Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Kristen H. Perry, December 10, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Growing up and influences that led to Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: --I am interviewing Kristen Perry, uh, for the oral history, uh, project of returned Peace Corps volunteers.

Segment Synopsis: Perry discusses her childhood and what led her to enrolling in the Peace Corps. She was born in Nebraska and began getting interested in the Peace Corps in middle school. Her experiences with hosting a German exchange student and a Japanese exchange student as well as her avid reading helped her broaden her view of the world. She studied abroad at Oxford in college, which also influenced her decision to join the Peace Corps. She applied for Peace Corps after college. Because of her medical issues, the Peace Corps wanted her to go to a sunny, warm place without malaria and she chose Lesotho.

Keywords: Exchange students; Foreign exchange students

Subjects: Education.; Lesotho; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Lesotho.; Peace Corps (U.S.). Africa Region; Reading.; Student exchange programs.; Teaching.; University of Oxford; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Lesotho
Map Coordinates: -29.6, 28.3
GPS: University of Oxford
Map Coordinates: 51.755, -1.255
00:06:43 - Training and cultural differences in Lesotho

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Partial Transcript: Um, okay, so you went to Lesotho and trained there and what was training like?

Segment Synopsis: Perry discusses her training in Lesotho. She trained in Roma where the university was; they stayed in dorm rooms in the conference center of the seminary. She had about three weeks of village training with homestay and extensive language training. She lived with a member of the royal family. She discusses some cultural differences, including the importance of singing and dancing, ritualized greeting, and the differences in the concept of being on time. She mentions the frequent sexual harassment and having to get used to different gender roles. She also had trouble adjusting to seeing corporal punishment being used on students. She describes her living situation, which was right next to the South African border and describes the food. The village was a Unesco Solar Village trial site. The village she lived in was called Liphiring and the town was Mohale's Hoek, where she did the shopping. She describes the climate and the high altitude.

Keywords: Cultural differences; Dances; Dancing; Greeting; Liphiring; Peach trees; Unesco solar village trial sites

Subjects: Bars (Drinking establishments); Corn; Corporal punishment.; Culture shock.; Dance.; Introductions; Lesotho; Misogyny.; Mohale's Hoek District (Lesotho); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Lesotho.; Peace Corps (U.S.). Africa Region; Peach--Varieties; Punctuality; Roma (Lesotho); Sexism.; Sexual harassment.; Singing.; Training.

GPS: Lesotho
Map Coordinates: -29.6, 28.3
GPS: Roma (Lesotho)
Map Coordinates: -29.446667, 27.708056
GPS: Mohale's Hoek District (Lesotho)
Map Coordinates: -30.166667, 27.666667
00:26:11 - Perry's work in Lesotho / Recreation in Lesotho

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Partial Transcript: So talk a little bit about your job.

Segment Synopsis: Perry states that she was a primary resource teacher, which meant she didn't teach a class of her own, but would visit the primary school in her village and the one in a nearby village and do teacher training. She created an after school English club. Her secondary project was HIV/AIDS education. She helped train some girls to be peer educators. She discusses the difficulties and successes in trying to help the teachers. One success involved the teachers' idea to paint the alphabet on the wall. She describes her relationships with her counterpart and other people in the village. She also describes a typical day, including her ritual in the evening of making dinner, listening to a classical music radio program, writing in her journal or writing letters, and doing a crossword puzzle.

Keywords: Journaling; Journals; Peer education; Peer educators; Teacher training

Subjects: AIDS (Disease); AIDS (Disease)--Africa--Prevention; AIDS (Disease)--Africa.; AIDS (Disease)--Developing countries; AIDS (Disease)--Lesotho.; Art music.; Class size; Community relations; Cooking.; Crossword puzzles.; Diaries--Authorship.; Education, Elementary.; Education.; Effective teaching.; Elementary school teaching.; Hobbies.; Leisure.; Peer teaching.; Radio programs.; Radio.; Recreation.; School supervision, Elementary.; Schools; Students.; Teachers--Training of.; Teaching.; Training.; Women--Employment.

