Partial Transcript: Today is September 10, 2021.
Segment Synopsis: Nekimken graduated from college with a dual degree in French and English. He was also curious about the world. Nekimken wanted to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. One of his high school teachers was married to a Turkish person and she spoke highly of the country. Nekimken applied to Peace Corps during his senior year in college. Immediately after graduation, he joined his group at the University of Texas in Austin for a summer program, the technical training for service. A part of that program was a psychiatric evaluation.
Keywords: Dual degree; English (Language); French (Language); Pre-service training; Vietnam War
Subjects: Education, Higher; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: So there weren't any challenges with the application process itself?
Segment Synopsis: Both native Turkish speakers and other Volunteers taught Nekimken Turkish. The only teaching experience Nekimken had was tutoring. The technical instruction involved learning to teach English as a foreign, spoken language. In-country, Nekimken found that his students only wanted to pass the English exam to graduate from high school, not to be fluent speakers. Recent Turkish history was a part of the cultural training. There were stones in the street with Greek and Roman inscriptions which startled him. There were clear warnings about avoiding parasites and food contamination.
Keywords: Cultural training; English as a foreign language; Food contamination; Native speakers; Parasites; Pre-service training; Tutoring
Subjects: Acculturation; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Schools; Teachers; Teaching; Turkey; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: So, um, now you're, uh, leaving Texas and arriving in, in Turkey.
Segment Synopsis: Nekimken's town, Tokat, was directly south of Israel and Lebanon, considered to be the Black Sea region of Turkey, a rather isolated part of the country. There were about 40 volunteers in Nekimken's group; some were deselected during training. Nekimken was ready for new experiences and those expectations were met. To be abroad during the Vietnam War was insightful and instructive. He was told where he'd work just before leaving for the town. Nekimken was the third volunteer to be in his town. He stayed in touch with some of the others in his group. He felt that those volunteers in the cities spoke mainly English, thus not learning about Turkey as much as he did living in a remote area. Nekimken befriended a family, friends of another volunteer. He's in communication with the third generation of that family today. He would phone the Peace Corps office from a phone in the post office when there were issues and meetings. He also met with the regional managers who visited periodically.
Keywords: Deselection; Expectations; Israel; Lebanon; Posting; Remote towns; Tokat (Turkey); Vietnam War
Subjects: Acculturation; Interpersonal relations; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: What about your, uh, living situation? How was that determined?
Segment Synopsis: Nekimken lived in an apartment near the married volunteers in town; when they left, he moved into their place that was in a building shared with Turkish teachers. In his final apartment, he befriended another Turkish family.
Keywords: Apartment living; Apartments; Living arrangements; Living situations; Turkish teachers
Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Teachers; Voluntarism; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: Can you describe what the town was like?
Segment Synopsis: Nekimken's town, Tokat, was a small town of about 10,000 people, with one regional high school with a dorm for students who lived a distance from it. There was one hotel and it had the only washing machine in town. To wash his clothes, he'd either do it himself in a bath tub, or hire a woman to wash them by stamping on the clothes in a tub with her feet. The town was built along a main road; there was a bridge over a stream that was built by the Romans. There were buildings built with mud walls in the Anatolian style. The local water was hard, so townspeople had kidney and gallbladder issues. He felt lucky to have water and electricity. Nekimken had breakfast at home, lunch in the school cafeteria with the students, and dinner at a restaurant. The food was excellent, especially the standard Turkish food. Whereas cooking in the U.S. entails trying new recipes, in Turkey there was "the right way" to cook. Nekimken invited a family over for dinner, and they were horrified that he'd put yogurt on fruit salad. Meat was integral to every meal; only peasants didn't eat meat. Nekimken lived with a family with two sons in a cement modern building. The Turkish teachers took their laundry home for their mothers to wash. Others wore black underwear and sweat pants because they washed their clothes every few months. The apartment was sparsely furnished. It was within walking distance from the school.
Keywords: "Right way" to cook; Anatolian style; Cement buildings; Dormitories; Eating and cooking; Furnishings; High schools; Roman bridges; Tokat (Turkey); Washing clothes
Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Food habits; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Teachers; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: Can you describe a, a typical day?
Segment Synopsis: For Nekimken, a typical day involved teaching classes with 40-50 students in them, crammed into old-fashioned desks with the students separated by gender. Students with disabilities were mainstreamed into the classrooms. He taught to the English exam and then taught practical English to them. At the end of the year, the students were tested individually; one student was asked his name, and he said, "Yes," which showed that he'd simply memorized the answers to questions in the manual. Nekimken taught hour-long classes all day long. There was one other English teacher in the school. School drop-outs who returned to earn the diploma simply joined classes, so there were students of many ages. Nekimken interacted with the other teachers in the school. Gender issues regulated interactions among teachers, especially outside of school.
