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The Collier Family, Dr. Kawalak, and Augustine Stevens discuss Sierra Leone and the Peace Corps; part 1

BROADCAST: Jul. 26, 1966 | DURATION: 00:37:30

Synopsis

Discussing Sierra Leone, the Peace Corps, and interviewing the Collier Family, Dr. Kawalak, and Augustine Stevens. They also discuss the languages, culture, religion, and history of Sierra Leone. Includes clips of African music (from Sierra Leone).

Transcript

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Studs Terkel [music playing] This music, or this rhythm you hear, apparently is well-known in the country of Sierra Leone in West Africa and perhaps we can describe the nature of this music, too, with our four guests, all of whom have been there. Augustine Stevens who is from Sierra Leone, from the province of, Mr. Stevens, Gus I know you're known as Gus, the, the provinces you are from

Augustine Stevens From Southwestern Province.

Studs Terkel Southwestern Province of Sierra Leone, which is between Guinea and Liberia in West Africa. And with Mr. Stevens are two corpsmen, Peace Corpsmen, Mr. and Mrs. John-- John and Anne Collier who've been there -- hear about their experience, their discoveries, what they learned, what they offered. And Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak who's head-- you are head of the Sierra Leone Training Project, Roosevelt University.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak That's correct, yeah.

Studs Terkel This music we were just-- perhaps-- sometimes we find out about a country, a great -- can learn it through customs of the people, through the crops, through the work they do, but also through the music. This music is familiar to you, is it not, Mr. Stevens?

Augustine Stevens Definitely. It has been said the music is very peculiar of Sierra Leone. Probably if you, you were to approach the dark areas, the dark areas I refer to th-the bush areas, probably [laughs] you'll be greeted by this type of a music. And so you're entering a type of a fr-- a strange home or a strange land, and this land is Sierra Leone. There used to be a British protectorate or, or British colony and in 1961, April 27, it achieved independence. It's the hundredth member of the United Nation. It has its capital Freetown. It has, Freetown has a population of about 120 to 150,000 people. Freetown is very historic. Historic in a sense that it was a port for liberated slaves. And-

Studs Terkel Liberated slaves, you say?

Augustine Stevens That's right.

Studs Terkel Oh sort of like a-- that's interesting so Freetown was a port for liberat-- much like-

John Collier Liberia.

Studs Terkel Freeport, Illinois for the slaves during the abolition-- w-who helped the abolitionists to escape from the South to the North. This was, this was Freetown.

Augustine Stevens That's right. Here, the people do not escape to this place. Well that-- they were definitely brought over here to be set free. But then Freetown doesn't comprise all of Sierra Leone. There were people already in Sierra Leone. But at this little area where they left these pla-- these people, giv-give it it's historic name of Freetown. The nature of the music, the, the instrument that was used in this particular music that we heard, it's called kelei. It's a Mende word, one of the dialects of Sierra Leone.

Studs Terkel Mende is one of the dialects?

Augustine Stevens Right, we have about 13 or 12 other dialects.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking about well thi-- this partic-- this music we heard was not really a talking drum, the audience may think it was, these were two sticks beating against a log,

Augustine Stevens A log, right. You have holes blown through the, the log, on either side of the log. And then on the surface of the log, it is kept round. The log is kept round, but then there are holes split, I would say, about one to one to one and a half inches long, three or four of them. And as you beat against her, each level gives you a different note.

Studs Terkel There's a nuance then to the, even the sound or the level. You mentioned one of the dialects, Mende dialect, this is of course one of the myths that people of the Western world live by. We think of Africa, you know, quote unquote the "dark continent." We think of it as one and yet we know of the thousands of different cultures and -- Sierra Leone is a population of what? Of roughly three million or so?

Augustine Stevens Roughly

Studs Terkel And yet how many dia-- let's keep this open with John and Anne Collier, who had been there, and Dr. Kawalak of the Peace Corps. The dialects, how many? Anybody-

John Collier I see a change -- I, there are what 13 tribes, but see the-- like many countries in Africa, Sierra Leone's borders often divide cultures, divide languages. And so you have some languages which are mainly in Guinea or in Liberia, which are also [match struck] spoken in Sierra Leone, so sometimes the count runs up to 17 in this one smaller country.

Studs Terkel So here as many as 17 dialects or languages, well perhaps certainly dialects, in one country of 3 million.

Augustine Stevens Well, this is very hard to understand, as far as probably America is concerned, [chuckles] and for, for us, well they are just there. We, we don't know the difficulties that, that are involved in having so many languages that we have a problem of communication. And to overcome this, as far as the Peace Corps is concerned, we are teaching three of these dialects, the major ones. We have the Mende, which caries oh about three, three-eighths of the population. And then the Temne comes next, and then the Krio. And Krio is the language that these liberated slaves used on the corn plantations or the, whatever plantations in which they worked, you see, a type of a broken English.

Studs Terkel Mmm hmm.

John Collier Why don't you talk some Krio?

Augustine Stevens Yeah. Say if I were to say, "What is your name?"

Studs Terkel Yes.

Augustine Stevens I say "wetin na yu nem"? "Wetin", what thing, "na" is is, "yu nem" you name. "wetin na yu nem".

Studs Terkel Oh, so the word "name" is in Krio, English is mixed -- so Krio then is a patois.

Augustine Stevens That's right.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak That's exactly right.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak It's a-

Anne Collier How-however one of the things-

Studs Terkel Anne

Anne Collier We ought to point out is that when you are teaching in the schools, you are teaching in English, especially in the secondary school, the high school there. You are completely conversing in English. So the students who have come to that level are quite proficient in English.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak Well, I would say the national language-

Studs Terkel Dr.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak Is English.

John Collier It's the official language.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak The official language is English.

John Collier The government.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak 'Course there's a carry over from the British. But nevertheless everyone speaks English, those that can, but the officially-- in all the schools, all government agencies, English is the basic language.

Studs Terkel That's the franca lingua then.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak That's right.

Studs Terkel English is. But does-- is this the only means of communication? Say can someone who speaks Krio understand someone who speaks Mende?

