Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Tristan Menachof, August 19, 2020

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


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00:00:00 - Introduction and life before the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Today is August 19, 2020.

Segment Synopsis: Tristan Menachof is introduced. Menachof volunteered in Morocco from September 2017 until his evacuation in January 2019, serving in the environmental sector. Tristan talks about his life before the Peace Corps. He talks about being raised in a family that valued service and helping other people. He talks about traveling with his family and studying abroad in southeast Asia in college. Menachof explains that he loved the idea of living outside of the U.S. and becoming immersed in other cultures. He explains that he knew he wanted to do something that would be focused on helping people and traveling after college. Tristan talks about studying religion at Coe College in Iowa and how he became interested in going to a majority Muslim country.

Keywords: Adventure; College; Culture; Diversity; Education; Environment; Environmental sector; Family; Islam; Mexico; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco; Peru; Religion; Travel; Traveling

Subjects: Environment sector; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--2010-2020; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco; Volunteers in environmental sector

GPS: Coe College. Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Map Coordinates: 41.988333, -91.656944
00:08:16 - Interest in the Peace Corps and Morocco

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Partial Transcript: How did you hear about the Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Menachof talks about finding out about the Peace Corps, and the Peace Corps Morocco program. He talks about his top choices of Morocco and Fiji and his interest in the projects taking place there. He talks about serving in the AmeriCorps in college, and how this led to his interest in environmental work. He also talks about being part of a fraternity in college, and wanting to work on projects to create a more positive environment on his campus, such as working with women's empowerment organizations and getting involved with bystander training. He explains that Morocco was the perfect fit for him because of the female youth empowerment and environmental projects.

Keywords: AmeriCorps volunteers; Colleges; Education; Environment; Fiji; Fraternity; Morocco; Youth development

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco

00:14:28 - Applying and acceptance to the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: How did the application process go?

Segment Synopsis: Menachof talks about the Peace Corps application process and the interview. He talks about receiving the acceptance email about 4 months after applying, and about 4-5 months before arriving in Morocco. He talks about working with a Peace Corps recruiter throughout the application process. He explains that his family was supportive and excited about his acceptance into the Peace Corps and what would come out of it. He talks about doing language training and preparing himself before leaving for Morocco.

Keywords: Acceptance; Application process; Applications; Applying; Family; Interviews; Language training; Languages; Morocco; Peace Corps recruiters; Preparation

Subjects: Families.; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco

00:22:08 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: What I'd like to do now is, is move into what your pre-service training was like.

Segment Synopsis: Menachof describes Peace Corps orientation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and pre-service training in Harhoura, Morocco. He talks about meeting people that share his interests and knowing that he was in the right place. He describes the flight to Morocco, and arriving in Harhoura. He describes his experience with training in Harhoura. Menachof talks about nearby cities during his training, and places he would go during his free time. He talks about his host family during training. He talks about picking up the language quickly, and language training. He talks about how his host siblings helped him to learn Darija.

Keywords: Community; Community development training; Cultural training; Culture; Darija (Language); Host brothers; Host family; Host siblings; Host sisters; Language; Language training; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco; Pre-service training; Training; Training host family; Video games

Subjects: Darija; Host family; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco; Pre-service training; Training

GPS: Harhoura. Neighborhood in Temara, Morocco.
Map Coordinates: 33.926667, -6.912222
GPS: Philadelphia (Pa.)
Map Coordinates: 39.952778, -75.163611
00:35:28 - Pre-service training and languages in Morocco

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Partial Transcript: I remember being exhausted for almost all of my CPT.

Segment Synopsis: Menachof talks about his LCF (language and cultural facilitator), and the friendships that he made. He talks about working with a friend to design clothing for seamstresses, and getting to know many of the local artisans. Menachof also talks about the language of Darija and the different languages of Morocco. He talks about the different languages taught in schools, and the multiple dialects around Morocco. He talks about meeting people of all ages who speak multiple languages and the importance of language in Morocco. Menachof briefly describes his cross-cultural and technical training compared to his language and cultural training, and explains how these training sessions prepared him for living in Tagleft and working on assignments in Morocco. He talks about working with a youth center and Morocco's youth development programs. Tristan explains how he believes he accomplished a lot throughout his Peace Corps experience.

Keywords: Arabic (Language); Cross-cultural training; Culture and language; Darija (Language); English (Language); French (Language); Friends; Friendships; Language and cultural facilitator (LCF); Languages; Morocco; Preparation; Spanish (Language); Tagleft (Morocco); Technical training; Youth center; Youth development

Subjects: Arabic; Culture and language; Darija; Languages; Morocco; Pre-service training

00:49:47 - Placement in Tagleft and living arrangements

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Partial Transcript: How large was that?

