Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Nicholas Konstantine Flessas, August 20, 2020

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


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00:00:00 - Flessas' motivation for joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: This is Evelyn Ganzglass. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia from 1966 to 1968. Today, August 20, I am interviewing Nicholas Flessas who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana in a health program, um, just for a very short time from January 2020 until he was evacuated because of the global pande--pandemic in March of 2020.

Segment Synopsis: Flessas is interested in East African history so he applied to the Peace Corps and asked to be sent to Tanzania. Flessas was switched to Ghana after administrative problems developed with his Peace Corps cohort's posting in Tanzania.

Keywords: Cohorts; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); History; Interests; Problems

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); East Africa; Evacuation; Ghana; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2010-2020; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ghana; Research; Tanzania; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Ghana
Map Coordinates: 7.816667, -1.05
GPS: Tanzania
Map Coordinates: -6, 35
GPS: East Africa
Map Coordinates: -4.2405796, 24.4175402
00:01:58 - Flessas' experiences before Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So, tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?

Segment Synopsis: Flessas grew up in Vancouver, Washington in a working class family. Flessas attended Clark Community College and Washington State University. As an undergraduate, Flessas became interested in African history, especially the trade between East Africa, India, and China. Flessas is also particularly interested in Ethiopia and thought it would be advantageous for him to learn Swahili.

Keywords: Advantages; History; Interests; Undergraduate education; Vancouver (Wash.)

Subjects: China; East Africa; Ethiopia; Families; India; Language and languages; Universities and colleges

GPS: Vancouver (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 45.633333, -122.6
GPS: Clark College
Map Coordinates: 45.634, -122.652
GPS: Washington State University
Map Coordinates: 46.73, -117.16
GPS: East Africa
Map Coordinates: -4.2405796, 24.4175402
GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 8, 38
GPS: India
Map Coordinates: 21, 78
GPS: People's Republic of China
Map Coordinates: 35, 103
00:05:25 - Applying to the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So, how did you hear about the Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Flessas' mother suggested that he join the Peace Corps. Flessas was excited about going to Ghana.

Keywords: Advice; Application; Excited; Mothers

Subjects: Emotions; Ghana; Peace Corps (U.S.); Tanzania; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Tanzania
Map Coordinates: -6, 35
GPS: Ghana
Map Coordinates: 7.816667, -1.05
00:07:15 - Flessas' staging

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Partial Transcript: How big a group were you, uh, in, in your Ghana, your Ghana health group?

Segment Synopsis: There were about 40 trainees in Flessas' cohort. They were evenly split between the health program and the agriculture program. Flessas had a 2-day staging in Alexandria, Virginia.

Keywords: Cohorts

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in community health services; Volunteer workers in horticulture; Volunteers

GPS: Alexandria (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 38.804222, -77.047222
00:08:53 - Arrival in Ghana

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything memorable about the trip over or arriving in Ghana?

Segment Synopsis: Flessas' cohort was met at the airport by the Peace Corps country director. Flessas was shocked by the hot, humid, tropical weather. After 5 days at Valley View University near Accra, the health trainees and agriculture trainees separated. Each program went to a different site.

Keywords: First impressions; Interviews; Peace Corps directors; Traveling; Weather

Subjects: Ghana; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ghana; Universities and colleges; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Ghana
Map Coordinates: 7.816667, -1.05
GPS: Accra (Ghana)
Map Coordinates: 5.55, -0.2
GPS: Valley View University
Map Coordinates: 5.5597924, -0.1744382
00:11:06 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Talk, talk to me about what, what happened in training. What, what was that like?

Segment Synopsis: During pre-service training, the trainees lived with host families. There were about 6 hours of language training as well as a couple hours of technical training daily. Every Thursday, there were talks on subjects such as health or safety and security. Flessas enjoyed his extended host family. Flessas conversed with them mainly in English.

Keywords: Host families; Housing; Language training; Safety and security directors; Swearing in; Technical training

Subjects: Health; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ghana; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:15:50 - Flessas' assignment

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Partial Transcript: So, you just finished training when you were evacuated?

Segment Synopsis: Flessas was able to visit his work site for 4 days during pre-service training but was evacuated before he could start work there.

Keywords: Belongings; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Pre-service training; Site visits

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Evacuation; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ghana; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:17:42 - Flessas' reflection on his pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Uh, so, how do you, how do you think about the, the training and, you know, your home stay and your little, um, excursion to the, to the town you were going to work in?

Segment Synopsis: Because of his Peace Corps experience, Flessas has become more interested in West African history. Out of personal interest, Flessas had requested to be placed in a Muslim area after his pre-service training.

Keywords: Changes; History; Impact; Interests

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ghana; Voluntarism; Volunteers; West Africa

GPS: West Africa
Map Coordinates: 12, 3
00:19:15 - News of the evacuation

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Partial Transcript: So, how did you hear about the evacuation and had you, had you--were you blindsided by that or did you expect it to happen?

Segment Synopsis: Flessas got text messages from his mother in the U.S. saying,"Sorry." Then, Flessas got the evacuation notice from the Peace Corps. Flessas was shocked at first. There were a few known cases of COVID in Ghana by the time the Peace Corps evacuation was announced.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Difficult; Disease transmission; Expectations; Mothers; Peace Corps staff; Social distancing

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Emotions; Ghana; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ghana; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Ghana
Map Coordinates: 7.816667, -1.05
00:21:46 - Flessas' recent activities

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Partial Transcript: And what have you done since you've returned back?

Segment Synopsis: Flessas has been looking for a job for the last 5 months. Flessas has found a position as a substitute teacher. He has been studying Swahili. Flessas is still in contact with people at his site and he would like to return.

Keywords: Communication; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Goals; Learning; Local people; Returning; Safety; Teacher; Vaccines

Subjects: Emotions; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ghana; Teaching

00:24:12 - Flessas' re-entry to the U.S. and reflections on Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Did you get any help from the Peace Corps community when you came back looking for a job?

Segment Synopsis: Flessas joined a Facebook group, which was helpful. But most of the job openings were in California or Washington, D.C. Overall, Flessas thinks his Peace Corps experience was worthwhile. Flessas sees all foreign aid as a neo-colonial. Flessas wonders how Peace Corps will respond to this in the future.

Keywords: California; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Personal growth; Readjustment; Resilience; Resources; Social media; Uncertainty

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: California
Map Coordinates: 37, -120
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147