Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Marianna Colten, January 27, 2006

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Personal background / Peace Corps recruitment, application, and selection

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Partial Transcript: Peace Corps Oral History Project interview January 27th, 2006 with Marianna Colten, Jack Wilson recording. Marianna, if you would please, uh, give me your full name and where and when you were born.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Colten about her personal background, including her family, education, and other personal details. Colten replies by discussing her Catholic upbringing in Niles, Michigan and her college education at Holy Cross Junior College in South Bend, Indiana and at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Colten adds that she majored in elementary education and learning disabilities, K-12. Wilson asks Colten about what she did after graduating from college. Colten discusses how she first encountered the Peace Corps through recruiters she met on her college campus. She talks about how it was a good opportunity to satisfy her desire to travel to different parts of the world. Wilson asks Colten about the Peace Corps application process. Colten replies that it seemed like it took forever to receive a reply to her application and describes why the process seemed to take so long. Colten explains that she didn't have a preference for where she would be sent because she hadn't studied a foreign language at that point and her interest in special education probably limited her to certain countries anyways. Wilson asks Colten how she was notified of her selection by the Peace Corps. Colten responds that she was notified towards the end of her senior year in college and traveled to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia for the selection process after graduation. She clarifies that all the volunteers already were aware that they would be going to Ecuador before the selection process was over. Colten mentions that she met her husband at Harper's Ferry during this process. Colten discusses why certain people got deselected by the Peace Corps during this period.

Keywords: Ecuador; Education; Family life; Harper's Ferry (W. Va.); Niles (Mich.); Peace Corps; Peace Corps application; Peace Corps assignment; Peace Corps recruitment; Peace Corps selection; Peace Corps volunteers; Special education teachers; Upbringing

Subjects: Colten, Marianna; Colten, Marianna--Interviews; Ecuador; Education.; Family life.; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Special education.

00:10:06 - Peace Corps training / Special needs education / Creating a kindergarten

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so at the end of that--

Segment Synopsis: Colten explains that the volunteers who were not deselected then had to get their vaccines and pack their bags before leaving for Ecuador. Wilson asks Colten if the next step in the process was in-country training. Colten replies that it was and that it lasted for a period of three months. Wilson asks Colten what the training was like for her. Colten states that the training was a bit challenging for her because she hadn't previously had foreign language classes at that point, however, she adds that this was an enjoyable experience for her despite it being mentally taxing. Wilson asks Colten about other components to the training she went through. Colten describes the survival training that many volunteers did to try and integrate themselves into their new surroundings where they practiced asking people for things, making their own hotel reservations, etc. Colten adds that she did not do much of this training herself because of an illness that she had at that time. Colten describes the cultural training she went through as consisting of learning about the proper behavior and attitudes one should have in Ecuadorean culture. Wilson asks Colten if she had to undergo a language test at the end of her training. Colten replies that the volunteers had periodical language aptitude tests where they either passed or failed, mentioning that this caused some to be deselected. Wilson asks Colten if she was assigned to a particular community after this. Colten responds that she was assigned to a small village outside of Cuenca, Ecuador after her training was over. She describes the village as being fairly cut off from some of the more metropolitan services of a city. Wilson asks Colten about what her job was in the village. Colten explains that she was originally assigned to work with kids with special needs, but the village school was small and didn't have a program for these kids. She found that her assignment evolved into her trying to create a program for kids with special needs, but she wanted to create something that would last even after she left for home. Colten describes how she worked with local parents to establish a kindergarten where children with special needs could be identified early so that they could avoid more learning issues in the future. Colten talks about the cultural stigma children with special needs face in Ecuador.

Keywords: Cultural training; Ecuador; Education; Kindergartens; Language learning; Language training; Peace Corps; Peace Corps assignments; Peace Corps training; Peace Corps volunteers; Special needs education

Subjects: Colten, Marianna; Colten, Marianna--Interviews; Ecuador.; Education.; Language transfer (Language learning); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Special education.; Training.

00:22:41 - Living situation / Acclimation difficulties and preparedness / Daily routine

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Partial Transcript: What was your living situation like?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Colten about her living situation while on assignment. Colten describes her living conditions by talking about a weekend she spent living with a family in the village during the training. She explains that she ended up living with the same nurse and family after coming back from training since they got along so well. Wilson asks Colten if she cooked for herself or if the nurse did. Colten responds that she sometimes cooked for herself and cooked with the nurse other times, adding that she did her own laundry as well. She mentions how she stopped having someone else do her laundry because the villagers thought she paid the person too much in comparison to what they paid her. Wilson asks Colten about what was most difficult to become acclimated to. Colten responds that some of it was her language because, due to her lack of proficiency, some people thought she wasn't intelligent when she arrived in the village. She states that the neighborhood children helped her get better at the language a lot since they were patient with her. Wilson asks Colten what she thinks she was best prepared for. Colten answers that she thinks she was prepared to accept other people for who they are because of her special education training and coming from a large family. Colten also thinks that being Catholic helped her integrate into the largely Catholic community she was in. Wilson asks Colten what a typical day would consist of for her in the village. Colten begins by describing the breakfast she had with the mother and daughter she lived with and then talks about walking to school with the daughter where she would watch the kids during recess, talk with them, and talk to a man who came to tell stories and sell things.

