Postcard, December 29, 1975

Description: Group of typical dancers in the touristic center “El Castillo”, Heredia, Costa Rica

{ Translation of this postcard which was sent by my Costarican “family” to my family. }

An affectionate greeting to all of your family and desiring that you have had a happy Christmas and a happy New Year. We are very happy to have in our house your son Dean. Although we only know you from photos, we have come to have great regard for you.

Until soon, Greetings,

Familia Castillo Murillo

Journal, December 29, 1975 AM

Another day of quiet domestic life in San Antonio. Went & had a couple beers with Jaime down at Skip & Neil’s {bar named La Terminal}. I pimped him out with a note wishing him “felicidades” {congratulations} on Día de los Santos Inocentes (sort of a Costarican April Fools Day) & took Pilar a card for her birthday the 27th. <Talked with Jaime about taking Sofia and her mother or someone back to the states for 3 weeks or a month to give her a chance to get to know my folks, and get a taste of the climate. I caught him by surprise that I was thinking in those terms already after I’d been pooh-poohing his ribs about my bringing Sofia back to the States to keep Pilar company.> I’m glad he’s going to get married before I plan to, so I can take notes and avoid a few pitfalls! God, I don’t even believe the heavy stuff I’m talkin’ after 9 days of knowing this little chic!

I rapped with Doña Carmen’s Dad a little about the problems of the world. I never cease to be amazed at how similar are the ideas and preoccupations of common people I’ve met everywhere I’ve been – women, their kids, their health, work, cost of living, sports, politics. Only names and dates & places change. Like Pilar’s Dad who believes a man with responsibilities should not get drunk, & that religion is not that important beyond the point of living a moral life, & taking care of your kids. I can close my eyes and hear Dad or Dale {an older cousin} or LeRoy {a friend of Dad’s} or any number of other men saying about the same thing.

<I went to mass in the afternoon (2 weeks in a row), with Sofia & Pilar & Jaime. I told Sofia I really was turned off by all the feelingless ritual in Catholic churches, but don’t know if it sunk in.> She didn’t say anything. We played spoon, made more popcorn, and took a (walking) lap around town. {some text not transcribed}


Journal, December 28, 1975 AM

<I cut it off, and was more than adequately rewarded by Sofia!> {some text not transcribed}

The rest of my day was anticlimactic (to have a stab at the year’s most conspicuous understatement!). <I didn’t arrive on Sofia’s porch until about 6:15 PM.> Went to San Jose in the mornin’ to get Pilar a birthday card {some text not transcribed} & some more popcorn. {some text not transcribed}

I went cuttin’ banana leaves for tamales with Fabio Alberto & Orlando in the afternoon, & never did get the card to Pilar.

<It hit me on the way home last night – how am I going to begin the process of telling my family about Sofia?> We are a family that absolutely never talk among ourselves about love or openly show love one for another among ourselves. Even Jan, who is the most open with me, and close to me, will only write that she has a friend named Jerry – not that she loves him or anything, just that he exists. My sisters never clung to my Mom, or put their heads in her lap {some text not transcribed}. We are emotionally deprived in that we feel love strongly, (if unemotional Dean does, the whole clan must!) but are inhibited from and embarrassed to express it openly. What frustrated beings it causes us to be! <Maybe I’ll write to Jan about Sofia for starters.>

Journal, December 27, 1975 AM

<I still have Sofia on the brain this morning.> {some text not transcribed}

Stopped by the Campos Gonzalez house after getting back, and went for a drink with Jaime & Felipe. We got talking about what strange people PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} are, about Miguel, Russ, Diego, Fred {PCVs in our group in El Salvador}. Turns out Felipe’s a pre-med. student who couldn’t get into medical school. He wants to practice medicine in Spanish Harlem, a very noble ambition. He may try to get into medical school here, & then transfer back to the States after a couple years – hope he makes it. He’s a pretty intense and well disciplined dude, though you don’t notice it at first because he’s so friendly and seemingly easy-going. Great to see that being a black Puertorican in New York {City} hasn’t scarred him with racial hatred as it has so many people.

We went to see Jan & Mike Galbraith {Costarican PCVs who trained with us at Basico} last night. Jaime and Mike (& I to an extent) talked sports as always, & Jan talked with her Mom leaving poor Pilar isolated, and trying to understand all the English flying by. We went over to their place, & had some of a “contrabanda” {contraband} cake Jan’s mother got through customs (all the way from a Chicago bakery). It was white cake with a layer of strawberries & one of bananas and cream frosting, incredible! Mike’s going back to school in Milwaukee in August so we’ll probably see him again up there. Says he wants to live somewhere between Chicago & Milwaukee, his two favorite cities.

