Card, January 18, 1976

{ Translation of cover and inside of card. }

Happy Birthday!
You’ll think I’m sending
you this card so as not to
buy you a gift …
… Aha! You are increasing
not only in years but
also in intelligence!

Hi Jan,

I just got a’hold of your letter of January 6 and hadn’t gotten around to sending a birthday card yet (sorry!) so you’re getting it all in one chunk! I’ve officially decided not to recognize birthdays (mine) after this year, so please remember never to send me another card. 24 years is a great plenty! My only condolence is that no matter what age I arrive at, 12 days later you go a year up on me. Thanks for being around to make me feel younger!


Journal, January 18, 1976 AM

Steve {Pamperin} gave me some Wisconsin cheese and some homemade caramels to take to the folks at El Maizal. They all liked the caramels, but Don Tin and Profy {Gomez}, who tried the cheese, weren’t overly enthusiastic. Profy wanted to know why it wasn’t white, and (not knowing) I turned the question around and asked him why cheese here was white when I had been used to yellow cheese back home.

I read the entire N.Y. Times Weekly Review yesterday, mostly on the bus from the capital to Metalío and later at the rancho {beach house}. Jay and I spent the afternoon reading at the rancho - he’s really getting into "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72" {by Hunter S. Thompson}.

About five Profy showed up looking for the doctor (owner of the rancho) and we talked a while about the marketing work they’re doing at El Maizal; he’s wheeling & dealing as always. He got in the pickup and I went upstairs to see if Jay wanted to go eat, and here comes 2 carloads of women and kids to take over the house for the night (the doctor’s daughter & friends).

Jay decided he was off for Sonsonate and I decided to sleep at El Maizal, so we packed up and mounted our bikes. Later we met Profy at Don Tin’s and agreed to help him take water to the folks at the rancho. We listened to Jay’s banjo pickin’ while the pilas {sinks} were fillin’ up. Only Profy & I enjoyed it, seemingly. Profy took Jay to Sonsonate, and here I am, writing in my tijera {cot} at El Maizal.


Journal, January 17, 1976 AM

I came in to the capital yesterday, to take my feces sample (after 3 weeks of pills for amoebas) and run some errands. <Jan, Donna and the folks sent me letters, but nothing from Sofia yet.> Jan says she is coming down in February with La Verne Holmes and his wife, if all works out. I’ll have to write her all I’ve heard about the trip, what to watch out for, etc. Donna has a boyfriend! I haven’t gotten fully used to the idea, since she never had one in highschool or anything, but I think it’s good. God how she’s matured mentally since I’ve been gone!

Mom sent pictures from Christmas, and some of mine I asked for copies of (and one I didn’t!) I love to get pictures! They really give you a feel of the life somewhere where you aren’t! Mom also said my package got there at last (on my birthday if you can believe it!) and everything arrived in good shape. She asked me some questions about stuff in it. It took nearly 2 months to get there!

I changed over ¢200 to bucks, so now I have nearly $200 stashed for going to Costa Rica in February. I’ll go with Jaime if Jan don’t make it, and try to talk her & La Verne into going if she comes. Workin’ it all out will be hectic, but there’s some real potential for a great trip!

I spent the night at Steve Pamperin’s apartment in Santa Tecla (and am writing in the tijera {cot} in his room this morning). He just returned from spending Christmas in Wisconsin and brought back cheese, banana bread (with chocolate chips) and homemade caramels! I sampled all 3 of course! He also brought me a Timex watch, which is really decent! As I told him, it’ll take some time to get used to having a watch that works again!

Steve actually went snowmobiling just like he said he would! He said he got used to the cold quickly, and gained 12 pounds on the good food. He really got around, saw a Packer game, visited friends, etc., really enjoyed every minute.

Now it’s back to work, I told Steve about my doubts and reservations over the cattle project at El Maizal. He didn’t say a word, but I don’t think he fully understands the situation, or agrees with my analysis. I told him about my plan to study physics too. It confounded him at first, but he kind of understood, and even admitted he’d have liked to have had some physics at the university. It’s getting ever easier to expose my once deep, dark secret. Most folks close to me know now and no big deal.