Keywords: Final examinations; Final exams; Gender issues; Gender roles; People with disabilities; Students with disabilities; Typical day
Subjects: Acculturation; Language and languages; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Schools; Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: Did you have visits from--you mentioned something about a regional, a regional, uh, staff person.
Segment Synopsis: Periodically, the regional Peace Corps staff person visited Nekimken.
Keywords: Oversight; Peace Corps staff; Regional Peace Corps staff
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: What did you do in your off-time? Were you able to take vacations during service?
Segment Synopsis: Nekimken deliberately got out of his apartment to explore the town and take bus trips to neighboring towns, or to Izmir. During the evenings, he met teachers in their local spots, though they liked to drink and play cards which he didn't enjoy. One time, he walked into a carpet store. Nekimken was surprised that the clerk knew who he was and how much money he made. There was no anonymity. The kids called him "spy" or "Russian." One teacher routinely got drunk; when Nekimken asked why he drank so much, he answered that no one would give him his daughter to marry. Nekimken visited Izmir, he worked in a kids' camp, and he went to Israel to meet his aunt and uncle there. While there, he met several Turkish people. Nekimken gained proficiency in Turkish. Leftist Turkish people thought volunteers were making Turkish people more Americanized; Nekimken understood that his experiences were making him more Turkish.
Keywords: Exploration; Israel; Izmir (Turkey)
Subjects: Acculturation; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Recreation; Schools; Teachers; Teaching; Travel; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: Looking back at your service, what, what do you think was your most difficult challenge?
Segment Synopsis: For Nekimken, being in the classroom was the most challenging part of his service. Kids would ask questions in Turkish, which, usually, he didn't understand. Nor could he respond in Turkish. Asking questions in English didn't take hold. After his service, Nekimken taught English in high school for 10 years. It is difficult for him to know what his effect was on his students. However, he had several incidents over the years when he knew that he'd had some influence. His family has visited the town, too. Nekimken had a Fulbright Scholarship to study Turkish literature in Turkey, eventually earning a doctorate in Turkish literature. He and his wife returned to Istanbul to work for two years for a Turkish investment bank.
Keywords: Accomplishments; Challenges; Classrooms; Fulbright Scholarships; Investment banks; Turkish literature
Subjects: Acculturation; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Schools; Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: I'd to ask you a little about lessons learned in, in three areas.
Segment Synopsis: In Nekimken's estimation, volunteers have to learn to listen to people, to understand them. Especially when talking politics, you may have to defend your position and your country, according to Nekimken. Speaking the local language goes a long way. Some Turkish teachers hit students who didn't cooperate. He asked them if it worked, and they suggested that he try it. Once, when exasperated, he slapped a student. The student's father came to the school to protest. Nekimken's action was supported by the teachers' council. The student transferred to another school. In another incident, Nekimken slapped a student who, when asked why he didn't protest, said that his parents slapped him, too, and he respected Nekimken for it. Parents encouraged Nekimken to slap their kids in his classes. Nekimken learned that you cannot come in from the outside and impose your values on others; rather, you get people to see the advantages of doing things differently. Pop culture influences people around the world by opening eyes. Local people have their own reasons to change things.
Keywords: Corporal punishment; Imposing; Lessons learned; Listening; Popular culture; Speaking the local language; Students; Values
Subjects: Acculturation; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Schools; Teachers; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in education; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: Did you, uh--(audio cuts out)--think of the, the Peace Corps' three goals during service?
Segment Synopsis: Nekimken considered the three goals of Peace Corps during his service. Technical assistance was provided when people asked for it. There is a genuine interest in Americans, and as we describe our lives in a respectful manner to others, it helps to further understanding. By admitting imperfection, others then think about their own cultures in that way.
Keywords: Admitting imperfection; Respectful manner; Technical assistance; Three goals of Peace Corps
Subjects: Acculturation; Culture; Intercultural communication; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: Um, I was going to ask you about, uh, post-Peace Corps activity...
Segment Synopsis: For Nekimken, Peace Corps is still absolutely important today. It has an outstanding record. Those who do not take advantage of the years between college and work miss the chance to learn about themselves and about the world. Nekimken commends the policy of living on the wage/salary of a person in the country, not as if the volunteer were employed in the U.S. Volunteers learn to accept the life around them.
Keywords: Importance of Peace Corps
Subjects: Acculturation; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers