WILSON: If you would first give me your full name and where and when youwere born.
ODDO: My name is Oghale Oddo. I was born in Athens, Ohio in 1967.
WILSON: And tell me something about your family sort of your growing up.
ODDO: My parents are Nigerians. They came up to the United States fromNigeria to study out in Ohio University back in the '60s. They got scholarships at that time I think. I would say they are a product of the Cold War because that generation of Nigerians you had a lot of them who got scholarships to go to Eastern Europe or United States or Britain. And so my parents, I got lucky I suppose when my parents came to the US. 1:00
WILSON: And so you were born here. Did you go to elementary schoolin Athens?
ODDO: I went to elementary school in Athens. I think I was, I leftAthens when I was about seven years old. We moved to New York City and then spent about a year or two in New York City before my mom went back to Nigeria and I went with her.
WILSON: Okay. So you, where did you graduate from high school orsecondary school?
ODDO: Oh I graduated from high school in Nigeria in a town called Benin,Benin City. I also got my first, my college degree, undergraduate degree in Nigeria from University of Ife in Nigeria.
WILSON: And when did you come back to the United States?
ODDO: Came back to the United States in 19, November of 1990 I believeyeah.
WILSON: And what was the motivation for that?2:00
ODDO: I, you know, I finished college and did one year of, I workedone year in Nigeria and I thought I needed to come back to the States. I've always, I always had my American passport so my parents always kept that. And it was mostly, looking back on it, I think it was more the opportunity to explore something different and to come into the United States to see to get those opportunities that are available to me. There are definitely more opportunities out here in the Stats than there were in Nigeria. So it's the immigrant story I suppose.
WILSON: Okay, and you said you did your first university degree inNigeria and where was that?
ODDO: At University of Ife.3:00
WILSON: Ife, okay. And what was your family doing back in Nigeria? Wasyour--?
ODDO: My mom was a school teacher; she taught home economics andeconomics in high school and she became a school principal in the Delta, what is now called the Delta region of Nigeria. And my dad is a university professor in Port Harcourt. He's forestry, he teaches forestry.
WILSON: You have brothers and sisters?
ODDO: I've got, yes I've got brothers and sisters. I've got, they'rehalf, half-brothers and sisters. I'm the only child of my mom and my father has other children but four brothers and two sisters.
WILSON: So you came back to the United States and what did you do when4:00you came?
ODDO: When I got here I, in fact I came here I didn't have, I had littleor no money. I think I had less than $100 when I got on the plane. I came here, went up to the Y, I looked at a map and I thought you know Washington D.C. is as good a place as any. That was the place that I knew more about, and came up, met with some friends, stayed at the Y for a little bit, and I met with some friends, looked for a job as a cashier because I had banking experience in Nigeria and I got a job as a cashier. And had a little business selling clothes, cloths from Africa from Nigeria, yeah.
WILSON: Okay, and so when and how did Peace Corps come into the picture?5:00
ODDO: I first got to know about Peace Corps when I think I was aboutten years old. My dad was still in the US; he was doing his PhD from the University of Florida in Gainesville. And I came up to the US on vacation from Africa, and on my way back to Nigeria I was on the plane and my mom was waiting for me in Lagos, I met a Peace Corps volunteer on the plane.
WILSON: This would have been when?
ODDO: This was I think in 1997. I was going, I had come in for vacationin the US to meet with my dad and then going back I met a Peace Corps volunteer on the plane. And that was when they used to have those Pan American flights that went from, you know, The Gambia down to Sierra Leone all the way down the coast of West Africa. But I met this fellow who, tall white guy he was speaking Pidgin English to me. I was just 6:00so surprised that he could speak Pidgin English because you know I'd been in the States for three months. At that time I never imagined that anyone could understand Pidgin, let alone some other African language. Anyway I was really fascinated and I asked him where he learned the language. He said he was a Peace Corps volunteer. I can't remember what country he was working in, but he was definitely from West Africa, either Sierra Leone or Ghana or Nigeria at that time. But and I thought, "Wow this is--" When he told me about what he was doing I thought this is something I would like to do later on in life. You know when I grow up I wanted to go back to the US and become a Peace Corps volunteer. He also taught me to play blackjack on the plane, so I went back to my community and taught my friends. The ten year olds, 7:00all of us in the neighborhood learned to play blackjack.
WILSON: So that would have been what year did you say?
WILSON: '97 okay.
ODDO: Sorry 1977.
WILSON: '77 okay.
ODDO: I beg your pardon.
WILSON: That sounds better, okay. But even so there were no Peace Corpsvolunteers in Nigeria at that time.
ODDO: I don't believe so. I don't know, but he was definitely from aWest African--
WILSON: It could have been Cameroon or Sierra Leone.
ODDO: Cameroon or Sierra Leone or one of those Pidgin English places orGhana, yeah.
WILSON: Okay, so that was your sort of first introduction to PeaceCorps. Then when you came back to the US after college and got your, got a job here in banking and as an entrepreneur in the cloth business, 8:00then what?
ODDO: Yeah after a while I was living in Greenbelt, Maryland and Ithought you know this, the idea about Peace Corps was still in me and you know I investigated it. I went for one Peace Corps event. I still had that urge to join the Peace Corps; I was really fascinated with that experience. And in 19, I believe 1993 I went up to sign, sent in my application to become a Peace Corps volunteer and got called in. It was funny because I think they were thinking at first of sending me to a West African country, and I got the--I could not pass the medical. I could not pass the medical exam or something. They said something 9:00about my being allergic to chloroquin and so I couldn't go to any of those malaria countries really, which was interesting because I had been in Nigeria for you know most all 13, 14 years and had malaria every year for those, during that period. But I got called to go to Jamaica to become a Peace Corps volunteer.
WILSON: And when you applied did you request Africa?
ODDO: No, I actually requested, I wanted to go to Eastern Europe becauseI had a business background and I did business, I studied management in school. But at that time they were, the reply came that they wanted some people with I believe MBAs with more recent business experience or US business experience. So they urged me to take on that, but originally I wanted to go to Eastern Europe, yeah.
WILSON: So you got accepted for Jamaica?10:00
ODDO: For Jamaica, yes.
WILSON: And that would have been when now?
ODDO: I was in early 1994 and I went in, I went to training and I thinkin March 1994.
WILSON: And where did you train?
ODDO: I trained in Jamaica.
WILSON: In Jamaica.
WILSON: There was what, some staging and medical stuff?
ODDO: There was staging. We had staging in Miami; it was three days inMiami and then we were sent down to Jamaica yeah for three months of, 12 weeks of PST, pre service training in Jamaica.
