Journal, March 5, 1976 AM

We arrived in San Salvador at 7:30 last night, our nerves utterly shot from being pushed & shoved by people, & relentlessly hounded by hawkers all day. Somebody dropped stuff on Jan’s head hustling to get off the bus. Why they hustle to wait a half hour or so afterwards I’ll never know! And that put her over the edge. When the baggage boys started mimicking Jan’s English I got a little out of control also. They had gotten grease all over her backpack as well. Later we both agreed we could understand how people just get so disgusted with the way people treat them that they go wild & kill & maim!

Jan’s so into family member’s lives I don’t hardly believe it. She says Merna thought I was crazy when I supported George McGovern, and the fact really troubles her. She hit on Marcia’s jealousy that Jan has gotten “special treatment”, and that upsets her greatly. At the same time she feels Marcia & Merna are both unhappy, & in a sense, wasting their human potential in their present life situations. She can’t understand why Joyce dumped her Madison friends when she quit her job & moved to Milwaukee. <She’s worried I’d be making a mistake marrying Sofia, etc.> She just lets the whole thing bother her too much. We’re all adult, free-willed creatures, and will go on living (& perhaps fucking up) our lives no matter how much she worries. But she’s so good & concerned. God ought to love her if he’s just & good!

Jan expressed the same thing I’ve noticed in the 2 weeks of our stay. Intellectually, we’ve grown along nearly parallel lines since we last saw each other almost 2 years ago. She attributes it to common upbringing!

Journal, March 3, 1976 PM

Managua again, some places never change - but we did get a different room this time!

<I said goodbye to Sofia this morning. She and her younger sister came into San Jose with us to see us onto the bus.> She gave me a little red carnation and a cooked chicken (with Tortiricas {a local brand of tortillas}, eggs, carrots, potatoes - muy rico {very tasty}!) for the trip. So we were off & a little while after we passed the airport & headed into the mountains.

(Jan just came back from taking a shower & announced it was Ash Wednesday. She’s giving up bread & chocolate, I’ll try chocolate and [but I didn’t tell her] beating off.)

<Jan started up talking about Sofia - her doubts about her, etc. She said Sofia was spoiled, & she catered to me too much, & implied she was too immature to be a fulfilling companion for me.> {some text not transcribed} <We ended up getting pretty huffy with each other because I insisted Sofia would grow (intellectually) and Jan is more doubtful.> Jan really strongly resents how the women treat their men so lovingly here, while many men are fickle egoists with chics on the side.

I think the men are foolish too. They don’t seem to appreciate what they have. One strong-loving woman who’s willing to limit herself to me is all I need. Jan’s right about it being preferable to have an intelligent mate, with interests similar to yours, & who can grow with you. We basically differ in how much energy we’re willing to devote to the search, & how long we’re willing to wait (or how far bend the standards) to find what we want. <I see potential in Sofia, she’s rejected several good looking but egoist Ticos {Costaricans}, & chosen a Gringo {North American} (against her father’s pronounced will) for her first novio {boyfriend}.> She wants to study and have a career. Jan is sensitized to women being servile, but that’s deeply embedded in the culture here, & as long as I don’t overexploit it, I see nothing wrong with the affectionate way she treats me. But I’m waiting to see how she gets into university life, & want her to visit Wisconsin before we take any plunges.


Journal, March 3, 1976 AM

Today we hit the road again on Tica Bus. <I have to shelve my life with Sofia again ‘til April.> Enough said.

Jan & I went to Escasu and to Cartago yesterday. We never found that new gringo {North American} school, but got to see more of San Jose & its suburbs. Jan seemed satisfied. The Basilica church in Cartago was impressive - beautiful wood ceilings & stained glass windows, plus cabinets overflowing with offerings to patron saints.

<We bought flowers for Doña Carmen & for Sofia in front of the National Theater.>

Rita {Klukazewski} was over for supper. She is thoroughly bummed out with Peace Corps’ lack of support & bureaucratic hassles. But she’s still funny, & has found a good family in San Jose. She and Jan hit it off well, & she’s going to write Jan about job possibilities in Golfito where she’ll be stationed. <I took Sofia the flowers at six, & then we walked to Pilar’s.> {some text not transcribed} Sounds like something Dad might have done back when Merna & Mary were in highschool, & started dating. I still have a picture in the mind of when he chased Merna around the house after she defied him on something. <He’s adjusted now (just rants & raves to third parties), but Jan says my letter home about Sofia triggered a geyser of emotional outburst!> It’s rough on parents, they raise their kids to do what they think is right, & then the kids go off and exercise their free wills, shamelessly!

<We made popcorn at Doña Carmen’s with Pilar & Sofia.> {some text not transcribed}

<I pushed the idea of a pre-marriage visit in December to her {Sofia} again last night.> Given her doubts & fears, I think it’s the best course. Once married, separation would be far too painful for us both, and I want her so {much} to know & appreciate the lifestyle I was raised in. I love that old farm!


Journal, March 2, 1976 AM

Jan & I buzzed around like little bees, and got a fair amount done yesterday. We went to Basico {the Peace Corps training center}, & ran into Ed Stoll. He gave us some idea of which schools Jan should try to get in contact with. We looked around the center (almost shut down now, with only 6 trainees), and got a couple grapefruit. We tried calling schools from the San Antonio pay phone, but no luck, so we stopped by Pilar’s on the way home for lunch. She was in good spirits, says it’ll be April soon, & Jaime will be back. They’re such nice folks, her & her family.

Jan took a school photo of Doña Carmen & the kids for first day of school. Mauren was so cute in her little shorts & blouse uniform, sitting in the hammock!

We went looking for the Costa Rica Academy in the afternoon, and were lucky enough to find it with only minor difficulties. We hit a stroke of luck there ‘cause the director is the former Peace Corps director for Costa Rica & a U.W. {University of Wisconsin} graduate. He gave us instructions how to find other schools, & told Jan the best way to be hired was to be here, job hunting, and keep beating on doors. They have a U.S. type preschool program at Costa Rica Academy (the only one in the country), and Jan was a little excited about the possibility of working there. She may go back home, work 2 jobs, and get some money together to come down in August, & beat the pavement!

We also hit the Salvadoran Consulate (no visa needed), and the Tourist Institute. At the latter we got maps of Costa Rica & San Jose (at last!) and a copy of the Tico Times. The Costa Rican English language newspaper impressed us with an article and editorial which minced no words in telling Henry Kissinger (a recent visitor to this country) that he wasn’t doing his homework on Latin America, or giving this region the attention it deserves.

{some text not transcribed}


Journal, March 1, 1976 AM

Yesterday wore me plumb out, between the long train ride & the hot sun in Puntarenas. <Of course I had a great time since I was with Sofia all day.> I swear I could have a good time almost anywhere if she was there. The train was ungodly crowded both going & coming, and the beach was packed - long lines to change & shower. Jan got sick of it very fast, but I’ve had more time to get used to it, & I don’t let it upset me anymore, although I prefer going to less crowded places. Jan had a good time floating on the calm water though.

{some text not transcribed}


Images, March, 1976

Jan sitting by a statue of a Mayan warrior in front of the zoo, Guatemala City, Guatemala.

A picture of the town of Flores, taken from a boat. Flores is situated on an island in the middle of a shallow crystaline lake.

Peasant houses and cayucos (dugout canoes) in Flores, Guatemala.

Jan and a peasant woman & her son in a cayuco {dugout canoe}. The woman gave us a ride from the village in the background back to Flores.

A Mayan temple which Jan & I went to visit in Belize. Workers were "restoring" it for the sake of future tourists. There were 2 British soldiers on top of it with telescopes to keep an eye out for possible Guatemalan troop movements.

Mayan ruins near San Ignacio, Belize. View from atop the main temple.

View of surrounding area from the top of the Mayan temple near San Ignacio.

Looking out over the border towns at the Belize - Guatemala {border} line {, San Ignacio, Belize}.

Along the waterfront in Belize City, the principal city of Belize.

A view of the city from a nearby island that Jan & I walked to on a causeway. Belize City is built on the ocean & a river mouth, is very low & hot, and has open sewers that drain into the ocean.


Journal, February 29, 1976 AM

We are already on the train bound for Puntarenas at 6:45 AM. <Sofia’s sitting in the doorway, & I’m standing ‘cause the train is full up.> I’ll keep this short. We went to the electric plant yesterday, & Juan Diego hounded Jan (& me) mercilessly. He’s at an impossible age, 15. {some text not transcribed}


Journal, February 28, 1976 AM

Jan & I went to San Jose to get our tickets confirmed & check into the possibility of her working here. We got the #3 & #4 seats for the bus up to Managua - ideal for sightseeing. We also got mailing addresses & phone numbers of some English-speaking schools, but we don’t know where they are, & didn’t succeed in calling any. We ran into Gary & Lisa, two folks from the bus trip down, & went to see the National Theater with them. It’s very impressive, has a couple of ceiling murals I especially liked, & of course lots of gold leaf, velvet curtains, etc. The floor in the main auditorium raises & lowers under human power (turning a gear connected to huge screws). They raise & lower the main body of the audience instead of the stage. We went to the market too, & ended up buying sandals. They are nice, but we probably paid too much, as always. I know what Joyce means when she says you can’t save money when Jan’s around. We don’t spend foolishly, but there are so many ideas she comes up with to spend money. But it’s fun!

{some text not transcribed}


Journal, February 27, 1976 AM

The nights are very cold here, for Central America. The wind really whines all night & you shiver if you don’t have enough covers over you.

It seems like this end of Central America is gearing up for an earthquake or volcanic eruption too. They had a strong tremor in the morning the day we arrived (25th) and the two major volcanoes, Poas & Irazu, have been unusually active lately. <Sofia says we should stay away from them.> Jan said yesterday she’s glad we won’t be here too long. She wants to get out before the big quake hits!

