Partial Transcript: Alright, this is Angene Wilson on October 27, 2005 and I am doing an oral history interview of a returned Peace Corps volunteer, um, Patrick Bell.
Segment Synopsis: Bell was born in Lexington, Kentucky and went to Sayre School. His father was accepted into Peace Corps but didn't go because his wife wanted to have children. In one of his Spanish classes, he saw photos of Machu Picchu that inspired him to want to travel abroad. He went to Rhodes College, majoring in Political Science with a minor in International Studies, and his professors exposed him to new ideas about the world. After college, he worked a variety of jobs until he decided to apply for Peace Corps.
Keywords: Bluegrass Aspendale Housing Projects; Bluegrass Aspendale Teen Center; Disability home aides; Housing projects; Personal aides; Personal assistants
Subjects: Autism.; Autistic children.; Children with autism spectrum disorders; Costa Rica; Disabilities.; International relations.; Lexington (Ky.); Memphis (Tenn.); Miami (Fla.),; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Political science.; Rhodes College; San José (Costa Rica); Sayre School (Lexington, Ky.); Soccer coaches; Soccer.; Spanish language.; Teachers' assistants; Tenement houses; World cultures
Partial Transcript: Talk a little bit about what your training was like.
Segment Synopsis: Bell describes his training as difficult, but doesn't discuss any aspect in detail. They lived with a host family in a target neighborhood in San Jose. His program was called Urban Youth Development. There were eleven people in his group and the training lasted 3 months. He discusses his language training. They had some training with people from the government. He discusses a training visit to Limon and a site visit to San Isidro. He discusses his adjustment to arriving in a new country, including his language troubles. He describes the mall, which he says seemed to be a front for drug money.
Keywords: Movie theaters; Movies; Paved roads; Running water
Subjects: Adjustment (Psychology); Beans.; Child welfare.; Coffee industry.; Costa Rica; Culture shock; Drugs.; Electricity.; Food habits.; Food.; Language learning and language teaching; Limón (Costa Rica : Canton); Motion picture theaters.; Motion pictures.; Occupational training.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Poverty.; Rain and rainfall.; Rice.; San Isidro (Costa Rica : Canton); San José (Costa Rica); Shopping malls; Spanish language.; Squatters; Teaching.; Tenement houses; Training; Urban development.; Youth development.
Partial Transcript: What was a typical day like when you got into your site?
Segment Synopsis: Bell describes his work as self-directed. He lived with a host family for a year and a half and then got his own apartment. He describes what the parents and the children did and discusses his relationship with them. He describes trying to work with a center for young workers who needed a job to help support their family. He didn't have to take a bus to town. He would help at lunch for the young workers and organize activities for the kids, including soccer. He describes a specific game that was memorable. He describes dating a Costa Rican girl for a year.
Keywords: Beans.; Begging; Couples.; Homestay; Lottery tickets; Rice.
Subjects: Agricultural laborers; Apartments.; Art.; Child labor.; Cleaning.; Cooking.; Costa Rica; Dates (Social engagements); Dating (Social customs); Food habits.; Housing.; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Parque Nacional Chirripó (Costa Rica); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; San José (Costa Rica); Self-control.; Self-directed work teams.; Youth activities in developing countries
Partial Transcript: Where did you--wh, wh--so it sounds like you had a lot of opportunities for, for recreation in terms of getting out...
Segment Synopsis: Bell describes his travel in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. After he broke up with his girlfriend, he took a three week trip through Mexico and Guatemala. He discusses his interactions with host country nationals. He worked with children in orphanages, helping with homework and taking them to the park. He taught English and guitar and chess to children at a local school. He developed relationships with local businesses to take the children on outings. He describes his travel home to his family at Christmas.
Keywords: Buses.; Chess.; Couples.; Guitars; Homework.; Sea turtles; Tamales
Subjects: Child welfare.; Christmas.; Costa Rica; Dates (Social engagements); Dating (Social customs); English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Friendship.; Guatemala.; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles.; Managua (Nicaragua); Manners and customs; Mayas.; Mexico.; Motion pictures.; Music--Instruction and study.; Orphanages; Osa Peninsula (Costa Rica); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Playa del Carmen (Mexico); Restaurants.; Talent shows; Teaching.; Tortuguero (Costa Rica); Travel.; Tutors and tutoring.
Partial Transcript: But I also had this program--this is kind of an, an interesting story if I can spit it out...
Segment Synopsis: Bell describes a story where he was going to take children on a trip to the U.S. with a Costa Rican man who was trying to smuggle humans via an official tae kwon do tournament in the U.S. Some of the money was used to get T.V.s and VCRs for the orphanages. Another memorable moment was teaching a Shakira song on guitar to fourth and fifth graders. Smuggling tamales was memorable to him, as was his relationship with the Costa Rican woman. He describes a trip with an older woman to a beach. He describes his experience with dancing at discos. He describes a woman who left because of the sexism of the men in Costa Rica. He tells a story of getting a woman pregnant before he left for Peace Corps. He mentions his recovery from alcoholism. He tells a story about his host family thinking he was in danger.
Keywords: Disco dancing; Discotheques; Guitars; Merengue (Dance); Salsa (Dance); Shakira; Tae kwon do; Videocassette recorders
Subjects: Alcoholism.; Beaches.; Costa Rica; Dance.; Friendship.; Gender and culture; Gender and society; Gender politics, global issues; Gender.; Human smuggling; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles.; Machismo.; Man-woman relationships.; Manners and customs; Misogyny.; Music--Instruction and study.; Orphanages; Patriarchy.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Pregnancy.; San Isidro (Costa Rica : Canton); Sexism.; Sexual intercourse.; Social interaction.; Social norms.; Television--Receivers and reception; Travel.
Partial Transcript: What was it like coming home?
Segment Synopsis: Bell describes how he still misses his time in Peace Corps because it was simple. He went on a month trip traveling around South America. After he came back, he conducted the U.S. census for Hispanic people and went to Japan to teach English for two months. He doesn't think he did anything with lasting impact during his time in Peace Corps. Peace Corps broadened and changed his whole world. He says it was hard in subtle ways, like experiencing Christmas on Christmas Eve versus Christmas Day. He says learning Spanish brought him opportunities like the census and teaching ESL to mainly Latinos for a year. He went back to school for his master's degree in education, focusing on social studies at the University of Kentucky and did his student teaching in Ecuador. He ended up teaching Spanish at the Sayre School. He thinks Peace Corps should be everywhere to improve how the world views the U.S. and to broaden the views of Americans.
Keywords: Day of the Dead; Día de los Muertos; Social studies; Teaching Spanish
Subjects: Adjustment (Psychology); All Souls' Day; Careers.; Census takers (Persons); Charity.; Christmas.; Cognition and culture.; Communication and culture.; Costa Rica; Cross cultural communication; Cross-cultural studies.; Cultural awareness.; Culture shock; Ecuador.; Education, Higher.; Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Gifts.; Hispanic Americans; Intercultural communication; Japan.; Language and culture.; Language and languages.; Language learning and language teaching; Latin peoples; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Occupations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Professions.; Racism.; Sayre School (Lexington, Ky.); September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.; Social norms; Social sciences.; South America.; Spanish Americans (Latin America); Spanish language.; Stereotypes (Social psychology); Student teaching.; Teachers.; University of Kentucky
WILSON: Alright, this is Angene Wilson on October 27, 2005 and I amdoing an oral history interview of a return Peace Corps volunteer Patrick Bell. Patrick, what is your full name and where and when were you born?
BELL: My full name is Patrick Ramsey Bell, I was born November 24, 1969right here in Lexington.
WILSON: Okay, tell me a little bit about your family and something aboutyour growing up as it might relate to--
BELL: Peace Corps?
BELL: My father actually applied for Peace Corps.
BELL: And was accepted I believe to go to Afghanistan.
WILSON: What year? Do you know?
BELL: I believe it was after he had finished is tour in Vietnam.00:01:00
BELL: And this was probably '68, but my mom wanted to have kids, and soI'm glad that he didn't go.
WILSON: For obvious reasons, well that's really interesting.
BELL: Yes and here I am, so--
WILSON: Wow, so did you know that growing up?
BELL: I did not know that growing up, and I'm not sure I've heard thatfrom my dad. I think I've heard that from maybe one of his sisters.
BELL: But I think that's the case, but I'm from Lexington and I have twoyounger sisters, and oh I guess my sister might have gone abroad. Both my sisters had been out of the U.S. before I had. The Peace Corps was 00:02:00the first time I had been abroad other than a day or so in Canada which is different.
WILSON: So did your dad or did your parents talk about the rest of theworld or were there, you know, were there any things? Had you heard from your sisters? What sort of led you then to go to Peace Corps?
BELL: What led me to that is more school.
BELL: I remember specifically in a Spanish class.
