WILSON: Peace Corp Oral History Project, interview of Deb Schweitzer, April, May 10th, 2006, interviewer Jack Wilson. Deb, if you would, please give me your full name and where and when you were born?

SCHWEITZER: Debra Michelle Schweitzer. I was born in Los Angeles, California in, actually, in Burbank but part of Los Angeles in July 6th, 1965.

WILSON: And tell me something about your family and your growing up. Did you continue to live there and so forth?

SCHWEITZER: No, we, I lived there till I was three so I really don't remember it. I have an older sister and a younger brother and we moved to Michigan about when I was three or four and I grew up, I spent most of my growing up, well, all of my growing up years in Michigan. We 1:00lived in a couple different cities in Michigan. We lived in Midland and I went from kindergarten to high school in Midland and then, we moved to Rochester which is kind of a northern suburb of Detroit, way north and we moved there in my sophomore year of high school and I finished up high school there.

WILSON: And then what?

SCHWEITZER: Then, I went to college. I went to Michigan State University and got my degree from there and--

WILSON: What did you study at Michigan State?

SCHWEITZER: Studied business--


SCHWEITZER: Finance and--

WILSON: So that would have been when? You graduated from Michigan State when?

SCHWEITZER: I graduated December of '87, I think, about '87 I think it was, yeah..



SCHWEITZER: And then, I really didn't know what I wanted to do and I took some time, I traveled for my graduation present. My parents gave me a trip so I traveled to Europe not very long, for about a month and that was my first overseas experience so that was really interesting. Then, came back and I went, I moved down with a friend of mine to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and worked in the travel industry there for a little while at hotel, one of the large hotels on the island.

WILSON: And that would have been what? The spring or summer of--?

SCHWEITZER: That was the next year, yeah, '88--




SCHWEITZER: Yeah and then, I worked for a while in Michigan for Michigan National Banks and some different companies, still, kind of not really 3:00sure of what I was wanting to do with my life and I'm still not sure what I want to do with my life. But I ended up gosh, I'm trying to think what all I did. I ended up, I had thought about joining the Peace Corp for a while but I don't really remember when it started but I just remember it was like something that was there for a while and I ended up--

WILSON: From when you were in college or--?

SCHWEITZER: Probably, yeah, I guess I would say from when I was in college, high school, college, probably college, yeah and so I ended up just kind of drifting for a while just having, you know, different jobs but nothing permanent and nothing that I felt I wanted to make a 4:00career out of and eventually, I ended up applying. You know, I lived in different places in Michigan and different, I had friends in Lansing so I stayed in Lansing for quite a while and then, moved up to the northern part, not in the upper peninsula but in the northern Traverse City area and had a friend there, did some work there and eventually, I just decided you know, I was either, I was thinking about going back to school and getting my master's. I was either going to get my Masters or go into the Peace Corps so that's what I did. I ended up going to the Peace Corps.

WILSON: So you applied to Peace Corps when?

SCHWEITZER: Let me see, '94, it was in the early nineties, '92, '93, 5:00I can't remember exactly. I think it was '93 to '96 was my dates so yeah, it must have been in '92.


SCHWEITZER: Had a couple good years there, drift, hahaha--

WILSON: So you applied in '92, did you indicate a particular place you would like to go or--?

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, I knew I wanted to go to Africa. I'd just always known that I wanted to go to Africa so my preference was for Africa and I had some French in high school. I took a couple years in high school, two years in high school and a year in college. Maybe it, actually, it was three years in high school and a year in college so I had a little bit of French background so I requested you know, Africa but somewhere where French was the official language.


WILSON: And what do you remember about the application process? Anything?

SCHWEITZER: Well, I remember that it was a very long application. There was a lot, you know, it was a lot more than just a typical one page job application. It was pretty long and you had write about why you wanted to join the Peace Corps, what motivated you, what kind of experiences you've had, you know, paid or volunteer that might apply, had to have, you know, references. It was a pretty, pretty lengthy application.

WILSON: And how long did it take before you got an invitation?

SCHWEITZER: I don't remember exactly but it was less than a year but probably more than five or six months.


WILSON: But in the meantime, you were--


WILSON: Working.

SCHWEITZER: I was still working, yeah, yeah but I remember, you know, I asked a lot of people once I got there what their experience was like and they, you know, usually would go and interview at the regional office after you turned in your application and got called and I had my interview on my phone so I never actually went into the office so it was, it was kind of interesting. I just had a phone interview and that was it.

WILSON: Okay, so you went to a staging or something and when would that have been?

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, once you, of course, as you know, once you, there's a lot of bureaucracy after the acceptance. You had to go get your shots, had to get your background checked, had to get all your affairs in order, had a lot of, your yellow card, your World Health 8:00Organization card, that kind of thing and then, we did have a staging in Philadelphia is where ours was--

WILSON: And you were invited to go where and what kind of a program?

SCHWEITZER: I was invited to go to Mali, West Africa in SED, small enterprise development, small business development program.

WILSON: Okay, so you went to Philadelphia and what happened in Philadelphia?

SCHWEITZER: I think it was three, four, five days maybe of we, there were some former volunteers there that came and talked us about, you know, introduced us to the country, talked about you know, different things you would experience, what to expect. We had a lot of shots there. I remember getting a lot of shots, had to get your last minute details in order, you know, if you wanted to do any banking or send 9:00any packages or you know, that type of thing and, of course, you had all your luggage with you that you were taking and this was all sent to you before you went. You knew, you got a detailed description of the country you were going to and what kind of things would appropriate to bring and how much luggage you were allowed and that kind of thing so it was basically an introduction to where you would be going and what to expect and getting your medical and your final things in order since you would be gone for a couple years.

WILSON: Did you know anything about Mali before you got the application?

SCHWEITZER: No, actually, I didn't. Now, of course I had heard of Timbuktu which most people know the name Timbuktu but a lot of people, myself included didn't, I didn't know it was a real place so when I 10:00found out that Timbuktu was in Mali, I thought whoa, you know, there's one thing I know! I didn't know it was a real place but I've heard of it before so I basically did not know anything.

WILSON: So from Philadelphia, what happened?

SCHWEITZER: Then, we went to, once our staging was finished, we all got on a plane and flew to Mali. We flew to, I remember we stopped Brussels and then, we flew to, where did we fly? We flew to the west coast in Africa and took a pit stop there, maybe a refueling or something and then, we flew into Bamako which is the capital of Mali. It was late at night. It was dark. I remember it being dark and--

WILSON: I was going to say what was your first impression?

SCHWEITZER: Hot, hahaha. Hot and humid, that was my first impression.


WILSON: And then, what unfolded?

SCHWEITZER: So then, we went through customs which was pretty interesting because basically, you just walked down the stairs of the plane and everything was kind of outside. They were remodeling the airport so it was, you know, it's a decent airport, it's not, for third world standards but they were remodeling it so there was just concrete and junk all over the place and it was not something that I expected to see. It was the first of my many surprises once I got there and we went, what did we do? I think we got, we got, we all got into a bus and we went to our training facility which is called tubaniso and that 12:00means house, peace house, lots of peace and it was a, it was kind of a camp and you had the little huts that you shared, you shared a hut with a roommate and you had cots and mosquito nets and there was a big kitchen facility where we all ate together and then, there were some classrooms where we studied and, but basically, they were just kind of circular huts, you know, thatched roof huts and that was where we lived for a good, well, I think it was twelve weeks. Our study program was twelve weeks.

WILSON: So you arrived when?

SCHWEITZER: I don't remember what month it was. It was, it was the later part of the year of '93--




WILSON: And so you were actually a volunteer from '93 to '95--

SCHWEITZER:'95 and then I extended a year--

WILSON: Oh okay, we'll get--


WILSON: Get to that--


WILSON: Okay, so tell me about the twelve week training. What was included?

SCHWEITZER: So during the training, it was pretty grueling because you're just in the state of shock. Your culture shock, language shock, everything is a shock, hahaha--

WILSON: In what ways?

SCHWEITZER: You're, it's kind of like you're just a baby starting over again and you have to learn everything. You have to learn as much as you can in twelve weeks to be able to take care of yourself in a totally foreign culture and environment and be on your own so we had language training every day. The official language of Mali is French 14:00so we had French training. We also had, half way through, we had the local language training. It was decided where you would go. You were then placed into a training for that whatever local language they spoke where you would be going so you would have your French and your local language training.

