Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Adam Greenberg, September 4, 2020

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


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00:00:00 - Greenberg's experience in AmeriCorps

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Partial Transcript: Good afternoon. Uh, this is Candy Wiggum and today is September 4, 2020. I'm an RPCV from North Macedonia where I served from 2009 to 2012 and I'm interviewing Adam Greenberg who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia from 2018 until he was evacuated in March 2020. He served as a rural aquaculture promotion volunteer.

Segment Synopsis: Before joining Peace Corps, Greenberg had served 2 terms with AmeriCorps. In Zambia, Greenberg and his site mate were both working in aquaculture and before being evacuated they had been granted a third year extension. After graduation from university, Greenberg was researching the Peace Corps but decided to gain domestic experience first by joining AmeriCorps.

Keywords: Activities; Advice; Animal husbandry; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Extensions; High schools; Rural areas; Site mates; Travel; Traveling; Villages

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Evacuation; Finance; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2010-2020; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in horticulture; Zambia

GPS: Zambia
Map Coordinates: -15, 30
00:06:16 - International travel before joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: How did you get involved in aquaculture? Did you have experience with that before you joined Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: After his second term in AmeriCorps, Greenberg went to South Korea to teach English for two and a half years. Next, Greenberg traveled throughout Southeast Asia for 6 months with a Korean American woman he had met in Korea. Then, Greenberg and his partner lived in Australia for a year. Through these experiences, Greenberg and his partner gained some knowledge of agriculture. On the application to the Peace Corps, Greenberg and his partner had applied to be environmental educators in Panama. Because Greenberg and his partner were in Australia, it was hard for them to take a test to show Peace Corps their fluency in Spanish. So rather than Panama, Peace Corps offered them a posting in Zambia, which they accepted.

Keywords: Asian Americans; Examinations; Exams; Spanish (Language); Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL)

Subjects: Australia; Korea (South); Panama; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Southeast Asia; Zambia

GPS: Southeast Asia
Map Coordinates: 8.2771017, 98.139454
GPS: Korea (South)
Map Coordinates: 36, 128
GPS: Australia
Map Coordinates: -25, 133
GPS: Panama
Map Coordinates: 9, -80
GPS: Zambia
Map Coordinates: -15, 30
00:08:08 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Alright. So, what was training like for you?

Segment Synopsis: Pre-service training lasted 3 months. The technical training was very practical. Because it was a former British colony, English is the official language of Zambia but Greenberg studied one of the 72 Zambian tribal languages.

Keywords: English (Language); Language training; National languages; Support; Technical training

Subjects: Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Zambia

GPS: Zambia
Map Coordinates: -15, 30
00:11:44 - Greenberg's assignment

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Partial Transcript: So, where'd you end up? Where'd you get assigned to? Was it out in the bush someplace?

Segment Synopsis: Greenberg and his partner were assigned to a rural village a three and a half hour bike ride from Kasama. The site was chosen for the aquaculture project because of its position by the Zambezi River.

Keywords: Kasama (Zambia); Rural areas; Site mates; Villages; Zambezi River

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

GPS: Kasama (Zambia)
Map Coordinates: -10.211667, 31.178333
GPS: Zambezi River
Map Coordinates: -18.570556, 36.470278
00:13:04 - Greenberg's daily routine

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Partial Transcript: What was a typical day like for you and your partner? Did you have your own place? Did you cook for yourselves?

Segment Synopsis: Greenberg and his partner lived as a couple on the school grounds. They did not have a host family. They cooked on their own. The community had built a house specifically for the Peace Corps personnel. It was located along a row of houses for teachers. There was a shortage of teachers in rural areas. A typical day might include a presentation at the school about some aspect of fish farming or a visit to a fish farmer associated with their project. Their counterparts were encouraged to actively participate. Greenberg was also working with a boys' club. Greenberg's partner worked with a girls' group to empower them. Students from the school would come by and casually interact with Greenberg and his partner.

Keywords: Advice; Counterparts; Empowerment; Host family; Houses; Lectures; Rural areas; Secondary projects; Site mates; Students; Teachers

Subjects: Food habits; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Schools; Student activities; Zambia

00:16:45 - Means of communication

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Partial Transcript: What was your communication, um, abilities, like did you have internet there? Did you--was there mail?

Segment Synopsis: Greenberg's site had phone service, which also provided rudimentary internet service. Greenberg could retrieve his mail from a Peace Corps house address in the provincial capital.

Keywords: Cell phones; Mail; Telephone calls

Subjects: Communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Zambia

00:18:57 - Challenges

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Partial Transcript: Did you have any surprises or challenges that you hadn't expected?

Segment Synopsis: Greenberg wished that he could have conversed better on daily subjects in the native language. Because Greenberg and his partner had already been living overseas for 5 years, homesickness was not much of a problem. Greenberg and his partner supported each other. Greenberg is still in contact with his counterparts.

Keywords: Conversations; Counterparts; Language barriers; Older volunteers; Site mates; Support

Subjects: Communication and culture; Emotions; Intercultural communication; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Zambia

00:21:17 - Vacations

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Partial Transcript: Did you get a chance to take vacations while you were in Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Greenberg and his partner took few vacations as they wanted to be on-site during the rainy season. They did take a vacation to Malawi and visited Lake Tanganyika. After the end of their Peace Corps service, Greenberg and his partner planned to travel around southern Africa.