BELL: Yeah, I guess, seeing pictures of Machu Picchu in Peru and sayingreally to myself, "Okay, some day I'm going to go there." And then in college--
WILSON: Was your Spanish teacher in high school somebody who talkedabout sort of--
BELL: She talked about--00:03:00
WILSON: When you get to Peru, she traveled and--
BELL: She had traveled, I'm not certain how extensively in the Americas,maybe more in Spain, but--
WILSON: And this was--You attended Sayre?
BELL: I went to the same school where I teach and my father was anadministrator and board member here, and both my sisters attended here, so long history at Sayre and in Lexington to a certain extent. And then in college--
WILSON: And you went to college?
BELL: I went to Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.
BELL: Small liberal arts school, good school, and my professors kind of,not kind of, they definitely exposed me to things that I had not seen in Lexington and Sayre.
WILSON: Such as?
BELL: Such as ideas about politics and racism and world religions, world00:04:00cultures, international studies, and that piqued my interest. The first time that I picked up the Peace Corps application was as a senior in college, did not fill it out completely, chickened out to a certain extent. And I don't think I would have been accepted; I may have been but it doesn't matter.
WILSON: Okay, now let's go back a second. You graduated from Sayre andthen you went to Rhodes College.
WILSON: And what years were you at Rhodes?
BELL: '88 to '92.
WILSON: Okay and you majored in?
BELL: I majored in political science with a minor in internationalstudies.
WILSON: Okay, so that kind of connects. Alright, now go on. So yougraduated and--?
BELL: Graduated, picked up the application for Peace Corps, didn't do itat that time, probably two years later got it again, filled it out, and 00:05:00did not mail it.
WILSON: What were you doing in those two years?
BELL: In those two years I had gone from losing myself to sort offinding myself, being lost after graduating college for a year and a half let's say, and then got started, I ended up coaching a season of soccer at Sayre my alma mater, and then I got involved working in the inner city of Lexington in the federal housing projects in an after school program, then I got in touch with--
WILSON: And this was like at Bluegrass Aspendale?
BELL: Bluegrass Aspendale Teen Center.
WILSON: Right, teen center, okay.
BELL: And through that got involved with Fayette County schools asa teacher's assistant, and of course the places that they had open, 00:06:00I started out at a school which is no longer open, it was called Central Kentucky Re-Ed; it was a reform school of sorts. And I saw some things and learned some things, and then was--I transferred and was the personal assistant for an autistic child, and it was at that point that I was at the point of, okay I've got to go back to school or let's revisit this Peace Corps idea, and that was oh late '96. Got the application, filled it out, and I think my experience in the inner city and with troubled youth for lack of a better word kind of 00:07:00put me over the top and Peace Corps, I was initially assigned Jamaica, but my medical stuff was still going through, and Jamaica filled up, and probably a day or two later they called with Costa Rica, which is really what I had wanted. I wanted to learn Spanish; I wanted to be in a Spanish speaking country, and I didn't even know that much about Costa Rica. The principal at the Fayette County school where I was working did not know where Costa Rica was.
WILSON: Oh my goodness.
BELL: And I barely did myself in his defense, but I learned about itand--
WILSON: Okay, now this is when?
BELL: This is '97.
WILSON: '97, okay.
BELL: Ended up that I had one good friend who had done business thereand lived there kind of, and he's definitely kind of mentored me in 00:08:00my international comings and goings, and so he told me how great Costa Rica was, and if I had chosen I wouldn't have chosen as well as I was assigned. And so then right before Labor Day we went to staging in Miami and onto San Jose, Costa Rica.
WILSON: Talk a little bit about what your training was like.
BELL: My training was great in retrospect, difficult at the time. Funnyhow things are like that, but we used the community based training model where we lived with a host family in a target neighborhood for 00:09:00our program, which for--
WILSON: So in San Jose itself?
BELL: In San Jose we trained, and the program at the time was calledurban youth development, so we lived in a type of project in San Jose, a housing settlement that had grown up from squatters, poor, poor, but urban. Costa Rica has made some economic progress and so there was running water and electricity and paved roads, spotty but paved. Big drug problem in the neighborhood.
WILSON: So you were all spread out in this neighborhood with differenthost families?
BELL: Well we were spread out among neighborhoods in San Jose. I waswith three other trainees in this same neighborhood. 00:10:00
WILSON: Okay and how many of you were there in the whole group?
BELL: The whole group was eleven.
WILSON: Oh, so it was a small group.
WILSON: And you were doing? Your job was?
BELL: Urban youth--
WILSON: Your training?
BELL: Urban youth development.
WILSON: Okay, right.
BELL: To work with, not just poor and disenfranchised Costa Rican kids--any Costa Rican kid.
WILSON: Okay in general.
BELL: In general.
WILSON: So were there other volunteers there as well as this program?
BELL: In my neighborhood--
WILSON: No I was thinking about Costa Rica in general.
BELL: In general, yes.
BELL: Oh in the neighborhood of thirty, but at that time Costa Rica wasscaling back. And it had been rumored that Costa Rica was going to be dropped.
WILSON: Okay, and now let's see, has it been?
BELL: It hasn't.
WILSON: It's still? But they have just a small number?
BELL: They have the one program, which is to aid children.
WILSON: Okay, and that's--00:11:00
BELL: And they were in the process in '97 of phasing out every otherprogram but the aid to children.
WILSON: Okay, I see.
BELL: Agriculture went, water resources, infrastructure stuff, thoseprograms were all closing. So the number, it's usually right around thirty volunteers in-country at any one time--small.
WILSON: Yeah, well I'm sorry to interrupt you. So say something moreabout your training then. You were living with family.
BELL: My training, I lived with a family of an older man and woman.Their children were all grown and had left the home; they had a German shepherd named Boxy that was kept in a room, oh 4 by 4 maybe, bit me 00:12:00one time by accident. It was my mistake, but he was not trained to say the least. I went to feed him some food and he just went for the food and got my hand at the same time.
WILSON: Hopefully you had had a tetanus shot?
BELL: I had, well you know the Peace Corps medical is the--It'sincredible so. SoI lived with Dona Elmira and Don Isaac, Isaac in English, but I called them Mama and Papa because they wanted me to.
WILSON: Oh that's nice.
BELL: And I thought that was fun, and I ended up--When I would come tothe capital sometimes over the course of the next two years I would say with them, kept up with them, they bawled, cried when I left for 00:13:00my assignment, which was in southern Costa Rica, but ended up they were actually among the last people that I saw in Costa Rica because I stayed with them or I went to visit them or something right before I got on the plane to go so--
WILSON: Special people.
BELL: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was neat. Leon III was the name of theneighborhood, Leon, Leon III, I guess it's after a king from Europe or something like that.
WILSON: So what did you do during training? What was that like?
BELL: Training was--My Spanish was limited. For some reason, fortunatelyfor me I think what Spanish I had it looked better on paper, and so probably half the day consisted of language training, sometimes more. 00:14:00In a house, now this is a, house is a relative term. It's not a free standing, it's basically concrete shotgun shacks but one next to another, and with nothing but like an alley in between the roads that a car could squeeze through. And we did the language training in another family's house in the same neighborhood. The language trainer, one of them lived there in the neighborhood, and he was like a nineteen year old kid or something that they had found, but there were also some more experienced language trainers that came in. Because at least two of us, three of us that were in that neighborhood, our Spanish was pretty low so we were together all the time and did this training, but then we would also go to the Peace Corps office for different classes and which 00:15:00we didn't really like you know, but--
WILSON: What different classes on--?
BELL: On working with kids; it was stuff that I had done. Now some ofthe kids were straight out of college so it was, but they--So it was new stuff to them, but I mean I had been living that in Lexington, which was a lot easier granted, but cross-cultural training, had a workbook, lots of medical sessions about the risks and what to do. We worked with our counterpart agency in Costa Rica was the Patranato Nacional de la Infancia like the National Patron of Child, basically social services of a sort, government organization that worked with 00:16:00Costa Rican kids. So we would have sessions with different people from within the government, our initial--We got there in-country and our initial week of training was in a--In Ochomogo, I remember the name; it was on the top of a, kind of on the top of this mountain and the ambassador came and the, like the director of that national, the national director of the Costa Rican organization and stuff.
WILSON: And were they the ones who then decided where you were going togo and did they match you up with host country counterparts--people?
BELL: Yeah, we had host country counterparts in our sites and we got to,we couldn't request a site but we could say I don't want to go there.
WILSON: Oh, okay.
BELL: We had a training visit, and mine was to a town on the Caribbeanside of Costa Rica called Limon, which is a big banana port, and I 00:17:00stayed in one of the worst neighborhoods in Limon. It was called Limon Des Milles, Limon 2000, it was a government project that was supposed to be good, but it was just a--And that's the first time I saw a monkey, because I walked into where I was staying for the two nights and the owner of the house had a monkey sitting on his head.
