Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Abby Gorton, April 5, 2006

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Education and travel experience

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Partial Transcript: --son, and I am interviewing Abby Gorton on, uh, April 5th for the Peace Corps Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Gorton was born at Fort Benning, Georgia. She lists several factors from her childhood that influenced her decision to apply for the Peace Corps, including her father's time in the army, her parents' love of travel, and their hosting of international students. She discusses her international experiences in Argentina and Chile. She attended the University of Kentucky and majored in Latin American Studies and Political Science. She moved to China after college and describes this experience. She compares her experiences between Latin America and China. She then attended the Patterson School of Diplomacy for graduate school and describes this experience.

Keywords: "Untouchables"; International students; Study abroad; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language

Subjects: Argentina; Chile.; China.; Cross cultural communication; Cultural awareness.; Dalits.; Diplomacy.; Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Foreign study.; Fort Benning (Ga.); India.; Intercultural communication.; Jinan (Shandong Sheng, China); Jinzhou (Liaoning Sheng, China); Learning and scholarship.; Learning.; Schools.; Students, Foreign.; Students.; Substitute teaching; Teaching.; Travel.; United States. Army.; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Fort Benning (Ga.)
Map Coordinates: 32.366111, -84.969167
GPS: India
Map Coordinates: 21, 78
GPS: China
Map Coordinates: 35, 103
GPS: Argentina
Map Coordinates: -34, -64
GPS: Chile
Map Coordinates: -34, -71
GPS: Jinan (Shandong Sheng, China)
Map Coordinates: 36.6702, 117.0207
GPS: Jinzhou (Liaoning Sheng, China)
Map Coordinates: 41.129, 121.148
00:17:09 - Peace Corps training

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Partial Transcript: And then?

Segment Synopsis: Gorton applied for Peace Corps after graduate school. She states that it was always something she wanted to do. She thinks Peace Corps provides local, grassroots experience that changes lives. She describes the process of applying for Peace Corps. Gorton went to Washington, D.C. for staging for a few days. There were three programs for Jordan: Special Education, ESL, and Youth and Community Development, and the group was a mixture of people destined for all three. Training took place in Jordan for ten weeks and they stayed with host families. A typical day of training involved Arabic language class in the morning and more class in the evening, either more language training or culture training. She describes the experiences with the host families. They ended the training with a practicum that consisted of teaching English during an unofficial summer camp. Gorton describes some specifics of how the culture differed in Jordan compared to the U.S. She describes the security training they received.

Keywords: Cross cultural training; Cultural differences; Cultural diversity; Cultural training; Host families; Security; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language; Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Subjects: Arabic language; Community development.; Cross cultural communication; Cultural pluralism.; Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Jordan; Middle East; Occupational training.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Jordan; Practicums.; Safety measures; Special education.; Teaching.; Test of English as a Foreign Language.; Training; Washington (D.C.); Women--Employment.; Youth development.

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.904722, -77.016389
GPS: Jordan
Map Coordinates: 31.24, 36.51
00:43:59 - Gender roles and cultural differences in Jordan compared to the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: So you all had cell phones?

Segment Synopsis: Gorton discusses the use of cell phones and computers during her time in Peace Corps, as well as the bombings in Oman. She would go to Irbid to use the internet cafes and shop. She discusses how she used her living, housing, and travel allowances. She describes some cultural differences, including a mishap that happened with the host father that could have affected the family's reputation in the community. The main cultural issue was the relationship dynamic between men and women. Another specific example of a cultural mishap was one of the family's brothers who was mentally ill and behaved inappropriately around her. She describes the differences in male-female interactions compared to the U.S. and describes how men and women were supposed to behave.

Keywords: Cultural differences; Cultural dynamics; Cultural roles; Cusa; Dawali; Gender dynamics; Gender norms; Gender roles; Interactions between men and women; Internet cafes; Mansaf; Relationships between men and women; Saddam Hussein; Social interactions; Social roles; Social rules; Victim blaming

Subjects: Arab-Israeli conflict.; Arabic language; Basic income.; Blaming the victim; Bombings.; Buses; Cell phones.; Civil service.; Computers.; Cooking.; Cross cultural communication; Cultural pluralism.; Cybercafes; English language.; Farmers.; Food habits.; Food.; Friendship.; Gender and culture; Gender and society; Gender politics, global issues; Gender, society & development; Gender.; Government employees; Haiti; Herders; Hussein, Saddam, 1937-2006.; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Iraq.; Irbid (Jordan); Israel/Palestine; Jordan; Lifestyles.; Local transit; Man-woman relationships.; Manners and customs; Middle East--Politics and government.; Oman.; Oppression; Palestine; Patriarchy.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Jordan; Public opinion.; Ramadan; Rape culture; Rape.; Reputation.; Shame.; Social interaction.; Social norms.; Soldiers.; Syria.; Teachers.; United Nations.; Women--Employment.