WILSON: And what was that for you?

SCHWEITZER: Mine was Bambara.

WILSON: Bambara.

SCHWEITZER: Then, you had your sector training so I was small business development so you'd have that training about what types of different things, you know, the economy of Mali and what types of different businesses were there and what kind of small business projects other people have done and what you could maybe hope to do and then, you also had your culture training learning about the culture of Mali, the people, the history, some history, their beliefs and their way of life, 15:00so all of that. It was pretty much morning till evening every day and even when you were eating, it was not a break because even eating, everything was different. Eating was different. Going to the bathroom was different, you know--

WILSON: In what ways? What do you mean eating was different? The food was different or--?

SCHWEITZER: Well, yeah, the food was different. It was very good food for the most part. There was some food I didn't quite care for but the food we had in training was quite good. It was rice and mostly rice and chicken and different kinds of meat but when you eat in Mali as in probably many countries in Africa, you have a communal bowl and everybody sits around and there's a big bowl on the floor and you all sit either on a stool low to the ground or sit on the floor and if there 16:00is any meat, it gets placed in the middle, the middle of the bowl and you are the eat with your right hand because your left hand is for the toilet which is another new thing and so you're to take just the meat portion that's in front of you. It's impolite to you know, reach over other people's hand and take things for their area of the bowl. You have, you wash your hands with water before you eat. They had what's called a salidaga in Bambara and it's like a plastic tea pot basically what it is, a big plastic tea pot and you pour that over your hands to wash your hands before you start to eat and then, in Mali, not much talking goes on during the meal. Pretty much, you focus on eating--


WILSON: But you ate this way during training?


WILSON: That was part of the training?

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, at the beginning, we ate that way not all the time but some of the time just to break us into it and then, towards the end, it was, it was all the time. That's how you would eat. You would eat in your communal way of eating and you also would, we would have time of immersion when you were only allowed to speak French or your local language so that came once again towards the end of the training that you would have to not speak English for, you know, the whole day or half the day--

WILSON: But you were living in these huts just with other Peace Corp trainees?


SCHWEITZER: Well, just at the beginning, just for, I don't really know how long, maybe a few days or a week at the most. Then, there was a, there was a few, there was some villages nearby the training facility and we all got paired up with a family that we would go back to so in the mornings, we would get on a bus and go to the training facility. In the evenings, we would get on the bus and go back to the village that we lived in during our training and we would be paired up or two volunteers would be paired up with a family and you would stay with them overnight while, during your training so it would give you exposure to you know, more exposure to the culture and the people and living with Malians and how you were going to live when you eventually went to your site.

WILSON: And what was that living situation like?

SCHWEITZER: Oh, it was very difficult because we didn't know a lot of 19:00the language so there was not much, it was hard to communicate at the beginning. Towards the end, you started to know a little bit more, know a few more words, know how to say things, know some, have a little bit more knowledge but at the beginning, it was very difficult. You used a lot of sign language and it was also very exhausting because you would be, you know, morning till evening, you would be training and then, you had to go back and, you know, sit with your family and try to have some sort of communication with your adopted family, the family that adopted you and it was very tiring because your brain was just worn, your brain was just fried. You were worn out but it was very learned. It was a very good learning experience too because you wouldn't have got that if you just stayed at the training site. You wouldn't have been able to see how the families live and what they do. 20:00You know, even in that short period of time that we were there in the mornings and the evenings, you got to see them cooking dinner and the children, what they, you know, they would help out. You know, use the bathroom. The bathroom, you go to the bathroom outside in a basically a latrine and you got to have a bucket a bath which is just filling your bucket with water and pouring cups of water over you. Learn how to, you know, how to bathe--

WILSON: No indoor plumbing.

SCHWEITZER: No indoor plumbing, no, no. No so you have your lantern at night or your candles to see what you were doing and where you were going and your mosquito nets on your cot so you basically just shared a room. You and another volunteer shared a room with that family and a significant thing about the family that you stayed with was they got to name you. They got to give you your Malian name so you got their last 21:00name but they also give you your first name and then, you got their last name and so--

WILSON: So what was yours?

SCHWEITZER: Mine was Kadidia Kante.

WILSON: Can you spell that for us?

SCHWEITZER: K-a-d-i-d-i-a, Kadidia and Kante is K-a-n-t-e and the Kantes are Bambara, is a Bambara name. They are a Bambara family and they are a family of four forgeron, of blacksmiths and every different family name in Mali as I'm sure in many other countries are handed down and they have specific professions associated with them so I was, I was from a blacksmith family and the blacksmiths are also known to be magicians so that was kind of interesting as well.

WILSON: What does that mean? A magician in Mali?

SCHWEITZER: Well, they have kind of you know maybe some secret powers to be able to control your environment a little bit better and maybe put 22:00good spells or bad spells on people and kind of--

WILSON: But not the American concept of a magician as one who does--

SCHWEITZER: Oh, no, no, no

WILSON: Card tricks, ha--

SCHWEITZER: No, no, no, not at all--

WILSON: Okay. Just wanted to be clear about that

SCHWEITZER: Yes, good point.

WILSON: So you carried this name through your volunteer service?

SCHWEITZER: Yes, I did. Now, some people changed their name when they went to their site, their village and they changed their name to their family, their host family's name at their village but I kept mine the whole time.

WILSON: Let me ask you something else about the training. Some Peace Corps volunteers in the earlier days had an American studies component. 23:00Was there any, anything like that as a part of your training?

SCHWEITZER: American studies? Like history? American history or anything like that?

WILSON: Yeah, yeah--


WILSON: Democracy, you know--



SCHWEITZER: Not at all.

WILSON: Okay, so anything else about training?

SCHWEITZER: Well, one part about training, you just made me think about, was one component was health too. We had another section on health where first we got more shots. And we had nurses that would come I think a few times a week and they would talk to us about you know, different illnesses and different things we might be experiencing and, you know, we got a little medical kit to take with us to our site and you learn how to prick your finger to do a malaria slide and you know, things like that. Introduced us to the endemic diseases, you know, malaria and guinea worm and, oh gosh, introduced us to the different 24:00predators, you know, snakes. There were different snakes in Mali and, you know, just different things to be on the lookout for and ways to kind of keep yourself healthy. Water, how to treat your water--

WILSON: And what was recommended at that point for water treatment?

SCHWEITZER: We had wells. So, now, some volunteers, there were some volunteers that were placed in larger towns and cities and so very few, some, and mostly, they were like the business development volunteers. They had, some of them had indoor plumbing and electricity. I would say maybe ten percent at the most but for the rest of us, you'd pull your water up from a well and you'd put it through a filter, a mesh 25:00cheese cloth type of filter and then, you treat it with either bleach or iodine tablets or the I think it was iodine tablets and or bleach--

WILSON: But you didn't boil it?


WILSON: Okay. Tell me about the malaria situation. You took a regular--

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, we took a prophylactic, mefloquine. Some people took chloroquine depending on how they reacted to mefloquine. Yeah, you'd take that daily to prevent you from getting malaria. Of course, many people came down with malaria now and again anyway. I had malaria once, just once in the whole time I was there.

WILSON: But you religiously took the prophylactic?

SCHWEITZER: At the beginning. Malaria, oh, I'm sorry, mefloquine, 26:00there still is a lot of, a lot of unknowns about mefloquine, a lot of conflict in its, even today that the drug gives some weird side effects and hasn't been approved by the FDA. I think it was approved in Europe but maybe not in the US and it gave you some vivid dreams but I have vivid dreams anyway. So I didn't notice a difference and some people, you know, reacted to it and that's why some people chose to take chloroquine but I guess you just kind of get lax, you know, after you've been there for a while and you know, you adjust and you maybe don't take it as often as you're supposed to. That's actually when I, when I got malaria was towards, you know, in the second half of my service when I wasn't taking it every day.

WILSON: And you mentioned something about a slide, learning how to test 27:00yourself for malaria. How did that work?

SCHWEITZER: Well, you didn't test yourself. What, theoretically what you would do is if you were feeling sick was like you may have malaria is you prick your finger and put you know your blood on a slide and wrap it all up and send it to the embassy in any car that happened to come by but. There weren't cars coming by regularly to the embassy. So what most people did would just they would, you know, you pretty much hop on a bus and go to the capital and go to the medical clinic.

