December 4, 1983 - Personal Web Page: Nancy Parker's Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: El Salvador: Peace Corps El Salvador : The Peace Corps in El Salvador: December 4, 1983 - Personal Web Page: Nancy Parker's Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer

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Nancy Parker's Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer

Nancy Parker's Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Survey

I'm sure that my everyday life isn't to interesting to read about, but this page will give you some background information and hear about my childhood I took a questionnaire with questions I had to answer before joining the peace corp. There are a lot of question s that illustrate how I was living regarding to the time. I have developed strong opinions about political events and I think that war is wrong. But, through many of my experiences, first-hand and not, I have slowly chartered my own opinions of how the world should be, and how the world really is. I guess most people would consider me a liberal feminist, and I guess I would just have to agree with them; I do look up to other people who are considered feminists, and agree with some of their more liberal opinions. This is some background information that will help you understand the person I have come to be and the person I was. I am hoping that it will give you a fuller understanding of the decisions I make and the opinions I have.

1. I currently, as of 1971, reside in Berkeley, California. Berkeley, being a college town has many people, with a population of 21,249,000.

2. I live in the Putnam Halls on 2650 Durant Avenue, its about one block from school. Itís a cement building in a complex with three other buildings. There are 16 floors and a total of about 230 people in each building. Theyíre coed floors with one large coed bathroom on each floor.

3. I share a room with one other girl. Sheís not a very open person. I had a lot of trouble getting to know her. But she finally opened up a little, and we get along pretty well for the most part. I have friends all over the building so its not like Iím confined to only talking to my roomate.

4. I donít have much time to shop because of my work and school schedule. Also, being a student with financial aid, I donít have money to spare to go shopping every weekend, and if I did, I find that I donít really have an interest in it. I just like to be comfortable, and my job working the in the Biology Department doesnít call for any specific outfit, so I spend most of my time in my favorite blue jean overalls, I have two pairs actually, knit tops and my Birkenstocks.

5. I am an atheist because when I was younger my parents forced the Catholic religion (mostly just services) on me (my grandmother was very religious in her younger years) Ė so, now, as an adult I have made a decision to try to find spirituality through other aspects of life.

6. Our building is heated with electric heating. My roommate and I use a gas stove to cook our meals; but we eat about half of our meals in the dining hall. There are things called meal plans where when you pay board you can pay for the number of meals youíll eat in the dining hall per week. I eat about ten meals a week in the dining hall. I save them for the nights I have too much work, and I donít have time to cook. Depending on how much laundry I have, I either hand-wash the things I need immediately, or sometimes the other girls and I will pool our money and bring our clothes to a Laundromat. We have a clothesline outside the house, where we can hang things that need drying, but no one owns a dryer.

7. I currently hold a work-study job as a lab assistant helping in lab preparation in the Biology Department. I deal mostly with aquatic invertebrates. This job gives me an extra opportunity to gain more experience in biology and ecology.

8. I have been working there for about six months now. The position had been filled until then. Before that I still worked in the Biology Department, but my job consisted of cleaning test tubes and scrubbing lab tables.

9. I sort aquatic invertebrates using a microscope from stream

substrate samples, process algae and leaf samples assist with general lab duties, data entry and occasional field work.

10. My supervisor is a biology professor. I really enjoy his company in the lab. He is a very smart man and we have very good conversations about the classes. Itís almost like an extra class for me because Iím learning about ecology and biology while I am working, and he is always willing to answer all the questions I might have concerning the subject.

11. I get paid $11/ hour, which is more than I would get paid at any other job, and itís just an added bonus that I really enjoy what Iím doing. But honestly any job would be good just as long as I am making money because I am getting a lot of financial aid.

12. No I will not being doing this job the rest of my life because it is a work-study job, and in order to do it, I must be a registered student at Berkeley.

13. No, I am not a member of a union.

14. 14. I am the oldest of two children and both my mom and dad are still alive.

15. 15. The youngest member is my younger brother, Sammy who is fourteen. My parents, Kate and Billy Parker were high school sweethearts and got married right out of high school, so they are both forty-four.

