Journal, July 15, 1976 PM

God it’s ten to eleven; I just can not get to bed early this week! I went to the movie “Deranged” with Ed {Shiffer} tonight. I had vowed to go to it ever since I saw that it was in the country. The true story on which it is based happened perhaps 30-40 miles from where I live {in Wisconsin}, near the town of Plainfield, in the early fifties {1950s}. A middle-aged guy, who had lived many years alone with his mother on a run-down farm, went off the deep end when she died, robbed graves and ended up killing 3 women before he was discovered. His name was Ed Gein; in the movie they called him Ezra Cobb. It was a shitty movie. They overplayed the horror of his mother’s death (pea soup mixed with at least a gallon of coughed-up blood!), and his two final victims were prettier than necessary for the story line. They dwelled longer than absolutely required on the teenage girl’s bare breasts as he was gutting her out like a deer, etc. He killed her in season, and must have wondered why people got so excited!

About 3 years ago Ed Gein tried to get his case taken to court. He claimed he was sane. He’s been in a mental hospital all this time - no trial. They dismissed his petition. His is only one of the weird true case histories out of my area!

Work was routine today. I am busy now, & it seems that since I have something I want to do, they keep coming up with more stuff. Tomorrow I plan to play basketball during lunch break with the office “team”. I watched them play today - not much talent & lots of soft tummies. We’ll need to out strategize foes; after all we are Planificación {Planning}!

No letters written today; at least the weekend will soon be here. Steve Hayes says he has to be baptized before they will marry him in the church. If he finds a way to do it with minimum hassle, I may follow his lead. I am just Machiavellian enough to believe that any supreme being which may exist wouldn’t condemn me for going through a Christian ritual I inexplicably missed as a kid to facilitate the carrying out of that grand old traditional community sanctioning of sex, marriage.

Journal, July 14, 1976 PM

I plan to make it to bed by 10:30 tonight. It was tough ‘cause Jaime {Olson}, Miguel {Staigers} & Diego {Cox} are next door at Steve’s {Pamperin} and just getting ready for a game of cards. But after getting just 4½-5 hours of sleep each of the last 2 nights, I had to do it. I ate spaghetti with them tonight, & we’ve been B.S.’ing & beer drinking ever since. It’s time to call it a night. <I wrote to Sofia today on lunch break & mailed it from Peace Corps Office.> John Jones is out of town; I can’t talk with him about my transfer to Costa Rica. I have to get some things done this week: fix up the bike, ask Gerardo {Chavez} about making me a pair of pants & shirt, and get something written up on the Tamarindo and La Unión fishing coops. Only on the last {one} did I make progress today.

It is now 10:30 PM.

Journal, July 14, 1976 AM

I have a chest cold and feel dragged out. I went to a Peace Corps Agriculture Sector conference yesterday for the day. Steve Pamperin drove his Toyota Land Cruiser. I had gotten to sleep very late and so was about half alive all day. Because of this cold, I was wearing a denim jacket around while everyone else was in short sleeves & T-shirts. A lot of B.S. was in the air, between Volunteers and agency personnel. The agencies want to have more control of PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} and always want to know Peace Corps’ mission as a group. PCVs want more support from their agencies, but are leery about getting themselves into more paper work and more meetings.

I did talk to Chico {Rodriguez} though about transferring to Costa Rica for a year. He wants me to stay here, but is going to Costa Rica shortly, and promised to check out the job Juan Coward told me about through the U.N. {United Nations} farm at Turrialba.

I saw all of the pastures & forages {program} Volunteers (Fred {Tracy}, Diego {Cox}, Russ {Soules} & Mike {Staigers}) plus Dave Quarles. Sickness was the order of the day. Diego looks like a survivor of an extermination camp - very thin and pale. He’s been running a temperature lately and wasting away. The doctors don’t know why yet. Mike Staigers had stomach problems, & Dave has some kind of blood disease which makes every little sore he gets turn into a big pussy welt. He has one on his face which looks rough, but is on ampicillin to cure it.

Good old Ed {Shiffer} brought out my mail. I got home at 11 {PM} and began reading. U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} sent me a note saying my application never reached them, which is ridiculous because my folks signed and forwarded it from Friendship {WI}, & I got a letter afterwards asking for further info. for my financial aids application. They assumed I was a foreign student and sent me the appropriate forms {for that status}. <Sofia had one letter in the stack; I had hoped for more.> Dad, Jan & Gert {Verberkmoes} wrote, bless their hearts!

Journal, July 13, 1976 AM

It’s 25 to one {AM} and I have just showered and shaved to prepare for an early start tomorrow. Tica Bus got to San Salvador about 8 PM. I have spent a lot of time shooting the bull with Mike {Shank}, Steve {Pamperin}, Steve {Hayes} and finally Ed {Shiffer} who just got home at 10. It sounds like the July 4th party here was a real wild affair, with games, fireworks and Ed getting the drunkest he’d been since 1969 (by his own admission). I’m happy I was in Costa Rica having a mellower, more interesting time of it, but it must have been action packed here on the 4th.

I’m going to an Agriculture PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer} conference for the day tomorrow (at good ole Lake Coatepeque) so I will devote no more precious sack time to writing. Steve P. pulls out at 7 {AM}.

Journal, July 11, 1976 PM

Dateline Managua, I have had two Victoria Familiar beers, worth about 5 regular bottles. I read all the way here, practically. Of course we ran into other travelers in the eating place. Nothing about them strikes me. If my folks had had more money, perhaps I would be bumming around Latin America instead of in Peace Corps.

Journal, July 11, 1976 AM (Sunday)

Today it’s back on the road again. Managua at 19:00 hours, more or less.

<I am resigned to leaving, though I haven’t seen very much of Sofia, never ‘til after 6:30 PM except for yesterday and last Sunday.> We made the most of the time vouchsafed us however.

Yesterday we had all day together, from eight in the morning ‘til after nine at night. It was too much! Really, too much, because in a whole day you’re bound to see more of a person than the side they try to show you! <I manage to show my idiosyncrasies and general strangeness to Sofia even in short encounters, but she is more able to keep up a front for say an evening.> Anyway, when turned loose in the Mil Colores clothing store she showed true materialistic greed, wanting every other nice thing she saw. She is making a significant amount of money for the first time in her life in her secretary job, and I think, quite naturally, she’s reacting by wanting to get all those little things she’s never had her own money to buy before. It’s her money; I know I don’t have any {money} for frivolities!

<Jaime {Olson} bought his wedding suit - a nice proper light blue - and it seems I’ll have to buy a suit for his wedding too, since my dark green jacket is not in tune with the climate, Jaime’s suit or Sofia’s tastes.> I think they were half expecting me to buy a suit on the spot yesterday too. Sorry folks, no cash, and it would have detracted from Jaime’s moment.

<Sofia bowled 73, 76, 74 - consistent if not spectacular - while I went 120, 118, 85 - peaking early.> I don’t think I ever did that before! Jaime & Mike Galbraith were the stars of course; they know how to bowl you see.

<We went to Basico’s {the Peace Corps training center} final fiesta {party} in the afternoon, and Sofia got her jollies out of rapping with 2 trainees (both decent looking).> She has already learned how to “feed” words they can pick up to gringos {North Americans} with very limited vocabularies. She says one guy didn’t know she had a “novio” {boyfriend} (that’s me!) and was disappointed when I called her away to meet someone. Oh the precious little vanities of a very pretty young woman!

Journal, July 10, 1976 AM

Sometimes I can get so disgusted with Jaime {Olson}. He’s more of a gossip and matchmaker than any maiden aunt I might have had! <Last night we were at the Jardín Cervecero {a local bar} and he started in asking Sofia, “And what are you two going to do since Dean’s not coming back ‘til November?”> He knew exactly what her answer had to be since I had told him she was planning a trip to El Salvador. That gave him his opening to start talking about “La Mar”, a swank San Salvador restaurant where he & Pilar made their engagement official. <I had thought of taking Sofia there since it’s a nice place, etc., but there’s no way now. After the way Jaime dear went on about drinking Champaign there and how something might happen if we went there (heh, heh - shit!), there is no way in hell you’ll get me in that place with Sofia & her mother.> They’d be expecting me to go down on one knee as soon as we entered the joint! I’ll choose my own spots, thanks Jaime.

<Since I couldn’t crawl under my chair while Jaime was going on & on, I started making random wise cracks, and I think one or more of them must have pissed off Sofia because she was rather cool the rest of the evening.> I made some other comments, about how weddings were for the women, and how they went and made it so hard to get married in the church here when I didn’t want to get married in the first place. Surely these didn’t do much to earn me her favor either! I just can’t take all this earnest, dreamy wedding talk seriously. My God, are we supposed to go through a ceremony, which society stipulates to be able to live together, because we want to be together, or are we agreeing to try to get along for a lifetime so we can go through this ceremony which will fulfill her childhood dreams? <Sofia and Pilar have been brainwashed with too many romantic tales, but Jaime aught to know better.>

I took Orlando {Castillo Murillo} with me to Ojo de Agua yesterday morning. It was cold & rained some, but I got a good workout. Orlando is scared of the water, and though I tried to teach him a little about swimming he mostly stood around in the water & shivered. Poor kid, he’s so skinny!