WILSON: But we've gone ahead a little bit but anyway, there was a health training component is what you were saying about during the training period--

SCHWEITZER: Yes, yeah.

WILSON: And how did you feel about that? Was that--?


SCHWEITZER: It was scary because there's, you're just so, you know, coming from America, you're just used to having very minor illnesses. You're not used to dealing with snakes and malaria and guinea worm and, you know, malnutrition although that didn't really affect us so much but just, intestinal parasites and dysentery and things like that. You just never hear of these things. You never experience them and in Mali, it's just a way of life for the people and so thus, it's going to affect you as well so it was actually very scary and I, you know, there was a woman in our training group that had a, you know, kind of like a boil on our side and you know, she had the doctor look at it, the nurse, the nurses who would come a few times a week look at it and it 29:00ended up, you know, if you put your clothes outside to dry, flies could lay eggs in your clothes and it ended up when they lanced the boil, there were maggots squirreling inside of her so that was unsettling for everybody--

WILSON: This was during training?

SCHWEITZER: See the maggots coming out of her, yes, yeah so that was another thing that you would never think of. Don't dry, don't leave your clothes outside to dry. You know, just--

WILSON: Iron them--

SCHWEITZER: You just don't know.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah. Anything else about training? Was there a selection process or a de-selection? Did everybody stay? How did that work?

SCHWEITZER: No, yeah, there were, there were a few people that left during training, yes. There were many people that ET, early terminate, depending on which group. You know, every different group that's coming into the country has a different rate of early termination but sure, we had a hand full. Some people, it's medically related. Some 30:00people get sick and we did have a few medically related cases. I can't remember what was wrong with them but yeah and we had a few people that just, you know, just once they got there and went through this training period and saw what things were going to be like, they just realized it wasn't for them and decided they were just going to go home so, you know, cut their losses and left.

WILSON: So at the end of training, you learned where you were to be assigned?

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, about half way through training, you got, everyone got to find out where they were going to be, where their site was going to be and you went on a site visit and the different volunteers from the different sectors so there are different sectors. I was in, 31:00like I said, small enterprise development but you've also got health, education, agriculture, forestry, I think that was about it.

WILSON: How many people were there that went over with you in the group and then, how many in the sector that you were in?

SCHWEITZER: In my group, I think there was about sixty to seventy--

WILSON: Oh! Big!

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, it was big. Mali is one of the largest, has one of the largest groups of Peace Corps volunteers in Africa. I don't know how it compares with the rest of the world but in Africa, it's one of the biggest program and so in small business development, maybe fifteen, fifteen or twenty, maybe about fifteen in our sector.

WILSON: What kind of training did you have on small business development for Mali?



WILSON: What did that contain?

SCHWEITZER: It was very abstract, a lot of it. You know, we learned about the economy of Mali and, you know, the formal market and the informal market. Basically, as in most of Africa and many other countries, most business takes place in the informal sector where the government is not aware of what's going on and doesn't have their hands, thus doesn't have their hands in on it so we, one thing I forgot to mention during training, we also went to, we had different field trips. We went to see different, we went to see a few different people that were doing, having you know, their business and what they were doing. We went to see a few, maybe one or two volunteers, small business volunteers that were in place that, you know, had been there 33:00maybe a year or so and got to go to their site and see what they were doing. Although, that wasn't during training, that was kind of after training, that was kind of in between. During training, we did have a few field trips through. I remember we went to few different places that were nearby and so getting back to the question of what kind of small business training did you have. It was, it was very abstract. I really can't even remember a lot of the details of it--

WILSON: But designed to familiarize you with the Malian business--


WILSON: Sector--

SCHWEITZER: Just the way things work

WILSON: And what were the defined expectations for those of you who were going to work in that area? What was your job supposed to be?

SCHWEITZER: Well, for people living in the larger communities, it was, 34:00I think it was a lot easier because you would have, you know, in the large cities and towns, you would have places, you know, businesses operating, people that you could hook up with and that you could be associated with and that's another part of it is you have, when you go to your site, you have a, it's called a homologue, and that is your Malian counterpart basically. You were assigned to a Malian counterpart so if you're an education volunteer, you would teaching at the school and homologue would probably be another teacher or the principal of the school. It's kind of like your Malian counterpart that would kind of guide you and help you along and I went to a small village and so it's very difficult to define and say what it is that you're going to be 35:00doing which is typical Peace Corps. There's, nothing is really defined and nothing is really structured so you got to get used to whatever, and, a lot of people have hard time with that. I had a hard time with that too but my homolog was, in the area that I was in--

WILSON: So tell me, back up a second and tell me where you were assigned and ----------(??)--

SCHWEITZER: Okay, I was assigned to a small village called N'Tosso in the southern, eastern part of Mali about forty-fives kilometers from the Burkina Faso boarder--

WILSON: And spell N'Tosso for me.

SCHWEITZER: N-'-T-o-s-s-o


SCHWEITZER: And that village was located right on the main, the main, it's not really a highway but the main road, the main paved road. There is a paved road, you know, very few paved roads in the country 36:00and that was one of the paved roads that headed south towards the Ivory Coast and so it was located right off the side of the road so it was easy to get to. It was about an eight hour bus ride from the capital though so if you were going to the capital, you would plan on staying a few days because it would take you, you know, eight to ten hours to get there and so where was I going with this?

WILSON: Well--


WILSON: You were assigned to--

SCHWEITZER: Yes, a small village--

WILSON: Yeah, a small village and what was it, how did you get there and what was it like when you arrived?

SCHWEITZER: Oh, it was, they had a party for me! I was the first volunteer in this village so what happened was kind of the volunteers in the surrounding area, you kind of had teams. Back then, your, the volunteers were what it was called AFSE team and AFSE teams were 37:00developed back, I think it stood for something Food Security, it was back, modeled after something when they were trying to distribute food when people, you know, when people would have droughts and need to have food distributed so you were, and they kind of stuck with that model of teams so everyone in your immediate area was on your team so I had you know, five or six people on my team. Now, we'd all live in different villages but they were kind of considered my team and we had the same homologue, the same counterpart, Malian counterpart--

WILSON: So these were all, when you say team, team of Peace Corps volunteers?



SCHWEITZER: Mm hmm, yeah and they were in different sectors, you know, education and other sectors. It wasn't somebody in small business so we all, the Peace Corps took people in the same area that we would all 38:00pile into, you know, their land cruiser and they'd, they'd have it all worked out who was going where and when you were going and we'd, they'd take the people and that, in your team in your geographic region and basically take you to your site. I was the last one to be dropped off so I got to see everyone else getting dropped off and they basically take you to, you know, the village and have, the chief of the village would come and meet you and welcome you and they'd get your luggage off the bus or the, I can't remember if it was the bus or the small bus or the land cruiser but they pretty much dumped you and drive away.

WILSON: Hahaha

SCHWEITZER: That was it! So when I got to my place, like I said I was the first volunteer in this area and the people on the AFSE team in the region had kind of scoped out this village and thought it would be a good village to have a volunteer and they had some, you know, people 39:00that wanted to work with them so they decided to you know, worked it out with the bureau, the headquarters and got the approval to build a house and have a volunteer there so they dropped me off at my house and they were having a party for me. The village was all there and they had a generator so they had the generator hooked up and every, and they were playing music. They were playing the balophone which is like a wooden xylophone and you know, they had food and drink and you know, it was pretty like a festive kind of evening and now, I was just overwhelmed pretty much, you know, just being dumped off and having a party in my house and outside my house and you know, you'd just spent a whole day traveling and watching other people, leaving all the people that you've become friends with and going out on your own. It's kind 40:00of scary so, you know, what I did is, yeah, I was polite, tried to be polite and you know, met, I remember meeting people and saying hello to everyone and throwing my bags in the house and I just got kind of overwhelmed and after a while, I just told them I was really tired.

WILSON: Hahaha

SCHWEITZER: And I was going to go to bed so they, they partied all night and I just kind of went to bed.

WILSON: You said they built a house for you. What was the house like?