Augustine Stevens No, there are-- these languages are different from one another as much as Greek is different from French, you see. Say, to say hello in Mende is "Bua" depending on the part of the -- time of the day. "Bi wua," "are you awake?" And then in Temne "M'peari". Then in, in Krio you say "Aw yu du?," "how you do" which is the English translation. So they're quite different.

Studs Terkel So I suppose this lack of communication before English became the major or the common language, a lack of communication, I suppose, is what also was a factor in colonialism, too, wasn't it? Keeping people apart from one another because they could not be in contact.

Augustine Stevens Well this, this could be an instrument. It's possible that they use this instrument. Nevertheless we have we have trib-tribal organizations. They are political entities in themselves, you see? They rule themselves. The Mendes rule themselves, the Temnes rule themselves, and so will be the re-- for the rest of the other tribes. And also in Freetown, the, the Krios rule themselves, or they got a direct rule from England. And then until after certain manipulations from Great Britain, the whole country was subjected, you see? And then the English dic-- was introduced and now in our radio system we have the broadcast in English, and we have the broadcast in Krio, in Temne, and in Mende. It is comprised of four principal languages of Sierra Leone, you see, so that nobody's left in the dark.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak We teach the-

Studs Terkel Dr. Kawalak.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak Volunteers who are going to-- basically Krio. For example, in our ten weeks training program, Roosevelt University, they spend five weeks learning the Krio language. This'll get them by in every village, in every community throughout the whole country. And that's why we spent the time basically teaching them Krio. We're going to begin the, this week now, because of the assignments of the volunteers and the various schools which they'll be teaching if they'll be in a Mende village, they'll be learning the initial language of Mende, and then also those will be in, in Temne.

Studs Terkel Thinking about John and Anne Collier, who are Peace Corps workers in Sierra Leone. Let's test-- you, are you up on Krio?

John Collier [laughs] No.

Anne Collier Our Krio's not very good I'm [chuckles] afraid. We found so many people in the town where we were who spoke English and wanted to practice their English. And so we did an awful lot of talking English.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak John, why don't you tell 'em where you folks were

John Collier We were on an island off the coast of this country called Sherbro Island. And we were in the town of Bonthe. Very very interesting town it's had shades of, of it's Victorian past. About 50 years ago, it was much more important than it is today. And there were still many old people living there, kind of like a new England town near Boston or something, people talking about the past when they were important and talking about the older customs and so forth, kind of passed by in this independence and the new Africa and things like that. Very interesting town Bonthe, Sherbro.

Studs Terkel So you find sort of a fusion here of past and present. This is a-- I suppose what with the technological revolution, you know, particularly with under-- when I say underdeveloped con-- I'd like to raise this point. Economically underdeveloped but perhaps not spiritually underdeveloped. If we could talk-- 'cause I think perhaps if John and Anne Collier and we have Augustine Stevens here, too, Dr. Kawalak, your own-- we think much of Peace Corps workers helping, we use this word in a non-patronizing sense, and yet you learn, too, did you not? Discoveries?

Anne Collier We tend to think so much more about what we learned than the helping that we do. When we go over we find out that we're learning so much more than we are able to give. And this really makes a difference.

John Collier Exactly,

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak I, I think it should probably be known that there are three major objectives in Peace Corps programs.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak And one is certainly to help the people in the country in whatever pa-- specialization whether it be in health matters or community matters or most of people are going to be teachers, in fact all-- the group we're sending this time are going to be primary and secondary school teachers. Second objective of Peace Corps, however, is that, that they impart the American culture to these people. But the third, which is probably, I think that probably the most important thing to us, and that is that they take away the culture of Sierra Leone back with them to the United States. And I think John and Anne probably could reflect upon this more than anyone else. And I think we probably gain more than what we give.

John Collier Very true. I, I completely agree with that except in your way you said impart the American culture. We do this unconsciously, but we try to cover that up by saying that actually we're building up relationships with individuals in the country, getting to know them as people so that when we, we return home, volunteers return to America and teaching or whatever field they go into in America, they're better able to help other Americans understand the rest of the world.

Anne Collier And this is the, the thing that I think strikes us the most is that so often we in America tend to have a very patronizing and idea of-

John Collier Ignorant.

Anne Collier Very ignorant idea of, of Africa. The, the new Africa, the, the modern part of Africa seems to be completely overlooked when Americans think of Africa. And this is the thing that-

John Collier Yeah.

Anne Collier We think needs to be emphasized so much

John Collier Exactly and, and the realization that there are other ways of doing things that work just as well for other people. The and the, this whole concept we've been talking about with Dr. Drake over at Roosevelt who's the the head of the-

Studs Terkel St. Clair Drake.

John Collier St. Clair Drake, right, the sociology of-- the head of the comparative studies part. He's-- this idea of cultural relativism and the, the essential humanity of all cultures and that no one people has a monopoly on the, the right way of doing things. This is one thing you really learn if you're receptive overseas, if you are, are perceptive.

Studs Terkel This is really the key, isn't it? I thought perhaps even as we're talking we'll keep this free-- here's some more of the music. This matter of cultures and a, a way people live-- would at beginning, Gus Stevens was telling us about this kelei, this instrument we heard, but now if we could hear an actual talking drum. Now the talking drum, historically, even though there were different dialects spoken, and people thus could not communicate prior to English, the talking drum was a means of communication was it not?

Augustine Stevens Yes. The drum was used, for instance, like the, you use a siren here, for fire, for emergency cases. They use the drum to call people to assemble, if the chief wanted to speak on the people far away, there's a type o-- there was a certain note that was produced on the drum that would bring these people together. Now if somebody was sick and they needed the attention of the witch doctor, for instance, there are other notes that they would play. But there has been a move away from this sort of thing. And it was not really so, so practiced in Sierra Leone as it is today practiced in Congo, for instance. The Congolese still use talking drums. Now today in music, it is only used to imitate certain sounds, like somebody sings a line and then there is a syncopation. So they use the drums to almost repeat that, that phrase or th-that line that

Studs Terkel That was the musical instrument-

Augustine Stevens That's

Studs Terkel Rather as means of communication.

