Or possibly in Lumumbashi. In the large, nothing where I was. But it was there. Along with polio and along with, you know, river blindness.

58:00

WILSON: Malaria?

BAZELL: Malaria was endemic. And people, kids would be, at school, "Oh, I have malaria. I'm really sick." And you could see the toll that would take. We would have our quinine pills.

WILSON: And you took those regularly?

BAZELL: I took everything I was supposed to do. I washed everything I ate. I boiled all the water. And I got very sick with something twice. And I ended up leaving the country with, I don't know which two varieties of, two varieties of some parasite that they knocked out. And it took a long time to feel healthy again after I got out.

WILSON: Describe a typical day. You get up. Then what was a typical day?

BAZELL: Oh, gosh. Get up.

WILSON: What time?

BAZELL: When did classes start? I don't even know, probably about eight o'clock or something. And we had about eight periods. It was a 59:00period a class. Drink tea. I'm trying to even think of what I ate for breakfast. I don't remember what I ate for breakfast.

WILSON: But drink tea.

BAZELL: I remember meals with other people. I drank tea so much, I can't even tell you.

WILSON: How many classes a day did you teach?

BAZELL: Probably five or six. And I not only taught English, but I taught music and geography and gym. I mean, whatever they needed, they'd toss me in. And most of that would be in French. The only English class--

WILSON: What would you do in music class?

BAZELL: We would sing songs, or I'd teach them notes. They were a big, the Belgian system, they were very big on solfege?

WILSON: Which means?

BAZELL: The do, ra, mi fa so la ti. They really learned how to read music. They taught them how to read, and how to sight read. Which I hadn't been able to do. So I would go from class to class. I had homeroom, and then various classes. Usually tenth and eleventh grade. I was responsible for the English classes. And then any of the 60:00other classes that they would have. Study hall, and then some kind of recreation. We had a, I think we had a kind of siesta in the middle of the day. We must have. I'm trying to remember now how the typical day went. It was very hot. We were about, I remember this, nine degrees south of the equator. So the seasons were reversed. It was very warm.

WILSON: But the seasons were rainy season, dry season?

BAZELL: Two seasons. Rainy and dry.

WILSON: Rainy and dry.

BAZELL: And the rainy season was warm, and the dry season was very cold.

WILSON: Cold?

BAZELL: Relatively cold. I mean, when you're used to hot weather--

WILSON: You actually would wear a jacket?

BAZELL: I'd wear a sweater. I'd wear a sweater. Nothing like but a sweater. Sweatshirt.

WILSON: When did school end? And what would you do afterwards?

BAZELL: I think about 3:30. And I'm trying to think of what would we do. We would have, there were faculty meetings, and I would prepare lessons every day. And this was all still new to me. So I spent a lot 61:00of time. I had to assign homework, so I had to grade homework. And I actually saved some writing samples of my students I looked at before I came in here. And so I gave assignments every day, and grading, grading their assignments every day and so forth. I'm trying to think, they had, I think they had science labs. And they had French class and literature. It was a homework based academic school.

WILSON: Did they have any recreation or sports as part of the program?

BAZELL: They had, well, oh, I know, I'm trying to think now, because it's amazing that I had forgotten about this. We started the day with political rallies. I forgot. (laughs)

WILSON: Oh, my! Well, describe those.

BAZELL: We'd have to go every day and assemble while the girls would line up and sing political cheer songs to Mobutu. And everything, I mean, why did I forget this? How could I? And they would have, it was 62:00like cheerleading. And it was, they'd repeat his name, and they'd sing and they'd chant. And you'd see all these bulletin boards anyway. In English, it would be, "Mobutu, Our Savior, Our Only Guide." Notre Saviour, Notre Guide. And the students, this was required, across the nation -- why did I forget this? -- to chant these songs and his full name, which is how I know it, because of these chants. "Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Banga Wasa Banga" The great warrior who goes from battle to battle and never ceases, or never tires. And so the girls would all, they'd have these different lineups, and they would sing and they would chant, and it would all be very rhythmic. And then we would go to class. I'm sorry. I forgot. (laughs) How could I? And we had a festival, I think my first year there, where the whole day was taken up 63:00by political cheerleading. And we were told by our American preparers, our ----------(??) people, not to participate in that. That was one thing that, and I don't remember ever being told that it was important not to be identified with Mobutu himself, but it was important to, even though Americans like to get involved in everything, and participate in everything, that we had to keep separate as Americans. That we had to let them know that we understood who we were, because they wouldn't understand who we were unless we understood who we were. And we were not-- and I don't think now looking back on this fully that that was fully the reason. But it also would have been very impractical for us to be too closely identified with the government as well. But this was not simple dancing music. This was politics, and we should stay out of it. So, we did. And it would have been very tempting to participate as the many people--

64:00

WILSON: Did any Zaireans not participate?

BAZELL: Well, this was students.

WILSON: This was students. So teachers?

BAZELL: This was not teachers. These were students.

WILSON: Oh, okay.

BAZELL: This was young people stuff. And just as a difference between, I was thinking about this, because it was explained to me by my coworkers, by my Zairean coworkers, Americans-- Europeans would buy art, buy fabrics and hang it on their wall. They generally would not wear it on their persons. Americans would wear Zairean fabric, which was really Dutch. It was a Hollandaise fabric. Americans would wear this fabric, put it on their tables, have it on them, and they would eat food. Whereas the Europeans would never, ever, eat Zairean food. That was one o the things that was probably the most powerful 65:00statement of bonding was to eat the food that was placed in front of us. And we were told that. That was one thing we were coached on. Don't think that you're being polite by saying oh, no thank you. Because people will be very offended. But in addition to that, we were really making a statement that we were not Europeans. And that was extremely powerful.

WILSON: What was hardest to adjust to? And what were you prepared for? It sounds like things like eating food.

BAZELL: Oh, we were, yeah.

WILSON: You were well prepared for.

BAZELL: And not cheerleading. (laughs)

WILSON: Right. And not cheerleading. And were there any things that you were not prepared for?

BAZELL: We were prepared, I think, I think we were warned about loneliness and culture shock. I don't know that anyone was fully prepared for the extent and depth of loneliness. Even if you had other 66:00Americans around, and I had one. But she wasn't there all the time. I was on my own a lot. I read all these novels, and I borrowed them from everybody. I read War and Peace. (laughs) I read everything. I'm just trying to think, but I do remember, and even thinking about, many novels and works of all sorts that I, War and Peace just happens to come to mind. But I just read a lot. And I was on my own. I collected music as well.

WILSON: Collected music meaning?