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, the house, the house was very nice but unfortunately, I think they built it in a bad location. It was kind of on a flood plain so when it rained during rainy season, it got flooded and, but not the house per say but the yard and into the house a little bit and also, since there had never been a house there before, it was just, you 41:00know empty land, there was a big tree in the middle of my concession so they had, they had the house. The house was there made out of mud brick and they have a toll, a tin type roof corrugated metal roof and corrugated metal windows that you could open and the big tree which I thought was beautiful which was beautiful but there were termite mounds that had been in that tree and so they had tried to get rid of them which they did but when a place is empty, the termites kind of move in and when something comes and unsettles them, they kind of move and get upset so I think it was like in the first week, during the first week, 42:00I think it maybe even the second night, second or third night, yeah, I think it was the second night, I had just this swarm mass of giant termites in my house and so I just remember stripping down and just screaming and stomping on them--


SCHWEITZER: And swatting everywhere and they were just everywhere and so I had to take, I had to sleep outside. I remember I went and slept outside and took my mosquito net and tied it to a tree and tried my best to sleep outside but then, I was having nightmares of just being like engulfed in termites--


SCHWEITZER: And oh God, it was horrid and you know, the termites never really did leave. They, the big giant cloud of them left but I had a lot of nice things that got eaten. You know, backpacks and things like that. They're not particular about what they eat. Anything that's touching the wall got eaten pretty much and termites is a common problem in Mali anyways. I think I had an extra dose of them.


WILSON: But did the house have multiple rooms or--?

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, it was about three rooms like a living room, a kitchen and a bedroom and then, like a little backyard, walled off area with a, you know, they put cement down on the ground so it had cement floors and I had a little area, like a small area in the back, maybe not even this big, much smaller where there was just a little cement landing and then, big tall mud brick walls so like if you wanted to sit outside alone and not be bothered, the walls were really tall.

WILSON: You had an outside latrine?

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, the latrine was outside and that wasn't finished being built yet when I got there. It was dug but there was no cement slab on top so I had a few days in the woods--


WILSON: Hahaha

SCHWEITZER: Till the latrine got finished and then, my well. I had a well that was dug as well and that wasn't, I had that dug after I was there for a while. Since it was a new place and a new house where nobody was living, I went to the, I would go get water from my host family and that was another kind of strange thing about the house is they kind of built it off kind of all by itself. They thought they were doing a good thing because you know, Africans are not as nearly as private as Americans are. You know, everyone is always around and you all live together and you're always, people are always around and so they thought this would be nice to have little bit of privacy but it turned out that it might have been a little bit too private because I was, you know, it was just a short walk from my host family and there 45:00was nobody else around me so it was, I remember people thought I was a witch and wondered what I was doing living there all alone by myself and stuff so it was kind of a little bit, I think they thought it was a little bit strange.

WILSON: Okay, we're going to need to turn the tape over--


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

WILSON: Okay, Deb, we were talking about, I guess you were talking about your house and coming in. After that party the first night.

SCHWEITZER: Hahaha, first night--

WILSON: First night, then, what happened? What was your job like or how did you make yourself a job?

SCHWEITZER: Well, yeah, so we were talking about how abstract everything is and you're, and how hard it is for Americans to deal with something that you have to kind of find on your own and nothing that's spelled out for you to do and it was especially difficult in a small village 46:00where there's not a lot of maybe business opportunities per say to help people with their businesses so and you know, another part of small enterprise development was also credit, was giving, you know, working with banks or saving the loans basically to give people credit, access to credit because that was a big push when I was there was there was a, I think it was a French non-government organization that came in and built these small banks in many different small towns, small villages, kind of like the capital. There's regional capitals. And then, there's like smaller county seats and so they kind of built these places in a county seats and it would give, it would allow people that had never you know, been to a bank or never experienced a bank to go and you know, maybe pull their money, to take out very small loans for 47:00you know, maybe selling vegetables, you know, some--

WILSON: So microcredit?

SCHWEITZER: Microcredit, yes.

WILSON: And so what would a loan, what would an average loan be to somebody like that?

SCHWEITZER: Gosh, I don't know what the average was but it was very small amounts, I mean, you know, you're talking, you know, fifty, a hundred dollars--

WILSON: Mm hmm

SCHWEITZER: Something like that, very small amounts and so it was difficult because I was the first one, the first Peace Corps volunteer in this village and I was a small business volunteer and so I kind of didn't really know what to do with these people and they didn't really know what to do with me and we just kind of, you know, played it by ear and you know, a lot of times too, people, you know, volunteers 48:00are assigned to sector but you don't always end up doing work in the sector you may have been assigned to, you know, it's basically what really the people want to do and you just have to go with what they believe that they want and what they need and that kind of ended up being mostly what I did in N'Tosso. It took a long time, you know, we're very impatient. I'm an impatient person anyway but Americans, in general, I'm of course generalizing, are impatient people in the way that you know, you want to have something to do and you want to be able to get it done and you want to be able to check things off your list and have something to show for what you've done and it just doesn't work that way. You basically, I think I probably spent at least half, 49:00you know, at least my first year just getting the lay of the land, getting to know people, you kind of have to work yourself into the community and get to know people. Get to know the politics as much as you can being a foreigner of what goes on and who does what and who makes the decisions and what kind of things that people would like to do and like I said the area I was in, our team was paired with a Malian representative as kind of our liaison and he worked for the cotton company, the Malian cotton company and in the area that I lived in, it was a big cotton area. That was their main cash crop so the people spent much of their time growing and harvesting cotton to sell back to 50:00the Malian cotton company and this company, I think it was fifty-one percent owned by France and forty-nine percent owned by Mali and it was a typical third world type of business where the people doing all the work, growing all the cotton aren't getting much out of it. They're getting, you know, below market prices for their work and they, many times, would end up after a season, not much, if at all, well off than they were before they went in once you know, they had to purchase the seeds. They had to purchase the pesticides and the fertilizer and pay for having the cotton taken to market and--

WILSON: Did they do that on credit?

SCHWEITZER: Yes and the credit, and in that area, the main credit, the main creditor, agency giving credit was the Malian cotton company so 51:00it was really nice to see this other bank, small bank move in because then, you didn't, it wasn't associated with the Malian cotton company. It didn't have anything to do with them. Now, it used their, you know, supply chain and worked with the people that worked in the cotton company but they weren't related to the cotton company so basically the Malian cotton company was the king of the, the king in that area and you, you went along with what they asked you to do and you grew cotton kind of whether you liked it or not in many cases. So what I kind of started working on, on projects, there was really an entrepreneurial man in the village named Omar and he had a garden 52:00and so I kind of worked with him. One of my teammates was a Forestry volunteer and you know, got some seeds from him and we started planting a live fence for his garden and you know, getting him seeds for things that he would want to grow and I kind of worked with him for a while. Worked with, the village association wanted a health center. They were very much, that was what they wanted to focus on was building a health center. That was something they really wanted so and during that time when I was there, the Malian government, the government was, instituted a policy of decentralized health care so they were putting health centers in the smaller regions. They had a plan to do that, 53:00you know, in different places at different times. The closest health center to N'Tosso was probably about ten kilometers in the county seat and you know, when I say health center, you know, think bare bones. You've got, you know, you've got a building. Women would come in to the health center to be weighed and measured, pregnant women, for some sort of prenatal care. You would have maybe somebody with some sort of medical training but nowhere near a doctor level, maybe some sort of medical training in these smaller decentralized medical clinics. Now, in the larger, regional capitals, you would have more of a hospital 54:00atmosphere but still, it was nothing like, nothing like the western view of a hospital. You would, you know, you'd have bare, bare floors. There were no medical supplies because it was, virtually no medical supplies. They were very hard to come by. You, if you could get some, if there were some on hand, you may be able to be helped out by those but it was, they were very not stocked well and not a lot of people with a high level of knowledge working there so the first thing that the people hoped for was a maternal, a midwife and that was usually was the person that would work at these health clinics and it was, she was mostly there focusing on prenatal care and child care for pregnant 55:00women and women with children and that actually ended up being one of the projects that I worked on and in my village, they wanted to build a health center and we got funding from the U.S. Embassy from their small grant program and we did end up building health centers in the village and I was gone by the time, after it was built and had been there a while, they were planning on trying to get a midwife to come and live in the village to work there. They didn't have one in the village then, so I don't know what happened after that because when I left, they had not yet, gotten a midwife to come.