Augustine Stevens That's right.

Studs Terkel If we could hear perhaps just an example of the, of the-- the "sangboi" as what? Is this a, a series of them?

Augustine Stevens Sangboi is the whole set up, you know, of different group-groupings of drums. You have your snare drum in there, you have your high-sounding note drum. All sorts of drums, you see. So the whole set up is called sangboi, another Mende word of course.

Studs Terkel Mende.

Augustine Stevens Right.

Studs Terkel Mende word of course, is-- are you Mende?

Augustine Stevens I am Mende.

Studs Terkel Oh. [laughs] Of course. [music playing] And hearing the set of talking drums, these are women participating in the, in the villages. Is this part of a celebration? Would this be-?

Augustine Stevens The, the the music itself is not typical of any one aspect of life in Sierra Leone. It could be used as a pastime after all the families have retired from the farms in the evening. I say retire because our farm system of the, in Sierra Leone is not the same as in America where you have your farms right in the city. Most of the farms are located five to ten miles away from the village. So everybody gets up in the morning at six o'clock, go to the farm, stay at the farm all day, and they in the evening retire. And they bring their food and they have sort of a communal eating, and then after everybody's full, they may have storytelling and a little ba-- courts, little places. And then later on some people will take up to dancing and just enjoyment, you know, pass time.

Studs Terkel You know something Gus said here is vital and I'd like to ask Anne and John Collier about this, and also how long you've been there. He spoke of the communal life or a community life in which it-- is this what hit you very hard in being there?

John Collier Yes, although we were in a town situation which is tended to strain this a little bit. In a village, you have this, this communalism or [narrarian?], Tanzania calls it communocracy now in, in Africa. Very strongly that the people are a part of something, and it's, there's a tremendous element of the interpersonal face-to-face relationship that we don't have in our society, in our broken-down, regimented-

Studs Terkel Fragmented.

John Collier Fragmented society, right.

Anne Collier Well and think about how different this type of, of activity in the evening is compared to our sitting in our individual houses in front of the TV set. How much more this is-

Studs Terkel Well I suppose this leads to the one of the key dramas of our century, really, and that's this matter of double learning. That is what you learned from the people of Sierra Leone, what Peace Corpsmen learn throughout Africa, the countries they are, and in a sense perhaps what they learn about you, too. Gus you were saying that perhaps the stereotype of, of a Peace Corpsman, who is a Peace Corpsman? What kind of people? Dr. Kawalak perhaps, or you could talk

Augustine Stevens Well I have seen the Peace Corps at work in, in Sierra Leone and I have [match struck] helped in the training program as I've done for training programs and I've seen the Peace Corps volunteer in training. Now-- and I've also been a student in some of your American colleges: Indiana University, Ohio University, Huntington College, and probably next year, Northwestern. And I have lived with the average American student and of course I've lived in many American homes. Now all what this leads to is that some people do have a feeling towards the Peace Corps as a set of people who do not have really any set goals. They are the, the beatnik types, they are the people that have nothing else to do. And so their last resort is to just come into the Peace Corps. But for my stay with the Peace Corps, so far for the past four years, I want to say that this is not true. It may be true in some cases, but even where it is true, this is why we have the rigid de-selection and the selection aspect of the program, you see. Care is being taken so as to send not people that have no goals but people who can best represent America. And as far as Sierra Leone is concerned, I am sure that they do portray a majority of them, I'll put it this way for those that are particular, that a majority of them do portray the Western idea consciously or unconsciously but they do make a very good representation of the American society, and that they are very helpful. They are needed, you see. They are not only people that are helping to solve the American unemployment problem, you see.

Studs Terkel By being there.

Augustine Stevens Yeah. But they are rather I mean-- useful,

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak I think I'd like to second some things that Gus said, because I've been on the training aspect of it and seen these people perhaps from [match struck] a different point of view-

John Collier And

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak And involved also in the selection and de-selection that Gus mentioned. First I would say this that as a dean of faculty, I'd love to have the whole university just filled with Peace Corps volunteers for the student body. I think we've got the cream of the crop of the country. I'd like to speak about two particular examples, probably, which would probably be the best-- one is the attitude of the people in the country towards Peace Corps, and the other is something which I've seen here in just this morning's newspaper. I know when I was in Freetown, one of the things we'd do is palaver for the cab fare, which means we have to kind of dicker as to whether it's gonna be, 30 cents or 40 cents a go [on spad?]. And as I was doing this, I learned very quickly to say in, in Freetown and Sierra Leone that I was a Peace Corps representative. That automatically gave me a 20 percent reduction-

Studs Terkel Mmm.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak Or 25 percent reduction because the people thought so well of the Peace Corps people. Another thing which this morning, and if I could take the time to read

Studs Terkel Mmm.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak A letter to the editor which was in the Chicago Sun Times. It seems a citizen in Broadview, a Gary Bourne, lost his wallet and he writes to-- it's entitled To a Peace Corpsman. "It seems that the most unselfish people expect the smallest rewards for their efforts. Recently I lost my wallet containing more than 20 dollar. The following day it was returned to me by mail with all the contents intact. The finder did not mention his name. He enclose only a small note stating that he was a Peace Corps trainee at Roosevelt University. If this Peace Corpsman is typical of the majority, the United States should have fewer problems finding friends in undeveloped nations". I think this probably reflects something more than just the intellectual ability of the Peace Corpsmen. It shows of their feeling for people, which I think is so important as they go overseas.

Studs Terkel You were saying something Gus as, as Dr. Kawalak was reading that letter, you were thinking of something, I know.

Augustine Stevens Well I-- the, the statement there probably is an exception to the rule as far as con-- general conception is concerned. But as this man, his name is-

Studs Terkel Gary

Augustine Stevens Gary Bourne has made this observation, probably he has learned a lesson from this that if even he had had such a conception of the Peace Corps that there were no good people or that there, there were people that had no goals at all. Now that he, he is made aware of the fact that these people are really concerned about helping people. And of course we in Sierra Leone are in need of, of helpers, people to help us develop, people to help us place our country on the map, you see. And as I mentioned before, Sierra Leone is a member of the United Nations. She's a small country, but at the same time-

Studs Terkel Number 100, eh?

