WILSON: --interview November 9th, 2006 with Ben Worthington--Ben, if youwould give me your full name and where and when you were born.
WORTHINGTON: Ben Worthing-, or Benjamin T. Worthington, Benjamin TerryWorthington. I was born October 14th, 1950 in Portland, Oregon.
WILSON: And tell me something about your, your family and your growingup if you would.
WORTHINGTON: Well, my father was a graduate forester from Oregon StateUniversity, was working for the Forest Service so I grew up in the Forest Service and we would go around quite a bit to different Forest Service locations. After I graduated from high school, I went to Washington State University and I started off majoring in Physics and 1:00about the middle of my junior year, I decided that that was not going to produce a lot of job opportunities there and I had been working during the summer for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources doing basically a lot of the stuff that the Forest Service does and I like what I did during the summer so that winter when I decided I was going to switch from Physics to Forestry.
WILSON: And so you graduate, graduated from high school, where did yousay? In--?
WORTHINGTON: I graduated from Olympia High School.
WORTHINGTON: That was in 1968
WILSON: And then went to--
WORTHINGTON: Washington State
WILSON: Washington State University, okay, I'm sorry, I interrupted you--
WORTHINGTON: Its okay
WILSON: You were about to switch from Physics to Forestry.
WORTHINGTON: That's right. I switched to Forestry and it took metwo years then to get enough credits in Forestry to graduate with a 2:00Forestry degree so that was in February of 1973 and I was looking for a job all that fall and there, there was not a lot of Forestry jobs available. The, the job market wasn't really that great and I happened to be going in for an interview with a recruiter from the Forest Service and one of the things he said is that if somebody had come, gone through the Peace Corps, boy, he would hire them direct, without ever going through all of the competition and that sort of thing--
WORTHINGTON: So I, I think the next week, well, there was a Peace Corpsrecruiter on campus and I went over and signed up and it was about six months later that I, I was working for the Forest Service in Northern California, in the Sierra Mountain and I got a, a job offer from the 3:00Peace Corps to go to Costa Rica--
WILSON: Had you, had you ever thought about the Peace Corps before that?
WORTHINGTON: Not before that, no
WILSON: Had you done any travel outside the, the U.S.?
WORTHINGTON: Only to Canada
WILSON: And what did your, what did you family think about this idea ofthe Peace Corps?
WORTHINGTON: Well, they pretty much left it up to me, you know? Ifthat's what I wanted to do, that was fine with them.
WILSON: Did you have brothers or sisters?
WORTHINGTON: I have two sisters. One was already married at the timeand actually had twin boys born just before I left to go into the Peace Corps and then, I had another sister that was in high school at the time.
WILSON: When you applied, obviously, you, you had the Forestry degree.Did you, you specifically ask for a Forestry program? Did you know what 4:00countries there were Forestry projects? Did you ask for some of those?
WORTHINGTON: That's stretching my memory some but I think I just putyou know, that I, you know, that I put down on it that I had a Forestry degree and that, you know, I was pretty much interested in going anywhere. One of my friends at college, why, he applied about the same time and he wound up going to Niger. It was about six months after I went, left to go but he went Niger and there was another guy that I was with in Costa Rica that he turned down his first job because his first job was going to Iran to teach welding and he said well, that's not really what I wanted to do.
WILSON: That's not quite Forestry.
WILSON: So you were accepted then for Costa Rica?
WILSON: And that would have been when, again?
WORTHINGTON: That was in, the training program started November of '735:00
WILSON: Okay and tell me something about that.
WORTHINGTON: Well, we, there was three different groups. There was liketen foresters and then, there was ten other folks. I can't remember what they were. Then, there was, well, just kind of a scattering of you know different professions but they had a group of ten foresters that came down.
WILSON: And where did you train?
WORTHINGTON: We trained in San Jose.
WILSON: Oh, you trained in, oh, okay, so it was an in-country training?
WORTHINGTON: And what they did, they, they put us out with you know,with, most of us didn't know any Spanish. My background, I'd had three years of high school French and I really thought that I was going to probably go to Africa which was kind of interesting because my buddy who went to Africa had four years of high school Spanish, hahaha, so, ha, but that was probably good you know, because I was told by the, by 6:00one of the Spanish teachers there that I was taught Spanish with the French accent (laughs).
WILSON: French accent.
WORTHINGTON: But anyway, we had the classes right there in San Jose andmost, it was predominately the Spanish, trying to get us up to speed on Spanish. The objective was to get us to pass the level two, two and a half, what was it? FS--
WILSON: Foreign Service Spanish exam--
WORTHINGTON: Trying to get up past a level two so, you know, that atleast we could function out there. We also, probably about three times a week and then, on the weekends way, then, they would take us around and teach us a little about tropical forestry and we were really fortunate in Costa Rica because there was two fellows there. One was Dr. Aldridge who had worked for the Forest Service in Puerto Rico and 7:00had established the Puerto Ric-, there was a Tropical Science Center in, in Puerto Rico and then, he'd left there and went to Costa Rica and so they signed him up to teach us a little bit about Forestry and he took us around on different tours to see the different types of forests that are in Costa Rica so training was mostly on Spanish and then, we had a little bit of Forestry and a little bit of culture; that sort of thing and we started in mid-November and went until the end of January and then, we were sworn in as volunteers at the end of January and then, they already had the jobs lined up for us.
WILSON: Was there a selection process? Did all of the people who wentdown there for training stay? 8:00
WORTHINGTON: Well, it's probably a typical of most, most, most PeaceCorps classes is that through the training, why, we had some attrition there. There were some drugs. There were several people that had to leave the country right away. There, as we went through the, you know, the two years, why, there was attrition because of people just getting tired and feeling like they weren't doing worth while and so they'd leave and go back to the United States.
WILSON: But that, the reason I asked that question, some folks I'vetalked to, talked about a, you know, a pretty extensive peer evaluation process or having psychologists as a part of the training staff and, and some people being "deselected" and then, others saying no, you just went and did what you could do and, and if you made the decision 9:00yourself to leave that was fine.
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, they, you know, the program is set up that theyhave these positions and so, I, you know, other than you know, some sort of violation like drugs where they, ha, pretty much tried to keep everybody in the program.