WILSON: But they had built the building?

SCHWEITZER: They had built the facility, yeah--

WILSON: Mm hmm.

SCHWEITZER: They had built the facility.


WILSON: What were, what did you eat and what were your cooking arrangements and so forth?

SCHWEITZER: So we had, I had, every volunteer was assigned to a host family or not assigned to, you would kind of find a host family--


SCHWEITZER: Someone that would be your host family and you could eat with them, meals that you wanted to, you know, you could pay them a certain amount or have the same meal they had or have them cook special food for you. You could also cook some of your own meals. I had a small gas burner, just a two burner hooked to a gas bottle and that allowed me to you know, make tea or you know, boil water. I had some 57:00care packages from home. I could have macaroni and cheese or something like that now and again but usually, I ate dinner with the family every day but not necessarily breakfast and lunch. Sometimes breakfast, rarely lunch because I wouldn't, maybe not be home so we would eat, the typical, the main staple in Mali is something called to and it is--

WILSON: Spelled t-?


WILSON: To, okay

SCHWEITZER: And it is ground millet, the staple crop is millet and it is ground millet pounded and mixed with water and boiled over a fire and it's kind of like a pasty consistency once it's all done and then, you have sauce with it that you would that you take, so you take your 58:00hand and you scoop out a little bit of this to and then, you dip it into the sauce bowl and the sauce usually is onions, hot peppers, okra and leaves, leaves from a baobab tree or other trees, leaves, called a leave sauce and it's not very appetizing. So I didn't have it a whole lot, I liked rice and so I would have to get rice, buy rice at the market and I had to a fair share. Now, depending on where you lived, also, would determine what sort of things you ate as well. The people, the volunteers that lived in larger cities or regional capitals had host families that had a higher standard of living. So they would 59:00probably eat rice and meat or chicken or you know, beef, maybe even a salad regularly. That was not, unheard of where I lived. There was no, I'd never seen a family eat a salad but we had dried fish when, now and again, not often, beef or mutton, now and again, not often and usually to and leave sauce was the main staple. That was lunch and dinner. Breakfast was called seri or monie and that is once again, powdered millet mixed with some other things, more watery than the to consistency and it, and there would be like little balls of, kind 60:00of like oatmeal but not nearly as good. It was mixed with ashes many times and it was very bitter. Very bitter and sour tasting. They would mix it with ashes like from fire, from the fire and you could, now, if you had good seri or monie that wasn't mixed with ashes and you added cinnamon and sugar, it was pretty good. If you had some cinnamon and sugar but most people in the village that I lived in couldn't afford sugar or if they did have sugar, they would save it for their tea. Tea was a very common, it was a very frequent, frequently done, socialization process And men, mostly, and it would all be men drinking tea, making tea at night or in the afternoon and constantly making tea 61:00and drinking tea.

WILSON: What was the most difficult adjustment for you?

SCHWEITZER: Gosh, there were so many. I don't know, probably the most difficult one was I guess, one thing I can, I don't know if it was the most difficult but one that I can think of was lack of privacy because we are very used to, you know, being able to go into our house or go into our apartment or wherever and you know, just close the door and be alone, but in Mali, if you're alone, something is wrong with you so lack of privacy I would say, it was a very big adjustment. There's 62:00always somebody at your house or somebody there. You're always with somebody or visiting somebody. Very, they're very social. Malians are very social people and just don't, they're never alone and so it was very difficult not having privacy and not being able to just you know, be alone sometimes.

WILSON: And how was it being a single woman in that society and your job?

SCHWEITZER: Well, women, of course women in Mali have a very different, women and men's roles are very strictly defined in Mali and in many other countries. Women had tasks that they would do and men had tasks that they would do and you didn't mix the two and women and men, women 63:00and children ate out of one bowl and men ate out of another bowl. They didn't eat together, but they also, in another sense, it wasn't that they were totally separate from each other. You know, they would banter and have a good time but they just had very strictly defined roles so and me, being a woman, I don't think, I didn't see and didn't feel any difficulty because I felt like I was viewed as just as same as a male. Being a white person, being a person from another country and another culture, they viewed me, I think, just as, you know, a man because I was supposed to be this person with knowledge and you know, the people that in you know, colonialized, European colonialized 64:00country where normally the first thing they think of is when they see a white person is a doctor or somebody coming to you know, give them medicine or you know, help heal them so somebody with knowledge maybe that they don't have so I think I was just viewed as any man would be viewed. I don't really think the woman part of it had any barring just because of my, where I was from, that I wasn't one of them.

WILSON: And the, your acquaintances or the friends you made were both men and women?

SCHWEITZER: Men and women, yeah. Now, I could eat with the men. I ate with the men and I ate with the women too. You pretty much, since I was not part of the society or you know, not born and raised and a Malian, you kind of can cross a lot of different barriers and different lines that most, that people that lived there can't so yeah, I pretty 65:00much, you know, went anywhere and talked to anyone and ate with anyone and you know, did things that women wouldn't be, Malian women wouldn't be able to do.

WILSON: What did you do for recreation?

SCHWEITZER: We took, we vacationed. A few of our, people on my team and friends, different friends that I had made during our training, we would go, we would travel. We would get on a bus and we went to the Ivory Coast. I went to the Ivory Coast. We went to Burkina Faso. Like I said, it was about forty-five kilometers from where I lived so we would take the bus and go there to--

WILSON: What kind of bus? What were buses like?

SCHWEITZER: The bus, a bus, the buses were very nice actually. They were what you would think a bus would be here except for, of course, no air condition and the Malians believe that cold air and exposure to wind 66:00would get you sick so of course, all the windows were shut and you'd be sweating like a pig and you would just practically pass out wherever you went and if you were allowed to sit next to a window and you were able to get the window down, you might be able to have some air but normally, the buses were nice. Now, of course, you'd have, you know, people would travel with many of their belongings and their animals. You'd have chickens laying eggs under your feet and goats here and there and that kind of thing but not so much on a bus as on a bashe. A bashe is like a different form of transport. It's like a small truck and that was a, that was kind of a short, short distance. It's not something you would take to the capital eight hours away. It would be a shorter distance for transportation and they would be independently 67:00owned and they would be a pick--up truck with a tarp on the back and inside the back, you'd have small benches and that's where people would sit and you would squash as many people, they would squash as many people together as they could so they could get a good amount of money out of this trip and people would bring huge sacks of millet and goats and chickens and potatoes and anything that you could, luggage and kids, anything you can think of, so it was very uncomfortable and you were very squashed and very hot and that wasn't the most pleasant way to travel but it was always interesting, something always happened--

WILSON: Yeah, I detoured you but you were talking about though--

SCHWEITZER: Oh vacations!

WILSON: Vacations--


WILSON: You went by bus to Ivory Coast--


SCHWEITZER: Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso which are two countries that boarder Mali--

WILSON: Mm hmm

SCHWEITZER: Yeah and once, I came home once after a year. I came home for Christmas one year and we would go, we would also travel in the country, inside the country and visit other volunteers at their sites. You know, there's just so much to see and Mali is a very, I feel very fortunate to have been in Mali because it's such a rich country and there's so much history and heritage and interesting places to visit and things to learn in the country itself. You've got Timbuktu of course. You've got--

WILSON: So did you go to Timbuktu?

SCHWEITZER: I did go to Timbuktu, yes. You've got Djenne which is the, a very important area of history with the largest Sahelian 69:00architectural, the largest mud brick mosque in the world and the Dogon cliffs of Bandiagara where the Dogons live and the Dogons are another ethnic group of Mali that are very famous and there were many tourists that would come to visit the Dogon cliffs so there was much to see even within Mali itself so just little, little jaunts here and there.

WILSON: What were you interactions with host country nationals like?

SCHWEITZER: Like my family or just anybody pretty much?

WILSON: Yeah, I guess what I'm trying to ask is did you establish some long term relationships? Were they working relationships or social or 70:00these people have any contact with today?