Augustine Stevens Number 100, you see. You can't help but to remember that. So she does participate in, in world affairs, you see. And for her to make her decisions, she will rely on other resources. People that come and-

John Collier Hold on-

Studs Terkel Go ahead, John. Just

John Collier Just before you leave that, this note, I had-- I, course can't be as objective as you since we are return volunteers, but I'd like to discount in a way just add that some people-- there's another misconception: not that we don't have goals or that we're beatniks and weird and so forth, but a misconception that we're naive, goody-goody, Pollyanna people out to save the world that, you know, this, this comes from usually people of colonial types who have been in the country a long time feel this way. But I think most of the volunteers, almost all, are very reasonable, very sensitive, sensible people. Realistic. They're not this total goody-goody type. They are altruistic, they do have a concern, but it's, it's different from what many Americans think of when they think of-

Studs Terkel Well can I ask-

John Collier This

Studs Terkel John Colli-- you went to Johns Hopkins and Anne, your wife, you went to Monmouth College.

Anne Collier That's

Studs Terkel What led you-- I mean I'm curious now if we could just perhaps-- why what led you to become a, a corpsman, corpswoman, [chuckles] volunteer?

Anne Collier I think, definitely there was this altruistic idea at the beginning, the idea of wanting to be of help in some way and also of course a, a great desire to see another part of the world. I had done very little traveling and just to, to live in a different culture and and find out what the rest of the world is like kind of in a way. And this was a great part of it I think. Not quite ready to settle down. [chuckles]

Studs Terkel Basically it comes to this matter, again, this, this mutual, this mutual understanding, this double learning, double discovery he will. Perhaps even if, if anecdotes come to your mind or the way you were-- how long were you in Sierra Leone? The Colliers?

Anne Collier Two

John Collier Two years.

Studs Terkel You were there for two years. So it's more than-- you've grown more than two years.

Anne Collier That's right. We've grown

Studs Terkel As even as we're talking and perhaps if he could hear-- did you ever hear this music? These are children singing. And these are Mende. This is you, your, your language, your people Gus you-- some of the songs are han-- oral, they're not handed down, are they not? From-

Augustine Stevens They are handed down from tradition, so to speak. If that's what you have in mind. Some of them, of course, are made up depending on the the singer. Now you, you have a lead singer and then you have chorusmen. This is the usual celebration singing, you know, and even it-- this is carried over in the churches. Some churches have lead singers just like the, the Negro the spiritual-

Studs Terkel Spirituals, yes.

Augustine Stevens So of course

Studs Terkel Call and response.

Augustine Stevens Probably I-I say, this is something that was brought over from the African culture-