GPS: Irbid (Jordan)
Map Coordinates: 32.55, 35.85
GPS: Oman
Map Coordinates: 21, 57
GPS: Palestine
Map Coordinates: 32, 35.25
GPS: Syria
Map Coordinates: 35, 38
GPS: Iraq
Map Coordinates: 33, 44
GPS: Haiti
Map Coordinates: 19, -72.416667
GPS: Jordan
Map Coordinates: 31.24, 36.51
01:23:05 - Living conditions and daily life

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Partial Transcript: Um, let me go back for a moment because we haven't really talked about either your, uh--where you lived and what your living conditions were like, uh, or your actual Peace Corps job.

Segment Synopsis: Gorton describes the house she lived in during her time in Peace Corps, which was shared with another family in the front part. She walked to school but wasn't allowed to go for walks or go in stores in the village. She describes drinking tea and coffee as a social custom. She describes a typical day. She awoke at around 6:30 and listened to BBC radio, then ate oatmeal or had coffee with neighbors. They had morning assembly before class started. She taught English for 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades and a remedial class for 1st grade. She talks about the negative aspects of her teaching experience, including a lack of routine and organization, the inappropriateness of the required teaching materials, and the use of corporal punishment.

Keywords: English as a foreign language; English as a second language; Journaling; Journals; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language

Subjects: BBC Radio; Bathing customs; Baths.; Buses; Classroom management.; Coffee.; Corporal punishment; Corporal punishment of children.; Cross cultural communication; Cybercafes; Diaries--Authorship.; Discipline.; Drinking water.; Education.; Elementary school teachers.; Elementary school teaching.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Food habits.; Friendship.; Hobbies.; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Jordan; Leisure.; Lifestyles.; Local transit; Manners and customs; Oatmeal; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Jordan; Radio.; Recreation.; School discipline.; Social interaction.; Tea.; Teachers.; Teaching.; Television.; Violence.; Walking.; Well water; Women--Employment.

GPS: Jordan
Map Coordinates: 31.24, 36.51
01:49:35 - Memorable stories during Peace Corps / Returning home and impact of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: You've told a lot of, uh--a lot about the culture I think, um, Abby, and that's, that's nice and, and helpful to know. Are there any particularly memorable stories from your Peace Corps service that you want to tell that you haven't had a chance to tell?

Segment Synopsis: Gorton tells stories about her experience with picking olives, her attendance at various weddings, and fasting during Ramadan. She discusses how the day is built around prayer times and the various reasons women veil. She tells a story of the one time she tried to wear a hijab. She discusses the reasons she decided to return home, including the restrictions placed on women in the culture. Gorton states that one of the impacts of her time in Peace Corps was creating personal relationships with people in Jordan, including acknowledging students who felt ignored. She states that the situation for women was worse than she had imagined. She states that she is currently working on her mother's campaign and is also working at a public relations firm part time and is thinking about what she wants to do with her career in the future. She thinks the culture she experienced was very inflexible and did not allow for compromise.

Keywords: Cultural differences; Cultural dynamics; Cultural roles; Gender dynamics; Gender norms; Gender roles; Interactions between men and women; Olive trees; Relationships between men and women; Social interactions; Social roles; Social rules

Subjects: Abuse; Cross cultural communication; Friendship.; Gender and culture; Gender and society; Gender politics, global issues; Gender, society & development; Hijab (Islamic clothing); Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Islam.; Jordan; Lifestyles.; Man-woman relationships.; Manners and customs; Middle East--Politics and government.; Misogyny.; Olive.; Oppression; Patriarchy.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Jordan; Prayer.; Prayers.; Ramadan; Rape culture; Rape.; Salah.; Salat; Sexism.; Shame.; Social interaction.; Social norms; Violence.; Weddings.; Women--Employment.

GPS: Jordan
Map Coordinates: 31.24, 36.51