Keywords: Catholic communities; Catholics; Daily routines; Diet; Divorcees; Ecuador; Housing; Language proficiency; Life styles; Living accommodations; Peace Corps; Peace Corps volunteers; Recess; Routines; Schools

Subjects: Catholics.; Colten, Marianna; Colten, Marianna--Interviews; Diet.; Ecuador.; Education.; Housing.; Language transfer (Language learning); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Special education.

00:31:00 - Recreation and travel / Communication / Peace Corps memories

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Partial Transcript: What about recreation?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Colten about the recreational activities she did while on assignment. Colten talks about playing volleyball, knitting, and relaxing socially with people. Wilson asks Colten if she had access to books. Colten replies that she read when she had candlelight and that she had some books she took and traded for when on visits to Cuenca, Ecuador. Colten mentions that there were a lot of Peace Corps volunteers in the country, along with missionaries whose houses she occasionally visited. Wilson asks Colten if she traveled around the country while she was there or traveled elsewhere during holidays. Colten responds that she traveled to some of her favorite places, specifically discussing her trip to the Galapagos Islands. Colten also talks about visiting to the island of San Lorenzo, the home of an old African American community. Colten mentions that her housemate and other villagers didn't believe her about the islands being part of Ecuador since they hadn't traveled much themselves. Wilson asks about the education Colten's housemate would have received as a nurse. Colten describes her housemate as an amazing person and talks about how she went on to obtain her PhD in psychology. Wilson asks Colten if she had anyone she could call her counterpart in the village. Colten replies that there was a teacher there who she would consider her counterpart and describes making Mother's Day cards with kids at the school the teacher taught at. Wilson asks Colten about interactions she had with other Americans in Ecuador. Colten responds that, other than the missionaries she previously mentioned, she met some people who ran a small health food store in Cuenca, and met lots of people when she went to place phone calls. She explains that you had to wait in line to make phone calls so she met lots of people, mentioning there were lots of Mormons. Wilson asks Colten about what other forms of communication she used. Colten states that she wrote letters to her future husband every day and that he eventually came and visited her a year after she began her assignment. Wilson and Colten talk about how much communication access has changed since her assignment. Wilson asks Colten if she has any particular stories she'd like to tell. Colten describes the Christmas in Ecuador when her future husband visited to her and proposed to her.

Keywords: Books; Communication; Communications; Cuenca, Ecuador; Ecuador; Galapagos Islands; Housemates; Knitting; Letter writing; Missionaries; Peace Corps; Peace Corps anecdotes; Peace Corps narratives; Peace Corps volunteers; Phone calls; Reading; Recreation; San Lorenzo Island, Ecuador; Social interactions; Social interactions with Americans; Travel; Volleyball

Subjects: Colten, Marianna; Colten, Marianna--Interviews; Communication.; Ecuador.; Education.; Galapagos Islands--Description and travel.; Missionaries.; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Anecdotes; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Reading.; Recreation & travel; Special education.

00:43:39 - Return to the U.S. / Peace Corps' impact on self, Ecuador, and the world

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Partial Transcript: Side two of interview with Marianna Colten, January 27th, 2006. So, your two years was up in--?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson asks Colten if she came straight home from Ecuador or traveled some. Colten explains that she went home since she had been proposed to and was ready to see her then-fiancé again, but that she would have probably traveled more before coming back otherwise. Wilson asks Colten what it was like coming home. Colten states that it was kind of scary because she was excited to see her friends and family, but she had changed a lot and knew that things would not be the same with certain people. Wilson asks Colten what was difficult about her return. Colten responds that trying to fit in again or maybe not wanting to fit in anymore was the most difficult. Wilson asks Colten about what she thinks the impact of her service was on Ecuador and/or her community there. Colten replies that she doesn't think she had a tremendous impact, but that maybe she did good work as a goodwill ambassador improving the opinions of Ecuadorians about Americans. She also thinks that she might have had an impact on the lives of her students and friends in Ecuador. Wilson mentions that Colten had said the kindergarten she helped start was still continuing operations. Colten states that, although that was a good impact, she believes that a kindergarten would have been formed eventually with or without her, but it just happened a little faster because she and local people decided to make it happen. Wilson asks Colten about the impact her experience had on her personally. Colten responds that it had a tremendous impact because she has since become a Spanish teacher. She states she would have never done that if it hadn't been for her time in the Peace Corps. She details what an impact her experience has been on her career. Wilson asks Colten if she is still in contact with people she met in Ecuador or in the Peace Corps. Colten replies that she still writes to her family in Ecuador and still maintains contact with volunteers she knew through emails, letters, and visits if they live in the same state. Colten mentions meeting a previous volunteer through a Peace Corps group who she hadn't known as a volunteer. Wilson asks Colten what impact she thinks her Peace Corps experience has had on her family. Colten states that her parents were shocked when she initially had decided to join the Peace Corps, but that they, along with her siblings, were proud of her when she returned. Wilson and Colten talk about what Colten is currently doing in her life as a Spanish teacher and otherwise. Wilson asks Colten what she thinks the impact of the Peace Corps has been on the world and what its role in the future should be. Colten thinks that the main impact of the Peace Corps has been about building bridges between people and cultures. Colten thinks that the Peace Corps should be encouraged more as a possibility for kids graduating from high school and college.

Keywords: Communication; Contacts; Ecuador; Life changing experiences; Peace Corps; Peace Corps impacts; Peace Corps role; Peace Corps volunteers; Personal impacts; Reacclimation; Reintegration; Spanish teachers

Subjects: Colten, Marianna; Colten, Marianna--Interviews; Communication.; Ecuador.; Education.; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Spanish teachers