Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Carol Beecher, June 5, 2021

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


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00:00:02 - Experiences before joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Today is June 5, 2021. This is Wendy Schumacher, R.P.C.V. Morocco, 1999 to 2001. And I am interviewing Ca--Carol Beecher who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Afghanistan from 1967 to 1969. In the Peace Corps, Carol Beecher was a health Volunteer.

Segment Synopsis: Beecher had graduated from Pennsylvania State University and worked as a bank teller in Seattle and in New York City. Beecher traveled in Europe for a summer and then got a job as a reporter at a local newspaper. Beecher wished to do more overseas travel and applied to the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Applications; Applying; Family; Friends; Jobs; Motivation; New York City (N.Y.); Pennsylvania State University; Seattle (Wash.); Traveling

Subjects: Europe; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--1960-1970; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; Universities and colleges; Volunteer workers in community health services

GPS: Afghanistan
Map Coordinates: 33, 65
GPS: Pennsylvania State University
Map Coordinates: 40.798333, -77.86
GPS: Seattle (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.609722, -122.333056
GPS: New York City (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71278, -74.006111
GPS: Europe
Map Coordinates: 48.0965493, 4.1333519
00:02:08 - Peace Corps application process

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Partial Transcript: What was the application process like?

Segment Synopsis: On her application form, Beecher indicated that she wanted to learn Spanish. However, Beecher was posted to Afghanistan and needed to study Farsi.

Keywords: Applications; Applying; English (Language); Farsi (Language); Letters; Mail; Spanish (Language)

Subjects: Afghanistan; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: Afghanistan
Map Coordinates: 33, 65
00:03:08 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: I had been selected to train for Peace Corps. And my--I--the training program was going to be held in Brattleboro, Vermont at something called the, I think, the International Learning--I wrote it down.

Segment Synopsis: Beecher's pre-service training occurred at the Experiment in International Living in Brattleboro, Vermont. Beecher's project was to vaccinate women and children against smallpox. Beecher's group began with 42 trainees, all females. Ultimately, 20 of the trainees became Volunteers. Beecher describes a training exercise where trainees were dropped off separately without identification at villages in Vermont, given $5.00, and instructed to stay and provide some service to the community for 2 weeks. Beecher describes other physical fitness and survival exercises.

Keywords: Brattleboro (Vt.); Children; Community service; Final selection; Gender roles; Health training; Illness; Language training; Mid-term selection; Peace Corps interviews; Peace Corps staff; Purdah; Sickness; Smallpox; Technical training; Telephone calls; University of Iowa; Vaccinations; Vermont; Women

Subjects: Afghanistan; Interpersonal relations; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; Universities and colleges; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Brattleboro (Vt.)
Map Coordinates: 42.85, -72.582222
GPS: Afghanistan
Map Coordinates: 33, 65
GPS: Vermont
Map Coordinates: 44, -72.7
GPS: University of Iowa
Map Coordinates: 41.661667, -91.536359
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
00:14:20 - Reactions to her joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: What did your family think about that?

Segment Synopsis: When Beecher successfully completed her pre-service training, she phoned her parents who were on vacation in London and they shared her happiness.

Keywords: Friends; London (England); New York City (N.Y.); News; Paris (France); Pennsylvania; Telephone calls; Traveling; Washington

Subjects: Emotions; England; Europe; International travel; Parents; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan

GPS: Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 40.8781, -77.7996
GPS: England
Map Coordinates: 53, -1
GPS: Paris (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.856613, 2.352222
GPS: London (England)
Map Coordinates: 51.507222, -0.1275
GPS: Washington (state)
Map Coordinates: 47, -120
GPS: Europe
Map Coordinates: 48.0965493, 4.1333519
GPS: New York City (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.71278, -74.006111
00:17:06 - Description of Peace Corps and Afghanistan

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Partial Transcript: And we were a special group because, number 1, we were all girls--women, I should say.