WILSON: And what was that training like?
ODDO: I was an agricultural extension volunteer, agriculture extension,business agric-extension volunteer. And so our training involved knowing issues about agriculture in Jamaica as well as the business 11:00agri-institutions in Jamaica and meeting with farmers, local subsistence farmers in Jamaica as well.
WILSON: Was there a language, cultural component?
ODDO: There was, yes there was. There was a patois, what they callPatois, the Jamaican equivalent of broken English I suppose but yeah Patois language training. We had that and I think that's where I started picking up a little bit of Jamaican Patois.
WILSON: And was that significantly different from the West AfricanPidgin?
ODDO: It wasn't, well people do tell me that it is, but for me I couldpick it up. I guess I could pick up the rhythm of the language and so for me it wasn't that different. I could, there were some words that 12:00I could pick up like pickni. Pickin in Nigeria is pickni in Jamaica, so there were you know words here and there, not too many of them, but you could pick those up and it was interesting to listen to you know some other culture speak a kind of Pidgin English as well, so it was really nice.
WILSON: So there was some language.
ODDO: Language, medical training just medical as in health training,a lot of agriculture and business agriculture in Jamaica training, culture of course, Jamaican history, a little bit of Jamaican history and recent history as well as old time.
WILSON: And were you living with families during training or how did13:00that work?
ODDO: Oh no we were living; we lived with the family for the 12 weeks.I was, I lived with a family with two volunteers in this house. There was a host father; we didn't have a host mother and he had two daughters in the house, two grown daughters. So they were all, the women were married, but they lived back in the village with their father because he was an older man. This was in Harkers Hall, sorry not Harkers Hall, Sligoville in Jamaica yeah nice little town.
WILSON: So what do you think the best part of that training was?
ODDO: Oh there were lots of things that were good for me. It was14:00getting, getting to meet a lot of other people, meet Jamaicans, and just seeing the whole experience there of course of just getting to was great for me I felt. But going in there and gaining perspective about Jamaica, about a different culture, I think for me that was just it was very, very and it was really it was a great experience for me. I really enjoyed my training there, not because of what we--Not because of what we learned in class or in the sessions but more because of the whole environment, everything that was coming in, the people, the Jamaicans, and the people that worked in the Peace Corps office. That was for me I really loved that; it was good.
WILSON: Do you think that was true for your other training colleagues?15:00Was there any difference for you as a person who already had some significant cross cultural experience?
ODDO: I would think so. At that time I'm not sure if I noticed it orif I consciously recognized it, but looking back now yes I do see that. A lot of what I thought was oh this is easy, this is normal, a lot of my colleagues did not feel that way. Having grown up in West Africa in Nigeria and seeing the ups and downs of development, all development issues in Nigeria, I came into Jamaica with that expectation. Oh well this is what it is and okay let's see how we can make things work, but 16:00I suspect that for a lot of my colleagues or for some of my colleagues they came in thinking differently and they probably would have been a bit maybe tougher. Of course until I opened my mouth, people felt, people thought I was Jamaican until I spoke. So you know walking into a place probably you know their expectation was oh here is a Jamaican. It may have been easier for me at that period until I opened my mouth to speak then people say oh okay.
WILSON: And what did they then think? Did they say he's an American?
ODDO: No. They refused to call me an American. That was something theJamaicans, you know they'll say oh yes you have an American passport but you are not American, you are Nigerian, you are African. It was really very interesting and you know I didn't know what to make of it. 17:00As long as we're getting our job done that was, for me at that time that was what my time, wasn't much by the idea--
WILSON: So you went through the 12 weeks of training and were youassigned a particular jobsite or did you get some say in that? How did that work?
ODDO: We, I was assigned a particular jobsite. Towards the end oftraining a site was selected for me. I had been interviewed by my program manager or my APCD who you know talked about, I talked to him about my interest. He asked me what part of the country I would like to go to, whether I would mind going to a rural area or to an urban 18:00area and you know what, how I liked living, whether I could live alone or whether I needed a lot of friends around me. And after listening to all of that they chose a site for me and that was Harkers Hall, Jamaica.
WILSON: Which is what kind of a site then, rural?
ODDO: It was a rural site, very it was on the map it's very close toKingston, the main the capital city, but everyone in Jamaica, I met a lot of people who did not know where Harkers Hall was. It was in the interior but in a very secluded--
WILSON: Up in the hills?
ODDO: It was, yes. It was in the hills close about let's see 30minutes, 45 minutes from Kingston going through the back, the back roads. But it was a rural area, small community or small group of 19:00communities about five different villages that made up Hackasal.
WILSON: And did you live there by yourself and what was the livingsituation?
ODDO: I lived on a school compound. I lived in a house that wasoriginally for the principal of the school and the principal did not- -He did, he had built his own house in one of the villages, one of the communities, and so they gave me that house because I went out there and volunteered to teach the children math and English in the primary schools so they gave me that house to stay in.
WILSON: Oh so you didn't do the agriculture?
ODDO: Oh I did. Initially no, I did not do the agriculture. The firsttime I went I did not do that, that was because when I went there my apparently the farmers did not trust my counterparts. So when I 20:00got, I rode into town, my counterpart rode me into town. He was on a motorcycle. One of the farmers, this was later one of the farmers told me that oh the day they saw me on his motorcycle they said, "Oh no, we're not going to trust this person." And so you know try as I might, try to get the farmers together or work with my supervisor to get the farmers together you know for the first couple of months at least they did not, nobody wanted to have anything to do with my supervisor or with me. And so I thought well I better go start doing something, so I went to the primary school, the two primary schools in that area and volunteered to teach math and English at the primary school. And the teachers and principals were very happy to have an extra hand in schools, so that was--After getting to know the students that was 21:00walking on the streets they, you know the students go, "Oh Mr. Oddo how are you?" And little by little the parents wanted to meet with me because the students seemed to know me, and that was how I then got into the agri-farm, agri-business and getting the farmers together. But it took me I would say at least four or five months before we started working.
WILSON: And did you continue to teach?
ODDO: I did, I did. I continued to teach to the very end and I got somepeople, started actually teaching some high school students math later on. And became it was, that actually became a very fulfilling part of my experience.
WILSON: But there was not really a teaching program as a part of PeaceCorps in Jamaica?
ODDO: In Jamaica? There was, I believe there was.22:00
WILSON: Oh okay.
ODDO: Yeah, but I wasn't, I wasn't part of that. No I wasn't, yeah.There were some people that taught in schools, there was a health project I believe yeah, and an environment project and they had some people in schools.
