Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Marya Nowakowski, September 15, 2020

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

 

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00:00:00 - Life before the Peace Corps and applying

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Partial Transcript: Today is September 15, 2020.

Segment Synopsis: Marya Nowakowski is introduced. She volunteered in the Dominican Republic from 1997-1990 in the forestry sector. Nowakowski talks about growing up in Washington state and her family. She talks about her early interest as a child in the natural environment and how that led to her studies, and later on the Peace Corps. Nowakowski talks about her environmental courses in college and graduate school where she majored in plant ecology. She talks about her motivation to join the Peace Corps, and applying with her husband. She talks about doing research into the Dominican Republic and accepting the assignment.

Keywords: Applying; College; Dominican Republic; Education; Environmental Studies; Family; Forestry; Graduate school; Plant ecology; Reforestation; Spanish; Washington state

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Education; Environmental studies; Forestry; Marriage; Peace Corps (U.S.)--1980-1990; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic

GPS: Richland, Washington
Map Coordinates: 46.304302, -119.361412
GPS: Evergreen State College, Washington
Map Coordinates: 47.073, -122.976
00:06:36 - Application process

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Partial Transcript: How, how long did it take, uh, from when you applied to when you were offered a, a posting?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about her and her husband's experience with the application process, and their plan to leave based on their income. She briefly talks about attending graduate school at Washington State University. Nowakowski explains the difference between the application she filled out and the application to the Peace Corps today, especially focusing on the medical portion of the application.

Keywords: Allergies; Application; Application process; Applying; Graduate school; Income; South America; Work

Subjects: Applying; Dominican Republic; Finance; Graduate school; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic

GPS: Washington State University, Washington
Map Coordinates: 46.73, -117.16
00:11:28 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Uh, let's move on to your pre-service training. Uh, where and how were you trained?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about training in Santo Domingo. She talks about learning Spanish with both a tutor before Peace Corps and through language training on site. She talks about forestry training at a college and the trainers she had. She talks about the different lectures she had on cross-cultural studies, including learning Merengue dancing. She also talks about an experience with a psychologist training on dealing with stress.

Keywords: Bilingual; Cross-cultural studies; Dominican Republic; Forestry training; Language training; Pre-service training; Santo Domingo; Spanish; Training; Tutoring

Subjects: Culture; Dominican Republic; Language and culture; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Spanish; Stress (Psychology)

GPS: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Map Coordinates: 18.466667, -69.95
00:16:26 - On site forestry training

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Partial Transcript: Given you already had a master's degree and, and work experience, um, did you still feel the tech training was useful?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about her experience with the forestry training in the Dominican Republic. She talks about the new technical aspects she had to learn compared to her previous knowledge in forestry. She talks about going on field trips, meeting forestry researchers, and exchanging data. She talks about learning new tree species, climate information, and information about the region. She talks about Las Matas de Farfán and the large forestry program.

Keywords: Climate; Conservation; Dominican Republic; Field trips; Training; Tropical forestry

Subjects: Forestry; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Research

GPS: Las Matas de Farfán, Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 18.87, -71.52
00:20:05 - Training and projects

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Partial Transcript: Now the, um, the forty foresters that were coming in, was this a new project or were you continuing on--

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about the projects and assignments she worked on in Las Matas de Farfán. She talks about the law at the time which prohibited the harvest of wood, and the certification program available for farmers to grow and cut their own trees. She talks about the trainers she had and the government connections she worked with. She talks about how training prepared her for her assignment, and how training has changed since then. She talks about language training and her experience with learning a new language.

Keywords: Assignments; Culture; Dominican Republic; Farmers; Farming; Government; Language; Language training; Las Matas de Farfán; Laws; Military; Projects; Trainers; Training; Work

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Farming and agriculture; Government; Language and culture; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic

GPS: Las Matas de Farfán, Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 18.87, -71.52
00:27:37 - Living and working in Las Matas de Farfán

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Partial Transcript: You said initially you lived with a host family. Um, how, how was that?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about her experience living with a host family and the business of training and working. She talks about her sponsoring agency being the Catholic church and the benefits of this sponsorship. She talks about her counterpart and their work together. She talks about meeting and working with the farmers and overseeing their projects. She talks about expanding projects and recruiting new farmers in Las Matas de Farfán. She talks briefly about the town and the forestry volunteers.