BELL: Rosa was the monkey's name because that was one of my things. Iwanted to see monkeys pretty bad and there I was in this neighborhood and there was the monkey, and it was anticlimactic to say the least.
WILSON: Well so now what do you mean by a training visit? I mean doyou--?
BELL: It was a chance to break out from, and you didn't see--There were00:18:00other people in my neighborhood actually that were on the visit, but it was just a chance to--
WILSON: To get away from San Jose?
BELL: --to get away from your training family in San Jose and see whatit could be like.
WILSON: Okay, like out there.
BELL: And they called it a training visit.
BELL: And I saw what it could be like and I decided that Limon was notwhere I wanted to be, but some people did, which is fine. And then I guess they decided on San Isidro in southern Costa Rica about three hours by bus from the capital, about 100 miles as a crow flies. You go over about 11,000 ft mountains, beautiful, beautiful drive, incredible drive. It's not, you know my drive home is not that beautiful today, 00:19:00but so went down, and I went down. I'll never forget even the first, and then they called it a site visit, a visit to what is going to be your site, and I got down there and we were doing this in October, which is the rainy, rainy season in Costa Rica, and it did not stop raining. It was raining as we went and it rained the whole time; a lot of it was downpours too. Well but my host family, I got there and that first night we ordered pizza, because I was in--San Isidro is a town quote, unquote of about 50,000 people, maybe even 80 or 90 in like the whole area of the valley. It's basically an agricultural town, a 00:20:00big coffee town that just kind of grew up. They got their first two traffic lights while I was there, but it was still--There were 50,000 people though, but anyway we ordered pizza because it was pouring down rain, we played Super Nintendo, and I just thought, "Well okay, alright. I'll give this site a shot!" And so and then I guess it was end of November that year in '97 where we started our service.
WILSON: So you had three months of--?
BELL: Three months of training.
WILSON: Three months of training.
BELL: In San Jose.
WILSON: And then you went to--
BELL: And then you report to your sites for the two years of service.
WILSON: So what was it like to arrive in country and was it--What seemed00:21:00strange? And how did you get acclimated? I mean it sounds like with a Nintendo and so forth, ordering pizza--
BELL: Well but it was all very strange because I had not been out ofthe country.
BELL: I distinctly remember being in the Peace Corps truck that theypicked us up with from the airport and seeing all these signs for things that I knew, like Panasonic. I remember specifically the Panasonic sign; I thought, "What?" And then the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign, of course I'm from Kentucky, well obviously, and every time I would go to Kentucky Fried Chicken I would say that I'm from Kentucky and I actually met Colonel Sanders when I was a kid, and they would look at me like, but I had said that in Spanish. But they looked at me like I 00:22:00was from another planet. So yes there was stuff that was familiar, but it was also different at the same time, and the adjustment--
WILSON: What was different?
BELL: Well, stuff like food obviously. Now fortunately I like riceand beans or it was a long two years, because that's every day. But stuff like one time in training, now my Spanish was also rough for the better part of a year, about a year and a half I remember that I was rolling with it. I could do anything in Spanish, but in training my host senora had cooked me eggs and I wanted salt and pepper. It seemed simple enough, and they actually had a kind of a place setting, 00:23:00kind of a table centerpiece that had a salt and pepper shaker. It was obviously from wherever, made in China probably, but so okay that's a salt and pepper shaker. Now salt I remembered because it's sal, but pepper is different and I couldn't remember it. And we kept going for probably fifteen minutes, and then finally they dug into their storage, which their storage was the stove because it was too hot to ever make anything except for in a skillet. So they stored stuff in the stove and the senor, the man of the house was digging around for a while, and then he pulled it out and he was like, "Pimienta?" And then I was like, "That's pepper!" So it was stuff like that, but San Jose is fairly 00:24:00modern so, and actually a pretty nice city, especially in terms of what like capital cities in Central America are probably the nicest. So we would go to the movies. We would go to Cinemark and we'd get popcorn, and then, and that was at the mall, and before we went to Cinemark, now this wasn't all the time but this was when we really needed to, we would go to before the movie we were in the food court, which was McDonald's and Burger King. Pretty surreal really, not, I mean it served its purpose for us at that time but very weird you know. Always the rumor was that the two big malls were drug money because you would have a, I'm talking a Liz Claiborne boutique, not an outlet type thing, and 00:25:00nobody would go in there; nobody would buy anything, but there it was in all its splendor and all these kinds of stores. But the only places anybody went in these two malls were the movies and the food court to really go and do anything. So it was just, it was just, yeah it was the same on the surface but it was just different. So many things were different plus the language barrier, but once that, but you those last six months of service were great because I could do it you know.
WILSON: What was a typical day like when you got into your site and intoyour job? I mean take us from the beginning, waking up--
BELL: Right, right. Well you're waking up and you're thinking, "Gosh,00:26:00do I have anything at all to do today?" because it was self directed, and our program director--I mean he intended that to be like that. He said, "You can do whatever you want. You've got to find what it is that you want to do," which took time. And you have some gaillo pinto, which was rice and beans for breakfast.
WILSON: Now you're living with a host family?
BELL: I'm living with a host family.
WILSON: Another host family now.
BELL: I was required to live with a host family for a year; it endedup I lived with them for about a year and a half and then it was--They needed, it was time for me to get an apartment personally and they needed me to go to. It was just--And we've kept in touch as best we can since; you know it was just time for me to go. But now they also, they had four kids, three of which lived in the house, one was older 00:27:00and lived in the capital in San Jose. No, that's not true; two lived in San Jose. One worked at a bank and one was at university in the capital, so the two younger kids who were about, oh gosh, fifteen and nine and then me.
WILSON: And what did the parents do?
BELL: The mother was a retired teacher and the father worked for thedepartment of transportation basically, like transportation and public works.
WILSON: And they had volunteered? Somebody had found that they would bewilling to do this?
BELL: Actually interestingly enough the father was pretty involved in00:28:00the neighborhood association type government or whatever just at the neighborhood, and they had never had a volunteer before. Peace Corps volunteers had been in the town of San Isidro for several years, for probably a long time. Peace Corps celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in Peace Corps while I was there for example, but the senor of the house actually volunteered to have a volunteer as it were, which the senora just kind of went along with it. And so that created some tension over the course of a year and a half, so--
WILSON: Because she probably had more to do.
BELL: She had more to do because I, I'm not a great cook now but Iwasn't even going into it. I mean I couldn't deal with the kitchen. I mean some people did, but and it was her kitchen; it was her house. 00:29:00
WILSON: She probably wouldn't have wanted you to either.
BELL: She might. You know I helped out with the dishes some; I didthe dishes sometimes and sometimes when like her and her husband would be in a fight or something, me and the youngest daughter would do the dishes and she would whisper, "Oh, this is a good idea. We need to do the dishes," and stuff like that. So but anyway, on a normal--There at the start, heck I'd eat breakfast and I had my counterpart because the social services, the PANI was the acronym for the Patronato, they had an office in San Isidro, which I never went to because I never had anything to do. But they had what they called a comedor, which is literally translated as a dining room, but this was a center for young 00:30:00workers literally ten, eleven, twelve, fifteen, that have to either work on the street or work in agriculture to support their families.
WILSON: Okay, if they're working on the street, what are they doing?Selling something?
BELL: They're selling lottery tickets, begging, not too much begging butsome, selling lottery tickets, odd jobs, agricultural work.
WILSON: If they're working in agriculture they are--?
BELL: Cutting sugarcane, picking coffee beans.
WILSON: And they have gone to school but not very?
BELL: Not very much, they've gone actually at that teen center is whatwe called, well no, well really we just called it the comedor, but at the comedor if somebody went to school it was kind of rare, but kids 00:31:00did. And it was 90% guys, you know there were some girls that would occasionally come but it was basically guys. So I would head over there, I would go and try and pretend like I had something, not pretend like, but I just hoped that I had something to do like checking my mail was--I mean that's a, you know I would walk because we lived close enough that I didn't have to take the bus to town so I would walk, I would walk down into town down this dirt road and I would have to cross a river on one of those hanging bridges, not a big but you know. And then stuff like checking for mail was, that's a project, and passing by, and there were some gringos that lived in my town, and a couple 00:32:00of them I would meet and they weren't Peace Corps types. They were old retirees and old sort of slimy gringo types which especially in Costa Rica because Costa Rica people are real friendly and it's a great climate and the beaches, so expatriates there are upwards of probably getting close to 200,000.
WILSON: That many who have retired to Costa Rica?
BELL: Well retired or lived. Well let's say 150,000 but I bet it'sgetting close to 200,000 by 2005.
WILSON: Well still that's a lot.