Segment Synopsis: The members of Beecher's cohort bonded closely. Beecher's cohort members were issued special passports to enable them to move freely inside Afghanistan. Most other Volunteers in-country were teaching English in one of the cities.

Keywords: Autonomy; Cohorts; Doctors; Foreigners; Herat (Afghanistan); Interpersonal relations; Kabul (Afghanistan); Kandahar (Afghanistan); Peace Corps directors; Peace Corps staff; Rural areas; Teaching English as a foreign language

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; Volunteers

GPS: Afghanistan
Map Coordinates: 33, 65
GPS: Kabul (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 34.525278, 69.178333
GPS: Kandahar (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 31.616667, 65.716667
GPS: Herat (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 34.341944, 62.203056
00:18:43 - Description of work

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Partial Transcript: How did you travel around?

Segment Synopsis: From Kabul, Beecher's cohort was divided into teams of 5 or 6 people which were driven to different provinces. A dry vaccine was provided by the Soviet Union. The program was run by the World Health Organization. Beecher's team was constantly moving to different locations. Beecher describes the operation of her team and program. The team often walked from village to village. Beecher recounts various encounters, including a dinner with a provincial governor who had attended the University of Pennsylvania. Beecher found the people in-country hospitable and never felt threatened.

Keywords: Adaptability; Chakhansur (Afghanistan); Clothing; Contributions; Fayzabad (Afghanistan); Flexibility; Friends; Ghor (Afghanistan); Inoculations; Kabul (Afghanistan); Kandahar (Afghanistan); Kokcha River; Kunduz (Afghanistan); Legal paperwork; Living conditions; Malaria; Medical kits; Philadelphia (Pa.); Poverty; Traveling; University of Pennsylvania; Vaccinations; Vaccines; Villages; World Health Organization

Subjects: Africa; Non-governmental organizations; Nonprofit organizations; Pakistan; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; Sahara; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; United Nations; Universities and colleges

GPS: Kabul (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 34.525278, 69.178333
GPS: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
GPS: Kunduz (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 38.8, 68.8
GPS: Fayzabad (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 37.1175, 70.579722
GPS: Kokcha River
Map Coordinates: 37.163, 69.397
GPS: Ghor (Afghanistan) [also spelled as Ghowr or Ghur]
Map Coordinates: 34, 65
GPS: Chakhansur (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 31.166667, 62.066667
GPS: Sahara
Map Coordinates: 23, 13
GPS: University of Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 39.95, -75.19
GPS: Philadelphia (Pa.)
Map Coordinates: 39.952778, -75.163611
GPS: Pakistan
Map Coordinates: 30, 70
GPS: Kandahar (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 31.616667, 65.716667
00:39:39 - Vacation during her service

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Partial Transcript: But when I was in the Peace Corps, after you'd served about a year and a half or a year, let's say, of, of your assignment--and of course, they didn't pay us very much while we were there.

Segment Synopsis: After a year of service, Peace Corps provided Beecher with $1,000 and 6 weeks off. Accordingly, Beecher and another Volunteer went by bus to Pakistan via the Khyber Pass. They then traveled by train across India. From Calcutta, they flew to Rangoon and then Thailand. From there, they took a ship to Hong Kong via the Philippines.

Keywords: Borders; Buses; Calcutta (India); Hong Kong; Kabul (Afghanistan); Massachusetts; New Delhi (India); Paperwork; Peshawar (Pakistan); Problems; Rangoon (Burma); Rawalpindi (Pakistan); Taj Mahal (India); Tourists; Trains; Traveling

Subjects: Afghanistan; Burma; Finance; Ganges River; Himalayas; Hindu Kush; India; International travel; Khyber Pass; Lifestyles; Morocco; Pakistan; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; Philippines; Thailand; Volunteers