WILSON: Okay so go on telling me after this four or five months andyou've been teaching and you sort of began to be accepted by the community. Then what were you able to do in terms of the job that you thought you were originally assigned to do?
ODDO: Well after we got, after the farmers started getting to know meand I you know, then we--I started traveling, I started walking up to the farmers in their farms and talking about what they needed, how, what they were thinking of doing with their crops, how best to either plant 23:00or what they needed from the government. There were several government agencies or ministries that dealt with subsistence farmers and dealt with farmers who planted cocoa and coffee and peppers. And so I became somewhat of a liaison between the farmers in the rural area and the government ministries, and I went out to the Hillside Agriculture Project people. That was actually the core of our agric-program in Jamaica. And that was when I started making that connection and bringing people to come into give presentations to the farmers talking about erosion, hillside erosion and types of crops or types of seeds, best seeds to plant depending on the type of soil in those places. By the end of service we had gotten together a farmers group composed of 24:00about 90 farmers about, and we started doing some export of peppers.
WILSON: This is as a co-op?
ODDO: As a co-op, yes, yeah. They had, the people they had a co-op inthat area way back in the past, but it had fallen apart and we brought it all back together and they started doing exports again. So that was a neat, neat thing to see, yeah.
WILSON: And what about this issue with the co-worker that you wereoriginally assigned to? How did that work out?
ODDO: Well I stayed with him. I mean we, he was a great guy. He hadlots of ideas but the farmers did not trust him because apparently he had, I'm not sure if he took money from them a long time ago or something. But he, we ended up working with the youth in the 25:00communities. While I worked with the farmers, he and I got together. We started a youth, youth development program where we brought women, or sorry brought young boys and young girls and started doing leadership training. We started a chess club in town and linked the education, these people I was teaching in schools to start having after school programs and after school teaching programs in math and English, and brought some other people who were ready to teach as well. And that was just partial to education; education was a partial so it worked out well for us in the end.
WILSON: What, I understand the you know the math background and businessand that relationship to the co-op. But what was in your background in 26:00terms of agriculture for training?
ODDO: Agriculture? There was hardly any. No the only experience I hadwith agriculture was with my grandmother in Africa. You know she used to take us to the farm and she had, she had farms and she used to sell her maize in the market and okra in the market you know. And she had a relatively big farm now thinking back because her farms were, her farming land was actually bigger than a lot of the farms I saw when I was in Jamaica, so I actually became more impressed with my grandma after seeing this, after seeing what she, you know comparing what she did with what I saw in Jamaica. But that was, so I--That was my only training if at all. It was just observing my grandmother work and sell 27:00and do her thing. But going into that program I knew, you know that a lot of the farmers they were choosing, old enough to be my grandparents and they knew more about farming than I would ever know at that time. So going in and talking to them, and some of them told me, "Hey look, what do you know about farming?" And I told them you know I don't know anything but what I can do is you know get the people at the Ministry of Agriculture to listen to you, to hear your issues. And so I think coming in and laying it out there for them to see I have no clue about what we are doing. If we were planting okra maybe I would have the Nigerian perspective about okra, but we are not planting okra so I don't know anything about what we are doing. And here is what I know and here is what I can do. I know about business planning, I know about you know selling your crops and I can connect you with the people 28:00up in Kingston. And so I think I've been laying it down like that for them, I think we made a connection through that. So that worked very well for me, it did.
WILSON: Okay let me--What about your living situation in the village?
ODDO: I, like I said I lived in the principal's, the house that wassupposed to be for the principal. It was a stone building; it had two bedrooms, a two bedroom house with a little kitchen and a living room. It was really it was modest but it was bigger than the other teachers' houses around. We had water, we had a flush toilet, it was 29:00very different from the Peace Corps experience that I thought I would be going to. I thought we would have one of those latrines, the model quote unquote Peace Corps Africa kind of experience, but it was a good place.
WILSON: You had electricity?
ODDO: I had electricity, yes.
WILSON: You cooked for yourself?
ODDO: I cooked for myself, yes and there was running water, trees aroundthe house, and yeah it was a nice little place.
WILSON: Describe for me if you would sort of a typical day morning tillevening or whatever.
ODDO: Morning till--? Usually when I started working with the farmerswhat I would do is I wake up very early in the morning say about 5:30, 30:005:00 sometimes. I walk up to, depending on how far I was going I ride my bicycle or walk up to one of the farms because the farmers started very early as well. So I had to be there early and I would meet between, between 6:00 or 6:30 and 9:30 or 10:00 I would meet about four or five farmers every morning. And after that come back down to my house, wash up, go to one of either one of the primary schools I was working with and I'd teach from say after lunch 1:00 till 3:00 when they closed. I had, I usually had one or two classes apart from other sports activities I was doing with the class. And then after 3:00 I would have a break either you know go see to it the farmers would have 31:00come back from their farms at that time, so I would probably just go down to one of the farmer's places, sit with him or them and just talk till about 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening. And it depended on what was happening, sometimes I taught after school classes, math with a group of students--high school students from I would say maybe 7:00 to 8:00. That would usually happen usually three or four days in a week and then other days I went sometimes I went directly to the school in the morning if I didn't have to meet any of the farmers. If that was, if it was harvest season I didn't meet a lot of the farmers during harvest season, but during planting or pre-planting and getting ready I did 32:00a lot of the work. Some other times I traveled up to Kingston to the people at HAP, that was the Hillside Agriculture Project and got some seedlings for the farmers or talked to them about some issues that the farmers were having and got advice on what to do.
WILSON: You were the only volunteer in this village?
ODDO: I was, yes in that yes I was definitely I was the only volunteerin that village. In fact in five villages that were around that community I was the only volunteer there, yeah.
WILSON: What did you do for recreation?
ODDO: I played soccer with the boys, with the boys in my in the village.We played soccer; almost every other day there was a soccer game. It 33:00was just very close to my house as well, so we came down to the school field and played soccer. So if I was not sitting with the men in the evening I was playing soccer.
WILSON: Fid you travel some?
ODDO: In Jamaica? I traveled within the country, yes. I traveled,yes. We had a great time traveling all around the country with other volunteers depending on what time of the year. During training, prior to training definitely we went up and traveled or immediately after. There's an in-service training, three or four day training events and we'll take the time and travel around. Or sometimes the weekends I did travel around to different communities, yeah.
WILSON: To visit other volunteers or--?
ODDO: Mostly to visit other volunteers and we'd visit other volunteersand then we'd travel to the beachside somewhere, stay in a tent or stay in a hotel or stay with other volunteers, yeah. 34:00
WILSON: Well and yeah so there's a lot of tourism in Jamaica, right?