Well, I think the goatee goes today. <Sofia tried it & didn’t like it (very abrasive).> I’ll decide when I look in the mirror!


Journal, December 26, 1975 AM

<Well, Sofia’s done it, wiped everything else so completely out of my mind I don’t know if I’ll be able to write anything that makes any sense this morning.> {some text not transcribed}

So what else did I do yesterday? Fabio was still flying high, & I rapped with him about life. He says you come into the world barefoot and without clothes, so everything you get from there is gain. Also told me you have to forget about death, and just live life from day to day seeking its pleasures – a real fatalist. Seems like a common attitude among heavy drinkers I’ve known.

I spent some time with the family & their relatives who dropped by. It’s really nice the way families go around seeing each other on Christmas Day here, much more in the spirit of the holiday than the football game back home in Wisconsin. But it’s almost all women that do the visiting & receiving, the men are off drinking or sleeping it off with few exceptions. We made more popcorn, & the kids were less bashful about digging in this time (or hungrier as Doña Carmen suggested), and it was great.

Finished off the night by making popcorn with Jaime, Pilar and her folks. It’s all so new to them to see that little bunch of grain make a pot full of “palomitas” {popcorn} that they make you feel like a real chef! I swear I eat about half of every pot I make though! Jaime and Pilar are planning ahead, said they were going to teach Spanish to their kids by speaking only Spanish in the house – a great idea if they can keep it up. <Jaime got in his customary jab about me bringing Sofia back to Wisconsin to give Pilar someone to talk to, so I’m back to Sofia where my mind will be most of today.>

Journal, December 25, 1975 AM

Well, I never had a Christmas Eve like it, and may never again! In the afternoon Jaime and I stopped by Basico to say ‘Hi’, and drop off a card from the Campos Gonzalez family. Skip invited us for a drink with the staff who were still around, and afterwards we picked some oranges and grapefruit, & got a lift to La Terminal with Ed Stoll. We drank & B.S.’ed with Clarence, a new Spanish professor from Limón, and with Tom and later a friend of Clarence’s as well. They kept buyin’ and we kept drinkin’, and shot the whole afternoon. I was feeling really buzzed when I got home! Clarence is a “humanist” (his word), and an insightful social observer – fascinating to talk to – and he spent some time in Appleton, Wisconsin near Jaime’s home! He says El Salvador’s gotta just explode some day – when and how who knows, but he’s as incredulous as us over the situation there.

So about seven we ate supper (No. 1), and we made some popcorn (of which I ate three-fourths, and Rita most of the rest!). I was hungry & still flyin’ high & even a shower hadn’t helped. The head was just startin’ to settle down when Don Fabio showed up with 3 bottles of liquor, half buzzed himself, and started pouring us rum with Champaine chasers! He was funny drunk for once, and we had a good time B.S.’ing. About 9 or 9:30 we had our Cena Santa {Holy Supper} (No. 2) of rice, chicken & tamales – delicious but I was getting full!

Then we got invited over to the neighbors to dance, the place Nat Leisure {a Peace Corps trainee in my group} used to be, and drink all kinds of weird stuff that never tasted the same two glasses in a row. Talked with two more trainees, & danced a little. Felt amazingly straight, but I knew it wouldn’t take much to put me over the brink again! Doña Carmen and Don Fabio were dancing & having a good time together – que raro {how unusual}! They’re arguing again this morning! The family went on home but Rita was gettin’ into the music so we stayed, & they gave me the key. Felipe had dropped by on his way around the neighborhood, so when everyone was asleep on returning home, Rita decided we should truck over to Jaime’s (at about 1 AM). We found them up and lively, and gettin’ ready to eat! – God forbid! So we ate a little more (No. 3), and had a decent Guatemalan wine. What great people! That little bit of wine put me over the brink, & my head was spinning. Along with being dog tired it was a weird feeling. About 3:30 we stumbled on home. Merry, merry Christmas!

Postcard, December 24, 1975

Description: Monument to Juan Santamaria, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Hi folks,

Yup I’m back in Costa Rica. I wasn’t planning to stay in San Antonio while here, but my Costarican Mom wouldn’t have it any other way, so I’m livin’ cheap and really taking it easy! It just stopped raining here and the flowers are blossoming & things are really fine. Am passing a very sedentary vacation so far; no journeys to see hard-to-get-to “wonders”. Just enjoying the climate & terrific Costarican people – they’re friendly to a fault, I swear!

Happy New Year,


P.S. My Costarican family wants a photo of as many of my family as you can corral. Help?