Journal, January 6, 1976 AM

Didn’t get around to writing until after breakfast today – boy am I slipping fast now that vacation is over! We had a real bummer of a bus ride from Managua to here. Left there at shortly after 6 AM and didn’t get to San Salvador (about 550 kilometers of good road) until almost 2 AM this mourning. We spent 7 hours at a restaurant in Honduras while they played with the bus’s motor. <I started a letter to Sofia, drank too much vodka & beer with Jaime and Roy (the Englishman), and had just started eating a very hot order of chop suey when they decided the bus was at last ready to go!> I gulped down the food (burning the shit out of my mouth), paid and ran. So of course they short changed me one Lempira (50¢ American) for being in too much of a hurry to count my change. That’s all right though because I’ll be passing through there again & since they are now on my black list, I won’t feel bad about swiping glasses or silverware if I get a chance! De facto justice you might call it.

<No grandiose schemes for making my fortune (so I can study & live happily ever after with Sofia at the same time) have emerged from all my thinking about the subject!> I have a lot of inquiries to make to find out as much as possible about the situation in which we will find ourselves after marriage. (As you may have noticed, I have begun to take a very positive attitude toward marrying this chic. Essentially, I’ve made up my mind not to be the first to show doubts or back out this time. I believe she has the makings of a good lifelong companion & am ready for the security of having one person to count on & keeping other women at a safe distance. Never having been a ladies man, it shouldn’t be too tough!) All in all it should keep the old "maquinita del cerebro" {machine of a brain} working overtime, which keeps me from being moody & melancholy (or "mejor dicho" {better said} : from being as moody and melancholy!).


Journal, January 4, 1976 PM

I feel like I’m marking an anniversary. I was in Managua, and under the influence when I started this journal, and here I am again.

<I said good-by to Sofia this morning.> She arrived at the house about eight, looking fresh and beautiful. I’ll probably remember her like that ‘til February or April, when I go back! I was about to take a family photo before leaving, so she got into it. I should have snuck in there too and let Jaime take it!

Luis took us to the bus station & we said good-by {some text not transcribed} We had two for the road and got on the bus. <I spent most of the morning hashing through schemes to make some money or get a good part-time job so I could go studying and marry Sofia right away.> Two years is a long time to wait for a pretty girl who knows how to make them drool! Actually the wait would make me more sure she isn’t going to change her mind when she gets a little broader perspective of the world, and gets to know me better. But I don’t want her to, after all!

I spent maybe fifteen minutes on the bus between Peñas Blancas {Costa Rica} & Managua {Nicaragua} trying to remember the name of a guy I knew well in college, Westley Radditz. Finally I told Jaime about it & we got talking about other stuff – I remembered it shortly thereafter. Scary how easy it is to forget!

We talked to a couple wanderers in Managua tonight. One was from California & New York, and the other from Manchester, England. Nice, interesting folks and very restless. Don’t know exactly what they hope to find, & are interested in everything so they keep traveling – the American is going into Peace Corps soon!

Journal, January 4, 1976 AM

We had a good day with the women folk yesterday, Jaime & I. We went bowling early in the morning, & bowled 3 games each. Doña Marita {Pilar’s Mom} was the star of the first game – also her first ever – bowling a 72 when I got a 74, & the girls really bombed out. Only Jaime broke 100, and it wasn’t a good game for him since he is a pretty serious bowler.

We had lunch at a good hamburger joint. <Sofia ate a whole quarter-pound hamburger, quite a feat for a chic that has to get shots to improve her appetite!> After that she still had room for an apple, bought in a central market for 2 for ¢6 (about 70¢ U.S.). Apples are expensive here; that’s one thing she’ll like about Wisconsin, lots of apples!

In the evening we checked out the San Antonio movie house. It was the first time for most of us. <Guillermo came along, and 3 of Sofia’s sisters & Luís, who drove.> It was an action film with fights & car chases, & a pimp-out on U.S. and Russian intelligence agents – a lot of laughs.

<So now Sofia says she wants to go back to Wisconsin one time only, & to stay, already married.> Great, but what do I do about supporting her while she’s learning English. No problem if I was ready to be a 9 to 5 working stiff, & let the mind vegetate. If I could swing a super part-time job it might work, but I’m going to study physics! I think she just wants to go back with Pilar – has the idea they can keep each other company, and thus make the transition easier. But she’ll have to get that out of her head sooner or later anyway because Neenah is a long way from Friendship, and even farther from Madison!

But she keeps tellin’ me she loves me (no prodding, honest!), and she is foxy!


Journal, January 3, 1976 AM

In yesterday’s scribblings I started out with the heading: January 2, 1975. Brings back memories. I always did that for at least a couple weeks on my class work in grade school.

