Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jennifer Ann Watkins, March 17, 2021

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

 

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00:00:02 - Introduction / Joining the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Uh, hello. Today is March 17, 2021.

Segment Synopsis: Katherine "Tobie" Weist interviews Jennifer Ann Watkins about her time in Niger and Burkina Faso with the Peace Corps. In this segment, Watkins discusses why she went into the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Acting; Burkina Faso; Children; Directing; Education; Kids; New York; Niger; Peace Corps; Plays; Seattle (Wash.); Teachers; Teaching; Theater; Travel; Volunteer

Subjects: Acting.; Burkina Faso; Children.; Education.; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Plays.; Teaching.; Theater.; Theatre; Travel.; Voluntarism; Volunteers.

00:03:37 - Reactions to her joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: And did your family--were they worried about you going, or did they say, "Yay! About time!" or something like that?

Segment Synopsis: Watkins describes the reactions of her parents, siblings, and friends as she left for the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Family; Friends; Peace Corps; Travel; Voluntarism; Volunteers

Subjects: Families.; Friends; Peace Corps (U.S.); Travel.; Voluntarism.; Volunteers.

00:04:24 - Training / Focus on girls' education / Cultural norms

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Partial Transcript: And how about your training?

Segment Synopsis: Watkins details her training for the Peace Corps. In this segment, she also discusses her education sector, and the work she did that focused on girls' education. Additionally, the cultural norms of Niger are discussed.

Keywords: Cultural norms; Education; Girls; Girls education; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Training; Voluntarism; Volunteer

Subjects: Communication and culture; Education.; Girls.; Interpersonal communication and culture; Language and culture; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Schools; Student activities; Teachers; Teaching; Training.; Voluntarism; Volunteers.

00:14:28 - Living quarters in Niger

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Partial Transcript: So did you live with a family in the town, or--

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Watkins details her living quarters while working for the Peace Corps in Niger.

Keywords: Electricity; Generator; Housing; Mayor; Niger; Peace Corps; Voluntarism; Volunteer; Water

Subjects: Electricity.; Housing.; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Voluntarism; Volunteers; Water.

00:15:34 - Work in education in Niger

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Partial Transcript: And, so, le--uh, um, you were work--tell me about s--the schools that you were working in.

Segment Synopsis: Watkins discusses her work in schools in Niger while working with the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Education; Peace Corps; Schools; Secondary education; Teacher; Teaching; Volunteer

Subjects: Education.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Schools.; Secondary education; Teachers; Teaching.; Volunteers

00:17:24 - Information about the town she lived in

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Partial Transcript: You were the only Peace Corps volunteer in that town?

Segment Synopsis: Watkins discusses whether she was the only Peace Corps volunteer in her town. Additionally, she describes the farming village she lived in and the agriculture found there.

Keywords: Agriculture; Civil servants; Education; Farming; Niger; Peace Corps; Travel; Vegetables; Volunteer

Subjects: Agriculture.; Civil servants; Education.; Farming; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Travel.; Vegetables.; Volunteers

00:19:23 - Languages spoken / Projects she worked on

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Partial Transcript: Did the children speak French?

Segment Synopsis: Watkins is asked about the languages spoken in the village she lived and worked in. Additionally, she details the projects she worked on, specifically involving girls' education, including: soccer tournaments, educational plays and skits, and lessons and workshops.

Keywords: Camps; Education; French (Language); Girls; Girls' education; Health; Hygiene; Languages; Learning; Lessons; Niger; Peace Corps; Schools; Volunteer; Workshops

Subjects: Camps.; Communication and culture; Education.; French.; Girls.; Health.; Hygiene.; Intercultural communication; Interpersonal relations; Language and culture; Language and languages; Languages.; Learning.; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Teachers; Teaching; Volunteers; Workshops.

00:29:28 - Support from the Peace Corps / Suspension of Peace Corps operations in Niger

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Partial Transcript: So h--did the Peace Corps--or what did, did the Peace Corps do for you while you were there?

Segment Synopsis: Watkins discusses whether she felt supported by the Peace Corps while she was volunteering in Niger. She also discusses why the Peace Corps program was suspended in Niger.

Keywords: Conflicts; Peace Corps; Political conflicts; Political violence; Support; Violence; Voluntarism; Volunteers

Subjects: Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Political violence.; Violence.; Voluntarism.; Volunteers; War.

00:34:05 - Further discussion of the projects she worked on

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Partial Transcript: So did you start any other projects, or on your own that maybe hadn't been done before, or?

Segment Synopsis: Watkins provides more details about the projects she worked on in Niger, including the soccer team she coached and facilitating education through plays and skits.

Keywords: Education; Girls; Girls' education; Niger; Peace Corps; Projects; Voluntarism; Volunteers

Subjects: Education.; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Schools; Student activities; Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

00:38:24 - Activities in her free time

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Partial Transcript: So, what did you do for fun?

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins details what she did for fun during her time in the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Cooking; Dinner; Friends; Leisure; Market; Peace Corps; Voluntarism; Volunteer

Subjects: Communication and culture; Cooking.; Friends; Friendship; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Recreation; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

00:40:30 - Support in Niger and abroad / Holidays in the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So what do you think helped you in adjusting and carrying out what you--the projects you were supposed to--

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins describes the support she felt from her family and host family. She also describes how she celebrated the holidays in Niger.

Keywords: Christmas; Family; Holidays; Host family; Niger; Peace Corps; Support; Thanksgiving; Travel; Voluntarism; Volunteer

Subjects: Christmas.; Family.; Holidays.; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Travel.; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:43:48 - Significance of being a White American female in Niger / Difficulties she faced during service

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Partial Transcript: How did being a, a lady from the United States, a woman, and also, um, of, um...

