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.