16. 16. On my fatherís side, my grandfather, Randolph Parker died two years ago, in 1973, at the age of sixty-seven from a severe heart attack.

17. 17. Fortunately, my health has been very good lately. I think it is because I have been eating extremely healthily. I only eat organic foods. I also have recently started to take vitamins because I cannot afford to miss any work or classes on account of being sick. I also have semi-frequent checkups at the student health clinic located on campus.

18. 18. My family and I have always been very healthy, except for the occasional cold or flu. We do have our yearly checkups and get all of the shots we need, and we also make sure that if someone is really sick, the proper antibiotic is prescribed.

19. My wardrobe consists of a bunch of mismatched clothes, from a variety of places. I really donít care too much about how I look, just as long as I am comfortable. I donít have anything dressy on account of the fact that I canít afford it, and even if I could, I have no use for dressy clothes because I donít have time to do anything social which involves wearing a fancy dress. But my favorite things to wear are my jean overalls.

20. Yes, I am literate Ė I attend college.

21. Yes, my first language is English. I am currently studying Spanish in college.

22. In my free time, I read newspapers, magazines, and books. Right now I am finishing up a book called The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. It was published in 1963, and is often credited with the revival of feminism in the early 1960ís. It was recommended to me by a friend who had read it and loved it. It challenged the ďideology of domesticity,Ē which is why I found it so interesting. I completely support her views on equal rights and the fact that women should not be confined to the home.

23. My favorite meal right now is an organic tofu and bean sprout salad with a tamari dressing. I really only eat organic foods, theyíre just better for you, and a lot more satisfying in the long run. A lot of kids here eat whatever they can get theyíre hands on, which is almost always some kind of greasy food, and now theyíre all fat. If you eat healthily, you will be healthy, and you will have less to worry about.

24. My average meal is something really simple, but healthy. For breakfast I normally have some granola and yogurt (organic), for lunch I have my favorite salad most of the time, and for dinner, I have been eating a lot of steamed vegetables lately. My friend just taught me how to make these really good marinated baked tofu cakes that Iím going to try out Iím happy with the way I eat.

25. My friends include others who share my concerns in world affairs. There are a lot of people I relate to at Berkeley. Iíve gotten to know the people on my floor very well. Also, my boyfriend has introduced me to all of his friends, most of which also attend this school. My best friend here is Sarah Cooke who lives one floor above me. Her and I take an environmental science class together, and share the same friends.

26. My main interest when I am with my friends is music. Sarah and I are strong supporters of Joan Baezís music and the causes she fights for. She is a very influential womenís rights activist, so we are constantly listening to her music. I also love James Taylor, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles, which includes the music from John Lennonís solo career.

27. I am not married, and will not even begin to consider getting married until I have an established career and I am settled into my life after college. My boyfriend Brian knows and understands this. We have a lot of common interests and believe in a lot of the same causes. He is constantly supportive of my belief in equal rights for women and he is also a very active member in Green Peace. I would love to join this, but I really do not have the time. But I attend whatever and protests and rallies that they have. His independent thinking and strong morals and beliefs are what made me most attracted to him.

28. Depending on my workload, I will either be with my friends on Friday and Saturday nights or I will be studying. If I am with my friends we normally like to go out to our favorite coffee shop to listen to folk music. Thereís so much to do at Berkeley. There were often speakers that came to discuss political and environmental issues, depending on what was in the current events at that time. I also love to go to concerts and try to get tickets as often as I can. I went to a Joan Baez concert a few months ago; definitely one of the best times of my life.

29. Sunday, is absolutely reserved for studying. The whole day is set aside for school work. I find Sunday is the one day where I am guaranteed a set block of time that I can use to study.

30. My favorite place to go when I want to have fun is to my friendsí dorms because being with them is all I need to have a good time. We love to listen to music

31. I donít necessarily feel I am in the mainstream just because there are a lot of drugs and sleeping around nowadays. I donít feel the need to participate in these things, because I am happily paired with my boyfriend, and I donít think I need drugs to have a good time. I tend to be a person who gets ďhigh on lifeĒ which sometimes makes me feel like I donít fit in with others attending Berkeley University.

