Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mary Ann Tonnies Girard, September 22, 2020

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

 

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00:00:00 - Joining Peace Corps and her assignment offers

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Partial Transcript: Hello. My name is Jay Sztuk.

Segment Synopsis: Mary Ann Tonnies Girard is introduced. She talks about working as a social worker for several years before joining Peace Corps. Her brother joined first and encouraged her to join. Her brother was assigned to Fiji. First, Girard was assigned to Jamaica but turned down the offer due to unrest in the country at the time. She was next offered an assignment in the Philippines, but did not have enough time to prepare so she turned that offer down as well. Her parents went to Fiji to visit her brother and spoke with the director there, Dan Cantor, who then offered Girard an assignment in Fiji.

Keywords: Applications; Assignments; Awareness; Brothers; Dan Cantor; Islands; Jamaica; Jobs; Joining; Medical social workers; Ohio State University; Packets; Parents; Philippines; Preferences; Preparations; Rejection; Social unrest; Staging; Teacher training

Subjects: Families; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Volunteers

GPS: Jamaica
Map Coordinates: 18.18, -77.4
GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:08:00 - First impressions of Fiji

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Partial Transcript: Y--um, yeah, so, uh, tell me about your first impressions of Fiji when you got off the plane.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about her first impressions of Nadi, Fiji. She talks about the chickens and roosters running around on the dirt roads. She talks about how her perceptions of Nadi changed after living on a more remote island for her assignment. She talks about her feelings when she arrived.

Keywords: Adventures; Arrival; Chickens; Cities; City; Dirt roads; Dirty; Dusty; Feelings; First impressions; Food; Nadi (Fiji); Roosters; Rural; Suva (Fiji)

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; International travel; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Nadi (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -17.8, 177.416667
GPS: Suva (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.1416, 178.4419
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:10:32 - Training

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, tell about, uh, about training.

Segment Synopsis: Girard discusses her living arrangements during training, living in an apartment with both male and female volunteers, which was unusual for the time. She talks about the importance of the cultural training she received, especially as a woman, due to the danger of being a single woman and unknowingly sending signals to the local men. She talks about her language training and the various dialects in Fiji that made communication more difficult. She talks about the lack of teacher training she received and how she felt unprepared to teach. She talks more about the cultural norms in Fiji surrounding the behavior of men and women.

Keywords: Apartments; Bathing; Cultural differences; Cultural training; Dialects; Differences; English (Language); Fijian (Language); Fijians; Foreigners; Gender; Hot peppers; Indians; Interactions; Islands; Lakeba (Fiji); Language training; Loloma Hotel; Men; Mixed genders; Mores; Practice teaching; Preparation; Relationships; Rules; Sexual advances; Single woman; Single women; Sulus; Suva (Fiji); Teacher training; Technical training; Toads; Training; Treatment; Villages; Women

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; International travel; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture; Language and languages; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Misogyny; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Sexism; Social norms; Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Lakeba (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.216667, -178.783333
GPS: Suva (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.1416, 178.4419
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:22:27 - Assignment as a teacher in Tubou

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, so tell, tell me about your, uh--the place where you were assigned.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about the island to which she was assigned. She talks about the Tongan cultural influence on the island. She talks about how the prime minister was from Tubou, and how this affected her both positively (in terms of transportation) and negatively (in terms of relationships with the local people). She talks about the lack of amenities on the island and the lack of resources for the school, which made it difficult to teach. She talks about the unfriendly treatment she received from many of the local people on the island, which she speculates may have been due to their status as nobility.

Keywords: Assignments; Attitudes; Books; Buildings; Bure; Cannibalism; Classrooms; Curriculum; Distance; Doris Baldwin; Dormitories; Dorms; English (Language); English teachers; Fale; Flying; Homes; Influences; Islands; Lakeba (Fiji); Lakeba Island (Fiji); Living conditions; Living quarters; Living situation; Mansions; Nobility; Outer islands; Outsiders; Prime ministers; Ratu; Resources; Royalty; Schools; Science teachers; Supplies; Suva (Fiji); Tonga; Tongan (Language); Tongans; Transportation; Treatment; Tubou (Fiji); Unfriendly; Unwelcoming; Vale; Wooden structures

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; International travel; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture; Language and languages; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Social norms; Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Lakeba (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.216667, -178.783333
GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Suva (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.1416, 178.4419
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:33:27 - Difficulty with her host family

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Partial Transcript: So anyway, so we had that, we started school...

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about the destruction caused by Hurricane Val shortly after her arrival in Tubou, Fiji. Because of the hurricane she was forced to move in with a host family. She talks about how she was treated by the family, who expected that her belongings were now their belongings. She talks about how this affected her mental state. She talks about her other difficulties that year, including more discussion of the cultural norms surrounding men and women. She talks more about how she had to be very careful not to inadvertently make sexual advances by being alone or making eye contact with men, which could lead to sexual assault.

Keywords: Beds; Behavior; Belongings; Careful; Churches; Daughters; Destruction; Difficult; Evacuation; Eye contact; Homelessness; Host families; Host family; Host mothers; Houses; Housing; Hurricane Val; Men; Privacy; Rape; Reputations; Safety; Sexual assault; Struggles; Treatment; Tubou (Fiji); Women

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; Cyclone damage; International travel; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Mental health; Misogyny; Natural disasters; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Sexism; Social norms; Stress (Psychology); Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:41:08 - Other difficult experiences during her service

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Partial Transcript: I did learn some things.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about things she learned during her service. She talks about how Hurricane Val destroyed all of the crops on the island, leading to there being very little to eat during the entire year of her service. She talks about how this affected her mental state.