BELL: So I would hang out with them. There was a restaurant calledthe Chirripo, which is named after the tallest mountain in Costa Rica about 12,000 ft plus was off in the distance from San Isidro. But the Chirripo opened up on the town square and it was you know nice, and it 00:33:00was an open restaurant, a big open like not even a window because there weren't bars or anything, just not a cafe either, it was covered. That was the place to kind of hang out and just watch people go by and you know watch girls I mean Costa Rican girls. You'll need another tape for that one. But and maybe hang out there and then go because at the comedor this youth center they served lunch, and that's when everybody would come. And I would help, not cook but I would do whatever I could because they had a cook, pretty good food for what it was. Sometimes it was great, and then usually either before or after lunch we would 00:34:00organize activities for these kids. We would do art; we had a soccer team that competed in the community.
WILSON: And by "we" you mean your counterpart and you would be--?
BELL: My counterpart but then there was also a guy that worked prettymuch specifically with the comedor kids, the young workers. Now really he was about my age too, so we hung out some too. But my counterpart, that was also her gig too so to speak, so she was there almost every day at lunchtime too. They used to get mad in the office because I would never go, but I mean I didn't want to go. It was boring you know to me, I wanted to be with the kids to at least learn cuss words in Spanish, which I learned many from them. But we do these projects; I mean that's one of my most vivid memories of early on. We had 00:35:00this soccer team and you know these are kids who couldn't afford--The uniforms were bought for them, usually they had to scrape together cleats somehow, but everybody can play soccer down there.
BELL: But we went to our first game and we got into a truck, the back ofa truck like a covered truck, not a bus or anything, not a car, and we drove for about an hour or so and we ended up in this town like further off in the country in just the valley, the big kind of--They called it the Valley of the General you know because part of the Civil War had been fought there. San Isidro's full name was San Isidro de General, but just this valley going everywhere and the soccer field was kind of 00:36:00on the edge of not a cliff, but it was just kind of out there. And I was just kind of like, "This is it," and then we won. And the first goal this kid who we called Frijole, which means bean because he was very dark skinned so the kids called him black bean; they called him Frijole. And he scored the first goal, and when we had been practicing we had been doing a goal celebration that was based on Brazil, which you know always very good. And he scored the goal and then ran right to the sidelines to me and we did the dance, and I was just like you know, "Okay!" Then we lost every game after that, almost every game, and I fell in love with a girl that lived in the capital. So I was distracted and missed a lot, well some of the games because I was going 00:37:00up there.
WILSON: This is a Costa Rican girl?
BELL: Costa Rican girl, yeah. I had dated some girls in my town butI actually went to a Peace Corps training on youth and here was this girl and we got to talking and she was educated and my ears just kind of, my eyes and everything else kind of perked up, and we dated for almost a year for lack of a--But okay and that was a big distraction from the stuff in my site, but you know I learned so much about Spanish but the culture and we would go to birthday parties and we would go to anniversaries. That's how I learned how to dance and soccer games and 00:38:00concerts and just watching TV and her--It was just different; that took it to a different level than just living with a host family. You know I probably ought to send her flowers or something just because you know a lot of those things they wouldn't have been the same if, and I did a lot of that stuff with my host family, but that just was a different experience. Plus she worked with kids.
WILSON: So you could--
BELL: We even did that some of the time. She worked at a YMCA in CostaRica, so just opportunity knocks, you've got to answer.
WILSON: Where did you--? So sounds like you had a lot of opportunitiesfor recreation in terms of getting out of, I mean you weren't supposed to just be in your town. 00:39:00
BELL: Oh yeah.
WILSON: You could go to San Jose.
BELL: Now I was supposed to tell them if I left my site, but I neverdid. But and actually my director, this girl was one of his favorite. And he was like, and I was like, "Juan." His name's Juan, I said, "Juan, I think I'm in love, man." And he said, "Of course you are! You better be!" And I was like, "Oh yeah, I guess." So that was that you know. So yeah, lots of opportunities.
WILSON: So did you travel all over Costa Rica?
BELL: Oh yeah, with her, with my host family.
WILSON: So you got to both coasts and you went.
BELL: Both coasts, climbed the tallest mountain, went to the OsaPeninsula, which is one of the most--National Geographic calls it one of the most diverse wildlife places on the planet, the Caribbean coast, went to the Tortagero to the sea turtles, went to the Pacific coast up 00:40:00and down.
WILSON: Manuel Antonio?
BELL: Manuel Antonio.
WILSON: Went to Monteverde?
BELL: Monteverde I actually did not go to until I went back to CostaRica with my students from here. I took a trip with students, but it was a trip but I was working and I couldn't leave. And we didn't come within probably three hours of where I lived, and I just. You know I mean I felt bad, I mean I wanted to just land and just go but I couldn't do it you know.
WILSON: Well we can come back to that. Did you travel any place outsideCosta Rica while you were there?
BELL: Yeah, the Costa Rica program downsized. They moved to a regionaloffice, which was centered in Managua, Nicaragua. Now they maintained the office in San Jose but then it was just a program director in Costa 00:41:00Rica and the regional director in Managua, Nicaragua. So we would go up there for, well we went up there a couple times for conferences. You know one time we had a talent show and I played guitar in front of a lot of people and it was--The first song was bad but the second one was better. Actually went to Nicaragua with my girlfriend one time, but I actually crossed the border without my passport which they worked, but we were only there for like a day, you know for like this program and then came back. But then when we broke up I went to my director and I said, "Man, I've got to get out here for a while," and he said, "Alright." So that's when I took about a three week trip 00:42:00through southern Mexico and Guatemala.
WILSON: Oh okay.
BELL: So that was, you know, that's a whole other opening your eyesbecause that's the Mayan culture especially. The culture, it's not that Costa Rica, the historical aspects of the culture are not as dense as especially Guatemala. I mean Guatemala is just endless. Took the bus and that was just, you know just I mean I was just by myself doing if I wanted to go there I did to the ruins for days and the beach. Well, here we are sitting talking after Wilma [Editor's note: Hurricane Wilma]. I went to Playa del Carmen for several days, and I guess hopefully we can do it again but I mean not anytime soon. But I actually flew because I found a real bargain rate, but I had to 00:43:00take the bus back, which took three days from Guatemala, one night in El Salvador, one night in Managua, then back to Costa Rica, which was very interesting.
WILSON: That's real.
BELL: Yeah, I ran out of money and I had to have money wired to me fromthe States because I literally, you know I had had tons of souvenirs and sweaters and all that kind of stuff. And I knew that just at the border crossings I was not going to make it, but I guess my sister wired me some. I wanted to avoid my parents if I could, but she wired me some money and I got back just fine.
WILSON: You've already talked about this to some extent I think aboutyour interactions with host country nationals. 00:44:00
WILSON: You had a girlfriend--
BELL: Well several--
WILSON: Several girlfriends.
BELL: Now I shouldn't brag about that.
WILSON: No, that's alright.
BELL: It was good to--
WILSON: Well, that's one way to get to know the culture, right?
WILSON: What about the kids?
BELL: The kids--Now I also worked in, I also worked with the youngworkers but I also worked in orphanages.
WILSON: Yeah, talk a little bit about how, I mean how your job, inquotes, developed, I mean besides doing the lunches and the soccer team.
BELL: It developed through that and then I hooked up with--There werethree; they were called alberges, three orphanages. But I really hooked up with one, and then I ended up going there. My little route was I'd go to the lunch thing with the young workers, and then in the afternoon I would go to the orphanage. And I would help them with 00:45:00homework, I would take them to the park, help out the ladies that work there, just anything I could do. And then also at the same time I had been developing a relationship with the school in my neighborhood, just a regular old elementary school, and I ended up teaching English there, taught guitar such as it is. I got a grant to buy guitars, taught chess somehow. The English class because they had an English teacher, dated her too, but that was great. But she had too many classes and they needed somebody to teach sixth grade English and you know just to, 00:46:00I mean a great experience you know. But actually the orphanage--
WILSON: So you developed into having a number of jobs that made it afull day?
BELL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that wasn't every day.
BELL: But a full, it was good. Now the orphanage ended up being apretty close relationship. I mean that was probably the biggest going away party that I had, and they made me cake and I mean it was tough you know because I mean they were in, had mental problems. Some of them were just kids you know and an orphan was actually almost not even true; it was like foster care sort of, but it was all kind of vague because--
BELL: Alright, what was it the orphanage?00:47:00
WILSON: Yeah, right.