We went to Ojo de Aqua {water park} yesterday, & Jan fell in love with the place - fresh unchlorinated water, tennis, basketball, boating. Great place to relax. <Sofia couldn’t swim because of a badly scraped knee, but Jan & I did, and so did Jaime, Pilar & Sofia’s older sister.> We had a "picnic" lunch of rice mixed with chicken, beans (creamed) and tortillas. Rice & chicken with a few of the right vegetables & spices mixed in makes a tasty dish! I guess we gringos {North Americans} would call it a casserole.

<Sofia is so easy to love.> Even Jan, who is cynical about love and dislikes the way Costa Rican women "try so hard to please men", says she’s friendly, outgoing & loves children. I’m sensitive to Jan’s accusation that guys like Jaime & I are just overwhelmed by all the flattering in this culture which is so male dominated. <Maybe, I love the special attention Sofia gives me, but try to be attentive to her needs & desires also, and coach her on the need for human beings to be independent, not dominated.> She seems ready to wait the almost 2 years we agree is realistic (given economics more than anything, our educational aspirations & my foolishness). God, that time when I’m in the U.S. studying will be tough. Perhaps phone calls will help! Oh for a $10,000 inheritance! But no chance of that for me. <I gave Sofia the earrings last night, & she loved them like she does everything.> {some text not transcribed}


Journal, February 26, 1976 AM

Maybe it is all a little foolish. <Sofia hit me with some doubts & reservations last night, which on top of all my worries, has my mind buzzing.> But the magic of her look & touch is still there - I want her bad! She’s starting to realize what it means to pull up all her roots, and move a few thousand miles north, where she doesn’t speak the language, isn’t familiar with the education system, etc., and it’s got her scared. I have to keep stressing the positive. I know we can work part-time & study (the both of us), and make it one way or another. Before when she was all enthusiasm, I wanted to remind her of realities, but now it seems the roles have come full circle, & I have to be the confidence builder.

Jan & I had a heavy, heavy discussion of sex, our own life situations, & those of other members of the family. The ability to communicate that Jan & I have had always, hasn’t changed, in fact I feel closer to her right now than ever before. She has kept right on growing intellectually in my absence, and continually impresses me with her insights. She says she would work a year or so in Costa Rica if she could find a job in daycare or primary school that she likes. We’ll look around for sure! I think it would be great for her, & has advantages for me!

Jaime was glad to see us of course, & even gladder to see the can of Pabst Jan brought! We’ll share it today.

We’re at Doña Carmen’s & the radio is on early as usual. I wonder how Jan’ll like that - precious little I suspect! That’s it, off the recording and back to living!


Journal, February 24, 1976 PM

We’re here in Managua, made good time. I started this journal right here in this vey hospedaje {small hotel} room (perhaps even sitting on the same cot). The cot I’ll sleep on tonight has a foam pad - this place just keeps improving!

We got up late this morning & had to run for the bus, but since then it’s been smooth going. The borders were pretty fast, & we got here by 7 PM. Everyone thinks Jan & I are married or lovers traveling together, at least the natives who call her señora {Mrs.} invariably. We had a sweet, sweet muskmelon for breakfast, with coffee, & bought 2 small ones for tomorrow. I was the first one in line for reservations for tomorrow, but the first bus doesn’t leave ‘til 8 AM, & we got seats in the middle - shit.

A drunk just finished singing outside my room wall. We hear the cars clearly too, so it could be a rough night. Jan got bit up by sand fleas last night, & is leery about her bed here too, as the bedclothes are only semi-clean. She doesn’t have Peace Corps healthcare, so I guess it’s logical she should worry more.

<What’s it going to be like seeing Sofia?> I got a letter from the family Castillo Murillo saying she had been around their house quite a bit lately. I was reflecting this morning on the bus what a pleasure it will be to have someone to put my arms around & hug freely - touch affectionately without feeling out of place & unnatural. I can’t hug Jan yet, though now it is clearer than ever that I’m closer to her than to anyone else in the family. We just never learned to show our feelings, that’s all.

I mentioned my idea of writing articles for papers or magazines, or short stories - as a moneymaking scheme - to Jan at the Nicaragua border today. She immediately pinpointed the major drawback (like she’d run the same mental path only farther than I) - the risk of rejection and more rejection from publishers & public. She says her ego is too fragile to handle all that rejection. I’d find it tough too & really the chances of scoring quick money that way are slim and none. <Sofia’s got me trying to get money ahead.> This next week maybe I’ll become sure enough of her to reassure myself it’s not all a little foolish.


Journal, February 23, 1976 PM

I think I’ll have to say goodbye to the old red ink pen tonight. I bought it on my now famous Christmas pilgrimage to Costa Rica, and it’s about run its course.

Jan & I will leave for Costa Rica at 6:00 AM, and just returned from Steve Pamperin’s house, where we ran into 2 sets of his cousins (one couple headed north, one south) - fascinating folks. We had 2½ beers each, & I’m feeling it a little! I hardly drink any more.

It’s been a run, run, run day, getting all my errands out of the way before leaving. Jan changed her ticket to leave from Belize instead of San Salvador, but couldn’t get the money (has to collect in Madison). I think we can do it on the money I’ve got, one way or another! It’s probably the only way I’ll get up to Tikal. I’ll be broke afterwards, but what-ta-heck.

<I bought Sofia some earrings today - very delicate, like she is.> Hope she likes them.

Damn pen won’t quit, guess I’ll have to carry it down to Managua, & finish ‘er off there, mañana {tomorrow}!


Journal, February 22, 1976 PM

It looks like last night’s stuff is at least semi-legible - remarkable given the weak firelight. I never slept much last night, dozing off for spells, but mostly just watching the flames lick up wood & listening to night sounds. <I got a clear fix on my memories of Sofia, & what happened over Christmas.> I concluded that I just have to keep coming at it openly and let it develop.

We never found Laguna Verde {translates to Green Lake}. We walked all the way down to Ahuachapan, but saw some good scenery & the steam energy (geothermal) plant at Atozol on the way.

I was given to know more about Floyd "Pedro" Miller in two ways today. First, I ran into a San Isidro acquaintance unexpectedly on the bus to Metalio. He said "Pedro" was a Mennonite missionary & not Peace Corps, and his folks apparently never tried to take his body home. Second, while Jay & I (dog tired from little sleep & lots of walking) were out chest deep in the ocean trying to catch waves, the current shifted somehow, & we had to swim for all we were worth to get back to where we could stand up. There was no way either of us could have helped the other. We each had to fight the current for all we were worth to get in. If "Pedro" was alone, and not a strong swimmer, it could have happened almost that easily! Jay & I came fairly close to learning the hard way.

I was looking at myself in the mirror (narcissistic being that I am) tonight, & I really think I am in the best general health of my life. I’m down to 162 pounds for the first time since wrestling season my last year of highschool, and I think my shoulders are broader, & my arms more heavily muscled now. My face is lean & free of puffiness (which it sometimes showed in college). Ah, yes: at the age Ike Newton proposed his law of gravity; the age Al Einstein proposed relativity; the age (they tell me) Napoleon began his conquests, I’m 24 and thinking of starting all over in a new field, while wasting my prime in the Peace Corps tending goats & rabbits (and falling for foreign women)! But I could have been a melancholy people (& statistics) manipulator, so ____ .


Journal, February 21, 1976 PM

Well, we tried to follow Conrad’s instructions real precisely, but never could find Laguna Verde. We ended up here in the hills between Apaneca & Ahuachapan, essentially lost. But we haven’t seen a person (besides Jay, Jan & me) since 4:30 PM. I’m writing by firelight (laboriously), Jay & Jan having retired.

We roasted marshmallows & had peanut butter sandwiches. Water is short because we didn’t find the lake (to use my filter), and only Jan brought water.

Jan & Jay have hit it off quite well, talking about drugs they’ve used, people, and money making schemes. We are a generation of drug dabblers. I wonder where I missed the boat? Jay says Jan ought to go up to Yucatan, and fly home from there. Thus she saves money on airfare, and uses it to see more & stay longer. I think it’s a great idea - probably the only way I’ll ever get up to Tikal.

It was a full day of introducing Jan to El Maizal people, and then coming up here. <Before deciding to write by the fire, I lay on my blanket studying the stars, & trying to get a fix on Sofia.> I’m concerned about how she & Jan will react to each other. And how I’ll react seeing her the second time. But I hope for & fully expect a warm reunion. Lord do I need the boost a little lovin’ can give.


Journal, February 20, 1976 PM

Well, after a hectic day we are here in Metalio at the {beach} house about ready to settle down for a long winter’s nap. It’s hard to really grasp that Jan was up in those -20 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures a week ago, & here she is meeting Don Tin and Elena and Jay. She’s lying on my bed (tijera) reading "Watership Down" just as she probably did yesterday in Miami, and a week ago in Wisconsin - what’s a few thousand miles anyway. The heat really gets to her though. This trip is going to be the best diet she ever had!

I bought a hammock (4 varas {yards} long & cloth!) to sleep in, so she can have the cot. I got almost all my errands run in the capital. <I only lack the earrings I wanted for Sofia.> Hopefully we’ll take care of that Monday. We’re all set to go to Costa Rica on Tuesday. We got Jan’s ticket and visas for her so ...

We plan to take Conrad’s trip to the mountains tomorrow. Jan brought a real nice backpack, & is up for it, so we’ll give it a try. We’re going to El Maizal first. Jay says all havoc has broken loose in my absence.

Well, I think I’ll give Dante a short run, & go to bed.


Journal, February 20, 1976 AM

Boy, I feel like I’ve been dragged by the heels over gravel this morning. I had two beers with Jan last evening & had to get up in the middle of the night to urinate them away. I never did quite get back to sleep, and the people on the other side of the room divider have been up making noise since before six. Then there’s the cars, trucks and buses right outside our window. Last night Jan asked me if they didn’t believe in mufflers here!

Jan’s up now, so we’ll get going early today. Last night we talked solid from the airport ‘til we went to sleep, catching up on two years of each other’s experiences. Jan’s the number one family analyst, & is very concerned for how each one is making it. She reports optimistically on Tom, Carla & Donna, and pessimistically on Bruce. Time to get movin’, there’s a million things to do while she’s here!