Studs Terkel

Augustine Stevens [music playing] This music, or this rhythm you hear, apparently is well-known in the country of Sierra Leone in West Africa and perhaps we can describe the nature of this music, too, with our four guests, all of whom have been there. Augustine Stevens who is from Sierra Leone, from the province of, Mr. Stevens, Gus I know you're known as Gus, the, the provinces you are from -- From Southwestern Province. Southwestern Province of Sierra Leone, which is between Guinea and Liberia in West Africa. And with Mr. Stevens are two corpsmen, Peace Corpsmen, Mr. and Mrs. John-- John and Anne Collier who've been there -- hear about their experience, their discoveries, what they learned, what they offered. And Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak who's head-- you are head of the Sierra Leone Training Project, Roosevelt University. That's correct, yeah. This music we were just-- perhaps-- sometimes we find out about a country, a great -- can learn it through customs of the people, through the crops, through the work they do, but also through the music. This music is familiar to you, is it not, Mr. Stevens? Definitely. It has been said the music is very peculiar of Sierra Leone. Probably if you, you were to approach the dark areas, the dark areas I refer to th-the bush areas, probably [laughs] you'll be greeted by this type of a music. And so you're entering a type of a fr-- a strange home or a strange land, and this land is Sierra Leone. There used to be a British protectorate or, or British colony and in 1961, April 27, it achieved independence. It's the hundredth member of the United Nation. It has its capital Freetown. It has, Freetown has a population of about 120 to 150,000 people. Freetown is very historic. Historic in a sense that it was a port for liberated slaves. And- Liberated slaves, you say? That's right. Oh sort of like a-- that's interesting so Freetown was a port for liberat-- much like- Liberia. Freeport, Illinois for the slaves during the abolition-- w-who helped the abolitionists to escape from the South to the North. This was, this was Freetown. That's right. Here, the people do not escape to this place. Well that-- they were definitely brought over here to be set free. But then Freetown doesn't comprise all of Sierra Leone. There were people already in Sierra Leone. But at this little area where they left these pla-- these people, giv-give it it's historic name of Freetown. The nature of the music, the, the instrument that was used in this particular music that we heard, it's called kelei. It's a Mende word, one of the dialects of Sierra Leone. Mende is one of the dialects? Right, we have about 13 or 12 other dialects. I'm thinking about well thi-- this partic-- this music we heard was not really a talking drum, the audience may think it was, these were two sticks beating against a log, were A log, right. You have holes blown through the, the log, on either side of the log. And then on the surface of the log, it is kept round. The log is kept round, but then there are holes split, I would say, about one to one to one and a half inches long, three or four of them. And as you beat against her, each level gives you a different note. There's a nuance then to the, even the sound or the level. You mentioned one of the dialects, Mende dialect, this is of course one of the myths that people of the Western world live by. We think of Africa, you know, quote unquote the "dark continent." We think of it as one and yet we know of the thousands of different cultures and -- Sierra Leone is a population of what? Of roughly three million or so? Roughly And yet how many dia-- let's keep this open with John and Anne Collier, who had been there, and Dr. Kawalak of the Peace Corps. The dialects, how many? Anybody- I see a change -- I, there are what 13 tribes, but see the-- like many countries in Africa, Sierra Leone's borders often divide cultures, divide languages. And so you have some languages which are mainly in Guinea or in Liberia, which are also [match struck] spoken in Sierra Leone, so sometimes the count runs up to 17 in this one smaller country. So here as many as 17 dialects or languages, well perhaps certainly dialects, in one country of 3 million. Well, this is very hard to understand, as far as probably America is concerned, [chuckles] and for, for us, well they are just there. We, we don't know the difficulties that, that are involved in having so many languages that we have a problem of communication. And to overcome this, as far as the Peace Corps is concerned, we are teaching three of these dialects, the major ones. We have the Mende, which caries oh about three, three-eighths of the population. And then the Temne comes next, and then the Krio. And Krio is the language that these liberated slaves used on the corn plantations or the, whatever plantations in which they worked, you see, a type of a broken English. Mmm hmm. Why don't you talk some Krio? Yeah. Say if I were to say, "What is your name?" Yes. I say "wetin na yu nem"? "Wetin", what thing, "na" is is, "yu nem" you name. "wetin na yu nem". Oh, so the word "name" is in Krio, English is mixed -- so Krio then is a patois. That's right. That's exactly right. Yeah. It's a- How-however one of the things- Anne We ought to point out is that when you are teaching in the schools, you are teaching in English, especially in the secondary school, the high school there. You are completely conversing in English. So the students who have come to that level are quite proficient in English. Well, I would say the national language- Dr. Is English. It's the official language. The official language is English. The government. 'Course there's a carry over from the British. But nevertheless everyone speaks English, those that can, but the officially-- in all the schools, all government agencies, English is the basic language. That's the franca lingua then. That's right. English is. But does-- is this the only means of communication? Say can someone who speaks Krio understand someone who speaks Mende? No, there are-- these languages are different from one another as much as Greek is different from French, you see. Say, to say hello in Mende is "Bua" depending on the part of the -- time of the day. "Bi wua," "are you awake?" And then in Temne "M'peari". Then in, in Krio you say "Aw yu du?," "how you do" which is the English translation. So they're quite different. So I suppose this lack of communication before English became the major or the common language, a lack of communication, I suppose, is what also was a factor in colonialism, too, wasn't it? Keeping people apart from one another because they could not be in contact. Well this, this could be an instrument. It's possible that they use this instrument. Nevertheless we have we have trib-tribal organizations. They are political entities in themselves, you see? They rule themselves. The Mendes rule themselves, the Temnes rule themselves, and so will be the re-- for the rest of the other tribes. And also in Freetown, the, the Krios rule themselves, or they got a direct rule from England. And then until after certain manipulations from Great Britain, the whole country was subjected, you see? And then the English dic-- was introduced and now in our radio system we have the broadcast in English, and we have the broadcast in Krio, in Temne, and in Mende. It is comprised of four principal languages of Sierra Leone, you see, so that nobody's left in the dark. Yes. We teach the- Dr. Kawalak. Volunteers who are going to-- basically Krio. For example, in our ten weeks training program, Roosevelt University, they spend five weeks learning the Krio language. This'll get them by in every village, in every community throughout the whole country. And that's why we spent the time basically teaching them Krio. We're going to begin the, this week now, because of the assignments of the volunteers and the various schools which they'll be teaching if they'll be in a Mende village, they'll be learning the initial language of Mende, and then also those will be in, in Temne. Thinking about John and Anne Collier, who are Peace Corps workers in Sierra Leone. Let's test-- you, are you up on Krio? [laughs] No. Our Krio's not very good I'm [chuckles] afraid. We found so many people in the town where we were who spoke English and wanted to practice their English. And so we did an awful lot of talking English. John, why don't you tell 'em where you folks were at? We were on an island off the coast of this country called Sherbro Island. And we were in the town of Bonthe. Very very interesting town it's had shades of, of it's Victorian past. About 50 years ago, it was much more important than it is today. And there were still many old people living there, kind of like a new England town near Boston or something, people talking about the past when they were important and talking about the older customs and so forth, kind of passed by in this independence and the new Africa and things like that. Very interesting town Bonthe, Sherbro. So you find sort of a fusion here of past and present. This is a-- I suppose what with the technological revolution, you know, particularly with under-- when I say underdeveloped con-- I'd like to raise this point. Economically underdeveloped but perhaps not spiritually underdeveloped. If we could talk-- 'cause I think perhaps if John and Anne Collier and we have Augustine Stevens here, too, Dr. Kawalak, your own-- we think much of Peace Corps workers helping, we use this word in a non-patronizing sense, and yet you learn, too, did you not? Discoveries? We tend to think so much more about what we learned than the helping that we do. When we go over we find out that we're learning so much more than we are able to give. And this really makes a difference. Exactly, I, I think it should probably be known that there are three major objectives in Peace Corps programs. Yes. And one is certainly to help the people in the country in whatever pa-- specialization whether it be in health matters or community matters or most of people are going to be teachers, in fact all-- the group we're sending this time are going to be primary and secondary school teachers. Second objective of Peace Corps, however, is that, that they impart the American culture to these people. But the third, which is probably, I think that probably the most important thing to us, and that is that they take away the culture of Sierra Leone back with them to the United States. And I think John and Anne probably could reflect upon this more than anyone else. And I think we probably gain more than what we give. Very true. I, I completely agree with that except in your way you said impart the American culture. We do this unconsciously, but we try to cover that up by saying that actually we're building up relationships with individuals in the country, getting to know them as people so that when we, we return home, volunteers return to America and teaching or whatever field they go into in America, they're better able to help other Americans understand the rest of the world. And this is the, the thing that I think strikes us the most is that so often we in America tend to have a very patronizing and idea of- Ignorant. Very ignorant idea of, of Africa. The, the new Africa, the, the modern part of Africa seems to be completely overlooked when Americans think of Africa. And this is the thing that- Yeah. We think needs to be emphasized so much more. Exactly and, and the realization that there are other ways of doing things that work just as well for other people. The and the, this whole concept we've been talking about with Dr. Drake over at Roosevelt who's the the head of the- St. Clair Drake. St. Clair Drake, right, the sociology of-- the head of the comparative studies part. He's-- this idea of cultural