BAZELL: Meaning I would collect tapes and 45 LPs. Wherever I would go, I would listen to the music of that area, and see what I could do to acquire it. I sang in the village choir, after I got there long enough. And we had tapes that were stolen on the way out, which was a terrible thing. Really, I was so stupid. We put it in the guitar 67:00case of my coworker. And packed them. Well, they just took them. But I sang Mass nearly every week in Lingala and Swahili with the village choir. That was unheard of. But I'd go down and we'd come in and we'd sing in the little chapel. And that was wonderful. And I still have, I'm not going to sing them, but I still have tunes in my head. And I have--

WILSON: Was that both men and women? And who was directing that?

BAZELL: Mm hmm. That was men and women. And we just sang together. And I asked if that would be all right, if I could join them. And they were--

WILSON: And this was part of Mass?

BAZELL: Part of Mass.

WILSON: Part of Mass. And were you yourself Catholic?

BAZELL: No.

WILSON: No.

BAZELL: No. (laughs) No. And that was okay. That was one way in which I related to people. And could. And it was wonderful.

WILSON: So talk a little bit more about your interactions with what 68:00Peace Corps calls host country nationals. Who, because you're talking about being lonely. Who did you find besides the one American who could be friends?

BAZELL: Well, I mean, I was friends, I was probably as friendly with, I was probably closest there, I was very close to a nun there, a Belgian nun. And I was very close to this other Zairean neighbor who taught me a lot. Would just sit down and tell me the way life was. From his perspective. But I listened and talked with my Zairean coworkers a lot. And it wasn't as if I was looking for other nationals to be friends with. Many of them were not all that appealing, to be honest 69:00with you. There were some Italians from the mines nearby who met us at a party and came over for dinner and then took us out to their, but you know, really, that was--

WILSON: That was it.

BAZELL: Wild and crazy other country nationals, I wasn't really all that interested in. So I really think it was from conversations with my coworkers. I got very close to one of the nuns, and I volunteered to work with her. She was a nurse. She was Belgian. And I got to volunteer to help her in the infirmary. So I'd come down and work with her, I knew nothing about that different medicines, and do this and do that. One day someone came in, this fellow with a couple of his friends, who had been bitten by a hippopotamus. And you know, these are not smiling, they look smiling but they are very, very vicious 70:00attacking creatures. And his entire inner thigh was ripped open. And he with his friend had walked several kilometers to get there. So my job was to help her, she washed him up, but I was to hold his leg together while she gave him local anesthesia and stitched it up inside out. You know? And we did it. Another time I helped her. She said, "Come by, I need some help." It was at night. I went down and there was a woman in the village who was having trouble with a childbirth. And we went down together to, she started, she was having a difficult labor. And so then I needed to walk back with this Soeur Cecile to get something that would induce labor. Plus some I think anesthesia. But in any case, the women in the village, this was all in mud huts. This is the village now, this wasn't the mining place that we worked. So 71:00mud huts, metal roofs, it was still better conditions than a lot. And this was on cardboard on the floor. The women were outside singing to her to help her through this childbirth. And the only light in the room, because there was no electricity in the village, in the compound was with copra, with fabric serving as wicks for the kerosene. You can imagine how dangerous this was. But as a scene, it was beautiful. And she gave birth to the child, and I think it was a boy. I don't even remember anymore. But the nurse pulled the child out and she was hemorrhaging. And then she gave, the nurse gave her an injection to stop the bleeding. And it was touch and go, and she did, and she was fine. And she lived. But that was my experience with that. Assisted 72:00labor. (laughs) But my relations, really, were task oriented. I didn't have buddies. My coworker and I traveled together during the spring break. I went outside Zaire once a year to make a telephone call. There was no long distance telephone. I had, oh, I had a tape recorder that I played lots of music. And I didn't have a radio, but I had a tape recorder. But there was a radio on (C Compound?). So if anything really, really happened, we would be able to know that. I went to, across the border, to Ndola every Christmas and called home.

WILSON: Ndola is?

BAZELL: Ndola is a town, the first town just south of the Zairean border in Zambia. It's where Dag Hammarskjold's plane crashed. And you can see the baobab tree near which--

73:00

WILSON: Oh. So it's notable.

BAZELL: It is notable. Yeah. So I would go to a hotel and stay the night. Start the phone process. You go to the operator of the only town, the only one within miles. I mean, really miles. And then maybe six hours. They'd get the line cranked up so they'd go through, and then I'd call them each separate. So then we went there to--

WILSON: And that was how far from where you were?

BAZELL: Oh, I'm trying to think. South of Lubumbashi, so it was over a hundred miles.

WILSON: And you would have gotten there how?

BAZELL: By hitchhiking.

WILSON: By hitchhiking. Okay. On trucks? On?

BAZELL: Sometimes trucks.

WILSON: Trucks.

BAZELL: And sometimes cars. Interestingly enough, I hitchhiked a lot in trucks. I wouldn't want to do that here. But truck drivers were fairly safe that. And nine times out of ten, they were Somalian. And 74:00actually, I'm glad you asked that question. The summer between breaks, sometime between that, over the course of the first year, toward the end of the first year, my coworker's father had died. So where we had planned to travel to East Africa together, she had to go home. And by that time, everyone's plans had been sort of set up. So I ended up, I said well I'm not staying around here. So I wanted to pick up with a few of the Peace Corps volunteers who were coming through Lubumbashi, but also had their own plans all situated, and I would go off and do-- It was complicated by the fact that that spring we had gone north to Kolwezi where there was a mining company that had relations, that once had relations with the mining company that was running our school, Gecamines. You can read about them. But that was a whole set of third 75:00country nationals. It was run by Belgians. And I knew, I started looking at things that I'd written. I knew that when we went up there, I went to the pool and I went to the restaurant. Stayed there for a few days. It would have been so easy to get drawn into the whole social life of the Belgians who owned that. If I had been there, that would have ended up happening.

WILSON: And did that happen to some Peace Corps volunteers?

BAZELL: You know, I don't know. I don't know whether any of them were so placed. I was very glad not to have been so placed. But in any case, my coworker got food poisoning. And I went to visit her in the hospital, came back and got mugged.

WILSON: Came back and got mugged where?

BAZELL: On the street in Kolwezi

WILSON: Oh, in Kolwezi. Oh.