ODDO: Yeah, yeah.
WILSON: So there were places like that I suppose?
ODDO: Oh yeah.
WILSON: To go. Did you travel out of the country while you were thatall?
ODDO: No, no. Well the only time I, no I did not. I came up to visitmy fiance; well she was my girlfriend, my wife now. She was in Indiana but I was, that was towards the very end of my service. Actually that was at the end of my service. That was the only time that I traveled, but almost for the whole two years I stayed in country.
WILSON: What about, I guess you've described your interactions with35:00host nationals in terms of everything from soccer playing to the professional aspects. What about interactions with other Americans or expatriates while you were there?
ODDO: No most of my interactions with Americans were mostly justvolunteers, hardly ever met people apart from Peace Corps staff who were the expatriate community. No I didn't have the opportunity to meet with--
WILSON: How many volunteers were in Jamaica at that time and how manywas in your group?
ODDO: I think we were about 35. We started out 35 in my group; I thinkthere were about 110 volunteers at that time, either 100 or 110 at that time in Jamaica. Yeah and we started out and came in 35 people I 36:00believe in my group now.
WILSON: What are a couple of particularly memorable events or stories orthings that--?
ODDO: Oh I remember once, I remember once when I traveled. I went infor a training event and after the training event I went up to visit Sarah, I visited another volunteer who is my wife now Sarah. And I stayed there for I think three or four more days. And so I was gone for this almost two week period, and I came back to the, to my house and all of my things were gone from the house, just so surprised I 37:00said. And I went down there to ask and somebody saw me coming and they had taken my bicycle. I saw somebody riding my bicycle, the Peace Corps given bicycle out on the street, and I said, "Hey! What are you doing? How did you get my bicycle?" And they said, "Oh! We thought you were not coming back!" And I wondered why, well as I went to meet the principal the funniest thing was the principal was wearing my shoes. So I was like, "Hey! Why are you wearing my shoes? What happened?" He said, "Well we heard on the newspaper that somebody had been caught and was in the police station in Trinidad and he was an African person, so we thought it was you and you were not coming back so we took them." So that was, that was for me you know I was, I thought it was funny 38:00because it was a bit funny because I had expected that the principal would call the Peace Corps office to say "Hey I heard on the news that. . " and then not to take all my stuff and distribute it. That was a memorable thing for me, something that I definitely remember.
WILSON: So did you get your things back?
ODDO: I got my things back, but I left the shoes with the principal. Ithought if he needed shoes maybe he should take those. But I got the bicycle back because I had to give it back to the Peace Corps after I finished my service. That was funny.
WILSON: Any other particular things like that? I mean stories like thatyou can think of?
ODDO: Yeah there were several. Jamaica was a really fun place to be, tobe a volunteer at that time. It was because the people were all, every day was a day full of laughter and the people were just so vibrant. 39:00It was just a vibrant culture and very much in your face. They wouldn't let you stay in your house alone or you know read a book; no they would come up and drag you to go party or do something. And but for me, it was a real fun time. I have so many stories to tell about my experience.
WILSON: So you, when did you terminate? When did you come back?
ODDO: '96 yes.
WILSON: And you came back to the US?
ODDO: I came back to the US. What happened was I finished my tour, myservice, COSed [Editor's note: completion of service] and came back to the US for a month and got called back to do training to help. 40:00
WILSON: In Jamaica?
ODDO: In Jamaica to help with the pre-service training of the groupcoming. And I did community development training; I worked with somebody to do that. So that was a good time as well.
WILSON: For how long?
ODDO: Three months. It was the whole three month pre-service training.
WILSON: And then you came back to the States?
ODDO: And then I came back to the States; I went to Indiana Universityto study public finance.
WILSON: And what was that coming back to the US like?
ODDO: I came in and went directly to school, so for me it wasn't--Isuppose a lot of people talked about culture shock and I had experienced the huge culture shock coming back to the US you know in 1990, 1991. And so coming back after Peace Corps, Jamaica wasn't so 41:00much of a shock anymore. It was something I had gone back and forth in different cultures and met different people. But going back to school, that was a shock for me. It was the culture but I liked coming back. My Peace Corps experience, what I really loved about it was it gave me a very good awareness of the US and I became so much more enlightened about American society just because I lived and I worked with of course Jamaicans. But in going around and interacting with volunteers, that was a small, a small asset of American community that I worked with and grew very intimate and knowledgeable about. I'm not sure why it was different but it was and I became more aware about being an American 42:00and appreciating the US even more than I had prior to joining the Peace Corps. It really defined my American-ness and America in general for me. And I think I needed to have to interact with a smaller community of Americans outside of the US and to see people you know treat me okay as an American, as an African, and an American. It was really a great, great experience; it's something that I will always treasure. And I think it was at that time it was definitely the best decision for me too. What I did there was I don't regret it, in fact I really liked it.
WILSON: Can you think of any specific example of that kind of thing that43:00you feel you sort of learned from about your American-ness?
ODDO: I, it was more, in learning about my American-ness I think itwas more in the approach and of the work and how we did things and the expectations. I think you know working, going to Jamaica and working, having worked in the States in an environment and then going to you know take in all of that culture out, assumptions or expectations about work and the quality and what you expect as an individual, as a human being, what are your rights. And then going to Jamaica and seeing 44:00that perspective and being able to relate very well with what was in Nigeria and how you know back in Nigeria how my friends and I, what we thought about okay how our quote and unquote rights. What we expected of ourselves and how the American colleagues expected of themselves and expected of society. I think going to Jamaica made me see that so much more clearly and I think it for me it really stretched my capacity and made me expect so much more of society in general because having seen it in America I think at first going into the US or coming into the US I had taken it in but I had not realized that somehow, some way my expectations were now different. I had to go out of the US and to see 45:00and to experience something akin to what I had experienced in Nigeria for me to start saying oh no, this is wrong or this is not how it ought to be. And so more and more of my interactions in Jamaica I had begun to see that and--
WILSON: Side two of interview with Oghale Oddo on January 23, 2008. Whatdo you think the impact of your service in Jamaica was on Jamaica?
ODDO: I'm not sure. I'm not sure if I affected Jamaica to be--Are we46:00taking too much to say you know on the whole of the country? You know I taught some students who passed their exams. Now for me that's great and I will always remember those students. I'm sure you know a lot of them will always, always remember me especially the ones that I taught one on one who had to do high school exams and came out you know at the beginning of the year not having a lot of confidence in math or in English and having more confidence to be able to do or pass those exams and to head onto university. So in that respect that would have I'm sure you know that they remember that. If any of the, probably you know expanded a lot of people's definition of what an American is you 47:00know. So you have this person with a Nigerian accent who comes in as a Peace Corps volunteer. So I'm sure a lot of them, a lot of people will come out knowing oh well okay here is this person and the American, the idea of an American is going to be expanded. So I think those are some things that they, the people that I interacted with would take from that. I you know like all volunteers say they got, I got so much more. I probably got so much more from the experience than the people that I met; I know that.
