RPCV-002 Mary Kilgour 4-12-2011

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RPCV-002 Mary Kilgour 4-12-2011
Mary Kilgour ( Interviewee )
Diana Dombrowski ( Interviewer )
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Oral history interview


Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua


For the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers collection.

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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
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RPCV-002 Mary Kilgour ( SPOHP )


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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Digital Humanities Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 19 83 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP rec ommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is writte n with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format . I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections . SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. December 201 4


UF RPCV 002 Interviewee: Mary Kilgour Interviewer: Diana Dombrowski Date of Interview: April 12 , 2011 D . So, could you please tell us again , your full name? K : Ye s . Mary Cameron Kilgour. D: And when and where were you born? K: In Hartford, Connecticut, 1940. D: What were your years of service in the Peace Corps, and where did you serve? K: I was in the Peace Cor ps 1962 64 and served in the Philippines. D: n for Peace Corps service. W here did you go to school? K: The University of Connecticut. D: What were you doing before you applied for Peace Corps, or during that time, in terms of your career and education? K: I was what 21 year old B.A. G eneralist. I was in college when I applied. Peace Corps was founded in 1961, when I was a junior, and I immediately applied and joined righ t after I graduated in 1962. D: When did you first hear about the Peace Corps?


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 2 K: I heard about it right at the beginning, I guess through the March speech at the University of Michigan announcing it s formation . It was a topic of conversation among people like myself, political science majors, liberal arts major s , a s we debate d world events in the dorm, and I knew immediately that I was going to apply. D: joining? K: We ll, my parents were dead . My brother was in the Merchant Marines and he With my friends, I think it was a mixture of envy and encouragement with a little bit of, Well, n ot me, but good for you if you can do it. And actually, from some of my professors, there was almost disapproval in when I could go out and g et a job that paid. But underneath that they were encouraging. D: H ow did your applicati on decision fit into your plans for the future? D id you want to work in F oreign S ervice in the future? K: No, I re one of these people who planned very well short ave a long term perspective. I just needed to find something to do right sounded like something that was worth doing, and I had all the same reasons you know the Peace Corps always talks abo ut the three goals, and I wanted to go out and show that the Americans were nice people, and be helpful to Third


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 3 World countries. So I put my sights on joining the Peace Corps for a couple of D: Where did you end up going for Peace Corps training? K: I went to San Jose State College. This was a time when they were training large numbers of volunteers in lots of different places, and Puerto Rico was the place where they had an Outward Bound camp, and traditionally, that was where Peace Co rps training groups completed their training . But it was full by the time I went. So they started using coll ege campuses around the country and tried to replicat e that Outward Bound experience there . So while we had a lot of c lass room work , w e also got up out on field trips and we had physical training every afternoon. It was v ery rigorous ph ysical training to challenge us physically and mentally . The San Jose training lasted twelve weeks. After a week back at home, we went to the Philippines for another two weeks of training at a local normal school. D: What job were you assigned to do in the Philippines? K: I was what they called a co teacher. Let me explain . They wanted to find a country where the Peace Corps would be successful immediately. So they starte d sending a lot of volunteers to the Philippines. The Philippines was pro American, it was a former colony. Education was one of the areas that they intended to send us to at all levels, from college to high school down to elementary. I was in an elementary school program. They realized there might be in the Philippines


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 4 thinking we would be taking jobs that young Filipino s would otherwise get. And so the idea was to not ever take a job that a Filipino would be qualified for. So our job was to go in and help improve the quality of education in the schools alongside the teachers. And we were going to con centrate on English as a second or fore ign language, and science. Some of the others taught math, but I had to go into each school setting and find a way to fit ourselves into an existing environment and find ways t o be helpful, not threatening. I think they do a better job nowadays at defining jobs than they did back then. D: Did you have much training for education when you left? K: I think so . They did a pretty good job at teaching us techniques for teaching Eng lish as a second language. Some of those field trips I mentioned had us learning to do science at an elementary school level. We all had enough science just from our own education, but they taught us curriculum techniques. I n the Philippines, all of the instruction was very much rote. The teacher might have a textbook, but none of the kids had one . What we were focusing on was experiments, simple little experimen ts, and it was all pretty new. I think that when I did teach sci ence, although it was pretty effective. With English, a lot of that depended on what teacher I was working with. Some of them were more receptive than others. The younger ones tended to be receptive, I someti mes taught my own cl asses, but frequently I would go in and observe in the class how the teacher was teaching, and give her pointers on pronunciation and how to present a lesson to get across a grammatical point.


