Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Roger Weiss, April 13, 2021

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

 

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00:00:00 - Experiences before joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Alright. And this is Tuesday, April 13, 2021. And my name is Marya Nowakowski. And I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1987 to 1990. And I am interviewing, um, Roger Weiss, um, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic from July 1964 to July of 1966.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss earned a degree in ecology from Western Washington State College. Weiss had held summer jobs in Alaska and Washington related to fisheries. Weiss was inspired by John F. Kennedy and applied to join the Peace Corps while he was a junior in college. Weiss opted to join the Peace Corps rather than be drafted into the military.

Keywords: Animal husbandry; Background checks; Choices; College majors; Dangerous; Dangers; Deaths; Influences; John F. Kennedy; Military drafts; Motivation; Telephone calls; Undergraduate education; Western Washington State College

Subjects: Alaska; College students--Employment; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--1960-1970; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Universities and colleges; Vietnam; Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington

GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: Western Washington State College [now Western Washington State University]
Map Coordinates: 48.734, -122.486
GPS: Alaska
Map Coordinates: 64.0685, -152.2782
GPS: Washington
Map Coordinates: 47, -120
GPS: Vietnam
Map Coordinates: 16, 108
00:03:27 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: And, I needed to report to Kansas State University very quickly for training.

Segment Synopsis: Initially, Weiss had pre-service training at Kansas State University. The last month of pre-service training was in Puerto Rico.

Keywords: Changes; Cultural training; Fluency; Kansas State University; Language skills; Language training; Manhattan (Ks.); Physical fitness; Puerto Rico; Spanish (Language); Traveling; Waiting periods; Weather

Subjects: Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Universities and colleges; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Kansas State University
Map Coordinates: 39.191667, -96.580833
GPS: Manhattan (Ks.)
Map Coordinates: 39.183608, -96.571669
GPS: Puerto Rico
Map Coordinates: 18.2223, -66.4303
00:05:02 - Assignment in Dominican Republic

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Partial Transcript: So then, I was sent to the Dominican Republic.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss was assigned to Barahona as a fisheries expert. Previously, nine other Volunteers had been sent to the Dominican Republic as fisheries experts but six of them had quit. Weiss visited the remaining three Volunteers but found that they had little to show other than one successful fishing co-op. Weiss did some research and recommended that the fisheries program be canceled for lack of proper fishing vessels.

Keywords: Accountability; Advice; Barahona (Dominican Republic); Books; Quitting

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Hispaniola; Peace Corps (U.S.); Research; Site visits; United Nations; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: Barahona (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.2, -71.1
GPS: Hispaniola
Map Coordinates: 19, -71
00:09:49 - Revolution in the Dominican Republic

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Partial Transcript: As I and another guy were getting ready to go on a vacation to fly over to Haiti, you couldn't go by land over to Haiti because Haiti and the Dominican Republic were at--firmly at war.

Segment Synopsis: About five months after his arrival, Weiss was preparing to go on vacation to Haiti when they heard news on the radio of a revolution in the Dominican Republic. Consequently, Weiss returned to Santo Domingo. Weiss describes some of the fighting and evacuation in the capital. Weiss was, in part, involved with transporting food and medical supplies around the town and working at a hospital. After about three weeks, the Volunteers in the Dominican Republic were evacuated to Puerto Rico.

Keywords: Borders; Dangerous; Dangers; Deaths; Duarte Bridge (Dominican Republic); International politics and government; Juan Bosch; News; Peace Corps offices; Ponce (Puerto Rico); Puerto Rico; Questions; Regional conflict; Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic); Traveling; Wars

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Evacuation; Haiti; Hospitals; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Haiti
Map Coordinates: 19, -72.416667
GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.466667, -69.95
GPS: Juan Pablo Duarte Bridge (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.49113855, -69.9306244
GPS: Puerto Rico
Map Coordinates: 18.2223, -66.4303
GPS: Ponce (Puerto Rico)
Map Coordinates: 18.01087, -66.61393
00:21:01 - Re-assignment to La Vega, Dominican Republic

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Partial Transcript: We were on the loose in Puerto Rico for, I don't know how long. Until things settled down in the Dominican Republic.

Segment Synopsis: After about a month, the Volunteers were returned to the Dominican Republic. Weiss was re-assigned to La Vega to help coordinate building a school. Weiss describes the construction.

Keywords: Activities; Community involvement; La Vega (Dominican Republic); Puerto Rico; Returning; Traveling

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Evacuation; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Schools; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Puerto Rico
Map Coordinates: 18.2223, -66.4303
GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: La Vega (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 19.22, -70.53
00:24:27 - Continuing Peace Corps connections

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Partial Transcript: I have been back to the school, uh, a lot of times.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss has attended several Peace Corps Volunteer reunions in the Dominican Republic. The first was in 1987. Weiss helped organize the 2012 reunion, which was attended by about 800 Returned Volunteers. Weiss has also served as president of Friends of the Dominican Republic.