WILSON: Okay, so at the end of that I guess ten week period anyway atthe end of January, you, you went to a particular, they had selected certain--
WILSON: Certain jobs. Did you know what, which one of those jobs youwere going to have ahead of time or--?
WORTHINGTON: It was about midway through the ten weeks where I knew thatI was going to be going. You know, I was assigned.
WILSON: It wasn't a choice?
WORTHINGTON: It wasn't a choice. And it was kind of interesting becausethe, the, the announcement that I got which is probably mid-July, why, 10:00you know, they talked about you know there's going to be so many working for the Ministry of Forestry, so many that were going to be working for the, what they called Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. I-C-E and it was kind of the equivalent of TVA and so there was going to be five working for that and then, there was another organization that there were going to be several working for. Well, when we got down there, why, it had bumbled around and the numbers had changed and there was only going to be three at ICE and I was selected to be one of those three that went to work for that which was kind of different because they really didn't, you know, know what to do with us being foresters.
WILSON: So you, tell me something about going out to the job site, your--
WILSON: Your living conditions, some of those things--
WORTHINGTON: See, the ones who worked for the Ministry of Forestry,11:00why, they were extension foresters and they were scattered around the country in small communities and given a motorcycle and that was about it. They just said go out and do good things for forestry. With us, why, we were, the three of us, why, we, working for the, the, this electric company. Why, they had a fifteen story building in downtown San Jose and we reported to the fifteenth floor (laughs) and then, we got into some rivalry between two different departments and one person stayed with one department and two, the other two of us, well, we got moved over to another department and you know, they, they wanted us but they really didn't know what to do with us and I was pretty much left on my own to come up with things to do.
WILSON: And so you were living in San Jose obviously?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I started off living as, I, I, since I was living12:00with that family--
WILSON: Okay, tell me about that a little bit.
WORTHINGTON: Well, there's probably a little bit of a story there--
WILSON: This was from training?
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, the training, yeah, there's three big communitieson the Central Valley and there's San Jose, it's the big one and then, about fifteen miles away is a town called Heredia and then, fifteen miles on the other side of that one is a town called Alajuela. Alajuela is probably about the second largest city compared to San Jose and half way in between Alajuela and, and San Jose is the airport and so there's a lot of good bus service back and forth between Alajuela and San Jose so the first two families that I was assigned to were over in Alajuela but they hadn't negotiated the price on how much 13:00per month that I was going to pay these people for room and board and so after the first week, why, I got moved out of the first family and into another family and after that, hahaha, after that one, then, they moved me out of that into another family back in San Jose.
WILSON: This is the Peace Corps training staff or the--?
WORTHINGTON: Peace Corps training staff, yeah--
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, they, you know, in retrospect, why, they'd drop theball and have it really make, you know, got a firm negotiated contract with these people and so then, these people were trying to get a little bit more money, you know? Here's the rich Americans coming down, they figured they could, you know, be hard nosed and, but, you know, the Peace Corps staff was hard nosed too and said well, we'll just move you out. We've got another family over here that's willing to take him so, so the, the third family that I wound up with was a, it was a really nice family. It had three daughters and all, you know, let's 14:00see there was one that was in high school. I think she was, had just had her fifteenth birthday like the year before and then, they kept telling me about this big celebration. There's another one who was in middle school and then, another one that was just start, she started grade school when I was there. They had a separate bedroom where I stayed and you know, they provided me breakfast and dinner and gave me a lunch to take, take when I was going to training or to work so I stayed with them about nine months after the training was completed and then, I remember the first, when I first got there, when they dropped me off with the family, I, I said well, I need to go back to the Peace Corps training facility in order to pick up some stuff so I rode back with the Peace Corps staff back over to the training facility, picked up my stuff and then, I got to downtown San Jose to catch the bus to 15:00go back out to where I was supposed to, where my new house was and I was sitting there and I was looking at all these buses and I thought I can't remember which one which one of these buses I'm supposed to be on so I thought well, I'm just going to take some buses and if it starts looking familiar (laughs).
WILSON: And how was your language facility by that point?
WORTHINGTON: Oh, at that time, it was poor because I remember the PeaceCorps staff were sitting there talking with this family and I didn't understand a single word that they were saying so we, I, I finally made it back and --[phone rings]--
[Pause in recording.]
WILSON: I think when we paused there, Ben, you were talking aboutthis family that you were live, living with and, and what, what the situation was there.
WORTHINGTON: They'd had a series of volunteer trainees in their, their16:00home so I wasn't the first one, you know, they'd come in for the training period and stay with this family and then, when they got their training done and got their assignment, then, they'd move on so, so they were used to having people come in that didn't know the English and you know, didn't know the culture or anything like that so, you know, and they, they brought me in, you know, accepted me as part of the family because I stayed there for nine months after I got done with my training assignment, why, well, the first Christmas I was there where they took me with them down to Puntarenas which is a, a town or it's a port city on the Pacific Coast and that's where the mother of the family, why, that's where her family was from so we went down to there 17:00and stayed with, you know, with the family down there and they just treated me like I was part of their family, you know, ----------(??)--
WILSON: And I assume living in, in San Jose, though, but why don't youdescribe for me what, what that living situation was.