BAZELL: And all I did, I mean, I was so shocked. I didn't expect it. I saw the car kind of stop behind me, or pull up, and just not really continue. I wasn't paying full attention. Streets were lit. I probably looked like some Belgian with a purse. And they came up 76:00from behind, hit me. I turtled over like that, and just held my purse. And all I could think of, if I lose my passport and my ID card, I am never getting out of here. And I had just got to. So I screamed. I couldn't think of saying anything in French, so I just screamed. And I remember thinking, I mentioned War and Peace before. I was reading that and I was thinking of this character there, Alexis, who was going into war and saying, "Why is this happening to me? My mother loves me. My father loves me." (laughs) Why is anyone hurting? And the strangest thing. When I got back to the place-- and they didn't take anything. They got, someone came and I got back to my room and realized that my eyeglasses were missing. So I had, thank God, my government issue kind of Gestapo pass. Which I wore for the rest of the trip. The rest of my time there. So I had my passport. I had my Zairean ID card. And I left and kind of wherever I would hook up, I would be with some people. 77:00But started off with some Americans. But I went down to Likasi and hitchhiked. And got, I remember, and I still think of this when I think of some of the work I do in Kentucky, which obviously was not on my mind then, but I was in a truck with a Somalian driver who not only didn't speak English, but was clearly illiterate. And I remember, it sounds like the film where the ----------(??). So I was, he said, I don't know how we communicated. But through gesture, I got very good at gesticulating. And he knew I was going to Likasi. I needed to go there first. He said he was going to take me to a place he knew. I got there finally at one in the morning. He said it's a safe, safe, very safe. He had the kindest eyes I have ever seen on a human being in my life. And virtually no teeth. And I knew I was absolutely at 78:00the mercy of this stranger. I mean, I could have leaped out. But this was a human being who was truly one of the most decent and kind, gentle human beings, who was taking a total stranger to a safe place. And I've always kept that as a reference point when I deal with education and literacy. That you can have very, the best of ethical, you know, morally superior human beings who have absolutely no education whatsoever. And that has to be something that I do consider as I go into Eastern Kentucky, if I go into a lot of places where we're told to raise the standard of education and living. That's one of my reference points that I will never forget as long as I live. So I got off of that. I took the Tanzam railroad that the Chinese had built between Lusaka and Dar es Salaam the first week it was built. I'd heard about 79:00it then.

WILSON: Oh, my. So, and Lusaka is the capital of Zambia. And you were going to Dar es Salaam, which was--

BAZELL: Had been, but no longer was, the capital of Tanzania. The politics, there had been some political maneuver where Dodoma was then the capital of Tanzania. But Dar es Salaam was still a very good place to be.

WILSON: Well, and a big city, right on the coast. Right. Okay.

BAZELL: So I went there. I stayed at a place called, I do now remember this, the Californian. (laughs)

WILSON: You stayed in Dar es Salaam?

BAZELL: Dar es Salaam. At this place called the Californian. And I stayed there, a youth hostel sort of dump with a bunch of other, I stayed with some other people. I don't remember where I stayed, how, with whom. I think I stayed with a couple of other Peace Corps volunteers at the time, and then they split up. And really, my goal for that summer was to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

WILSON: Oh, my.

BAZELL: So I, and I wanted to get that done first. I would then see how 80:00I was afterwards. So I then parted ways with my fellow Americans and hitchhiked to Arusha. And I hitched up with a group of people, used to climb in groups of six, split the cost. So I got the food I needed. We had the ----------(??) go to YMCA. I did the planning I needed to do. I had some book that I read about for it. And I teamed up with, gosh, there were two Americans, a missionary and his son from Malawi. Three French people. Somebody else. There were eight of us total. Two women and six men. Three men and one woman. Maybe it's three men and one woman. But it had nothing to do with physical strength. But I knew that I couldn't run up. And the people who ----------(??) trying 81:00to really show their stuff ran up very quickly and were very macho about it, and then got carried down, because they got mountain sickness.

WILSON: Oh, my.

BAZELL: So I really took my time. I learned the word "slowly,." pole pole in Swahili, if you had a guide. And we went up very slowly. Oh, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer from Togo.. So he and I kind of hitched up and climbed and watched out for each other together. And then. . (laughs)

WILSON: That's exciting.

BAZELL: It is exciting. This is long. (laughs)

WILSON: That's okay.

BAZELL: So I came back and then did a little bit more. I had planned and saved for this trip. So I went to other parts of, went to Zanzibar, took a day trip to Zanzibar.

WILSON: Did you also go to the Serengeti?

BAZELL: I did go to Serengeti. I went to the Ngorongoro Crater. And everyone, I learned about Lamu while I was there. So I went to Lamu. Everybody said, "Go to Lamu." So I went there. Right immediately after--

82:00

WILSON: Why go to Lamu?

BAZELL: It was, you know about this. It was a paradise, and it was also a cultural melting pot. It was Arabic, African and Indian. And the food was fascinating, the language, the music was fascinating. I have a tape from a couple of pop singers. In 1976 in Lamu, you know, they were hip then. And it was just a very interesting place to be. Their Arabic poetry was developed on this island. It was a trading place historically, and it was culturally, it was fun. It was interesting. I also went to the beach and had a ball. And you could go and barter with the fishermen to get fresh crab and all of that. And I would team up with total strangers and we'd order dinner together. I lived with strangers, I just interacted one episode after another with--

83:00

WILSON: Did you meet Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania while you were there?

BAZELL: I'm trying to think if I met Peace Corps volunteers. Not many. I met this one Togo volunteer climbing Kili. I met a lot of Australians. That was a lifestyle that was new to me. They would work for a long time, save up, fly to London, but a Land Rover, and then drive down three continents. So those were some people-- I mean, I never really, I very rarely was hitchhiking cold call. I'd be at some public place where I'd see gangs of people or families or people who looked like they were just adventurers going off someplace. And I had met, I met a lot of, and I was mistaken for, interestingly enough, being Australian, by a lot of people.

WILSON: Oh, interesting.

BAZELL: Why, I don't know.

WILSON: What about in Zaire? Did you travel around in Zaire?

BAZELL: It's very dangerous. It was considered very, I mean, I got 84:00mugged in Kolwezi.

WILSON: Right. Right.

BAZELL: I had wanted to take a barge down the Congo River, the Zaire River at the time. I was too tired and kind of sick, and I didn't know how depleted I was by the end of it. I just needed to leave by the end of the trip. But I did stop and visit a coworker from my stage, my training period, in Bukavu when I came back from Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya I went to Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater. I stayed at a workers' camp there. They ran out and just had bread and coke. But that was wonderful. Hitched up with a lot of other people just to see, stopped and snorkeled in Mombasa and Malindi and then--

WILSON: Oh, okay. Yeah, you were in Kenya, too, yeah.

BAZELL: And then I went to the coast. And then I went to Serengeti. And I went to the Masai.

85:00

WILSON: Maai Mara?

BAZELL: Mountains. And took probably two of the best photographs I've ever taken in my life there. And that was allowed. You weren't allowed to take them elsewhere. It was considered--

WILSON: Photographs of?