BELL: But it was, it developed into a close relationship because I did gothere several days a week and I would help them with their homework but we would also do fun stuff, so they were--And I ended up--I've always, if I believe in it, I can get donations, money or in Costa, well in Costa Rica in country it was more often services. So I've developed a relationship with the local movie theater, took them to movies, we took them to the circus one time when it came in town. I helped really, I didn't really organize that, local restaurants, had a very memorable trip one time to the capital one time with all these kids because 00:48:00they had an amusement park in the capital, and on the way back the bus broke down. And plus there was a, at first there was a--No, the bus didn't break down. There was a wreck, now this is a two lane road once you get up into the mountains, and so that's it. You can't get up in there to get them out, get the wreck cleared. I mean we didn't get back until probably like three in the morning or something. We ended up sleeping by the side of the road for a couple of hours because the driver was just, he was just dead. So that was a lot of fun, and actually I came home for Christmas, the second Christmas because the requirement was for you to be in country for a year before you went 00:49:00home. And people went home for like weddings and stuff but I ended up though because we had started around Labor Day, end of August, so it was fifteen months and Christmas, and so I went home and that was good and was still dating the girl. And I came I violated customs law by, no I came home with about 50 tamales at the bottom of my suitcase in this box, which is agricultural, which is food.
WILSON: Right, right.
BELL: You know--For my family.
WILSON: For your family? Okay.
BELL: For my family to try tamales because my girlfriend's mom had madeall these tamales, I mean.
WILSON: Oh that's great.
BELL: Oh, so good. And then I came back loaded, you know with Christmaspresents for her and my host family too and stuff. But I also had this 00:50:00program, this is kind of an interesting story if I can spit it out in short enough time. But at the young worker's place with these young guys, there was a guy who had came and would teach them tae kwon do. He was a tae kwon do teacher in the town, and he had proposed this trip for them to go to a tae kwon do tournament in California. So and I was like, "Okay," so I came home and raised I don't know $5,000 in a week or something like that. I think it was like $5,000 but anyway, so I came back with that. Well it turns out, and so I'm in touch with 00:51:00the consulate, I'm trying to get these kids passports, the plane, he's doing the plane. Well so I get into the process and then I get the names and their IDs and stuff, and I'm pretty green still, but this certainly helped in me becoming ripe to--
WILSON: Continue with your story.
BELL: The story: we're doing the tae kwon do tournament and I'm inwith the consulate and I've got a guy that I'm calling all the time to try and get these visas, and they're hard to come by even in 1998, let alone in 2005. But and then I get the names and their IDs and I 00:52:00call the guy and he's like, "Your tae kwon do teacher is black, is red flagged," or whatever their term was. And I said, "What?" And actually I'll backtrack a little bit. This guy was kind of nuts you know, but I mean he's a tae kwon do guy too, so I mean that's kind of nutty.
WILSON: He was Costa Rican?
BELL: Costa Rican.
BELL: So this one night he had actually gone up to meet with theembassy, not meet, but he was just going to try and I think actually get the visas. He got them all pass--We got them Costa Rican passports; we actually did have that. And he went to the consulate and he calls me and he's crying one night you know and he's obviously he's drunk. "Oh, we didn't get them! You know they said something!" and I'm like trying to understand everything anyway and so then the next 00:53:00morning I call the consulate and they say this guy, he's blacklisted, he is on the red flag. He has been a coyote before. He has smuggled people into the U.S. under the guise of tae kwon do tournaments!
WILSON: Oh my gosh.
BELL: Actually that he had been in a tae kwon do tournament, he tried itbefore in the U.S. but it hadn't worked, but he went to a tae kwon do tournament in Canada and was caught crossing the border in a snowstorm. This is the consulate telling me this; I'm like, "What?!" Crossing the border in a snowstorm with all the people behind him to get into the U.S. and--
WILSON: But did the kids know that that's--?
BELL: The kids did not--They, now in retrospect they kind of hinted that00:54:00the word used was chorizo, which means sausage, which is like graft, you know, that he was trying to get some people in on the trip. They weren't going to stay, but he had a little group of friends that was going to--
WILSON: Who were going to go--
BELL: They were just going to go to do the tae kwon do thing. I meanthey had barely been out of--Some of them had been to the capital but never out of Costa Rica.
WILSON: Yeah, yeah, so this would have been a great trip for them.
BELL: Oh we were going to go to Disneyland.
WILSON: Oh gosh, so the whole thing was--?
BELL: The whole thing was squashed and I told--
WILSON: Well what happened to your $5,000?
BELL: No, no he didn't have the money. He did not have the money, thankGod.
BELL: But I told the kids, I said, "Look you know I'm not going to haveanything to do with this guy," and some of them actually took classes from them. You know they didn't know, I mean they wanted to do tae kwon do still, I didn't want to see the guy. But no he didn't have the money. I ended up using the money, part of it--most of it was from 00:55:00a good friend of mine, pretty wealthy friend, and I called him and I said, "Look, this thing fell through." And he said, "Patrick, I gave the money to you, you know. If you need to go on vacation, then go." So that helped fund that trip to Guatemala and Mexico, but the rest of it I used, we got TVs and VCRs for the orphanages.
WILSON: Oh that's nice.
BELL: And several of them were stolen within like a week. It was like,and it was obvious people had found out that we had gotten the stuff, and boom you know. They had a nice little party when we brought them and we all together went down, now the director of the office in my town, she liked me after that because you know which was fine. But 00:56:00that was a pretty memorable story.
WILSON: Any others you want to tell?
BELL: Share? Memorable moments, I remember teaching guitar and there wasjust this group of just real precious like fourth and fifth graders, and I had--My Spanish had gotten along to the point that I could remember the Shakira song, but they of course knew it by heart. And so here we are you know and they are just singing along, and it was just one of those moments I was like, "You know okay." I mean this is--I mean didn't even know that I signed up for that you know, I wouldn't have picked something that good. And you know the girlfriend stuff I mean was pretty memorable, and now I mean I'm married and that's great. And now it's more of like the cross-cultural experience of it now, 00:57:00which is pretty rich. But you know smuggling those tamales into the, smuggling so to speak of the tamales, but oh gosh. But you know and breaking up with her, and I remember, I'll never forget we--I finally gave up the ghost so to speak with her. I was way down south in Costa Rica with this gringo friend of mine, gringa an older woman, and she had this place that she always went--this beach, Playa Zancudo, which means like it's a saying for a mosquito. It's like Mosquito Beach, beautiful and I'm trying to call my girlfriend you know and it's not working. It hasn't been working for you know a month or so you know, 00:58:00and I just remember walking up and down that beach and it was a big beach with palm trees and nobody was there. It was basically just mine you know because it was like off season or something, and finally thinking, "What am I doing?" You know here I am and so I didn't call her anymore, and then probably three weeks later she called my host where I lived in San Isidro, and I picked up the phone and I didn't recognize her voice. You know it had just taken, it just you know shook me off my axis and that was it you know. But I mean so all that kind of stuff and you know learning how to dance was pretty, in the discos because you know dance is the salsa and merengue is a big part of Latin American culture and Costa Rica too and you know going to the discos and learning how to do that, and we would go to the discos even 00:59:00in training because they would have--And I was in training with like it was I guess five or six pretty much beautiful American women, so they would go, you know it would be like--You know every guy in there would ask them to dance you know and I didn't know how to dance.
BELL: To do the steps.
WILSON: The steps, yeah.
BELL: To do the--I mean we could, we would dance when it would come--Because there was always like an hour or so where they would have American songs like rock songs really more than disco but, and so we would have a blast you know dancing to stuff like that.
WILSON: So did you get close to other Peace Corps volunteers too? Wereyou all a fairly close group because you all were trained together?
BELL: Yeah, it was small, it was small. We started with eleven andeight finished. One girl went home, she just couldn't--She was blonde 01:00:00and blue eyed and just got a lot of attention, you know Costa Rica the machismo is still there. Now I left--I mean I tied into that, but it was just so different that perspective. I loved it to a certain extent.
BELL: And you know she just had a terrible, because it was just you knowmen are from Mars and women are from Venus you know, and especially in another language and culture.
BELL: So she went home, another guy went home. He wasn't doing anythingand they called him on it finally, and he was like, "Well, I'll just go home." You know he hadn't been doing anything for months, really almost nothing. And another guy was pretty sad. He messed up in training, did some bad--You know drug and type stuff, and they let him say, "I'm 01:01:00going home," which was good for his record or whatever.
WILSON: Right, right, but otherwise he would have--
BELL: Everybody else finished and I actually saw two people this summer.They live in Colorado; I hadn't seen them since, since 1999 our close of service. We had kept up by letters and email and phone calls and stuff, but you know, but we had kept up and especially with email. Out of that bunch there's really only, now a couple--There's probably one, two, three or four not just from my group but also volunteers in country. One guy came in for my wedding because he has some friends here in Kentucky too, so he could kind of do double duty there. And there's one guy, haven't talked to him in probably a year or longer, but he lives in Cincinnati, so we would always meet up. Now this is--I 01:02:00have an interesting--I have a very memorable story.
BELL: I, this is memorable but when I left for training, for staging,even you know get to get on the plane so to speak. The memorable story, right; how much time is left on that?
WILSON: Well we've got other tapes.
BELL: No, but my--Right before I left to get on the plane one of my,pretty much my best friend got married. And this girl and I hooked up, you know, and she had been an acquaintance. We were you know like 01:03:00friends of friends you know, kind of my sailor shipping off something like that, it's probably not that uncommon. Well, about six weeks later I had gone in, we had all gone into the office for a training session and I had a FedEx envelope. And we had gone in, we had gone in for a training session on sexual conduct and the consequences when you're in service.
WILSON: Yeah, right.
BELL: But before this whole day long session with pictures andinformation and vivid pictures comes, I open it up and it's a little pretty short little letter that says she's pregnant.
BELL: Oh, and so I was probably as white as your piece of paper over01:04:00there the whole day. And I had it in my head that hey they can send me home because I was still in training; I had not been sworn in so to speak. And you couldn't have minor children; you can't have minor children. And so I kept it a secret. I didn't know you know because I had already, it was already my life you know and so we talked on the phone later and did letters and she actually supported that. She said, "Okay, I'm going to have this child," but you know she had friends that told her to take me to court and get me back and all that, but she didn't. And so I just for better or for worse I decided, "Okay," 01:05:00I mean it's probably a grey area, which actually in retrospect when I talk to people about it later, like my volunteer friend in Cincinnati worked in the office for a couple years after he finished service in Costa Rica. He said, "Well, it probably wouldn't have mattered," but it might have. So I held it together, you know, and I'm an alcoholic in recovery.
WILSON: You were then?
BELL: I was the whole time.
WILSON: You were the whole time.
BELL: The whole time, I had been sober about four years when I startedmy service.
WILSON: And did they--Were they on you about that?
BELL: Well that was--
WILSON: Because I've heard that from another volunteer that this personhad trouble getting in.
BELL: It wasn't trouble because I had been sober; I did have about anhour long phone call with someone in Washington about it, and I was 01:06:00just--I laid it out because I mean in alcoholics anonymous, I mean the recovery--It was a big part of my life and that's what they wanted to hear.
WILSON: Sure, sure, yeah.
BELL: And that's what I had to say so that was it as far as I meanit wasn't a problem for me. But there were requirements on the application about it.
WILSON: Right, absolutely.
BELL: But so I held it together, didn't tell anybody except for myfriends in recovery in the country. I held it together that day and then went and just you know broke down finally getting to this meeting. And so but kept in touch with home and then eventually told my parents; this was months later almost when my daughter was born. And then when I went home for Christmas met her, now that's a memorable 01:07:00story. But and it was--You know time heals all wounds you know and I mean she's, you know she's seven now, her name's Casey, great girl. Her mother and I get along great probably because we didn't have a relationship per se, we were friends, and we didn't have a lot of water under the bridge except for this, and we get along better than every ex-husband and ex-wife that I know with kids too in the mix. You know she's coming down this weekend, and my wife is going to pick her up in Cincinnati; she lives in Cincinnati. She loves my wife and my wife and her mother get along great.
WILSON: Everything worked out.
BELL: Everything worked out. That has worked out, now it's hard to--Ithought I was going to die. I mean I literally, I didn't even think that I was going to drink or do something drastic, I thought that 01:08:00I literally was going to like keel over and die. And so to go from that to hey, you know, to where it is now I mean is just practically miraculous you know. I mean but and it seemed like the worst thing that ever happened to me, and plus I was going through the best thing that ever happened to me, which was going to Peace Corps. And so now to have them both be great things that have happened to me is pretty neat, you know I mean I'm grateful for it now. At the time I was not.
WILSON: Not a good time.
BELL: No, no, I had no money and no means.
BELL: You know so and on and on and on about that, and so nobody only myclosest friends in Costa Rica knew. Literally a handful of people, no one in Peace Corps, no one in like my host families and my counterparts 01:09:00and the kids I worked with knew either. So it was hard, I mean secrets aren't good, so that was hard. But I mean I guess if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger, and in the end it did. So that's pretty memorable. That's probably, that's the most memorable. That was a memorable day. I'll end it with this: I went and went to see my friends into a meeting in recovery and was a mess. I was inconsolable practically, and they said, "You need to hang with us for a while." And I was, you know, I was like, "Whatever, okay." So I ended up going with them, now one of the--With a guy and a girl, a guy--They were both from California. The guy was gay and the girl was sorter younger, 01:10:00my age, and I had met them before so--But I still wasn't that tight with them you know, but I just had nowhere else to go. I didn't know anybody that I could tell even. So we end up going to this guy's gay strip club that he owns in Costa Rica. Now I didn't even care you know because I was just in my own little world that was falling apart in my head; we weren't there very long. Just totally, you want to talk about surreal, but and then ended up the guy was going to do something so the girl said, "Well why don't you just crash on my couch?" You know I was just like I didn't care you know. Her power was, you know the power would go out in different parts of the city, so her phone and power were out. So I couldn't call anybody to even say, "Well I'm just going 01:11:00to you know be here." Well my host family was very protective of me. I was kind of like their new son even though I was older, so they called Peace Corps. And the Peace Corps was very sensitive to this; earlier in '97 they had had a volunteer die. She had gone out by herself on a hike and fell of a cliff, so they were--
BELL: --in tuned to this. The host father was ready, literally, andthis is what I've heard, that he had his coat on, was going to go into San Jose you know a city of a million and a half people to look for me. And then the next morning they had almost called the Marines at the embassy to start the nationwide search, and I had--I just had to get 01:12:00to a phone, you know, I didn't have one. I mean I had wanted to call them, but I was just kind of in a daze anyway. So ended up calling them and I got into a little bit of trouble, but called them literally like a half hour before they were going to do the deal.
BELL: But you know this is a very memorable 24 hour stretch in my littlelife.
WILSON: What was it like coming home to the U.S.?
BELL: Coming home, well I mean it was tough you know. I mean sometimesit's, you know lately I've had it where I've been kind of missing it in a way even six years later because life was simple. No cell phone, 01:13:00no email, I couldn't use the phone in my house because they didn't want me to use it very much. You know they got mad when I'd call you know talk to my girlfriend for a half hour you know, sometime they wouldn't- -they were actually pretty good about that. But I actually traveled for about a month in South America, but when we finished our service Christmas was like a month after that, so it was just time to come home you know. Actually a couple people didn't; they went on and did a big world tour or whatever.
WILSON: So was that the time when you went to Machu Picchu?
BELL: That was my first time in Machu Picchu. Yeah I went to Peru,Bolivia, and Chile in that month span, but coming home--You know just different, the food and the cars too, and gaining weight. I mean I've 01:14:00lost like--I gained a lot over the course of a few years and then I've lost the better part of it, but I still would have gosh almost probably 30 lbs to go to my weight in Peace Corps because I walked everywhere- -everywhere.
BELL: And it was all pretty much organic food or at least rice, youknow, didn't get--It wasn't like, I mean there wasn't even fast food to go to, let alone you know like your experience in Africa type stuff. But it, I actually did the census that year. It was the year 2000 and got assigned to do Hispanic stuff, which was actually very neat looking for migrant workers and trying--Because and they all thought that I was the la migra, they thought it was an INS thing, but it wasn't. There 01:15:00wasn't anything, we just needed to count them you know. And you know so that was pretty interesting, and you know went and fell in love again for the umpteenth time coming back, which was probably any easy thing to do, you know, someone that I had known before. And that bombed like a nuclear bomb actually, but what I--I need to write a book. But the one I had signed up in Costa Rica as my service was ending I was like, "Okay, what am I going to do next?" Well I had signed up to teach English in Japan and did that, went in July after coming home for seven months or whatever, but I was dead in love with this girl and it ended 01:16:00up I was there for like two months and I came back. It probably was two months after that that we were broken up, so but even--But again in retrospect, you know, even that little experience in Japan was good. I mean it--You want to talk about another culture, I mean but even that glimpse at it, you know and plus since I was at least the pump was primed for that kind of stuff. But I had kept up with my friends you know and my family so in that respect it was good to be home. And my, the volunteers I served with are spread all over the country, so the closest one is like two hours from here, so it wasn't like we were going to hang out or anything. There were several of them that were 01:17:00in like the northeast, New York and Washington and stuff, but you know I mean I was going to be here plus because of my daughter who was in Cincinnati, still is, and that was fine. So it's good parts and it's bad parts really. It wasn't a total culture shock, but there was definitely some of it. I mean that readjustment check, that was the biggest check I had ever gotten up until that point at one time, so you know that got me to South America and then you know gave me some walking money once I got back to Kentucky.
WILSON: So we'll come to what you've done since, but let's stop hereto say what do you think the impact of Peace Corps service was on the country and the people there? And then what do you think the impact was on you?