I took a siesta in the afternoon - lazy life & boring. When I couldn’t take the inactivity anymore, I started reading Sartre. His discounting of Descartes’ second proof of the existence of God was fascinating, as has been the whole work so far, when it doesn’t get too involved in semantics for me to see the point of the arguments! How did Descartes get away with concluding the existence of the perfect being just because human consciousness seeks perfection? Anyway, philosophers don’t dare talk so blithely about a perfect or ultimate being today. We all know too much about the world and that surging, writhing mass of humanity which inhabits it to accept a philosophical proof of the existence of the perfect. We can’t even agree on what might constitute perfection. No one value system is universally recognized as legitimate!

Journal, July 9, 1976 AM

Wow, I’ve been sitting here 5 minutes without coming up with a starting point. It’s not really so surprising; yesterday was a day of pleasant but undramatic happenings. I went to Alajuela to get some wood prices from a lumber “deposito” {lumber yard} in the morning. Because of slow bus service it took all morning. After lunch I took a siesta & read a little Sartre. I had an idea for a newspaper article or letter to the editor, and wrote a few preliminary lines about the “New Economic Order” and who it would benefit. (Those who have wealth & power already in third world countries.) Some day, perhaps, I’ll research it and write up something worthwhile.

Jaime {Olson}, Pilar & Doña Marita came here to the Castillo Murillo home for a visit later in the afternoon. Doña Carmen loved it of course, & was at her smiling & gossiping best. We could barely get away at 4:30 when Jaime, Pilar & I had planned to go up to Jan & Mike Galbraith’s. Mike had his short wave radio going, so we heard the international news and B.S.’ed about U.S. politics, recent news events & of course sports. Mike is a fountainhead of information. He keeps himself well informed by listening to his short wave and buying U.S. papers & magazines regularly. It’s almost a shame that he dedicates most of his cerebral “up-time” to sports. He could be a great newspaper man.

<The evening was Sofia’s again.> She really seems definite about coming to El Salvador in September. She says she’ll leave here Friday the 10th and stay until the next week Saturday. Great, I’ll do some planning and save some money to make it a worthwhile trip. It will sure help the time go by faster in El Salvador. We are going to buy the ring in November. I’ll write home and have them send me down that $400 I sent home last fall when I was saving instead of spending money. We’ll probably get married next July, all depending on if I am with Peace Corps Costa Rica or on my own. And so forth.

Speaking of money, being Jaime’s best man will cost me some too. I may have to buy a suit for the wedding. Hopefully my present jacket and a new pair of pants, or a rented suit will do. I want to get up to Guatemala to get them a blanket for their wedding present. Time & money, prime problems of the capitalist (of whatever scale).

Journal, July 8, 1976 AM

Life continues. I feel an emotional “down” this morning. <No reason, just that I can only be here a week, and only see Sofia in the evenings, and there is no security that our situation isn’t going to get tougher after November.> If only I could count on a job in Peace Corps here or another short term job.

Jaime appears to have an excellent opportunity to be the training director for the El Salvador pastures and forages group to be trained in Neil Dingot’s center at La Guacima starting in January. The job could hardly fit his needs better. It pays well and lasts until March, so it will get him through the winter. And Neil said it is almost a sure thing. Jaime deserves the break. He’s been hanging around San Antonio, talking with Neil, Skip and those people every time he’s been down here in the last two years. He’s got the field experience in rural El Salvador, too.

I need to make myself a couple breaks! But how & what kind? My own ambivalence about throwing myself on the job market here is my biggest obstacle. I’ve decided that if the Peace Corps job doesn’t come through, I’ll take the semester of school, and try to cram in as much physics and math as I can handle. Maybe I could get a job as a tour guide come next summer, or drive someone’s car down here. God, but I’m a creature who loves security and none seems to be offering itself. <And it’s so hard for Sofia because she’s going to see even less of me, and even more than I, she needs the security of having her lover near her.> It’s going to be that way though, unless Peace Corps comes through. Asi es la vida de los pobres! {That’s the way the life of the poor is!}

Journal, July 7, 1976 AM

<I love Sofia.> I took her some assorted roses last evening; one of the most tangible fruits of Jaime’s {Olson} and my trip into San Jose yesterday. She’s a sucker for flowers like most women. They were especially fragrant (Ah!). I took up an English conversation book and we went through two units. <Sofia does pretty well on simple phrases & has a very good ear.> (When I pronounce a word she has no trouble imitating it.) It was fun; we made fun of the drawings in the book. After the lesson I told her how things went with Peace Corps Costa Rica in town. They would give us no security about getting jobs here. The director (acting) asked for a strong recommendation from John Jones {El Salvador director}, and said he doesn’t usually accept transfers. Juan Coward, the Agriculture PTR {program director} said he has 2 programs beginning in January which call for guys with our qualifications. However, he will try to fill the first with new recruits, and only if he comes up short at the last minute will he have a place for one or both of us. One program sounds especially interesting. Working through the U.N. {United Nations} experimental farm at Turrialba, 5 PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} will do experimental work with traditional multiple cropping systems in 5 different regions of Costa Rica. They will also collect socioeconomic data on the communities in which they work. Juan conceded that a person trained in Rural Sociology and with a farm background was just what he was looking for. He wants a strong recommendation from Chico Rodriguez, and a letter specifically requesting the chance to work under him. To deal with this situation I have devised a tentative plan. I will extend for two extra months in El Salvador (or until mid-December) and then terminate there with the understanding by all parties that my termination can be turned into a home leave if Juan calls me for one of his programs before mid-January. If Juan fills his programs and finds no place for me, I will already be enrolled in U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} for the semester. I can consider other upcoming Peace Corps programs while I study physics, and if nothing comes through I’ll come to Costa Rica in the summer & look for work. <Sofia took in all that and only lamented that she couldn’t figure a way to visit me n El Salvador in September, and go home with me for a while in December.> She might succeed in the first. She’s making 1,300 {Costarican} Colones a month ($150), and says missing university classes for a week is no problem. She also says the company where she works has an El Salvador office, and maybe she could talk them into letting her be the one who runs up there to take their orders one time. Right on girl, I love your enthusiasm. It’ll be a long time ‘til November, & I’ll do all I can to help if she wants to come up. I just don’t see how I could finagle another vacation though. If they check over my passport I’ll already be in trouble, and I have to get that vacation in November! <Sofia understands, and is trying her best to devise a counter plan.> God bless her heart!

Journal, July 6, 1976 AM

<I love Sofia.> On the way back from the {U.S.} Ambassador’s residence the 4th, she told me that she was really disgusted with a woman who had been sitting in front of us. She {the woman} was the type who always is trying to impress people with her culture. She tries to demonstrate how much better she is than her humbler fellow humans. She told a humble peasant woman who sat down beside her on the bus, “Vete, hay otros sientos vacantes {Go away, there are other available seats}. <Sofia heard her & hated her guts. Right on Sofia!>

<I drank 4 beers before I went up to see Sofia last evening.> She immediately noticed, & didn’t like it. I should only drink with her she said. I offered her a “menta Gallíto” {mint}. She laughed!

Jaime {Olson}, Donald & I went to Ojo de Agua for a swim yesterday morning. Fabulous, I felt so good, cold clean water & vigorous exercise. I invited the two of them to a beer afterwards. Rarely, rarely am I the first to buy a round!

Jaime & I went down to La Terminal {bar} in the afternoon to see if we could catch Neil Dingot. Jaime hopes for a job with his training center, possibly training the new El Salvador pastures & forages group in February. We only found cold beer there; Skip Baker showed up later! I may have committed the greatest cultural faux pas of my career. After 3+ beers I was in dire need of a place to relieve myself. The regular urinal was blocked off so I took a door that went out back which Jaime said he’d seen others going through presumably with the same intention. There was no john {bathroom} but I was out back & saw nobody around so I pissed under the eves. Skip surprised me in mid-stream & asked what I was doing, but didn’t seem overly upset. I went back in, & Jaime, without consulting me, headed for out back with the same mission in mind. He found no john and a woman on the porch of the house behind the bar. About face! What all she saw I don’t know.

Journal, July 5, 1976 AM

Well we managed to sample a little of the flavor of the U.S. Bicentennial. <Sofia & I caught about an hour of the celebration at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, Terence Todman.> Jaime {Olson} & Pilar left earlier with Jan & Mike Galbraith, so they got to see the 3 legged race, pie eating contest, egg throwing contest and other diversions which began at 9 or 9:30. I didn’t know a thing about the when or where of the thing when I wrote in this journal yesterday. About 8:30 AM I wandered over to Jaime’s toting a bottle of Lancer’s Rosé to check things out in general. <Jaime and the rest had left at 8, & apparently had completely forgotten (both last night & in the morning) that Sofia & I knew nothing about the deal.> I am one teaspoon full bitter; I just can’t figure it out. Only, it seems Jaime was a little spacey all yesterday, very lost in the dream he’s living these days. <Sin embargo {Anyway}, Doña Marita thought we should go, de todos modos {in any case}, so I double timed it up to Sofia’s {house}, now toting the big clay pot chicken I bought for her Mama.> They all liked the chicken and we went.

We heard a few patriotic songs, including the national anthems of the 2 countries, & speeches by Daniel Oduber, President of Costa Rica, & by Terence Todman. Oduber speaks good English & was very gracious - centering his talk on the Declaration of Independence and the inspiration it had been for the founders of other democratic states. Todman is so much better than Campbell (El Salvador’s U.S. Ambassador), it can’t help but strike you. He is a lean, handsome and energetic black man with a fine speaking voice. He talked about the importance of the individual & the vision which keeps bringing the U.S. back to its democratic principles in spite of frequent detours. For a few precious moments I was completely caught up in his supreme confidence in our endless pursuit of democracy, and I felt that blind rush of pride (which always threatens to overflow into arrogance, but never quite does!) so typical of us “Americans”.