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 5 We ended up, after getting some experience, and feeling we we accomplishing very much at the beginning, offering district wide seminars for teachers on Saturdays. We designed our own training modules for that. They were very successful. We then shared those modules with other volunteers in the country. T hat way the first generation of Filipino teachers who had not themselves been taught by teachers who were taught by Americans. Tho se early Americans were the Thomasite s, colonial era American teachers who taught generations of teachers. So those early teachers had very good accents and knowledge of English. Those people had then taught some of the older teachers who were still teaching when I was there . But the younger ones were at least two ge nerations away from someone who had been taught by an American, so they had more problem s with English pronunciation and fluency . They were just too far removed from a native speaker. So the quality of the English training was getting reduced in the Philip pines. T he Peace Corps came in with the idea of improving it again. D: To backtrack just a little bit, how much did you know about your host country when you left? K: I di d a little reading . I knew it was a former colony. I knew a little bit of basic his tory, but not much more than that. D: What were your first days in country like? K: Well, after a few days in Manila , we took a boat down to Zamboanga , which is on the other side of Mindanao from where I was to be assigned . Mindanao is a very


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 6 big island in the southern Philippines, the frontier of the country . That was a pleasant three day interlude. Then we stayed in Zamboanga f or two weeks attending classes at a local college and liv ing with host families. That was supposed to be a gentle introduction to the coun try. I and three other volunteers stayed with a wonderful man who was a self made businessman. He was an orphan who grew up in Tondo , which is the worst slum in Manila, and he had gone to Zamboanga to mak e his fortune as an entre preneur, and he succeeded. He ran an insurance agency, but he also owned The Pumpkin in Pas a nanc a Park, which was a little kiosk to sell snacks to kids playing in the park. He also had a ham curing barn on his property and made pickles out of papaya. He was a member of The Lions C lub, and The Lions had hosted all of the volunteers. I remained friendly with his family for the entire time I was in the country. So that was , indeed, a gentle introduction. We got used to some of the stari ng and seeing dogs without fur, and lots of cockroaches, you know, a lot of cockroaches, huge, big water bug cockroaches, and the heat and the smell of copra. We got used to all that stuff, still living in a city . S o that when we went out to our village, i t was a whole different set of challenges. But the two weeks in Zamboanga held us in good stead. D: What were conditions like in the Philippines at this time, politically, socially and economically? K: The Philippines had stopped being a colo ny of the United States back in 19 46 . It had a stable government, a democracy, more stable than it is now, frankly. The president, Diosdado Macapagal , had a good presidency. Interestingly, his


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 7 granddaughter was my student at Georgetown University when I taught there ye ars later. There was a low level communist , insurrection going on by the New rmy. It problems. There was also the Moro Liberation attempt on my island, but my part of the island was Christian, and the Moros were over on the other side. We just had to be careful when we went t o visit that part of the island , which we did once . So I would stay the Philippines was a poor c apitalistic country , b asically stable, compared to how it later be came. D: Did your job as an educator relate at all to humanitarian assistance or development, or did you work on any projects related to that in the Philippines? K: N ot really. We did education, and the n in the summer, we designed tho se lesson plans I mentioned for the workshops that we offered. We also studied th e local language. We went for a six week intensive course in Cebu. Then we went on to the regional capital to mimeograph the study materials. We tried to r aise some money for the schools. W e did it by having raffles, and getting some movies from one of the lumber camps and showing them in town and charging for tickets, and then we used the money to buy science equipment for the three or four schools that we were involved with. But ly say it was development. You know, things, but no, as I later came to know development as a USAID employee, it , except, of course, to the extent education is an essential ingredient of development .


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 8 D: When you arrived, how receptive were the people in your community to your job or assignment? K: They were very receptive. That was one of the reasons the Peace Corps sent in so many groups at once. I was Grou p 7 in the Philippines. I arrived in country in September of 19 62, and the first Peace Corps group arrived , I think , in June of 19 61 . S o within fifteen months, we were already to Group 7 . And Groups 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 all arrived about the same time. But it was pretty easy for the Philippines , being made up of so many islands, to absorb group s of Peace Corps volunteers and we would n ot see each other running into each other. The Filipinos were very friendly, very i nquisitive. We were the first Americans to actually live in the rural areas for years and years and years. There was an American man in our poblacion , Cantilan, a Thomasite , who lived there as a teacher and school administrator and died during World War II. And then during World War II, some American soldiers came through and hid out from the Japanese in the villages, or barrios , until a submarine picked them up . At least, that s the story we heard. So we were the first Americans there since World War II. There was an American woman who married a Filipino, and she lived down near the provincial capital, which was a four or five hour bus ride from us, and we only met her on c e or tw ice the whole ti me were there. Our pla ce was pretty remote. People were very friendly. We had our share of people like the older man teacher who teased us about being with the CIA. He