Keywords: Aaron S. Williams; Chris Dodd; Dancing; Friends; Lynden (Wash.); Miami (Fla.); Peace Corps directors; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Returning; Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic); Seattle-Tacoma Airport; Tourism; Tourists; Traveling

Subjects: Cuba; Dominican Republic; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Map Coordinates: 47.448889, -122.309444
GPS: Miami (Fla.)
Map Coordinates: 27.775163, -80.208615
GPS: Lynden (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 48.946667, -122.456944
GPS: Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.466667, -69.95
GPS: Cuba
Map Coordinates: 22, -80
00:30:31 - Career path

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Partial Transcript: When I came back from Peace Corps, I--well, I was interested in continuing a hog project and learning about agriculture. And, so I went back to college to get a degree in animal nutrition at Iowa State University.

Segment Synopsis: When he returned to the U.S., Weiss attended Iowa State University to study animal nutrition and formed a group with other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Weiss describes his following career and marriage. Weiss has maintained contact with friends in the Dominican Republic via social media and his return visits.

Keywords: Animal husbandry; College majors; Friends; Graduate schools; Interests; Invitations; Iowa State University; Jobs; Marriage; Parties; Re-entry; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Returning; Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic); Social media; Traveling

Subjects: Dominican Republic; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Universities and colleges; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Iowa State University
Map Coordinates: 42.026111, -93.648333
GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.466667, -69.95
00:33:13 - Living conditions while a Volunteer

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Partial Transcript: Go-going back to your time as a Volunteer, um, what were your living conditions like?

Segment Synopsis: At Barahona, Weiss lived in a shack which became flooded during the rainy season. At La Vega, Weiss and his site mate were in a rented house. Weiss describes his relationship with some of his neighbors there. Occasionally, Weiss cooked for himself. In La Vega, Weiss and his roommate hired a housekeeper/cook.

Keywords: Barahona (Dominican Republic); Bellingham (Wash.); Belongings; Dancing; Deaths; Emails; Friends; Future plans; La Vega (Dominican Republic); Learning; Living alone; Local people; Locals; Marriage; Miami (Fla.); Parties; Pre-service training; Puerto Rico; Recreation; Returning; Roommates; Site mates; Social media; Socializing; Traveling

Subjects: Emigration and immigration; Families; Finance; Immigrants; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Barahona (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.2, -71.1
GPS: La Vega (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 19.22, -70.53
GPS: Miami (Fla.)
Map Coordinates: 25.775163, -80.208615
GPS: Puerto Rico
Map Coordinates: 18.2223, -66.4303
GPS: Bellingham (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 48.751944, -122.478611
00:41:09 - Leisure activities in Dominican Republic

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Partial Transcript: So, um, when you weren't working, what, um, what activities did you, um, engage in while you were in La Vega?

Segment Synopsis: Sometimes, Weiss would party with his roommate and his roommate's girlfriend. Occasionally, there would be a local festival to attend. Weiss is currently active in a Spanish language conversation group, the local Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group, and with the National Peace Corps Association. Weiss participates in annual Peace Corps recruiting events.

Keywords: Bellingham (Wash.); Community involvement; Conversations; Holidays; Jobs; Olympia (Wash.); Parties; Peace Corps recruiters; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Roommates; Seattle (Wash.); Spanish (Language); Spokane (Wash.); Traveling; University of Washington; Western Washington State College

Subjects: Canada; Dominican Republic; International travel; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Universities and colleges; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Bellingham (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 48.751944, -122.478611
GPS: Seattle (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.609722, -122.333056
GPS: Spokane (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.658889, -117.425
GPS: Olympia (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.037778, -122.900833
GPS: Western Washington State College [now Western Washington State University]
Map Coordinates: 48.734, -122.486
GPS: University of Washington
Map Coordinates: 47.654167, -122.308056
GPS: Canada
Map Coordinates: 60, -110
00:46:44 - Details of Weiss' career

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Partial Transcript: What did I do after Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Weiss gives a re-cap of his post-Peace Corps Volunteer activities and his long career as an animal nutrition consultant. Furthermore, Weiss developed and marketed professional software and has been involved with a company that sells coursework about different personalities.

Keywords: Alberta; Bellingham (Wash.); British Columbia; Family; Friends of the Dominican Republic; Jobs; Kansas State University; Marriage; Pre-service training; South Dakota; Spokane (Wash.); Traveling; Vancouver (Canada)

Subjects: Argentina; Canada; Dominican Republic; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Retirement; Universities and colleges; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: South Dakota
Map Coordinates: 44.4443, -100.2263
GPS: Argentina
Map Coordinates: -34, -64
GPS: Canada
Map Coordinates: 60, -110
GPS: British Columbia
Map Coordinates: 54, -125
GPS: Alberta
Map Coordinates: 54.991667, -114.376667
GPS: Bellingham (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 48.751944, -122.478611
GPS: Vancouver (Canada)
Map Coordinates: 49.261111, -123.113889
GPS: Spokane (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.658889, -117.425
GPS: Kansas State University
Map Coordinates: 39.191667, -96.580833
00:54:08 - Development meetings

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Partial Transcript: The original country director in the Dominican Republic was named Andres Hernandez.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss mentions attending irregular meetings related to development which included Jack Vaughn and other high level Peace Corps staff members.

Keywords: Albuquerque (N.M.); Deaths; Friends; International development; Jack Vaughn; John F. Kennedy; Mexican Americans; Peace Corps directors; Peace Corps staff; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Social media; Uncertainty

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Haiti; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: Haiti
Map Coordinates: 19, -72.416667
GPS: Albuquerque (N.M.)
Map Coordinates: 35.110833, -106.61