Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Robin Sither, December 2, 2004

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Father's family history and places lived

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Partial Transcript: Tape One, Side One of Peace Corps Oral History Project interview with Robin Sither. December 2nd, 2004. Interviewed by Jack Wilson.

Segment Synopsis: Robin Sither talks about all the places his family has lived as a military family. He talks about his father and grandfather's careers in the military.

Keywords: "Military brats"; Air pilots; Airplanes.; Apartment complexes; Aviators; City living; Daleville (Ala.); Family roots; Fixed wing aircraft; Fixed wings; Fort Ord (Calif.); Fort Rucker (Ala.); Frankfurt am Main (Germany); Helicopters; Intelligence agencies; Job opportunities; Jobs; Marina (Calif.); Medium bomber pilots; Military bases; Occidental Petroleum Corporation; Office of Special Investigations (OSI); Rhein-Main Air Base (Germany); Security; United States. Army. Air Corps (USAAC); White House security; World War 2; World War II; World War Two; World War, 1939-1945.

Subjects: Careers.; Childhood.; Families.; Fathers.; Grandfathers.; Military families.; Moving, Household.; US military careers

00:06:11 - College

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Partial Transcript: Um, what about college?

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about where he went to college and why he decided to attend that university. He talks about the influence of his uncle on his college decision.

Keywords: 1970s; Asheville (N.C.); Education, Humanistic.; Family influences; Family visits; Liberal arts; Liberal arts colleges; Liberal arts education; Medical residencies; Medical residents; Nineteen seventies.; Residencies; Small colleges; Small schools; Small universities; State colleges; Summer vacations

Subjects: Education, Higher.; Families.; Uncles; Universities and colleges.; University of North Carolina at Asheville

00:08:44 - Mother's family history

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Partial Transcript: Uh, and that's your, that's your father's side of the family.

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes his mother's side of the family and their experiences during World War II and the Korean War. He talks about how his parents met.

Keywords: Atomic bombs; Battle of the Pusan Perimeter; Flight school; Hiroshima (Japan); Housewives.; Infantry platoon leaders; Japan.; Japanese society; Korean families; Marriages; Nagasaki (Japan); Osaka (Japan); Pusan (Korea); Pusan Perimeter; Pusan Perimeter Offensive; Shipyard workers; Shrapnel; Vietnam; Weddings; World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives.

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Grandparents; Korea.; Korean War, 1950-1953.; Mothers.; World War, 1939-1945.

00:12:19 - More on college / Post-graduate jobs

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Partial Transcript: So you graduated, um, in ninety-four.

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about his educational track at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He talks about deciding to hike the Appalachian Trail after graduating, his motivations behind this, and his telemarketing job.

Keywords: Agriculture; Apple growing; College graduation; Credit card insurance; Economic recessions; Government jobs; Horticultural research; Horticulture.; Jobs; Legal programs; Mating patterns; Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center (Asheville, N.C.); Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station (Asheville, N.C.); Pests; Pheromones; Push polling; Scholarship programs; Seasonal jobs; Telemarketers; Telemarketing; Telemarketing jobs

Subjects: Appalachian Trail.; Career moves; Careers & opportunities; Careers.; Ecology.; Education, Higher.; Environmental sciences.; Hiking.; University of North Carolina at Asheville; Work.

00:15:31 - Hiking the Appalachian Trail

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Partial Transcript: So after that, um, 1995, I, uh--my thing at that point--I wasn't looking that--I wasn't that ambitious at that point.

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail and compares it with other hikers' experiences.

Keywords: Appetites; Black flies; Bugs; Cabins; Communication.; Day hikers; Drinks; Food; Georgia; Hiking partners; Hiking registers; Hiking trails; Hitchhiking; Hunger; Hunters; Maine; Maryland; Mid-Atlantic states; Mosquitos; North Carolina; Pennsylvania; Relationship dynamics; Section hikers; Shin splints; Supplies; Through hikers; Trail registers; Virginia

Subjects: Appalachian Trail.; Climate.; Geography.; Hikers; Hiking.; Interpersonal relations.; Weather.; Wounds and injuries.