Journal, February 18, 1976 PM

Whew, I just got done getting everything prepared to go to San Salvador tomorrow and pick up Jan. I’ll be lucky if I get there in one piece. I mashed my left thumb a good one today putting up chicken wire for the rabbits, and gouged a hunk out of my heel tonight when I went (barefoot) to a tienda {store} to buy a razorblade.

I got to get to bed before the mosquitoes finish me off, so I will forego all the wisdom I had stored up for tonight.

Journal, February 17, 1976 PM

Today, Antonio and I started dividing the rabbit corral. We got the bricks laid and the wood cut. That’s about all I did too.

I’m listening to "Buenas Noches America {Good Evening America}" on Jay’s shortwave. Funny, thinking back, I thought I’d never be able to understand Spanish over the radio (they seemed to talk so fast). Now I hardly miss a word - it’s tough to shut it out when I’d like to! Voice of America gives a lot of good news though.

I washed my bike tonight. It needed it bad! The salt in the air here near the ocean is really murder on everything metal, and is rusting everything iron on the bike. There’s no real way to stop it, just slow it down with grease & oil.

I started up reading Dante’s "Divina Comedia {Divine Comedy}" again last night, and got through Canto II tonight. It’s all formality & hidden symbols I can’t get into so far, but I expect it to be more interesting when he starts describing the circles of hell. <It’s a classic I’ve always been going to read, & Sofia’s read it so I have two reasons to finish it.>


Journal, February 16, 1976 PM

Jan’s comin’ in 3 days. It’s really hard to believe! I think I’ll take her up into the mountains on that trip Conrad wrote about in the Peace Corps press - a sapphire in emerald setting. Then off to Costa Rica if I can win her over without being overbearing. Man I need to get down to Costa Rica & get my bearings. I was so fed up with El Maizal this morning that I was seriously considering taking a job in sociology (like Chico {Rodriguez} wants me to) and leaving them. It also occurred to me to hang on ‘til August and then go to the University {of Wisconsin - Madison}. I’m applying for the whole school year so it would be easy. I’ll keep that option open.

This afternoon Profy {Gomez} promised me bricks & wire to divide up the rabbits’ corral, so my attitude is fairly positive again. I went and got some maicillo {grain sorghum} for him in the pickup ‘cause he’s got a bad kidney. <I had a talk with the maicillo’s owner about his son in Los Angeles, how big the U.S. is, and having someone you care about far away (yup, I told him about Sofia).> He said he missed his wife & kids a lot when he had to spend 8 or 15 days away from them. We shared a feeling.

Jay just got back; he’s promised to make a balloon for the Patron Saint Festival in Metalio. He says the people were really excited about it. They said they always used to send up balloons for the festival, but people seemed to have forgotten how. Jay will enjoy showin’ ‘em how!

A guy in the tienda {store} asked me if I’d known a volunteer named Dennis Christen____, then recognized me & insisted he’d known me in San Isidro when I was working there. He’s an I.S.T.A. {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria - the Salvadoran government’s agrarian reform agency, formerly known as the Instituto de Colonizacion Rural} employee, and it’s no wonder I don’t remember his face with the number of them that drifted through San Isidro in the 5 months I was there. Anyway he gave me “saludes {greetings}” from Don Torribio. I told him I’d talked with Don Torribio since leaving San Isidro because I knew his granddaughter Morena. Yea, he says, “Que bonita la muchacha, buena {What a pretty girl, nice}!” I agreed with him and things went along. I had Morena pretty well imprisoned in a back corner of my mind, now she’s out and about again. I’d thought I might call her (keeping my promise to help her practice English) when I went in to pick up Jan. Between that promise & curiosity I almost have to.


Journal, February 15, 1976 PM

I finished "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" before supper. It’s a fine, interesting book, but very depressing! We just can never beat the Combine (establishment, system, societal pressure to conform), we can only keep winning battles ‘til it annihilates us! No wonder there’s lots of us conforming "rabbits" around.

A whole mob showed up at the Kikilita {beach house} today. Lots of noisy kids obnoxiously using English words in their conversations to make sure they were bothering us to the max as we tried to read or rest and ignore them. The little bastards think they are being so clever, and are too sharp to be anything but civil when they talk directly to you, so there’s no good way of getting back at them without making a complete ass of yourself. I only hope they realize some day what it is to be harassed like that - what a negative feeling it gives one toward people. And then they’ll turn around & try to be the special buddy of the gringo {North American} (to exploit him of course) or ask an incredible favor right out of the blue (since all gringos are rich & have no sense of the value of money)!

Travelers say that people all over the third world are about the same. They’ll charge Europeans or North Americans more, serve them last, and try to beg money or favors off them. It’s enough to make even the most compassionate individual damned cagey after while!

With this wisdom now shared with all who shall venture to read these lines, I retire.


Letter, February 15, 1976

Hi folks,

I got a new form for you to sign here. It’s the new financial aids form for U.W.-Madison {University of Wisconsin – Madison}, replacing the Parents’ Confidential Statement. If I read it all right, you don’t have to fill it out, just look at questions 8, 9 & 10, and if you agree that all my answers should be no, you just sign in the box marked Parents’ Certification and Authorization and send it to this address:

College Scholarship Service
Box 2700
Princeton, NJ 08540

The pivotal question is whether you included me as a dependent for 1975 income tax. I don’t think you could have, because I’m over 22 and not a student; also I was completely financially independent through last year. I don’t plan to be at home for more than 2 weeks at a time or work summers at home, so the answers to 8 & 10 are accurate.

Actually I don’t expect to be in school until second semester – January 1977 – but am applying for all year because my financial aid application will get priority treatment that way. I figure to terminate in Peace Corps in late October or early November, then spend a month in Costa Rica attending Jaime Olson’s (fellow Peace Corps Volunteer) wedding among other things. I should make it back to Wisconsin to freeze my butt off in early December!

I just got the check to go with it from Banco Salvadoreño, so I will mail it right now. Try & get it signed and off by March 1st if possible. That’s the deadline from U.W.

Bruce writes me that Dad’s all excited about my being serious about a Latin American. Don’t worry Dad I’m a big boy now! Besides, you wouldn’t want me to end up a lone bachelor like Glen Krejchik {a cousin of my Dad} now would you? Always told me you wouldn’t!

Take care all,


Journal, February 14, 1976 PM

It’s the second night in Kikilita & I’m alone. Jay went to Sonsonate to work on his solar-powered hot air balloon with Conrad. They hope to make the first test flight tomorrow. I’m reading “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It gets heavy into the day to day insanity of the routine in a mental hospital, or in life for that matter. You just can’t let anyone puncture your self-confidence, or they’ll have you controlled - make a robot of you. Self doubt can make worms of us all!

I made yogurt today, but it isn’t real thick yet, so I’ll give it another day in the Sun. Joe’s turned out both times on the second day. The goats filled two bottles today (one apiece) & I sold the other to Don Tin.

The girls from El Maizal’s “grupo juvenil {children’s group}” had me going this morning saying it was “Dia de Los Enamorados {literally Lovers’ Day}”, and didn’t I send something to my “novia {girlfriend}”? Then it hit me (or Jay pointed it out) that it’s Valentine’s Day. <I already wished Sofia a happy Valentine’s Day twice, so I’m covered!>

We rapped with Mrs. Angelina Castro de Hernandez, the owner of our new place, this afternoon, and she agreed to get us keys made for our door, & to pay for materials if we screen in the place. So we’re pleased, & she seems pleased, & all is well back at the ranch.

<I was considering earlier in the evening, the implications of the fact that I can no longer scare up an image of Sofia in my mind.> Events I can remember of course, but a mental picture of her face, no. Maybe that’s why the invention of photography was so popular. But it’s really no substitute. Movement is what gives a face character. At best, the camera catches one mood. When you pose you can lose that! Anyway, it’s tough to be in love with a memory of an image. Really, it’s more like I remember that I couldn’t get enough of her when I was with her, so unless my brain was on vacation, she had something special about her that I got to go back and check out again!


Journal, February 13, 1976 PM (Friday the 13th)

It wasn’t a bad day for being unlucky in the U.S. Maybe its only unlucky up there where folks believe in it - nobody’s heard of it here.

We moved today & I am sitting on my tijera {cot} writing this in Kikilita, our new home. It has lots of plants & nice tile floors. It is painted red & yellow. But the mosquitoes are eating us alive! Getting screens up is our first goal.

Blanca made 3 trips with her car to bring our stuff over & Jay and I tried carrying his bed over between our bikes. I took a spill & we gave up on it. He almost lost it when we left it alone 5 minutes, and some enterprising campesino {peasant farmer} took it home, hoping we’d forget to come back for it. You can’t leave anything unguarded in this country - people everywhere and most of them poor.

I brought my tijera {cot} over from El Maizal in Profy’s { Profy Gomez, director of the El Maizal demonstration farm.} pickup. It was only the third time I’ve driven in El Salvador (in 1 year 6 months). Jay says I should rent a car while Jan’s here to show her around. That would surely up my driving time.

Jay & I taped 2 chapters of a shortened version of Huckleberry Finn for the two CREDHO lawyers to study. They already know a good deal of English, but say they have trouble understanding when people talk fast. It seems like a reasonable method to improve their listening ability. The lawyers are one of the most important services CREDHO offers the peasants. The two lawyers (husband & wife) impress me as intelligent and very dedicated, decent people. I often ponder on the idea: What motivates such people? I have no single answer. It seems they just fit into a situation where they have their lawyers’ prestige & salaries, but can be helping folks who could never get this quality of legal service on their own. They’re somewhat noble, but certainly not martyrs.

Jay’s got Radio Canada on the short wave. They say there have been lots of irregularities in the distribution of relief supplies in Guatemala. How disgusting! People starving & homeless, and the rich & the military are hording the food & supplies. Hopefully international exposure of these incidents will force some action, but people with power seldom get more than token castigation. The inhumanity of we humans never ceases to amaze me!