Last evening we drank a toast to the U.S. birthday with a bottle of Lancer’s. (There may be a touch of fitting irony in the fact that the wine was produced in Portugal for a U.S. company - economic imperialism lives on!) Mike & Jan were there (at Pilar’s) and later we retired to the Jardín Cervecero {literally Beer Garden}. <Mike, Jaime & Ricardo (a {Peace Corps} trainee) talked sports while I entertained Sofia & Pilar.> I have more & more trouble getting into these “heavy” sports discussions. (‘Joe Dimaggio was better than Hank Aaron’ [Mike]; ‘Jim Brown & O.J. Simpson are better than Gale Sayers, but he was the most exciting runner ever.’ [Jaime & Mike]; ‘Frank Howard hit a line {drive} through the pitcher’s legs that cleared the wall!’, etc.)

Journal, July 4, 1976 AM (Sunday)

Today is the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. I feel that I am missing something special by not being in the U.S., in Friendship Wisconsin, for today. The 4th is always a big day for the small town. Most of the celebration is on a community level, the parade, the chick-nic, fireworks.

Sartre says that people can never fit our expectations of them. Because they have existence they overflow our narrow & specific views of them on all sides. <That’s sure true of people in general here in San Antonio & doubly of Sofia.> The Campos family has baby goats; Doña Carmen has pullets {baby chickens}; <Sofia’s brother broke his ankle & is laid up in bed. And Sofia is fresh, busy, willing, cautious, content and worried all at once.> It’s just nice to be with her instead of off in El Salvador. There is really so little of importance you can communicate by mail. It’s so easy to miss the whole point. Here we can argue & both be adamant & know it’ll work out.

Journal, July 2, 1976 PM

In Managua {Nicaragua} where I began this diary last December. I’ve been at it over 6 months steady - hard to believe.

We hustled to catch a bus in San Miguel this morning, got to the border real early. We ate and had to wait ‘til almost noon for the Tica Bus to arrive.

I spotted a pottery shop I had never noticed at the border before, and bought a classic Honduran chicken clay pot for $1. <It’s a gift for Sofia’s mother, for the chicken she’s given us to eat on the road on our last two partings from Costa Rica.> I hope I can get it there unchipped.

We caught the bus & had some interesting chats with fellow travelers. Two Canadian university professors on a junket through Latin America had interviewed two Molina {Salvadoran President Arturo Armando Molina} aids & felt he was doing all that was “politically possible” for the people. A guy who has a sister in Peace Corps Nicaragua & plans to check out Peace Corps & possibly join. A Minnesota boy now from California who did a study of international volunteer programs, including Peace Corps, and now is on a 2 month “get your feet wet” trip with the Central American Mission. (He gave me Jesus literature.) A fellow Wisconsin boy who is between jobs & interests after working in radio & T.V. in the Virgin Islands. (He likes Peace Corps, may move out west, may go back to the Virgin Islands, has to decide soon . . .) A native Costa Rican who lives in Guatemala & went to highschool in Indiana. His folks have bread {money}; he is studying law to use it in business. He doesn’t like the idea of being a capitalist but would like to show people: “I have bread, cars, etc., but I work my ass off & love it, man!” <At 7 AM the bus leaves & I hope Sofia is planning to be at the airport.> It would sure hurt if she’s changed her mind. A shower & bed!

Journal, July 1, 1976 PM

San Miguel, pearl of the orient, and here we are, Jaime {Olson} & I getting ready to take a shower and be ready to hit the road at about 7 AM. Tom Morgan finally made it out to Anamorós at 10 AM for a meeting of ganaderos {cattle farmers}. (He had promised to be there by 8:30.) He had only had an hour’s sleep this morning & we had to feed him breakfast before he was ready to function. Tom’s a ‘good old boy’ from Rhode Island, and a red haired drinkin’ Irishman, don’t you see!

The meeting went well and we hit the road for San Miguel about 12:30. I’ll never see Anamorós again, another glimpse of campo {rural} life in El Salvador - good people stick out. I retain a picture taken of the barbwire fenced central park & the ancient-looking church.

San Miguel, we are spending the night with Mark & Holly Roddy, the indomitable Al Whiteneck and Dan Walters; Tom is staying too. Jaime & I met Mike {Staigers}, Diego {Cox} & Fred {Tracy} downtown for beer and talk in the afternoon. My training group, the survivors, are all so self-effacing & introspective, it is pleasant to just hang around in their company, but I feel like time’s-a-wasting. “Antsy”, we {my siblings and I} called it in Dad. I need to be involved in purposeful activity. I feel it even more here tonight. Our hosts are card players, beer drinkers, dope smokers, time passers. I don’t know if my dissatisfaction with that approach to life is rational. Perhaps I’m a self-righteous stiff going briskly nowhere. I’m just restless & vaguely dissatisfied, but they have recent Times {magazines} & tomorrow begins another pilgrimage to Costa Rica.

Journal, July 1, 1976 AM

I got to see a little bit of Jaime’s {Olson} territory & meet a few of his “ganaderos” {cattle farmers} yesterday. It was fun riding around on the motorbike and being introduced to the various farmers. There was always lots of handshaking, lots of “mucho gusto” and “A la orden” {local greetings}. I was forever explaining what I do in Peace Corps and how I happen to be Jaime’s friend. I usually let Jaime explain most of it, but once in a while I was called upon for a few choice words. Jaime makes a good extensionist because he never hurries away from people. He’ll B.S. with them and end up making them feel their problem is genuinely important to him, & that he’s really concerned that they solve it. I would get too bored to keep up that front day in & day out, but Jaime seems to enjoy his work.

Diego {Cox} came by to get the bike in the evening. He’s gotten his wallet stolen; trusts the people too much. He left it in his room, left the room unlocked & someone got it. It’s nice to be trusting, but people don’t appreciate the value of a trusting soul here. The competition to get material things is too intense!


Images, July 1976

Display for the day of Sagrada Corazón de Maria {Sacred Heart of Mary} in the home of Gerardo Chavez and Maria Tereza de Chavez near where I lived for 4 months in Santa Tecla. Ed Shiffer is in the back door.

Sacred Heart of Mary the Virgin was celebrated by the Gerardo Chavez family with a flowerbedecked altar in one corner of their small apartment & store.

The newly planted central park & the old church in the town where Jaime {Olson} spent 2 years as an agriculture extensionist.

Journal, June 30, 1976 AM

I have now spent my first night ever in Anamorós and frankly it was a bore! I got here about 2:30 PM, waited an hour for Jaime {Olson} to show up, met some locals, B.S.’ed with him and that was it. Jaime likes to shoot the bull, and going around to see his friends & shoot the bull was all we did. The trip out here was more interesting!

I came out as far as San Miguel with Steve Pamperin & his Dutch work collaborator Yelle. Yelle is an interesting guy. Now a U.N. {United Nations} pasture specialist, he was a sailor & went around the world, and thinks North Americans are rich because he saw so many vacationing during his worldly travels! He is fed up with the social situation in El Salvador - beggars, everyone trying to double charge or swindle you, the chronic drunks, etc. We talked about the potential for change, but didn’t come up with much. He likes the family farmer model, give everyone 10 manzanas {a local unit of area equal to about 1.72 acres} of land - a modern Thomas Jefferson! How it could come about without wanton anarchy & a blood bath is the rub!

Journal, June 28, 1976 PM

Tomorrow I’m off for Anamorós and a few days of “roughing it” with Jaime {Olson}. Steve Pamperin is going out that way so he has promised to give me a ride as far as San Miguel. I have to help him do some tests on 2 pasture plots on the way though! We leave at 6:15 AM.

<I got no letter from Sofia today; my last letter from her is stamped June 8, and I am vaguely disconcerted about the fact.> I have no real reason to doubt that it’s just a “routine” mail holdup, but what if? It will be reassuring to have Jaime tell me Pilar has written him & confirmed she knows we’re coming & all. <If she knows, Sofia knows, and I’d hope Sofia would write me if she didn’t want me to come.>

<I bought shoes today (ADOC “hush puppies”) and a bauble for Sofia.> The bauble is to be hung on a leather thong Jan left here & put around the neck. It’s kind of big for a bauble, but I hope it looks all right on her. I can never find the thing I really want when gift shopping!

I’ve ordered a pair of glasses from La Joya to replace my stolen ones. I have to pay 31 Colones because Peace Corps will only pay up to 100 Colones to replace glasses. I’ll have to take good care of these new ones! No wearing them for football games!

I only got prices from one lumber yard today. I got bogged down in the glasses bit (I had to talk to John Jones {Peace Corps Director} & Dr. Zavaleta.), and in checking on my bus pass at the Public transport Office. My bus pass wasn’t ready, but I’m taking Russell’s {Soules} & Jaime’s out to them. And after hunting down their office!