BAZELL: Masai women and children. At their huts. Sometime I'll bring them for you to see but you know, even as, and they would do certain traditional dances. I was just really wanting to see as much as I absolutely could. And then I took a banana boat back across the Kivu and then from Bujumbura back to Bukavu.

WILSON: And Bujumbura was in?

BAZELL: It was in Burundi. So off the coast of, you know, from Tanzania. To Burundi and then to--

WILSON: To Bukavu

BAZELL: To Bukavu. And stayed with a coworker. Where his house was robbed while I was there. And then took a train back to my post, must 86:00have taken a train at some point. It was more dangerous to take a train in Zaire than it was, really, to check out who you were going to be with and hitchhike. So.

WILSON: So that was your big trip.

BAZELL: That was a huge trip.

WILSON: And did you travel after you were finished with your two years?

BAZELL: Not in Africa. I spent a week in Rome. And I spent a few days in Paris. And I was too tired. I just came home. And my coworker lived in New Jersey, so we stopped and stayed a little bit with her. But I ended up really, I ended up going to, getting physical care after I got home. I was pretty depleted.

WILSON: So you had, what did you say you came home with?

BAZELL: Parasites.

WILSON: A couple of parasites.

87:00

BAZELL: And you know, I think I was free by that time, but my whole intestinal track was so used to not functioning terribly well that for several months, I really had diarrhea for several months.

WILSON: So you had amoebic dysentery?

BAZELL: I might have. I don't know. I think I was probably, I don't know what it was. Some kind of worm, and some kind of something else.

WILSON: Before I ask you what was it like coming home, you may want to look at, you came with all these notes. What are several particularly meaningful and memorable stories from your Peace Corps service, and why do you still tell them? You've already told some.

BAZELL: (laughs) I've told you a lot of meaningful stories. You know, it's funny, what did you say, what I had written down. I think the 88:00third item was the truck driver to Lusaka.. I think I have used that as a reference point for what does education do for you. Not that it doesn't do something for you, but I've got the truck driver to Lusaka. helping with that childbirth. And in the infirmary, the hippopotamus bite. The level of illness and disease. I remember talking also to, I think I mentioned this earlier, too, one of my other coworkers, not the Rwandans, kept telling me, "Tell them when you go home how much we suffer." And they know that that's the third goal of the Peace 89:00Corps is to bring the world back home. That was part of, I knew that I needed to communicate that. Although it's very funny. They look at Americans and it's as if you've got a pipeline to the White House, you know? (laughs) So I had to tell them that I would communicate everything that I could, but this was-- and you know, life went to so much worse afterwards. It was a very difficult country to be in, even in those relatively, I have to say that the circumstances in which I was living and working were relatively comfortable compared to some people. And certainly to the native, compared both to other volunteers and to the Zaireans. And this was, relatively speaking, an affluent 90:00group of people, these teachers. Even the village teachers. Even the villagers. But life went terribly downhill for that whole country, even more so, after I left. So it was hard to watch. There was so much AIDS. It was already there, but it was more pronounced. I think it was about a third of the population of childbearing age, both male and female, is dead. So you have old people and children, orphans. It's a very difficult country. And we could look back in the '70s and probably people then think those were the relatively golden days. One thing that one of my coworkers said to me, (not particularly answer?) your question, but one thing that Mobutu did is, to give him credit for one thing, he made it possible, even though I said how dangerous 91:00it was to travel around the country, he made it possible, at least in principle, to go from one region to another without necessarily knowing that you were going to get slaughtered. In other words, he made it possible. He made it, to the extent that you could call that a nation, he bridged some of the regional boundaries to the extent that you could talk about being Zairean.

WILSON: But you were still not able to go and see, really, the rest of Zaire, or Congo.

BAZELL: I might have, it would have been a whole lot more expensive for me to be flying or taking a train up to--

WILSON: Though of course Congo is huge.

BAZELL: It is, it is massive. But I was a whole lot safer going east to East Africa than I would have been to go north to Kisangani or down the river, or to Kasai. People were stationed in Kasai. Kasai was in the 92:00middle of the jungle, and it was very, very dangerous. Once you were at your post, gosh, you just didn't want to go.

WILSON: Did you ever go to Kinshasa? To the capital?

BAZELL: Only in the beginning and end of my trip.

WILSON: And that's all.

BAZELL: That's all. I went to Lumumbashi.

WILSON: Yes. Right. But that's in your own area.

BAZELL: It would have been extraordinarily expensive.

WILSON: So did Peace Corps staff, was there Peace Corps staff regionally, and that's how you ----------(??)

BAZELL: ----------(??) yeah. We had a regional rep in Lubumbashi. I may have mentioned this earlier. The first year we were there, there was the Angola War taking place. And so we were kind of on the alert that things were sort of dangerous. But you didn't want to go running around Kasai, or anywhere went of Shaba --

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

WILSON: Tape two. So, let's see. We were talking about the fact that--

93:00

BAZELL: Oh, the Angola War.

WILSON: The Angola War, right. Okay.

BAZELL: And you could see people driving, if you went to Likasi, you could see people riding bicycles with sort of a standard issue water bottles and standard issue knapsacks. Then they'd disappear. If you saw them, then you turn around, they were gone. So they were people we knew, that was how my coworkers identified people involved in the Angolan War. Riding the same kind of bicycle with the same kind of equipment and the same kind of water bottles. So we knew that they were around, it would have been very unsafe to travel at that time. And towards, I'd gone east, I'd gone to East Africa over the summer, came back. And sometime in that fall, I think, this would have been the fall of '76, Shaba tried to secede.. So this was the Shaba war 94:00now. And there was fighting going on north. I remember in fact there was fighting going on even before in that summer. Because I remember hitchhiking with, in a carload of people. And one of the people there had been teaching in Rwanda. And he said that he taught his class one Friday, and he came back the next week and his full class had been murdered. So the killing had started. But at least in that academic year, in Shaba province, I had students who had family north of us. And what was interesting was that they were far more afraid 95:00of the Zairean Army than they were of the so-called enemy. They were more afraid of the national army than they were of the so-called rebels. And you heard stories about the national army coming in and pillaging villages and raping women. But, and it's interesting. When you watch war films, now when I watch them since, especially Vietnam films, nothing can go on for a long time. There's a lot of, you just would have no idea that there was anything amiss. So it's not as if, you know that the region is at war, and there's absolutely nothing going on around you that indicates any disturbance whatsoever. But we were always aware that this was going on. We'd hear stories from our students and teachers, reports of fighting north of us. And one afternoon our regional rep came in from Lubumbashi with his Land 96:00Rover and said, "Be ready to pack up. Be ready. I'm going up north to get the people from Kolwezi. And then I want you packed in two hours to get out." Because what they were afraid of was that the main highway was going to be cut off so that we wouldn't, it sounded like we wouldn't be able to get into ----------(??)