We went up to Ed Stoll’s to clean up yesterday, with Guillermo, the cyclist. Don came up later on, and we sat around drinking “zarsa” {root beer} and discussing sports, San Antonio {de Belén} and other trivial things. There wasn’t much cleaning to do, so we got it out of the way quick while Don washed his van, and then finished off some near-empty liquor bottles, & started on the unopened Duncan’s whiskey. Ed moves out today, so we helped him move a freezer. We took along the leftover oranges and lemons and the Duncan’s when we left. Jaime took them home (except the Duncan’s, put in safekeeping at Don’s), and promised to bring by half the oranges for our family in the afternoon.

It was really great that Jaime & Pilar came to visit, & talk with Doña Carmen & the kids! She just loves to have folks visit her, & they had never come together before. They kidded Marielos about Felipe’s allusion to her big green eyes, and she just blushed and smiled, and looked cute as ever. <I got a lot of ribbing about Sofia, of course, with Doña Carmen predicting 2 weddings this year, and Jaime plugging a return trip to San Antonio in February!> Jaime’s gone through more than a year of this so he’s making sure I get my share too! <Doña Carmen said I had a pretty novia {girlfriend}, which I took as motherly acceptance of Sofia, but Carlos (Doña Carmen’s brother), who once had a novia in the family, says her Dad is a bad suegro {father-in-law} – he never liked Carlos.> Carlos invited us drinking to celebrate our departure tonight.

I saw Superman on T.V. after supper last night, first time in years! <Went to Jaime’s to see Sofia who had promised to come over, and B.S.’ed with Jaime, Pilar & Don a little.> Jaime ate, & I bummed a tamale, rice & milk. <I started teaching Jaime & Pilar to play Dirty Clubs, but it got to be 7:30 and Sofia hadn’t showed up, so I decided to truck on up to her house, & see what was happening.>

{some text not transcribed}

I ran back down the road to Jaime’s, told them the decision {about going bowling today}, and went for a couple beers with Jaime. We ran in to 3 {Peace Corps} trainees in a talkative mood, & Jaime gave them the lowdown on how to get along in Peace Corps, or to get along you go along, adapted for modern audiences. I added a few side comments, & it seemed to satisfy them. There were no ardent idealists present!

Journal, January 2, 1976 AM

Fabio & Dennis hit the cantina {bar} right after breakfast in an attempt to cure their hangovers – a very popular method here! I saw them coming back about 1 PM when I was sitting on the porch at the Campos Gonzalez house talking to Jaime. Glad I didn’t go along! I spent the morning reading "Cien Años de Soledad" {One Hundred Years of Solitude}, and talking with Doña Carmen. She asked me again if I enjoyed the holidays here (She is so worried about doing right by her adopted Gringo {North American} children!), and I told her truthfully it was one of the best Christmases I ever had. The neighborhood girls are really nice to me since I’ve told them I have a novia {girlfriend}. I guess they figure that now I’m out of circulation so they can treat me like a cousin!

Went over to Jaime’s after lunch, and we did some B.S.’ing about nothing special. <Sofia showed up later & we played "Tonto" which is like Old Maid. I went with Sofia to get a couple pills for her sister, and we rapped some.> She says her father wants her to marry a nice local boy, and stay close to home, and that he doesn’t like her hangin’ around with Gringos especially, so we have to take it slow & easy with him. I told her my folks would have the same kind of preoccupations about a foreigner, but of course it’s not as relevant because I’m independent of the family now.

We started talkin’ about her coming to my home to visit in November, & it led into where we might end up living. Said she didn’t want to study in the States, just sit around the house or play sports, etc. She was jivin’ me but the part about not studying may have been serious – hope not.

I got into a useless conversation with a sister-in-law of Fabio’s back at the house. She’s clearly the boss of her family, and a fired up "evangelico" {evangelical Christian} trying to convert sinners. I never have found a polite way of telling folks like her I think it’s fine they believe what they do and are so happy & at peace with God, but they ain’t going to convert me, so why not stop trying! Guess I’ll always be a sucker for listening to fanatics!

Journal, January 1, 1976 AM

Today I officially begin this journal, so you might know I am having trouble deciding what to write. The idea of keeping this thing going doesn’t strike me as too important today! So on with the chore.

The New Year’s party Jaime, Ed Stoll and I set up was pretty decent. Everybody drank and danced some, there were no evident personality clashes, and no one fell, jumped or was pushed into the pool. I am always mystified at how one measures the success of such an event, but as the classic saying goes: Everyone seemed to be having a good time! We had two full bottles of booze left, & only one party vomited on the grounds, while the bocas {snacks} were demolished, so you could classify it as a nice friendly family affair.

