Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Benjamin T. Worthington, November 9, 2006

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Education and Peace Corps training

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Partial Transcript: --interview November 9, 2006 with Ben Worthington.

Segment Synopsis: Worthington was born in Portland, Oregon. He went to college at Washington State University and graduated with a degree in Forestry. He applied to the Peace Corps partly to increase his chances of getting a job afterwards. He was accepted into the Peace Corps for Costa Rica as part of a group of ten foresters. His training was in San Jose and involved Spanish language and tropical forestry training. He mentions there was a certain level of attrition throughout the entire process of being involved in Peace Corps.

Keywords: Forestry; Tropical forestry

Subjects: Costa Rica; Education, Higher.; Employee retention.; Exotic forestry; Exotic forests; Forests and forestry.; Occupational training.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Portland (Or.); San José (Costa Rica); Spanish language.; Spanish-speaking countries; Teaching.; Training; Washington State University

GPS: Washington State University
Map Coordinates: 46.73, -117.16
GPS: Portland (Or.)
Map Coordinates: 45.52, -122.681944
GPS: San José (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 9.933333, -84.083333
GPS: Costa Rica
Map Coordinates: 10, -84
00:09:17 - Living experience in Costa Rica

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Partial Transcript: So, at the end of, uh, that, I guess, ten week period anyway, in, uh, January, uh, you, you went to a particular--they had selected certain, certain jobs.

Segment Synopsis: Worthington was assigned his job midway through training. He was selected to work for ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) and was left on his own to figure out what to do. He describes the three big communities in the central valley (San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia) and his experiences with finding a place to live with host families. His last family was used to hosting people who didn't know the language and treated him like part of the family. He describes his experience with traveling and the smell of the city in comparison to the U.S. When he started his job with the electric company, he lived in a low income community in the suburbs and took the bus downtown. He describes the local food and general living conditions with his host families.

Keywords: Cold showers; Costa Rican Institute of Electricity; Highways; Living conditions; Running water; Standard of living

Subjects: Alajuela (Costa Rica); Automobiles--Motors (Diesel)--Exhaust gas; Bathing customs; Beans.; Begging; Buses; Cost and standard of living.; Costa Rica; Culture shock.; Eggs.; Electricity.; Food habits.; Food.; Fruit.; Heredia (Costa Rica); Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad; Local transit; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Rice.; Roads.; Running water; San José (Costa Rica); Suburbs

GPS: Costa Rica
Map Coordinates: 10, -84
GPS: Alajuela (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 10.566667, -84.6
GPS: Heredia (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 9.996389, -84.116667
GPS: San José (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 9.933333, -84.083333
00:24:59 - Peace Corps job and daily life

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Partial Transcript: Uh--(clears throat)--so, anyway, you, you, uh, started your job. Why don't, uh, if you would, uh, sort of describe that, uh, for me?

Segment Synopsis: Worthington describes his experience with his Peace Corps job. Worthington states that Costa Rica is relatively young geologically and has large differences in elevation from its lowest to highest points. He had to look at the problem of siltation coming into the reservoirs. He looked at how much water was evaporating because of the water hyacinths. He also did a study with water hyacinths on the pine plantation and measured the height growth on the trees versus a control without water hyacinths. Half of the reservoir was coffee plantations, which had a lot of herbicides and fertilizers that came down into the reservoirs and caused the water hyacinths to grow. He describes a typical day, starting with the church bells ringing at 6 o'clock. He took an hour bus ride to get to work. Sometimes he would go into the field, which would take at least an hour. He would eat lunch in the field. He would then make the trip back in and do paperwork at the office. After he moved out from his host family's house, he moved to Heredia and states that there were five movie theaters and he went to the four of them that showed the new movies. He also states that he traveled and climbed volcanoes for recreation.

Keywords: Catholicism; Elevation; Forestry; Geographical elevation; Movie theaters; Movies; Paperwork; Pine plantations; Pine tree plantations; Pine trees; Sans; Siltation

Subjects: Alajuela (Costa Rica); Altitude; Buses; Catholic Church.; Church buildings.; Coffee plantations; Costa Rica; Daily life; Evaporation; Experiments.; Fertilizers.; Forests and forestry.; Herbicides.; Heredia (Costa Rica); Hobbies.; Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad; Leisure.; Local transit; Motion picture theaters.; Motion pictures.; Paperwork (Office practice); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Pine.; Recreation.; Reservoirs.; San José (Costa Rica); Travel.; Volcanoes.; Water hyacinth; Water--Pollution.