Journal, February 12, 1976 PM

Blanca’s here tonight. Maybe she’ll help us move our stuff tomorrow with her car. I hope so ‘cause it’ll be rough to do afoot & Profy {Gomez} may not show up tomorrow, either. I wrote to Merna & Gert tonight, finishing off my backlog. I hope the letters taper off for a while now.

Gert is unreal! She writes to tell me I should tell the “Costa Rica chic” to wait and go to law school. Dad’s thinkin’ the same thing, but would never come out & say it like that. Honesty is a precious trait & Gert has it in spades - can’t help saying what she thinks. And she’s still sharp as a razor at 75.

El Maizal is depressing. No hammer, no ripsaw, and I’m trying to build a fenced in yard for the goats. And worse, no one really gives a damn if anything is done for the animals. It’s infectious! I bet Jan will be balling me out for not doing more for them the first thing when she sees them! Thank God not everyone’s as lackadaisical as the average Salvadoran.


Journal, February 11, 1976 PM

I rolled off 3 letters tonight leaving me only two behind. I’m too conscientious about answering my mail - everybody writes me back & there I am swamped again. Thank God most of my family writes rarely!

Jay was kidding me about Jan coming today: “Sure she’s your sister!” and “How old is she?” I expect the two of them will get along famously (always liked that usage), especially if he pays a little banjo!

<Sofia’s fading on me.> I remembered how fiery those brown eyes can be once today, but such vivid recollections have become rare. <For the first time (or so it seems) I was tossing around the idea of marrying Sofia in August of ’77 tonight.> I’d get my start in school, & maybe work part of the summer. She would be able to take an intensive English course (maybe in July) and be ready to give U.W. (University of Wisconsin - Madison) a run in August. I don’t know if she could take just a half year of university courses in Costa Rica, like our semesters, but getting married in the canicula { Costarican name for a brief break in the rainy season which typically occurs in mid-August.}, and coming back to Wisconsin in harvest season, is esthetically appealing. She said she didn’t want to get married in December (because everybody does!), so maybe she’ll buy it. <I didn’t like the way Jaime was insinuating Monday night that Sofia was already laying the groundwork for a double wedding.> Much as I like Jaime & Pilar, the idea turns me off. No matter how it was organized I’d feel like I was taking part in someone else’s wedding!


Journal, February 10, 1976 PM

After copying in this morning’s entry I am looking for something resembling the classic: "Off again, on again, gone again, Finnegan." I got "expreso {express}" cards off to Costa Rica, but haven’t started answering my other mail (which includes letters from Merna & Bruce worth their weight in gold for their rarity!). <I reread Sofia’s entirely English postcard and decided it didn’t really sound as simplistic as it had seemed to yesterday.> She uses the simplest of words (as I do in Spanish, I’m sure), but the message has some depth, I think. I’m paranoid about marrying a simpleton!

We’re playing wait & see on the housing situation. Don Tin thinks the lady from Santa Tecla is ripping us off at 25 colones apiece per month. It all depends on your perspective! A beach house for $10.00 per month wouldn’t sound bad in letters home, but it’s more than the installments Don Tin pays on his house! Jay has a lead on another place & Don Tin is looking into it too, so we’ll see.

<I have to take Jan to meet Sofia, even though I have mixed feelings about it.> I want her reaction, I’ve always found her a reliable “mirror” - helping me to see situations more clearly through her insights. <But then doubt creeps in & I wonder if she’ll understand that I don’t have to be doing fascinating things with Sofia to be enchanted by her.> Just being around her has seemed to be enough so far. <Also, because Jan will almost always be with me, I’ll almost never be alone with Sofia, bummer.> We may do more sightseeing too, to keep Jan entertained!


Journal, February 10, 1976 AM

I’m writing on the back of a telegram in Santa Tecla today. I came into town with Elena this morning (actually the morning before I wrote this originally on the telegram) to try & rent a beach house. We’ll rent it for now anyway, from the lady here in Santa Tecla that Ed Schiffer used to buy his milk from!

I decided to get my Nicaraguan visa while here and while I was running around doing that & other errands, they phoned a telegram from Jan over to the Peace Corps office. It just said: "Arriving 2/19 confirm via Friendship." So I stayed in town & called home last night to find out the particulars. Turns out she’s driving to Miami and then flying down - will arrive 6:30 PM. Mom also said things were finally warming up at home (40 degrees) and they had a heifer calf. I said “Hi” to Carla.

So the Costa Rica trip is postponed a few days at the least. We’ll try and talk Jan into going Monday or Tuesday of the next week. <I’ve got to get new letters off to Sofia and the Castillo Murillo family advising of plan changes.>

I got together with Jaime, Diego, Miguel, Ron & Nancy for a pizza last night. Nice B.S. session. We plan to set up a party for mid-September, before people start leaving. I still find my group the sanest, most down home folks I know in Peace Corps.

Journal, February 8, 1976 PM

My pea brain is apparently stuck on January; I looked back & found I had written January this morning too!

Today we got notified that we have to get out of the rancho {beach house} this week. The Doctor came yesterday, put new locks on the kitchen, bathroom and front gate, and left no key with the caretaker. He just told the caretaker’s wife some relatives were going to be staying there a while, starting Saturday. Pretty subtle, huh. I guess we’d just been taking too much advantage of a good thing. So now it’s over.

I’m going to San Salvador early in the morning to see about renting another beach house. Elena’s going too, so she’s going to introduce me to the owner. Elena came out to the conejera {rabbit hutches} special to see me today (she’s hustling me now!), and was being extra sweet and coy. <I showed her Sofia’s picture.> Maybe that will convince her I’m not playing games when I say, “Friends, no more.” After she left, Antonio called me over and said, “Le quiere mucho {She loves you}!” I said yeah, I knew, but one good novia {girlfriend} was all I really needed.


Journal, February 8, 1976 AM

I slept hard and long last night. It’s 8:00 and I’m still not out of bed. I haven’t been able to sleep so many hours at one stretch for some time.

I had a great time in Atiocoyo. Ismael Peña was there - on a Saturday surprisingly enough. I’ve been meaning to visit him & his wife in San Salvador for I don’t know how long. He says he’s going to college in the States next fall no matter what. He plans to borrow the money, but wants to know about work permits & stuff like that. I’ll read over the info. I got from U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} about foreign students and see if it contains any useful stuff. I promised to go see him about March 5 or 6.

We helped Mr. Yu move his broken rice paddy tractor out of a paddy they want to plant and into a dry one. They are putting the majority of the “Granja Agricola” {Agricultural or Crop Farm} into wet rice (12-15 hectares!). Those plots he did last year must have really impressed them!

I had a fine relaxing afternoon with Mr. Yu. We had a fantastic meal, as always when I visit him, and played 3 games of chess. He loves to play so much that, even though I usually have trouble getting into chess, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I even won one game!

He even took me to Aguilares on his moto {motorcycle}, since he said he was going anyway. I got to see how the irrigation works are progressing. Incredibly slow is the impression I got, the main canal is now seemingly complete out to where it crosses the road from Atiocoyo going south, but no irrigation is being done from the dam. The granjas {project experimental farms} are still using that little system the previous owners had. I was thoroughly disappointed.

In Aguilares we waited for the train at a tienda run by two amazingly attractive teenage girls and their mother. Mr. Yu has a knack for charming people, & had them all thoroughly won over. As he says, he just likes to play the clown with folks. Mr. Chwang came by, & it was good to see him too. I hope to get out there again, but as the song goes: … tener amor y amigos cuesta tanto {having love and friends is so difficult}!

Journal, February 7, 1976 AM

I’m writing this in the San Salvador train depot. I’m going to Atiocoyo at 6:15. I got myself into one of those situations I’d like to kick myself in the butt for getting into last night. I went with Dave Quarles to check out rumors of an informal party at the hotel where the new {Peace Corps} trainees are staying. All we ran into at first was Gary Forrest & when the new people did show up they were headed for bed. So we wandered down to the Campana {restaurant/bar} & there ran into Tom Morgan, Rick English, and a trainee - Dave ______. They were looped & singing ranchero songs with the musicians & other drunken customers. I should’ve split then! We had a few beers & then Rick & Tom were up for going to a whorehouse! I wasn’t, but agreed to come along & have a beer with them there. Meanwhile the trainee disappeared.

We grabbed a taxi (I just got on the train.) & headed clear out past the airport. So all was relatively cool while Rick, Tom & Gary hustled chics, & Dave & I sat and B.S.’ed. The tension started when Tom came back & tried to get his money back from the cashier ‘cause the chic wouldn’t fuck. Looking back, it probably was a setup because she was the toughest lookin’ chic in the place - probably the cashier’s girl. I went up to the bar to try and help straighten things out. Tom’s masculinity had been insulted and he was lookin’ for someone to punch. Some well-heeled dude at the bar tossed out ¢100 and told the cashier to give Tom his money. So Tom went away momentarily satisfied (not realizing how he’d gotten the money) & I thanked the dude for avoiding a hassle. Then Rick came out & Tom started talkin’ about breakin’ some chairs - they were both far gone! Rick finally decided to leave (he had gotten laid!), but Tom picked up a bottle & headed for the bar. I got in front of him and tried to move him towards the door, but he threw the bottle down & when someone threw another down (seemingly as a counter threat) he was ready to break heads. I pushed him toward the door then, & had him just outside the door when the S.O.B. cashier snuck up and shoved us both off the porch & slammed the door with a cry of “cerdos!” {pigs}. Well, I was ready to punch him then, but there was no way they were going to open that door. Dave got left inside & eventually wandered out a side entrance. I’m still mad at that cashier! After I avoided a serious hassle, he pushes me from behind and calls me names (I paid the bar bill too). What a weasel!

Obviously I made it to the capital. I got my bus ticket & got all my other errands run. I ran into Diego {Cox}, Mary Ann’s brother & a friend. Diego says he’s going to Costa Rica with us the 20th. The other two are headed to Costa Rica today, they were in Guatemala City when the quake hit. They got through unscathed, but saw some badly injured folks, & a lot of destroyed buildings. Real nice guys. I should have gone drinkin’ with them!

