Letter, January 9, 1976

Hi folks,

You should see my letter to Carla before you see this one, so I will assume you know all about what happened in Costa Rica. <I hope to go back down there in February with Jaime Olson to see Sofia again and give things a chance to develop.> (Don’t worry, I would never get married without giving y’all 2 weeks notice!) The Castillo Murillo family – the family I stayed with for training and again this Christmas sent you a card, in Spanish of course, so I am sending along the translation on a little notebook sheet. They would love to hear from you folks if you find the time to write a card (don’t write a long letter since they’d have to get it translated, etc.). They hit me for a picture of my whole family when I was there. Any help would be appreciated!

I am also sending home a roll of film – mainly of pictures I took in Costa Rica. I need copies of nearly all of them to give to folks when I go back, so I’ll give you a detailed list of what I took on the other side of this sheet. I hate to put you to the trouble of developing pictures and sending them back, but those I had developed here were really bad – poor color, scratches, etc. – and they never get it straight which pictures you want more copies of.

I’m slowly getting back into my daily routine again. I just didn’t want to come back from Costa Rica & now that I’m here I find it hard to get back into my work. Having had time to think about it & be away from it, I see clearly of how little value the work I’m doing is. I enjoy living on the level of the peasant farmers though, learning the language and their customs, but at times I feel severely unemployed. Actually, I can go beat my head against the wall doing field-hand work any time I want, but that doesn’t justify my being here either. Mostly I just feel part of a game called foreign aid which our country plays all over the world, and certainly wastes a lot of money doing, if I can generalize what I see here to other areas!

Here’s the rundown on the photos:

Copies for me
1) Looking toward Acajutla port from beach in front of where I live0
2) The beach house where Jay Hasheider & I usually sleep0
3) Sunset over the Pacific at Metalio & birds0
4)     "     "     "     "0
5)     "     "     "     "0
6) <Jaime Olson, Pilar Campos G. (his fiance), Mrs. Campos, Sofia,2
   sister Sofia's sister (near electric plant in San Antonio)>
7) Jaime & Pilar in front of the pools, Ojo de Agua swimming resort2
8) <Sofia’s sister, Sofia, Jaime & Pilar at Ojo de Agua>2
9) The Castillo Murillo family and Rita Klukazewski, a Peace Corps trainee2
10) <Sofia and her grandparents at their house in Alajuela, Costa Rica>2
11) <Sofia, her 3 sisters, Luis (a boy friend) and Maria de Los Angeles in2
    front of Ed Stoll’s House (New Year’s eve)>
12) <Same picture, but I’m in there (Sofia’s the one beside me)3
    & Luis is out>
13) Same folks & a few more, taken by a Spanish teacher I know (Jose)3
14) <The Castillo Murillo family plus Sofia, me, Sofia's sister, Rita & Dennis5
    (another Peace Corps Volunteer who stayed with them)>
15) Some neighbor girls, taken by Mrs. Castillo Murillo as a remembrance1
16) <The Castillo Murillo family plus Sofia, taken in front of their home>3
17) The El Maizal goats, featuring 3 new arrivals & the goatherd1
18) A picture in front of the main building at El Maizal0
19) Looking back at the shed & water tank from in front of the school0
20) Ox cart going down the road in front of El Maizal & Don Pedro in there0

That’s 28 pictures in all; hope it doesn’t break you! Send them in a letter or letters instead of a package because it costs a fortune to get packages out of the post office. I haven’t got your cookies yet, but a friend told me they wanted $25 to get out a package he received & he told them to keep it! What about my package, did it ever make it or get lost in the mail? If it didn’t come let me know ‘cause they gave me a receipt for it & I can go in and check up on it.

Well I hope everyone’s new year is off to a good start! Mine started off great, but threatens to bog down and be a lot like last – except for trips to Costa Rica for resuscitation!

Wishing you all peace and tranquility in the year ahead,


Journal, January 8, 1976 PM

<I just got through holding my only picture of Sofia and my only of Morena up to the light bulb here in the beach house.> I don’t know what that was supposed to help me decide, but it is clear that my feelings about the two of them have developed very differently. I made the move, all the moves really, to try to get to know Morena after meeting her by chance twice in San Isidro, and while she’s always been very nice, she has a coyness and self assurance about her that is very sensual. She made me just want to take her to bed and show her what all you can do with a man besides talk! I doubt she realizes how strongly I felt about her at one time, though some of the looks she’d give me made me wonder - I could never say anything even vaguely sexually suggestive to her, just too afraid the truth would slip out I suppose.