WILSON: Well and you were talking a little bit about this as we endedthe other side, which is what is that impact on you?
ODDO: Ah yes, it's marvelous. For me it was great. You know it created48:00a lot more self-awareness as you know about who I was as a person and my place in America or in society generally. And my view of the world, a lot of it, I guess it gave me again an expanded view of the world about possibilities, about what shapes, what shaped societies and that got me really interested. After going to Jamaica and seeing that a lot of there were some, there were some things. For instance Jamaica and Nigeria had a lot of similarities. They were both had British rule for quite a long while, and I could see some of the similarities of some of the tendencies of the people. I'm not sure if it probably based 49:00as a result of the colonial history, and so that expanded my awareness of the world and what was happening and how the history of people sometimes shapes what they become or how they react in our world today. That so for me has been it was a great experience definitely.
WILSON: Now you came back you started to say to graduate school atIndiana University.
ODDO: Yes, the School of Public Affairs and Public Finance.
WILSON: So for a master's?
ODDO: For a master's, yeah a master's degree.
WILSON: And that was in '96 or '97?
ODDO: '97, '97 I graduated in '98. Sorry '96, late '96 graduated in '98.
WILSON: '98 okay. And then what?50:00
ODDO: And then I well worked in a bank here, investment bank just for alittle while.
WILSON: By here you mean?
ODDO: Just here in Lexington.
WILSON: In Lexington?
ODDO: Yeah Lexington, and then I got a job as an administrative officerwith the Peace Corps in Jordan.
WILSON: Okay before we get to that, tell me how you got from Indianato Lexington.
ODDO: Oh to Lexington? Oh! While in Jamaica I had met another PeaceCorps volunteer, Sarah, Sarah Cross. We developed a very strong relationship and actually she was the one that pulled me to Indiana because she was a Peace Corps volunteer from '93 to '95. I came in in '94 and we met that year when I came in late '94 and got very, we 51:00developed a very serious relationship and she left Peace Corps in '95 to go to a school in Indiana, graduate school. And I decided because of her to go also to school also in Indiana to go to graduate school. And we later got married while I was in graduate school and that's what brought me actually to Kentucky; she's from Kentucky.
WILSON: She was from Kentucky or from Lexington?
ODDO: Yeah she's from Lexington.
WILSON: Okay, so you worked what did you say a year? Two years in abank here?
ODDO: Oh no, no, just for a few months.
WILSON: Oh just for a few months?
ODDO: Yeah and then I got a job with the Peace Corps after I got married.
WILSON: And an Associate?
ODDO: Associate Peace Corps Director for Administration in Jordan,Amman, Jordan.
WILSON: Okay, tell me a little bit about that.
ODDO: One of the reasons I decided to go back to the Peace Corps was52:00because I had enjoyed my Peace Corps experience so much and I thought geez you know this is something I would love to do, go out, see the world, and help other volunteers or people who come in to become volunteers as well. And then in '99 got a job with the Peace Corps and Sarah and I went down, went down to Jamaica or sorry to Jordan. The Jordan experience was very different from my Jamaica experience number one because I wasn't, I was a step removed from that volunteer experience. I wasn't on the ground anymore, I was now in the office in the capital city and helping the volunteers you know do their work. But going to Jordan again Jordan was a very different society from 53:00anything I had experienced you know in Jamaica or Nigeria or the US. So for me that was another really enriching, enriching experience for me going out there. It was when they and soon after I went there I think a year or a year and a half after I went there there was the Palestinian intifada that started. And so it was a period of turmoil even in Jordan because you had almost 50 or 60% of Jordanians were of Palestinian origin and they held very strong and close ties to Palestine and what was happening in Palestine. So a lot of the people that we were working with were Palestinians and anything that happened in Palestine affected our operations in Jordan because people you know always talked about the US and US policies and always referred to 54:00that. Safety and security was a huge, huge issue for us in Jordan at the time.
WILSON: And so you were associate Peace Corps director in Jordan from?
ODDO: From '99 to 2002. We suspended the program in 2002 just prior,a few months prior to the war in Iraq, the most recent war in 2003 in Iraq.
WILSON: And then you came back and--?
ODDO: No, after that I got a--I was selected to go open the post, thePeace Corps post in Swaziland.
WILSON: Ah okay.
ODDO: Yeah and that post had been suspended I think in 1997 and becauseof the HI--The government called the Peace Corps back to work because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that had decimated the population in that country. By the time I went there Swaziland was the, had the second 55:00highest prevalence rate in the world. That was in 2003 and I was called in to also be the administrative officer in that post but to help set up the post. And we stayed in Swaziland from 2002 till 2005, set up the post, got in volunteers, and then in 2005 I got appointed to be the country director in Fiji and got transferred to Fiji. And then from 2000 and--I was there from July 2005 till January 2008 as Peace Corps country director.
WILSON: And just back from there?
ODDO: Just back from yes just back from Fiji.
WILSON: How would you compare the Peace Corps programs in those56:00countries and the time period from your service to now?
ODDO: I, well there's a huge, huge difference now within Peace Corpsfrom when I served just in 1990s because of the high regard or higher regard let me say for safety and security of the volunteers. Since 9/11 it's been a whole different tone in Peace Corps. When I was in Peace Corps as a volunteer yes safety was important, but it wasn't, it wasn't as institutionalized as it is now within the Peace Corps. So even within our programming there's a lot of safety, how do we make sure that the volunteers are kept safe? In our time we used to say oh 57:00you know they treated us, the staff people treated us like children but that's the same, you know volunteers still say that now and I think they say that even more so now than we did in the past. So that's the one, the one thing that's really very different within the Peace Corps.
WILSON: Give me some specifics about those kinds of changes.
ODDO: Well a lot of, when we were in Jamaica for instance volunteers--Italked to you about traveling. We could travel to visit other volunteers and oh you know a lot of, all we had to do was talk to your counterpart, let somebody in the village know you were traveling, but it wasn't really said you know the Peace Corps office now says oh if you're traveling to XY place make sure you call this person or let this person know. We knew definitely talk to your counterpart or talk to 58:00a friend, but now within the Peace Corps, if a volunteer is going to travel and spend more than one night or one night out of site, they have to.