SCHWEITZER: My family, I think I had, my host family I would say, a couple women, one woman in particular, Miriam, who, she would always make sure I was fed. She would do my wash for me and she was one that I established a close relationship with. Now, it's difficult to keep in contact and I haven't because they can't read or write. Most, very, very few where I ended could read or write. Now, more from the big cities had some more education but people in the small villages, most of them were not educated, girls or boys, school educated. Now, if 71:00you went to the county seat, like I said that was about ten kilometers away, you'd have some kids going to school. Not all of them but a big chunk of them but the people in the smaller villages, the children were needed to work. They, you basically would work from the time you were able to walk, help care for the other children and help work in the farm, you know, in the fields and cook and clean and do the chores so I did have a think a special relationship with Mariam and a couple other people. We had, in the, I had a moped to get around from the you know, my village to maybe the regional capital which was about thirty kilometers or so away and in the county seat, there was a gas, gas station if you want to call it that and the man that ran 72:00that, Amadu was a good friend of all of the Peace Corps volunteers. He was, he had some English phrases that people taught him and he was just hilarious and we would always joke and have fun with him and he was our gas station man and we always got our gas from him and he would invite us, he lived, actually, he lived in a small, he was a Fulani man. He was not a Bambara. And he lived in a small Fulani, basically, neighborhood. It was basically his extended family that lived there, across the street from my village. It was just about ten minutes, fifteen minutes, ten minutes to get so he had us over for dinner and to stay over, you know, spent the night several times we went over and got to meet his wife and his children and his family. His father and I 73:00developed a, you know, we had a good relationship, a neat relationship with him. I'm trying to think of, and my third year, I extended for a third year and I went up north. I lived, so I moved from the southern Bambara region. I went up to the northern more Sahara, close to the Sahara area, completely different looking with different people, different cultures, Fulani people and basically, the Peul. The Fulanis were the major ethnic group but also, some other ethnic groups there that spoke a different language to work on a different project. There were elephants in, the most elephants in Africa actually that have a huge migratory pattern. They go through Burkina Faso and Mali and there was a man, a Malian man that has a organization to try to protect 74:00and you know, make sure that they, you kind of, they get along with humans because they're competing for scarce resources so there can be quite the trouble at times. But these, and you would think these elephants would be easy to spot but their migratory pattern is just so huge that you have to know where they are and then, in the middle of the desert, there's big thick acacia kind of forests that are you know, maybe I don't know, several hundred feet or actually, even bigger than that and they hide out there so it's very rare that you may actually get to see them so talking about developing relationships with people, my third year, when I went up north, the, I guess you would call him the mayor, maybe, no, he was more than the mayor because it wasn't a 75:00city. More like the Governor. He was the Chef de Cercle and he would be like Governor would be here maybe, you know, the government official in charge or--

WILSON: The region

SCHWEITZER: Different, yeah, regions. And small, smaller regions. He was, he kind of helped me, showed me the ropes. I stayed with them. I stayed with him, his family until my, a place for me to live got kind of fixed up because there was somebody living in it already and it was just a room in another family's concession so I stayed with them, actually for a while at first and actually, I ended up developing a relationship with him and I now have a son with him as a matter of 76:00fact--


SCHWEITZER: So my son is nine years old and he is the father of my son and we've exchanged letters now and again. I don't talk to him nearly as much as I used to but we have exchanged pictures and letters. So that was a different relationship that I didn't expect to develop that actually happened.

WILSON: And what was your project there? I mean, what were you doing with the elephants?

SCHWEITZER: Well, I was basically going to see you know, what the man, the Malian man who ran the organization, I was working with him and the regional forestry, government forestry official to see what, you know, what kind of plans that we could put in place that would try to lessen 77:00the competition between humans and elephants for the same resources, try to develop the, develop some tourism around these elephants, you know, see if we could use this as a revenue making scenario where people would want to come up and see the elephants and be able to live with them , the people that lived there to be able to live with them in some sort of cohesive manor, to see, you know, what, how the people were reacting to that because like I said, they have such a huge migratory pattern that you know, there wasn't even a, maybe a census done on how many there were at the time and what, what, how the different people in different places dealt with them and what kinds of run ins that they 78:00had so basically, kind of a research and possible tourism--

WILSON: And some way to protect--


WILSON: Protect and--

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, kind of like a few different things all wrapped up into one and I ended up leaving early in my third year so I didn't stay the whole third year. It turned into, it just, I was having a real hard time. You know, I had the high expectations to be able to really get some good, something done and it just wasn't working out. The forestry guy and the private citizen who had his own non-governmental organization didn't really work together and weren't particularly interested in me working with them so it just--


WILSON: Never worked

SCHWEITZER: Kind of fizzled, yeah--

WILSON: So what was it like coming home and did you come straight home or--?

SCHWEITZER: No, I traveled with another volunteer. We went to Egypt for about three weeks I think it was before we came home and then, he and his mother, they had friends in Kenya that used to live with them here in the states when, as an exchange student so they went and invited me to go visit them so we went, I went to Egypt for several weeks, about three weeks and then, went to Kenya for several, three weeks also so got to see some neat places that I had never been to before and got to you know, experience some really neat things there in Egypt, both in Egypt and Kenya and then, came back after that.


WILSON: And you came back to Michigan or Kentucky?

SCHWEITZER: Well, yes, since my parents had moved to Kentucky, gosh, I don't know how long, they'd been here for several, for years, for several years, I had visited them here but you know, maybe once, I think one time but they were living here when I came back so when I came back, I came back here to Kentucky and still live here today and what brought me to Kentucky was just my family, that my parents lived here.

WILSON: And what was that like?

SCHWEITZER: That was really hard. That was really, really hard. I think it was harder coming back than it was, the culture shock of readjusting was more difficult in my opinion than the culture shock of leaving. Just, it, you kind of get angry. I mean, I got angry, 81:00got depressed, just to see so much wealth and so much waste and people that have no knowledge of what's going on outside of their own small area of interest and you know, I've gotten kind of cynical about Amer-, you know, just the general American perception that people, most, many people that I've encountered are just so, live in an island. They're just so narrowly focused on America and nothing else affects them. They don't know about that there's a country called Mali. They don't know many things that happen outside of the United States and 82:00it just kind of got me angry. It was hard to, you know, you come back to electricity. You come back to basically, to just everything that you've taken for granted before but you don't take it for granted anymore. Running water and just so much wealth and opulence and people that, people that have their knees uncovered. I remember, I remember traveling to Europe but in Mali, Mali is a Muslim country but they're very relaxed Muslim, not your typical, what you would consider a Middle Eastern Muslim. They're very tempered but lots of religious tolerance. There's Christians, there's Muslims, there's Animus, the traditional Animus religions and all, a lot of it mixed together. You're more than one at the same time and part of that is that women don't expose their knees. You know, they would not have a shirt on but their knees 83:00were covered and so I remember traveling in Egypt and there were many, many tourists, Europeans especially would wear you know, have shorts on because it was so hot and I just remember being just kind of just taken aback at seeing people with shorts on. Just really made me think that they were being insensitive, culturally insensitive and they were just being, they were wrong and they were bad, and they shouldn't be doing that. You know, of course, they have no idea but it was just a shock. It was a big shock to see that and just gosh, I'm trying to think of different things, how it was coming back. I just, it was just very difficult and then, part of the difficulty, I was also pregnant and I 84:00wasn't sure if I was going to keep my child so and I went and I ended up living, I went to Phoenix to live with a friend of mine. My old roommate who lived in Phoenix and that's where Bo was born, in Phoenix so I was actually going through that as well at the same time. Was I going to keep this child? Was I going to give him up for adoption and you know, what was I going to do now that I was back? You know, where am I, how am I going to make a living? What am I going to do next with my life so those were other issues that were going on at the same time but the culture shock just of coming back was--

WILSON: Was the main thing.

SCHWEITZER: Was the main thing, yeah.

WILSON: So you came back in '96, right?

SCHWEITZER:'96, yeah

WILSON: Yeah, what do you think the impact of your Peace Corps service 85:00was on Mali or people there?

SCHWEITZER: I think the people that I had a relationship with got to know that people from America are more or less just people once you take away all the differences and the minor things. They got to meet somebody from America and see that I'm just a regular person just like they are and have, you know, the same hopes and dreams that they have for themselves and their children. You know, I don't pretend to think that I had this huge, you know, impact on their growth and development and you know, anything like that. You know, as a matter of fact, just 86:00the opposite. I think I gained far more from them then I could have ever hoped to have given to them. I just gained so much knowledge and humility and strength and you know and experience that I could just never, would never give up for anything so I think what they just gained, what impact I had on them was just them getting to know somebody that they never would have met before and learning that you know, there are people on the other side of the world that are just regular people.