32. On winter and spring breaks I usually visit Texas. I have an old Aunt Martha who lives there and I try to see her regularly. I also like to visit my grandmother in Massachusettes.

33. Iím not worried about anything long term. I really like to focus on the moment instead of obsessing over what may happen to me. I need to take things as they come. So my biggest concern right now is my schoolwork and getting it done. Something else that bothers me at the back of my mind is all of the college debt I will have. But as of now, I am doing whatever I can to earn money to pay back my loans, so thereís nothing more I can do about that.

34.The highlight of my life is graduating High School with high honors and then getting accepted into Berkeley.

35. One of the biggest regrets of my life was losing my virginity at age fourteen. I was way too young to put my body and mind through such an emotional experience. The worst part was that after I had sex with this older guy who was 16, at the time, he never looked or talked to me again. I was abandoned at the time that I most needed comforting and help. I really feel that I disgraced myself. I was pressured into doing something I wasnít completely comfortable in doing, and by a man no less.

36. My highest priority in life at this time is my school work. This is what I have to focus on because if I want to be successful and have a career I need to do well now. It is also very important to me that I get the best education I can. Every one needs this. With female employment rising, I need to be prepared if I want to be at the top and reach the full potential that I know I am capable of.

37. The newest thing in my life involves my relationship with my current boyfriend of four months. I just had sex with him for the first time. The main reason I waited this long, was because of past experiences, I really needed to know he wasnít just going to leave me after we had sex. My first time, involved having sex with a guy I had known around school but only really got to know him at a party, and then we had sex that same night. This was a big step in our relationship, but I was totally ready and have no regrets. I am glad I waited to get to know him before I just jumped into bed with him, because we were sure it was the right time.

38. The newest idea in my life is joining the Peace Corp. I havenít joined yet, but I am really looking into it. I figure maybe after I graduate I could have more time and be a full member. Iíve read up on their organization and so far it sounds amazing. I mainly want to join because I enjoy volunteering. Generally in this program people go to another country to volunteer, I think it would be really cool and an awesome experience to visit a different country.

39. My favorite childhood toy was Barbie. I donít know why. I really thought of her as my role model. And then I grew up and came to my senses that Barbie is a disgusting stereotype of what a woman ďshould beĒ, and the cause of eating disorders.

40. 40. I usually keep up with current events. I read the New York Times daily, I read magazines such as Life and Time, and take courses that address world issues such as International & Area Studies, which focuses on world history.

41. 41. I always try to know everything that is going on in my community, such as elections, demonstrations, rallies, entertainment, parades, receptions, and speeches. I go to local meetings and hearings concerning community problems, and I also read school bulletin boards that have notices on school events. The main way, though, that I find out about community news is through community service.

42. My biggest role model in the nation is definitely Joan Baez because I love her music but for the most part because she uses her fame to speak out against war; she is an independent, liberated, and outspoken entertainer. She is also very intellectual and she is a very influential activist/ feminist.

43. I can vote because I am over eighteen years old. The last time I voted was in 1972 for the democratic candidate, George McGovern. Unfortunately, he did not win the presidency.

44. The recent political event that pleases me the most is the creation of Environmental Protection Agency because its mission is protect human health and the natural environment. The EPA conducts research on environmental science and promotes education about the environment.

45.The recent political event that pleases me the least is the Supreme Courtís ruling that the Death Penalty is constitutional. I believe that no one deserves to die, even if they did kill someone else. How is it fair or constitutional to say that it is wrong for one person to be killed, and then kill the person that committed the murder?

46. My hero is Ralph Nader. He fights for everything I believe in with such determination, and he has had such a huge effect on out world today. He is a consumer advocate who is not afraid to piss people off, just as long as he is getting his points across. He has created so many organizations for the safety of the consumers of America. He has inspired such groups as Congress Watch, the Center for Responsive Law, Public Interest Research Groups, Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety, the National Insurance Consumer Organization, and the Health Research Group. I read his book Unsafe at Any Speed last year, and I was so inspired by the forcefulness with which he fought against the automobile industry and his unrelenting fights for the safety of the citizens of America.