WILSON: The safety issue changing and travel.
ODDO: Yeah, again because of 9/11 we've become so much more consciousof the safety of the volunteers and making sure that you know when we send a volunteer out to a site that two years after they swear in and they are safe we can take them back to the States and safe and sound. And so that's a big issue and that has really changed within the Peace Corps. Not, probably I'm sure you know in my time as a volunteer yes the staff thought about that and they mean, but now it's more 59:00pronounced and we do inform the volunteer. We put in practices and different systems that the volunteer has to work with to make sure that they keep safe and they keep us informed.
WILSON: Did you find that additional safety consciousness and so forthwarranted in the programs where you served as staff?
ODDO: I think it helped. You know being on the other side now as astaff person it does help; it helped me you know. When I was a--You know if I were on the volunteer's part maybe not, but as a staff person yes. You know because it's not just the Peace Corps that has changed, it's America that has changed. It's the society that has changed, and 60:00so you know what we may have been able to get away with in 1994 you can't get away with. America will not let you get away with those kind of things. You can't come back and just say oh well he was an adult, he should have known better. No, this society what we know about the world today will not just let us will not allow for that. And so yes in a way we are, in a way we are reacting to what is the reality of America today and the world. I think that's what, that's just where the Peace Corps is.
WILSON: So it's responding to, are you saying it's responding to thesafety concerns, the fears of American society in general? Is that what 61:00you're saying?
ODDO: In a way yes, and the society expects us, expects the government,expects institutions like the Peace Corps to be accountable. Parents expect you know when they are, parents, children, if a brother, sister, they expect that this institution will take care of their brothers, their sisters, their fathers, their sons, mothers, because they are joining. And I've had volunteers tell me well if I did not want that safety and staff people also say I would have gone off to China to teach English on my own you know just take my backpack. But I joined this, Peace Corps, and I expect to be safe. So yes it's the whole 62:00society, it's just the reality of where we are now.
WILSON: Are there other things beside safety?
ODDO: Safety has been a key issue. There's a huge debate aboutwhat Peace Corps stands for and when we will now when what we have accomplished, what we were created to accomplish. I suppose that has been going on for quite a while in fact from the '60s. I'm not sure if it's more pronounced now or because I'm a staff member I have become more aware of that debate, but that's something that's also in the forefront of thought within the Peace Corps.
WILSON: Frame that a little bit for me.
ODDO: Well you know a lot of volunteers come in and staff people comein and they ask the question well what is the Peace Corps for? Why are 63:00we in some of these countries? Why are we in Jordan? That seems you know volunteers there's a joke in Jordan that they have more BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars in Amman than we have in Washington D.C. And in one aspect we probably do not need, they felt we probably do not need Peace Corps in Jordan. And so if this and so people now they come in asking that question, well what are we here for? Is it to develop relationships or is it to have people understand Americans and have Americans understand what's happening out in the world or is it to actually give help with development issues in these countries? I think the Peace Corps is, if we've not started thinking about that there is 64:00more of that thinking going on and more, more action towards making sure that we in our approach to development and in our approach to meeting all of our goals that we are truly making the mark, making the difference within development. And being able to account for having the volunteer in a particular community or in a particular agency, so that's being talked about right now and I've seen lately more, more work done towards accountability.
WILSON: Okay, so more toward the development achievement side than therelationship issue?
ODDO: Well not more, just we're bringing that to the table more so now65:00than maybe when I was a volunteer or at least it's being talked about more so now than when I was a volunteer in the '90s.
WILSON: What about communications? Is that, has that changed in thenumber of years that you were involved?
ODDO: Oh yes, oh yes very much so. You know the world with the internetand the cell phones, that's really it's changed the connection that Peace Corps volunteers have with American society, present day America, with their parents, their friends, their family members in general, sons and daughters back in the States compared to geez just 10 years ago or 15 years when I was a volunteer. In when I was a volunteer I 66:00think just when I came back that's when we really started seeing the internet revolution, that's really when it you know in grad school when it started truly getting to the mass society. Right now volunteers in some of the remotest corners of Fiji can send a text message back to their parents or parents send or children send text messages back to the US to Fiji and the people get the news immediately. So that's changed a lot. It's also, it's helped in that people and the staff members within Peace Corps can contact volunteers immediately. I remember in 9/11 we called, we got all of our volunteers I think within the first 90 minutes. That was unheard of in my time. It would take 67:00at least three days to get to all the volunteers, so in that respect yes, availability of these communication systems have--
WILSON: So you see that as positive or are there negatives involvedwith it?
ODDO: I see definitely as more positive. I think there are, there arecases where the volunteers, one of the reasons why lots of people join the Peace Corps is to be able to cut the strings of attachment to you know whatever they are attached to, but with the communication devices that we have a lot of people go out and become Peace Corps volunteers but still keep those. And so if part of their intent, original intent was to cut those strings, some of them where in the past you could, 68:00you didn't have a choice, you just had to grow up and be without those. Now it's not that you don't have a choice because they do get these things and they don't cut those strings, so in a way yes it can be just for the development of the individual it could be a detriment. Also for Peace Corps staff there are some times--I had an occasion where a volunteer's house was flooded and she called her parents in the US and her parents called the Peace Corps office in Washington D.C., Washington D.C. called the Peace Corps office in country to say, "Hey do you know that this girl's house is flooded? It just got flooded you know two 69:00hours ago." But you know when we were volunteers just 15, 20 years ago your house got flooded you talked to your neighbor in your community and you know your neighbors came in and they helped you and you know cleaned it out and probably got in touch with the Peace Corps. But I thought it was really, it showed what we are right now that you know had this volunteer talked first to America then America talked to us.
WILSON: So is that good or not good?
ODDO: In terms of growth for that individual I think it's not good.I think when we were talking about Peace Corps and developing relationships within the community and the host country and with your neighbors that you find it you know easier or more comfortable to call 70:007000 kilometers away than to just knock on your neighbor's door, say hey, look my house is flooded. This is what we would have done 20 years ago. You know hey my house is flooded, come on let's work. I'll help you with your house, you help me with my house. That it what, that's part of what Peace Corps is about. I think yes in a way just because that device is there that's taking away something. It's probably just that individual but there are so many other cases like that nowadays, so many more cases like that than there were in the past.
WILSON: And how does that impact on the perception of the Peace Corps bylocal people? 71:00
ODDO: Well sometimes you know the Peace Corps, the local person wouldprobably not know about all the phone calls and what happened.
WILSON: But there is the fact that the local people know that thisperson has a cell phone that they can text message a long ways away.