I treated myself to a good lunch at the vegetarian place Restaurante Florida. They always have good torts, stuffed peppers and other “rare” vegetable dishes from here, yet the atmosphere is like a rural comedor {restaurant}. Go up and pick out what you want, etc. They have excellent “frescos” {fruit drinks}. I stopped by DGRD {Dirección General de Riego y Drenaje}, my old work place, to see if they had printed up a good copy of my study. I had trouble finding the Project Atiocoyo folks. They’ve been shoved off in a corner on the 5th floor. They have also switched “jefes” {bosses}, but Ing. {Ingeniero or Engineer} Madrid (a Colombian who is a special consultant for the contractors) is still there, & we had a good talk. He cited my study on a couple points in a report he sent to BID {Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo or Inter-American Development Bank), and right now he wants a copy of the study to send to them. He says there are copies around and promised to get me one.

He says San Isidro is embroiled in problems (political & administrative), and that the relocation of farmers has been indefinitely postponed. He doubts they’ll ever do it. He says ISTA {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria or Salvadoran Institute of Agrarian Reform} isn’t doing anything and doesn’t even keep control of the people renting or buying from them. We agreed that only the name was changed from the ICR {Instituto de Colonización Rural of Rural Colonization Institute}. The inundated part of the iceberg has not been touched. (I personally would recommend dynamite rather than a chisel for restructuring that agency!) That’s such a problem in this country; agencies become fiefdoms. You can form them, but it’s politically impossible to abolish one or even combine two! Outside of the San Isidro sector though the project is doing OK says Madrid. It’s a year or so behind, but the abundant rain this year should help their selected farmers in Atiocoyo and Nueva Concepción pay off BFA {Banco de Fomento Agripequario or the Agricultural Development Bank} and make some money.

Ed’s {Shiffer} seriously considering getting an $800 operation done on his back. The doctors say it’s the only way he can be sure not to have recurrences of that Sunday when he couldn’t even get out of bed. It comes at a bad time with a possible job with Foster parents Plan in Colombia pending. I think his best bet is to do it right away if he’s going to do it, & hope the Colombian opportunity doesn’t materialize for a couple months. There’s supposedly a top specialist here, & he could take some of his Peace Corps vacation days & just sit around here. He’s got me & the neighbors to look after him!

Journal, June 27, 1976 PM (Sunday)

Gerardo and his family (they have a tienda {store} on the corner near our apartment) had a special {religious} service for the sacred heart tonight. They made a beautiful altar in a corner of their house, surrounded it with gladiolas, lit it with Christmas tree lights, and prayed to it for about 45 minutes. They observed the Salvadoran custom of sending off rockets & setting off “bombs” to announce the event. Afterward they served coffee and sweet bread, of which Ed {Shiffer}, Steve Pamperin & I partook. I took 2 pictures of the service & promised to get the negatives for Gerardo, so he could make copies.

Our young Episcopalian friends left for mass this morning, amid pouring rain, never to return, probably. Ed is going to get another set next weekend, but by then I’ll be in Costa Rica. I had forgotten what brash, self-assured (but in spite of it fresh & ever inquiring) folks highschoolers are.

Journal, June 26, 1976 PM

Ed {Shiffer} brought in not one, but 4 teenagers from Miami to sleep in our house last night. I was awake when they came in at about 11 PM, but didn’t let them know it. There are 2 girls & 2 guys, and tonight Ed had about 10 more friends over, & we went out for pupusas {Salvadoran snack food} and beer. It was wild; for church kids they sure do drink and like to be rowdy! I had forgotten what U.S. highschool kids were like. My God what a bunch! I don’t feel up to describing all that we went through. So I will pass for tonight.

Journal, June 25, 1976 PM

Another day without mail. <Wouldn’t it be amazing if Sofia wrote me a dear John letter!> Estimado Juan, ya no te quiero, vete! {Dear John, I don’t love you any more, go away!} I’m going to Anamarós Tuesday, so Monday is my last chance for mail before I go to Costa Rica. <Nevertheless, I wrote a letter (to Sofia) and a birthday card (for sister Marcia) tonight.> Marcia is a 4th of July baby. We used to have her cake & give her presents the 5th because there was always so much else going on the 4th. It had to bother her having her birthday largely ignored due to the national holiday, but now that she’s going to be 28 I bet she’d just as soon it was forgotten entirely.

Work was anxiety producing today, I couldn’t put together a write-up of how social factors relate to DGRNR’s {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables’} work which I liked or found particularly useful. I have a good theoretical section for a start, complete with eloquent quote, but when I get down to writing about the application it all seems so trivial as to not merit the theoretical “overhead”. I have trouble convincing myself that what I’m doing is meaningful applied sociology, and not just glorified bullshitting. I’m not even entirely certain there is a nonsubjective distinction between the two!

Ed’s {Shiffer} not home yet at 10 PM, and he said he was bringing some Kentucky highschool kid home with him. A group was supposed to arrive today to work with CREDHO at El Maizal. Maybe they’ll finally get the corn planted! I guess if I go to bed, Ed will come home with the kid & wake me up. Anyway it’s worth a try!

Journal, June 24, 1976 PM

I finished that dense and stilted intro. to Sartre last night, so today at lunch break when I started reading the real thing, I was pleased to find Sartre very down to earth and readable, even though he is discussing heavy stuff. I think I may even finish the book one day.

I got an inspiration at work today. I decided it would be worth my effort just to get something written down about the “factores sociales” {social factors} related to DGRNR’s {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables’} work. It will give me an orientation & give them an idea of where my head is at, what perspective I’m bringing to my work right now.

I got an outline of what I want to do together this afternoon and should get it written up tomorrow. I’m adapting well to pacing myself (which means keeping productivity low, not pushing), to appear to be occupied at the office.

Still no mail! Jaime is staying over tonight & he got a letter from Pilar today. <Sofia has abandoned me!>

Steve Pamperin and I went to a concert (symphonic) tonight. It was pleasant. I haven’t been since I took music appreciation in college. Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” was the show piece. The concert was dedicated to the U.S. bicentennial. Our Ambassador William Campbell gave a short speech (in horrendous Spanish) during intermission. Earlier in the evening I had knocked his glasses from his left hand while shaking hands with him! I got a common impression from seeing him and from seeing the paintings (reproductions of course) of Revolutionary War figures (Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams). Politics is the arena of pale, flabby-faced and somewhat enfeebled middle-aged men. The reproductions show Jefferson jowly, Franklin obese, Washington a little flabby. I shan’t bring them down to Campbell’s level though! As Ed Shiffer says, Campbell is the ideal type of the purely political appointment of a man to government office. But what man would want to be Ambassador to El Salvador?

Journal, June 23, 1976 PM

More of the working for the government doldrums, I accomplished big zero at DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} today. I am still in the introduction to Sartre, yawn! And here I stand in my birthday suit trying to decide what (if anything) that I did today is worth recording for posterity. <I got no letters; Sofia has surely dumped me!> Lucky I really didn’t want to get into U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} this fall. I think they have chucked my application or sent their reply by Pony Express! No trip to Tamarindo & La Unión this week. They are getting out the budget report at the office. Tomorrow promises to be another dull one. I hope my “Scientific American” arrives to save the day soon! I’ve got to put that Sartre intro. behind me tonight.

Journal, June 22, 1976 PM

No tremors this afternoon or tonight, thank God. There was one early this morning, before I left the house to run laps. Yesterday I felt one at work & the day before there were 3, the last (at 5 PM) so strong Ed & I decided not to double-bolt the front door, to facilitate our leaving “enseguida” {quickly} in case of a strong one in the night. They don’t do much for my jittery nerves!

Yeah, I ran 3 laps around the big track in the “coffee plantation” this morning. I really felt good & my stamina surprised me. I’ve felt good all day; wish I had time to do it every morning.

I wrote a letter to Jan, all about recent hassles & hopes for my job & possibly an extension in Costa Rica. I wrote Gert too, about the weather, my job, the accident, etc. A “dear granny” type letter, but I think she would take offense at being described as a grandmother figure. Mother Gert Gary Fritz used to call her and she seemed to approve.

I went to a local lumber yard & got some wood prices for DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}, only one though. I got hung up on filling out a form for John Jones - reimbursement for my stolen glasses. I had to go to La Joya (opticians) and see what it would cost to replace them. 132 Colones ($53) is what a comparable pair is worth. That is almost certainly less than mine cost to begin with.

I’m still on the introduction to Sartre’s philosophical book, dense, dense writing. I think I’m going to like Sartre’s approach to philosophy though. He doesn’t buy “transcendental egos” and “white hands”.

Letter, June 22, 1976

Dear Jan,

Your letters always bring me such joy! Now I know that even if I don’t lose all my hair from taking malaria pills, I still have a shot at getting a mutated form of yellow fever! But then, some friends have had malaria, & that’s no piece of cake either.

I have the day off today since it’s Dia del Maestro (Teachers' Day) - all government employees are off. I plan to do some work anyway though, go to a few lumber yards to collect price data for a study Natural Resources is doing. Tomorrow I leave for the campo {rural zone} to spend 3 days. We are going to pass a questionnaire to 120-130 fishermen who are members of co-ops in La Unión & El Tamarindo on the east side of the country. I should get a chance to swim while out there. Tamarindo is a popular beach & much safer than Metalío.

I have been having my hassles lately. A week ago last Thursday, I was involved in a car accident with the Peace Corps pickup. I was driving & all alone coming back from the east side of the country where I had helped another Volunteer deliver sorghum seed. Out in front of the airport a truck full of {live} hogs went to change lanes when I was right beside him in the left lane & hit me of course. He then hit a bus from behind & hooked my back bumper so I hit the bus too. Would you believe I no more got out of the pickup than a Guardia {National Guard} grabbed me, said it was my fault and tied my thumbs together behind my back! Only in El Salvador! When they discovered I was a gringo {North American} & Cuerpo de Paz {Peace Corps} they changed me over to handcuffs, but it was about 20 minutes before things were straightened out and they released me. God, what a scare. No one was hurt in the accident - we weren’t going that fast - which makes it all the more unbelievable what they did! It’s more or less in the hands of the insurance company now.