Ed Shiffer came over & I gave him a picture from El Maizal that my folks sent by mistake. It’s of Jay Mathes and some friends of Ed’s standing by the little haystack we made there. I’ll send the other copy to Jay. Ed gave me some El Maizal pictures to give to folks there too. He hopes he can make it out there again soon. He really enjoyed that jaunt in August; planting maicillo {sorghum}, plowing with oxen, making hay and digging on the silo. He loved the chance to leave his office and do some physical labor.

{some text not transcribed}


Journal, January 15, 1976 PM

Jay really got going, telling stories about his past after we sent up the balloon last night. The balloon went up just beautiful, very high and you could follow it because of the kerosene-soaked cloth which kept burning (keeping the balloon up of course). It was the first hot air balloon I ever saw go up - I have to try it some time! Anyway, he was telling about all the crazy shit he and his buddies did up in Moscow, Idaho. The most unreal was his sending some speed in an envelope with a letter for the Idaho state motor vehicle department! He had been in an accident & had to send in a statement, so his girlfriend mailed it in an envelope in which he had been storing some speed and still had 2 or 3 tablets! He left for Peace Corps about then so doesn’t know if he’s wanted in Idaho or not. His stories kept Barry and I in stitches ‘till about midnight. As he says, he was lucky to get out of that situation when he did ‘cause he was pretty close to becoming a really bad character. He could have stumbled into serious trouble.

Well, today Barry left, and Jay went to Sonsonate to see him off, and I went to El Maizal. We shot up the young rabbits today. 4 have already died, some kind of virus I think. Profy {Gomez} finally paid me for the plastic for the silo we made last fall. ¢45 extra makes it look like I’ll for sure be heading to Costa Rica in February. I just can’t wait! {some text not transcribed}

Jay got back late, bringing watermelon & muskmelon seeds to plant here at the rancho {beach house}. He’s hitting the sack early & I think that’s a fair idea.

Journal, January 14, 1976 PM

Barry’s still here, but things are quieter right now than last night. Jay’s getting a little paper hot air balloon ready to send off tonight. I’ve never seen him launch one before, so I’m looking forward to it.

It was a slow day today, we did less even than yesterday at El Maizal - still playing with the rabbits. We spent the afternoon on the beach. Jay and I went out neck-high and he caught a couple decent rides on waves. I just got beat around a bit!

Jay and Barry really get off on cutting down Peace Corps staff, and hearing them planning ways to pimp out John, Dave and Chico is a riot. Jay’s talking about living in Guatemala and collecting his salary from Peace Corps El Salvador, and he’s 80% serious.

I read the rest of the pamphlet put out by the U.W. {University of Wisconsin- Madison} Physics Department on the graduate program. The work being done in elementary particle theory seems to be their #1 priority and exciting. It might be the best field to look for a lab job in to start out, see if I like it. I lean toward astrophysics, and mathematical and theoretical physics as a preferred specialization, but I need to get deeper into the field & get a taste of what folks do in each specialty, to decide.

The full weight of what getting married would mean hit me in the hammock reading this afternoon. <Sofia probably wouldn’t be able to study in the States unless & until she mastered the language and started naturalization procedures.> If she keeps her Costarican citizenship, it could be real expensive (and I’d never try to force her to give it up!). Also, she won’t be in any position to work, so I’ll have to take a near full-time job and try to study on the side. I could do it, and if she keeps on being so “cariñosa” {affectionate} I’d love to have her with me, but the idea of postponing the marriage and going whole-hog into studying physics for a spring and summer, still appeals to me. It’d give me a chance to find out if its really what I want, and give her a chance to get through 2 years of college there. Then if she really doesn’t want to attempt college in the U.S. she’s still got 2 years - a good general background. I expect to put it all to her on my next trip, and see what she thinks. As Louie Michelson used to say, "What difference will it make 100 years from now?"

Journal, January 13, 1976 PM

I’m having a tough time getting thoughts together tonight because Barry Goldberg, a PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer} who just terminated, is here in the beach house and he and Jay are rapping away. I just can’t shut it out, and every once in a while they draw me into the conversation.