WILSON: And so what was that impact on you about the experience?

SCHWEITZER: Pardon me?

WILSON: What was the impact on you of the Peace Corps experience?

SCHWEITZER: Well, like I was saying, I just, I think I kind of, of 87:00course, as many people do go in, going into something like this, maybe a little bit naive and come out a little wiser. You know, you hope that you're going to make a difference and make the world a better place and all this business and maybe you did but you also, you just learn. I learned so much about myself. I learned, you know, I gained a lot of confidence in myself that I could anything. If I can do this, I can do anything. I can do anything I put my mind to. I'm, I think I tend to be more tolerant of people's differences and other cultures especially. I'm very interested in other cultures and even here now, 88:00you know, we've got a big Hispanic population in the United States and I think I can feel in part what it feels like to them. You know, people coming from Mexico or you know, another country, to America and living here, how it would feel to them because I felt the same thing coming to another country, how you're just so confused. You don't know what's going on. Everything is different. You don't understand the language. You don't understand the people and I kind of have some empathy for them and I try, I always try to, you know, single them out and talk to them like we have Hispanic workers at work, janitorial service people and many of them don't speak English very well, maybe a few words here and there and I always try to single them and say hello and ask them how they're doing and I might not have done that 89:00before, before my Peace Corps experience. So I think I'm more tolerant of other cultures and you know, I've always been interested in other cultures in other places and travel but I think I try to bring that more into my life and into my son's life. I make a point of it now more than I might have used to.

WILSON: Okay, we're about out of tape so I'm going to have to put on another one.


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

WILSON: Okay, Deb, a couple more questions, what was the impact of your Peace Corps experience on your family?

SCHWEITZER: On my family, well, my sister, at the time, worked at 90:00a hospital. She did marketing for a hospital and you know, this is just one small example of an impact and she was doing, during African-American month, she, I helped her do an exhibit on Mali and so we showed, she exhibited different Malian artifacts and different pictures and things and kind of educated people in this exhibit about Mali and the culture and the people and what they do and my family would never have heard of Mali or never known about Mali without me going there and telling them about it. I wrote a lot of letters to my mother and father and some to my brother and sister, mostly to my mother and father about what was going on at the time and things I was experiencing and of course, one of the biggest impacts was my son being 91:00born but I think, I think maybe they have, I think, I hope that they have also opened their minds to different ways of living and different cultures, learning about different cultures and different people. I don't think they were narrow minded before but maybe, maybe a little bit. Maybe closed off a little bit so I think, I hope, you know, I think I've, you know, educated them, having learned some things and I know that my mom would tell people you know, where I was. She was excited to tell people where I was and what I was doing and now, I'm not so sure, you know, I really don't know what kind of impact it had 92:00on them though. You know, that's really a good question. I might have to ask them because you know, there are things that I think or that I hope or that may have happen but you know, I don't know.

WILSON: What, what have done since and did Peace Corps have any impact on your career path?

SCHWEITZER: Well, I, currently, I work at Toyota in Georgetown and I've worked there most of the time that I've been in Kentucky and Peace Corps did not have an impact on that. That's strictly economical but I have toyed with the idea and seriously contemplated the idea of going back to school. I would like to and I still am wanting to do this. I'd like to go back to school and get a degree in public health and go to work. I would love to go back to Africa actually and work for 93:00either a non-governmental organization or government organization in public health back in Africa and I am hoping to do that still one day but I currently do not have any, my career has not been influenced by my experience in Mali. It's strictly an economical decision but I do like to volunteer my time with an international focus. You know, I, when I first came here, I volunteered with the Carnegie Center and I tutored English, English as a second language to some people that lived here and one man was from Haiti and one man was from the Congo and so I got to become friends with the man from the Congo. The guy from Haiti 94:00ended up moving and got to practice my French with them and talked to them about what it was like, you know, where he lived and he was going to bring his family over and you know, so I have ended up trying, I've tried to keep my connections open and I like to you know, go to festivals or you know, things that may be of interest to me like the Roots and Heritage Festival that's been here for I don't know how many years now the last several years downtown Lexington. I try to go to that every year with my son. There's a lot of vendors from west Africa and I've met people from Mali there that come to you know, sell things that, I've met people from Ghana and west Africa, Ghana and Sierra Leone, Mali, several west African countries. So I always try to make 95:00it a point to go there as well.

WILSON: Do you look forward to some international travel in the future?

SCHWEITZER: Oh yeah! My son, I plan on taking my son over to Mali to meet his dad. He's never met his father before. I've been waiting for him to get old enough to be able to you know, be in good health. He has to get a lot of shots. To be able to remember the experience and you know, have it be significant to him so you know, soon. Now that he's getting a little older, I would like to take him over to Mali. I want him to learn as much about the country and the people and his family as he can because he, you know, he's a part of both worlds. And he doesn't know that world so much so you know, I've always been a travel nut anyway. I just enjoy traveling so you know, that's something that 96:00hasn't changed. I would go, I'd like to go anywhere, most, many places that, most, a lot of people don't want to go, you know? That's where I want to go. People, you know, typical, generalizing here again, you know, take their vacation to Palm Springs or Orlando or something like that and I would much rather go to Turkey or Morocco or some other places that many people wouldn't consider going and I wouldn't have a problem, you know, I have the confidence now to travel to those kind of places and know what I need to do to get there.

WILSON: What was the impact of your Peace Corps experience on the way you look at the world?

SCHWEITZER: Well, that's a good question. I think, you know, both good 97:00and bad. Good things and bad things have come out of that. One thing that I, one way that has impacted me is but it's just right in your face that life isn't fair. You know, things aren't fair, life isn't fair and it's just another slap in the face lesson about that. You know, I just happen to have the fortune to be born into a wealthy country and grew up lacking nothing and if I, if one little thing had changed and I was born to you know, a family in Mali, I would be struggling for the basic necessities of life and it's not fair and so I think it's, I've gotten some cynicism. I've gotten some cynicism. It's had that kind 98:00of an impact on me. It's also had a good impact as far as you know, I've just learned so much of, I've learned and appreciated other ways of being and other people's belief systems and other people's cultures and it's just opened new worlds that I never knew existed and you know, I'd like to share that with people so in a nutshell, there's been both positive and negative, a positive and negative impact in the way that I view the world and kind of equal, both positive and negative.

WILSON: What do you think the impact of Peace Corps itself has been over the years?

SCHWEITZER: Personally, I just think it's a positive thing. I just hope 99:00that it continues forever. It's, you know, we might not be able to measure it and we might not, it's very difficult to measure. It's very difficult to see what kind of an impact Peace Corps has had but it's a grass-roots organization that gets down individual to individual and gets people together from different parts of the world to be able to just talk to each other and meet each other and you know, that's got to be a good thing. A lot of people talk about projects and different projects they've done and you know, what, how they've helped and you know, maybe done some good work and that's great and there's, you know, that's wonderful but I think the most valuable impact that the Peace Corps can have is just bringing citizens together from different countries, one on one at the grass-roots level and you know, making 100:00these connections so that we're all a part of this great world and you, we would never have had that opportunity. They would have never have had that opportunity to meet somebody and learn about how other people live and what other people believe and I think it's a good thing. I think it's probably prevented a lot of conflicts.

WILSON: So what do you think the role of the Peace Corps should be in the future? Should it change? Should it be the same? Should--?

SCHWEITZER: Hmm, you know, I don't know. I'm not sure about that. I like that the Peace Corps is going into new countries all the time. 101:00Going into different countries that it's never been in, Middle Eastern countries, you know, Russia and previous, in old USSR countries. There's been a, you know, a big Peace Corps presence in those areas. A lot of it in the business development aspect and so I think it's good that the Peace Corps is constant, I hope that they constantly push their boundaries and of course, and are invited to these countries but also, you know, ask, reach out to these different countries that, maybe countries that the U.S. government has conflicts with because you know, there's nothing, I think there's nothing better to resolving a conflict than getting citizens together for maybe two countries that 102:00are having conflicts or have had conflicts in the past so I think they should continue to push their boundaries. You know, I haven't thought a lot about what its role should be in the future. I think it should remain. I would hate to see it dissolve, go away, you know, I have a strong feeling that the Peace Corps should continue and continue to do what it does but as far as, I'm going to have to think about that.

