Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Blake Stabler, November 19, 2008

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Early life, education, and applying for Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Peace Corps Oral History Project interview, November 19, 2008, with Blake Stabler, volunteer in Russia.

Segment Synopsis: Stabler was born in Atlanta, Georgia and moved around a lot when he was younger. He spent the later half of his childhood in Easley, South Carolina. He went to college in Atlanta as a history major and philosophy minor and went to Peace Corps immediately after graduating. One of his influences for applying for Peace Corps was his volunteer work at a center for immigrants. He describes some of his other volunteer and work experiences as well as the process of applying for Peace Corps. He had had no previous international experience, except for traveling to the United Kingdom. He was invited to go to Western Russia with Peace Corps.

Keywords: File clerks; Law firms; Legal file clerks

Subjects: Alpha Phi Omega; Archives.; Atlanta (Ga.); Atlanta History Center; Clerks.; Easley (S.C.); Education, Higher.; Georgia Humanities Council; Greek letter societies.; History.; Immigrants.; Internship programs.; Latin language; Lawyers.; Libraries.; Malnutrition.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Russia.; Philosophy.; Russia.; Schools.; Soup kitchens; Voluntarism.; Volunteer; Volunteers.

GPS: Atlanta (Ga.)
Map Coordinates: 33.755, -84.39
GPS: Easley (S.C.)
Map Coordinates: 34.823333, -82.590278
GPS: Russia
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
00:14:31 - Arriving in Russia and Peace Corps training

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Partial Transcript: Um--(clears throat)--so you reported for some kind of staging--

Segment Synopsis: Stabler attended a staging in Washington, D.C. for Peace Corps. The program for Russia started in the 1990s as a business development program and evolved to an English as a second language (ESL) program. The training was in a town an hour from Moscow called Zelenograd. He describes the host family he lived with. They had language training in the morning and training on teaching English, Russian culture (including how to cook foods he hadn't seen before), and self-defense in the afternoon. He describes this training and his perception of Moscow. He ended up in a rural village in the Penza Region, assigned to a specific school.

Keywords: Cereals; English as a foreign language; English as a second language; Food safety; Foodborne illnesses; Grains; Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology; Penza Region (Russia); Russian alphabet; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language

Subjects: Alphabets.; Audio-lingual method (Language teaching); Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Food habits.; Food safety and technology; Food.; Foodborne diseases.; Grain.; Language learning and language teaching; Local transit; Moscow (Russia); Moskovskiĭ fiziko-tekhnicheskiĭ institut; Occupational training.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Russia.; Penzenskai︠a︡ oblastʹ (Russia); Russia.; Russian language.; Self-defense.; Supermarkets; Teaching.; Ticks; Training; Washington (D.C.); Zelenograd (Russia)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.904722, -77.016389
GPS: Moscow (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 55.755833, 37.617222
GPS: Penzenskai︠a︡ oblastʹ (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 53.25, 44.566667
GPS: Zelenograd (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 55.997778, 37.190278
00:37:44 - Job and living situation

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Partial Transcript: So go on and tell me something more about your job.

Segment Synopsis: Stabler describes his job during his time in Peace Corps. He states that at first, he was supposed to just show up at the school for the first couple of days and eventually the school would assign him work. He ended up teaching English classes by the book that was mandated. He also held English groups for students who wanted more practice. He discusses the variability of the Russian class schedule. He describes his living situation, in which he stayed in one room of a two bedroom communal apartment. He discusses the rest of the apartment and the people he lived with. Stabler continues by describing some of his culture shock, including the common practice of officials openly holding large guns, in addition to the cold weather. He describes what he did for recreation, describing his participation in baseball, reading, and parties.

Keywords: Cultural differences; English as a foreign language; English as a second language; Guns; Pay phones; Payphones; Semi-automatic firearms; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language

Subjects: Baseball.; Buses; Christianity.; Cross-country skiing; Culture shock.; Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Firearms.; Friendship.; Heating.; Hobbies.; Holidays; Hot-water heating.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Islam.; Judaism.; Leisure.; Lifestyles.; Local transit; Manners and customs; Militarization.; Outdoor recreation.; Parties.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Russia.; Recreation.; Russia.; Schools.; Snow.; Social interaction.; Sports.; Teaching.; Telephone booths; Water heaters; Winter

GPS: Penzenskai︠a︡ oblastʹ (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 53.25, 44.566667
01:03:14 - Travel / Social interactions

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Partial Transcript: Did you travel at all?