ODDO: That they can text message back and forth, yes a long waysaway. Now, but the thing about the world we live in now is that the local people also have the cell phones you know. So when we say the volunteers ought to live in the same manner as their counterparts, the fact is that in those communities a lot of the you know the teachers in the schools and some of the farmers, they have the cell phones and they communicate with those things. So it's become, it's become a normal part of our world. The, what I was talked about it being not such a 72:00positive development is the way that our people now use it and keeping those strings.
WILSON: Are there other differences?
ODDO: From the past?
WILSON: That you've seen?
ODDO: I've seen more people who did not have the opportunity to servein the '60s and the '70s they are now wanting to serve. They are now coming in; I think that's a good thing. I see some returned volunteers from you know oh I served in 1975; I want to be a volunteer again. I think, I think that's a great thing for there's that opportunity to come in and serve. And the medical systems within Peace Corps are so 73:00much better than they were in the past, partly because of the countries that we're in. Their medical systems are better, and we are able to take in more of that generation of people who you know they have felt which is I wish I joined the Peace Corps when I was you know 20, 25 or something but they can come back and serve and that's a good thing.
WILSON: Did the, what would you say is the experience of the, your PeaceCorps service I guess as a volunteer and subsequently as your part of your career has been on your family?
ODDO: My immediate family, well my wife was a Peace Corps volunteer soit's been--Now we see so many positives about it because in a way it's 74:00allowed us to go around the world and visit different places, many of the places that we probably would not have visited at this time in our lives. It's definitely expanded our children's view of the world. Our oldest is eight years old but he does see, he does know about different countries and it's lovely to see that. For us we think it's definitely been a positive and would not have gone back as staff people if we did not feel that way from having come in as volunteers.
WILSON: What did your parents, either your mother or your father, thinkabout this whole Peace Corps idea?
ODDO: My parents of course did not, did not think it was the best idea.75:00I mean I have been, lived in Nigeria the first time was well you've lived in a developing country, so what's--
WILSON: What's to learn?
ODDO: What's to learn? You know why did you go out to Americans to turnaround and go back to live in Jamaica or Jordan or Swaziland or--? So no I at first I did not, they did not see it as the same positive light that I saw it, but I think with time they've come around to the fact that this has been a great. I keep telling it's been a great experience so I suppose and I've been, I'm safe and sound and got a family and beautiful family so they're happy.
WILSON: Do you, do you expect to have international experience in the76:00future?
ODDO: Yeah I think so. I think yes. There's a high probability we willgo back out again. We're not sure yet; it just depends on what comes up. But well yeah we've become citizens of the world and so traveling out is definitely going to be part of--
WILSON: Yes, you used that phrase citizen of the world. Tell me alittle bit more about how you see the impact of your Peace Corps service in both its ways has been sort of on your view of the world.
ODDO: It's more so than you know if I joined I see there are little77:00differences between you know when you come down to it's you know coming to work with a farmer in Hackasol of Jamaica or with the sheik in Jordan or you know, a fisherman in Fiji, it's all for me you know we're all driven by some of the same basic needs as human beings. And so seeing that and experiencing it one comes to be aware of how so very similar we are as people all around and how we all want the same things. We all need the same things and it's an amazing thing to be able to 78:00experience and it makes you truly, truly appreciate what we have as a people and it does make you, it has made me really appreciate being an American or having the opportunities that are available in America. And wanting to help other people with those kind of opportunities while making sure that they don't lose their, some of the great things that they already have within their cultures and their societies.
WILSON: What do you think has been the overall impact of Peace Corpssort of in general?
ODDO: It's definitely creating friendships. I think more so than all of79:00those developments helping with farm or helping farmers or fisheries, it's definitely creating friendships. I think that's the most positive impact that Peace Corps has had and will continue to have as long as Peace Corps remains is getting people to understand Americans and getting Americans to become aware of the world, not just the volunteers who serve but the people around the volunteers, the family members who can now point Fiji on the map who have pictures of smiling children from Jordan. And who can say oh because Oghale or Sarah or whoever Peace Corps volunteer was there I went to visit this person and they would never have gone up to Jordan before or never have gone up to Fiji or to Swaziland before but came up to visit and then to meet the 80:00ordinary Swazi person on the road, and have that person understand or just get a glimpse of that other world. I think that's you know yes Peace Corps probably would be able to go out there and do a lot of development projects and have many people pass their schools and help with HIV/AIDS and all but in the end it's going to be people remember us for the friendships and the contact.
WILSON: Is making those friends easier or harder or about the same todayas it was when you were a volunteer?
ODDO: I think it's about the same. I think it's about the same becauseof course you know what America is going through today has been, there have been lots of different eras and different things. It was the 81:00Cold War in the past and you know lots of African nations were some of them were more Soviet leaning than others, and in those developing nations they've suspected you know volunteers of being spies. But then the idea came up and became friends, and now you know people talk about terrorism and the role of America in the world. There are some countries where predominantly people do not trust, say they do not trust American government and Americans and where Peace Corps is, they get to meet the American John Smith volunteer and they make that contact and say oh you know I do like you. And 20 years down the line the children of that person will have contact with another American and say oh I remember my cousin, my brother, my sister, my father worked with this Peace Corps volunteer, and they have that goodness, the good 82:00thinking, good thoughts about the Americans. I think it's the same. We've had our hardships over time.
WILSON: What do you see the role that Peace Corps should have in todayor tomorrow?
ODDO: I think we should continue what we're doing, continue withcreating those friendships, continue with giving the opportunities for Americans to get to know more of the world. I think it's, those three original goals are still as relevant today as they were in 1962 and 1960s. And tomorrow they you know they will still be relevant. 83:00I think that's, we have that if we can focus and make sure that we're doing what we're supposed to be doing and not really get any one of those goals to the background and say oh no it's not important to make friendships or it's not important to have development, I think we'll be making a mistake. We should just do what we need to do.