relativism and the, the essential humanity of all cultures and that no one people has a monopoly on the, the right way of doing things. This is one thing you really learn if you're receptive overseas, if you are, are perceptive. This is really the key, isn't it? I thought perhaps even as we're talking we'll keep this free-- here's some more of the music. This matter of cultures and a, a way people live-- would at beginning, Gus Stevens was telling us about this kelei, this instrument we heard, but now if we could hear an actual talking drum. Now the talking drum, historically, even though there were different dialects spoken, and people thus could not communicate prior to English, the talking drum was a means of communication was it not? Yes. The drum was used, for instance, like the, you use a siren here, for fire, for emergency cases. They use the drum to call people to assemble, if the chief wanted to speak on the people far away, there's a type o-- there was a certain note that was produced on the drum that would bring these people together. Now if somebody was sick and they needed the attention of the witch doctor, for instance, there are other notes that they would play. But there has been a move away from this sort of thing. And it was not really so, so practiced in Sierra Leone as it is today practiced in Congo, for instance. The Congolese still use talking drums. Now today in music, it is only used to imitate certain sounds, like somebody sings a line and then there is a syncopation. So they use the drums to almost repeat that, that phrase or th-that line that was- That was the musical instrument- That's Rather as means of communication. That's right. If we could hear perhaps just an example of the, of the-- the "sangboi" as what? Is this a, a series of them? Sangboi is the whole set up, you know, of different group-groupings of drums. You have your snare drum in there, you have your high-sounding note drum. All sorts of drums, you see. So the whole set up is called sangboi, another Mende word of course. Mende. Right. Mende word of course, is-- are you Mende? I am Mende. Oh. [laughs] Of course. [music playing] And hearing the set of talking drums, these are women participating in the, in the villages. Is this part of a celebration? Would this be-? The, the the music itself is not typical of any one aspect of life in Sierra Leone. It could be used as a pastime after all the families have retired from the farms in the evening. I say retire because our farm system of the, in Sierra Leone is not the same as in America where you have your farms right in the city. Most of the farms are located five to ten miles away from the village. So everybody gets up in the morning at six o'clock, go to the farm, stay at the farm all day, and they in the evening retire. And they bring their food and they have sort of a communal eating, and then after everybody's full, they may have storytelling and a little ba-- courts, little places. And then later on some people will take up to dancing and just enjoyment, you know, pass time. You know something Gus said here is vital and I'd like to ask Anne and John Collier about this, and also how long you've been there. He spoke of the communal life or a community life in which it-- is this what hit you very hard in being there? Yes, although we were in a town situation which is tended to strain this a little bit. In a village, you have this, this communalism or [narrarian?], Tanzania calls it communocracy now in, in Africa. Very strongly that the people are a part of something, and it's, there's a tremendous element of the interpersonal face-to-face relationship that we don't have in our society, in our broken-down, regimented- Fragmented. Fragmented society, right. Well and think about how different this type of, of activity in the evening is compared to our sitting in our individual houses in front of the TV set. How much more this is- Well I suppose this leads to the one of the key dramas of our century, really, and that's this matter of double learning. That is what you learned from the people of Sierra Leone, what Peace Corpsmen learn throughout Africa, the countries they are, and in a sense perhaps what they learn about you, too. Gus you were saying that perhaps the stereotype of, of a Peace Corpsman, who is a Peace Corpsman? What kind of people? Dr. Kawalak perhaps, or you could talk about Well I have seen the Peace Corps at work in, in Sierra Leone and I have [match struck] helped in the training program as I've done for training programs and I've seen the Peace Corps volunteer in training. Now-- and I've also been a student in some of your American colleges: Indiana University, Ohio University, Huntington College, and probably next year, Northwestern. And I have lived with the average American student and of course I've lived in many American homes. Now all what this leads to is that some people do have a feeling towards the Peace Corps as a set of people who do not have really any set goals. They are the, the beatnik types, they are the people that have nothing else to do. And so their last resort is to just come into the Peace Corps. But for my stay with the Peace Corps, so far for the past four years, I want to say that this is not true. It may be true in some cases, but even where it is true, this is why we have the rigid de-selection and the selection aspect of the program, you see. Care is being taken so as to send not people that have no goals but people who can best represent America. And as far as Sierra Leone is concerned, I am sure that they do portray a majority of them, I'll put it this way for those that are particular, that a majority of them do portray the Western idea consciously or unconsciously but they do make a very good representation of the American society, and that they are very helpful. They are needed, you see. They are not only people that are helping to solve the American unemployment problem, you see. [laughs] By being there. Yeah. But they are rather I mean-- useful, I think I'd like to second some things that Gus said, because I've been on the training aspect of it and seen these people perhaps from [match struck] a different point of view- And And involved also in the selection and de-selection that Gus mentioned. First I would say this that as a dean of faculty, I'd love to have the whole university just filled with Peace Corps volunteers for the student body. I think we've got the cream of the crop of the country. I'd like to speak about two particular examples, probably, which would probably be the best-- one is the attitude of the people in the country towards Peace Corps, and the other is something which I've seen here in just this morning's newspaper. I know when I was in Freetown, one of the things we'd do is palaver for the cab fare, which means we have to kind of dicker as to whether it's gonna be, 30 cents or 40 cents a go [on spad?]. And as I was doing this, I learned very quickly to say in, in Freetown and Sierra Leone that I was a Peace Corps representative. That automatically gave me a 20 percent reduction- Mmm. Or 25 percent reduction because the people thought so well of the Peace Corps people. Another thing which this morning, and if I could take the time to read Mmm. A letter to the editor which was in the Chicago Sun Times. It seems a citizen in Broadview, a Gary Bourne, lost his wallet and he writes to-- it's entitled To a Peace Corpsman. "It seems that the most unselfish people expect the smallest rewards for their efforts. Recently I lost my wallet containing more than 20 dollar. The following day it was returned to me by mail with all the contents intact. The finder did not mention his name. He enclose only a small note stating that he was a Peace Corps trainee at Roosevelt University. If this Peace Corpsman is typical of the majority, the United States should have fewer problems finding friends in undeveloped nations". I think this probably reflects something more than just the intellectual ability of the Peace Corpsmen. It shows of their feeling for people, which I think is so important as they go overseas. You were saying something Gus as, as Dr. Kawalak was reading that letter, you were thinking of something, I know. Well I-- the, the statement there probably is an exception to the rule as far as con-- general conception is concerned. But as this man, his name is- Gary Gary Bourne has made this observation, probably he has learned a lesson from this that if even he had had such a conception of the Peace Corps that there were no good people or that there, there were people that had no goals at all. Now that he, he is made aware of the fact that these people are really concerned about helping people. And of course we in Sierra Leone are in need of, of helpers, people to help us develop, people to help us place our country on the map, you see. And as I mentioned before, Sierra Leone is a member of the United Nations. She's a small country, but at the same time- Number 100, eh? Number 100, you see. You can't help but to remember that. So she does participate in, in world affairs, you see. And for her to make her decisions, she will rely on other resources. People that come and- Hold on- Go ahead, John. Just before you leave that, this note, I had-- I, course can't be as objective as you since we are return volunteers, but I'd like to discount in a way just add that some people-- there's another misconception: not that we don't have goals or that we're beatniks and weird and so forth, but a misconception that we're naive, goody-goody, Pollyanna people out to save the world that, you know, this, this comes from usually people of colonial types who have been in the country a long time feel this way. But I think most of the volunteers, almost all, are very reasonable, very sensitive, sensible people. Realistic. They're not this total goody-goody type. They are altruistic, they do have a concern, but it's, it's different from what many Americans think of when they think of- Well can I ask- This John Colli-- you went to Johns Hopkins and Anne, your wife, you went to Monmouth College. That's What led you-- I mean I'm curious now if we could just perhaps-- why what led you to become a, a corpsman, corpswoman, [chuckles] volunteer? I think, definitely there was this altruistic idea at the beginning, the idea of wanting to be of help in some way and also of course a, a great desire to see another part of the world. I had done very little traveling and just to, to live in a different culture and and find out what the rest of the world is like kind of in a way. And this was a great part of it I think. Not quite ready to settle down. [chuckles] Basically it comes to this matter, again, this, this mutual, this mutual understanding, this double learning, double discovery he will. Perhaps even if, if anecdotes come to your mind or the way you were-- how long were you in Sierra Leone? The Colliers? Two Two years. You were there for two years. So it's more than-- you've grown more than two years. That's right. We've grown a As even as we're talking and perhaps if he could hear-- did you ever hear this music? These are children singing. And these are Mende. This is you, your, your language, your people Gus you-- some of the songs are han-- oral, they're not handed down, are they not? From- They are handed down from tradition, so to speak. If that's what you have in mind. Some of them, of course, are made up depending on the the singer. Now you, you have a lead singer and then you have chorusmen. This is the usual celebration singing, you know, and even it-- this is carried over in the churches. Some churches have lead singers just like the, the Negro the spiritual- Spirituals, yes. So of course this Call and response. Probably I-I say, this is something that was brought over from the African culture- Yes, Into

