Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Cindy Jurgensen, Curt Rahman, July 19, 2021

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

 

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00:00:02 - Early experiences

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Partial Transcript: All right. Good morning and welcome. Good morning this is . . . I'd like to introduce you to Curt and Cindy. My name is Kathy Beckman and today is July 19, 2021. I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia from 1966 to 1968 in the education program. And today, I'm interviewing Cindy Jurgensen and Curt Rahman who served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Kiribati. They were there from 1981 to 1983. And they will tell us about which . . . what their assignments were, which programs they worked in.

Segment Synopsis: Rahman grew up in Red Wing, Minnesota and attended St. Olaf College where he met Jurgensen. Rahman and Jurgensen married in their senior year at college so they could serve as a couple in the Peace Corps. In the Peace Corps, Rahman served as a community development Volunteer and Jurgensen served in a nutrition program. Currently, Rahman works in commercial real estate. Jurgensen adds that Peace Corps recruiters came to their college each year, which stimulated her and Rahman's interest in joining. Jurgensen had a long career testing and developing recipes but is now retired. Rahman and Jurgensen are both currently doing volunteer work.

Keywords: Interests; Jobs; Peace Corps recruiters

Subjects: Careers; Marriage; Minnesota; Northfield (Minn.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--1980-1990; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati; Red Wing (Minn.); Retirement; St. Olaf College; Universities and colleges; Volunteer workers in community development; Volunteer workers in community health services; Volunteers

GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
GPS: Minnesota
Map Coordinates: 46.2807, -94.3053
GPS: Red Wing (Minn.)
Map Coordinates: 44.566667, -92.533333
GPS: St. Olaf College
Map Coordinates: 44.459444, -93.180556
GPS: Northfield (Minn.)
Map Coordinates: 44.458333, -93.161111
00:03:05 - Motivation for joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: What was it that made you all decide to join the Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Rahman explains why he joined the Peace Corps. Rahman spent a college semester studying in Norway and was interested in other foreign travel. Finding employment was difficult when Rahman and Jurgensen were graduating from college. Jurgensen was intrigued by the possibility of working and helping abroad as she had not done any foreign travel.

Keywords: Difficult; Family; Interests; Jobs; Midwest; Study abroad

Subjects: Altruism; International travel; Norway; Peace Corps (U.S.); Travel

GPS: Norway
Map Coordinates: 61, 8
00:05:01 - Application process

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Partial Transcript: So, what was the selection process like? Do you remember the application, how long it took?

Segment Synopsis: Rahman and Jurgensen explain how long the Peace Corps application process took, which for the couple was nine months.

Keywords: Application; Invitations; Marriage; Waiting periods

Subjects: Marriage; Peace Corps (U.S.); Volunteers

00:05:41 - Orientation

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Partial Transcript: And where was your training? Was it in the United States or was it in your country?

Segment Synopsis: Rahman and Jurgensen went to a CAST at Harpers Ferry. Kiribati was considered a hardship post because of the limited local Peace Corps support and the local living conditions. The purpose of the CAST was to provide additional screening and orientation. According to Rahman and Jurgensen, Peace Corps eventually abandoned the CAST procedure, as it was ineffective in identifying candidates who were more likely to early terminate.

Keywords: CAST (Center for Assessment and Training); Isolation; Living conditions; Support

Subjects: Australia; Change; Harpers Ferry (W. Va.); Hawaii; Kiribati; New York; Peace Corps (U.S.); Transportation; Travel; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Harpers Ferry (W. Va.)
Map Coordinates: 39.324167, -77.733889
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: New York
Map Coordinates: 42.9538, -75.5268
GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
GPS: Hawaii
Map Coordinates: 21.3075, -157.8575
GPS: Australia
Map Coordinates: -25, 133
00:08:58 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: Where was your next stop in training?

Segment Synopsis: Pre-service training took place on Tarawa atoll, a northern island of Kiribati. The trainees stayed with host families. Rahman got dysentery during the first month of pre-service training. Language instruction focused on immersion with few written texts, which some trainees found frustrating. After a month of pre-service training, there was a break to allow trainees to return to the main island of Tarawa to re-supply. At that time, all other trainees in the cohort decided to return to the U.S. Rahman and Jurgensen were given the choice to stay in Kiribati as the only Volunteers or to switch to the program in the Solomon Islands from which the Peace Corps program in Kiribati was administered. Jurgensen and Rahman opted to remain in Kiribati but traveled to the Solomon Islands for mid-service training and for close of service.