Keywords: Alone; Attitudes; Behavior; Children; Contact; Customs; Difficult; Fishing; Food supply; Foreigners; Friends; Host families; Host family; Host mothers; Housing; Hunger; Hurricanes; Isolation; Learning; Leaving; Lessons learned; Living conditions; Living situation; Peace Corps staff; Quitting; Rations; Relationships; Schools; Stipends; Struggles; Students; Support; Teaching methods; Treatment

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; Cyclone damage; Food habits; Food security; International travel; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Language and culture; Language and languages; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Mental health; Misogyny; Natural disasters; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Sexism; Social norms; Stress (Psychology); Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:44:50 - Ending her service early

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Partial Transcript: Well you really, you really had it rough out there.

Segment Synopsis: Girard discusses her decision to end her term of service at the end of one year. She talks about rejecting an offer to be sent to another village because she would be sent with a male volunteer, which would have ruined her reputation due to the cultural norms of Fiji.

Keywords: Alone; Assignments; Attitudes; Contact; Cultural differences; Cultural sensitivity; Cultural training; Customs; Dan Cantor; Difficult; Isolation; Leaving; Male volunteers; Mores; Peace Corps staff; Quitting; Reputations; Rules; Single woman; Single women; Struggles; Treatment; Villages; Women

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Misogyny; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Sexism; Social norms; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:47:46 - Impact of her service

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Partial Transcript: You know, I've, um, interviewed other people who've brought up the issue of different treatment of women volunteers.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about whether she feels she made an impact on her site as a volunteer. She talks about local attitudes regarding education, children and grandchildren, and money. She talks about beauty standards on the island.

Keywords: Assimilation; Attitudes; Beauty standards; Ceremonies; Children; Cultural differences; Cultural exchange; Differences; Education; Gender; Girls; Grandchildren; Impact; Income; Interactions; Learning; Men; Mores; Relationships; Rules; Single woman; Single women; Treatment; Women

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Misogyny; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Sexism; Social norms; Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:52:02 - Recreation in Fiji

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Partial Transcript: Well it's great you can laugh about all this stuff.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about fishing in groups with local women and their fishing methods. She talks about how food was stored.

Keywords: Baskets; Fishing; Fishing methods; Food safes; Fun; Rituals; Women

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Food habits; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Recreation; Social norms; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:55:14 - More on ending her service early

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Partial Transcript: So then, uh, so after a year you decided you were gonna go home.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks more about her decision to end her assignment at the end of one year. She talks about a cultural faux pas she made just before leaving Fiji.

Keywords: Angry; Assignments; Dan Cantor; Dances; Faux pas; Foreigners; Leaving; Meke; Offensive; Posts; Quitting; Rituals; Sense of humor; Students; Teachers

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Social norms; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:57:29 - Visiting a witchdoctor

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Partial Transcript: Um, and then I went to the witchdoctor.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about developing a rash, which someone told her was due to someone being jealous of her knitting skills. She talks about visiting a local doctor, who could not solve her problem, and then visiting a witchdoctor who cured her.

Keywords: "Witchdoctor"; Doctors; Hexes; Jealousy; Public officials; Rashes

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Health; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Medical care; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Rural health services; Social norms; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
00:59:50 - Impact of Peace Corps on her life

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Partial Transcript: So, um, yeah. I, I'm sure that you cutting your, your service short wasn't an easy thing for you to do.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about leaving Fiji. She talks about how Peace Corps lead to her brother permanently moving to New Zealand. She talks about how Peace Corps changed her life and the lessons she learned. She talks about keeping in touch with Peace Corps volunteers.

Keywords: Attitudes; Brothers; Challenges; Citizenship; Contact; Ex-patriates; Friends; Impact; In touch; Jobs; Learning; Leaving; Life changing; New Zealand; Resilience; Resilient; Self

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Tubou (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.2350935, -178.8151342
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: New Zealand
Map Coordinates: -42, 173
01:03:32 - Visiting Fiji in 2018

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Partial Transcript: And you, you said you went back in 2018.

Segment Synopsis: Girard talks about visiting Fiji with her brother in 2018 and how the experience was similar and different from her Peace Corps experience.

Keywords: Boats; Brothers; Changes; Food; Gender roles; Lakeba (Fiji); Lakeba Island (Fiji); Men; Modernization; Nadi (Fiji); Returning; Savusavu (Fiji); Transportation; Vacations; Villages; Visiting; Women

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Food habits; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Misogyny; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Sexism; Social norms

GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: Lakeba (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -18.216667, -178.783333
GPS: Nadi (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -17.8, 177.416667
GPS: Savusavu (Fiji)
Map Coordinates: -16.746667, 179.358333
01:09:03 - Advice for prospective volunteers

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Partial Transcript: So, um, if you ran into somebody now, some young kid that said they wanted to join Peace Corps, what advice would you give them?

Segment Synopsis: Girard offers advice for prospective volunteers, especially women.

Keywords: Advice; Attitudes; Gender roles; Treatment; Women

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Culture shock; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Misogyny; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Fiji; Sexism; Social norms; Voluntarism; Volunteers