WILSON: So did they evacuate you to--

BAZELL: They evacuated us. They evacuated us to Lubumbashi. And we stayed in this mansion where he lived. You know, large house where the regional rep lived. Oh, gosh, there must have been twenty-some of us all packed up and piled up in rooms. And we didn't know, then things cooled off and we got taken back to our posts. We finished off the school year.

WILSON: And then you're saying that it was the next year that the program closed down.

BAZELL: I think so. Pretty soon after that. There were some people who came in, but not to our school. And so I know people came into Zaire the following year. But I still think it was starting to get rough, if 97:00I understood it. I didn't really feel in any great danger.

WILSON: But your family was worried about you?

BAZELL: I don't know! We didn't get mail for months at a time. I mean, it was just a mess. It was so isolated. The mail was cut off. Everything was cut off. And I think I must have called home sometime from Lubumbashi or at least sent something saying (??) "I'm okay," you know. But if we had been really evacuated, they would have known about it.

WILSON: Oh, yeah. Right.

BAZELL: I think they got reports about it. But there really wasn't a lot of possibility for communicating on a regular basis. I wrote. And I think when I got back, at least I knew, just sent things out from Lubumbashi. But I couldn't get anything in for a very, very long time. 98:00For about six weeks, I remember there being just a complete lull ----- -----(??)

WILSON: Okay. Any more stories?

BAZELL: I have told you a whole lot of, I can't think of, in terms of the war, the rainy season, hitchhiking. You asked earlier, you mentioned something about how you might be, one might be different, the status as a foreign woman. Thinking about the war also made me think of that. There is a kind of, or there was at the time, if I say the phrase "reverse racism," I don't mean it in the way it's going to sound. But there was a sense in which Africans would do to other 99:00Africans, or people they perceived to be, other black people, that they wouldn't do to white people. So I was relatively safe because when we were, I don't have this on this list. It was expected to go through, there were always soldiers at roadblocks. That was part of life. And I got very blase as a passenger in a car, I never drove while I was there, I had an international driver's license, but I never drove. But the guards, the Zairean soldiers would just aim their machine guns and their weapons at the windshield. And I don't know that it made a difference whether, I think the fact that I was there, whether my coworker was the Zairean principal of the school one year, or some 100:00European, I would say, they would expect a bribe. I would say, "I'm not going to do that." If I had been an African woman, I would have been killed. Or raped, at least. So there was a boundary that not only my international status, but also my skin color gave me, among Africans. And that's not a pleasant topic, but that sure was a reality that I understood. But there were a couple of African Americans who had started off as Peace Corps volunteers. Neither one of them lasted. And I particularly remember a woman, it was too difficult. There was an African American woman, I don't know where she was from in this country. But she clearly had expectations of going home. The way many of us, all of us, go back to some European place where you go to, and you're going home. Now many people find that they're not going home. 101:00But this was more pronounced. And she clearly, from her face, was from West Africa. And she was very, very dark skinned. She wore her hair in plaits. She wore African clothes. And she looked African. Well, she would go into the marketplace and speak French with the challenge that we all had. And she was just yelled at and just made to feel as if who did she think she was being snobby and Europeanized. She didn't know Swahili any more than any of the rest of us did, but she was expected to be African because of her appearance. It is very hard, and I learned this and wouldn't have understood it, to be an African American, to go to Africa. And there's an odd protection that you have -- this is not news to you, I can tell -- that you had as a white person. Now I would jog. I mean, I was a sister from another planet, obviously. So I would jog on the road. And the kids 102:00would come up to me, and here's an experience. It's not poignant, but it's funny as can be. The village children would come up to me. And as they got to know me better, first them would call me "Mzungu, mzungu," white person, white person. So that's fine. Then as they got to know me, and I would go in and hang out, they'd come up and touch my skin, touch my hair, which was blonde. Touch particularly my freckles, because there were brown spots on my skin. And I remember one particular conversation that took place completely in Swahili. And they would say where are you from and everything. Well, I was from the United States. I'm ----------(??). So I come from the United States, I come from America. What part of America? I come from Chicago. And I swear to God, these are kids in, actually these were thatched roofs. And Swahili, not French. Nothing. "Oh, Chicago! Chicago! Al Capone! 103:00Al Capone!" [machine gun noise] With a machine gun gesture. So they knew, I mean, this was before Michael Jordan.

WILSON: I was going to say--

BAZELL: If it were ten years later, it would have been Michael Jordan they would have known about. But at that time, it was Al Capone. They knew. So it was a really-- (laughs) What they knew about, but that's wandering from one kind of poignancy to another kind of familiarity. But that was not a very deep story, but it's a telling one. What they understand about the United States. I'm trying to think of, go ahead.

WILSON: Besides being sick, what was coming home like?

BAZELL: I was so overwhelmed by grocery stores. I had never seen so much food in my life. I was so used to being, and I didn't consider myself hungry. I had never seen, I was so shocked at opulence. And it wasn't even opulence. I was just so shocked by quantities of stuff. I 104:00was used to grocery stores during something, relatively a time of war, where you really sort of had to horde bread, horde flour, horde rice. Anything starch. Cans of mackerel, I said earlier. And then coming back and being just overwhelmed by things. And I've talked to other returned Peace Corps volunteers. It was dizzying. Literally. And that's the one sensation I do remember more than anything else.

WILSON: What about dealing with family? Friends? What you were going to do next? Had you already decided that?

BAZELL: I hadn't decided that. I ended up signing up at a temporary employment service. I really didn't know what I was going to do. I still though I was going to go to law school. I ended up doing a legal secretary, having a legal secretarial job, which I did not mind at all at that point. I was living at home briefly. I applied to graduate school. I thought that this made sense. I was going to 105:00do a program in ethics and then move on to law. And I ended up being accepted immediately by Harvard Divinity School. And I ended up in the master's program there and being nudged to apply to their doctoral program. And I thought well, you know, I couldn't see myself wearing a suit and pumps to work every day. I mean, this was the crazy way I was making decisions at the time. I couldn't see myself living what I thought at the time was the life of an attorney. I could see myself living as an academic. And I went that route. Now I switched fields severely at one point, and went into, and I had the language background to do it. But I ended up in religion and medieval studies. The switch from ethics was not as far reaching, because I'd had philosophy and I ended up, what I thought was going to be a dissertation on having to do 106:00with hagiography and, and moral paradigms, I ended up doing something very different. But I ended up doing a critical edition of an early fourteenth century treatise on the eating of meat. And a lot of what I understood about the power and significance of food habits had come from many of my experiences in Zaire as a Peace Corps volunteer, and the significance of what anthropologists call commensality, or eating together. And anthropological theories about food. Prohibitions and food practices and what one eats, with whom, and under what circumstances. And I ended up doing something having to do with monastic dietary practices and discipline. It wasn't completely far a field from having lived with Ursuline sisters and done work that I had done. It wasn't much method. (laughs) But it worked.