<I’m still bein’ good Sofia!> None of the whores I saw in that joint looked very good to me. Mostly they are flabby, lazy individuals & so vain!


Journal, February 5, 1976 PM

That earthquake tremor we felt yesterday morning (3 AM) was a real disaster in Guatemala. Over 2,500 confirmed dead already! Several of the most prominent buildings in the capital were partially destroyed. Oh what piss ants we are when nature gives a little flex of her muscles!

<Jay brought two letters from Sofia, one from Bruce, one from Jay Mathes and one from U.W. {University of Wisconsin - Madison}.> I am becoming one of the most prolific letter-getters in Peace Corps. <I answered Sofia’s letter tonight.> Whew! Writing a serious, meaningful letter in Spanish is draining. She sounds very excited about starting university classes, which is great - we might as well both be student bums together! I’d really like to see her develop her mind, sooner or later her telling me how much she loves me just ain’t gonna be enough. I have a great need to toss ideas around with intelligent and informed people. If she doesn’t fill the need, I’ll have to find more of that sustenance outside the relationship and that could be the start of problems. {some text not transcribed}

We had our first basketball practice today, with a flat ball. We did some passing and shooting. They don’t know sheeeet!

Tomorrow I go to San Salvador to do a million things (including buy a bus ticket) and Saturday to Atiocoyo on a much postponed courtesy call. I hope Mr. Yu and Mr. Ou {pronounced Oo} are both there. Boy, am I up late tonight!


Journal, February 4, 1976 PM

I’m thinking about Joe again tonight. We had supper alone here this evening and with it a long, heavy talk. We both sense a certain similarity between us, we are both searchers, questioners, analyzers. Both meticulous and tireless self-analyzers especially - why do I feel like this? Why did I act like that? Who am I & what is it I seek?

He told me how he arrived where he now is, how he came to drop out of his chemical engineering gig, and where his wanderings have taken him since. At one time he was a 3rd year engineering student with a new bride he really cared about. I think that falling apart must have started the breaking of his ties to "Northamerican intellectual society". After graduating he worked for a big polluting company, too. He couldn’t lose himself in his work facing that! He tried grad. school in environmental engineering, but the memorization was too much. He had lost that insane, unquestioning, inkblotter approach to learning which the eager young highschooler brings with him to college. He went to Europe, then Canadian Peace Corps, and now he’s traveling unattached. A disinherited knight abroad seeking his fortune - but in knowledge & self-realization rather than gold and silver. Que le vaya bien {May things go well for you}!

That little detail about the “perfect” woman that didn’t work out was not lost on old Dino. I don’t know how I’d survive a bad marriage. To be that committed to a person and have it go to pieces would scar me, I fear. <Sofia, I got to make sure you’re a whole woman and not just a Barbie doll!>

I’m going to teach some basketball tomorrow, if the word of professors Palacios & Barrera(?) is better today than it was about the softball practice I should have gone to today.

I still haven’t gotten any farther than reading the first chapter & doing a couple problems in Jay’s physics book. The talk with Joe drained me. As he would say, there was a lot of energy flowing.

<Jay should bring me a letter from Sofia when he returns from San Salvador tomorrow!> I need that kind of lift tonight, but a letter probably wouldn’t do it anyway. I will have to drift for now, take a fix on life’s mundane necessities again in the morning.

Journal, February 4, 1976 AM

We had a strong earthquake tremor last night. It lasted about a minute and is the strongest one I’ve ever experienced. It woke both Jay & I up, and when it was over we went out & pissed. I hope this isn’t a lead-up to a big quake!

Yesterday some rabbit expert from Chile showed up. Actually she came the day before with six females to breed to our males, & then returned yesterday, and took our best male with her. So now we’re down to 2 mature males. Profy {Gomez} just can’t say no to someone who sounds very "expert" and "official". I told him I didn’t like this idea of tecnicos {technical people} coming in on one day whirlwind visits, and raising havoc with what order I’m starting to establish in our rabbit raising system. He tolerated my outburst, but didn’t seem to understand it or sympathize much with it.

Joe’s yogurt came out super good, and he made us another fine meal last evening. Jay got back from Sonsonate just in time to eat it. Joe says he’s leaving Thursday. Time to move along before he gets too attached to the place. He’s a strange, sensitive, deep feeling person. I wonder where he’ll end up, what he’ll be doing in 25 years.


Journal, February 2, 1976 PM

We put in half a day of work today and came back to the rancho {beach house}. I made yogurt and had a fine Chinese dinner with Joe. He’s kind of spacey, but a good cook - very meticulous as you might expect from an M.S. in chemical engineering; a meticulous, fussy, yoga freak tripping on life & people. But he’s tied to that van - not only sleeps in it, but does his yoga there (in all probably spends half his day in or around it).

I read a chapter of physics this afternoon; first in Jay’s book. It’s been 6 or 8 months since I got into physics - time I got back to it.

Blanca showed up tonight & Jay made a balloon to send up for her, but the fuel container leaked & we couldn’t pull it off. It’s his new propulsion system - just gas in a tinfoil cup - designed to avoid the problem of the balloon setting fires when it comes down. Credit the idea to Conrad Ebisch {a Peace Corps Volunteer, stationed in Sonsonate} - Jay’s consulting physicist.


Journal, February 1, 1976 PM

I copied last night’s wit & wisdom in just now & it left my mind blank concerning stuff for today. I remember explaining my dual opinion about how many kids I should have to Elena. I’d like to have 5 or 6 because I like kids & think big families are a great environment for raising kids in, but given the world population situation I can’t justify having more than two of my own. There are people who really only want one or two kids, but for me it’ll be a deprivation, I expect. Shit, maybe two will sour me so on havin’ children that I’ll be more than ready to stop there. I really can’t say ‘til I get there.

I played a little catch with a hard ball, this afternoon. You don’t forget how, even in a year or so! I’ve had some of my best and some of my most trying times playing softball. I remember them calling me a "curly haired jew" when I pitched in 4-H, to try to rattle me, and playing at home with family & neighborhood kids; and fraternity league, & picnics with a half-barrel & game during college. I never was too good, but it’s a very social game - a genuine midwestern U.S. tradition!

Joe plans to make a Chinese meal tomorrow, for all - right on! I’m going to bring him goats’ milk to make yogurt from, also. He says it’s the best yogurt there is! I’m anxious to compare his method with Steve Hays’ and use the best of both.

Jay just got back from Sonsonate with 50 centavos left to his name. How the fiesta came out he didn’t say.

Again tonight I’ve definitely decided that I have to go back to the states single & get my trip together before bringing a little woman into the picture. I have reasoned it all out thoroughly. <I wonder how long it’ll last once I get my arms around Sofia again?>

Images, February, 1976

Santos, Don Tin, me and Doña Reina in front of San Augustin restaurant/store {in Metalío}.

Don Adán and his wife in front of their home on the beach {in Metalío}.

Kikilita beach house where Jay Hasheider & I stayed part of our time in Metalío.

Kikilita, side view including cooking area at left.

Kikilita, side view with bathhouse at right.

Jay Hasheider in the top of a coconut tree, with a rope to let coconuts down on. {Metalío, El Salvador}

{Me} climbing a coconut {palm} tree at the beachhouse.

Aristides, a good friend, at El Maizal.

Profy Gomez's Hillman auto beside El Maizal school/clinic.

View of fields & trench silo from atop the water tower at El Maizal.

Sheep grazing on natural pasture at El Maizal.

{The telegram I received from my sister Jan on Febrary 9, 1976, telling me that she would arrive February 19th.}

Journal, January 31, 1976 PM

I’m at El Maizal tonight. The Doctor is at the rancho {beach house}, and I forgot my journal, so I will copy this in later. Two more baby goats arrived today - babies of all classes of mammals are so cute! Jay & Joseph (the Canadian - still with us) are in Sonsonate and at the beach, respectively. Yesterday Joe moved his van to the unoccupied lot next door, & he seems content there. He’s having brake problems though - needs a couple parts. Jay went to the fiesta {Patron Saint Festival?} and will be back tomorrow.

I got my new fangled financial aid form almost ready to go - just lack the check in dollars.

Some dude from the church in San Salvador was trying to convert me today. They never learn! He says if you believe in God & the Bible, and want to help people they are waiting to receive you. I told him all the dogma bummed me out - Buddhism, Islam, the Jewish faith and Christianity all have about the same moral teachings, so why quibble over dogma? That didn’t even sink in, so I told him my “novia” {girlfriend} wanted to make a Catholic out of me! Here they only recognize 1 distinction: Catholics and the other churches (which they assume to be Christian)!

<I had to show Antonio Sofia’s picture today.> I told him I was going into town some day next week to buy a bus ticket for Costa Rica - guess that started it!


Journal, January 31, 1976 AM

It’s colder than heck this morning - I’ll probably catch this cold back that I just about had licked. I woke up early & have been lying here shivering thinking about Jan’s trip down here, going to Costa Rica with Jaime, and the responsibilities imminent marriage entails. I’ll need to find the money to pay health and life insurance at the least, and probably some personal property, once we set up housekeeping. All that to organize, plus my determination to study, and the uncertainty of part-time work point to a Nov. or Dec. 1977 marriage. That’s assuming I don’t fall out of love (like rolling off a top bunk onto a bare wood floor)!

I wrote Jan back giving her more trip instructions & telling her I’m going to Costa Rica the 20th come hell or high water. I hope she postpones her trip ‘til Easter week. I’ll be ready to go to Costa Rica again, and we can have things much more organized. But she insists she’ll arrive “some time in February”.

I am struggling with a financial aid form & ran out of blue ink, so I couldn’t do anything last night. I got started on the last Time Magazine and couldn’t put it down. I can lay off world news for a while, but then I’ll see an article that sounds interesting, and get deep into all the “world drama” again. Guess I’m a hopeless addict - have to know what’s goin’ on even if I have no power to change it!