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins discusses what it was like being a white American woman living in Niger. Additionally, she discusses the challenges she faced while working in the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Culture; Discrimination; Misogyny; Peace Corps; Race; Sexism; Voluntarism; Volunteer

Subjects: Culture.; Discrimination.; Misogyny; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Race relations; Race.; Sexism.; Social norms; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:49:26 - Leaving Niger

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Partial Transcript: So did you have trouble leaving?

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins talks about how hard it was for her to leave Niger. She talks about going to Burkina Faso a year later. She talks about the celebration held for her in Niger upon her departure.

Keywords: Home; International travel; Leaving; Peace Corps; Returning home; Travel; Volunteers

Subjects: Home.; International travel.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Travel.; Volunteers

00:51:18 - Returning to the United States

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, we've been almost an hour so let's spend the next half hour on, uh, the Response--

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Watkins details what she did when she returned to the United States.

Keywords: New Mexico; Students; Substitute teacher; Substitute teaching; Teacher; Teaching

Subjects: Education.; Students.; Teachers; Teaching.

00:52:34 - Returning to Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So this was, uh, a short-term teaching project.

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins describes her process of returning to the Peace Corps as a Response Volunteer to teach in Burkina Faso.

Keywords: Burkina Faso; Education; High schools; International; International travel; Math; Math education; Middle schools; Peace Corps; Peace Corps Response Volunteers; Students; Teacher; Teaching; Travel; Volunteer; Volunteer workers in education

Subjects: Burkina Faso; Education.; International travel.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Burkina Faso; Students.; Teachers; Teaching.; Travel.; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers

00:56:05 - Living quarters in Burkina Faso

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Partial Transcript: So were you with a fam--

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins details where she lived in Burkina Faso.

Keywords: Burkina Faso; Housing; Neighbors; Peace Corps; Teacher; Teaching; Volunteer

Subjects: Burkina Faso; Housing.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Burkina Faso; Teachers; Teaching.; Volunteers

00:57:54 - Languages spoken / Class sizes

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Partial Transcript: Go ahead.

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins talks about what languages she and her students spoke. She also details how large her classes were.

Keywords: Burkina Faso; Class sizes; Classes; French (Language); High schools; Languages; Math; Math classes; Mathematics; Middle schools; Peace Corps; Schools; Students; Teacher; Teaching

Subjects: Burkina Faso; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Burkina Faso; Students.; Teachers; Teaching.; Volunteer workers in education

00:59:53 - Similarities and differences between her two Peace Corps experiences

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Partial Transcript: So compare the two, two, uh--

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins compares her two Peace Corps experiences in Niger and Burkina Faso.

Keywords: Art; Burkina Faso; Culture; Customs; Education; English (Language); French (Language); International travel; Jewelry; Language; Niger; Peace Corps; Pen pals; Religion; Silver; Students; Teacher; Teaching; Travel; Volunteers

Subjects: Art.; Burkina Faso; Culture.; Education.; International travel.; Jewelry.; Language and languages; Niger; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Burkina Faso; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Niger; Pen pals; Religion.; Silver.; Students.; Teachers; Teaching.; Travel.; Volunteers

01:06:41 - Peace Corps headquarters / Political conflict

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Partial Transcript: So did they have a good--like in Niger, in Burkina Faso, was there an active--

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins discusses whether there was an active Peace Corps headquarters in Burkina Faso. She also details a time of political and military conflict and turmoil in Burkina Faso.

Keywords: Burkina Faso; Conflicts; Military; Military conflicts; Military strikes; Peace Corps; Political; Political conflicts; Strikes; Student strikes; Students; Volunteer

Subjects: Burkina Faso; Evacuation; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Burkina Faso; Students.; Volunteers

01:10:16 - Reflections on her time in Burkina Faso

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Partial Transcript: Well did you find anything that was helpful for you in Burkina Faso?

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins talks about how she adjusted to living in Burkina Faso. She also shares other reflections about her time in the country.

Keywords: Burkina Faso; Conflicts; Culture; Peace Corps; Politics; Travel; Volunteers; Wars; Water

Subjects: Burkina Faso; Culture.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Burkina Faso; Politics.; Travel.; Volunteers; War.; Water.

01:14:30 - Returning to the United States / Reflections on her service

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Partial Transcript: So tell me about returning to the United States.

[Technical Issue: The TheirStory recording platform experienced a technical glitch resulting in a timecode shift that results in moments in this interview that are out of sequence.]

Segment Synopsis: Watkins talks about how her family helped in her re-adjustment to the United States. She talks about returning to her childhood town in rural New Mexico. She talks about giving presentations on her Peace Corps experiences to classes of young children. She talks about wanting to return to her Peace Corps sites as well as traveling or living abroad in the future. She talks about attending graduate school in a Peace Corps-related program. Watkins and the interviewer discuss the Peace Corps Oral History Project. She talks about what she thinks she accomplished through her Peace Corps service, especially in terms of gender roles. She talks about the importance and impact of Peace Corps.

Keywords: Africa; Education; Family; Gender roles; Georgia College & State University; International travel; Memories; New Mexico; Peace Corps; Recruiters; Reverse culture shock; Schools; Teacher; Teaching; Travel; United States; Volunteer; West Africa; Women; Writing

Subjects: Education.; Families.; International travel.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Burkina Faso; Teachers; Teaching.; Travel.; United States.; Volunteers; West Africa.