Week 2 Work Journal

Starting last Tuesday I did some light follow-up work/preliminary work for the Cortney Langley/Adam Kinsman interview. First, I reviewed Cortney’s articles “Foreign Workers Struggle to Live” and “Foreign Students Often Exploited” to glean for potential leads, which included InterExchange, a New York based non-profit which sponsors international workers, and more interestingly distributes informational pamphlets describing and giving guidelines for the general J-1 experience (which I want to attempt to locate), Lake George Connections, a worker center also in New York which might be valuable to get in touch with over e-mail, Elena Gulyeva, who is Williamsburg resident and former J1 participant, but now is married and has her citizenship and is already quoted in one of Cortney’s articles (this may also be the same Elena that Beth had mentioned to me as a great potential source, so I definitely need to look into her),  Peter Walentisch, the director of Human Services, Williamsburg who seems quite vocal on this subject, and Ron Thompson, a good Samaritan who has assisted kids coming into the J-1 program for years. I then e-mailed Cortney Langley and Adam Kinsman, sent them introductory letters & Deeds of Gift, gave a brief explanation of my project, and confirmed the interview and negotiated the time and place: This Thursday, April 1st, at 5 PM at the Wasabi Buffet on Richmond Rd. I am especially excited about the place because that restaurant is enormous and usually dead, so it will provide a quiet atmosphere that is also fairly casual and perhaps will be more conducive to a conversational style of interview, which would be more appropriate and insightful for people in positions of authority in the community.

The next two days I spent on doing more solid, textual research as I had already set up two interviews. One day I spent specifically on State Department Records, which were quite slim and bare, even though I did pretty focused and targeted research. Again, it seems the State Department just hasn’t reported on their program, which is kind of unsurprising considering how deregulated it has seemed thus far, but they did have a website with several interesting forms available to download. So, I now have a copy of the DS 2019, which is the necessary form to get a J-1 visa, as well as a really intriguing Cooperator Request form, which is basically how companies and non-profits get involved with the J-1 program. In spite of the dearth of information published by the State Department, fortunately the Government Accountability Office has published several lengthy reports, often quite critical, of the visas. I found one that specifically relates to tourism—however, at an intimidating eighty pages of governmental jargon I am still sifting my way through it. One unexpected facet of the J-1 program which I gleaned from the several reports available on-line was that many foreign physicians are using this particular visa to practice medicine overseas. Although I clearly will not be following this lead until exhaustion, I think it will be interesting to contrast the experience of doctors using these visas and middle-class college students. It should highlight the disparity created by these seemingly (at this point in research) shady sponsor organizations, which time and time again don’t really seem to be the most credible.

I also was able to get in touch for the second time with Cindy Hahamovitch of the History Department for more J-1 specific inquiries. She knew off the cuff that the J-1 program dates back to 1961, but also noted that not much research has been done on the topic. So, she pointed me in the direction of Alan Zoellner at reference, who is apparently the government documents expert. I am certainly going to swing by his office and hopefully get some sort of bearings for where to start digging on more J-1 related information. She also sent me an article from Working Life which described the exploitation created by the program—not just for the foreign exchange students but also for American laborers. The article is useful because it adds an entirely different dimension and a new voice to the conversation: the perspective of labor unions on the phenomenon of cultural exchange.

More recently, over the weekend I tried to revisit Special Collections with my new knowledge base and focus for my project, but every search term I tried (“J-1”, “cultural exchange”, “student workers”, even “visas”) all turned up empty. Since the program is so recent and its appearance in Williamsburg practically new, I doubt archives will be the most valuable resource for direct documentation. I also received another e-mail from Cortney with a lengthy list of contacts over the weekend that should fill up my week, at least. They include:

In the used services for selecting youtube views http://www.bulkyoutube.com/ The very best world-wide-web sites to shop for Youtube members

“Bridging Boundaries International. Carol Negus. [phone number removed]

InterExchange. Larry Rothchild. [phone and e-mail removed]. (Larry has been a great information source for me in the past.)

Janus International [phone number removed].

Also, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance hosted a forum in, um, 2009 maybe (?) for employers. Bob Hershberger is a good source there. Try 229-6511 or Hersh@williamsburgcc.com

Also, in one of my stories I noted a Sam and Nancy Fletcher from Kingsmill. Just look them up in a phone book or online phone book.”

In addition, she sent a lengthy communication to Ron Thompson, who was the aforementioned Good Samaritan who has been working with J-1 students for years. He seemed not only very willing to help, but also a huge sweetheart and just a really nice and caring person. I am very excited to get into contact with him, either for a direct interview if possible, but also because he said he can refer students to my project. I should either do this today or tomorrow.

To close out the week, I searched a little more through newspaper archives and found an old report from the Daily Press which was not that informative. I also sent initial contact to Moon Light Entertainment and Jorge who runs it this weekend. I do not have a response yet, but we are now friends on Facebook, so hopefully that means he’ll be willing to at least respond to my e-mail.

For next week, I want to contact Alan in the government records department, keep contacting Jorge and ML Entertainment if I do not get a response, get back to Ron as soon as possible, preferable today or tomorrow, and send initial inquiries to Elena, and at least half of Cortney’s contacts. I also think it is about time to get in contact with Busch Gardens which is something I keep forgetting to do. Oh, and one thing I really dropped the ball on was not getting over to Alizé this week. Beth wasn’t working on Tuesday or Thursday, and on Wednesday I got wrapped up in schoolwork and forgot that it was the day I should visit. Thus, this Wednesday I am getting there early and making sure to spend plenty of time attempting to make contacts, or at the very least observing.

1 Response to “Week 2 Work Journal”

  1. 1 iaknig March 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Great work, Bobby. Good balance of specific local pursuit and searching more general, contextual information. I did edit your entry to remove the phone numbers of non-public entities–we probably don’t want to put that information out there without permission, though it’s also probably not hard to find.

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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