WORTHINGTON: Well, I remember getting off the plane and they, after wegot through customs, loaded us onto a bus and took us into the hotel in downtown San Jose and I remember we were on this freeway that goes from the airport to downtown San Jose and you know, interstate roads here in the United States, why, it's controlled access, you, you know, only vehicles are on there. You don't have bicycles, you don't have pedestrians and I remember we were driving along going about seventy miles an hour and I look out my window and here was this guy 18:00walking along the median and I mean, he wasn't walking over way on the shoulder. He was right on the white line of the, or not the, yeah, you know, it just so it just, you know, that kind of shocked me and then, we got into downtown San Jose and I just remember all of the smells, you know? Americans cities are very clean and it was the diesel. All the buses run on diesel and they have, you know, they weren't tuned up buses. They were, you know, belching smoke out of the back end. After we checked in at the hotel, we went for a walk and we walked down Main Street, past the market and on down into the, the lower west side of San Jose and just the market area, the smells and all that stuff, it was just, you know, the aromas of San Jose. That just, that first night just really, I knew I was in a different place than, than the United States and you know, having gone to Canada a number of times, 19:00why, you know, I never experienced the kind of difference that I felt that first night in San Jose. But you know, after a few, few months, why, I pretty much became at home and I was used to the, you know, kind of deadened me to the smells. Another thing that used to, when I first saw it, it was kind of troubling to me was after I started my job with the, with the electric company, I'd taken bus into the, from, let's see, I lived out in the suburbs and, and they had this community which they developed for the low income people and so that's where I was living and so I'd take a bus from there into downtown to the Central Park and then, I'd walk across the Central Park and take another bus out to where they, the office building was. Well, sometimes, I wouldn't do that. I'd just, you know, I'd walk out there from downtown and I'd walk by the National Hospital and on the street in front of the 20:00National Hospital would be these people just sitting there and I came to find out later on that a lot of them were lepers. They had-- and what they were doing was begging. And the first few weeks that I would see that way, it bothered me but then, I became I guess a little more callous to it because I kept seeing it all the time. I kept seeing, you know, like in the Central Park in San Jose, if you sat on a bench for a while, well, they'd be panhandlers that would come up to maybe wanting this or wanting that and little kids and stuff like that.
WILSON: You were saying you lived out in a suburb and then, were takinga bus in but I assume your living situation, you had some basic some amenities of running water and electricity?
WORTHINGTON: Yes, the government built these houses and I'm not, I was21:00under the impression that the family had you know, purchased this. It was kind of like an apartment is what it was, and it was cinder block and it had corrugated, it was not corrugated metal, it was some other manufactured material for a roof and there was a gap with, between the roof and the cinder block about you know, six inches and so you know, you know, we were, we were at thirty-five hundred feet in elevation so you get into the winter time and it would get pretty cold, hahaha, during the day or at night and they had electricity and television in, you know, they had a TV that they watched there. Had running water but they did not have hot water and I'll tell you that was a, hahaha, a wake up-- 22:00
WILSON: On a cold morning, that was a wake up.
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, I started doing calistinics at the end to kind of getmyself ready for my shower (laughs).
WILSON: Tell me something about the food. You said they provided youbreakfast and dinner and lunch?
WORTHINGTON: I'm sure the Peace Corps had talked to them about them,you know, some basic standards of what would--and it seemed like I got basically the same thing at all three families where I was. I had, it's a typical Costa Rican breakfast. You have some sort of egg, you know, like a poached egg or a, what they would do is they would take a wok, put some oil in it, heat it up until it was, the oil was hot and then, they'd just dump an egg in there deep fat fry the egg so got a lot, lots of fat that way and cholesterol and then, we'd have a mixture, 23:00you know, they'd have rice and beans from the night before and then, what'd they do is they'd take their rice and beans and they'd put it in the skillet and fry the rice and beans for the next morning. And then, I'd get a tortilla, a flour tortilla and then, let's see, what she do for, for juice, why, you'd squeeze an orange into a glass of water and then, add about inch or two inches of sugar into the glass so that was my breakfast. For lunch, she'd give me a piece of fruit. A lot of times, why, it was a cheese sandwich and what they'd do is there was this white cheese that it was, it was, you know, it's not, I'm used to yellow cheese and this white was not mozzarella or anything like that. It was kind of like a early processed white cheese and they'd buy it 24:00in great big bricks and keep it in the refrigerator and just slice off chunks of it and it tasted terrible. And I, there was a supermarket that was across the street from the training center and I went over there and bought some mustard to see if I could spruce it up some and finally, I just gave up eating the sandwich. I started eating other things because I just could not stand that cheese. She also gave me a piece of fruit so that was my lunch and then, for dinner, why, a lot of times it was some sort of stew and they had some, I tried to replicate her stew after I moved out and I never could but the stew was not, was pretty good but I'm not sure, you know, she probably cooked it all day whereas I couldn't cook all day so, but she'd get all of the vegetables pretty soft. There was, you know, some interesting, different types of vegetables that I don't really know what they all were.
WILSON: So anyway, you, you started your job, why don't, if you would,25:00sort of describe that for me. You were going to this fifteen story building anyway.
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, well, when we first started, why, I remember we metwith one of the division chiefs and you know, he, they really didn't know what to do with us. It was kind of like some people had agreed to take us and wanted us to work, they had a nursery that they were doing. They, they, like TVA, when they created a, a reservoir, why, they would buy all the property around the reservoir and so they were trying to figure out what, you know, what to do with that property and so they started a nursery. Well, one of the previous Peace Corps volunteers had started a nursery and so they had taken it over and they'd kept on that operation.
WILSON: This is a tree nursery I'm guessing?
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, so they, they started selling trees on the open26:00market, you know, the nursery stock because they were running out of places to plant the trees and so there really wasn't a job for us that dealt with the nursery and so, I was asked by the, well, there was the guy that ran the nursery and he kind of ran a lot of other things. I'm not really sure; he kind of had his finger into a lot of different things, you know, a little bit of this and a little bit of that and then, there was this other fellow who was called, his department was called Environmental Studies and one of the concerns that they had was with the reservoir. Well, there was one, you know, Costa Rica is a relatively young geology, young geologically and it goes from sea level to twelve thousand feet back to sea level in less than a hundred 27:00mile so there's a lot of erosion and a lot of this siltation was coming down into these reservoirs and they were concerned about, you know, doing something to stabilize the water shed and so that was one of the first things they wanted us to do was to take a look at where were the problems in these watersheds so we got out aerial photos and maps and started mapping out you know where were the, where was the fullest and where were the farms and that sort of thing. Another thing that they asked me to do was water hyacinth grows in the reservoirs down there and the first year we were there, why, they, it was, so this is the winter of, or the spring of 1974 so there was a, a drought and it's also about the time of the oil embargo so they were very concerned about 28:00energy and they recognize that Costa Rica has a lot of hydroelectric opportunities so they had a lot of plans on the works that, for this but the water hyacinth completely covered some of the reservoirs that they were in charge of and they looked at the evapo-- they wanted me to look at how much evaporation was occurring because of the, increasing because of the water, water hyacinth so I did some studies on that and kind of, it was equal, you know, it doesn't matter, you know, the, the evaporation coming from, if you had the water hyacinth there versus you had an open water, why, the water hyacinth also protects the water from having solar radiation so it was kind of a wash on that but they still wanted me to figure out some way to get rid of it and I think it was more from an aesthetic stand point and every year in the spring, why, there was a dry, a normal dry season and the water level would go 29:00down so I got into a program of going around and burning the edges of the reservoir where the water hyacinth was. That was a good way to get rid of the water hyacinth but I also did a special study where I took the water hyacinth and went into this pine plantation that they had on one of the old farms there and I split the plantation into control and then, where I put the water hyacinth and I had this crew spread water hyacinth underneath half the plantation and then, I went in, on a monthly basis, I went in and measured the height growth on the--
WILSON: On the trees?