On top of that, last week at the Peace Corps conference, I broke my glasses playing football (American), so I took them in to show the doctor and it appears they were stolen out of the Peace Corps Office! I can’t find them anywhere & I’m pretty sure they won’t be found ‘cause I only went in 2 rooms after seeing the doctor, and I searched them thoroughly. I may have to file a police report in order to get them replaced - hassles, hassles!

I hope to go to Costa Rica for a week around July 4th. I’ll celebrate the bicentennial down there. <Another possibility has occurred to me concerning me & Sofia.> I might extend for another year in Peace Corps if they let me transfer to Costa Rica. <I’m antsy to get back to the U.S. and get into Physics if that’s going to be my career, but if Sofia’s goin’-a-be my woman it’s almost masochistic for both of us to be separated 6 months, get married & put noses to the grindstone.> Also, I’d rate a 30 day paid leave in the U.S. for extending. If I could take it over Christmas it would be A-1. I want a worthwhile job if I extend though. Vamos a ver {We’ll see}! You’re right about the companionship aspect. You never are as lonely until you know how good a loving person can be for you. I miss your conversation too!


Dean (the bean)

Journal, June 21, 1976 PM (Monday)

Some days I conclude that I will never do anything useful in my life. Today for instance. I went to work at DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}, read some socioeconomic development studies, took a few notes. I had my 3 egg salad sandwiches for lunch, then started reading the introduction to “The Philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre”. Doubt I’ll ever finish it; philosophy is so tedious with its intricate logical arguments. Even the introduction is tedious! I put together a questionnaire (literally, with a stapler), actually 138 with Mike’s {Shank} help, to use in El Tamarindo & La Unión. Wednesday, Thursday & Friday we’ll be out there. I went by Peace Corps {Office} and found that Dr. Zavaleta hasn’t seen my glasses. So it really looks like someone stole them. Whatever for is beyond me! Jaleh isn’t ready to buy the idea that they were stolen yet, but I have no alternative explanation. The point is I did nothing to further my important goals in life all day. I neither did anything of significant value nor did anything to help capacitate myself to be useful later on. Most people live out their lives like this & don’t give it much thought, but I have no desire to be like most people.

I ran into Russ Soules at Peace Corps {Office}. He is “arreglando” {arranging} stuff for his wedding. He has to get a baptism certificate, a certificate of being single from his family’s church (!), and a certified clean police record from his hometown, as well as the birth certificate signed by {Secretary of State} Henry Kissinger and all his underlings down to the local Registrar of Deeds! And they’re starting to ask for money (75 Colones for the cathedral, 100 Colones for the priest, 30 Colones to stamp his papers from the U.S. Plus here the groom foots all the miscellaneous wedding bills including the reception. Poor Russ, he’s never been good at saving money! I shudder to think I’m headed toward the same snare in Costa Rica! (I sent a letter out to the culprit this very morning!)

It’s a free day tomorrow, Dia del Maestro {National Teachers Day}. I figure to go check out a couple lumber yards to get some wood prices I promised my counterpart (& now Mike {Shank} too). It’s only a holiday for government employees. I think I’ll get up early & run tomorrow. See if I can’t get myself fired up to get my life back on a goal-oriented track. I ought to fix up my bike to sell it, & start studying calculus again, and get my body back in shape. I have to live out this month on very little cash. I put 200 Colones in dollars for the Costa Rica trip and bought my ticket (90 Colones) so now I’m chronically short on bread {money} until next month’s check comes in.

Journal, June 20, 1976 PM

I started in on Anne Frank’s diary again this morning and finished it before supper. I am obliged to retract my previous statement. The girl used metaphors worthy of an accomplished writer, and wrote about some very heavy stuff. I am duly impressed, but even more so by her essential charm and humanity under duress. What might have been had she survived? Ah, those saddest of words again!

<I succeeded in writing to Sofia tonight over a glass of blackberry wine.> The wine was “regular” {just OK} but the letter was pretty good, I think. <I try so hard to be perfectly honest and open with Sofia, that at times it cramps my pen hand!> One can’t be sure what he really does think or feel until he puts it down & reads it over. Thinking is a creative process, and writing it down is another!

Journal, June 20, 1976 AM

Boy I started yesterday in a psychological hole! <I began a letter to Sofia and it was so depressing I balled it up & chucked it.> About the only two useful things I did all yesterday was catch up on news, El Salvador & the world. I went to Peace Corps Office & actually read yesterday’s “New York Times” yesterday, a rare treat! I also bought food for the week. I’ve got the beans cooking right now. I did mail a love letter for Jaime {Olson}, and made a thermos full of yogurt. That was it!

I started in on Anne Frank’s diary again last night, while picking out the bad beans & foreign matter from my pound of “frijoles negros” {black beans}. I’m impressed with the depth of thought of a 13 year old, & her ability to make a coherent story out of her entries. Of course if it weren’t for the wartime situation, their hiding out, etc., etc. the book wouldn’t have had the wide readership it’s enjoyed. It’s not great writing; you read for the story.

Journal, June 18, 1976 PM

Back from the conference, I have Jaime {Olson} & Miguel {Staigers} as house guests tonight. They are both busily reading at 11 PM.

Jaime and I shot the whole evening B.S.’ing with Art & Lila Eisenhower. Jaime talks slowly & uses so many words to describe everything that I sat there fighting the urge to yawn. Doc. {Art} is always worth listening to though. He knows everything that goes on in the agency, and is always pushing something else. He’s a man of great knowledge & experience (in veterinary medicine & life) and tremendous initiative. I hope I have his energy when I have his years!

We had a wrap-up at the conference this morning. All the reports of discussion groups were given - neat and orderly. Jay Hasheider gave his history of Peace Corps El Salvador, we packed up & headed out.

I managed to lose my glasses (the ones I broke yesterday playing football) in Peace Corps Office. For a while I thought they’d been stolen I was so frustrated! Now my best guess is that Dr. Zavaleta put them in his pocket by mistake and took them home. The nurse claims he does such things, & she knows him.

John Jones says the insurance company wants to handle the accident business completely. They want the next hearing appointment sent directly to them. John is wary, afraid they want to settle & leave it on the record that I was at fault. He wants them to get tough & not pay out any money for damages to other vehicles, so I may still get involved in the litigations. I’m with John, they are all too willing to soak the gringos {North Americans} for money, & I don’t need responsibility for an accident on my record!

Journal, June 18, 1976 AM

The conference ends today at noon. It’s just as well; it’s become very old. We had group discussions & sector meetings yesterday, hashing over the perennial problems of Peace Corps.

I had sulfur burps and a very sore, upset stomach just about all day yesterday. I was farting all the time & the gas wouldn’t let me sit still comfortably for even 5 minutes. I downed 6 diarrhea pills before bed & think I have it licked now.

We had a second football game yesterday, and my team won 12-6 this time. We played with flags & a full-time serious ump. What fun to get a chance to play touch football. The most popular game of my growing up makes me feel back in the States.

No word from the Policia del Transito {Transit Police}. They didn’t come & get me. Jay {Hasheider} & Conrad {Ebish} sent off 2 successful balloons right after the football game. No liquor all yesterday, a relief considering the shape my stomach was in.

Journal, June 17, 1976 AM

It was a full day. I have been eating so much that my stomach has been working 24 hours, no rest. Last night after supper (4 hamburgers, 3 ears of yellow sweet corn, 2 bananas, salad, French fries & milk), I was so full it hurt to breathe deeply, & I could only drink one beer and that a couple hours after.

I got a letter in the morning from the Policia del Transito {Transit Police} telling me to be at a “diligencia” {arraignment} this morning at 11. John Jones recommended we send it back with a statement that I was out of town for the week, & ask them to reschedule it. I assume that was done. I’m nervous about the whole thing. I have never been to court before anywhere & don’t know what’s going on.

We had all our fine meetings & I learned a little about Peace Corps paperwork. I took a nice swim at noon. What a lake, cool, clear, huge & all in a dormant crater!

We had a real American football game at 4:30. It ended in a tie 0-0, but I got all scratched & scraped up & had a great time! After supper it was Volunteer entertainment. Hank Nebel did some decent classical & folk guitar. What talent for a physicist! They say he can cook too. Later Dave Loomis, who I don’t know at all, played some beautiful & difficult Latin ballads. It was a very mellow time, but I nearly fell asleep I was so bloated.

I ran this morning & did calisthenics to make room for breakfast.


Journal, June 15, 1976 PM

Russell {Soules} just gave us a few notes on his “harp” {harmonica}, and Peter Brooks is taking a piss just outside the front door. It’s 10:30, the beer is gone, Conrad {Ebish} has long since shown his slides. There are card games going on in many cabins, & a stereo is playing soul music. It’s the first night of our second annual Peace Corps Conference - site, Lake Coatepeque.

I had 2 boxes of Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken for supper, plus popcorn, 5-6 beers, a glass of milk & 2 Cokes. God the things I do to this poor old stomach.