We finished the rabbit hutches for our expectant mothers today and that’s about all I accomplished. <I tried to call Morena - not there - and wrote a letter to Sofia that didn’t satisfy me.> I wonder if I really could keep the relationship with her going strictly by mail from back in the States for the better part of a year. After learning what real affection is, a year of “cold turkey” could be even more than a Spartan like me can handle. Shit, I’m not tired enough to sleep, may as well chuck this and write another quick letter.

Journal, January 12, 1976 PM

It was fucking cold last night, never would have believed you could have so much temperature change in one day back in Wisconsin. Or maybe we don’t notice it because of the heating and wearing heavy clothes.

We only worked the morning at El Maizal today - taking care of the rabbits and starting to build hutches on the backs of two more cages for the expectant mothers we have. So this afternoon I got my application for U.W. {University of Wisconsin- Madison} filled out and set to mail, and this evening I ripped off 3 letters - two more and I’m through the holiday rush! As Jay commented tonight, that postman in Metalío has got to be starting to wonder about all the letters we send to the U.S. I’ve sent 2 or 3 a day every day since I got back here! Maybe he figures we’re reporting boat traffic in and out of Acajutla for an unfriendly power (like Honduras)!

All those letters burned me out for today, so ...

Letter, January 12, 1976

Hi Donna,

I don’t have your address, so am writing you at home. I appreciate your writing me because I really hear very little about what you’re doin’ from Mom. For example, I knew you were in technical school in the Rapids {meaning Wisconsin Rapids}, but no one told me what you were studying or what kind of a career you were shooting for. When you get to be a dietetic technician you can try to analyze my diet – rice, red or black beans, white cheese, thick cream, a little meat, sometimes plantains or other vegetables, pop or "frescos" made of tamarind seed coating – lots of luck! Seriously, it sounds like you’re doing O.K. Hope you enjoy your on-the-job in Merrill. It should give you a pretty good idea what it will be like day-to-day on the job.

My mind is really ticking away since I got back from Costa Rica! I want to get my job here straightened around and headed in a positive direction. Today I filled out an application for the U.W. {University of Wisconsin – Madison} for next year. (I applied for all year but only figure on going second semester, after I get out of Peace Corps.) And I’m trying to stay out of San Salvador & save money so I can go back to Costa Rica in February! I don’t suppose you can see any logical connection between those 3 things, but I’m working it all up into an elaborate master plan which I expect to spring on the world when I finish working out the fine details!

I took a long ride on my ten-speed bike yesterday. I can really get off on just truckin’ along looking at the countryside & it’s great exercise too. I rode up to a beach called La Barra de Santiago which you have to get to in a little launch {boat} over some marshy backwaters. The ride in is beautiful, but the beach is littered with trash – too popular with the average guy! I can be fussy about where I swim since I have the ocean at my front door, and this beach has only private "ranchos" {beach houses} so it isn’t crowded & is very clean. I love watching the sun go down over the ocean so much that I took 3 pictures of it one night (they are in the roll I just sent home).

I’m reading my first book in Spanish – other than a translation of "Profiles in Courage" that I read some time ago. The title would translate as “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and it’s by a Colombian author. It’s a very entertaining book – which is good because I am always having to look up words in my 2 dictionaries (Spanish-Spanish or Spanish-English) and that can be tedious.

Well, I hope things continue to go well for you, and I’ll be lookin’ you up to say "hi" in another 10 or 11 months when I reach Yankee soil again! Hope I don’t have to wait ‘til then to hear more from you!

Take care,



Journal, January 11, 1976 PM

I got my exercise for the week this morning by taking the bike down to the Barra de Santiago. It was about 14 kilometers each way. The backwaters which you go through in the launch to get to the beach were pretty - lots of trees - but the beach was full of palm leaf covered huts & cheap dirty tiendas & comedors {stores & restaurants}. There was lots of garbage lying around and already quite a few people on Sunday morning. Obviously it’s a popular beach for the working class Salvadoran - a great place not to be for Semana Santa {Easter week}.