47. To the younger generation, I would like to warn them not to fall victim of peer pressure. It is very important to stay true to yourself and to only do things for your own reasons. We have all gone to that party, tried that drug, or dressed to fit in. In the end, it really doesnít matter if you fit in, it matters if you are happy and well adjusted. As for what I have to say to the older generation, I really donít. I am about to graduate from college, I am an adult now, so I donít really have any advice or anything to ask for from my elders.

48. I feel the world is neither changing too fast nor too slow, but instead it is going the only speed that it is supposed to. I think we should take life as it comes to us, one day at a time. The only way we can solve the problems of our world is to take them as they come, like jumping over hurtles. You canít take them all at once, and although you anticipate the next hurdle, you canít jump it until you get to it. I believe that although there will always be anticipation, impatience, or dread, there will always be a tomorrow.

49. My name is Nancy Parker, and I am twenty-one years old. I currently attend Berkeley University in Berkeley, California.

Since my experience in El Salvador ended I have been doing a lot of other work. From about 1981 to 1985 I involved myself in a center for human rights called the Human Rights Watch; I was stationed in Washington DC. In the first and last year I was there, two very large projects were added to the organization. First, in 1981 the Americas Watch was added. This enterprise was based on issues concerning human rights in Central and South America. Then, in 1985, the Asian Watch was founded. I didnít get to help out with that project because it was added soon before I left, but it dealt with human rights issues in Asia. With the Americas Watch, I helped mostly with childrenís and womenís rights issues, such as child labor, child soldiers, sexual harassment and abuse, refugees, street children, poverty (at large), violence, and female status in the home and work life. I think that my experience in El Salvador intensified my desire to help threatened and needy people. My motivation to join the HRW was from the events I had previously witnessed concerning the innocent civilians effected by things like war. Every time I even close my eyes an image of a starving child of war appears in my head. There are so many motherless children fighting for something they donít even understand, and so many childless mothers who need to be comforted. The products of war are much more than any one person can comprehend. The reason I was working with the HRW was that I could think of all the people that really need help in the world, and I wanted everyone to have the same abilities and opportunities that I had had in my lifetime. It was really fulfilling my need to help others in life, but only for a while.

The work started to overwhelm me, because some of the things I had to read and deal with became all too intense for me and I think I was just worn out from being unable to detect a real change because of my work, and I no longer had the feeling that my work was accomplishing anything. I decided that I had done as much as I could with the kind of hands on work I was doing, and it was time for a new turn for my life. This turn still needed to incorporate the line of work that I was used to, dealing with human rights and equality and power to the people, but I needed to feel that I was actually getting something done. Throughout my years with the HRW, I didnít feel like I was making any progress. I didnít have any tangible proof that the things I was doing were really helping people, really getting what I wanted done. I remembered that law was another of my interests from high school and part of college, and that I could be working for not only the good of the people, but could also be getting things done for human rights if I had the power of the government behind me. I had previously realized that if things like the HRW had more government support, more would be possible, but that the reason that we even needed to help other countries was already the US governmentís fault; through our foreign policy. Something had to be done about the US foreign policy, and I figured that I was as good a candidate as any. I just had to find a way to gain some sort of political power, and a way to get things put into action. Thatís when I heard about the Hawaii senator, Daniel K. Inouye and decided to join his team as an aide.

Working for Senator Inouye seemed like the right way for my career to go so I could receive the things I was missing at the HRW. Inouye was a considerate man, interested in human rights as much as I, very committed to helping the people, a liberal democrat, and he knew what it was like to be powerless and unprotected, being a minority himself. I thought and hoped that by working with him I would be fulfilling my need to help others in a new way and that I would actually be getting something done by changing the US foreign Policy. About a year and a half after I started my job with Senator Inouye, he started plans for chairing a committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition. What had happened was that in 1980 there were secret arrangements to give money to the Nicaraguan rebels for them to buy weapons and such. Being the Senator (and chairman)ís aide, I was able to attend the trials dealing with the matter. That was my first involvement with the Iran-Contra affairs. Soon after the hearings started, new knowledge about the shredding of important Iran/Contra-affair related documents was released, and there was a new person who was part of the entire affair. Colonel Northís secretary, Fawn Hall was suspected of helping in getting rid of Iran/Contra-related Security Council documents. She was called in for questioning, and I attended the hearing. Throughout the hearing I heard Ms. Hall give testimony that she helped shred documents concerning the affair, as well as go into the office after it had been secured and sneak more documents out. She totally disregarded the law and acted as if that wasnít a problem. She assisted in this commitment to help the guerillas conduct war against the government of Nicaragua.