Studs Terkel But this, there's something in jazz men and spirituals known as call and response, even the preacher preaches the au-- congregation responds and so will the singer, too. And so perhaps we can hear example of this. These are children singing. I, I don't n-- what village this is, but here's children singing a Mende song. Perhaps you can even tell us about it, Gus, after-- or even the Colliers. [music playing]

Studs Terkel Are, are there thoughts come to your mind, Gus Stevens in hearing this? The children sing their song?

Augustine Stevens The [clears throat] music sounds a little fast, I don't know. [coughs] It's very hard to catch up the words. Usually it is not that difficult but probably it's because of being educated, now I say the, the singers are untrained, you know, [laughs] are not trained-

Studs Terkel Mhmm.

Augustine Stevens To, to sing this way, to, to be audible. But there wor-- some of the words are very hard to-

Studs Terkel Well do you remember, as a small child, singing songs of this nature?

Augustine Stevens Oh definitely yes. Especially in the village which we're discussing a while ago about the communal living. So to carry this through, after the farm, after the day's work, if you, you are not going to school, you go with your parents to the farm. Then when evening comes, you come home, those who had a very good catch like a rabbit or [racks?] of fish or whatever the, the catch may be, they prepare meals, you see, and then there's this interchange of, exchange of soups or sauces or dishes, you see. Just like your potluck dinners here, you see.

Studs Terkel Mmm

Augustine Stevens So people exchange and then three or four people would dish-- dip their hands together in the, in the dish and eat it from it. And the Mende say that you can always know your friends by who dips his hands [laughs] into, in the same dish, you see. Now after, after this eating you, you are full, and you go out with your age group, you know-

Studs Terkel Mmm

Augustine Stevens And then pick up the drums and the keleis and the shake, shake-shakes, you see. And then you keep on singing.

Studs Terkel You know as Gus says is quite moving, and a thought comes to my mind. It's what we read about in early America, too, or perhaps that other peoples of another generation spoke of. Picnics, communal picnics that perhaps are less often held here than they were. And here it is, and this is the reflection almost of a dream that once was America, too.

John Collier Right, and it's changing in Africa, too, this is the thing. I, I'm just-- when you talk about that, we have heard all these songs that we're hearing now. But in thinking about when we heard them, it was usually on occasions or when we went out to a village. But in Bonthe itself, in going around the evening, people were talking or listening to records on record players are more common, listening to transistor radios.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak This is the-

Studs Terkel The transistors made its way there.

Augustine Stevens Right.

Studs Terkel And now we co-- Gus.

Augustine Stevens Yeah, when you mention tra-transistor radio this gave me a, a very good topic here. And this is something dealing with status. Now the, the African describes his status by either owning a wristwatch, whether it's operating or not, wearing a se-- pair of glasses, whether he needs glasses or not, they may be sunglasses or plain glasses with no lens at all, or carrying a radio or a phonograph. Now these are all status symbols.