WORTHINGTON: On the trees and I remember the last time I went overto this one reservoir, why, we were driving up the road there and I looked down at this plantation and the water, the trees with the water hyacinth under them was probably about a third taller than the 30:00other, than the control. Just from the, you know, half the reservoir was coffee plantation and they use a lot of herbicides and a lot of fertilizers in the coffee plantations and so all of that is coming down into the reservoir and so that's why there was a bloom of the water hyacinth and so they trapped all of that, those, those fertilizers and so then, we put them in the pine plantation and they just gave--
WILSON: Fertilized the trees.
WILSON: The trees, how, how, how did you harvest the water hyacinth?
WORTHINGTON: What we did, we just, you know, it was during the dryperiod so there was all the water hyacinth that was on the shore lines so we just went down there and picked it all up and brought it up and put it underneath the--
WILSON: But that could be done mechanically?
WORTHINGTON: Well, this was all manual labor.
WILSON: Oh okay
WORTHINGTON: Back in 1973 in Costa Rica, why, most things were manuallabor. You know, it was, I remember driving around the country and 31:00you'd see where they were going to put in a water line or an electric line under ground and here, there'd be a crew of twenty people lined out, you know, with picks and shovels and they just, they wouldn't use a back hoe, they'd use a crew of twenty people.
WILSON: Can, can you describe for me what a, what a typical day wouldhave been like for you?
WORTHINGTON: Get up at six o'clock, the church bells ring, there weresome mornings when I'd get up early? I'd go out for a walk and you could hear the bells start ringing in the town. Each church would start ringing their bell at six o'clock so get on the bus about seven o'clock because I figured it, thirty minutes per bus ride, thirty minutes to get from where I lived into the center of San Jose and 32:00another thirty minutes to get out to the, and it was always crowded. I remember every bus was just, you know, push to get inside the bus so then, you get to work at eight o'clock. And sometimes I'd be going out into the field so I'd have a driver for one of the electric company vehicles and we'd leave and drive out to wherever our location was and sometimes, I'd take an hour or two hours to get out there, if I was going out to do some measurements on some stuff, well, then, I'd do those measurements. And then, we'd usually eat lunch out there. The drivers, then, because of having worked there a number of years with the reservoir construction, why, they knew where there was a little restaurant sort of where you could go eat and always got the especial which was the special of the day. It was kind of like a plate lunch, 33:00you know? And I, I never knew what it was going to be. You know, you just say especial and then, they'd come out and pretty typical, you know, some sort of meat course and a little bit of salad and rice and beans and a tortilla. So we'd do some more work and then start heading back in probably two thirty, three o'clock. And then, take an hour, two hours to make the trip back in and do some paperwork. And then they never gave us a key for the office so when they left, they wanted us to leave so when they left. Well, that was the end of the day, reverse the process of getting on the bus. Sometime I wouldn't go straight home. I'd go downtown and then, meet some of the, there was some guys that were working for the National Park Service there in downtown San Jose and so I might stop by and see those guys or there 34:00was another guy that was working--
WILSON: These were Peace Corps people?
WORTHINGTON: Peace Corps volunteers, yeah. There was another guy thatwas working on a reservoir or on a irrigation project over in the western side of the Central Valley and he'd usually be back in from doing surveying. That was his job was going out and surveying all these, this construction project and it was financed out of the U.N., was where the money was coming. I think his boss was European. But anyway, sometimes, I'd hook up with those guys and we might go, go to some cafe and have some beer, then head home.
WILSON: What did you do for recreation?
WORTHINGTON: Well, there was a lot of movie theaters. After I moved35:00out from the family that I was living with, why, I moved to this town Heredia that was half way between Alajuela and San Jose and there were five movie theaters there in town and I went to four of them. The fifth one, all they showed was kung-fu movies. But they had all the current movies that were being shown--
WILSON: In, in, in Spanish or in English with Spanish subtitles or--?
WORTHINGTON: English with Spanish subtitles and I remember one of themovies I saw was The Exorcist and boy, probably had the same reaction there in Costa Rica as it did in the United States, probably worse because you know, everybody's Catholic down there, in Costa Rica. Me being a Protestant, why, I probably didn't, you know, appreciate some of the nuances as the Costa Ricans had, but boy, there were a lot of 36:00scared people there (laughs).
WILSON: Saying something about the language there makes me think. Whatwas your language facility by that point. How did that come along? And I assume you were using Spanish in your job all the time.