00:22:35 - First impressions of and applying for Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Actually, you know, I think I had, uh--I remember now that, uh, where I got the Peace Corps inspiration was sitting in my car in Asheville waiting to go punch my--punch the clock to go into this telemarketing job...

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about where he first heard of the Peace Corps, his motivations to apply, and his first impressions of the program.

Keywords: Ads; Advertisements; Application processes; Correspondence; First impressions; Inspiration; Interview; Military background; Military families; Peace Corps applications; Peace Corps recruiters; Personal motivations; Phone interviews; Radio; Radio ads; Radio advertisements; Radio adverts; West Central Africa

Subjects: Agroforestry.; Cameroon.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.)

00:25:58 - Peace Corps training and job post

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, did you have some training and what kind of training and where was that?

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes his Peace Corps training in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon. He talks about where the Peace Corps placed him in Cameroon and his assigned work there.

Keywords: Adamawa Province (Nigeria); Agricultural interventions; Agriculture; Agroforestry program; Centralized training; Commercial centers; Community relations; Cultural training; Farming; French language training; Host families; In-country trainings; Jobs; Language training; Local cultures; Local protocols; Microgram program; Outreach; Peace Corps trainings; Program beliefs; Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL); Technical training; Towns; Training centers; Training methods; Transportation; Water sanitation program; Work

Subjects: Cameroon.; Ngaoundéré (Cameroon); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Training

00:33:32 - Living situation in Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: So what was, what was, what was your living situation like?

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes his living and housing situation in Cameroon. He talks about his access to various utilities and resources.

Keywords: "House boys"; Comfortable; Communication.; Compounds; Computers; Country kitchens; Dishes; Electricity; Food; Gardens; Housing aides; Housing quality; Internet; Laundry; Running water; Sanctuaries; Supermarkets; Technology

Subjects: Cameroon.; Housing.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.)

00:36:17 - Adjusting to life in Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: What, uh, what was the most difficult adjustment to living in Cameroon?

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes his most difficult adjustments to living in Cameroon.

Keywords: Cameroonian culture; Cameroonians; Christianity; Climates; Cultural adjustments; Cultures; Dialects; Islam; Language barriers; Local cultures; Naiveté; Peace Corps volunteers; Religions; Site visits; Social situations; Struggles

Subjects: Cameroon.; Culture shock; Interpersonal relations.; Languages and languages.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.)

00:40:43 - Typical day during service in Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: Okay, uh, what, what would a typical day have been like for you as a volunteer?

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes various typical days on post as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. He talks about market days and community relations and outreach.

Keywords: "Membo houses"; Agricultural demonstrations; Agroforestry extension; Agroforestry.; Alcohol; Alcoholic beverages; Bamenda (Cameroon); Boulangeries; Building; Cameroon Mountain (Cameroon); Community dynamics; Community outreach; Conflicts; Construction; Demonstrations; Douala (Cameroon); Farmers; Farming demonstrations; French food; Hotels; Human resources; Market days; Markets; Parc national de Waza (Cameroon); Peace Corps administration; Peace Corps volunteers; Recreation.; Socializing; Traditional days; Vacations; Waza National Park (Cameroon); Western foods

Subjects: Cameroon.; Community relations; Interpersonal relations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Work.

00:50:46 - Farming history in Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: And were you working mostly with men--

Segment Synopsis: Sither discusses the history of farming, farming and gender roles, coffee, and world markets in Cameroon.