Studs Terkel Mmm

Augustine Stevens This is a move away from the, the, the traditional setting wherein there was a, an activity that called for subsistence living. You farmed on it to, to, to to live, you see. But now you have moved away from this, and you're marching towards a money economy. And this has brought people to the city. And of course seeing the radios around and the, the records on, on, on, on, on long playing records on on albums. People buy phonographs and their records and then they go to listen to them, rather than going out to join the, the communal band, you see. This is a process of modernization, you see.

Studs Terkel Yeah. Now we come to the question, don't we, Anne? Is this good or bad? [laughs] You see we come to the question don't we of profits and losses, don't we?

Augustine Stevens That's right,

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak And if you were in Freetown on the Saturday morning and everybody's shopping, I don't think it'd be any difference than you were on State street here in the city.

John Collier Right.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak And with the traffic and the crowds and the noise and all the supermarts and everything else you-- there is no difference in, in the major city as any major city in the United States. I think you, you're hitting on something, though, that's happening in Sierra Leone, which is probably more advanced than the United States, and this is fragmentation of family life or which the breakdown of the families being separated become-- because of companies sending their, to the four corners of the United States, the same thing is happening in all countries, and Sierra Leone is no exception. People are going to various cities to find employment and therefore there's a breakdown. But when they do get together on holidays this is certainly when you would hear the music which was reminiscent of the old time.

Anne Collier One of, one of the customs I liked on the holidays, the children would sometimes go out, especially Christmas, New Years, the children would go out in groups and you would hear this music and dancing and it would be almost like our trick-or-truting, trick-or-treating on, on Halloween. They would dance for you, and then you would give them money-

Studs Terkel Mmm

Anne Collier After they had danced, but going around the, the town singing and, and performing the

Studs Terkel I'm thinking before we hear a village celebration song, this leads to the-- so you mentioned Christmas, let's speak to subject of religion itself. Now there's Christianity, there's Islamism, too. Gu-- what is the-- is there a prime religion in Sierra Leone?

Augustine Stevens Of the, the predominant religion is Islam. Most of the people belong to this group. Well the missionaries would give a reason that it would be very difficult for the African to, to to answer the question, "Are you a Christian?" And if he said "Yes," they'd probably ask "What church?" you see? But immediately they ask you the question, "To what religion do you belong?" You would easily say, "Islam," and then this would, of course, not call for any other further questioning, you see? And then on the other hand, Islam matches with the tradition of the people, you see, so that there, very many people easily cling to, to to the religion. Now it allows for about four wives to one man. I know most American men probably would like to-

Studs Terkel Well that's [laughs] pretty not bad [laughs] that has its attractive attributes.

Augustine Stevens But but-

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak And it's problems. We

Studs Terkel have Problems

Augustine Stevens Yeah well well for the African, it it is probably more economical. Now somebody will say, ask me the question, "Did you say economical?" I say, "Yes, economical," in the sense that our farms do not operate on mechanisms here like your, your tractors. So in a sense, the women become the tractors, you see. [laughs] They, they weed the farms, you see. Well now if a guy has a five acre land, you know, he has to weed it all himself, this is tedious. So he needs the extra help,

Studs Terkel Now this leads to a very interesting subject-- perhaps we could ask Anne about this, the role of women in Sierra Leone. Is there a changing-- in view of what Gus Stevens just said, you know, about the women in the sense being appendages to the man, you know. Is there something happening now with the women in Sierra Leone?

Anne Collier Yes.

Studs Terkel That

Anne Collier I, I think the women have, have always had power, even though they were in a subordinate position. Even more so now the women are often traders and will be earning money kind of independently of their husbands this way so that they have more money than they had had. And as the women get more education also, this leads to they're not taking quite such a subordinate role as they had.

Augustine Stevens Excuse me. Just finish up on this question of religion since some

Studs Terkel other Yes.

Augustine Stevens Somebody will wonder whether Islam is the only religion. No, it isn't. We have Christianity, we have a very strong missionary influence. Most of our schools in which even the Peace Corps volunteer would be solving, or has been solving, were established by missionaries. And then we have also another group that you call the ancestor worshipers.

Studs Terkel Animism.

Augustine Stevens Yeah, animism. These people worship on the trees and in cemeteries. They worship the, the dead people, the past people. And then of course then we have a big block of people that you class as pagans if th-theologian will allow me to use the word, you see. And these are the, the religions-

Studs Terkel As a matter-- is animism or that which we call paganism, but which in itself is its own form of religion there-- is that disappearing to some extent because of the influence of the outside world upon-

Augustine Stevens In, in the cities. It depends on the location, again here, you see. In the cities, people do not cling very much to religion anymore. It doesn't solve their problems, you see. But in the, say in the interior, if you had to leave Freetown and go up a hundred and fifty miles, these experiences probably, I mean I'm sure that the rotunda volunteers that we have around have experienced that people cling very much to religion, you see. It's part of their tradition. And they do hold respect for something that is above them. They can always cast their, their problems, their, their doubts, things that they do not understand about life towards a God. By, but be it to the Christian God or the Is-- the Islam God. But there is a God concept amongst these people.

Studs Terkel Perhaps we could-- Dr.

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak I was going to, not wanting to get away from something that Anne was saying here in order to leave the impression that Sierra Leone, you know, women are nothing but farmers or are treated as chattel here, but Gus may [laughs] want to think so maybe, when he goes back in order to get four wives. [laughs] But I think it's important that we know that some of the most important offices in Sierra Leone are being held by women.

Studs Terkel Oh is that so? Political office?

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak Oh, very much. One of the strongest and most powerful political chief in the country is a woman. I think the mayor of Freetown is a woman-

Studs Terkel Wow!

Dr. Thaddeus Kawalak And this is the largest capital city and I think this is something that we in the United States may not even boast about, the fact that the capital city of, of the country, the mayor of that city, happens to be woman. And even some ministers without portfolios happen to be women. So I, I didn't want to leave the impression here that the women are nothing but farmers. They are very strong politically and leaders in the community and in the country as well as being