WORTHINGTON: Yeah and in fact, I had to write some technical reports inSpanish. I found that after about six weeks of training, I remember that, this guy that was working for the irrigation project, why, he and I kind of hooked up because we were both from the state of Oregon and, so he and I started doing a lot of traveling around, seeing different parts of the country and we went down to the Pacific coast to this one town. And I remember we went to have dinner and then, we were walking back up the street to where we were staying. And there's these two guys fishing so we, both of us are steel head fishermen, so 37:00wow, they're fishing, what are they fishing for? So we got down there and started talking to them and that was the first time I was able to really able to talk to someone in Spanish, you know? We carried, you know, probably a little bit of the lubrication of the beers we'd had but, you know, I was able to understand what they were saying, and I think he understood what I was saying and from there on, why, it just seemed like I got better and better. After about a year and a half, boy, we got a new Peace Corps director and he said I want everybody to be at the level three and so he put everybody back into training. We had, there was this one special Peace Corps, or it was a training facility. It was in a old monastery. It was out towards, it was near the airport and what they would do is run classes through there. They were a contractor to the Peace Corps to put people through training 38:00and, but they didn't, they didn't have anybody for Costa Rica. Costa Rica had their own training facility. So this was like people going to Paraguay and Peru, you know, other places in Latin America that were going through this, this one training facility so the new Peace Corps director, well, he set up a special contract so we had to go there for about two weeks to get our proficiency up to where we started to almost talking like a Costa Rican. In fact, you know, I've had some people since I've been back to the United States, my, my Spanish has really gone down hill and but when I first got back, I was talking with some people and you know they thought I had a strange accent and it's because the Costa Rican say words in Spanish a little bit different than the rest. You know, there's kind of different dialects. So they 39:00were picking up on the Costa Rican dialect that I had.
WILSON: Well, I'm sorry I diverted you a little bit. You were talkingabout recreation, going to movies. What else?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I traveled, you know, like this buddy of mine, Ted,why, he got enlisted to help these people over on the North. You see, there's the central corridor of mountains where the, where the volcanoes are and the Central Valley is on the Pacific side of that central corridor and then, from, from the mountains, it slopes off into a flat plain that runs out to, I can't remember the name of the river. It's the river between Costa Rica and Nicaragua and that was kind of like the frontier area of Costa Rica. People were still moving out there and settling. They had a land program out there where they, well, 40:00if you went out there and homesteaded, then, you'd get so much free land. So anyway, there was a community out there that wanted to have a community water system because everybody had a well and the wells were getting contaminated from the farms and that sort of thing so I went out there with him just to go out and visit and see some part of the country. And then on weekends, I'd travel around and see different Peace Corps volunteers that were in different parts of the country, too, just to go visit. And with the volcanoes, in my younger years, I used to do a lot of, in the Pacific Northwest, we have volcanoes and snow capped peaks so I used to do a lot of climbing on those. And so I wanted to get up to the highest points on, you know, some of the volcanoes above twelve thousand feet so I tried to get up on top of those. Unlike the Pacific Northwest though, the volcanoes have jungle 41:00all the way up to the very top (laughs). And so, I remember walking around one, trying to figure out was I really on top because you couldn't see very, more than about twenty feet through the jungle.
WILSON: Did you do any travel outside?
WORTHINGTON: I did take one long vacation and can't remember how manydays. It was like twenty days or more than twenty days, and my buddy, this guy from Oregon, why, he, he took off early. He took an extra week and he took the bus up through Nicaragua, El Salvador, on up to Guatemala and because I was coming up a week later. I just flew up to Guatemala City and joined up with him there and then we toured through Guatemala. Like I said, I can't remember how many days I was up there. And then we took the bus back down and this was just shortly after the 42:00earthquake in Managua, and I was just amazed at the devastation over there. You know, they'd already bulldozed everything flat. But you could tell where there were city streets and foundations and stuff that was still there. Just block after block looked like a big park and about the only things that were standing was a few places like the, we stayed in a little pension that was there, you know. Down the street from there, well, there was this big hotel. I guess it had been there. They had designed it to withstand an earthquake. I remember, what was interesting, we were going from Honduras which is a very poor country into Nicaragua, and Honduras had this, it was just a wooden shack at the border for controlling the crossing and so on the opposite side was a wooden shack on the Nicaraguan side. So then, we get to the south 43:00side of Nicaragua and going into Costa Rica and Costa Rica, you know, is a relatively well-do country. And so it has a very nice concrete, you know, it, it, you know, it's, if you've gone into Canada, why, you've probably seen, you know, our entrance stations there and it's very similar to that so Nicaragua had a really nice one. Not quite as nice as the Costa Rican but you know, something comparable so I thought it was interesting that you know, the countries there try to match up the border crossings with you know, what the other country can do.
WILSON: About your interactions with host country nationals? Didyou have a, a counterpart? A host country counterpart in your work situation or--?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I worked directly for a Costa Rican. Worked for a44:00Costa Rican and then, I had, you know, somebody that worked in the same office with me, a Costa Rican. And my boss knew English but we talked in very seldom in English. It was always in Spanish and, and the technician that worked for them, why, he knew no English at all.
WILSON: Mm hmm, I need to change the tape here and then we'll go on.
[Side a ends; side b begins.]
WILSON: --9th, 2006. Tell me something also about your interaction withother Americans. I guess you've talked about a couple of Peace Corps folks. Contact with any other Americans or mostly with Peace Corps folks?
WORTHINGTON: In Costa Rica, why, they set up a special category forcitizenship for retirees. They were trying to encourage people to 45:00come there to Costa Rica with their retirement income and so they got special tax breaks and they could import things into the country that other people could not import for their personal use. One of our teachers was a, her father was a Colombian that had retired to Costa Rica and so there was a number of Americans that were down there trying to take advantage of the special income taxes and you know, being able to have your dollars go a lot further. And so we bump into there every once in a while, you know, like I remember in downtown San Jose, I was on a date with another Peace Corps girl and we were standing around looking at some shop windows or something like that and all of a sudden, why this woman comes up to us and starts talking because 46:00we'd been talking in English and she was up, you know, my impression was that she was very lonely for the English language and Americans so maybe the moving to Costa Rica wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Well, I remember that trip that I made up into Central America, why, coming back to Costa Rica, why, I felt like I was coming home and that you know, I had seen poorer countries and that there was definitely in those countries, you could see, you know, that there was not very much of a middle class. There is in Costa Rica it was really, there was a strong, large middle class there but the middle class was not as well- to-do as the middle class in the United States. But still it felt more prosperous when I came into Costa Rica coming from the other countries.
WILSON: And tourism is a pretty big business as well, right?47:00
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, the, the other Americans I ran into, why, there's a,you've probably heard of Monteverde. And there's a Quaker community up there at Monteverde and it was towards the end of my tour that I finally went up there just to see it and ran into, you know, a few of the families that were up there. Every once in a while, why, we'd run into other tourists, the American tourists that were around. In the travels that we did around the country, we'd bump into them occasionally.
WILSON: But your, your real work and contact and so forth was eitherwith other Peace Corps volunteers and, or Costa Ricans?
WORTHINGTON: Right, yeah, and you know, when I moved out from thatfamily, you know, and started living in the town of Heredia, why, then, 48:00I was there with one other Peace Corps volunteer. He was my roommate but he was gone all the time. I don't know what he was doing. He was kind of a party animal and so I'd be there at the house by myself and you know, I'd go down to the store, or downtown so I, I was interacting with Costa Ricans pretty much by myself.
WILSON: And in that situation, were you cooking for yourselves as well?
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'd go down to the market, you know, buy,buy all the food, you know.
WILSON: And you had running water and electricity and so forth as well?
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, we had running water and electricity. And again,why the backside of the house was completely open so there was, you know, and Heredia was four thousand feet elevation, a little bit higher on the mountain than San Jose so it got a little colder during the 49:00winter and the evenings but just you know, you learned to dress for it. We also put in a, you could, it looked dangerous, but you could put this thing on your spigot for your shower and then, there was two wires coming out of it to one of those toddle switches. And you know (laughs) I'd always make sure I was kind of standing out of the water pool when I flipped the switch, but the way it worked was the slower the water went across it, the warmer it was so during the summer, you could run the thing pretty much full blast and you could get a warm shower. During the winter, boy, you'd have to crank down and you know, just kind of have trickle out of it (laughs).
WILSON: Are there other particularly memorable stories or events during50:00your service that you can relate?
WORTHINGTON: Oh, I don't know, it's kind of, a lot, you know, I triedto get around and experience a lot of things like you said, traveling a lot, and you know, just trying to get a feel for the geography and the people, looking at different places and so, tried to get to see as much of the country as I could. I figured I was getting paid to be there so you know it wasn't necessarily to be working all the time. It was you know, to get to know the countries so--
WILSON: Well, tell me something about what it was like coming back tothe U.S.
WILSON: Did you travel on your way back or--?
WORTHINGTON: No, I came directly back and I started about six monthsbefore I got out filling out applications for working for the Forest Service. And what I was doing was spending out applications to each forest supervisor in Oregon and Washington and wasn't sure what, you know, I figured my, my parents were living in Washington, D.C. at the time. So I flew to Washington, D.C. and then, I figured well, I'll get to Oregon and then, figure out something to do once I got there but probably stay with my grandparents for a little while until I got something lined up, something like that. Well, I stepped off the plane in Washington, D.C. and my dad told me that I had a letter from the Olympic National Forest that I had a job--
WORTHINGTON: And so it was pretty much I, you know I had to negotiatewith, with the National Forest when I had to report to work. So you know, I said well, I'm in Washington, D.C. It's going to take me a little bit to get there so I said the week after New Years, I'll be there to report for work. So I gave myself about five weeks.
WILSON: So that would have been then January of--?
WILSON: '76, so you were in Costa Rica from '74--?
WORTHINGTON: November '73--
WILSON: November '73--
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, so the training period started in November '73 andthen, what there was was a rule that you could leave the first of the month before you were sworn in so that's how I left December. Because I wanted to come home for Christmas.
WILSON: So what was it like to suddenly be thrown into a job within a53:00few weeks after you got back?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I tried to get my parents to come down to Costa Ricaand they never would come down. They went to Europe but they wouldn't come--
WILSON: They wouldn't come to Costa Rica?
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, so for Christmas of '74, why, they paid for my wayto come back so I got back mid-December and I think it was about the first night or second night, why, my dad said well, I have to go to Dart Drug. I don't know if you've ever been to Dart Drug but it's kind of a pre-Wal-Mart. Kind of like the same thing. And I remember him walking in and he knew exactly what he wanted. I think he was going for a jug of wine or something so he went straight back to the back of 54:00the store. And I walked in and I just got lost because here were these tiers going up, all of these commercial items and I'm just walking along with my mouth open thinking gosh, I need that, I need that, you know? And I was just amazed and I've been gone a little over a year, and I was amazed about how much stuff there was because you know if you tried to find that in Costa Rica, it would have taken you a week to go around to all these different stores trying to find all that stuff. So I was just amazed at this one place where you can have all of that stuff so that was one thing that hit me. Another thing was I'd been riding the bus all the time and this was, this was when I got back from Costa Rica at the end of my tour. And so I was, my dad was working in downtown Washington, D.C. and so he took the bus in from the suburb 55:00where we lived and so I rode with him because I was going to go in and go see the Smithsonian, that sort of thing. And in Costa Rica, nobody, you know, if you had a seat, well, you didn't get up until this bus stopped. And if you were standing up, well, you hung on until the bus stopped. Well, my dad, when we pulled up in front of the South Ag Building thing, in downtown Washington, D.C., we were a hundred yards from where the stop was going to be and everybody was standing up and walking down the aisle to jump off the bus as soon as it stopped. And I was still sitting there, and I waited till the bus stop. and then, my dad was almost up to the door to get into the building, and he was looking around, where are you at? So, you know, I guess it was haste was a lot, you know, and I, I, I'd adopted that slower pace of life 56:00living in Costa Rica.
WILSON: And how did you find that when you then went to Olympia?
WORTHINGTON: Well, when I started working for the Forest Service, why,by that time, what five weeks later, why I had probably accculturized back to the U.S. culture so I didn't really notice. It was like going to work for the Forest Service was like going back to previous jobs that I'd had working for the DNR [Editor's note: Department of Natural Resources] and also working for the Forest Service in California.
WILSON: What do you, what do you think of the impact of, of your PeaceCorps service was on the country and, and the people?