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 9 said that so repeatedly and so annoyingly that I finally asked him, Do you really think the American governme nt would pay me to live here for two years just to draw a map of your one road? He stopp ed after that. People were very friendly and remained so during the whole time. D: Y ou already explained that you were sent there as an educator. How did you work to teach the kids? K: L et me elaborate that. I mentioned that the job was not w ell defined. I t took us a while to figure out how to create a job around ourselves. We ended up doing these teaching teachers seminars, which I think were successful. But w e had a operating at as fast a clip as we would like to, given our energy level. In the rural areas, everything was slow, and everything took a long time. There was very little e fficiency in the way anything worked. Just to go into town, if we had to ride the bus before we got bikes, we have to walk twenty minutes down the feeder road to the main road, and it could be two hours, three hours before the bus would ave to make sure we got the last bus home, before it got dark, because nobody got benighted there, particularly two young women is a term they use for getting caught out after dark. So everything was slow. We were in a beautiful, flower filled barrio , but it was six kilometers from the nearest town on one side, and five and a half kilometers on the other s ide. There was nothing at all in our village, no shop or any thing , just a school, a little multi p urpose pavement and a water pump , a nd abou t eight houses clustered along the road near the school, and those beautiful bougainvillea flowers . B ut it was not


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 10 very practical to live there , especially because there was very little social life, except what we made ourselves with the neighbors as we go t to kno w them. W e lived on the school grounds in a house we built. D: You built the house? K: Well, we paid some village men to build it. It was s ix hundred square feet with a thatched roof , a n ice little house . Eventually I got a bike and rode it , round trip eight miles a day , to the nearest larger barrio called Parang, and I taught there. M y roommate Elosia taught at the school next to our house. It was smaller, so she ended up dividing her time between that school and the one in the p oblación , t he market center. S he would work three days a week in Palasao and two days in the town, Cantilan, just to feel fully occupied. I went every day to my school in Parang . For part of the rainy season, I stayed with the family of the principal of my school . Th en go home on weekends, because it was too hard to ride eight miles in the pouring rain and thunder and everything. volunteers . M aybe as Peace Corps has gotten more exper better at defining the job. From what I know now about the Peace Corps , and I had a lot to do with the Peace Corps over the years o f my USAID career , they now En vironmental Education and Belarus , one in India, one in Kenya and one somewhere else. So the volunteer goes into a very all ready to ta ke the


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 11 volunteer and run of the challenge of being a volunteer. Some people are better at it than others. moving young American, adjusting to the slower kind of lifestyle takes some doing. In our case, we had no electricity, no water; we had to be out in the elements all the time. W e slowed down also. We ended up lik ing that nap in the afternoon . S adjusting to cultural differences, geographic and climate differences, and lack of ability to get anything done quickl y. L ack ing electricity, we had no refrigeration. We had a helper our age , Antonita, who we paid to do the m arketing , cooking and time teachers and done those things ourselves. For instance, how did she do the laundry? She did it by carrying water in a five gallon can to a basin in our yard and she used a scrub board . S he hung t he clothes out to dry on fences until w e hung up a clothesline. A nd then she had to iron with a charcoal iron. She put hot charcoal in it. I never was able to master that, although I did take sponge baths in the same basin. Obviously if we had had to do all those chores , we would n ot have had time to teach. Antonita, had to go into the market in Cantilan twice a week, the only days it was open . Maybe it was three days a week . And she would go in, and buy for only a couple of days at a time, because w e had n o way to preserve the food. W hen people got to k now us, fishermen with a catch would come around to out door and see if we wanted to buy it. If someone had slaughtered a p needed a helper to help us do th ose kind s of thing s.


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 12 D: Where did you live? Did you ever stay with a host family? K: A s I mentioned, we had this little house built. It took about five months for them to finish this little house , using a Peace Corps blueprint . U ntil it was finished, we lived in the Home Economics classroom, which was roughing it. When we got our little house, it was right next door , and it was a comfortable little house with a bedroom that was so small we had to have bunk beds made , in a place that had never seen a bunkbed . We had a little cupboard built and the door was just a curtain. In fact, the bedroom was just partitioned off from the rest of the house . The house was rustic. We had no glass in the windows; we just had jalousie s slats that we closed at night . No screens. No electricity, so we had a kero sene lantern, which attracted every mosquito in the village. So we frequently went to bed fairly early, like at 8:00 or 7:00 and got up at six in the morning or whatever. One big improvement was that our bathroom was attached to the kitchen, in contrast to the Home Economics classroom, where we had to use one of the schoo I outhouses. I mentioned that I live d with the principal of my school for part of the rainy season and I think he wanted me to just have a bed space so he could rent the other half of the r oom to another teacher . But I insiste d on having a private room. I t was really not a room; it was just a partitioned section , like in our own house . But he had s ix or so kids. That was fine, but it was an experience. D: You had a roommate, what was her name? K: must have had the fiftieth anniversary in her mind . She lives in Maine now, after