<With Sofia, I was always cast in the role of the counterpuncher (my usual role in life, as a generality).> She wrote me, I wrote back, she invited me to a party the night we arrived, I decided to hang around San Antonio and get to know her better, she said she was in love with me, and I was caught flatfooted and flabbergasted! But it’s all been so direct and honest with her - I told her about Morena, I told her that I was amazed at her certainty that I was the dude she wanted, mentioning her youth and inexperience. Actually it happened too fast for me to be anything but honest and open, even if I’d wanted to.

So now I will just be friends with Morena - maybe she’s never wanted more. <It will be tough, because she just strikes me as a sensual person, but I won’t let myself go beyond that as long as I’m committed to Sofia.> I’m just too sensitive a person to get into "love triangles", it would fuck up my mind too much. <Maybe that’s part of what attracts me to Sofia, she’s so afraid of being hurt too!>

As you can tell by the Peyton Place style beginning of tonight’s entry, nothing exciting happened today! Jay didn’t even show up. I made rabbit feeders from hollow bricks, put a "hutch" on one cage and helped wean and move around a bunch of the El Maizal rabbits. One of their goats had twins today, shooting down the cook’s theory that Tío {Uncle} Sam {the billy goat} could only father one kid per freshening {pregnancy} because he only had one testicle! I’ll have to go talk with her tomorrow & see what new theory she comes up with.

The guy who takes care of the rabbits and goats wanted to know today what ever became of Morena. <I gave him the whole story and showed him Sofia’s picture.> He said she was “muy bonita” {very pretty}, but wanted to see one of Morena for comparative purposes! <I had always been careful in explaining to the El Maizal folks, that Morena was an “amiga” {friend} and not a "novia" {girlfriend} so he wanted to know what status I put on Sofia.> I assured him she was a "novia"!


Letter(2), January 8, 1976

Hi Carla,

Thanks much for the letter, it’s nice to get one from someone new – fresh handwriting to look at and all that! Seriously, I’d just as soon you didn’t write me too often since I got so God awful many letters for Christmas that it’ll take me a month to answer then all!

The first thing that comes to mind to say to ya, is how much you have changed in the year & a half since I last saw ya, but that sounds like what Aunt Mabel & Aunt Mildred used to say about me so I can’t say that! Seriously, it’s easy to see you’ve stopped being a "tierna" {child} and started becoming a "señorita" {young woman}, which is all for the better ‘cause little kids never have any real fun anyway!

Your comments about the Bicentennial are very reassuring. At times I’ve thought I would really be missing something, being out of the States during "our two hundredth birthday", but Yankee Doodle Crunch I can do without! All I’m really going to miss is a chance to maybe sneak up to Canada for part of the Olympics next summer. That is a shame.

I just got back from a great trip to Costa Rica the 6th. It was so beautiful there! The rainy season had just ended, so there was no rain, but flowers were out and everything was green like springtime. The weather was cool and breezy like early June or late May in Wisconsin. I ate more tamales there than in my whole previous life! They make tamales for Christmas like we make cookies, seafoam or fruitcake. People dance and visit more over Christmas there, and don’t go so overboard with gifts like we consumer-glutton Americans. (Partly because of the generally more humble financial situation of the people.) I’ve never been treated so hospitably as folks there treated me, and I told the Castillo Murillo family, truthfully, that it was one of the best Christmas seasons I had ever spent.

By the way, (since I told Jan, I have to tell ya’ll too) I fell in love with a "tica" (slang for Costarican woman) during my visit to Costa Rica and if my balloon don’t go and bust you may hear a good deal more about her. As you know, I’m one of the last persons on earth who should ever have been expected to fall in love (much less have the audacity to say so), but unless the whole thing ends as quick as it started – I could be in big trouble. Lord knows I’m too young to speak about unmentionables like marriage. <I got some pictures of her (her name’s Sofia) on the next roll of film I’m sending home – along with 3 of her 6 sisters, Jaime Olson (a Wisconsin boy!) and his fiancé, and my Costarican family from training.>

Whew! This turned out to be a long letter, and I only wanted to acknowledge yours and tell ya to write again sometime, sorry.