After the hearing I caught a glimpse of Fawn Hall speaking to a group of news-anchors and reporters across the room. She looked mostly caught up in the publicity she was getting but I thought that she would always be up for another verbal battle. I didnít like the way she was and had been acting, but I realized that almost anything she would do now would get me angrier in some way and I didnít want to lose my job with Senator Inouye because of my stupidity. She was such a horrible person, but that wasnít my fault. I wanted to speak to her, although I was somewhat unsure of what to say, and I knew that it would end up as a large argument or something, so I decided against it. I knew that if I were to show my anger at her it would be rude and could cause future problems if a newsperson was to catch any of it, but I really would have just liked to yell in her face. She had gone against all of my main principles in helping people conducting war, lying, and absolutely disregarding the law, and hadnít seemed like any of it was a problem. It wasnít that she was a person who was at ease, it was that she thought of herself as someone above all others, and her actions were always a worthy cause even if all they were going to do is cause or help cause more destruction, and it made me angry. When people disregard the law it causes problems, and maybe even eventually war (especially in this case). Iím not ready for that to happen in this country now or ever again. I had experienced too much violence and injustice to allow someoneís stupidity and superiority to cause this many problems, not to mention that I already was trying to stop wars like the one going on in Nicaragua, and Hall was doing the opposite in helping bring it about. Although I was angry about what she had done I had to force myself to let it be. She had gone against my beliefs in helping make a problem for innocent civilians. People suffered because of decisions she made. I wasnít only blaming her in the deception of the country and the elongation of a war, but she was the one who set off my anger, and who I felt I could actually reach.

When I finally had gotten near enough by to grab Ms. Hallís sleeve as she passed I thought more entirely about what I was going to say, I became conscious that nothing I could say would be of much use. It would have gotten out some of my anger but I didnít have anything concrete to say to her. I did, however, find myself barring her path even though I didnít really have a reason for it anymore. I realized that nothing I could say could change the inappropriate way she acted in the courtroom, or the deeds she had done in the past, so I stepped aside and let her pass. As she left she turned, giving a last opportunity for the press to snap her picture (I assumed) and a quick rude glance to me.

Fawn Hall and the entire Iran/Contra-affair motivated me further to continue my quest to change US foreign policy. She was the kind of person that made me angry to have to associate myself with the government, and the sort of oblivious people working for it. She had no real idea as to what the outcomes of her actions could and would be, not because she was oblivious, but because she chose not to think about it. It was people like her, who thought they were better than the law and did not have to follow it like others did, that I was fighting against. I didnít only want to make a change for myself, and other countries, but also for the people in this country. I donít think that the majority of the country would want to be in the same place as the people in a fighting country, the people affected by the war who didnít want it in the first place. People like Fawn Hall never thought of the innocents, the bystanders, the real victims of there actions, and things such as their disregard for the affected made me angry, made me want to strive harder to change things so this would not have to happen. If our policy had been different, there would be less suffering in many places. Its not that the US is the cause of all problems in the world, but if the US wasnít causing the problems that it is, it would be a step towards a brighter future for many.

After I got back from the Peace Corps I began working for the Human Rights watch, and then for the senator of Hawaii, Senator Inouye. Through being a member of his team I was witness to the Iran-Contra affairs first hand, and attended all hearings. To hear about these experiences, and read up about what I've been doing since the Peace Corps, click here. I have also found an interest in art, and found that I love the Smithsonian Institute. To see some pictures by El Salvador's artists and my reactions to them scroll down.