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 13 many years in San Antonio. But she has visited me in Gainesville her in Maine. W e e mail frequently , although by phone for seven or eight years tightly because of that two year experience. She goes by Ann now, but her hus band and I still call her Elosia. I refus e to call her anything but Elosia. D: What was a typical day like for you? K: Well, I mentioned the slo w pace of everything. So I think t hat was par t of it. But we got involved. Th er e was a certain amount of work we had to do around the ho u se. W e also l earned how to make do. Elosia , more than I , learned how to bake. We b ecame rather famous because of how she was able to jury rig thi ng s. We had just a two burner kerosene stove to cook on. She figured out how to make an oven out of a f ive gallon kerosene can. Somebody had made a top for us out of wood to be a wastepaper basket. And we used it as an oven. Inside, we would put a can, like a pineapple Del Monte can, with the top and the bottom out. ve a pie tin, but we had a little one layer cake tin. She learned how to make squash pies. We actually published this recipe that she came up with in the Peace Corps newsletter. In the Philippines , like in any Third World country, you eat whatever vegetable So we were just eating so mu ch squash. We told ourselves we could not eat another dish of unadulter at ed squash. Elosia had cat scratch fever and had to go to Manila periodically to get it checked. She found some place to get cinnamon, and nutmeg, and spices like that. So she came bac


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 14 so she used a piece of clean plastic screen that we had to put on our rain tank. She used that to sift the squ ash. okay. She became famous for the squash pies. All this took a lot of time, figuring out how to do it. We also would get care packages from home. She had a big family, and they sent more care packages than m y brother sent me, but we got lots popcorn. And we introduced it to the village rs . People loved our popcorn. They even tried to pop their own corn kernels , without success. So we socialized with people in Palasao , and we made some special friends, and they would invite invite have the skills or the space for it, but w the countryside . However, m ost of our s ocial life was in the town, Cantilan . W hen we went there, we mostly stayed with the District Supervisor of Schools. But it was, like I said, a major challenge to get in there. And once we had our bikes, we might go t o a dan ce at night so w bring clothes for the dance. So we had a fai to t he beach sometimes. It was called Baybay Uno, meaning Beach Number One. There was a Bayb ay Dos, but there was no road to it and it was on the open P acific with high waves. The Filipinos thought we were crazy to be out in the s un like that, but we loved the beach, even though the water was too warm to be refreshing, at least for a New Englander . You know, j ust living took a lot of time. During the school days, when I was at our house, I would leave in the mo rning at 7:00, and arrive just before classes started at 7:30. T he teachers would insist on feeding me something called g in ata an .


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 15 Because they th ought , if you were heated like I was I would get off my bike and be bright red, sweating like crazy that you should drink something hot. T hey would give me this big glass of boi led root vegetables. At first I thought it was horrible, and I only ate it to be polite. But by the end of two years, I found tha t I the day . By 4:00 or so , I was on my way home from school. I loved the solitude and scenery of those rides, with the breeze in my face. hour bike ride. It gets dark at 6:00 , so I wanted to be home well before then . We socialized while it was still light out. For instance , s ome of the kid s from the Palasao scho ol would come over or some of the teachers or neighbors . A couple of times some of my Parang students even came. Or w or Rummy. Our helper would make suppe up. my and Scrabble again or just talk at night because the light from the lantern bright enough each take a full body sponge bath in our little attached bathroom and go to bed, get ting up very early the next day. A l ot of times the schools had teacher training days, or national exams, which we disapproved of, because it encouraged teaching to the test and rote memory on the part of the children. Of course now Americans are doing. Seems a little ironic . But we would sort of boycott those and stay home on those days . We contradicted the kind of teaching we were trying to introd uce. We had quite a bit


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 16 of free time. But we had our Peace Corps footlocker , which they used to give every household back them , filled with good quality books. It was a slower pace casual visitors , e xcept for some people in the village that we hung out with but during the day, the y were busy working in their field s or homes . I think the time was well spent, although I think generally it was not really a highly efficient two years. It might have been e ffective, but not efficient, as economists would tell you. Of course, in economics, PCVs. D: What kind of relationships did you build in your host country? Did you make any close friendships with people there, or romantic relationships? K: We had very good, close relationships with people. The book I gave you with named Mana Boning. She was probably our closest village friend. We had friendships with teachers . I personally stayed in touch with the District Supervisor of Schools and his wife, until he died in the late 1990s and she died in the early 2000 s since lost touch with t he ir family. They had twelve kids; we were like the thirteenth and fourteenth. Toward the end, twice a year, we would exchange greetings at Easter and Christmas. When I w as back in the Philippi nes with USAID, I saw them a couple times in Ca gayan de Oro . As to romantic relationships, this was sort of funny. One time, Elosia was proposed to through me. There was a young man who worked in one of the l umber camps. W e were riding in his truck back to our village, and he asked me whether I th ought he had a chance of marrying Elosia . She was sitting