Take care,


Letter, January 8, 1976

Hi Jan,

What a shame! I wrote you a really beautiful letter, the words fairly flowed from my pen, but then somewhere between the telephone office and home I lost it and so here goes a second try. I feel almost my old cynical self tonight, so you may never know how eloquent I can be at my best!

What I got so eloquent about was my trip to Costa Rica - I enjoyed almost everything about it. My family from training received me like one of their own and I was pleased to be able to communicate much better with them than I ever could during training. They wouldn’t hear of me staying with anyone but them! Jaime’s fiancé and her family are really wonderful people. I can see why he keeps going back to Costa Rica every chance he gets. They have set the date for November 20th and will go back to the States afterwards (he’s from Neenah, Wisconsin). The weather was perfect while I was there, the rains were just over with & everything was green, many plants flowering, and the weather cool and breezy (after El Salvador). I have to admit though, I may have seen Costa Rica a little rosier than it really was, because I fell in love while I was there. Now you know that’s serious because, like most members of our family, I don’t use the word love in normal conversation! It all happened so fast and so easily that my cynical side is still not completely sure it wasn’t a mirage or something. I guess when her first letter gets here from Costa Rica I’ll be fully convinced it’s for real. {some text not transcribed} I’m not ready to explain any more particulars of how it came about, or say how far ahead I’m planning, but the situation is dangerous to my bachelorhood (to sum up quickly)!

If you come down here in February (or any other time before about November), what say we hop a bus down to Costa Rica? It’s a nice place to visit! I may become the number 2 travel agent for Costa Rica in Peace Corps El Salvador (after Jaime Olson) before the year is out!

Thanks for the rundown on what other family members are doing and where their minds are at. It’s the next best thing to being there because our minds still run down many of the same paths. As to the guitar, I sold it to a Salvadoran - there should be a picture of him playing it at a party, if it turned out. I sold it at a loss, but he played it so well, it belonged with him.

I have two big favors to ask, if you got time. First, I need a U.W. application and financial aid form(s). I plan to apply for the whole year, but only go second semester after I get out of Peace Corps and go to Jaime Olson’s wedding. I still plan to study physics. As I told Jaime, I need to try one more round of intellectual study & if that doesn’t satisfy me, or at least hold my interest more than I believe alternatives would, I’ll be ready to think about going farming. Jaime & I have joked some about going farming in Costa Rica or Australia. He’d be the guy to do it with if I ever thought that’s what I wanted!

Second, I’d like you to give me a rundown, if you would, on the situation for U.W. students right now. Anything and everything, like the part-time job situation, tuition costs, housing & food costs, and what kind of atmosphere the University {of Wisconsin} projects now. I’ve read in the New York Times that lots of folks are studying, and heard somewhere that there were 38,000+ students at U.W.-Madison, so things must be crowded!

I really love hearing from ya!



Journal, January 7, 1976 PM

I’m almost too burned out to write any more tonight. I’ve already written 3 letters - two in Spanish - and called Morena tonight. Then I went and lost the letter to Jan and may have to rewrite it. <Starting from the beginning, I wrote Jan about Sofia & asked her to get me a U.W. {University of Wisconsin} application form as well - and fill me in on the situation for "student n*****s" in the present U.S. economic stagnation. I called Morena about the books and told her about Sofia (as I promised).> She showed no emotion, only said that they say ticas {Costarican women} are friendlier, but Salvadoran women are better lovers. Wonder if she meant that as a slight reprimand or perhaps a word of warning? Anyway she is still checking into the book thing and gave regards to my family. <Next I wrote Sofia - nothing heavy just hi, how ya doin’, I luv ya, I been doin’ such & such.> I wrote to Doña Carmen and her family, finally, to let them know I arrived safely & all.

I should probably never have told Jaime about my opportunity to attend Harvard and other top law schools, next I had to tell him about my grade point & this morning over breakfast he inquired what courses I had gotten AB’s instead of A’s in. He’s given me some of the customary ribbing, but has promised not to tell other folks about it. I have enjoyed being accepted as just another person, and not stereotyped as a "brain" while in Peace Corps. I’m not sure it would make that much difference, but I like things like they are.