I came back to the rancho {beach house} and lied around all afternoon - read some more of "Cien Años de Soledad" {A Hundred Years of Solitude} - it’s entertaining and great for my Spanish vocabulary & comprehension, but I am ready to finish it and go on to something else.

Jay and I did some B.S.’ing. He thinks he could make it through M.I.T. and then be assured of a $25,000 starting salary. A great idea if a lot of other sharp young capitalists with more solid college records than Jay’s didn’t have the same idea. Jay thinks Americans should learn to accept a high unemployment rate as a natural consequence of our economic system and not look down on the unemployed guy, but give him the money to live on and let him work on crafts or study or whatever interests him. It may happen, but it’s not a life I could take or even accept so easily for the other guy while I was workin’.

Jay told me today that Cat was livin’ with another guy when he went back to the states. He told me before he left he was thinking of asking her to come down and live with him - even get married. It’s the second girl (that is that he’s mentioned) who he fell for too late, only after she was gone and he realized how much he missed her. Jay just can’t make up his mind in time. I worry ‘cause I’m a hem’er & a haw’er too. <If Sofia’s as good for me as it seems, better to jump right into it and not let her slip away while I’m thinkin’ it over!> Things may be tough at the start, but what the hell, they seldom turn out as bad as I can imagine them!

Journal, January 11, 1976 AM

How time does go by, it’s been a week now since I left Costa Rica. {some text not transcribed}

I got in a little dancing yesterday. There was an afternoon (Saturday) dance at El Maizal and Elena showed up, so I did some dancing with her. I told her I had a "novia" {girlfriend} in Costa Rica now and she just smiled - I don’t know if she took it as serious or no. I’m so honest with women I don’t even believe it! Yet, it’s a whole lot simpler and avoids all kinds of hassles - I just can’t take being hassled.

I told Professor Castillo how I thought the cattle project could be a big mistake for El Maizal and he agreed completely (and so readily it surprised me). That’s good for moral support, but to get it called off I’ll have to convince Fredy Saguerro, Profy Gomez and maybe Padre {Father} Serrano that 20 cows would not be in their best interest even if they are free. You can’t play this game of, "wait and see what we’ll do with them", with 20 head of cattle!

<I wrote to the University of Wisconsin (U.W.) and to the U.S. Embassy to ask questions concerning Sofia & her possible future status last night.> I also found a U.W. application blank which I think I can use to apply for next year. Figure I’ll apply in the fall for all year & then just go spring semester when I get back.


Journal, January 9, 1976 PM

Just finished writing the folks & I finally had to tape the envelope shut after trying 3 & no stickem! Jay made it back to Metalio today - brought his bike on the bus from Sonsonate. He really had a great trip. That ballooning project in Peru was apparently a really big deal even though I never read about it in the papers here. They set it off in the middle of the desert near the famous "lines" and flew it 3 minutes. He says there is a 77 year-old German archeologist who has spent 25 years there studying the amazing "lines" and other huge forms and trying to get the surrounding villages to protect them from careless tourists. She went ape shit over the ballooning expedition which brought government recognition of the value of this archeological wonderland and with it protection of the forms - for the sake of future tourists & archeologists.

Jay came back with all kinds of offers of possible work in future ballooning expeditions. The most concrete being the Central American ballooning meet to be held in Guatemala the last weekend in February. He figures to quit Peace Corps in March to go back to the U.S. and earn money for a ballooning venture in Guatemala in September. He’s just bubbling with plans & enthusiasm, but all for ballooning & none for El Maizal or Peace Corps.

He agrees with me that it’s foolish for El Maizal to get cows, but I don’t know if that’s good or bad because he doesn’t really want to do anything at El Maizal but hang around (and only mornings) anyway! Whit Lawrence says he’ll be ready to sign the contract with the CREDHO bosses for the picadora (silage chopper), scale & other stuff next week, so we got to make up our minds if we keep the illusion floating or throw in the monkey wrench fairly soon.

I filled out lots of rabbit cards today and did nothing else of even passing interest - save taking a picture of Alfredo & the goats (new babies & all), which I sent home to the folks for developing along with my Costarican photos!