WORTHINGTON: I don't know. I don't know if I made much of a difference57:00down there, you know? You know, it was interesting thinking about some of the people that I interacted with in, in Heredia and other places. Why, it seemed like the older generation liked Americans and they would be willing to sit and talk but the --[phone rings]--
There was some of the younger generation and I remember there was aninauguration for a new President and it was done at the soccer stadium. It was out by my office building and when the U.S., you know, I can't remember what, well, there was, I don't think the Vice President but 58:00it was like maybe a Secretary of State or somebody came in. He was introduced, and why there was a whole bunch of boos from the stadium. And the Russian ambassador was there and the Russian ambassador got a big cheer. I had a few young, people of my age at the time, you know, late teens, early twenties that would cuss me out on the street. They were just trying to antagonize me but generally, why, the other people, having gone through World War II and the construction of Pan-Am Highway, they had seen the benefits from the United State's assistance to them. The Pan-American Highway really helped pull 59:00that country together because you know we constructed that road from Nicaragua. It was essentially building a freeway up to San Jose and then, constructing it across the southern mountains down into Panama so it was, it really helped pull the country together and it helped the industry in the country because the east-west, the going from San Jose over to the east, to the Caribbean, why, there was a very poor road that went over that way and actually, the best way to get there was on a train. Now, there was some, a little bit of resentment towards some of the big companies like Dole because they have these palms down there 60:00that they grow for, to create oil for margarine. And they had thousand of acres of those down there. There was a little bit of resentment towards them in that community. I remember talking with a Peace Corps volunteer that was down in that community and he was talking about one of the guys that was down there with him started running around with one of the daughters of one of the company executives and so he was living up in this special community up there and he was having a hard time with being able to work with the Costa Ricans because they didn't like that he was up there whereas this other fellow that I was talking to still lived down in the community with the Costa Ricans and you 61:00know, they treated him like he was one of their neighbors--
WILSON: But your personal relationships with Costa Ricans that youworked with were good?
WORTHINGTON: Oh yeah, yeah.
WILSON: What, what do you think the impact of Peace Corp service wason you?
WORTHINGTON: On me?
WILSON: Mm hmm.
WORTHINGTON: Well, I was hired directly from the Peace Corps into theForest Service so it got me started in the, my Forest Service career so that's one major benefit. It really broadened my horizons. As I said I'd never really, I'd been to Canada but really not-- and I really hadn't been out of the Pacific Northwest very much. I'd spend about three months in the Washington, D.C. area and that had been a cultural change for me to go to northern Virginia and work there for 62:00several months but it was definitely broadening my horizons. But it also showed me there were a lot of similarities too. I remember you know, I look back on it and I think that there's a lot of similarities between the people of Costa Rica and the United States. One of my friends in the Forest Service, why, when we were working in the state of Washington, he got, they have a special program in the state of Washington where they take leaders in natural resources and they go to the University of Washington over a two year period and they got exposed to a lot of different stuff economics and you know, a special sabbatical. At the end of that, why, they take them outside the United States and what they try to do is to take people not only to, you know, countries that are outside the United States but also countries 63:00that are in the Third World. And I remember he went to Morocco and he was talking about, you know, and it sounded far different than my experience in Costa Rica. You know, Costa Rica, why, that seems, you know, it's a, well, it's a European based culture. You know, it comes from Spain and there's a lot of cultural things that are similar. And he was saying that Morocco was completely different, you know, that there were, that it's a lot further jump from outside your normal experiences and I didn't have that with Costa Rica. Probably the closest I came was when I was in Guatemala, you know, touring through some of the Indian communities that were there.
WILSON: What about impact of, of the Peace Corps experience on your64:00family?
WORTHINGTON: I don't know. You know, when I first came back, why, Itook about a thousand slides while I was in the Peace Corps. And so I put together a couple different slide shows and you know, service clubs, why, they're always eager to have somebody to come in and talk at their meetings so I was a, I gave the talk a number of times about Costa Rica and so I was, so that was one of the things I was doing. I was coming back and you know, spreading what I learned about the Costa Rican people after I left Costa Rica.
WILSON: Okay, so you came back, you joined Forest Service. For our65:00record here, what have you done since Peace Corps? How did you get to Kentucky from Washington?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I worked on several national forests in the PacificNorthwest and then, became the line officer and worked as a line officer, as a district ranger on two different districts in the Pacific Northwest and then, moved from the Pacific Northwest, why, I became the deputy forest supervisor on the Bridger Teton National Forest in 66:00Wyoming. It's in the Yellowstone area. And then, from there, well, then, I came to Kentucky as the forest supervisor in the Daniel Boone National Forest and spent ten years as the forest supervisor here.
WILSON: And then, you have recently retired from the--?
WORTHINGTON: Retired a year ago and I started a company, durable medicalequipment company.
WILSON: So you intend to stay in Kentucky?
WORTHINGTON: Yeah, for a while. Just hired my first employee last weekand she started yesterday.
WILSON: Have you had any international experience since you've returned?
WORTHINGTON: 1997, we went to Europe, spent a week in Paris, a week inVenice and a week in Switzerland and when I was District Ranger in, 67:00on, I went back to the Olympic. After I started on the Olympic, after a year in a half, my dad moved back from Washington, D.C. to become the regional forester for both Oregon and Washington and so because of nepotism, I couldn't work in Oregon or Washington so I had to leave. Well, then, I went back to the Olympic National Forest as district ranger and we were the closest district to Port Angeles and there's a ferry that goes back and forth between Victoria and Port Angeles and so frequently, why, we'd load up the car and get on the ferry and go over to Port, over to Victoria. We started touring around Vancouver Island. That was international experience that I had before we went to Europe in 1997. Beyond that, I haven't, you know, since 1997, I haven't gone 68:00outside the country.
WILSON: Do you, do you look forward to any, any future internationaltravel or experience?
WORTHINGTON: Well, this, two areas that my wife and I would like tovisit. One is we'd like to go back to Venice. We really enjoyed Venice and tour some more of Italy. So that's probably something that we'll do and, but after we get our business going a little bit better. The other is that I would like to go to South America and I don't know if my health can, can do that but I've always been intrigued with Lake Titicaca and the volcanoes that are around Lake Titicaca so when I say I'm not sure my health could, I'm not sure I could climb up the twenty thousand feet, but I would definitely like to go to Lake Titicaca 69:00and I'm intrigued with some of the Indian ruins there that date back several thousand years. And I'd really like to get down into Chile and see the Central Valley in Chile and further south into the lakes there.