WILSON: Very interesting. So you went to Boston and you were at Harvard 107:00from when to when?

BAZELL: Really for a little over a decade. But I lived overseas again in the meantime. I had lived, I applied to, while I was at Harvard, when I was at--

WILSON: Okay. So let's do dates here. So you come back from Peace Corps in--

BAZELL: '77.

WILSON: '77.

BAZELL: I went to Harvard in the master's program in '78. Completed that in '80.

WILSON: Okay.

BAZELL: Had been accepted into the doctoral program in '80. Switched fields, I don't know what year I switched my work in. But I applied to live in what they call the Center for the Study of Oral Religion. And I was the first historian of Christianity to make that kind of application. Everyone else there was a Buddhologist or an Indologist or Sinologist.

WILSON: And this center is at--

BAZELL: At Harvard.

WILSON: At Harvard. Okay.

BAZELL: And I lived there and worked there. And very much, that's 108:00beyond the scope of this, but influenced by that mixture of studying and also participating in various disciplines and religious traditions. In 1980, I met the person who would be my husband. He ended up going to Yale. So we were commuting back and forth between Cambridge and New Haven. Actually, he was spending a lot more time in Cambridge than I was going to-- (laughs) We spent one year there. And we did our graduate overseas research in Rome. And he had a Rome Prize and I had a Harvard graduate fellowship. So we based ourselves at the American Academy in Rome. We got married in '84. We lived in Rome from '86 to '88. I used my fellowship to do the manuscript codex research that I needed to do. So I branched out in, to gosh, I had twenty-three, 109:00what ended up being twenty-five, but I was going through twenty-three manuscripts in about eighteen libraries across Western Europe that I went to, described and used for my critical edition. And he, we based ourselves at the American Academy in Rome, because he had a Rome Prize prize in classics. And over the course of that time there were able to take two trips on Roman archeaology to Tunisia and Turkey, which was very interesting, and built, added to what I had known before and learned before. And then we came back. And I was hired in 1990 to be a professor at Syracuse University in the religion department. And the position description was, "any religion, any tradition. Any tradition, any period." And how they bought history, medieval Christianity, says a 110:00lot about them and about me. And I stayed there for several years. In the meantime, Larry was commuting, he got adjunct positions by course positions at Cornell. So he was going up and down 81 to Ithaca. And he got a job that might have, had the person not returned, turned into a tenure track job at York University in Toronto. But that was him coming back three weekends a month, and me going up there one weekend a month. So we were both applying for other positions. And he saw in the Chronicle of Higher Education online, the strangest help wanted notice we've ever seen. That was the position that I'm in now. Which was, "Come to Kentucky." This is right after House bill One. Gordon Davies wrote it, he told me later that he wrote it at the bar at Fiesta Grande in Frankfort. You know, "Come to Kentucky. We want thinkers, writers, speakers. Change the level of educational attainment in Kentucky." It was basically come and save Kentucky. And one of the people in 111:00the former governor's cabinet, actually Mary Lassiter said, "Oh, we all called that the thinker's position, because there were six people who were going to be hired." And so I tossed my application in along with my resume. There were many other things to which I was applying. I was applying to history departments and religion departments and administrative positions and everything. And I got this interview. And I'd never blurted out before, and never will again to the person who called in. I said, "Oh, this is a dream job." It was really, it appealed to every missionary and good doing instinct that any former Peace Corps volunteer ever had. (laughs) And honestly, you can't say this to a lot of people here, but lessons of working in a Third World country are very applicable to some parts of Kentucky. This won't be heard for another years so I can say that. I know how to speak, how to communicate with cultural gestures in ways that I don't think I would have understood quite as well without that experience. I know the 112:00significance of food, how to travel, and how to do it alone, and how to be a woman alone on the road and put a, almost like a bell jar of light around myself psychically as I go through and make sure that I give off an aura of it being much more, much too difficult to be worth anyone's while to mess with me. I mean, that's how, you understand how women travel alone. And how to relate to people and make connections cold.

WILSON: And so those things that you learned, to some extent in Zaire--

BAZELL: Very much in Zaire. And when I was traveling, very much. And thinking about what education can and can't do. And what is, I think 113:00if you don't have the experience of working in the kind of, and I hate to say Third World, but in an economy and in a cultural setting that is so drastically different from anything that Americans would know, you have all kinds of ideas about what's important and how to give other, how to prioritize for other people. And if you do understand that sometimes basic medicine and basic literacy are better than either nothing or waiting for the heart transplants and the hand transplants and all the exotic medical techniques, the kind of things that Amartyra Sen talks about in Democracy and Freedom. That certain basic economic and educational and infrastructure, little wells rather than great 114:00dams, make such a difference in people's lives. Just eradicating malaria, or controlling it, would make a huge difference in people's lives. Just basic dental care, we're discovering around the world because Kentucky, just that that has, basic public health, what Patton is talking about with distributing folic acid to pregnant women. Very, very basic things that are not exotic or sexy to a policy planner are of much greater important to a larger number of, range of people in planning their lives. And what Sen talks about, giving them the freedom to choose lives they have reason to value. Now that's not stuff I had read at the time. But as I go over my life experience, and I apply it to work that I'm doing here, I will tell you anathema. This is not 115:00going to be published right away, heresy right now. We're pushing for baccalaureate right now. That's the current agenda. Learning basic skills, getting basic certificates. I will side more on the side of the KCTPS right now than I will on the side of the university. Where yes, the baccalaureate makes a huge change in general, on paper, with income. But having basic education as a public health issue is much more visible. And I remember even in my interview for this job, when I said that, Gordon Davies jumped up from the table. Most people don't think in those terms. But having the means to, whether it's sanitized, sanitation and plumbing, basic disease control, basic nutrition, makes such a difference. And basic literacy. For girls, for example, the 116:00discovery that for each year you keep a girl in school, that's so much greater, more effective means of population control than what they did in India offering radio, transistor radios for men who would get vasectomies. That didn't work. (laughs) But certain very, very basic public health and maintenance issues are much more effective. And I don't think you see in that scale of, if you haven't seen, if you haven't worked at that level. That's one huge lesson I think I have been, that has been brought back to me. Also what education can and cannot do. Some of the people with whom I was working initially were absolutely committed to the idea that education made you a better human being. And I'd known that that's not, for a number of reasons, that's not true. Plenty of people who have been obviously very educated--

WILSON: Who are not--

117:00

BAZELL: You've got the Holocaust as a background, then you also know that very well. You can be very, very, very cultured, and the pinnacle of what is considered to be civilization and capable of human atrocity. You can also have that in Rwanda now with machetes. It just, there really is not a correlation. So the way to justify the promotion of education is really through individual, I think, and community freedom. But it's not through virtue. And I just, that's-- (laughs)

WILSON: That's good. So that's, in a sense, the impact on you and on your career both.