GPS: Costa Rica
Map Coordinates: 10, -84
GPS: Alajuela (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 10.566667, -84.6
GPS: Heredia (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 9.996389, -84.116667
GPS: San José (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 9.933333, -84.083333
00:43:39 - Interactions with locals in Costa Rica

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Partial Transcript: Uh, about your, uh, your interactions with, uh, host country nationals.

Segment Synopsis: Worthington states that he worked directly for a local Costa Rican and he spoke in Spanish with the people he worked with. In Costa Rica, there was a special category of citizenship for retirees to encourage people to come there with their retirement money. There were a lot of Americans taking advantage of the exchange rate and special income taxes. Worthington states there was a strong middle class compared to poorer countries. He went to see the Quaker community in Monteverde. His main interactions were with Costa Ricans and Peace Corps volunteers.

Keywords: Living conditions; Monteverde (Costa Rica); Running water

Subjects: Americans; Central America.; Cooking.; Costa Rica; Foreign exchange rates.; Friendship; Income tax; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Middle class.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Quakers.; Retirees; Social interaction.; Spanish language.; Travel.

GPS: Costa Rica
Map Coordinates: 10, -84
GPS: Monteverde (Costa Rica)
Map Coordinates: 10.314256, -84.825022
00:50:55 - Return to U.S. / Impact of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Tell me something, uh, about what it was like, uh, coming back to the U.S.

Segment Synopsis: Worthington began applying for jobs to work for the forest service in the U.S. before he left the Peace Corps. He describes some of his culture shock at returning to the U.S. He was boggled by the ease of shopping and the cultural differences in using the bus, as well as the faster pace of life in the U.S. He describes some of the impact of U.S. intervention in Costa Rica, stating that the older generation liked Americans and younger people would be more antagonistic. He specifically mentions the benefit of the Pan American Highway and the negative view of the Dole Food Company. One impact of the Peace Corps on him was his ability to get a job in the forest service immediately after his service. It also broadened his horizons as well as showing him the similarities between different cultures.

Keywords: Cultural differences; Pace of life; United States Forest Service

Subjects: Buses; Costa Rica; Cultural awareness.; Culture shock.; Dole Food Company; Friendship; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Nicaragua; Pan American Highway System.; Panama.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Shopping.; Social interaction.; United States. Forest Service.; Work.

GPS: Costa Rica
Map Coordinates: 10, -84
GPS: Nicaragua
Map Coordinates: 13.133333, -85.116667
GPS: Panama
Map Coordinates: 9, -80
01:05:12 - Career and life after Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Um, so you came back, you joined the Forest Service. Uh, for our records here, what have you done since Peace Corps? How did you get to Kentucky from, uh, Washington?

Segment Synopsis: Worthington worked at several national forests in the Pacific Northwest and then became a line officer and district ranger for different districts in the northwest. He moved to Wyoming to work for the Bridger-Teton National Forest and then came to Kentucky as the forest supervisor at the Daniel Boone National Forest. At the time of the interview, he had just started a durable medical equipment company. In 1997, he went to Europe (Paris, Venice, and Switzerland) but otherwise hasn't really traveled. His wife is a nurse and that influenced his decision to start the durable medical equipment company that services central and eastern Kentucky. He states that he had an affinity for the Costa Rican people but was happy to come home and live in the U.S. He thinks the citizen to citizen contact that the Peace Corps provides is important. He also thinks the Peace Corps provides personal development and life direction.

Keywords: Bridger Teton National Forest; Central Kentucky; District Rangers; Durable medical equipment; Eastern Kentucky; Forest supervisors; Line officers; Motivation; National forests; Personal growth; Rangers

Subjects: Bridger-Teton National Forest (Wyo.); Businesspeople.; Costa Rica; Daniel Boone National Forest (Agency : U.S.); Daniel Boone National Forest (Ky.); Europe.; Forest reserves; Kentucky.; Maturation (Psychology); Northwest, Pacific.; Nurses.; Occupations.; Olympic National Park (Agency : U.S.); Olympic National Park (Wash.); Paris (France); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Costa Rica.; Personality and motivation.; Port Angeles (Wash.); Self-actualization (Psychology); Success.; Switzerland; Travel.; Venice (Italy); Work.; Wyoming.

GPS: Bridger-Teton National Forest (Wyo.)
Map Coordinates: 43.433333, -110.683333
GPS: Wyoming
Map Coordinates: 43, -107.5
GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85
GPS: Daniel Boone National Forest (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.288056, -83.875278
GPS: Olympic National Park (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.96935, -123.49856
GPS: Port Angeles (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 48.113056, -123.440833
GPS: Venice (Italy)
Map Coordinates: 45.4375, 12.335833
GPS: Paris (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.856613, 2.352222
GPS: Switzerland
Map Coordinates: 46.833333, 8.333333
GPS: Costa Rica
Map Coordinates: 10, -84