Keywords: Acclimation; Close of Service; Clothing; Cultural training; Dancing; Decisions; Expectations; Host families; Illness; Leaving; Living conditions; Mid-service training; Peace Corps staff; Problems; Return; Support; Techniques

Subjects: Acculturation; Change; Christmas Island (Indian Ocean); Dysentery; Fiji; Hawaii; Health; International travel; Kiribati; Language; Lifestyles; Mosquito nets; Pacific islands; Peace Corps (U.S.); Sick; Solomon Islands; Tarawa (Kiribati); Training; Travel; Villages

GPS: Hawaii
Map Coordinates: 21.3075, -157.8575
GPS: Tarawa (Kiribati)
Map Coordinates: 1.333333, 173
GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
GPS: Christmas Island (Australia)
Map Coordinates: -10.49, 105.6275
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: Solomon Islands
Map Coordinates: -8, 159
00:21:43 - Secondary project

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Partial Transcript: Well, in fact, when they brought in the second program a year into our service, they did the training on our outer island instead of in the capital island just because we were like the only, you know, Peace Corps connection to the local culture.

Segment Synopsis: A year into their service, when the next cohort of trainees arrived, the pre-service training was located at a village next to Jurgensen and Rahman's work site and the two of them assisted with the training.

Keywords: Changes; Cohorts; Pre-service training

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

GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
00:23:21 - Description of local conditions

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Partial Transcript: I believe you have a picture you wanted to show us.

Segment Synopsis: Rahman shows a photo of the thatched hut where he and Jurgensen lived. Rahman describes the local physical environment. Most of the local people had a subsistence living which was heavily dependent on fishing.

Keywords: Economy; Gender roles; Living conditions

Subjects: Culture; Danger; Fishing; Housing; Kiribati; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati; Photographs; Volunteers

GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
00:25:44 - Work assignments

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk a little bit more now about your assignments for each of you.

Segment Synopsis: Jurgensen was involved with babies and maternal care. Jurgensen traveled with a local nurse to different villages to track the infants' weight and teach the mothers to use boiled water to prevent illness when preparing baby formula. A British doctor on the same island oversaw Jurgensen's work. Rahman inherited a library project, which an earlier Volunteer had started. Rahman was also involved with the construction of the library building assisted in part by labor from local church groups. Rahman's mother in Red Wing, Minnesota helped by organizing a book drive for the library. Jurgensen and Rahman went to Hawaii for vacation. When they returned, Rahman brought a wood chipper, which was then used to shred coconut meat to expedite the production of coconut oil. At times, Rahman supervised miscreants who had been assigned community service hours.

Keywords: Activities; Books; Community service; Counterparts; Doctors; Education programs; Foreigners; Illness; Improvements; Library; Maternal care; Nurse; Paperwork; Post-colonial; Sickness; Vaccinations

Subjects: Babies; Coconuts; Economics; Education; Food; Hawaii; Health; Hygiene; International travel; Kiribati; Mothers; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati; Red Wing (Minn.); Sick; Technology; Transportation; Travel; Vaccines; Villages

GPS: Red Wing (Minn.)
Map Coordinates: 44.566667, -92.533333
GPS: Hawaii
Map Coordinates: 21.3075, -157.8575
GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
00:36:49 - Description of the island

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Partial Transcript: How many people were on your island in your location ?

Segment Synopsis: Jurgensen and Rahman's island had a population of about 2,500 people. The island was 18 miles long with a maximum width of half a mile and a maximum height of 10 feet above sea level. Robert Louis Stevenson had lived and worked there.

Keywords: Robert Louis Stevenson

Subjects: Abemama (Kiribati); Authors; Culture; Geography; History; Kiribati; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati; Population; Villages

GPS: Abemama (Kiribati)
Map Coordinates: 0.4, 173.866667
00:38:20 - Vacation travel

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Partial Transcript: Did make . . . mention vacations. So, you did have a chance to take an occasional break?

Segment Synopsis: On one annual vacation, Rahman and Jurgensen met Jurgensen's parents in Hawaii. On their other vacation, Rahman and Jurgensen met some college friends in Japan.

Keywords: Friends

Subjects: Friendship; Hawaii; International travel; Japan; Kiribati; Parents; Peace Corps; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati

GPS: Japan
Map Coordinates: 36, 138
GPS: Hawaii
Map Coordinates: 21.3075, -157.8575
00:39:00 - Leisure activities

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Partial Transcript: Working there, what . . . what do you think were the . . . the re . . . the highlights for you ?

