9.24.2014

Letter, June 26, 1975

Hello Jan,

Hope you & Joyce are getting settled into your new house & neighborhood now. Do you play ball in Madison& if so, how do their teams compare with those you played on back home? You could probably come down here & be a women’s softball coach if such a perverse desire ever struck you. We already have PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} coaching swimming, diving & water polo, and Costa Rica’s national team baseball coach, a couple years ago, was a former PCV. I guess man can not live by tortillas alone, but it sure is a contrast between campo {rural} PCVs teaching people how to raise more & better food, & some of the music & sports people.

It sounds like that band Berry Riese is with is really getting their music together, maybe I’ll get a chance to hear them when I get back, or maybe they’ll cut a super-hit & it will reach the stations here. I still am practicing guitar, but the wooden fingers which never typed faster than 15 words a minute will never make me a great musician, I enjoy playing some fairly simple melodies & singing along though. Stuff like “Oh Susana”, “Tom Dooley” & “It Takes a Worried Man”, I can more or less play, & I try to keep learning more chords, & learn to change chords faster. I don’t know how long my interest will hold up. It comes & goes with how I feel.

I just returned from a 3 day conference of all Peace Corps people in El Salvador. It took place at a resort on a crater lake (Lago de Coatepeque) up in the mountains. It was cool & the scenery was beautiful up there. We had real gringo {North American} meals cooked by our own people. We even had banana bread like Mom makes, & gingerbread cookies. It was a good chance to find out what other volunteers are doing, & what kinds of problems they have. It did wonders for me to hear others voice the same frustrations I have been feeling. However, it has made me more instead of less dissatisfied with my job. It seems those volunteers who are really getting something done, & thus are happier, have much more autonomy & flexibility in their work than I do. I think I am just being stifled where I am, helping the Irrigation Agency {DGRD, Dirección General de Riego y Drenaje} keep on muddling along as they are accustomed to doing rather than giving them any new direction.

I almost hate to tell you about it, for fear it could fall through, but I may get another chance to change jobs. A volunteer who has been working in crop & livestock research here wants to set up a feed response trial comparing the common Salvadoran feeding system with feeding a balanced ration based on silage. He appears to stand an excellent chance of getting the land & cattle he needs through the Episcopal Church here, & he wants 2 volunteers to run the thing. Because I knew him at school in Madison {at the University of Wisconsin} I have an inside track for the job. I also have a background working with cattle, & was trained in pastures & forages. The second guy would be one of two guys I trained with who also have farm backgrounds. I’m going out Saturday to take a look at the experimental farm, & so will know more then. I hope this comes through because it is a worthwhile experiment, & we would have enough autonomy to keep it going 5-6 years, & get some meaningful long-term results. But there’s no use getting excited yet.

I should tell you (It had momentarily slipped my mind.) that I got the application blank from U.W. {University of Wisconsin – Madison} and filled it out. Sorry for putting you to the trouble of sending another (If you haven’t sent it, don’t.). As it turned out, they sent it by airmail, so it was just bureaucratic red tape that had held it up. Now if this job comes through I may be staying on the full term, so at this moment I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

I will try to send a photo some time. I took some of a Salvadoran friend’s little girl, & he was going to make copies for me of the ones with me in them, but he hasn’t yet. However, last weekend I went with him to a town in the mountains near Guatemala {Tacuba}, & we took more pictures, some with me in. I am going to develop them myself here so will send a copy of one with my mug if they turn out. That little town in the mountains was really great. They have a ruined old church from Spanish times (well over 200 years old), and they can grow almost anything there because it is a cool temperate climate, but never gets cold. This old couple we stayed with had a garden that looked like a greenhouse, all kinds of flowers & fruit trees and everything. It also, however, was a center of the revolutionary uprising in El Salvador during 1932. According to my friend (a staunch conservative) communist inspired local men killed an army General, beheaded his body & hung his head on a post. The national dictator (He was initially an elected president, but stayed after his term expired.) sent in troops and they massacred about 32,000 local men. That must have meant nearly all the young men in the whole area, since the town is not all that large, even today.

Well, so much for old war stories. I hope nothing even vaguely similar gets stirred up by the elections coming up in 1977.

So long,

Dean

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