I had a talk with Peter Bissell, one of my roommates, about nothing special. We agreed that Peace Corps is OK for a couple years, but no more! And we think it’s a bummer they didn’t show the Foreman-Frazier fight on T.V. tonight.

Peace Corps boss John Jones says he’s let some embassy people know about me getting tied up, etc. by the police, & he isn’t happy about it, especially in the wake of the more serious incident with John Newton. I’d just like to see it all blow over without further hassle. The uneducated, sullen guardia {soldiers} just played tough with the wrong guy, but it didn’t get out of hand. I kept my cool and it came out all right, so let it ride. (If it were up to me!)

<I got a letter off to Sofia & a card to Dad (Father’s Day) before leaving Santa Tecla on the chartered bus to come here.> Work this morning was routine & uneventful. I got my vacation form signed to head out for Costa Rica in July.

Journal, June 14, 1976 PM

I had 5 beers, no six, and am feeling pretty carefree yet tonight. I went out to have a beer with Jaime {Olson} & Mike Staigers, and that’s always a fatal mistake.

Work was routine today. I worked on the questionnaire for La Unión & Tamarindo, & read over Chico Rodriguez’s job description with DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables, the Salvadoran government natural resources agency}. I also read about Galileo’s military compass or “sector”, & about Nile crocodiles in “Scientific American.” I asked Jaleh at Peace Corps Office, and there has been no word from the Policia del Transito {Transit Police} or from the insurance company, so perhaps I’m home free on the accident business. I have my doubts though.

I got a letter from Jan. She is busy, says she misses my companionship, and is trying hard to save money. She hopes to make the jump to Belize or Costa Rica in August of 1977. I hope she doesn’t lose sight of the goal by then, or maybe it’s better if she does. I don’t know. I think she’s in danger of letting her life stagnate if she doesn’t make some decisive move within a couple years. A new culture is one way.

I promised to go to work tomorrow, so I desperately need to get some sleepin’ done, now!

Journal, June 13, 1976 PM

Another lazy day at home. Jaime {Olson} came in tonight. He says Chico {Rodriguez} is going to talk to a buddy in Peace Corps Costa Rica, and help us get jobs there. It sounds like a good idea. Jaime has sure come around fast on the idea of staying a year in Costa Rica!

Tomorrow it’s back to work, so I’m going to shave tonight. Oh what a tough life!

Letter, June 13, 1976

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

Thanks for the letters and pictures. It really seemed like a long time since you’ve written though it probably didn’t seem so long to you since you’re in one of your busiest times of the year. <I guess I’ll have to teach Sofia not to put her thumb in front of the lens when she takes pictures!>

Telling me about what everyone’s doing there makes me feel like I’m missing a lot! You’re all going to forget I’m a member of the family and treat me like a stranger when I come home. But then the same thing would have happened if I’d gone away to school somewhere.

I’m working for the DNR {Department of Natural Resources} of El Salvador now. I got sick of the shoddy way things were done at El Maizal (or in many cases not done!) and have gone back to working in sociology. I work for the department of planning at the Natural Resources Department and for the first time ever I have a counterpart – a native {meaning Salvadoran} sociologist who I’m assigned to work with. I think I have more of a chance to be productive in this job than in the others I’ve had here. There are still things I don’t like, but I think it would be the same working in a government job in the U.S. I hope to have some input into a major study the department will do of a watershed in the northcentral part of the country with grave erosion problems. El Salvador is just discovering the value of integrated resource planning & they have a long way to go.

Boy I got the living shit scared out of me last Thursday! I got into a car accident coming back to San Salvador from helping deliver sorghum seed on the east side of the country. I was alone, driving the Peace Corps pickup (the 4th time I’ve driven anything but a motorcycle in a year and a half). I was hit in the right side by a guy trying to change lanes to avoid stopping behind a parked bus. I don’t think he realized I was there until he hit me. I sounded my horn, but it’s pretty soft in that truck. Anyway, he scraped my door, hit the bus, and my back bumper hooked his front one causing me to spin part way around, and hit the bus with my front end too. No one was hurt, but when I got out of the pickup, some dude from the National Guard had already decided it was convenient to blame it all on me & he grabbed me and tied my thumbs together behind my back as I stood there incredulous! Recently another Volunteer got thrown in jail overnight on a trumped up charge & came out with hepatitis, so I was pretty nervous. After finding out I was a gringo {North American} & Peace Corps & all they replaced the rope (it really cut off circulation!) with handcuffs, but I must have spent 20 minutes or more in the handcuffs before they listened to my version of what happened & decided I was not a dangerous criminal. The next day I filled out an insurance report and Peace Corps says they’ll take care of it now, but what a scare!

This week we’re going to have a conference for all PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} at Lake Coatepeque – same place as last year. I hope to go to Costa Rica for a week early in July – in fact I expect to be there for the 4th. Right now I’m scouting around for miniature U.S. flags and fireworks (especially fireworks!) for the celebration. Congratulations to Carla on her graduation! Take care all you folks!


Journal, June 12, 1976 PM

<I wrote to Sofia today.> That was about the extent of my creative endeavor. I told her all about my bummer day Thursday, & that I bought my ticket to go see her! I topped it all off by telling her I want to take her to bed, ya {now}! , and that I believe she ought to become a poet! Something in that letter is bound to elicit an emotional response! I hope it gets to her a good while before I get down there. There’s almost no chance I’ll get a reply to it before I go, but then I’d prefer her reaction in person!

I read a lot of “Scientific American, all day, and bought a few groceries when I went to mail my letter. Science, method as much as result, fascinates me. I think it must be my niche. If not I may have to become a poet (God forbid!).

It has rained all day today - hard at times. Unlike last year, this time the rainy season is starting off with a bang. It should be great for those who have their corn planted on the shallow soils of the hillsides. Those who planted corn on low land may wish they had opted for rice!

Journal, June 12, 1976 AM

It’s Saturday and I plan to spend most of it right here in the house. I bought my Tica Bus ticket for Costa Rica yesterday (90 Colones) so I have very little money left to spend for the rest of this month. The {Peace Corps} Volunteer conference should save me though. It runs from the 15th to the 18th, and means free food all those days. If I just don’t blow all I save drinking beer with Jaime {Olson} Sunday & Monday nights!

I covered most of yesterday in my long entry which I finally finished in Chico’s {Rodriguez} office. I then did a little bit of shopping, getting a pen among other things. I bought my ticket to Costa Rica, of course, for July 2nd, so I’m about ready to go down there. I hope to be able to spend a few days at Jaime’s site before we go down this time.

I scanned the newspapers last night, so I’m back up-to-date, a little bit, on the presidential race. Jimmy Carter has 1260 of the 1505 votes he needs for the nomination, and it looks like he’ll have no trouble getting the rest. I expect I’ll vote for him in November. There are several qualities I like in him. He’s an outsider as far as Washington is concerned. He has proved his administrative ability as Governor of Georgia. He’s a fiscal conservative. He seems to be a fair-dealing pragmatist on racial matters, something we’ve yet to try on a federal level, it’s been either liberal platitudes or barely disguised reactionary rhetoric! And he has gained the trust of black leaders , at least in his own region. He also speaks Spanish, and his mother was a PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer}. Can we hope for a more imaginative Latin American policy? At the very least his election would mean an administrative shakeup since he’ll be new in town!

<I got a letter from Sofia yesterday.> She says she was really sick for a while, but now only her nerves bother her. I haven’t written my second letter to her yet this week - today. I have to write something spicier to see if I can get a reaction out of her. Her letter was pretty dry & trite this time!

Journal, June 11, 1976 AM

After yesterday I don’t even have a pen left to write with. {The original journal entry is written in pencil!} But I’m lucky to be home in Santa Tecla. I could well have been in jail! Coming back from Jocoro yesterday I was involved in an accident out in front of the airport. A truck with a load of hogs on board wanted to pull out from behind a bus that had stopped, rather than stop himself, and he didn’t even notice (apparently) that I was in the left lane right beside him. I hit the horn, but it is so soft in that damn truck & it was too late anyway. He hit me & the bus, and half spun me so that I too hit the bus, but not hard. I no more than turned off the engine and got out than a Guardia Nacional {National Guard soldier} grabbed me, said “Mirá que hiciste! {Look what you did!}”, and put my hands behind my back, tying my thumbs together with a piece of twine - but tight! He didn’t ask me anything, not even my name, and the driver of the truck that hit me was talking a mile a minute to the other guardias. A spectator really helped me out at this point. He pulled out a piece of paper, and asked my name and address. He also agreed to go call someone for me, & I had him take out my wallet to get Peace Corps Office’s number & that of John Jones {Peace Corps Director}. (It’s after noon and I’m just getting back to this while sitting in the office of the Nicaraguan Consul getting a visa.) I have spent all morning filling out the accident form.

When the guardias & transit police heard I was a gringo {North American} & a Cuerpo de Paz {Peace Corps Volunteer}, they started getting friendlier & asking me for my papers, etc. Anyway, by the time Chico Rodriguez got there from Peace Corps Office, they had removed the cuffs, gotten my version of the thing and given me back my keys. The pickup had 3 dents in the right side, but was not damaged in the frame, motor or drive train, so Chico and I went over to the Policia Nacional {National Police station}, as instructed, after getting vehicle license numbers & what other info. we could. At the police station they just got the vehicle registration numbers & stuff, and gave me my license & carnet back. And this morning there were the insurance forms.

