Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Earvin Casciano, July 22, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Applying to Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: 'Morning, today is July 22, 2020. My name is Jay Sztuk, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji from 1974 through 1976 and this morning I'm going to be interviewing Earvin Casciano who was also a, a volunteer in Fiji from August of 2018 through March of 2020.

Segment Synopsis: Casciano was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was raised in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He first heard of Peace Corps from his science teacher when he was a junior in high school. He first applied in 2016 for the education program, but he wasn't selected. He applied during his AmeriCorps year (August 2017- July 2018) and received an invitation to serve as a community youth empowerment volunteer in Fiji. He believes his health struggles as a baby were for a reason and that he was put here to give back and that's why he wanted to join Peace Corps. His family was proud of his decision.

Keywords: Blessings; San Juan (Puerto Rico); Volunteering

Subjects: AmeriCorps (U.S.); Catholic Church.; Community development.; Education.; Fiji; Fort Dix Army Air Base (N.J.); Health issues; National Civilian Community Corps (AmeriCorps); Parkland Shooting, Parkland, Fla., 2018; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji.; Premature babies; Puerto Rico.; Religion.; Rule of benedictions; San Juan (P.R.); Schools.; Summer schools; Teachers.; Values.; Voluntarism.; Youth development.

GPS: Fort Dix Army Air Base, New Jersey, U.S.
Map Coordinates: 40.019167, -74.522778
GPS: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Map Coordinates: 18.406389, -66.063889
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:10:13 - Training for Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So af, after you got accepted then did you have, uh--you shipped out to the country for training, did you, did you have any kind of orientation in the U.S. first?

Segment Synopsis: Casciano states he had staging in Los Angeles, California before traveling to Fiji. He got delayed in Fiji because he brought honey with him. He states he was homesick. He discusses the cultural importance of Kava root as a drink in Fiji, which could include talanoa story telling. He spent a lot of time reading during this training, as well as socializing with his host family and going to rugby matches. His pre-service training lasted two months and they had to live with a host family, learning about the village lifestyle. His program was youth and development and the framework they worked under was called community youth empowerment volunteer. Their training involved learning about the education system and family and life education. His assigned village was called Vunidawa moli or Vunidamoli.

Keywords: Kava; Kava circles; Kava kava; Kava root; Vunidamoli; Vunidawa moli

Subjects: Anxiety.; Boats and boating.; California; Climate and society; Community development.; Courtesy.; Cross-cultural orientation.; Education.; Etiquette.; Fiji; Friendship.; Hobbies.; Homesickness.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Kava plant; Leisure.; Life education; Life skills.; Lifestyles.; Los Angeles (Calif.); Manners and customs; Newport Beach (Calif.); Occupational training.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji.; Politeness (Linguistics); Reading.; Recreation.; Rugby football.; San Diego (Calif.); Savusavu (Fiji); Schools.; Self-esteem.; Social interaction.; Stereotypes (Social psychology); Suva (Fiji); Talanoa; Teachers.; Teenage pregnancy; Tourism.; Tourists; Training; Travel.; Vanua Levu (Fiji); Villages; Youth development.; Youth.

GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Map Coordinates: 34.05, -118.25
GPS: Vanua Levu, Fiji
Map Coordinates: -16.583333, 179.183333
GPS: Savusavu, Fiji
Map Coordinates: -16.746667, 179.358333
00:30:55 - Work and projects in Fiji

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so you talked about your reception in the village. That sounds, that sounds nice, they were ready for you. Uh, tell me about, uh, about your accommodations there, and, uh, what was your house like?

Segment Synopsis: Casciano lived in a bure house, a traditional Fijian house similar to a straw hut. He was in the school for three days a week for the first year; for the second year, he spent the morning in the secondary schools and then spent the afternoon in the primary school teaching healthy living. The days he was in the village consisted of him roaming around talking to people and finding out where his kids were at. He would see friends and then have Kava. He describes the projects he did. He helped make a sign for the village; he painted the bus stand in the village colors; he made a smaller bus stand at the top of the road by the sign. He helped the road leading into the village get graveled. He discusses the grants and funding he received for projects. He used the SPA grant to renovate and extend the community hall.

Keywords: Bure houses; Bures; Kava; Kava kava; Labasa (Fiji); Small Project Assistance (SPA) Program; Small Project Assistance grants; kava root

Subjects: Bus terminals; Buses.; Community centers; Cross cultural communication; Cybercafes; Dwellings.; Elementary schools; Fiji; Friendship.; Grants-in-aid.; Gravel roads; High schools.; Housing.; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Kava plant; Labasa (Fiji); Lifestyles.; Local transit; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji.; Peace Corps Partnership Program (U.S.); Schools.; Social interaction.

GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: Labasa, Fiji
Map Coordinates: -16.433333, 179.366667
00:50:27 - Travel in Fiji / Work relationships

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, being there in the village for almost two years you must have, uh, made some pretty good friends.

Segment Synopsis: Casciano traveled to Suva and Taveuni, among other places in Fiji. He discusses how he preferred village life and became homesick for his village when he was away from it. He says his life in America feels luxurious compared to his life in Fiji. He was not part of the ministry of education; he was only given authority to teach as long as there was another teacher in the room. He discusses his relationship with his school principal, whom he still talks to at the time of the interview. He came there to work and is proud of the projects he accomplished.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Friendships; Projects; Relationships; Suva (Fiji); Taveuni (Fiji); Villages

Subjects: Cross cultural communication; Cross-cultural orientation.; Cultural awareness.; Education.; Fiji; Friendship.; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Occupations.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji.; Rural; Rural conditions; School principals.; Schools.; Social interaction.; Teachers.; Travel.; Work.

GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: Suva, Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18.1416, 178.4419
GPS: Taveuni, Fiji
Map Coordinates: -16.793611, 180
00:59:30 - Evacuation and its impact / Impact of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about the evacuation. How, how much notice did you have when this, when this happened?

Segment Synopsis: Casciano states they had two notices for evacuation due to COVID-19, the first was Saturday, March 18 at 3pm. He received a text from a friend informing him about the notice offering interrupted service. The decision made him very emotional. He wanted to end his Peace Corps service on his own terms, but on Monday he received notice of mandatory evacuation. He discusses his emotional response to the evacuation. He does not plan on returning to Fiji. He feels confident in achieving the goals of Peace Corps. He gave the community his American flag to hang in the community hall and he returned to the U.S. with a Fijian flag. He discusses the struggles that women and people who weren't white had in the Fijian community, stating they had the perception Americans were all white. He discusses what he did when he came back to the U.S. He says Peace Corps influenced him to go into social work and that it will make him a better social worker. His advice to people interested in Peace Corps is to know themselves really well and to do research on their prospective country.

Keywords: A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Discrimination; FBC news; Race relations

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Cross cultural communication; Distress (Psychology); Evacuation of civilians; Fiji; Friendship.; Gender and culture; Gender and society; Gender politics, global issues; Gender, society & development; Gender.; Graduate Record Examination.; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations.; Lifestyles.; Man-woman relationships.; Manners and customs.; Nadi (Fiji); National Peace Corps Association; Patriarchy.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji.; Racism; Savusavu (Fiji); Seminars; Sexism.; Social interaction.; Social norms.; Social service.; Social work & counselling; United States. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: Savusavu, Fiji
Map Coordinates: -16.746667, 179.358333
GPS: Nadi, Fiji
Map Coordinates: -17.8, 177.416667