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 17 right next to me. But he was doing the proper thing by Philippine culture, to approach a family member. I did say to him, W hy are you asking me this? He said, Y I said, We . They wanted me to marry some local ess the short answer is, no, we did not have any romantic relationships there. After Peace Corps m y roommate had a more domestic U.S. life . She went back to school, and then worked as a medical librarian, married, her husband was a college professor, then a banker . Later he did CPA kind of work , which I think he still does part time . They moved to Maine because one of their children was living up there. Both she and her husband had some international experience. I think they infli cted that on their children because their older daughter studied to be a Merchant Marine and then married a man who is a Merchant Marine. lives in Barbados. So Elosia travels to see her children, but otherw I joined USAID and had a lifetime of Foreign Service . touch with Peace Corps things or Peace Corps contacts as I did. Th ere are still a couple of students that I have, or children of teachers we knew who e mail me using Facebook and I can get online and check out the Car C onMad L an Group, which is Caras c al Cantilan, Madrid and Lan usa ur municipality section on Mindanao, Surigao Del Sur, which somehow has gotten on the I nternet. But I


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 18 the grandkids of people I knew, so I lost touch with them. You know, after forty D: When you were in the Philippines, how did you stay in contact with your friends and family back home? K: Y ou have to remember, this was pre computer. to our barrio , Palasao , in October, maybe two weeks before the Cuban Missile t know about the Cuban Missile Crisis for a month, until the next Time magazine reached us. That Time magazine came by ship, I think. We started hearing about it through Time magazine, and my brother had sent me a care package wrapped in the campus newspap er, which also had several articles about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I never could wrap my head around this Cuban Missile Crisi s until I went back to the States and learned more about it. I remember asking our District Supervisor of Schools w hy tell us about it. H e hooked it up to a coconut tree yet, to get an antenna. We had to get somebody to cl imb up the coconut tree with a about it. Our District Supervisor said he thoug ht if it was serious enough, the Peace Corps would cable us to flee to the hills, apparentl y like they did in World War II. I graduat e s chool at Harvard and read Graham Essence of Decision , about the Cuban Missile Crisis, that I really realized how serious it was of how isolated we were .


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 19 Communication with family was very slow. The letters were basically, to save money, those airgrams or a erograms, whatever they were called t he little folded l etters, th Y ou write on this tissue thin paper, then fold up the edges . That was the cheapest, fastest way. It n ever dawned on me to try to make a telephone call. I do ubt we had telephone service e ven in the town. There was a telegram, like a Western Union kind of telegram, and Peace Corps would occasionally send us telegrams. But everything was slow. We once got a car e package from one of sisters , and it had hom emade fudge wrapped in tin foil. I t w as totally covered with mold. So what me tell you, one small little pinprick o f a piece of mold has a very powerful taste! D: But you did K: in USAID, when I retired in 19 95, we had just gotten our first computer link to Washington, where we could send thick documents as attachments to Washington. Before that, everything was airmailed. W e could send short messages fairly quickly by cable, so we would have to mail the attachments. Just before I left Bangladesh, we had one computer room in our office that would send these attachments to another computer room in Washington, and somebody from our Desk would go down and get the attachments and print them out. The impact on the hierarchy that computer access has is enormous. It used to be that the F oreign S ervice was very hierarchical. You were Mission Director, and everybody was subordinated to you . W e did have phone contact, but there


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 20 was an el even hour difference in time. S o if you wanted to talk to the D esk, which take a call at maybe 11:00 PM . But the time difference and call at 3:00 in the afterno on their time and wake one of us up in the middle of the night. B ecause it was expensive, only two or three people on the Mission had the authority to authorize international phone calls. their own, which meant that there wa s a control of communications that re in forced mail all their contacts back in Washington, and get around the authority of the M ission D health ier this way. So communications are totally different. I does to the experience . Certainly the sense of isolation is n owhere near what it was. You were really out in the middle of nowhere when I was a PCV . D: Wh en I talk to someone in the Peace Corps now , all I have to do is just sign into an instant messenger and say hi and h K: I nternet café in his town, and probably young people in his the way the world works. D: Yes, i the Philippines? K: Surviving it. Thriving under it. Learning that I could in teract with another culture from a level of depth where


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 21 have that kind of experience in normal travel, or even in normal working overseas part of an international communit y. The Peace Corps gave me a chance almost to become I thin k our teacher s seminars were worth doing, and they were probably valuable, and I think we had an impact o n some individual children, help ing them may be have different lives. I had two or three of them appr oach me when I went back with USAID to tell me how important I was to their life. For one thing, we sold all our furniture, and established three scholarships for high school kids. Those kids a ll appr eciated it. Two of them were brothers, and one of them was the most brilliant student in my school; and then we supported a local boy from Palasao . The brilliant boy from Parang and the Palasao boy both contacted me over the years . The brilliant one I also helped finish coll ege when I was in Manila with US in t hat town that he had observed and he also o make a long story short, I did pay some very tin y amount of money, like $90 a year, to he lp him g e him go to high school, can be said for the other boy, who was from a poor farming family in our barrio. His family worked as tenant farmers . We got him a high school d iploma . He went on, I th ink had a year or two of college and had to drop out. When I met him again in the early 1980s, h e was working in Iraq in construction . He was an overseas worker