I had begun the day early at Fred’s {Tracy} in Jocoro. I was up shortly after 5 AM. We ate breakfast and hit the road for Anamaros about 7. Jaime {Olson}, Fred & I got to Anamaros (first time for me) after crossing a real rushing river which came up almost to the body of the jacked up 4-wheel drive pickup. Jaime stayed with us, and we hit El Sauce next, where Diego {Cox} was waiting, having come up on his motorcycle. We stopped only to unload the sorghum seed in each place since they wanted the truck back by noon. We also went to Bolíva and left seed, even though Russ {Soules} was not around. (I think that’s where my pen ended up!) Back to Jocoro, I left Fred and lit out for San Salvador with the fickle finger of fate zeroing in on me!

Fred is an incredible worker. He drives himself so hard he seldom gets more than 2 meals a day, and at times forgets about eating altogether until the evening. Peace Corps has done amazing things for his selfconfidence too - as I told Chico last night when he was driving me home. He’s no longer the insecure guy who drank himself into a semi-stupor and then cried uncontrollably when his buddy Rick Sherman left during training. Fred is a super extensionist and {Peace Corps} Volunteer support man. If Chico can work it out, he’ll stay on an extra year as a special Volunteer/agency coordinator.

All of the guys were as affected as I was by the fate of Doña Elena, the proprietress of the rooming house we always frequented. Fred said it represented for him all that he most detests about this country. Jaime said he couldn’t bring himself to go back over to the rooming house. Diego said he went and everyone was just very subdued and very sad.

Jaime & Diego are worried about the prospect of war with Honduras, since they live close to the frontier. They are already making contingency plans in case of invasion!

I told Jaime we should go over to the Peace Corps Office while in Costa Rica in July, and see if they’d be interested in trying to find us jobs to hang around there for a year. He agreed we should check into it, but wants a ‘good job’ or nothing. Vamos a ver {We’ll see}!

On my fateful trip back to the capital, I first gave a Jocoro kid with a sick relative a ride to San Miguel. Then at the bridge over the Rio Lempa {known as the Puente de Oro or Gold Bridge}, I was flagged down by two Transito {Traffic} policemen who wanted a ride to San Salvador. Of course I couldn’t have refused, but at the time I got out of the truck to talk to them I noticed that my left rear tire was leaking air like mad. Tough luck officers! The officer who asked me for a ride, when he saw I had a flat & couldn’t take him, said, “Que mala suerte la de nosotros. {What bad luck we are having.}” (meaning the 2 cops!)

It took me 2 hours or more to fix the tire. The spare had a nut you should have been able to turn by hand, but it was rusted on & impossible to move, so I had to borrow a wrench and take off a bolt with 6-7 inches of rusty threads on it to get at that spare. I was aided by a dried out drunkard who I rewarded with a Colon for booze. Sometimes drunks are almost useful!

So off I went again, sin policias {without the police}, and on to my fateful encounter with a truckload of pigs and a Ruta {Route} 29 bus in front of the airport!

In the evening Chico gave me a lift home & I split a Regia beer with Steve Hayes to calm the nerves. We ate supper together, he providing rice mixed with ground meat & spices, and I a little cheese and red beans. Friends can be a comfort!

I should have written in this journal last night, but was too keyed up and didn’t get to bed (after showering - I was a dirty, smelly mess from changing the tire!) until 10:30 as it was. It is now 2 PM. What a day it was yesterday! I don’t need too many of those!

Journal, June 9, 1976 PM

Tonight I have landed in Jocoro, Fred Tracy’s site. We got into town, returning from our DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} reconnaissance mission to La Unión, about 4:30 PM, and there at Peace Corps Office was Fred with the pickup full of maicillo {sorghum} seed ready to head out for the east side of the country. Chico {Rodriguez} said why didn’t I go along, & I didn’t need much encouragement. Jaime {Olson} & Diego {Cox} are here tonight also. We went up into Uluazapa on a horrible road to leave off 300 lbs. of maicillo for Mike {Staggers}. He lives with his woman & her child now. I’d never met her. She is a beautifully featured, thin, tiny “morena” {dark skinned woman} who seems very quiet and subdued.

We have to have the pickup back in San Salvador by 11:00 AM tomorrow, so we have to start taking that seed around early.

Journal, June 8, 1976 PM

How does the other half live? Pretty damn well if I let that expression apply to the moneyed class in El Salvador. We are staying at the beach compound of a rich family at El Tamarindo. We are in the smallest of their 3 beach houses. The grandpa doesn’t like commons in the big house. The grandson works in our office. They have fans, anti-mosquito yellow lights, all the comforts of home, etc. And the old man has such a compound at every nice beach in the country. So it goes.

Oh, we did talk to the officers of the El Tamarindo Fishermen’s Cooperative!

Journal, June 7, 1976 PM

Oh that rabbit was goooo-ooood! (Expression stolen from Andy Griffith!) We cut the 2 rabbits up in pieces and fried them over a wood fire. I cut up garlic & put it in melted butter to make a sauce to baste the meat in. I’ve never had better rabbit. It was much better than the one Jay {Hasheider} & I did on a spit. Much more tender.

Steve {Hayes} & Steve {Pamperin} came over, & 3 of Ed’s {Shiffer} young friends. We demolished a pound of rice & a loaf & a half of Ed’s homemade whole wheat bread, besides the rabbits and popcorn & beer. I won’t have to eat tomorrow!

It’s just as well. We’re supposed to go out to El Tamarindo for our prestudy visit for DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} tomorrow, and may not be back until Thursday. But it’s one way to see more of the country.

Journal, June 6, 1976 PM

Well, we ran no laps, but really wore ourselves out playing at soccer. Gerardo, the guy who owns the tienda {store} on the corner, is amazingly agile despite his pot belly, and of course is handy with a soccer ball.

I made my beans and got my room adjusted more to my liking. <I wrote to U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} to ask them what became of my application, and I wrote an epistle to Sofia.>

I asked Ed {Shiffer} about the Peace Corps policy on extending for less than a year. He says it's easy enough to do, but you lose the paid trip home, no compromises. So I started rethinking and started liking the idea of extending for an extra year of Peace Corps, but in Costa Rica. <I don't really know Costa Rica that well, and I should take the time to know it and Sofia that much better. For Sofia & I it would be perfection itself.> I'd be visiting very regularly (depending on where I was stationed). We could marry in August and live a couple months together there before making the trip up north. I'd get to know the good spots to pasear {vacation} in Costa Rica before the honeymoon! What could be more nearly ideal, if only I wasn't antsy to start on my new chosen career. They are making new breakthroughs in physics daily. Maybe they'll have the entire “divine plan” laid out before I get a chance to contribute! I'm just restless by nature, but I will check into transfer possibilities while in Costa Rica next time. <I owe it to Sofia (& me) to do my best to give us a happy courtship before we get caught up in the pressure-cooker.> The one big romance of this Walter Mitty’s life is even now unfolding!

Journal, June 5, 1976 PM

“Me Cansé de Rogarle” is a very forgettable Mexican movie. Ed {Shiffer}, Steve {Pamperin} and I went and saw it tonight. I had wanted to see a movie with Lucha Villa, and now I have. This husky-voiced lady has a house in the “Colonia” {barrio or neighborhood} Los Planes in San Salvador. She’s one of a kind, no question, and can she roll those r’s around!

Ed got back around 1 PM and slept most of the afternoon. I went grocery shopping & then cooked up some yuca & güisquil {chayote} for supper. We went to the 6:15 movie, & I had to reheat supper to eat it afterward. I have no energy left for reading tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to run laps at 6 AM with Steve, & get a soccer lesson afterward.

Journal, June 5, 1976 (9:30) AM

I was in such a rush to get going this morning I forgot all about keeping up my journal. I have already skinned 2 rabbits and washed my tijera {cot} this morning!

I brought the rabbits back from El Maizal, alive, yesterday afternoon. Ed {Shiffer} and I are planning a rabbit feast for Monday. I had to get them killed & dressed before Ed gets home today, since he couldn’t bear to see their “wiggly little noses” and then help kill them. Mission accomplished!

I got the pickup finally yesterday, though I had to wait on Peace Corps Director John Jones to get gas cards. I got out to Don Tin’s {house & restaurant} by about 10:15 and found Jay {Hasheider} there “paseando” {relaxing} with Don Tin. Life goes on at the same mellow pace for Jay out in Metalio!

I got my shit all loaded up by 12:30, and Jay & I went back to Don Tin’s for lunch. Jay wanted to go up in the hills somewhere to get some mud from a fish pond. Are you ready? The mud was supposed to contain methane-producing bacteria which Jay needs for a methane gas generator he is trying to make using cow manure as fuel. It’s been done in India using old oil barrels & Jay wants to do it here! Anyway, we asked directions to the place & ended up with a truckload & a half of belligerent kids. They were going there too & had no qualms at all about tramping all over my stuff. I later found a “topollío” {a local candy} wrapper in one of my boots & a dropped popsicle on my suitcase. So we got to the lake and back without major catastrophes, vowing never again to offer a ride to a group of Salvadoran “bichos” {local slang for kids}.

At El Maizal the pace was becoming of a snail also. Alfredo asked me if I’d been in Costa Rica all this time! They have promoters, but no agronomos {agricultural extensionists} & all of El Maizal is overgrown with grass & weeds. Don Juan expects the tractor any time now to work up the land, etc. I bought my 2 rabbits, said good-bye, and backed up into one of the little fences they’ve built around the trees they’re trying to grow! Expert truck driver, Dino! I only put 2 new scratches in the side of the bed & was off by 3:00.