Course ends at El Maizal today. Jay promised to send up a couple balloons. I’ll just feed some more silage & read Time. <I’m having trouble keeping a fix on Sofia in the gray matter today - memories are getting too distant & still 21 days to go!>

Letter, January 30, 1976

Hello Jan,

I really am racking my brain trying to decide what to tell you about your planned trip here in February. I figure this letter is the last chance I have to communicate with you (send & receive a letter) before you head out, if you do. It would be cool just making it down here when you can without notice except for one thing. I plan definitely to go to Costa Rica by bus the 20th (with Jaime Olson) unless you come. We have to get tickets ahead so time is already running out, considering how long it will take for you to get this letter & answer. And there’s no faster communication ‘cause we’d have to set up a phone call in a letter too! If you want me to call you (before coming or ever!) tell me the number & when you’ll be around for sure (like a Friday or Saturday evening at home for instance).

So here’s my last minute trip suggestions as painfully hammered out. I assume you got my long letter of trip recommendations, which answers most of the questions you asked me. I’ll wait a few days to get a reply to that letter - in case you confirm that you’re coming and about when. If it don’t come or you still aren’t definite, I’ll buy my bus ticket for Costa Rica for the 20th. If you have trouble making it for February, why not put it off ‘til March (or ideally try to get here about a week & a half before Easter in April when I’m planning another one week run to Costa Rica). I’m probably getting unnecessarily uptight about getting my bus ticket & being set to go to Costa Rica. <We could always hitch & take local buses, but I’m really getting anxious to run down there & I’ve got Jaime and Sofia & other people down there wanting to be informed if I’m coming & when, & Tica Bus is an easy, reliable way to go ($36 round trip).> So if I don’t get another letter with more definite plans in a few days, I’ll buy the ticket (don’t know if I can sell or change it once I fix the day) and if ya come about that same time anyway, we’ll work something out. From the 20th to the 29th I’ll be in Costa Rica if I hear nothing from you before that, OK?

Important info.: You won’t need any real warm clothes here. A sweater and a fall jacket will do it & bring sturdy walkin’ shoes, but not heavy boots (roast your feet). A friend said you can get a travel agency to send your passport to Chicago, take it around to the consulates (most countries have one there), and get your visas fairly cheap - you might check it out. Jay, the Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) I live with, came through Mexico & Guatemala by bus for $40 in bus fare, recently. He says to take lots of fruit to eat if you try it. Restaurants along the way are quite expensive & spending all day in a bus you’re better off not eating anyway. Jaime Olson’s parents came down without getting any shots, but by plane. Everybody says a passport is essential. Remember most border workers are at least functional illiterates and the shape & color of a U.S. passport is instantly recognizable. You might get to El Paso, Texas by hitching, buses and/or trains, and get a bus from the Mexican side. It’s shorter than going to California, & there are lots of buses out of there (Jay came through there). Try to get a thru-bus all the way to Guatemala if possible to avoid possibly getting lost in Mexico City. From Guatemala City either Melba or Tica Bus will get you to San Salvador. Melba is cheaper but you have to go to the city bus terminal to get it so it could be more hassle. If you get to Guatemala City, are spending the night, and want to let me know you’ll be in San Salvador the next day (If you haven’t given me prior notice some other way.), call 28-0374 in Santa Tecla, El Salvador (after 6 PM weekdays someone’s usually there), and ask the guys there (Names: Steve Pamperin, Steve Hays, Mike Shank) to send me a telegram in Metalio saying you’re coming (and what bus). I’ll warn them. If I still don’t meet you, you could take a cab to Peace Corps Office, #915, 25 Avenida Norte {Avenue North}, a green building almost across the street from a tall building with a big neon OXGASA sign on it (usually rings a bell with cab drivers).

That shot the letter. Thanks for the University of Wisconsin forms, the info. on University climate, "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72" (I’m recommending it to all as we start the same trip again!), etc. <You can camp here - right by the beach - and I wrote to ask Sofia about possibilities in Costa Rica, near where she lives.> We can either find you a place to camp or stay in cheap hotels, don’t worry! <No space for discussing Sofia’s personality.> Just as well, I got to see her again to be sure of anything.

Love & Happy Ground Hog’s Day,



Journal, January 29, 1976 PM

I finally finished "Fear and Loathing" {"Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72"}, and have no energy left to do anything else tonight. There was lots of meaningless rapping today with Jay, some guy who eats at Don Tin’s that was an AFS student, and other people. I started irrigating a hunk of earth to raise feed for the rabbits & opened the silo today. Luis says El Maizal is getting a tractor soon, and Profy {Gomez} says their "irrigation system" will be installed within a few days. CREDHO sure manages to attract lots of aid money, in every conceivable form. If it could only be all organized into a workable whole!

Profy still plans to get cows! The rabbits will soon have no fresh grass to eat, the goats have no concentrate and no corral, and if not for the silage, would be facing imminent starvation. But we have got to have cows ‘cause we can get ‘um free! Heaven help us all!

There is a terrific macro-theory of many of the major events in the U.S. in the last 50 years floating around in Peace Corps El Salvador. Jay hit me with it today, & I had heard some from Mike Shank a week ago. It connects the two Kennedy assassinations, Chappaquiddick, the marriage of Jackie to Aristotle Onassis, and all kinds of other sinister happenings into a giant Mafia plot between Onassis, Joe Kennedy & some third party. It all started with dope smuggling, and caused the Vietnam war, among other side effects. I got to see this! Jay & Mike were both impressed with it, & they always seemed like such rational folks too!

Journal, January 28, 1976 PM

Fuckin’ diary, who needs it! <Here it is 11:15 and I just got done painstakingly etching out a letter to Sofia (after doing a financial aid form!) and I can’t hit the sack ‘cause of this beggar.>

<Jay brought me Sofia’s letter and 3 others - plus the U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} financial aid shit - when he came back from the capital this afternoon in the Peace Corps pickup.> Joe, the Canadian, had a good old time in town. It sounds like he gave in to all his vices. I wonder how long he’ll hang around here?

Nothing big at El Maizal, chores and reading. I put copper sulfate on a pussy sore one goat had on its leg. The agrónomo {agricultural extensionist} and the workers had been speculating on why it was lame, but at times it appears it takes a Gringo {North American} to take the initiative to do little day to day chores like that. Animals need regular, reliable care, and no one else there seems to feel the responsibility very strongly.

I didn’t win a cent in the lottery, leaving me ¢3 in the hole on that venture. But at least it’s not as sure a loss as loaning money to Adán, the caretaker of the rancho {beach house}. I lost five {colones} that way.

<Sofia still loves me, but I felt a flash of jealousy.> She said she didn’t want me to see "esa chica" {that girl} too much. Good instincts! <I wrote her back quick and let her know I’d love to get her (Sofia) in bed!>

Journal, January 27, 1976 PM

Tonight I copied every memorable quote I’ve come across in "Fear and Loathing" {"Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72"} so far in my special notebook. I’ve been sporadically recording quotes for a year and a half now. Amazingly, I have no Walt Whitman, although I read "Leaves of Grass" during Peace Corps training. Or perhaps I consciously realized the impossibility of selecting the "most appropriate" ones and, wisely, didn’t begin. I did fold corners to mark favorite poems - leaving maybe 1 in 10 pages with top or bottom corner folded!

<Today is the day I win a fortune in the El Salvador national lottery, so I can quit Peace Corps, marry Sofia and take a long honeymoon - arriving in the U.S. in time for college in the fall.> Even my wildest dreams are well thought out! I’ll buy the paper tomorrow and see exactly how much I won.

Today I did a lot of diddlely-shit at El Maizal, really didn’t get anything done, and left wondering what I might conceive of to keep me busy. "It is not enough to be busy ... The question is, what are we busy about?" (Thoreau). But, surely if H.D. Thoreau had been a PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer} he would have been more than happy to have anything to do after a year and a half of under-accomplishment.

Don Tin leveled with me this noon about his opinion of the political situation here. "No hay libertad" {There is no liberty}, he said. The military has the power & they flaunt it. They treat civilians like dirt when they get in the way. He doesn’t understand why the U.S. keeps pouring aid (military, economic, humanitarian) into this country through the present government. He is not as ready to condemn the U.S. Government as I am. He has a lot of respect for Norteamericanos {North Americans}. But he shakes his head and says somethin’s gotta give. It reminds me of my Dad lecturing us about the terrible state of the nation and the world back home on what might have been peaceful winter nights.

One of the Sonsonate chics that was here when Whit {Lawrence} & friends came last week, came back this afternoon with her knock-out sister, and her sister’s Greek fiancé. They didn’t stay long, but she’ll be back to go swimwin’ some day this week she says. <How come I didn’t run into chics lookin’ for a good time before I promised Sofia I’d be good?>

Journal, January 26, 1976 PM

Today was a nothing. I don’t remember a single event or thought which seems worth recording. I hope Jay brings me a letter or two when he comes back from San Salvador tomorrow. Good night and may God bless (Red Skelton).

Journal, January 25, 1976 PM

Upon starting this journal, I declared that I hoped I would never be desperate enough to go back and read it myself. I’ve already reached that point. I read entries for December 26 & 27, and it brought back some nice memories. <It surprised me a little how strong my emotions were for Sofia!> So what the hell’s wrong with reading your own diary - I feel no guilt!

We have another visitor, Joseph, who Jay met on the road & brought back this morning during a meeting of El Maizal’s co-op students & two Acajutla consumer co-op people which they held at the rancho {beach house}. He’s Canadian, a chemical engineer, a former "Canadian PCV" {Canadian Peace Corps Volunteer} in Malaysia, and traveling around in a nice red van (since September). He’s renounced conventional North American life as gluttonous & too mind-oriented, and is into yoga, and totally experiencing each moment. It strikes me as kind of egotistical, but he’s a nice, mellow dude. He’s going into San Salvador with Jay tomorrow, and leaving the van - which he’s excited about because he hasn’t slept anywhere but in it since he began his travels. He spent most of the afternoon monkeying around it also. It seems to me he’s as tied to that piece of metal as others are to North American intellectual ideas or politics or football, or as I am to the idea of studying physics (as a method of studying my universe).