Segment Synopsis: Menachof explains the town of Tagleft and the travel there. He describes the taxi system in Morocco, and the dangers of the roads. He talks about his trip there. Menachof talks briefly about his host family. He describes the meaning of "wulft" and becoming comfortable. Tristan talks about getting to know different taxi drivers and communicating with them. He describes his living situation with a host family for the first month of his service. He talks about the cultural differences in the way that he was treated within his host family. He describes bonding moments with his host family including a "tangerine fight" and watching television together. He talks about living in an apartment after his first month of service, and the issues within this space. He talks about getting to know people within the town and the kindness he received from them. Menachof explains his mental health issues during his service. He talks about the weather and the cold winters in Morocco, and how he stayed warm.

Keywords: Culture; Host brothers; Host family; Host mothers; Languages; Mental health; Morocco; Tagleft (Morocco); Taxi; Taxi drivers; Translation; Travel; Weather; Winter

Subjects: Culture; Language and culture; Mental health; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco; Travel

GPS: Tagleft, Morocco
Map Coordinates: 32.238922, -6.123805
01:15:18 - Living and working in Tagleft

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Partial Transcript: The other part about Morocco that's kind of wild is the time is just switching--

Segment Synopsis: Menachof talks about the time switches in Morocco and getting used to it. He briefly talks about his classes and working with students. He talks about his struggles with his mental health and the challenges he faced during his work and living situation in Morocco. He talks briefly about the harassment he received within his town, mostly from kids. He talks about how this made him feel like an outsider and made it hard to make friends while living in Tagleft. He talks about experiences living in his house, including a struggle with a giant rat. Menachof explains the difficulties of his Peace Corps experience and the days he considered leaving, but instead continued to improve his situation. He talks about moving to his new living arrangements and all the aspects that made it a better fit for him.

Keywords: Classes; English (Language); Harassment; Kids; Mental health; Students; Tagleft, Morocco; Teaching English as a second language; Time; Time change; Tutors

Subjects: Acculturation; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco

01:26:25 - Support from Peace Corps staff, community projects, and working with a counterpart

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Partial Transcript: No that's fine. Uh, did Peace Corps staff play any role in, in, uh, working with you through some of these issues?

Segment Synopsis: Menachof talks about the resources and support he received from Peace Corps staff in relation to his struggles during his service. He talks about the limited staff and the program. He describes his experience in relation to other volunteers, explaining the differences in cultures throughout different regions. He explains that although his service presented some difficulties, he values all that he got from it. He talks about the importance of the friendships he made and the importance of his projects. He talks about coming together with other volunteers with similar struggles. Menachof explains how the Peace Corps system didn't relate much to the service, and decided to focus on environmental projects such as creating an environmental curriculum and partnering with foundations to work on projects within the community. Menachof talks about working with a foundation to grow fruitful trees and their importance for development within communities. He describes a project in which he worked to plant trees in a local high school. Menachof talks about his counterpart, and their relationship working together.

Keywords: Challenges; Communication; Community; Community development; Counterparts; Culture; Economic development; English (Language); Environmental curriculum; Environmental projects; Friendships; Gender development; Morocco; Peace Corps staff; Peace Corps volunteers; Planting trees; Projects; Schools; Support; Tagleft (Morocco); Tutors; Youth development

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco; Peace Corps staff; Volunteer workers in environmental education; Volunteer workers in environmental protection

01:42:18 - Projects and work

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Partial Transcript: And so we, you know, had a number of meetings with the school and then got the school to apply...

Segment Synopsis: Menachof talks about his projects, including planting trees. He talks about working with farmers. He talks about doing workshops with other Peace Corps volunteers on different environmental topics. He explains struggles with his mental health. He describes the growth of his projects after he was evacuated and the changes that his town has made, such as health, transportation, and environmental developments, and how the Coronavirus has slowed these projects down.

Keywords: Community; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVIDÔÇÉ19); Environmental clubs; Environmental sector; Environmental workshop; Evacuation; Farmers; Mental health; Morocco; Planting trees; Projects; School; Teaching English as a second language; Work

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Environmental sector; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco; Projects

01:50:15 - Reflecting on service in the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Sort of summing up, do you think Peace Corps is still a valuable experience?

Segment Synopsis: Menachof explains that the Peace Corps is a valuable experience, despite the ways in which the organization could have better used their resources to help him during his service. He talks about the projects and work he did and the importance of it. He explains that his service ended up where it was supposed to and that he has no regrets. He talks about how the Peace Corps has bettered him and his future, and describes the skills his service gave him. He describes the importance of having a perspective on other humans and cultures, and the ability to connect with people. He talks about an older male tailor that he made friends with in his town, and the importance of those kinds of relationships.

Keywords: Friends; Friendships; Humor; Morocco; Patience; Peace Corps; Volunteers

Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Morocco