BAZELL: Yeah, I think so. It's not as if I went there, you know, I could have come back and thought well, I'll go and do the international thing.

WILSON: International law, right.

BAZELL: I really couldn't see myself doing that. And I ended up 118:00really combining somewhat to modernize obscure, relatively ancient and medieval work, but history with present application. There was a lot of just interaction of watching religious institutions at play in Zaire that made what I eventually read about medieval institutions and the access that monastic life gave to power and administration, the access that that gave to the way in which religious groups pitch themselves on one side of the political battle or another. I could see that in play in Zaire.

WILSON: But that's a big switch, although it's still related to Zaire, to come to Kentucky for this present job.

BAZELL: Oh, it's completely different.

WILSON: To come to Kentucky and do this as a job.

BAZELL: Yes, it is. But it's very funny. When my husband saw this ad, 119:00I didn't mention this. He said, "You've got to take a look at this Kentucky thing. This is you." Now at some point, why this Kentucky thing was me, I don't know. But he knew me enough to know that this was something. And he followed me here without a job. And then built up, I mean, talked with people and networked. And talked with people at UK, all this institutions and was asked to teach a course in New Testament Greek at Lexington Theological Seminary. Sure he could do that. Could you teach religion and values and culture in American-- "Sure, I can do that." Would you teach, someone's on sabbatical, can you teach Hebrew and Prophets. "Sure, I can." Well, he's now tenured. So he built, and that was not a job that was ever described or advertised. It was something that was built up.

WILSON: So it's worked well for both of you.

BAZELL: It worked well for both of us. And-- (laughs)

WILSON: What do you think the impact of your Peace Corps experience was 120:00on Zaire? You talked about on you. What about on Zaire?

BAZELL: I don't know, teaching English was not something that was, that they absolutely needed yet another set of people. I think what I said before was the fact that there was someone there from another country who wasn't there to either avoid the draft or to preach to them or to, that was there, really, to be and to, who said that she was there to learn, and who really appreciated everything that they were doing, I think that was a stunning shock. I think that had a powerful message about Americans. I felt very good about being an American while I was in Zaire. There may be different experiences for other Peace Corps 121:00volunteers in other parts of the world, but it was, it was, I thought it was that the Peace Corps had a very powerful cultural, to say a cultural impact, I think, the Peace Corps volunteers are notoriously idealistic, and do and say a lot of stupid things. But you know, and my Ethiopian friends would say, who had been trainers of some of these, the national trainers at some of these Peace Corps volunteer training centers would say, Oh my God, you know. And in fact I heard about the Peace Corps from this man who was the husband, became the husband of my roommate, college roommate. But he was very pleased that I went to the Peace Corps. There was something very positive. It's just a cultural relation and political, oh, gosh, it's hard to say. It's not that 122:00anyone learns a darn thing from any particular class I taught, I don't think. But I think the intent of being there was a positive.

WILSON: Are you in contact with any people from that experience?

BAZELL: No. I'm not. Even my coworker, and I tried to find her. I think she was living with a family, and they must have moved. And the Peace Corps doesn't give out names of any--

WILSON: And of course there's no Peace Corps in--

BAZELL: There's no Peace Corps there now. And I don't know, I know that many of the European nuns, I remember thinking that I might stop there when I was in Brussels, and I didn't. I didn't even have time. But they would have probably died, had died before I got there, even by the time I was doing my manuscript work, in Brussels. But no, I haven't.

WILSON: And there isn't really any way at this point to go back, is 123:00there?

BAZELL: Oh, there would be no way to go back. I kept the address of the person I was probably closest to who was the boyfriend of my coworker who really sat me down and taught me a lot. But I asked her, in fact I invited her to my wedding and she came, but she didn't tell me anything about him. She's lost track of him. So he would be the one person that I would have wanted to go back, it would be, I'm sure that the school is no longer, I don't know, I mean, probably--

WILSON: What about people who are from Congo who are here? Do you know any?

BAZELL: I don't know any, and I know there are some here. I met someone in a store one time and we exchanged numbers. And I probably should call her. I have been, it's hard for me to make time for anything, and I really haven't extra. And I'm very consciously making time for 124:00returned Peace Corps volunteers as a sort of an item in my life. I never was able to do it the first say five years I was here.

WILSON: And you came here in?

BAZELL: July '99.

WILSON: '99. I remember that.

BAZELL: I haven't been here, and I just, I am being very conscious about adding now to my life ----------(??) and my work, which sounds crazy. But I'm commuting between here and Frankfort and I thought well, and Peace Corps, I've got a few other things that I have going on in my life that I'm adding to it. I know that there are, from friends of mine who are in the public school system, that there are refugee boy soldiers in --

WILSON: Yes, there are Congolese refugees and there are others, too. Right. Final two questions. What has been the impact of Peace Corps 125:00service on the way you think about the world, and what is going on in the world generally now? And then what do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps has been, and what should be its role today? So start with the impact of Peace Corps service on the way you think about the world.

BAZELL: I think I've said a lot about that.

WILSON: I think you have, too.

BAZELL: I think really if you don't, whether it's Peace Corps or some other means, that young college student who was at our table the other night--

WILSON: This was at our returned Peace Corps volunteer dinner.

BAZELL: Returned Peace Corps volunteer dinner. And I made reference to the conversation a few times now. I told him, he was getting a lot of information from a lot of people. And I just said that I thought it would be worth, I thought he was senior, he was a sophomore at that point in time. But I think it gives you a kind of bifocal 126:00cultural depth that you would never have in any other way. And you just can't get it on a three-week trip to someplace, hitting the main sights. Even archeological tour. You have to be there on site, living someplace. And there's no other time like the early twenties, right after college. Or mid-career or retired. And we're getting to the point where we're having very many mulitphased lives. And you know, it would affect your life, and the impact on your life differently depending on when you have this experience. But I think it's worth having. I think of Jimmy Carter's mother going to India in her what, sixties or seventies.

WILSON: So Peace Corps should be the same into the future? We should have another fifty years?