I may have seen a sun burn out on some fellow travelers in the universe tonight. It was just a quick flash - maybe I only imagined it - but it could have been judgment day for a race of God-fearing beings somewhere.

A second recognition of our mortality was visited upon me tonight. A reference to a presumed George Meany stroke by Hunter S. Thompson in "Fear and Loathing" {"Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72"} brought back a flash of the night two winters ago, when, in the middle of a coughing fit, Dad’s face turned so red & I put my fingers in his mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue. We started to call a doctor, but he was coming out of it by then. He was so completely helpless, and when he came to he had no knowledge of the attack. I’ll never forget how mellow he was right after he came to - like risen from the dead - pale, calm, rational, yet bewildered, like a recovering amnesia victim.

Journal, January 25, 1976 AM

Yesterday, after writing in this journal, it occurred to me that I had skipped over a couple of the most important thoughts in my mind, while meticulously recording events I didn’t give a shit about. I’ve got to find a balance somehow between events & ideas so this thing doesn’t deteriorate into a Mickey Mouse exercise.

<I woke up today thinking about Sofia again.> I’m going through a weird stage of doubt - self-doubt, doubt of her value as a potential mate (though not of her fidelity or sincerity), guilt for doubting the value of a beautiful person who can love so easily and straightforwardly, doubt of my capacity (or willingness!) to take on married life right now. I look at her picture often, as if it were going to tell me if she’s the woman for me or not! I’ve thought about taking Jan and her friends down to Costa Rica to meet her as a means of getting an outside opinion of her from folks whose opinions I respect. <A large part of it is just the agony of being separated from Sofia after experiencing such strong feelings for her.>

After a morning buzz to El Maizal, Jay & I helped Profy {Gomez} with the well here at the rancho {beach house}, yesterday afternoon. Profy is so amazing; he is fantastic with (the caretaker) Adan’s kids, and handles drunken Adan gently, a little cynically, but never angrily even though Adan is one of the most trying drunkards I’ve ever known. He hangs around & hangs around, uttering pure nonsense, annoying you by standing in your way and otherwise demanding attention. He lives drunk; doesn’t sleep one off before starting another, simply lives drunk. We reached water, about a foot of it, with the tubing.

In "Fear and Loathing" {"Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72"} I reached the Wisconsin Primary last night. It was fascinating to read about the major personalities in the primary campaign, and where the candidates’ heads were really at then, since I was in the midst of that primary back in Madison in ’72. Thompson’s stories of self-sacrifice by (especially out-of-state) McGovern volunteers makes the little bit of half-assed campaign work I did look puny (it was). His story about the dedication of volunteers to George McGovern brought back a scene from election night (November) the same year. I was living in a co-op. We were all pro-McGovern and watching the election results on T.V. When George came on to give his recognition-of-defeat speech, a Black girl I hardly knew, who was sitting next to me, grabbed my arm in tears. “Oh, George!” she cried - I don’t remember what else. He brought out emotion in his supporters; just seemed so upright & so good you wanted him to win against all odds!

Journal, January 23, 1976 PM

I got back to Metalío today, but never made it to El Maizal. After eating, I was headed for there, but met Jay on the road & went back to Metalío to rap while he ate. So by the time we finished at Don Tin’s, it was after 2 and we said fuck work & went to the “rancho” {beach house}. I took a swim & got back into "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72" by Hunter S. Thompson (which I started this morning on the bus out). Fascinating book!

About 5:00 Whit Lawrence, Gary Miller and Tom Morgan showed up in the Embassy Bronco. Officially, they came to check out the project at El Maizal, but mostly they were up for going swimming. After they hit the beach, along came two chics who knew Jay from Sonsonate, lookin’ for a place to change for swimming too, so it got to be quite a social afternoon!

We ended up going to Don Tin’s for a beer & ran into Profy {Gomez} there. So after all the niceties there, the guys and girls left & Profy gave us a ride back to the rancho {beach house}. As usual at night, he was up for talking so we discussed all kinds of stuff relative to El Maizal. He promised to get another barrel so we’ll have 2 from which to make feeders for the goats & oxen. Also, he’s starting to listen to my argument about not bringing cattle to El Maizal right away.

More importantly, they should start the new well at the rancho tomorrow, so maybe soon we’ll have wash water!

Journal, January 23, 1976 AM

I finally managed to give away those sociology books, but it took a little doing. I came into town {San Salvador}, got the books, and got over to the library by 2:15, just to wait until 4 because Morena never showed up. So finally I packed up and went over to the social science faculty by myself - asking directions. I talked to a dude who had something to do with the sociology library, & he was more than happy to take the books. He said they’d put a citation with my name in each one (can you dig it!). I didn’t know what to do with the rose I’d brought for Morena (to say thanks) - finally tossed it in a car window in a parking lot.

Back at Peace Corps office I ran into Chico {Rodriguez}. We had one of our best talks in some time. I leveled with him about the situation at El Maizal, and my belief that they’d be better off without cows right now. He accepted that, but is still trying to get me to do some sociology related work. He still talks about the Cerron Grande project and how badly they need a 'rural sociologist'. I told him I’d like to meet with their sociologist, and see what kind of study they’re setting up, but wouldn’t work full time on it. He’s going to trade me a copy of "Feeds and Feeding" for my sociology methods book. I’ve always wanted to have that book. Chico says we may all go over to the Honduras agriculture school for a visit at the end of February. It could be a real hectic end of February this year!

I indulged in two salads at the Skandia {restaurant}, and then finished off my grits for supper last night. I’m at Steve’s {Pamperin} again.

<I wrote to Sofia last night, and told her about Jan’s possible visit.> I can’t write beautifully simple letters like hers, so I suffered over it, trying to say just what I felt, and ended up dissatisfied, of course.

I called Morena in the middle of the letter. She claims I promised to call first and confirm that I was coming into town today. I know that ain’t so, but didn’t press it too hard, since she was adamant. It’s a weird thing about her, so certain of things I know didn’t happen. I have complete confidence in my memory, but why quibble? We had a nice friendly chat, but it’s clear from the way she teases me about Costa Rica that now it’s she who wants to be more than friends. Sorry girl. I agreed to go to the Fiestas Patronales {Patron Saint Festival} in San Isidro May 15th, and to call and talk to her in English once in a while, to help her practice for when Stateside friends call up or visit. Don Torribio was at her house, and came on to say "Hi". I’ll have to get up to see him and Doña Julia.

Journal, January 21, 1976 PM

<Jay just made my whole day, brought me a letter from Sofia.> She didn’t really say much except she loves me. She is so effusive about saying it, that a little voice in the back of my head still says, man you’ve got to be kidding, she’s got to be putting you on! <But it was a beautiful letter and the dominant train of thought in my mind is that Sofia is just a beautiful person, a little naïve, but all the more beautiful for it.> How did I get so lucky?

We tattooed rabbits with a passion today, only sparing expectant mothers & young children! Our system seems to be working.

I got the pedigrees and registration papers on the rabbits and goats from Profy {Gomez}, today. I will try to get blanks from the registry association to register our baby goats. I expect to tattoo their ears too for identification.

I left my backpack at Don Tin’s on the way home tonight & had to go back and get it. What a scatterbrain!


Journal, January 21, 1976 AM

Boy, I’m either sick, or the heat is getting to me! I went to bed at about 7:00 last night, and at 6 AM I’m still feeling groggy and ache all over. I finally broke down and took my malaria medicine last night, figuring I was feeling so weak & tired I’d be easy prey. The Peace Corps doctor told me Friday I should always take my pills, living on the beach, but I haven’t since late November. I had that weird dizziness again yesterday too. I stood up from having been half laying back - talking to Luis about some Chilean protest songs we were listening to, & about Salvadoran illegals in the U.S. (his Dad’s one) - and saw before my open eyes something like a fireworks display. It was a symmetrical group of white lights (like fireflies weaving a pattern before me). Who needs drugs when such weird things can happen to you straight?

Antonio and I experimented with tattooing the rabbits using a needle and shoe polish powder! We did two, and if it didn’t wash off we’ll try a few more today.

One of the baby goats had a “gusanera” {nest of maggots} of worms in its navel - like you see in textbooks illustrating grave parasite infestations. We put some black gooey antibiotic (can’t hang onto that name!) on it and it killed the worms, but the wound still looks gross.

I read the paper (major operation) and it (El Diario de Hoy) was full of news about PCN, the official party, getting primed up for the March elections of mayors and legislators. Not a word about UNO, organization of all opposing parties. The radio is full of PCN propaganda too. Nothing like fascism with a pretense of democracy to make you sick! But the people too know that PCN has all the money, & the national papers so it really is largely overkill, all their politicking. I want to see what they do on election day. I’ve heard they buy, coerce and demand votes in the rural areas, using the Guardia Naciónal {National Guard}, and the organization of ex-soldiers against communism to back them up.

Journal, January 19, 1976 PM

I started it last night and finished it tonight - a beautiful little book called "Daybreak" by Joan Baez. I had admired her pacifism & anti-war stand before - and her music - but this has made her one of those special human beings I truly esteem. She doesn’t touch drugs, absolutely nothing beyond a little wine and an occasional sleeping pill. She trips on life and doesn’t want any interference. Something else she said really struck me. She said her father wrote her once that she comes to conclusions intuitively that take him years of thought to arrive at. I think that’s an important distinction between people; those who can derive and accept ideas on pure intuition, and those who search vainly all their lives for concrete confirmation of (often the same) ideas. For the first type of person, school is just "babysitting" (her word), but for the second it is food for his insatiable hunger. Steinbeck refers to this same distinction in talking about Cal and Alan (?), the sons of Adam T__. He goes further and says Cal was too intelligent to devote himself single-mindedly to school, but that his brother had to work harder to learn, and thus became devoted to the learning process. Being a confirmed studier, I’m not sure I accept that!