Keywords: Arabica coffee; Cash crops; Climates; Coffee beans; Discrimination; Economic recessions; Farm labor; Farming; Farming systems; Gender expectations; Gender roles; Geography; Labor intensive; Land ownership; Land tenure; Market competition; Missionaries; Permanent farms; Robusta coffee; Social stigmas; Sustainable farming; Women farmers; World markets

Subjects: Agriculture; Agroforestry.; Cameroon.; Coffee growers; Coffee.; Farming and rural systems economics; Gender, society & development

00:59:20 - Interactions with people in Cameroon / Travel during Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: Um, so you, you had general interaction on a daily base--basis with host country people and in your job?

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes his interactions with other foreign nationals and Americans he met in Cameroon. He talks about places he traveled during his service.

Keywords: Baptist missionaries; Baptist missions; Catholic missionaries; Catholic missions; Central African Republic.; Chad; Church of Christ; Church of Christ missionaries; Congo (Brazzaville); Equatorial Guinea.; Fula (African people); Fulani (African people); Gabon; Grazing lands; Hospitals; Internships; Mbororo (African people); Medical residencies; Medical residents; Missionaries; Nomadic cultures; Nomadic societies; Pastoral cultures; Pastoral societies; Wodaabe (African people)

Subjects: Cameroon.; Interpersonal relations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Travel.

01:03:15 - Extending Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: Uh, and I believe you said earlier that you, uh, were there three years.

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about why he extended his Peace Corps service for a third year. He summarizes the highlights of that third year.

Keywords: Associate Peace Corps Directors (APCD); Fansidar; Goals; Grinding mills; Lariam; Lawsuits; Malaria suppressants; Malaria suppression; Malaria testing; Malaria treatments; Mefloquine; Peace Corps projects; Peace Corps service extensions; Personal morale; Personal motivations; Physical illnesses; Psychoactive drugs; Psychoactive medications; Service extensions; Side effects; Sulfa drugs

Subjects: Cameroon.; Health.; Malaria.; Mental health.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.)

01:10:52 - Meaningful memories from Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: Um, are there other, uh, particularly meaningful memories of your time in Cameroon or stories, adventures of your travels, or particular success stories on, uh, on the--some of the farm or farmers you worked with?

Segment Synopsis: Sither shares other memories from his Peace Corps service.

Keywords: Cameroonians; Conversations; Dialects; Group gatherings; Letters; Local dialects; Local markets; Market days; Markets; Palm wine; Palm wine houses; Peace Corps projects; Pidgin English; Project successes; Proverbial languages

Subjects: Communication.; Interpersonal relations.; Memories.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Travel.; Work.

01:14:51 - International experiences after Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: So, um, so you came home. What was coming home like?

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about using his leftover Peace Corps allowance to travel post-service. He describes all the places he traveled.

Keywords: Airplanes; Amsterdam (Netherlands); Amtrak; Botswana.; Cameroon Airlines; Drakensburg Mountains; Durbin (South Africa); Eastern Highlands (Zimbabwe); Eswatini; Etosha National Park (Namibia); Game parks; Great Zimbabwe (Extinct city); Greyhound buses; Harare (Zimbabwe); Hitchhiking; Johannesburg (South Africa); Kabila, Joseph; Kinshasa (Congo); London (England); Mugabe, Robert Gabriel, 1924-2019; Munich (Germany); Music festivals; Namibia.; Okavango Delta (Botswana); Paris (France); Peace Corps allowances; Peace Corps living allowance; Peace Corps readjustment allowance; Planes; Prague (Czech Republic); South Africa.; Spain.; Swaziland; Venice (Italy); Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe); Vienna (Austria); Zimbabwe

Subjects: International travel.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Travel.

01:23:51 - Readjusting to the U.S. / Current career

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Partial Transcript: So how was it re, readjusting to the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about what it was like to readjust to life in the U.S. He talks about his current work.

Keywords: Alltech Biotechnology Center (Nicholasville, Ky.); Alltech Inc.; American culture; American history; Attitudes; Capitalism; Clinton administration; Consumerism; Consumption; Cultural readjustments; Materialism; Microbreweries; Moving; Odd jobs; Readjustments; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.