GPS: Lesotho
Map Coordinates: -29.6, 28.3
00:45:02 - Memorable experiences in Lesotho

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Partial Transcript: Okay, um, tell us a couple of, um, good stories.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks Perry to tell a couple of memorable stories. The first story involves an adventure about a year after she arrived in Lesotho. She had made friends with a woman who sold sausages next to where the bus came. The friend invited her to visit her family far away, through a storm, and Perry describes the experience. The second story involves a problem with living near the South African border. One time the South African military showed up and demanded that she talk to them, harassing her about illegal activities. Perry's counterpart and Peace Corps were concerned and got involved. The last story starts with her walking home from the school five miles away in the summer. She was fantasizing about an orange when a car drove up with some teachers and one gives her an orange. She also talks about her experience being overseas when 9/11 happened. She was in the school, painting maps, listening to the radio when the news came. Everyone was concerned about her. She eventually went to the bigger town to be around other volunteers. Perry mentions having the experience of seeing how the world viewed the U.S. squandering their good will with its response to 9/11.

Keywords: 9/11 terrorist attacks; 9/11/2001; South Africa military; South African border; South African military

Subjects: Afghan War, 2001-; Bush, George W. (George Walker), 1946-; Climate.; Lesotho; Mohale's Hoek District (Lesotho); Oranges; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Lesotho.; Peace Corps (U.S.). Africa Region; Police misconduct.; Police-community relations.; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.; South Africa.; South Africa. National Defense Force; Street food; Street vendors; Street-food vendors; Summer.; War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.

GPS: Lesotho
Map Coordinates: -29.6, 28.3
GPS: Mohale's Hoek District (Lesotho)
Map Coordinates: -30.166667, 27.666667
GPS: South Africa
Map Coordinates: -30, 25
01:00:26 - Perry's return to the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: So you came back and, um, went on to graduate school. Had you decided already that that's what you were going to do?

Segment Synopsis: Perry discusses her return to the U.S. She wanted to go to graduate school and had trouble studying for the GRE while in Africa because the GRE was newly electronic. She wanted to go to a school that was highly rated in educational psychology. She tutored Sudanese Lost Boys for part of the time before grad school, which led to her doing research on this group for her degree. She went straight into a PhD program in educational psychology. Her program was called learning, technology, and culture. Her research began when the woman who became her advisor heard about her work with the Sudanese Lost Boys and had a project related to the different ways that different cultural communities use literacy in their everyday lives. This project morphed into her practicum. Her dissertation was on literacy brokering with Sudanese families. Perry discusses some of the cultural differences and problems in literacy in Sudan versus U.S. She came to University of Kentucky as a professor in the College of Education after her dissertation.

Keywords: GRE; GRE examinations; GRE exams; GRE tests; Literacy brokering; Lost Boys of Sudan; Sudanese Lost Boys

Subjects: Arabic language.; Education, Higher.; Education--Study and teaching; Education.; Educational psychology.; Graduate Record Examination.; Intercultural communication in education; International education.; Language and education.; Literacy--Developing countries; Literacy.; Sudan.; Teaching.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky. College of Education; University of Michigan. Graduate School; Women in education.; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: University of Michigan
Map Coordinates: 42.276944, -83.738056
GPS: Sudan
Map Coordinates: 15, 32
GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
01:17:10 - Impact of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Okay, let's do, uh, some of these impact questions, which you've really already begun to, to talk about, certainly in terms of your, uh, career.

Segment Synopsis: Perry discusses her impact on her village in Lesotho, which she considers happened on a micro level. She mentions fostering relationships and increasing understanding of American people. She thinks the HIV/AIDS program was helpful in getting people to talk about the problem. Perry says the impact of the Peace Corps on her was that it changed her life and helped her figure out what she wanted to do with her education and career. She says she became more patient and tolerant and able to examine multiple perspectives. She thinks people going into the Peace Corps should reframe their belief that Americans are better and know what's best. She believes in the goal of the Peace Corps for cultural understanding both ways between Americans and the rest of the world. She agrees with Barack Obama that the U.S. should double the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Cultural understanding

Subjects: AIDS (Disease); AIDS (Disease)--Africa--Prevention; AIDS (Disease)--Africa.; AIDS (Disease)--Developing countries; AIDS (Disease)--Lesotho.; Cognition and culture.; Communication and culture.; Cross-cultural studies.; Cultural awareness.; Cultural pluralism.; Intercultural communication.; Language and culture.; Lesotho; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Lesotho.; Peace Corps (U.S.). Africa Region; Stereotypes (Social psychology); Teachers--Training of.; Training.

GPS: Lesotho
Map Coordinates: -29.6, 28.3