<So what about Sofia?> All day I thought this could be a crucial night for us. I wanted, in some way I can’t fully define, to be sure of her, to give me the will power I’ll need to keep from letting the relationship slide while we’re apart. Expecting too much, as usual, I was a little bit let down. She was the one last night who seemed to keep coming back to the idea that we should tell each other if we find another, better novio/novia {boy or girl friend}. I finally told her we should forget about that possibility. She’s getting as bad as me about stressing the doubts instead of concentrating on the present relationship! She up and told me at the height of the party – just before midnight – that she felt kind of tired and bored. Now that is a tough sign to read, ‘cause I usually feel tired & bored at drinking parties, but would never tell anyone that because they would think me even more of a bookworm and anti-social person than they already do. Was she being brutally honest, just with me, or trying to tell me indirectly that I, personally, am boring to be with? I got her to dance a bit later on, and the heavy talk was shoved into the background.

<Sofia met Doña Carmen, & it was a cordial, almost friendly encounter.> (I will wait for Carmen’s reaction today.) <I took a few photos of Sofia and her family, and one of all of Doña Carmen’s brood who were there, including Rita and Dennis. Sofia and two of her sisters dedicated themselves, for quite a time, to seeing that Dennis had some fun because he was sitting alone a lot, looking deep in thought to me, but only triste {sad} to them!> Dennis has that solitary (soledad? {Spanish for solitary}) look about him that reminds me of how Tom Hamilton (in Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”) would have looked in real life. He may be trying to decide to be great or let it go and just be human as Tom was. Doña Carmen thinks it’s money and girl troubles, but I can’t buy it. He reads poetry too, so that gives him another link with Tom Hamilton. Hope he doesn’t ride off on horseback and shoot himself!

Journal, December 31, 1975 AM

I didn’t put any weight on yesterday! Spent all day running around getting something set up for New Year’s Eve. Jaime and I went up to visit Ed Stoll, and he suggested the idea of having a party at his place. It is perfect for a party with a little swimming pool, a little dance hall behind the house with bar & bathroom and lots of space! <So then we talked it over with Pilar and Sofia and other folks, and they agreed to work on “bocas” {snacks}.> So we went to see Skip about booze, & he put ¢50 in the kitty & promised to drop by – Tom may too. We trucked clear back up to Ed’s to let him know plans were confirmed, & booze & mix bought, but he wasn’t home. We cleaned things up a bit, & went home to eat. Jaime called Ed after supper, and things are all set, we think. We’ll head up to Ed’s this morning to get things cleaned up. <My Costarican family says they’ll come too, so it could be Doña Carmen’s first head-to-head encounter with Sofia. She claims she likes Sofia’s sisters O.K., but has never gotten to know Sofia, and seems to blame Sofia a little for it.> Besides, she considers herself my surrogate mother, and thus feels compelled to protect my interests!

{some text not transcribed}

Something heavy may be unfolding at Basico. There is a rumor that the girlfriend of Kevin, a trainee, got raped by a Spanish professor! Skip is hush-hush about it, but said last night (when Jaime & I had a beer with him) that he had it all, almost, straightened out. I’ve got to get out of San Antonio, I’m turning into yet another small town gossip!

Journal, December 30, 1975 AM

<We {Sofia and I} went down to Ojo de Aqua {a swimming resort} yesterday all by ourselves.> {some text not transcribed}

In the afternoon I took the neighborhood girls to Basico to see Rita’s “charla” {talk}, but we showed up late and missed it. They didn’t seem to mind being we saw two others, & took some oranges. <I told them officially that Sofia was my novia {girlfriend}, & was surprised by the extent of their reaction.> Shit, they must have been 99% sure of it before! Apparently there is a status which isn’t achieved until you officially say – da-dah! - this woman is my novia. {some text not transcribed}

There isn’t going to be a dance in the Salon Paquari {a large dance hall} in town the 31st, bummer! <So now I don’t know what Sofia will want to do.> Amazing she or Pilar didn’t hear that before Jaime and I!

We saw Guillermo, the cyclist who came down from San Salvador, in El Jardín de Cerveza {a tavern-like bar whose name translates to Beer Garden} last night (Jaime, Felipe & I). Looks like he’ll get a job teaching English here in San Jose, & try to save money to tour South America on his bike. He’s a fascinating person, intelligent, yet full of the devil, lookin’ for fun, and with an insatiable wandering itch!

We are 3 Gringos in the house today (Dennis came in yesterday for a wedding & New Year’s.), and it’s really too much, but Doña Carmen loves it, and everyone knows she’s in charge!


Card, December 29, 1975

{ Translation of the inside of this Christmas card, which Doña Carmen gave me. }
A Happy Christmas
New Year

Are the sincere wishes of
Fabio Castillo Rojas, his wife and family

1975 - 1976