Keywords: Catholic church; Counterpart; Couple; Dominican Republic; Farmer's organization; Farmers; Farming; Forestry; Funding; Host family; Las Matas de Farfán; Projects; Reforestation; Sponsor; Spouse; Work

Subjects: Farming and agriculture; Forestry; Las Matas de Farfán; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Reforestation; Work

GPS: Las Matas de Farfán, Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 18.87, -71.52
00:36:27 - Living conditions and the community of Las Matas de Farfán

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, what were your living conditions like?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about the house she and her husband stayed in in town. She talks about the furniture she bought from second-hand stores and markets. She also talks about the large market in Las Matas de Farfán, and the produce sold there by local farmers. She talks about cooking, and eating out at street food stands. She talks briefly about her husband's further work site and his commute. Nowakowski talks about how the experience compared to her expectations of living in the Dominican Republic. She also talks about communicating with peers and conferences with other foresters. She talks more about working with her counterpart, Alberto.

Keywords: Communication; Community; Las Matas de Farfán; Living conditions

Subjects: Communication; Dominican Republic; Forestry; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic

GPS: Las Matas de Farfán, Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 18.87, -71.52
00:44:43 - Work and projects

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Partial Transcript: What you described, was, was that sort of a typical work day for you then?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski describes her work with the farmers and the different kinds of assignments she worked on. She talks about leadership training for the farmers along with technical training. She talks about working with the farmers to plant bare root trees and the challenges this presented for them.

Keywords: Assignments; Bare root trees; Farmers; Forestry; Leadership; Leadership training; Projects; Trees; Work

Subjects: Farming; Leadership; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Work

00:49:20 - Socializing and working as a woman

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Partial Transcript: Um, what about, um, interacting socially with, uh, people in Las--

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski describes her experiences with socializing with people in the community of Las Matas de Farfán. She talks about her relationships with shop keepers, her landlord, her counterpart, market vendors, and the farmers. She talks about how she was received as a woman in the community of male farmers. She talks about how she faced fewer obstacles than she expected, but did experience street harassment in the community. She talks about how her education and work experience helped her, along with her sponsorship from the Catholic church.

Keywords: Catholic church; Communication; Education; Farmers; Gender discrimination; Las Matas de Farfán; Relationships; Respect; Socializing; Street harassment; Woman volunteer; Work experience

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Las Matas de Farfán; Socializing; Work

GPS: Las Matas de Farfán, Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 18.87, -71.52
00:53:56 - Lack of leisure time and learning Spanish

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Partial Transcript: What about leisure time?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about her lack of leisure time. She talks about her business with work. She talks about her experience of working with her counterpart. She talks about the changes that took place over the two year period that she volunteered, including learning directions, and working on expanding her Spanish vocabulary with a tutor and by reading the newspaper. She talks about the differences of dialect and accents of the people in the community.

Keywords: Communication; Counterpart; Directions; Language; Leisure time; Spanish (Language); Work

Subjects: Communication; Forestry; Language; Spanish; Work

01:00:11 - Looking back on her service: Accomplishments, changes, and future careers

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Partial Transcript: Looking back on your service, um, what would you consider your, um, best accomplishments?

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about her greatest accomplishments throughout her service. She talks about getting the farmers certified, collecting data, and planting trees. She talks about the things she wished she could've done, including getting to know the families of the farmers better, and working with women more. She talks about the influence of Peace Corps on her career after volunteering in becoming a recruiter. She talks about her experience as a Peace Corps recruiter. She talks about her career working in community and economic development.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Career; Certification; Community and economic development; Farmers; Gender discrimination; Projects; Recruiter

Subjects: Accomplishments; Community and economic development; Economic Development; Forestry; Leadership; Peace Corps recruiting; Recruiter

GPS: Enterprise, Oregon
Map Coordinates: 45.424167, -117.276944
01:06:51 - Meeting the three goals of Peace Corps, maintaining contact, and sharing experiences

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Partial Transcript: As a recruiter, I'm sure you've talked about the three goals.

Segment Synopsis: Nowakowski talks about sharing her Peace Corps experience and joining the National Peace Corps Association, along with being president of the National Peace Corps Association Seattle. She talks about the difficulties of maintaining connections with the Peace Corps associations today in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also talks about staying in contact with her counterpart and getting updates on the projects in Las Matas de Farfán, including updates on the trees. She talks about talking about her experiences with other people and volunteers accepted into the Peace Corps. She sums up her Peace Corps experience by focusing on work as her main goal.

Keywords: Communication; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Counterpart; National Peace Corps Association; Pandemic; Projects; Stay home stay healthy program; Work

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); National Peace Corps Association; Peace Corps (U.S.); Work

GPS: Enterprise, Oregon
Map Coordinates: 45.424167, -117.276944