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 22 and very proud of himself for bringing money home and having a family. He h ated working in Iraq , b ut he did it as a sacrifice for his family. So I think o n an individual basis, we had an impact, and maybe a secondary, minor impact through teach ing. B ut being able to thrive in a foreign culture, in my case, because I did do F oreign S ervice work lat er , the Pea ce Corps experience was always the touchstone for me. Through all of my sophisticated experiences later in my career, the Peace Corps , being in touch with real people in a real place, informed my thinking, always in a positive way. Now, my Peace Corps generation in the Philippines won the Magsaysay A ward fo r something or other. I can claim $1.72 of the prize money that the Peace Corps received. The Peace Corps, as a group, was awarded the Magsaysay A to the Nob e l Peace Prize in prestige. Ramon Magsaysay was P resident of the Philippines back in the 19 50s when he was killed in a plane crash. He was a great national hero. So somebody created the Magsaysay A ward. We used to joke that $1.72 would buy us a steak dinner a t the C elebrity S teakhouse in Cebu . We divided up the number of volunteers in the country at that time by the prize money. So, anyway, I think simply succeeding as a Peace Corps volunteer was D: C ould you take me through the high and low points of your service? K: : That we made a life for ourselves in that place. We had some interesting vacations. We went on this marvelous boat trip through the Sulu A rchipelago, though my roommat e ended up with


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 23 appendicitis. She had to go to the hospital and get her appendix taken out the day we got off the boat. Fortunately it was not twenty four hours earli er. We took some interesting local trips. One was up into a tribal area in the mountains a bove Parang. Elosia was sick . I had a cold, b ut I made the trip anyway. With the District Supervisor, Parang principal and an aborigine student we c limbed up a mountain to a village called Cabangahan way up in the mountains . W e did some inter esting things like that. Low points? I would say, when we had this plane crash and the people in my village thought I was on the plane and therefore was dead . I was delayed in getting back because I had changed my reservations. I knew the two Peace Corps volunteers who were killed in the plane crash and would have been on the . I really identified with the two who died and I felt sort of horrible for a long time after that, just sort of dow n on that , particularly because the Filipinos have the custom of chuckling or smiling when embarrass ed discomfort . That was hard to get used to. The other thing, which I think was a low point although it was recurrent, wh en as tall as I am, with a long nose and blue eyes, which are identified with witches, and cats, in the Philippines, your self efforts was just being able to successfully live in that cult ure. There were times when men would be staring at us all the time or making snide remarks. We were ve to go


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 24 person with brown hair. Her eyes were more green, almost brown, whereas mine s longer. Th ey used to call me an g ilong ma t aas , which means long nose. So you have this self being abnormal in the States . E ven when I was young, I was just on the tall side. N ow many American women are taller than that. But to a Filipino, I was abnormally tall. There were only three men in the whole province who were taller than I was. One was Spanish in background, and two were half American. The other men were all five feet tall, they would want to dance with me, and use my elbow to make them keep their distance when we dance d. I f I were in my normal extroverted mo o d , I annoyed with that kind of thing. So that was a recurrent low point: Being reminded that you like everybody else, and that you were a f oreigner. I would forget. That has ha ppened with me all through my career in the F oreign S Mine is not really noticeable, but it is noticeable when the other arm s do n any hair, and plus t hey re brown and m ine was sort of wonder w ho se


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 25 ugly arm that was. Europe and think the people were ugly , pasty really part of that culture, that I really was a foreigner, that was a low point. If experience. D: I certainly have the h air color, to start with. K: And the eyes. I always thought blue eyes were nice. And to find out tha was creepy. D: How did you use your vaca tion and travel time? K: We had this marvelous trip to S ita nk a i in the Sulu archipelago that I mentioned . That was the biggest trip we took. It might have been two weeks, one week, I down near Bo rneo. We would go into convents where there were American priests, and use their showers, and maybe be invited to lunch. Then there were Peace Corps volunteers along the way. We would stop in and see them. It was so idyllic. I remember seeing the Southern Cross in the sky. I t was pitch black. There was no phos phorescence. I remember we were coming from our larger boat, in a dingy into the island. We were looking into the water and a fish jumped out and hit me right in the face. Th at took away the romanticism ! But that was a wonderful trip.