December 4, 1983

My favorite museum in Washington D.C. is the Smithsonian Institute. I go there frequently to relax or just get a break from work. Last week I visited the Smithsonian for a specific reason: to see a special exhibit on artists from El Salvador. I learned about this exhibit from a previous visit when I had picked up a pamphlet announcing its opening. The pamphlet announced that the museum was planning on showing a collection of El Salvadoran artwork. The notice also listed the eight featured artists: William Chilin, Mario Escobar, Conchita Kuny Mena, Zelie Larde, Isais Mata, Nahum Nuila, Rafael Varela, and Roberto Huezo. I knew this was one exhibit I would not want to miss. I can hardly believe it has been a little more than three years since I returned from El Salvador. Iíve missed El Salvador a lot and I guess I feel that if maybe I go to this exhibit I will feel as if I am back there again.

In order to avoid crowds, I decided to attend the exhibit on Sunday morning. My intention was to have enough time and space to really study the works of art on display. When I arrived I found a small crowded room on the second floor featuring paintings of very vibrant colors. Before going to El Salvador I was never exposed to El Salvadoran art but after returning I felt that I knew a lot about it. I relize El Salvadoran art is very different from Western European artwork. The reason they are so different is because art is an expression of culture and El Salvador and Europe have very different cultures. The paintings I saw that morning reminded me of the days I spent in there and how much I really missed them. The paintings focused on everyday scenes of everyday people - people who had lived through a civil war. There were about a dozen paintings in all, and not one was especially large. They barely filled the room. I started to make my way around the small collection.

After I had looked at each painting for several minutes, I knew exactly which one was my favorite. It happened to be positioned in the corner, almost as if it were a hidden secret. The artist was William Chilin, and it was titled Cara de Patria. I knew this to mean Face of a Patriot. Knowing the title of the painting before I even looked at it made me predisposed to see a man or woman glorified, a person that was willing to sacrifice their life for their country, someone that had been loyal to their country for their whole life. El Salvadorís patriots are the hard working indigenous people that keep the country going, in other words they are the back bone to the country. I found these people to be the farmers whom I worked with daily. The farmers and other peasants who had been oppressed for decades took action and formed a coalition against the government. When I looked at this picture of an El Salvadoran farmer dressed in beautiful purples, oranges, and reds, I automatically saw a true patriot of El Salvador. I saw a beautiful man willing to fight as to protect his family and children. I saw someone willing to die to help save his country from anymore disaster. Cara de Patria not only features this one farmer but others are shown in the painting as well. This group of patriots symbolizes the coming together of the community and the rising up of the average working honest people that fought the corrupt government.


Cara de Patria

I also liked Conochita Kuny Menaís painting of la novia del cordero which means the girlfriend of a lamb. The word lamb in the title is very significant, lamb in the Catholic religion is usually a symbol of Jesus. In mass people say "Lamb of God, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Grant us peace. " Of course, El Salvadorans are very religious and the predominant religion there is Catholicism, I knew El Salvadoran art to center around religion. Anyway, la novia del cordero was a really beautiful painting. The colors were calming: almost all whites, creams, navies, blacks, and other shades of dark blue. The picture was of a very young girl dressed all in white with a veil on. She looked mesmerizing like an apparition of la virgin . The young girl in the painting has red rosy cheeks, and roses are in fact a symbol of la virgencita. She looked sacred and as if she was glowing or radiating light. She was dressed in all white as a symbol of peace. This painting of the young girl with hollow black eyes starring back at me was absolutely magnificent and kept me looking at her for over fifteen minutes.


La novia del cordero

Well, I saw all of these paintings just about a week ago, and although I donít recall every single painting vividly, there were indeed a couple that really stayed in my mind. In fact, I liked ďCara de PatricaĒ so much that I bought myself a poster of it downstairs in the gift shop. Iíve decided that I would like to visit this exhibit again, and this time, bringing a guest along so that we can shares our thoughts and opinions about the exhibit. I think I will invite my friend Anna, since she did, after all, want to join the Peace Corps herself, and is also very interested in El Salvador. Iím looking forward to another viewing of this interesting and colorful exhibit.

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