BAZELL: Oh, I would recommend, I would recommend the Peace Corps. 127:00And unlike many people, I didn't have any objections to going into Eastern Europe. It would be a very different experience. It wouldn't have given me the kind of experience that I need, that I wanted and was looking for. But there's nothing like going to someplace where you think you have a whole lot in common and it's fairly familiar and learning how different that is. I think that can be very beneficial, going into Romania or going into Poland. That would be a very different experience than going into Zaire or Latin America or Southeast Asia. But I think, I don't want to trivialize it by calling it something of a rite of passage. But I think it's an important part of the formation of a citizen of the world. And I guess I'll return to that because I found myself as a child and it's an old concept, 128:00Lucretius talked about it, but the idea that you can still see yourself as belonging to something more than either your city or your nation or your ethnic group. You really have that sense of belonging to the human species and cultural variety. I don't want to be overly profound, but I think it's incredibly important. Now, structured and where it goes and should we be dropping people off into war torn territory, no. But I think, I'll tell you an impact that it had on my life that's not, I will synthesize any piece of information to make it applicable to anything. (laughs) But an analogous experience on a 129:00very small scale, I don't know whether they're still doing this. But here in Lexington they were doing the Catholic Rescue League or the Catholic Action Center, I can't remember what they were calling it, up on the north side of Lexington, has done periodically over the years, at least while I've been here, something called ----------(??) turn on the heat or something. They would help, do fundraising for helping families who needed it, get the funding to be able to heat their homes in winter. And they had a twenty-four hour homeless experience that at some point was actually prestigious. You had to be invited to go to this. (laughs) Well, my husband and I did this. We did it in separate groups. Now you have police escort. This is not the real thing at all. But you can learn from it. And so I did. And I went with a very small group, like one minister, who else was on it. But I thought 130:00well, if I'm really going to learn from this, I'll treat it seriously instead of treating it as a summer nighttime picnic and stay out at the opera house, which is where people usually go. And I learned from the people who, Jimmy Ramsey and some of the people who talked to us about it, and the policeman who was there, that men do much better on the streets than they do in shelters. They get mugged in shelters, robbed in shelters, beaten up. Women, however, do much better in shelters than on the streets. They have to sell themselves or find some kind of protector. I thought well, if I were really in this position, what would I do? So I headed over, we got to choose whatever we wanted, any time we felt uncomfortable. I said, "I'm going to go to the Salvation Army women's shelter." And I spent the night in that shelter. Talked to the head of the-- and again, this was the kind of kinesthetic, experiential, on the ground, what would it be like and how does it 131:00apply, what can I do to apply this to what I'm doing type of work. She let me stay in a room with someone who ended up being, it became very clear, somewhat mentally deranged, but harmless. That was fine. And I got up in the morning, had breakfast with the women and children and watched the school bus drive up. I thought well here I am, in this place, with florescent lighting and the crazy people. And yes, it's clean, and yes, it's relatively safe. But these are the conditions under which the children are going, the Title I kids are going to school in the morning and expected to read and perform on their tests. And I'm making policy about this. At least it gave me, and probably it's the Peace Corps instinct in me that made me realize that you can read about things, but unless you get some kind of experiential 132:00on-site visual impact, you're really not going to know what you're talking about. I still don't. I mean, I can't say that I can talk with experience about what it's really like. But I do have an insight about the children who are coming from that background. And I think the, I probably had that kind of nerve to do that anyway, regardless of Peace Corps. But I know that there's a valuable kind of insight to seek out from my experience in Peace Corps. So I guess that would have another relation to how it affected me. And I told some coworkers at the Council, and they thought I was absolutely stark raving mad.

WILSON: That you did it.

BAZELL: That I did it. But not that, there was one person just kind of walked away. Was just almost freaked out. And another person said, "Well, you're--" I can't remember the adjective that he used. None of 133:00them would have done that. And it wasn't that much. This was homeless life. (laughs)

WILSON: Yeah, I know someone who did it.

BAZELL: But there is something that you can learn. And both my husband and I thought this is ridiculous. Who are people fooling who think they're learning anything from this. But we still both learned something. And the dean of the seminary. So it was a, he's retired now. I don't know what that says.

WILSON: Well, I think that's related. It occurs to me, Dianne, did you say what your position actually is? You talked about it being a thinker. But, your position.

BAZELL: Oh, well, right now, I've advanced in my thinking status. (laughs) I am now, my title is assistant vice president for academic affairs at the Council on Post-Secondary Education. I have spent much of my time working on what's called the P16 Council. In other words 134:00bringing the K-12, the pre-kindergarten through the baccalaureate experience for both K-12 and post-secondary and beyond, the work force and labor and job training and portability and the education that it takes to get there. The State Council has, there's a state P16 council, and I helped to start local P16 councils throughout the state. So I have done, I used my, whether you use the image of missionary work or old time labor rabble rousing, I have used that kind of community activism of getting people together for a particular set of tasks. Used that to great advantage. And I don't know how I would have been able to do the kind of local communicating. I mean, I 135:00would have been able to. But I don't know that it would have been as effective as without this experience.

WILSON: Without Peace Corps.

BAZELL: Without Peace Corps. And you wanted to say should it be the same, and what was the final thing?

WILSON: Well, what should its role be today? What should Peace Corps' role be today?

BAZELL: I probably said everything I need to say, but I think it definitely should be funded. Again, I don't see anything, I have no objection to going into different geographic ----------(??)

WILSON: Okay. Thanks.

BAZELL: You're welcome. (pause) No, no, no. I was going to say, when you mentioned President Kaunda, and I collected music, I have a 45 record of President Kenneth Kaundasinging the Zambian national anthem. [singing] "One Africa, one nation--" with his cabinet at the beginning 136:00of it. So I don't have a 45 player. And also, Kiendi Pomosi (??), which is ----------(??)

WILSON: How did you get that?

BAZELL: I got it in a record store.

WILSON: Oh, you got it in a record store. (pause)

BAZELL: One more thing.

WILSON: One more thing.

BAZELL: We're talking about meals. And I think it says something about how people didn't eat the food, generally speaking, outsiders. But one of the things, that's what I do with the homeroom, with my students. In addition to going mango picking in the desert on the weekends, we planned a big picnic. And we got the, we picked the cassava, we pounded the cassava with the mortar and pestle. We pounded the ----- -----(??) we cooked it with palm, we sat and ate. It was probably the first time, I don't think any of the nuns had ever done that with them. But we did that. And I just ----------(??) it was a memory that I 137:00forgot to add with that. But you were going to say, you were going to add something to that.

[End of interview.]

Search This Transcript
SearchClear