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 26 Like I said, my roommate ended up with appendicitis, so we were very fortunate We did take a short trip up to B a g u io. My brother came on a Merchant Marine ship after a year. I went up to Manila to meet him and spent three or four days with him. I think it was maybe that time that my ro ommate came up and we went to Ba g u io. But we were on a school year, so we had a summer off. The first either travel too far. Some of the volunteers had more money than we did and went t o Japan and Hong Kon g to go home, slowly, across Hong Kong and Thailand and India, Karachi and Middle East and Europe. D: How did your initial understanding of your mission and your job as an educator match with what ended up happening? You know, like you said you had to create K: Well, we got used to that being what we had to do, so that was a task that confronted us the whole two years. I think, by the end, we felt pretty comfortable with what we had accomplishe ready to leave by the time we did . Two years doing that kind of work was enough. So it was something that I did. I was ready to go back to grad school . At the time , would want to make a career of international work. Again, I was pretty good at , in


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 27 and have kids. I thought d go back to grad school and then be open to what eded at it. But it was not easy. wished . They that because it is so unstructured, or at least in my day it was so unstructur ed that you had to make it up as you went along. It was fairly easy to fail. On the other hand, it was fairly easy to succeed because the people were very tolerant. Peace Corps was there to help us. I think their staff is there more now to help than back t member visit us for the first year we were there. They were so stretched putting in new volunteers. Then the second year, we had more visits than we wanted. A nyway, I was ready to go af ter two years. D: What were your last days in country like? K: One party after another. I guess the most memorable was this woman, Mana Boning know that at the time . She died when I was in grad school , I would say in the first si x months after we left . But she was having us to her house for wonderful farewell dinners practically every day. We asked why she was doing this because she could rd all these chicken dinners. She told us they we re our chickens. It turned out one of the first things we did was try to raise chickens, in part because we wanted a supply of eggs


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 28 and meat because we were having a hard time finding food, and partly becaus e of the remoteness of our village. So we had gotten the industrial arts class to build us a chicken coop outside our house . We bought some hens and a rooster, had little nest s made for them to lay their eggs and rest at night. The first thing that went wr ong was that t he teenagers started stealing the hens . We asked h ow we c ould solve this? The villagers have to bring them in to our house at night . They said, o coop. They need to roost in the rafters. We had a thatched roof with no ceiling . The thought of all their droppings coming down on us made us rethink our interest in raising chickens . The second thing that happened that took us out of the chicken business altogether was that the slope of the roof was not steep enough, so rain got in and wet the eggs. We l earned that hens sit on wet egg s . So we had twenty three semi fertilized eggs that had a different taste. So we ended up bakin g lots of cakes and eating them and giving them away in disguise. One of the teenagers stealing our hens went to Mana Boning and offered to sell them to her. She asked if they were stole n from the Americans. They admitted it. She went ahead and bought them. She decided, w ithout telling us, that she was going to buy our chickens and raise them on our behalf, knowing that a year and a half later, she was going to be feeding us. She admitted this during our farewell parties . T hat shows the hospitality of the Filipinos. Mana B oning was a wonderful lady. We had parties and dances in our honor in the p oblación , Cantilan . The lumber camps had parties for us. We had up to two or three parties a night . Every school


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 29 that we had ever done anything with us had parties and speeches. One of the things that the Third World especially, and probably this country in the past, when ma ke your own entertainment, from the dances with a local band or record player to declamation contests in the schools to little plays and skits to picnics. We were just exhausted by the time we left with all these parties. D: Wow. I t look s like they were v ery receptive to you. K: T he Filipinos are famous in the world for their hospitality. I exp erienced the same thing when I served there with USAID. I had an enormous number of parties when I left the country after a four year assignment . At that point, I had a hypothyroid condition and I was exhausted anyway . On top of it, and working really famous worldwide for their hospitality and their joy of living, if you will. D: I d Corps. What were your first days in the United States like? K: T roommate left from Switzerland. She had to be back in grad school before I did, and I went on by myself to France and England and Scotland. I got back to grad school and moved into a room at the graduate student dorm at the University of Connecticut. I remember writing to somebody that this room was just fantastic. It had glass in the windows and the bathroom had running water and toilets and everything, hot water, it was just down th e hall. Talking about it like it was the


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 30 height of luxury. Looking back, it was probably one of the smallest rooms in the whole dorm. It had linoleum floor and a narrow metal bed. But it seemed very luxurious to me. The fact that I had been on the road, li ving in three handmade Philippine dresses for three months, one of which had a cigarette hole in the lap, I was finally able to unpack and settle into my own little space was probably a big part of it. On the negative side, I found that Americans were nowh ere near as while to get used to that. That has taken years, and ha s continued . Every time I go ove rseas, when I come back, I have that same adjustment. Even if it might be especially the Third World, is more personal than it is in a bustling, thriving industrialized walk by somebody without greeting him or her . I n the Philippines they use a lot of the gestures ; if some farmer [ making a ge sture ] meaning hello, you raise your eyebrows and you use your mouth to say To this day, so many years later, I almost always smile at somebody when I walk by . They probably part of the Peace Corps heritage, if you will, and F oreign S ervice heritage. I did like the supermarkets, though, and the food in the U.S. D: generally, but how has the Peace Corps influenced your life and future career?