BELL: On the country and the people there, I don't know. I hope it was01:18:00good. It was good while it lasted. Did I do anything lasting? Maybe somebody's playing one of those guitars that I got, maybe somebody's watching one of those TVs. Did I develop a program that would stay? No. There was already stuff in place and I've sort of made a kind of a conscious decision, I don't know if it was a copout or not, but since the stuff was there I just said, "Okay, I'm going to volunteer." If I'm going to--Okay, I'll coach some football, okay I'll help you paint this, or I'll clean up the food. I wasn't going to cook it because I didn't know how and couldn't barely get in there to do it with the senoras, but and okay, I'll help a kid out with their homework 01:19:00or I'll teach them some English. And Costa Rica is actually--There is a certain justification for the Peace Corps moving on from there. It's good that this program has stayed open to work with kids because there is definitely that need and Costa Rica has many needs but also they've made some economic progress mainly because of tourism and to a lesser extent agriculture. So but it was good and I barely maintained the relationships, barely; it's probably been, now granted I've had--I've gotten married in the last year and teaching and family and my daughter, so those relationships I mean they've become kind of far away, but I'm trying to get back there hopefully next summer if I 01:20:00can get there at first by myself you know and then maybe my wife would meet me at the end, but just to go and see some people you know, track them down or put on a backpack and get on the bus. Hopefully that will work, and it really doesn't matter when. If it's next summer--great; if it's the summer after that--great, but I definitely need to do that. And then that will be, and maybe there are still some relationships there, and probably there are if I can track the people down. But in terms of programs no, I mean you know hopefully some people are using some stuff that I helped raise the money for but who knows. But its impact on me, I mean where do you start you know. I mean my whole 01:21:00life changed. I mean it went from this--It wasn't that bad but to this other thing you know. Obviously learning Spanish, I mean I'm a Spanish teacher. Okay and the wanderlust, which I mean I have to push down honestly because and I've told my wife. I said, "Look, if I don't use my passport at least once a year I'm going to be nuts, and then you're going to be nuts too." But I mean and we go and we've--This is like the fourth straight year that we've taken a trip with students here, so you know we've got that going. Actually last year I didn't go, but 01:22:00I got married you know so we went to Cayman Islands for our honeymoon. There's another hurricane victim right there, which fortunately we got to see because my friend's condo that he had down there, I don't think it's even there anymore like at all. But I think he got the insurance or sold it or something, but and the world became a different place for me. At once small but then also so big, I would--One time I was on a beach, the nearest beach to my town, and gringos would come and go through Costa Rica. And there were these two gringos, and they got to talking and they later said they were from Lexington. You know they lived like two miles away from me or something! Just 01:23:00little things like that and running into people and the world seemed small, but then it's so big too and you can't get to see it all. And there's a good chunk of me that would like to, and I've been around, especially the Americas. The Americas I've got, you know, like French Guyana--I haven't been there, but almost everywhere else, literally almost every, and some of the Caribbean countries no. But I would like to see it all now. I mean I did before, I wanted to, but having seen it it's just like, and there's that part of--I think there's that part of Peace Corps that you just can't put into words. It's just there, it's like a--It's just like a big suitcase that you're carrying around and you want to go with it, and you can't take everybody. Everybody 01:24:00is not suited for it or they're not willing or it doesn't call to them or I mean it's intangible. I mean it's great for us who have done it, but even in here, even in this Spanish classroom I try, but sometimes after a while I just stop trying. Okay look at it, okay don't look at it, but you never know. There's probably a couple kids who have gone--There's one girl who, you know, that have gotten into Spanish and the international thing, and maybe they'll keep going with it, but maybe they won't because people don't want to change, and Peace Corps, whether you like it or not, it is change. Your whole world, my whole world changed. I couldn't say salt and pepper, I couldn't--And even 01:25:00though Costa Rica is developed to a certain extent, I didn't have to go to the river for water and I didn't have to build a hut out of poop and stuff like that, but still trying to figure out how to say this and trying not to shock myself on the hot water shower thing, which was an electrical current thing and not hot water, and watching the ants, you know. But everywhere and the bugs and getting sick from the food, not too much, only like once, and the language, and you know. I mean to being hot; I mean I was always good looking, but I had never had a sense of that until you know every girl, almost every girl--If I could 01:26:00spit something out, they would be--You know they would go out or they would go dancing. You know I mean there's a bit of experience for you, which I mean you can't really express that. And so much of it I think at the end you know it's just, yeah it changes you, and you can try and impart it. You can try and do that third goal or whatever, but there's only so far it can go. And that's why there are only however many thousand Peace Corps volunteers; it's not millions because it's hard and in subtle ways. Yeah in obvious ways of travel and being away from 01:27:00family and home and stuff, like my first Christmas. I had never been away from Lexington, Kentucky for Christmas until that first Christmas. And in Costa Rica it's not Christmas Day, it's all Christmas Eve in the Catholic and the Latin American countries, and it's until midnight on Christmas Eve. And there was a big party at my host family's house, and they were all there. And like their godfather was really trying to get me drunk and I didn't drink, and you know I was about ready to deck him, and they were too. But you know a big feast, it was really, it was bad because of the drinking thing but it was really neat other than that. But then the next day was Christmas Day and we went to a rainforest like with the family; they went down even further south to like their in-law's farm, which was just--I mean there's a waterfall 01:28:00back off in the rainforest you know, and I was just like walking around and you could see the whole valley after you got out of the forest. You know I was like, "It's Christmas day," and it was okay, but it was still--And you can't, I mean yeah it changes you but, I mean you can put it into words but there's a point where the words are inaccurate. They're not adequate so I mean yeah, it affected me. I mean and you still end up finding out how it is you know years later. You'll get into a spot where you miss, you know, dancing with girls or whatever.
WILSON: You've talked about this a little bit, but talk about whatyou've done since so that what impact Peace Corps had on your impact because obviously learning to speak Spanish did. 01:29:00
BELL: Right, right. And my career path was already pointed towardsteaching and working with kids, well that was my career for lack of a better word. And so the Spanish opened up the census, and then I did the fitful Japanese, but that also was the cross-cultural experience opened that door.
WILSON: Right and this is in terms of time?
WILSON: 2000, okay.
BELL: This is the year after coming back, but then as I came back fromJapan I just sort of showed up at the Fayette County Schools and said, "Here I am." And they said, "Well we need you." And so I taught ESL for the year, English as a Second Language at Leestown Middle School to all Latinos. There was a couple--There was one guy from Japan and one girl from Russia; everyone else was Latinos, 90% Mexican and a 01:30:00great experience. But then I was at another point where, okay, if I'm going to be a teacher well I probably, I've got to go back to school because I'm in political science and international studies for a major and minor in undergrad, so then the MIC program and you know meeting you, and I remember you saying, "Well, you know you can do your student teaching overseas." And I was like, "What? Where do I sign?" You know, "Give me the pamphlet." But and so doing that and then doing the student teaching in Ecuador in a Spanish speaking country, which further kind of cemented the Spanish and the Latin America thing, which I've still, I mean I don't even know if I've scratched the surface of using that or it using me or whatever. I don't know if teaching Spanish here is 01:31:00probably it; I tend to think that it's not, and maybe it is but--
WILSON: Okay, because I know more than we're telling on this tape, let'sbe clear that what you did was you came back to University of Kentucky and you got your master's with initial certification actually in social studies.
BELL: Social studies.
WILSON: And then you did that fall semester, and then in the spring youwent--
BELL: Spring semester in--
WILSON: --and did your student teaching in--
BELL: Quito, Ecuador.
WILSON: --in Quito, Ecuador. And then you came back and--?
BELL: Then I came back and was going to enter the teaching job market,and I actually entered it via email from Ecuador, and one of the emails was to my alma mater, Sayre School. And I knew the people, you know, knew the headmaster and I emailed him and said, "What do you got?" and 01:32:00he said, "Well, we need a Spanish teacher." And I said okay you know because and I really I was actually teaching some history too the first year, and now it's just Spanish, but you know there was also that part of it, it was like, "Hey, well okay I'm done with this." You know don't have to--Because I was already kind of behind the game being abroad for that, because now the whole teaching job market gets rolling much earlier in the year than it seems like it used to.
WILSON: So you came back from Ecuador in spring of 2000 and--?
WILSON: 2002 in May--
BELL: June, yeah.
WILSON: --and got a job at Sayre.
BELL: Like June 1st.
WILSON: And so this is your--
BELL: Fourth year.
WILSON: Fourth year.
BELL: At Sayre.
WILSON: And you are now teaching--
WILSON: One, two, three, four?
BELL: Two and four.
WILSON: Two and four.
