Interview with Steve Graham, December 10, 2021
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummarySteve Graham served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1974-1976 in Saba, East Malaysia, specializing working in the education field. Steve attended the University of California, Berkeley, during the time of the Viet Nam War. He was a Physical Science major and explored the Peace Corps on his own as he wanted to emphasize the word “Peace” in working for his country. He wasn’t thinking about being assigned to an Asian country, but he readily accepted his placement, and his group of volunteers met for a week of training at San Jose State College in California soon after his graduation. He stayed in a campus dormitory and learned that most of his group was to be replacing earlier volunteers. He was not pleased with much of the training as he felt that he was “being watched,” or overly scrutinized, in his daily activities. His group was one of a planefull of volunteers headed for Malaysia, and they landed in Kuala Lumpur with other secondary educators, and stayed in a hotel where he trained with other volunteers and administrators. He then took a plane to Kota, near Kinabalu Mountain, and then was transported to the town of Api-Api (also known as Jesselton) where more training occurred. Three Americans handled the training, and there were three language trainers (Cikgu) also. The language training focused on Bahasa Malaysia spoken in the region, and his training was based on the HILT (High Intensity Language Training) process. There were 14 volunteers in his group but only 12 were able to finish training. Steve had three months of further training in the town of Tuaran where he lived in a building designed to house indigenous members in a campus institution for the blind. He enjoyed the food, especially the rice varieties. Steve and one other volunteer began teaching in a government-sponsored secondary school (Arshad) in Kota Belud where the teaching was mainly in English but later moved to a Malay medium. The other volunteer was teaching mainly in Malay. They both lived in teacher housing in a new house with jalousie windows, two bedrooms, a dining area, and a kitchen. They had a supply of water and electricity. The house was elevated because of possible flooding, and they cooked and cleaned for themselves. In his teaching position, Steve was told that mostly all instruction was geared to students passing the Form 5 Exam, and his task was to teach math and science to this end. He taught six classes with one prep time period each day. He found his students to be extremely receptive to his instruction, and they were well disciplined; they even washed the boards and cleaned the classrooms each morning before classes started. He felt that the science room where he taught was well set up, although some equipment was outdated and not working to his liking. Steve was able to have some science equipment sent to his school. His students and colleagues were of mixed ethnicities, yet racial relations were not a problem. With his down time or vacation periods, Steve sailed and worked on a Hornet-class sailboat in the local harbor area, and he also traveled to Indonesia and while there visited Bali. At the end of his tour of duty, Steve underwent a debriefing in Kuala Lumpur and met with and talked with new incoming Peace Corps Volunteers in that area. His only regret was that he wished he had spent more time with the students, especially during his down time. After returning to America, Steve began graduate school at Ohio University and received a Ph. D. in Physics there. He works now as a Christian Communalist, volunteers at a bicycle shop, and manages a “Seed of Hope” farm in Illinois.
Interview RightsAll rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interview UsageInterviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
Add this interview to your cart in order to begin the process of requesting access to a copy of and/or permission to reproduce interview(s).
Graham, Steve Interview by Donald C. Yates. 10 Dec. 2021. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Graham, S. (2021, December 10). Interview by D. C. Yates. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Graham, Steve, interview by Donald C. Yates. December 10, 2021, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.
If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.
Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt74g8kjrlnr5