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 31 K: W ell, I will tell you this. B ack in the 19 70s, over 50% of all F oreign S ervice officers in USAID were Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. I think the number was pr obably close to that in the S tate Department a nd in other foreign affairs agencies. So there were many volunteers who sought out international work. The nongovernmental organizations like CARE had even higher percentages. So people who go into the Peace Corps do tend to be, if not interested in intern ational events before , they are afterwards . In my case, of course, it totally women generally thought in terms of teaching, government, or nursing. They looked for those three , which were open to women: government, t eaching, and nursing. I thought the same thing. I d do in the world or even think abo ut a career. If you talk to other women of my age want to do international work, and applied, and fortunately I was getting out of grad school at a time when they were hiring. It was just when the Vietnam War F oreign S ervice , back in 1966, had 12,000 F oreign S ervice officers. Now, it has about 1,00 0. So you can see the difference in size. They use more contractors now, but the basic core F oreign S ervice is much, much smaller than it ever was. was different, as I said. S he passed on the love of international thing s to her childre n, but except for tourist travel, she has not done


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 32 anything international internationally. I think Peace Corps generically is definitely a life changer, probabl y the single most influential tw o years you can spe nd in your life. Even though it might be slow For me, Peace Corps was the touchstone that I always went back to. I remember my first tour overseas with USAID was in Pakistan, and I had already been in grad school for two years, and then in Washington for a year, and I r emember when I f irst got to Pakistan , I wondered w h ere the people were, the ones I could interact with . I lived in a city and at first in a large townhouse in a row of other townhouses inhabited by other USAID people. Then I moved to a small apartment building with four flats know the Pakistani neighbors beyond the three other USAID women in our building . I worked with some Pakistanis in the office, but basically, I was working with paper and working at a distance from people. Eventually, I got to know Pakistanis, but it was a t a I actually da ted a Pakistani , and I knew some of his friends, but it was not like being in depth thrown into a village. And again, thrown in as a 22 year old where the adults watched out fo r you b ecause you were not much older than their kids. So you were almost in a position of dependence , where I never was in that position again in any country I lived in. Partly by growing up myself, but also just the circumstances. So yes, the Peace Corps was profoundly influencing.


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 33 D: What do you think the influence of the Peace Corps has been in international relations? Not just for you specifically, but international policy and even domestic policy in the United States? K: ap my head around. profoundly influenti al. I think maybe the influence has been on the individual, not only on the individual PCV , but also on individuals they h : p ught , and f have been over the years , is it 150,000? 300,000 ? N ot a large enough number to has had an impact on the world internati onally or domestically. I think somebody who was a Peace Corps volunteer and becomes, say, a teach er in this country, is going to sensitiz e the students to a different perspective on the world. Corps, or what extent this is my 29 years with AID, but I am very much an international citizen. I think like an international citizen. l of that thinking came from Peace Corps , w here I was in a different culture where I survived and thrived, but I understood it, warts and all. There are lots of thing s about the Filipinos tha her culture. All the people in the world are looking for the same things warts and all. The fact that we happen to be born as citizens of a particular country, we were lucky in the States. Most of us are Christian, but we could have


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 34 happy to be appreciative. My par ents were born in Scotland, so maybe I started early on understanding national differences, and I very much identify with the Scots. I was quite amazed as a Peace Corps volunteer to go there with my pure Scottish Gaelic name, and my presumably Scottish loo ks, and they immediately knew I was an Am a Scot at all. Of course, as soon as I opened my mouth, but even though I had Filipino made clothes on, somehow I walked like an American. I had the loose gait of an American. So to that, I appreciate it, because I think we all have to be international citizens if we to get on in the globalized world. D: Well, thank you. Those are all my que to conclude with? K: I Corps and my little vase t hat the kid that I sent to high school brought me, with silk flowers . I have a lot of memories around this house , from my whole F oreign S ervice book, so you can read those sto ries. You will see some of the love that the experiences gave me that I was able to articulate better in the form of stories , for instance , in the story about Mona Boning. M y Peace Corps diary captures the


UF RPCV 002; Kilgour; Page 35 logistics of being a volunteer, rather than the spiritua l, emotional dimension of it. . T a lot about food, about the hardships of riding a bike in the rain , and petty annoyances with the heat, and neighbors, and the difficulty of getting anything don e. In reading i t over, I was really surprised at how mundane it was. But that might have been everyday life in the Peace Corps. The more emotional dimensions come out in the stories about individual people and events. So I hope you read it. D: Oh, I will. [End of interview] Transcribed , audit edited, and final edited by : Diana Dombrowski, 2011

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