Letter, November 10, 1974

Dear Jan,

Sorry to hear about you being so depressed. I don’t think the situation down here would give you much cause for optimism either. I’ve just been reading through some questionnaires about people in the project area where I work. You rarely find anyone with more than a 4th grade education & then it is usually the woman of the house who just does housework and probably forgotten half of what she learned. Some people get married & some don’t but in either case the family life is very poor. People don’t remember the ages of all their kids & there are lots of kids whose real parentage is more or less in question. The local school has 4 grades & 2 teachers (1 is a drunk) for about 180 kids.

But the irrigation project holds the possibility of improving things quite a bit. The people will get roads, electricity and decent drinking water. The more fortunate will get land & hopefully others will get work with the government, the cooperative or the new landowners.

I can’t really say exactly what I’m going to be doing because my assignment is so general. I’m supposed to help them with the cooperative, with selecting people to get the parcels of land, and tell them what social services are needed to “uplift” the people. I think I’m going to begin by trying to figure out just exactly what is being done in the irrigation project, what the people think of it, what they see as the problems here, & what local groups are organized to help solve them.

I want to try to push education because I see it as really important to the general improvement of living conditions as well as the adoption of better agricultural techniques.

As far as sending me anything for Christmas, I’d prefer that you didn’t try shipping anything down because it’s such as hassle to get it out of the mail, & there are taxes on anything but books. A subscription to Time, Newsweek or U.S. News would be nice if the family wants to get that, but I may be able to get it cheaper myself if they come up with a special offer for PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers}. When I get some money ahead, I hope to send some things home for people such as embroidered shirts & panchos, or hand-carved stuff. It probably won’t be by Christmas, but more of a when I find something I like, & have the money type of thing.

Don’t know if you saw my note in my last letter, but I want to get Merna’s { Merna is another of my sisters. } address before her birthday so I can write to her.

They don’t celebrate Halloween here (except for U.S. Embassy gringos), but the first of November is Día de las Almas (All Souls Day), and November second is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The latter is an important holiday. Everyone decorates graves and such. Haven’t seen a pumpkin since last fall! They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving either (of course), but the PCVs & Embassy staff have an annual touch football game and dinner.

I have been reading the works of Walt Whitman (which I stole from you) to sooth my mind. “Leaves of Grass” reads like a diary in a way, not of events but of the attitudes & emotions of different stages of a man’s life. Gracious {Thank you}.

As always, your brother:


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