Segment Synopsis: Stabler says he would go into Penza to meet other volunteers. He traveled during the first summer he was there, helping with a children's camp in the Ural Mountains and a camp in Siberia. He describes his interactions with the school's principal and some other employees and Russian natives, as well as some more of his daily life in regard to his teaching. He describes how Peace Corps was viewed by the community, stating it was basically a neutral presence. Russians would ask him about things they were confused about in American culture. He tells a story about an anti-Semitic experience he had on a train.

Keywords: Cultural differences; Trains; Ural Mountains

Subjects: American culture; Anti-Semitism.; Bars (Drinking establishments); Buses; Camps.; Central Asia; Cross cultural communication; Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Friendship.; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Jewish people; Jews--Russia.; Kazakhstan; Leisure.; Lifestyles.; Local transit; Manners and customs; Moscow (Russia); Novosibirsk (Russia); Olympic Winter Games (19th : 2002 : Salt Lake City, Utah); Passenger trains; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Russia.; Penza (Russia); Permʹ (Russia); Railroads--Passenger traffic; Recreation.; Russia.; Saint Petersburg (Russia); Siberia (Russia); Social interaction.; Teaching.; Travel.; Ural Mountains (Russia); Ural Mountains Region (Russia); Uzbekistan; Winter Olympics.

GPS: Siberia (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 60, 105
GPS: Novosibirsk (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 55.05, 82.95
GPS: Penza (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 53.2, 45
GPS: Ural Mountains (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 60, 60
GPS: Perm (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 58, 56.316667
GPS: Moscow (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 55.755833, 37.617222
GPS: Saint Petersburg (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 59.9375, 30.308611
GPS: Uzbekistan
Map Coordinates: 42, 63
GPS: Kazakhstan
Map Coordinates: 48, 68
01:24:18 - Returning home after Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: What, uh--so your, your time was up in 2002?

Segment Synopsis: Stabler describes his experience with renewing his visa during Peace Corps. When he returned to the U.S., he moved in with his parents in Florida and felt out of place. He describes some culture shock he experienced when faced with the aisle of shampoo and all the choices in supermarkets. He describes his struggles getting a job and making friends after returning. At the time of the interview, he works at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. He is studying international development and agricultural economics. He was inspired by the business origins of the Peace Corps program in Russia as well as the rural region he was assigned to during his Peace Corps time.

Keywords: Agricultural economics; Consumerism; International commerce; International development

Subjects: Agricultural economists; Agriculture--Economic aspects.; Agriculture.; Business.; Choices; Community development.; Consumption (Economics); Culture shock.; Diplomacy.; Estonia; Florida.; Friendship.; Germany.; International commerce and arbitration; International negotiation and development; Interpersonal relations; Jūrmala (Latvia); Latvia; Lifestyles.; Lithuania.; Manners and customs; Netherlands.; Occupations.; Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Russia.; Poland.; Russia.; Self-service stores.; Supermarkets; Travel.; Work.

GPS: Jūrmala (Latvia)
Map Coordinates: 56.966667, 23.75
GPS: Estonia
Map Coordinates: 59, 26
GPS: Latvia
Map Coordinates: 57, 25
GPS: Lithuania
Map Coordinates: 55, 24
GPS: Poland
Map Coordinates: 52, 20
GPS: Germany
Map Coordinates: 51, 9
GPS: Netherlands
Map Coordinates: 52.316667, 5.55
GPS: Florida
Map Coordinates: 28.1, -81.6
GPS: Russia
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
01:41:04 - Impact of Peace Corps / History of Peace Corps in Russia

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Partial Transcript: W--uh, so what do you think the impact of your Peace Corps service was on Russia?

Segment Synopsis: Stabler thinks the impact he made through Peace Corps heavily relied on person to person contact and affected how the villagers viewed Americans. He thinks Peace Corps had a huge impact on him in the sense that it influenced his career choice and interest in international development and agriculture. He discusses how the Peace Corps affected his perception of the world and specifically Russia. He describes the history of the Peace Corps program in Russia, including where sites were established, how the government viewed it, and what the program set out to do. He thinks the Peace Corps as an organization is valuable for trying to work on a micro level instead of trying to fix larger issues. He also thinks it's good that Peace Corps fosters people who are comfortable going to places where most people don't want to go.

Keywords: Business English; English as a foreign language; English as a second language; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language; Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Subjects: Business.; Cognition and culture.; Communication and culture.; Cross-cultural studies.; Cultural awareness.; Cultural pluralism.; English language--Business English.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Intercultural communication.; Interpersonal relations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Russia.; Russia.; Saratov (Russia); Schools.; Test of English as a Foreign Language.; Volga River (Russia); Volga River Region (Russia)

GPS: Saratov (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 51.533333, 46.016667
GPS: Volga River (Russia)
Map Coordinates: 45.833333, 47.966667