Keywords: Plans; Site mates; Traveling; Weather

Subjects: Africa; International travel; Malawi

GPS: Malawi
Map Coordinates: -13.5, 34
GPS: Lake Tanganyika
Map Coordinates: -6.5, 29.833333
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7314538, -16.5821315
00:22:20 - Cooking and shopping

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Partial Transcript: What was cooking like? Like, like what kind of a kitchen did you have? How did you get food?

Segment Synopsis: Greenberg's partner did most of the cooking. Greenberg did most of the dish washing. Cooking was done over a charcoal brazier in a cooking hut. A couple times a month, Greenberg and his partner would go into town either by bike or by hiring one of the 2 cars in the village. Greenberg and his partner got their supplies there.

Keywords: Towns; Transportation; Villages

Subjects: Food habits; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Zambia

00:24:27 - Getting first news of COVID-19

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Partial Transcript: Um, when did you hear about COVID for the first time?

Segment Synopsis: Greenberg's partner was active on various Peace Corps chat groups online. Greenberg's partner had heard via the chat groups that Volunteers in northern Africa were being consolidated in Morocco. Greenberg's partner speculated that they might be evacuated, too. The next morning, Greenberg received an email telling them to pack as they were being evacuated. Greenberg was able to charge their phones with a solar panel.

Keywords: Cell phones; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Emails; Site mates; Social media; Technology

Subjects: Africa; COVID-19 (Disease); Evacuation; Morocco; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Stress (Psychology); Zambia

GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7314538, -16.5821315
GPS: Morocco
Map Coordinates: 32, -6
00:29:33 - Greenberg's evacuation

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, you get the message to start packing things up. How did you get to where you were going? Where, where did you consolidate?

Segment Synopsis: The evacuation email, which they received Monday morning, instructed them to be in Kasama by Thursday. Greenberg and his partner considered doing a field termination as they felt they might be safer from COVID in their village. In fact, their return to the U.S. involved five flights. On Tuesday, another email instructed Greenberg and his partner to be in Kasama the next day. Besides packing, Greenberg and his partner were trying to communicate with their counterparts. Even without the Volunteers, Greenberg feels the fish farming project is sustainable. Another aspect of the project which was under way at that time was the repair of a canal to bring water to the village. This involved a local controversy over water rights. Greenberg had been able to get a grant to help pay for the materials needed for these repairs. On Wednesday, Greenberg and his partner hired a car and traveled to Kasama. From there, the Volunteers in northern Zambia had a 13-hour bus ride to Lusaka. There was a rush by the Peace Corps staff to get the 200 plus Zambia Volunteers processed and back to the U.S. To get back home, Greenberg had flights that stopped in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Greenland, Washington, D.C., and finally San Diego. Greenberg got to San Diego a week after having received the evacuation email.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Airports; Buses; Closing borders; Coming home; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Decisions; Funding; Grants; Kasama (Zambia); Learning; Legal paperwork; Lusaka (Zambia); News; Peace Corps staff; Politics; Returning; Safety; San Diego (Calif.); Site mates; Sustainability; Traveling

Subjects: Air travel; COVID-19 (Disease); Conflict management; Ethiopia; Greenland; International travel; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Zambia; Washington (D.C.); Zimbabwe

GPS: Kasama (Zambia)
Map Coordinates: -10.211667, 31.178333
GPS: Lusaka (Zambia)
Map Coordinates: -15.416667, 28.283333
GPS: Zimbabwe
Map Coordinates: -20, 30
GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 8, 38
GPS: Greenland
Map Coordinates: 72, -40
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: San Diego (Calif.)
Map Coordinates: 32.715, -117.1625
00:41:08 - Greenberg's re-entry to the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: So, what was it like coming home? Things, things were different. People were, people were concerned about it. What, what happened to you once you got home?

Segment Synopsis: For Volunteers whose parents were over 65 years old, Peace Corps paid for Volunteers to quarantine for 2 weeks. Having lived overseas for most of the preceding 7 years, Greenberg experienced reverse culture shock. Greenberg is again living with his parents in San Diego. Greenberg has been listening to audiobooks and staying in touch with people on Zoom. Greenberg is considering different career options. Greenberg hopes to go back to Zambia. Greenberg's partner is with her parents in New Jersey.

Keywords: Activities; Books; Career paths; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Home; Housing; Older Americans; Quarantines; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Social media

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Families; Parents

GPS: San Diego (Calif.)
Map Coordinates: 32.715, -117.1625
GPS: New Jersey
Map Coordinates: 40.1907, -74.6728
00:47:58 - Greenberg's view on the role of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Um, well, something that crosses my mind is the role of Peace Corps.

Segment Synopsis: Given the current heightened political activism and concern about racism, Greenberg feels that it is important that foreigners have the chance to interact with commonplace Americans and not just hear the rhetoric from political leaders. Peace Corps has a role to play in this. Greenberg feels that Peace Corps needs to do more to support black Volunteers who might be discriminated against by native Peace Corps staff members. Greenberg feels that the costs related to the Peace Corps medical application process is also a barrier to some potential volunteers.

Keywords: African Americans; Application process; Applications; Applying; Black Americans; Black Lives Matter; Peace Corps staff; Politics; Second Goal; Stipends; Support

Subjects: Finance; Minorities; Race discrimination; Race relations; Racism