GPS: Massachusetts
Map Coordinates: 42.2596, -71.8083
GPS: Morocco
Map Coordinates: 32, -6
GPS: Afghanistan
Map Coordinates: 33, 65
GPS: Pakistan
Map Coordinates: 30, 70
GPS: Hindu Kush
Map Coordinates: 35, 71
GPS: Himalayas
Map Coordinates: 27.983333, 86.916667
GPS: Khyber Pass
Map Coordinates: 34.0757, 71.20394
GPS: Peshawar (Pakistan)
Map Coordinates: 34.016667, 71.583333
GPS: Rawalpindi (Pakistan)
Map Coordinates: 33.6, 73.033333
GPS: Kabul (Afghanistan)
Map Coordinates: 34.525278, 69.178333
GPS: Burma [now called Myanmar]
Map Coordinates: 22, 96
GPS: India
Map Coordinates: 21, 78
GPS: New Delhi (India)
Map Coordinates: 28.613895, 77.209006
GPS: Calcutta (India)
Map Coordinates: 22.5675, 88.37
GPS: Taj Mahal (India)
Map Coordinates: 27.175, 78.041944
GPS: Ganges River
Map Coordinates: 25. 3, 83.01
GPS: Rangoon (Burma) [now known as Yangon (Myanmar)]
Map Coordinates: 16.85, 96.183333
GPS: Thailand
Map Coordinates: 15, 101
GPS: Hong Kong
Map Coordinates: 22.3, 114.2
GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
01:01:04 - End of her project

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Partial Transcript: Were there Volunteers who came after you?

Segment Synopsis: Shortly after Beecher returned to the U.S., the project in which she had participated came to an end.

Keywords: Deaths; Disease transmission; Doctors; Ghor (Afghanistan); Illness; Regional conflict; Sickness; Smallpox; Typhoid fever; World Health Organization

Subjects: Health; Hygiene; Non-governmental organizations; Nonprofit organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; United Nations; Volunteers

01:04:01 - Reflections on Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: So when I came back to, to America, I wrote this book. I waited 30 years to write it. But then I wrote it. I called it "Echoes Across Afghanistan, Choi, Choi, Naan."

Segment Synopsis: Beecher again comments on the hospitality of the people in Afghanistan who shared what little food they had with Beecher's team. From her Peace Corps service, Beecher learned that people should assume responsibility for each other and to acknowledge the differences between peoples.

Keywords: Books; Learning; Personal growth; Perspectives

Subjects: Afghanistan; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan

GPS: Afghanistan
Map Coordinates: 33, 65
01:05:41 - Re-entry to the United States

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Partial Transcript: When you came back, what--where did you go? What were--what did you want to do?

Segment Synopsis: Beecher returned to Pennsylvania State University for 10 weeks and completed her degree. Beecher contacted the army and inquired about civilian jobs overseas. Beecher declined a position with the military in Vietnam but accepted a position in South Korea, where she spent the next 5 years. Upon returning to the U.S., Beecher had a career in the federal civil service. Beecher is still in contact with the surviving members of her cohort. Beecher appreciates having been in a Peace Corps program with a specific goal compared to a program like community development which is much more vague. Beecher also states that she feels that the Peace Corps staff is now less supportive of the Volunteers and is more bureaucratic.

Keywords: Bureaucracy; Career paths; Changes; Choices; Community development; Contact; Criticism; Differences; Goals; Interests; Jobs; Letters; Maine; Peace Corps staff; Pennsylvania State University; Reno (Nev.); Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Teaching English as a foreign language; Telephone calls; Vietnam War

Subjects: Germany; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Korea (South); Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Afghanistan; Universities and colleges

GPS: Pennsylvania State University
Map Coordinates: 40.798333, -77.86
GPS: Vietnam
Map Coordinates: 16, 108
GPS: Korea (South)
Map Coordinates: 36, 128
GPS: Reno (Nev.)
Map Coordinates: 39.527222, -119.821944
GPS: Germany
Map Coordinates: 51, 9
GPS: Maine
Map Coordinates: 45, -69