Segment Synopsis: Jurgensen enjoyed swimming, playing local games, and reading. Rahman comments that he and Jurgensen went swimming every day. There was a coral reef off the beach, which was 100 yards from their house.

Keywords: Clothing; Coral reef; Recreation

Subjects: Beach; Games; Kiribati; Pacific Ocean; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati; Reading; Recreation; Socialization; Swimming

GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
00:41:13 - Coming home

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Partial Transcript: Peace Corps has that option to extend it for a third year of service. Did you consider doing that or . . . or no?

Segment Synopsis: Jurgensen and Rahman discuss why they chose not to extend their Peace Corps service an extra year. At the end of their service, they backpacked in Asia and Europe for 4 months. Once back in the U.S., Jurgensen and Rahman experienced relatively little culture shock.

Keywords: Decisions; Extensions

Subjects: Asia; Culture shock; Europe; International travel; Kiribati; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati; Travel; United States

00:42:27 - Impact of Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: How did your Peace Corps service, if it did, did it inform your next steps in your, your careers, your lives once you got back to the United States?

Segment Synopsis: After six months working in a bookstore, Jurgensen became a Peace Corps recruiter in Minneapolis for 4 years. At their close of service, they were given a career guidebook. Completing the exercises in the book directed Rahman to his subsequent career in insurance claim adjusting. Rahman feels that his Peace Corps service gave him the self-confidence to later start his own claims adjustment company.

Keywords: Close of Service; Jobs; Minneapolis (Minn.); Peace Corps interviews; Peace Corps recruiters; Self-confidence

Subjects: Books; Career; Confidence; Learning; Minneapolis (Minn.); Peace Corps (U.S.); Volunteers

GPS: Minneapolis (Minn.)
Map Coordinates: 44.981944, -93.269167
00:45:49 - Maintaining Peace Corps contacts

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Partial Transcript: How about . . . also through the years, have you had any, have you maintained contact with the . . . the Peace Corps whether it's the, of course, you were a recruiter, Cindy. --Uh--but perhaps . . . is there a group of like Friends of ...

Segment Synopsis: Jurgensen and Rahman have maintained contact with one Volunteer in the cohort that followed theirs. Jurgensen and Rahman are active with the Minnesota Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group. One of their two sons served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar.

Keywords: Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Volunteering

Subjects: Connecticut; Haiti; Interpersonal relations; Kiribati; Madagascar; Minnesota; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Madagascar; Socialization; Sons; Volunteering

GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
GPS: Minnesota
Map Coordinates: 46.2807, -94.3053
GPS: Madagascar
Map Coordinates: -20, 47
GPS: Connecticut
Map Coordinates: 41.6, -72.7
GPS: Haiti
Map Coordinates: 19, -72.416667
00:49:06 - Reflections on impact in Kiribati

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Partial Transcript: But I'm just curious if you have thoughts about, overall, the impact that you might have had by being there those two years.

Segment Synopsis: Rahman believes that the most important outcome of their service was the cross-cultural understanding that occurred. Rahman and Jurgensen were able to share their perspectives to the local people who were living in a very isolated location.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Cultural exchange; Isolation; News; Ronald Reagan; Second Goal; Third Goal

Subjects: Culture; Kiribati; Perspective; World politics

GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
00:51:04 - Personal impact of Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything else you would like to share with us on this recording? Any other experiences that you had? Thoughts?

Segment Synopsis: Having served in the Peace Corps, Jurgensen and Rahman have become much more global citizens. Rahman and Jurgensen have hosted foreigners in their home through a group called Global Minnesota. Jurgensen and Rahman's international travels have also broadened their perspective.

Keywords: Anote Tong; Foreigners; Global Minnesota; Interests; King tides; Land; News; Nonprofit organizations; Peace Corps recruiters; Personal growth; Politics; Problems; Socializing; Training

Subjects: Change; Danger; Emigration and immigration; Fiji; Food security; Immigrants; International travel; Japan; Kiribati; Lifestyles; Minneapolis (Minn.); Norway; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Kiribati; Population; Solomon Islands; Training

GPS: Minneapolis (Minn.)
Map Coordinates: 44.981944, -93.269167
GPS: Norway
Map Coordinates: 61, 8
GPS: Kiribati
Map Coordinates: 1.416667, 173
GPS: Japan
Map Coordinates: 36, 138
GPS: Solomon Islands
Map Coordinates: -8, 159
GPS: Fiji
Map Coordinates: -18, 179
GPS: Global Minnesota (formerly known as the Minnesota International Centre), located on the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus.
Map Coordinates: 44.974747, -93.235353