BELL: Which basically that's just a numbers thing, that's the first,pretty much the first year of high school Spanish and the third year. Mainly I teach the first year kids.
WILSON: And you've taken kids to--
BELL: Costa Rica, Spain, helped organize the Peru trip, didn't gobecause my wife couldn't go last year. Or well this year, last school year. In Spring Break 2006 we are going to Argentina.
WILSON: Oh really? And taking kids?
BELL: 24 people, kids and parents; that's confirmed and--
WILSON: Wow, and you're doing all the organizing for that? And you'vebeen to Argentina as well?
BELL: I've been to the international airport on a layover from, withmy sister when I was in Ecuador working on the master's in the student 01:34:00teaching, she came down at the tail end and then we went to Peru. And then we flew from Peru and had the layover--
WILSON: We've talked about what international experience you've hadsince.
WILSON: What do you and this trip to Argentina in the spring, what elsedo you look forward to?
BELL: Trips, traveling, I mean at this point--
WILSON: And your wife likes to travel too?
BELL: She likes to travel, but you know, we're you know looking at thereproductive stage and so, you know, but and we'll still try, but at this point it's travel vacation type stuff.
WILSON: So what are the--?
BELL: Maybe Peace, we talk about Peace Corps when we retire and off inthe future, but you know for now--
WILSON: So what are your top three countries, places you want to goafter Argentina?
BELL: My personal top three?
BELL: Australia, New Zealand, which is kind of--probably get to both of01:35:00those, Africa--anywhere, somewhere, and China.
WILSON: China? Okay.
BELL: Definitely, those are in any order.
WILSON: What has been the impact of Peace Corps service on the ways thatyou think about the world and what's going on in the year 2005?
BELL: Wow. Well my students get an earful of this all the time, ohjust for some reason there's this one section this year and they just get under my skin about racism subtley, but they just get an earful about it. We'll be talking about like day of the dead and disinterring bones, which families do in the more rural areas of Mexico, stuff 01:36:00like that, and the little snickers and I--Or little comments too, and I just you know jump on them about that, and mainly, you know, after I barked a little bit getting to where it's not, culture is not good or bad, it's just different. That practice of day of the dead is just different, and us wearing black and being sad at funerals is just different, and then there's a different thing in Africa, and then there's a different thing here and there, but and as a teacher certainly trying to hammer in the racism thing, and hammer in the thing that, you know, McDonalds and Wal-Mart are not the end all be all of the world, even though they are everywhere. You know globalization, 01:37:00but at the high school level it's hard to get that, to get there because also my thing is Spanish and the target language, so to try and do all that in Spanish and get them to understand it is tough.
WILSON: But what about, and I don't know what you're doing this year,but didn't you one year have your kids talking Spanish with kids like at Leestown Middle or Cardinal Valley or someplace?
BELL: Cardinal Valley, yeah.
WILSON: Cardinal Valley, okay.
BELL: Two years ago--
WILSON: So I mean you're trying to do something--
BELL: Two years ago we went to Maxwell.
BELL: Yeah, community service definitely, well to Maxwell to the Spanishimmersion two years ago, then last year I had a really successful, wildly just wonderful experience at Cardinal Valley. And it's just you know, I can't get them to return my emails or phone calls this year; I don't know why.
WILSON: Oh, it's a new principal.
BELL: Oh, it is?
BELL: Oh, it's not Perkins?01:38:00
WILSON: Oh, no maybe--
BELL: I think it still is.
WILSON: Okay, okay, no it was a new principal last year.
BELL: But I've been looking for it actually for the community servicefor my older class.
WILSON: Well so why was it wildly successful last year?
BELL: Oh, we--Now I just wanted to do it you know.
WILSON: But it was good for the kids here as well?
BELL: Good for the kids here and the kids there. The helped, thetutored mainly Latinos with their homework, and it actually ended up just gringo kids too you know. And developed relationships, did a Halloween party, but the main thing we did is that I don't even remember how I got this in my head to do it, but we did a Christmas party and I just thought, and again the me liking to get donations, 01:39:00you know, and if it's a worthwhile cause people will do it too. Because especially in this environment and Sayre and the private school environment people get asked for money all the time, but if it's something to help people who are less fortunate than them some people will ignore it but a lot of people won't. So we had the kids fill out Christmas lists to Santa Claus and they just, these are kids, you know these are young kids; these are five, six, eight and some of them came back just heartbreakers you know. You know one kid wrote that he wanted a red shirt with all the buttons.
WILSON: Oh wow.
BELL: And in their own handwriting, and when we showed it, when we gaveit to, we gave it to like the homeroom groups here and said you know 01:40:00let's fulfill these lists. Well, I mean here we sit in my room and it was full of Christmas presents at the end of this thing. I had even been sick with a kidney stone for like a week of this process.
WILSON: And they were still bringing them.
BELL: And it was just still steamrolling. I mean people were gettingbikes you know, and the kids that wanted clothes had whole outfits, like wardrobes practically you know. It ended up that there was so much stuff that we wrapped it all, you know, like a couple of the clubs here volunteered to wrap it and we had a party and one of the--Two of my students, one of them dressed as a Santa and a couple elves and had pizza donated and food donated and desserts and people baked desserts just to feed them at the party. And there were so many gifts that we ended up, we could only just give the kids like, and they got a 01:41:00stocking too full of like toothbrushes and fun toys too. So they at the party they only got the stocking and one toy, and so we were able to let the parents give these wrapped gifts, just be able to come and get them and take them home. I mean it was just you know--
WILSON: Oh, that's nice.
BELL: I mean it was kind of all downhill from there, but I mean whatare you going to do? I mean you know you can't--You know it was just something, you know it was just one of those ideas that was a good idea and I don't know why it's not working this year, but I mean I don't know. I'll just have to call them again.
WILSON: Another year?
BELL: Yeah that's right or another year or another school or something.There are always opportunities to serve.
WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps has been andwhat should its role be today? 01:42:00
BELL: Do we get to talk about "W" now?
BELL: Well he's actually--They did do the increase in the budget or wasproposed but it hasn't been, it got vetoed or never--
WILSON: They just didn't--
BELL: Well, we are spending a lot of money in other places now, aren'twe?
WILSON: That's right.
BELL: Peace Corps should be everywhere, could be, and probably should be.
WILSON: It's in Mexico now, did you know that?
BELL: Oh wow, no, I didn't know that.
WILSON: Second year.
BELL: Its goals, the three goals--Are they called goals? Are they thethree goals of Peace Corps? They are good, and I mean and that can apply to any county in the world I think. Maybe not Europe, it could 01:43:00even apply to Japan though, some of the Asian countries too, I mean China I think. Are they in China?
WILSON: Mmmhmm, and we were in Russia; we're not now.
BELL: Right, any country of course so the image is not of Tom Cruiseand this and that rap star and the golden arches everywhere so that there's actually a real U.S. citizen you know and that's one of the things I get my students with is that well everybody there are lots of Americans, but they're not just from the United States you know. But so that people from the United States can actually be there so that there's a real, so it's not all the blue jeans and globalization stuff, 01:44:00but it's a real person out there and then pretty much every Peace Corps person that you talk to does something once they get back with it, whatever it is even if they get into business they are still doing stuff to let people know that the world, and especially in the post 9/11 world, which I don't know what that means. It means one thing in the media but I think in practice it means something else.
WILSON: Which is?
BELL: Which is that yes it was terrible mainly for the people that werein New York and in the Pentagon and on the plane and their families, but what's the effect in Kentucky? It's a created effect; it's 01:45:00something that's--To me in my opinion it's something that's created by the powers that be you know a climate of fear, and fear of the rest of the world, which just isn't true. So Peace Corps' role is even more important now. We should be in Iraq when it's time and anywhere over there that's safe for a volunteer to be because well in the post 9/11 world we as U.S. citizens need to know and kids need to know that the world out there is fine! It's fine you know. People want to--They want food on their table, they want to get along with their families and 01:46:00nobody does, and in Costa Rica or Africa wherever they squabble in, and in Kentucky too and the United States. It's about family and food and a roof over their head and somehow, someway to make a living to support that you know and okay, yeah, there are still arranged marriages but lots of people want to fall in love you know out there in the world. And that's all stuff that we're doing right here in the United States, and there's obviously the government and the media are not going to help--they are not helping that situation. So who can? Well a Peace Corps volunteer can help that in their own little way. If it's with 50 Spanish students that's fine, or if it's with--Over the Christmas dinner table that's fine or whatever once they get back, but hey, okay, 01:47:00$200 billion later in Iraq, okay, so let's make the Peace Corps budget a $500 million. Okay, let's make the Peace Corps instead of the other corps, you know why not up their budget? So of course Peace Corps, the work of Peace Corps will never be done. I mean the work of peace is more important now, well that's always important, especially I mean for the next three years.
[End of interview.]