WILSON: Tell me a story or an example of what you see as a reallypositive or a negative or just a fun experience as a part of a Peace Corps staff. 84:00
ODDO: One of the--The period that I think I enjoyed most as a staffmember was setting up that post in Swaziland. Now Swaziland was the one country where I never had a volunteer to come up to me to say we shouldn't be in this country. It was obvious; it was right there in your face poverty, health issues. Everything was right there and we never could, we never got that, any volunteer that came up. But it brought me the most joy. There was a lot of sorrow in the country just because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. One of the experiences that I had that really touches me and continues to I think is we had got in the first group of volunteers, brought them into the country and we sent them out after training. We put this volunteer in a site and 85:00she came in after five days, she swore in and five days later she came in and said you guys you don't know anything. Peace Corps, I'm not needed in that community. I know they are poor and everything but I've got to, I'm leaving Peace Corps you know you guys don't have your act together. So I said really I mean we talk to the counterparts, we talk to the chief and everybody and they all want you there you know they think they need you. And she says no you know I've got to go so we brought our plans together and you know shortly enough she left. And a couple of weeks later another volunteer from just very close to that community said you know I like that other girl's house, I want to go move into that house. So we went and talked to the chief and the chief said oh sure you know bring her in, we really need a volunteer in this 86:00community, so they did. She moved into this other person's house and she started this program or she started these afternoon sessions of feeding two of her neighbors, they were orphan, orphan children. She was giving them food every afternoon and teaching them, giving them English lessons, started at two people. You know people started seeing that she's feeding these two, so more children came up to her and you know she started feeding about seven, eight and later on it grew. By the time the volunteer left Swaziland they had 90 orphan children. She had gotten the World Food Program to start donating food, she had gotten one of the king's wives in Fiji, or sorry Swaziland, to donate, 87:00and it became a huge program. She got in women in the community to start cooking for these children and kids were coming from far and wide; it was a whole new school that this volunteer created. And these were orphans; they were the oldest orphan this person had never been to school. I think it was 19 years old--grade one--was sitting down with the pen and the pencil learning ABCs. And they started with that program they started giving them to buy drugs to some of the kids who were HIV positive; it was just a tremendous experience and this was a site that you know somebody had given up and said oh no I don't think I'm needed in this community. But the other volunteer came in and 88:00made such an impact. I believe the program is still working out there, but it started out a school giving HIV/AIDS drugs and it's tremendous, really, really great to see.
WILSON: And how do you count for the difference?
WILSON: From volunteer A to volunteer B?
ODDO: I guess--
WILSON: Presumably they went through the same program?
ODDO: They went through the same training and you know somebody comesin five days and says I'm leaving, leaving the Peace Corps, and another person comes in and says I like that house and starts something that it was truly, truly remarkable and got help from you know by the end she got help from the places that we were amazed. You know the kings, the prime minister said hey I want to go see that. What is this volunteer 89:00doing? And it was marvelous. I'm not sure. You know a lot of it is the passion that we bring, bring to the job. You know we say we want to become Peace Corps volunteers, we want to help. At the end even that same lady I was giving, doing the exit interview, she came up and said no I got more from the Peace Corps than I gave. That was just a marvelous thing to see you know and truly I believed her when she said she got more out of that experience than she gave, and she gave so much of herself. You know she was the one volunteer, you know I was the admin officer and I saw all of the people who took vacations. She never took vacation, hardly ever, you know she went on weekend leave but never took a vacation because she felt compelled to feed these children. She said oh I've got to be there, who's going to feed them? But they had all these other people in the community making food. It 90:00was a marvelous, marvelous thing. But there are lots of folks that bring in a lot of passion to this. We love the experience, we love meeting with people, trying to help but in the end somehow helping ourselves even more than we've tried to give out to other people. So I'm really not sure, but I know there is a passion there for people who do make it.
WILSON: Any other examples or stories like that?
ODDO: Gosh there are many. In Jordan we had a volunteer who had, whostarted out a playground, who got funds from within Jordan and from outside from the States who when she talked about this, when she brought up the idea people started laughing and saying hey this is too 91:00big, you can't do that. But this was a playground for I think disabled children and she had old tires cut up and designed this playground. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing, but she connected and she spoke Arabic like a native by the time she left and she connected--
WILSON: We were just talking about some experiences that you had withvolunteers that you enjoyed and so forth. Are there other stories, good times, bad times, events, maybe something that you know from a staff perspective you were really frightened about?
ODDO: Not really frightened, I enjoyed--Jordan from I think 2000 to 200292:00that was, it was a challenging place to be just because of all that was happening in the Middle East at the time, and I'm sure it's still very challenging. But we were still coming into, we were just starting to experience that intifada uprising that was going on in Palestine and it was you know it had a spillover effect in Jordan. Not, there wasn't any sort of uprising within Jordan but the population you could, there was a tenseness in the air that you could feel as an American and as a staff person and as a volunteer too. So that was a challenging period for us because that was we really had to now start looking at the safety of our volunteers and making sure that people were well taken care of and they were accounted for. And we had to go out and meet 93:00with community leaders and talk to them and emphasize again what the safety of the volunteers and have them assure us that they were going to take care of our volunteers, no matter what was happening in Iraq or Palestine or Israel or anything. And so yeah it, that was--It was a challenging time but it got us who were there to know more about the culture and the people in Jordan and in Palestine and got us to know a little bit about the history of everything. But also again like I said it got us to know them at a very, probably at a different level from 94:00what we would have if a lot of what was, if a lot of what was happening wasn't happening, really got to engage with the people and they, they got to also know us as individuals, individual American citizens.
WILSON: What about the decision to suspend that program? How did thatcome about and how did you feel about that?
ODDO: Oh that was, that was it was definitely I think--We suspended theprogram just I think in November of 2002 and the Iraqi war started or the troops were on the ground in March or February of 2003. So it was necessary to suspend the program. That was part of it and I think just prior to that also in November of 2002 or October a former Peace Corps 95:00volunteer who was a staff member at USAID was assassinated in Amman, Jordan. And I think either a few weeks prior to that or a few months prior to that, some a Christian missionary in Lebanon was also killed. That got us, soon after that missionary was killed that got us to start thinking okay we probably cannot keep our volunteers safe in this environment, and of course we did ramp up to the Iraqi war. We thought you know we needed to leave.
WILSON: So it was a general safety decision?
ODDO: Oh yeah, yeah.
WILSON: Nothing specific up to individual volunteers or anything or96:00particular threats or anything?
ODDO: No, no, no not that I can remember. It was just yeah the factthat it seemed to be coming closer, happened in Lebanon then in Amman. Now our volunteers were in communities and as long, usually if they stay within their communities everybody knows them and they willkeep safe and we are going to be committed as to assure the safety of the volunteers. But it was getting to a point where it wasn't, it wouldn't have been wise to remain there at that time.
WILSON: Okay well I think that's all the certainly the formalizedquestions I have, but what haven't I asked you that you would like to answer?
ODDO: I'm not sure. You've asked quite a lot, but generally again it'sa really, really positive experience in general for me. Yeah I really loved being with the Peace Corps. Of course there were ups and downs 97:00over time, but in general it's been a good, been a good thing.
WILSON: Okay thank you so much.
ODDO: Thank you.
[End of interview.]