WILSON: Okay, that's sort of the final question. Those are all of the sort of structured ones. Is there a particularly memorable story or an event that you'd like to relate or is there some question that I didn't 103:00ask that you'd like to answer?

SCHWEITZER: Oh, there's so many things Jack! I wrote a few things down trying to think of some stories before I came over here and so I might have a few here.


SCHWEITZER: I told you about the termites, that was pretty significant.


SCHWEITZER: That was pretty memorable. You know, also, you know, I had been there for almost two years, I had been in N'Tosso and I remember thinking oh, I'm well integrated in this culture. I really know what's going on and you know, you think you've got everything down pat. You've get the language, you've got the customs, you've got, you know, you understand where people are coming from for the most part. You think you do but then, you know, things happen that just set you back, 104:00just throw you into a test and about how you really just don't know anything. You just don't know anything--

WILSON: Do you have an example?

SCHWEITZER: And one of those, yeah, this is one of those examples is I was, I had boiled some water, probably to make macaroni or something and I was outside dumping the water our from my pot and I was dumping my water out on the grass outside and one of my host family kids was riding by on his bike and he looked at me and he said oh my God! He said is that hot water? And I said yeah and he said oh my God, you're going to burn the people and I said what are you talking about? And he said the people and I said well, I don't understand. You're going to burn, so basically, what he was trying to tell me is you always need to cool your water off before you dump it because you'll end up burning your ancestors that live underground or that are underground and so that really hit me that you know, I just don't know anything. 105:00I really just don't know how this, you know, I don't know what these people believe and how they live and what they think of things so that, that one really hit me and then, what else? I remember we had a goodbye party. The village had a goodbye party for me and we had rice and you know, food, chicken. We had millet beer and honey wine and we had the village balophonist come and play music, dancing. Everybody comes to dance and it was really neat. It was a wonderful time. I remember just having just a riot and so the village that I lived in N'Tosso was 106:00kind of half Muslim and half animist beliefs and my host family were Muslims and so they didn't participate in the village parties often or ever because you know, they were Muslims and so they wouldn't go to parties where drinking took place and that kind of stuff and so I remember when I had my party and had the party and we were dancing and everything and I remember Mariam, the women I was telling you about, who I was closest to in my host family, her and her daughter showed up at this party and that just meant a whole lot to me because she had never, she had never been to a village party before and her family had let her go, had decided to let her come to it because it you know, my going away party and it just, it meant a lot to me that she ended 107:00up coming. You know, she didn't stay long but she came and showed up and then, I remember when we were leaving, another one of my teammates who lived in a village about twenty kilometers or so, maybe ten, don't remember exactly, well, he, we left together. He came and picked me up on his motorcycle and we left together and so I remember before we were leaving, I was giving out my possessions to different people, you know, I'll give you my mosquito net and my bucket and you know, things like that to different people and then, I remember you know, telling everyone goodbye which was just horribly sad and I remember leaving and Mariam and Fatu which is another women in my host family complex standing on the side of the path waving at me and crying and we were 108:00crying as we drove by and I had never seen, Malian men and women do not cry. They don't show that emotion, sadness. I've never seen a Malian man or woman cry until then and that just had a good impact on me--

WILSON: That's neat.

SCHWEITZER: Yeah, it makes me sad just to think about it and then, I have another story.


SCHWEITZER: When I was up, my third year, in the northern part of Mali doing the elephant project--

WILSON: Mm hmm

SCHWEITZER: So I had been there for a while and wanted to go out and you know, see these elephants. I hadn't seen them and we had an idea of where they were but I wanted to actually go see them so I remember one of the village, one of the, the chief of the village gave me the 109:00name of another guy that was in the village who could be my guide and so we had a motorcycle, I had a motorcycle and so we went together on this motorcycle. He spoke a little bit of Bambara but not much and I didn't speak Fulfulde very well, just a few greetings and that was it so we kind of you know, had to do the hand signal thing and we were planning on spending the night because it was going to be a long way to get there and I just, it just had such an impact on me just going, we went across into, across the street into the dunes. Of course, you get stuck in the dunes so he's off the motorcycle running and I'm just trying to barrel along without wiping out and he's running point me in whatever direction and then, all of a sudden, in front of me, I see, you know, we stop and I see this caravan, this line of camels that are coming from the north and they have big slabs of salt strapped 110:00to either side of their backs and so hundreds of years ago and still today, the northern area of Mali, there are salt mines and salt used to be as valuable as gold back then and the camels would carry the salt down from the salt mines and they would sell it and trade it and pass it down throughout the country and all of that area of Africa at least and you know, nowadays, they've got, there's a road and they've got big giant trucks that carry the salt back down because the camel caravans take so long and you know, aren't, are more expensive. You don't have the people doing it as much, more dangerous so just to see, I just saw this caravan and it was almost like a mirage. I thought, I felt like 111:00all of a sudden, I had been transported back you know a thousand years seeing this line of camels coming from Taodeni, the salt mines carrying the slabs of salt on their backs and it just really, it was just really neat to see and you know, this whole trip was kind of just surreal. It just, just running into one thing after another like this so we continued on after that and we came upon a small little encampment of people and the people, Bellas, the ethnic group that live in that area and the Tuaregs are nomadic people so you know, you just got a little spot where they are with what little possessions they have and they could pack it up in a day and move so we came to them and they gave us 112:00water and of course, with what little they had, they shared which is another great thing that I learned was just sharing, sharing the last of anything you have. You always treat your guests as more important than anything so we stopped there and had some water and continued on and eventually, we came to the acacia forest where the elephants were and tried to go around and look and see if we could see anything and you know, through some trees, I could maybe see like an ear here and you know, I ended up seeing two, a baby and an adult elephant but they were like through thick spiny trees so you can't really go in there and of course, you don't want to scare them and charge you anyway so I ended up you know, getting a glimpse and that was pretty much all I 113:00was going to get and we ended up talking to some herders, some Fulani herders that were nearby and you know, I asked them where the nearest village was or a place that we could camp overnight and they pointed us to another place and so we took off and it was getting to be dusk at this point so we took off to this place that they were pointing, in the direction they were pointing us in and it just, it was all so surreal and so just unreal. It was an amazing day. It was probably one of the most amazing days I'd ever had and we ended up at this place where just a few tents were put up and a few, basically tarps over the top of sticks and of course, they welcomed us and my guide who speaks 114:00Fulfulde was speaking to them and they didn't speak Bambara or French so I couldn't really communicate that much but they were communicating and they cooked dinner, gave us dinner which was just full of sand. Everything you eat is just full of sand and you know, you have to pretend like it's the best that you've ever had and eat it and give us water and then, you know, we, and then, we spent the night there. We just laid down on the sand and we spent the night there in their encampment and in the morning, you know, they gave us breakfast and I think leftovers from the night before, cold rice and grizzle and sandy and then, we took off and it was just, and then, we went back. We went back. I went back home which--


WILSON: Were you following some sort of track through the sand or--


WILSON: There wasn't a--


WILSON: Nothing? Just--

SCHWEITZER: It was just open desert but of course, my guide, I hoped and was told, knew the area and so he did and it was also, which was also quite scary because you're just in the middle of nowhere and you've, I've got a big plastic container of hot water, water that had become hot from the sun and some gasoline for the motorcycle and that's all you got so you just hope you know, you hope you're going where you think your going--

WILSON: Hahaha

SCHWEITZER: Otherwise, you're in big trouble, hahaha--

WILSON: Hahaha, well--

SCHWEITZER: And that was just one of the neatest experiences. I'll just never forget that experience. That was just, it was just so fantastic just to meet these people and see and it was just nothing I was used to. The geography was completely different from where I had lived in 116:00the past two years in the southern part of Mali and the people were completely different ethnic groups, completely different languages. It was like a whole new world and stepping back in time even farther than I had already stepped back like a thousand years. It was just amazing. It was really neat.

WILSON: Okay, good.

SCHWEITZER: Those are all the stories.

WILSON: That's great, well, thank you for your time.

[End of interview.]

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