WILSON: And do you, do you now have an opportunity to use, to use yourSpanish skill or do you look forward to updating that skill at all?
WORTHINGTON: Well, if I'm going to go to South America, why, I'lldefinitely have to update it. Right after my wife and I were married, why, both of us, she --[glitch in recording]-- as something for us to do in the evenings out in the remote ranger district, why, we started taking a class at the local high school in the evening and trying to 70:00talk a little bit of Spanish. But unless you're really forced into it, why, it's really difficult I find.
WILSON: How did you happen to decide to retire in, in Kentucky and openup a business that sounds substantially different from, from Forest Service work?
WORTHINGTON: Well, my wife is a nurse and it started when we were on theOlympic. She moved from floor nursing doing home health--
WILSON: I see
WORTHINGTON: And then when we went to Jackson Hole, well, then shecontinued home health. When we came here, why, she got completely away from home health and she wound up at Richmond Place over on Man O'War. 71:00Well, they needed a nurse to work their wellness program and so she applied for that and got the job. Well, she had also been working down here for the senior center--
WILSON: Here in Winchester?
WORTHINGTON: In Winchester and she was getting about $20,000 to run thisthing down here and it was, I mean, it was really stressful for her and so she applied for the job over at the, to be a wellness nurse over there and she was going to get $40,000 and I remember her boss said well, I'll give you an increase of twenty percent on your salary. And she said that doesn't come close to what I'm going to make over there, sorry! And plus the less stress of not having to be the sole person to call for on that. So anyway, she went over there and they opened up the assisted living facility and she took on that as manger and was 72:00running that thing. Then, dealing, this is back when the economy was booming and unemployment in the Lexington area was pushing one percent and she was having to fill positions. She'd interview twenty people and get one person that she could, hire and then two months later, well, they'd walk out the door and take a job at some place else where they got an increase. And she kept fighting with management to allow her to increase the salary so she could keep people around. Finally, she just had it and found an advertisement in the paper for a sales rep for these home care products and so she applied for that. And they interviewed her and offered her the job and she had some bad experience with that company but found two other companies in the process and 73:00started working for them as sales rep and then, a year in a half ago, by then, we decided we're going to cut out the middle man. Instead of being a sales rep for a Virginia company, she's been a sales rep for our own company and so a year and a half ago, why, we started, incorporated and started getting going in the business and that's one of the reasons we moved here was so we could have the building out there that we could operate the business out of, because we were, at the old house, boy, she was, she had her office in our bedroom which was not working.
WILSON: So then, your business will service central and eastern Kentucky?
WORTHINGTON: There's another sales rep down in Bowling Green and kindof informally well, we've kind of driven a line from Columbia that bisects the state. Everything to the west, west of that, she has and everything to the east of that, we have and then, there's another guy 74:00up in Cincinnati and he used to come south of the river but he doesn't come south of the river any more so--
WILSON: What do you, what do you think that the impact of Peace Corpsservice has been on the, the way you think about the world and what's going on in the world today?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I was very glad to be going home at the end ofmy tour. You know, I had a good experience down there. I had some health problems when I was there but you know, in spite of the health problems, why, you know, I had an affinity for the Costa Rican people but I was happy to come home and be an American in America. I saw a 75:00change in my roommate that when he first went down there, why, he was very angry and I remember he would be talking to some young people about the United States and they'd be bad mouthing it and he'd be sitting there agreeing with him. At the end of the two years, why he was kind in the same place, you know? He wanted to come back to the United States and be an American in America.
WILSON: Okay, what do you think the, the overall impact of the PeaceCorps has been?
WORTHINGTON: Why, I think it's pretty positive from the standpointthat there's the international politics and a lot of times with that 76:00overshadows a lot of things and something our people, you know, that's what they see is what's on the front page of the paper and they draw their opinions from it. And I think it's good to have that citizen to citizen contact that the Peace Corps provides where you've got somebody that lived in Mexico or down in the street who's from another country and you start interacting with them, learn, get to know them as people.
WILSON: What should the role of the Peace Corps should be today? Shouldthere be a role?
WORTHINGTON: Oh, I think there's probably more of a need now thanthere ever has been. You know, at the time that, that I was in the Peace Corps, you know, I mentioned earlier about the presidential 77:00inauguration with the geo-politics, you know, was involved there and there was two sides. Well, I'm not sure that there's two sides anymore. It's more of a lot of things going on and I just think there is a role for that and I talked to my friend who went to Niger. And he was definitely helping other people do some good to try to keep the desert from moving further south into Niger and you know, bringing a lot of things to a third world country to help them give them a kind of a hand up so that they can move ahead.
WILSON: Are you still in contact with anybody from your Peace Corps days78:00either Costa Rican or American?
WORTHINGTON: Well, a guy I did a lot of traveling with, why, he and Istill see each other occasionally and it's been a couple years ago. I went out there on a steelhead fishing trip with him. Other folks, why, I've seen stuff about them on the Internet, that's about it.
WILSON: Well, that is sort of the structured questions I have but isthere anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to answer or if there's a story that pops to your mind about your experience you'd like to relate?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I just, you know, I don't know who this is going tobe, going to. But people coming out of college that don't have job 79:00prospects or are wondering what to do, why, I think the Peace Corps is a good opportunity for them. I guess in the Peace Corps, why, you know, I kind of knew kind of generally what I wanted to do but I really had a lot of time to think about it and I really decided that Forest Service was going to be my career and that's where I wanted to work. And, and I think that the Peace Corps provides that opportunity for people to kind of think about their life and what they want to do. There was some, during training, one of the advisors, Peace Corps advisors was there and he was talking about this, some sort of study that had been done and, of returning Peace Corps volunteers like it was a very high percentage went back to grad school to get an advanced degree.
WILSON: So you see it as, as providing an opportunity to get direction80:00for life or for career--
WILSON: Decision making period?
WORTHINGTON: Rather than, you know, I think if I had gone directly intoa job and started working in that job, the evolution that I went through in the Peace Corps would have been stretched over a longer period of time. I think it condensed it down into a shorter period of time.
WILSON: Okay, anything else? All right.
[End of interview.]