Subjects: Career moves; Careers & opportunities; Careers.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.)

01:26:29 - Impact of Peace Corps service on Cameroon and self

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Partial Transcript: Um, what do you think, um, the impact of your Peace Corps service was on Cameroon or the people that you worked with there?

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes what he believes the impact of his Peace Corps service was on Cameroon, Cameroonians, and himself.

Keywords: Bamenda (Cameroon); Community dynamics; Community relations; Consumerism; Impacts; Kumbo (Cameroon); Materialism; Peace Corps presence; Peace Corps volunteers; Project impacts; Self-reflection; Voluntary simplicity; Voluntary simplicity movement

Subjects: Cameroon.; Cameroonians; Community development.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.)

01:30:08 - Communications with people from Peace Corps service / Impact of Peace Corps service on family and career

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Partial Transcript: Um, are you still in contact with, uh, people from your Peace Corps experience, either Cameroonians--

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about Peace Corps volunteers and Cameroonians he's kept in contact with since ending his service and how. He also talks about how his service affected his family members and current career path.

Keywords: Family impacts; Family reactions; Fathers; Gifts; Letters; Life updates; Lost contact; Peace Corps projects; Peace Corps volunteers; Personalities; Project efficacy; Project successes; Project turnouts

Subjects: Cameroon.; Cameroonians; Career moves; Careers.; Communication.; Families.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.)

01:34:02 - More on international experiences after Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: Tape two of interview with Robin Sither on December 2nd, 2004 for the Peace Corps Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Sither describes a trip to Mexico some time after his Peace Corps service.

Keywords: Agriculture; Alltech Biotechnology Center (Nicholasville, Ky.); Alltech Inc.; Enzyme production; Enzymes; Fungi; Oaxaca de Juárez (Mexico); Orizaba, Pico de (Mexico); Plateaus; Puebla; Small towns; Solid state fermentation plants; Solid substrates; Work travel; Yelapa (Mexico)

Subjects: Careers.; International travel.; Mexico.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Travel.; Work.

01:37:18 - Impact of Peace Corps service on world views / Current and future roles of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Uh, would you say that Peace Corps had, uh, any kind of impact on the way you look at the world and what goes on in it today?

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about how Peace Corps impacted his perceptions of the world and of the United States. He describes the current role of the Peace Corps in the world and what its future roles should be.

Keywords: Agriculture; Capitalism; Country development; Cultural exchanges; Developing countries; Global development; Institutional continuity; International development; Market produce; National development; Oil companies; Oil industry; Overhaul; Patriotism; Peace Corps projects; Peace Corps volunteers; Produce; Project concepts; Project execution; Shell Oil Company; United States; Vegetables

Subjects: Attitude (Psychology); Attitude change.; Global issues; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); World views

01:45:40 - More on meaningful memories from Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: Well, that's all the formal questions I have, but, uh, uh, I guess I would ask you if, uh, there are some things that I've missed that you would like to talk about or any other story or experience you'd like to share?

Segment Synopsis: Sither shares a variety of memories from his Peace Corps service in Cameroon.

Keywords: "Gendarmerie"; "Gendarmes"; Climate; Climate diversity; Colonization; Cultural diversity; Cultures; Diversity; Forest preserves; French colonization; French tradition; Geographical diversity; Geography; Maasai (African people); Oku, Mount (Cameroon); Scenic beauty; Traditional cultures

Subjects: Cameroon.; Memories.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Storytelling.

01:49:02 - Returning to Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: Would you ever go back to Cameroon?

Segment Synopsis: Sither talks about his desire and plans to return to Cameroon in the future.

Keywords: AIDS; Currencies; Currency exchange; Expenses; Expensive; Finances; Friends; Friendships; HIV; HIV/AIDS awareness; Interpersonal relations.; Storytelling.

Subjects: Cameroon.; International travel.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Cameroon; Peace Corps Institute (U.S.); Travel.