I talked to Profy {Gomez} today about my doubts about the cattle demonstration project’s feasibility at El Maizal, and its value to the overall goals of the training school & CREDHO. He still is gung-ho to do the project, but I believe I’ve gotten him to think a little about the initial outlays and special care a cattle project entails, and about the fact that we aren’t currently working with ganaderos {cattle farmers}, yet we would be establishing a system only ganaderos with 10+ cows could utilize. As always he has 10 projects running through his mind at once.

I enjoyed bullshitting with the folks at El Maizal and in Metalio most of the afternoon. I told them I didn’t want to come back from Costa Rica, I had a novia {girlfriend} there now and all that.

Images, January, 1976

{ Example of a piece of mail that had a rough trip between Central America and the US. }

{ Back of a piece of mail that had a rough trip between Central America and the US. }

Fred & Clarita in front of their little cafe in San Salvador. He's an American ex-sailor, and she's Salvadoran. He serves the most authentic, cheap hamburgers in town.

Central market in Armenia, Sonsonate taken from a bus window. { The bus between Metalio and San Salvador always stopped in Armenia. }

Alfredo, the guy who took care of the goats & rabbits at El Maizal, with a newborn kid.

Front view of El Maizal farmer school & demonstration farm. The sign says Merry Christmas.

A pole frame building of bahareque (mud & stick) and straw construction. They tied the poles together with wire and made a thatched roof that shed water pretty well.

An oxcart in front of El Maizal.


Journal, January 7, 1976 AM

I spent most of yesterday chasing around on errands and never did get out to Metalío. <After finally writing in this journal, I scribbled off a semi-incoherent letter to Sofia saying I missed her and loved her, and I hoped she’d get into studying at the University, and about our bad luck with the bus.> I’ll try to write a more coherent letter one of these nights when my mind’s right.

Went to Peace Corps office and picked up a bundle of letters from the States. Got a birthday card from the folks with letters from Mom, Donna & Carla enclosed. Carla’s really changing, she’s going through puberty & becoming a woman – won’t know her when I get back! She sent a photo & just wrote to say there wasn’t much to write about, but you could see she was starting to recognize herself as an individual and an adult. Donna has matured a good deal – has a house with 3 friends, and is thinking about studies and career (hospital dietetics). It’s very encouraging since I’ve always worried about her finding her own way, and recognizing her own worth. Mom wrote her customary calendar of daily events, & sent a picture of Dad from the Friendship Reporter {the local newspaper}.

Jan wrote a good letter saying she still hopes to make it down in February if she gets some money together. She gave a quick rundown of what the other siblings are into and their mental states. I really value that because it’s the next closest thing to being able to be there and analyze the situation myself. Jan & I have always had a lot of thoughts and attitudes in common.

Jay Mathes sent a letter in answer to my Christmas card, wishing me love and assuring me he wishes he was where I am. <I’ll have to write him about Sofia, & let him know how appropriate his letter sounded at the time I read it!> Jay’s convinced he’s living an illusionary life, & is looking for the real thing. It’s an easy attitude to develop in college, Jan has often expressed it, and I recall feeling it too in school. You are in a temporary, transitory state, and long for the permanent "real" state. He may still end up back down here in Peace Corps – but that’s a very temporary state too. I’m afraid it won’t satisfy him either – it hasn’t satisfied me.

I went to eat with Stan Krenz and Jaime. Stan’s a sociology grad. too, and yesterday hit us with some of the same things I’ve said to myself. He says sociology is fascinating to study, but no field to get a job in, & that he’ll probably go back to school to change his field (but not as drastically as I plan to). Stan says he just can’t imagine having a woman he could care about enough to forget all others, & be willing to settle down with – marriage is still for others & not for Stan. Yet it takes little insight to see that Stan, more than most men, needs a good faithful, loving & supportive woman (wife if bureaucracy must be bowed to) to give him the confidence and sense of purpose he lacks in his life.

Jay Hasheider’s back from Peru and the States. He had a good time but apparently found nothing he could permanently get into so he is back with Peace Corps and El Maizal.

Jaime & I stopped by Fred’s to eat supper. He’s teaching English daily now. He likes the money, but hates the work! Same old Fred, living day to day, and more or less happy with all his little problems & triumphs, and no big ones.