I went to El Maizal and did some rabbit work. Tomorrow Antonio and I are going to try an experiment with tattooing - see if we can do it with a pin and shoe polish! I read a U.S. rabbit book, & it gave advice completely different than what the CENTA pamphlet did. Now I don’t know which to follow!

I helped Don Adán beat some sorghum heads to remove the grain. I promised him my worthless watch ‘cause he has a friend that fixes them.

I asked Nico, the truck driver, if he’d seen my {bed} sheet. He said no, he’d only seen a pink one, and had put all my stuff in the corner. I had seen the sheet under his bedspread since coming back from Costa Rica, but couldn’t very well say that because it would have been like a direct accusation, & I can’t be sure. I told Luis about it and gathered from the expression on his face he was as suspicious of Nico as I. I should be angry, but just feel disgusted to have re-demonstrated how we humans can go blithely along ripping each other off without outward sign of guilt feelings - what a downer.

<I’m really getting anxious for a letter from Sofia.> All kinds of groundless doubts & misgivings run through my head. Looking at her picture don’t help, that innocent expression could draw compassion from a rock, but it doesn’t do her justice (as no picture ever really captures a personality, only a mood - if that). <Doggone it Sofia, if you loved me you’d write!>

Journal, January 18, 1976 PM

I finished "Cien Años de Soledad" {One Hundred Years of Solitude} today. It ended with Melquíades’ secret to life being the complete history of the Buendía family, written before it happened. I would have to say the book as a whole was a modern day parable with the "heavenly meaning" being that life and man’s existence on Earth are a tragedy, so you aught to find sustenance in love (relieve your "soledad" {solitude}). Or if you miss out on for real, passionate, all consuming love, you can try partying! As Aureliano Segundo said, "Pártense vacas, la vida es corta!" {Out of my way cows, life is short!}

I rode up to the La Libertad turnoff & back on the bike for exercise (13 kilometers one way). I could make it to Sonsonate, no sweat, if I could stay over and return the next day.

I called Morena about the books again tonight & she’s got my mind fucked up again. <She has been so unbelievably nice and talkative since I told her about Sofia.> She’s being so sweet and understanding she makes me feel guilty, like I did her wrong in some way, but I’ve been completely honest. What more could I do? She’s tricky though. She asked me if I’d gotten a letter from the novia {girlfriend} yet, and when I admitted I hadn’t she seemed to get some little satisfaction out of it. So I’ll meet her at the University {of El Salvador} library to go give ‘em the books on Thursday. I hope I am together enough to tell her I was "enamorado" {in love} with her, but I can’t handle 2 novias, so can’t we still be friends? Unless she takes her sister to classes with her, we should be alone together for the first time since San Isidro days. It’s so much easier to say what you feel to someone when you’re alone.

Letter, January 18, 1976

{Jan,} Well, here goes on the trip:

First off take a good look at a map of North America. Mexico is a long country. Jay Hasheider, the PCV who lives & works with me, went home for Christmas (Missouri) and came back by bus through Mexico. He figures in a car you could get through Mexico in 5 long driving days (not driving nights, but 12-15 hours a day). The Pan Am highway is a good road all through Mexico (at its worst like a county trunk in Wisconsin, but all paved apparently). They are doing some road repair on the shorter coastal route in Guatemala, so there are detours, but Jay said it wasn’t bad. We are in the dry season (no rain since November or until May) so it’s a good time to travel (no mud or washed out roads). Jay recommends that you don’t travel nights because of the danger of breaking down in the middle of nowhere & running into thieves. I’ve really got no other experience to base a recommendation on so I give you his.

As far as passports go, I’d recommend you get them if at all possible. Lots of folks go to Mexico without them, but I’ve never seen a U.S. citizen try passing borders in Central America without one. At the least, they would probably charge you a little extra money to pass the border and you might run into some budding young bureaucrat who simply refused to let you through. Many border employees have no extensive knowledge of English, but they like neat official looking documents & a U.S. passport is especially respected (lots of Salvadorans would love to buy one some day!). Ya, you have to pay to cross borders, sometimes. It depends on the country, day of the week, time of day & your documentation & possessions! I paid $1.50 to get out of Guatemala when I went up there (not a cent to get in). Almost all countries charge you for service on weekends and outside of normal business hours (about 8 to 5). I talked to a cyclist who had to pay to get his bike fumigated at the Nicaraguan border, and then they never did it! I would recommend you get a copy of a thick little red covered book called “Guide to South America” (or something close), if it ain’t too expensive. Experienced travelers commonly have them down here. They give recommendations on roads (containing maps), bus service, places to stay (I think), interesting stuff to see, and have addresses of important places like the U.S. Embassy in each country & other embassies and consulates. It might be a good investment! Also, watch out for Mexico City, Jay says he swears it’s as big as New York City & therefore easy to get lost in.

As far as what to bring, it’ll be hot in February, but can get cool enough at night for a light jacket. I’d bring sleeping bags because they can be used in cheap hotels to protect you from bugs, lice, etc. in the beds as well as camping out. It won’t rain here (maybe 1 freak storm) but you could run into a little rain in Mexico or Guatemala - don’t bring more than an umbrella or light rain jacket. Bring tennis shoes or other good walking shoes, but not heavy boots as there’ll be no mud, just dust! If you come, how about taking some money from my bank account (Dad can get it out as cosigner) and bringing me 2 pairs of blue jeans (32-32), a couple good recent record albums (what you like), and a can or bottle of Pabst! Other than that try to travel light since the authorities will go through your stuff at some borders if they are in a bad mood.

Oh, roads in El Salvador are good, the main ones, so with a car we can see a lot of stuff in a hurry. The country is only 120 miles long! On weekdays you can stay with Jay & I in the beach hours, but we usually split on weekends if the owner is expected. There’s a place in San Salvador where I stay for $1.60 a night when in town & they have cheap meals too, so with a little notice, I could work it out with the lady for us to stay there a couple days and look around the capital (like on a weekend!). Traveling through Mexico I would say you should be able to sleep for $2 to $3 a night if you go Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) class (lousy beds but usually clean). Get used to the idea that people make a living from ripping off "gringos" {North Americans} so barter prices, keep a good eye on the car, hang onto your wallets, etc. Don’t drink the water anywhere in Mexico or Guatemala - stick to pop or hot coffee. It’s easy to get amoebas - I’ve had them. I have a filter & iodine pills, so you’ll be able to drink water here. Also, I can give you each a malaria pill when you get here. The Peace Corps doctor has me on one a week since I live near the beach.

Now that you’ve gotten my other letter, you know I ran into more than flowers and great weather in Costa Rica. Jaime (the guy with the fiancé there) and I had been planning on going to Costa Rica February 20th for a week. Since he’s going for sure, be sure to let me know as definitely as possible if & about when you’re coming. If you’re not completely wiped out from travel when you get here, we could go on down there. Jaime figures you could make it by car from here to there in 1 day by hitting the El Salvador - Honduras border when it opens and driving straight through. Other ideas running through my head - if y’all come - include going up the Chinandego volcano. It is one of the few real nature areas left in the country. A fellow PCV knows a lot about it and would love to go up again, especially if someone has a car. Also, going to see Izalco - the most impressive-looking & young volcano here - and seeing a crater lake called Coatepeque. The beach, of course, is right out my door, or you can visit other, better-known ones. If we went to Costa Rica we could take a ride on the former Brooklyn Ferry, which now transports people, cars & cargo from El Salvador to Nicaragua - bypassing El Salvador’s hostile neighbor Honduras. However, the border on the Nicaraguan side has a reputation for being the worst around, and the road from the ferry landing to Managua is poor.

Last thoughts on the trip: Someone told me they had to pay $30 in traffic fines going across Mexico by car. Apparently the cops there have a well set up system for getting their share of gringo money. Bribery is a way of life in Latin America. So if they stop you they’ll probably ask for money not to write a ticket, and you’d probably better go along if it isn’t over a couple bucks. I read recently that over 500 young U.S. citizens were in Mexican jails on drug charges & in Latin America you are guilty until proved otherwise, so chew that over. However, many PCVs here indulge and apparently have safe sources, so if you feel the need, once you get here, we may be able to arrange something. Well, that’s more than enough travel advice!

Needless to say, I’d really like to see you make it down. I remember Gopher, but never recall meeting Marcia Bredeson, though the name sounds familiar and I knew Mike of course. All I can say is I think it’s great if y’all can swing it! Let me know what you want to do while you’re here.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is an author I have always been going to read but never have - I read a couple short articles for a course once - maybe this year! I got the book on Campaign ’72 and will start it soon. Jay picked it up day before yesterday and is already two-thirds of the way through it. He makes it sound fascinating. I just finished my first non-translated Spanish book, "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Marques. It was very entertaining and provoked a lot of questions in my brain. - worth the effort!

So you too have arrived at the conclusion that the folks spoiled you! I’m half tempted to agree with you like Marcia did & leave you in a labyrinth of self-doubt and self-depreciation! But, seriously, Joyce I know has felt that way always, and Donna I think feels everybody got a better shake than she did, but I have my own theory. First, I think us kids suffer from feelings of inferiority and related feelings of self-pity which are out of line with reality. On the other hand the parents do like you in a special way, perhaps, ‘cause of your personality. You’ve always been a "leader" in family matters - planning stuff, remembering birthdays, coming home to help out when it was needed. And besides, you’re animated, outgoing and likable compared to some of us introverts! Seriously, I think it’s just a matter of personalities and situations, and I don’t think you’re spoiled. Of course the older girls say I was spoiled for being the only boy in the family for so long! So fuck it anyway, Mary probably still calls me Buster to herself!

This letter is threatening to become a book, and I still have to write in my diary tonight. I started it on my way down to Costa Rica and hope I can keep it going for a year. I haven’t missed a day in almost a month, so I’m way ahead of previous attempts!

Hang in there & I hope to see you next month.