I pulled my prize boner in Santa Tecla when I carried into the house a bag with my hammock, a bed cover & a (forgotten) jar of honey. I set it down briskly & the bottom went out of the honey jar. What a gooey mess!

I got the truck back to Peace Corps Office, stopped by to see Ed, & brought home a “Santa Claus bag” of his junk to save his back tomorrow (which is now today). Ed was in good spirits & ready to leave. The hospital is too confining for his indomitable spirit, no question.

So now I’m up for a shower, & then I’ll start cleaning my beans & rice to cook them up later today or tomorrow. I think I’ll have rabbit liver with beans & rice for lunch.

Journal, June 4, 1976 AM

Unless all my saints desert me I will finally get the pickup today so I can go to Metalio and bring in my stuff! I’m supposed to be at Peace Corps Office at 8 AM to get it.

Come on now Miz! The cat is loving up to me. She tried to “catch” the tip of my pen as I wrote (that’s what happened to the word “come”!). Now she’s lying down again.

Ed {Shiffer} and I have decided to buy two rabbits and have a feast on Monday. I’ll bring them in from El Maizal and skin them tomorrow. That’s going to be a lot of meat though!

Ed gets out of the hospital on Saturday. I’ll have to kill the poor devils before he gets here because he can’t stand the sight of blood. I’ve only skinned that one rabbit Jay {Hasheider} & I did in my whole life, but I’m ready to try for 2 more!

Work was dull yesterday. Chico {Rodriguez} dropped by. He has a new study on the introduction of hybrid corn in El Salvador that he intends to guard jealously. I read through a study of what AID {U.S. Agency for International Development} agriculture allocations have been used for from the Alliance for Progress up to 1970. Although at the formation of the Alliance, agrarian reform was set as a major goal, a very minor part of AID funds have gone to further that goal. Most of the money has gone to “quick return” projects like road building, agricultural credit and introduction of fertilizers. Both the Latin American Governments & AID have shied away from true land reform.

<I wrote to Sofia again, this time in Spanish, to reassure her it’s O.K. if she can’t handle the translation of a complete & complicated letter.> If she gives it a good try it’ll do her a lot of good though!

Journal. June 2, 1976 PM

I just got back from seeing the “Count of Monte Cristo” here in Santa Tecla for 80 centavos (32 cents U.S.). What bargains we get at the Olympia Theater!

<I got a letter from Sofia today too.> That’s always a pleasant experience. She wrote this one after getting a letter in which I told her I might see Morena Rodriguez when I went to San Isidro for the Fiestas Patronales {Patron Saint Festival}. She referred to her simply as “tu amiga” {your friend}. The next letter I sent told her I never saw Morena anyway. It’s a weird experience, what with the time lag in these letters. She’s reacting right now to stuff I wrote a week or two ago, and by the time I get those reactions the events they refer to will be 2 to 3 weeks old, and long gone from my mind. But she loves me!

It’s late and I have to go to work tomorrow. However there’s going to be a going away party for the boss (off to Peru) which should pretty well kill the afternoon. My office life is rapidly becoming a Peyton Place of daily drama - everybody’s got his problems. Today Mike {Shank} gave me his expert assessment of all the female employees in the office. Who has the looks; who he’d like to get it on with; the quiet girl who changes at parties. I read a lot today - Land Tenure Center Newsletter articles, the Le Baron study of a big potential land buying & parcellation program, “Scientific American”.

Ed {Shiffer} figures he’ll be out of the hospital by Saturday, wearing a “corset”. He had about 8-10 of the boys in his school program in the room when I got there today. I took him his slippers & the newspaper.

Journal, June 1, 1976 PM

Poor Ed Shiffer is still in the hospital. He says Dr. Zavaleta {Peace Corps physician} told him he’d have to wear a brace for a while & he doesn’t like the idea. He says he’d rather go to Washington and have an operation if that would permanently alleviate the problem. I have to take him his sandals & an envelope and writing paper tomorrow.

At work today Mike Shank and I put together the first draft of an interview schedule for the fishermen’s co-ops at El Tamarindo and La Unión. Oscar, our immediate boss, liked it so we’ll get it typed and take it out to the coop sites on our preliminary visit next week.

Jaime {Olson} dropped me a note saying he plans to leave for Costa Rica July 2nd. He’ll be in town the 13th of this month, so I’ll talk to him about it then.

<I wrote a letter to Sofia tonight, completely in English.> {some text not transcribed} The poor chic will have to spend at least a week deciphering that letter, if she doesn’t burn it first. But she asked for it! I told her about Jaime’s note & that we expect to be down there by July third. That’s a long month and 2 days off!


Images, June, 1976

{ A group photo of the planning office at DGRNR (Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables, the Salvadoran natural resources agency), taken in June of 1976. Mike Shank and I are at the right end of the back row. }

{ Me talking to a member at a fishermen's cooperative in La Unión, El Salvador. }

{ Beautiful Lake Coatepeque, site of Peace Corps El Salvador volunteer conferences in 1975 & 1976. }

Entertainers playing typical {traditional Salvadoran} instruments at the Peace Corps Conference.

Native dancers doing typical {traditional Salvadoran} dances {at the} All Peace Corps Conference {at} Lake Coatepeque, June 1976.

Journal, May 31, 1976 PM

Dull day. I have been assigned to help Mike {Shank} revise the questionnaire for a study of fishing coops at El Tamarindo & La Union at work. I went to see Ed {Shiffer} in the hospital & watched him eat supper - yesterday it was lunch! I got home late and have had no time to read, just the paper. I feel I’m in the 9 to 5 rut & this is only my second Monday. Oh yawn!

Journal, May 30, 1976 PM

I was up and moving at 6 this morning. Steve Pamperin, Mario (son of the tienda {store} owner on the corner) and I ran 2 laps on the “cafetal” {coffee field} track (about 1¼ kilometers around) and played some catch with a football before breakfast.

Poor Ed, he couldn’t get out of bed this morning without help, and got a friend to take him to the hospital. It looks like they’re going to put him in traction. And he still doesn’t know what it is he did to his back!

We went to a soccer game in the morning, Steve, Mario & I (Universidad Catolica vs. a Santa Tecla team), and stopped by to see Ed. We had a late lunch at TIN, a Santa Tecla cafeteria, and I came home to write letters for the afternoon. I made yuca & güisquil {local squash-like vegetable, known as chayote in Costa Rica} for supper, and had another piece of meat with it. That meat was pork, even if it said “baby beef” on the wrapper!

I read about synchronizing fireflies in “Scientific American” and then got through a chapter of Claudia Lars’ {book} after supper. And tomorrow it’s back to the office.

Journal, May 29, 1976 PM

I played homebody today, only making a shopping trip into San Salvador. I cooked up my first pot of beans ever & had bean soup for lunch. Oh my did I fart in the afternoon! I poached 2 eggs for supper, also a first for me. I read a little “Scientific American”, took a walk, took a nap, felt generally lousy. Actually it was a nothing day. I didn’t get off my duff and go to a party for volunteers - Gary Miller’s despedida {good-bye party}. What a bum! I had half a bottle of Regina beer (3½ glasses to the bottle) and plan to hit the sack already at 25 to 9.

<I sent a letter to Sofia telling her the next one’s coming in English.>

Journal, May 29, 1976 AM

Well, it took me a while to get down to writing today, after breakfast. I had a night house guest, overflow from Steve Pamperin’s! I’ve forgotten his name, as usual, but he’s a forester interested in range management who is working as a pastures & forages man in the Metapán area. I quizzed him a little about the reforestation project DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables, the Salvadoran government natural resources agency} has up there. He says they have a Norwegian volunteer working up there, & that they’re doing some strip-cropping & terracing experiments. I’m glad to hear they’re already that far along.

I went to the A.I.D. - P.C. - F.A.O - etc. {Agency for International Development - Peace Corps - Food and Agriculture Organization - and others} monthly B.S. session yesterday (at Chico’s {Rodriguez} house), and, unfortunately, it was a purely nonsubstantive policy session. They talked a lot about putting more structure into the meetings, setting a permanent site (the British Club) & forming a steering committee. No Salvadorans were there. They didn’t miss anything.

I had Peace Corps wheels (second time in one and a half years) so 5 of us went to an Avance {a nonprofit community development organization} party after the meeting. I had a drink (4 drinks & driving, the old boy was feeling pretty confident at the wheel!) there. I talked with an older couple who are training to work at the local university (he) and with small business (she). They were confident, ready to be patient & just thoroughly enjoying every experience as it came along I swear older folks are some of the most effective & stable PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers}.

I took Kathy Wiesp (?) with me o Peace Corps {Office} to return the Toyota van. She lives in Santa Tecla also, so she accompanied me all the way over there even though we had to walk out again, several blocks, to the 101 bus stop. She is super nice, interesting to talk to & very sexually stimulating now that the tropical heat has taken off her “baby fat.” She was kind of making up to me last night. I told her in passing that I had a girlfriend in Costa Rica, but don’t know how seriously she took it. Poor Kathy, we got to talking about complexes on the bus & she says she’s always been one of those girls that’s “one of the guys” but that the guys pass her by as a woman. She resents them going after the “super-feminine” types. Sounds like Jan or Marcia {my sisters} talking, both were “one of the guys” types from way back. <I like Kathy & she’s certainly not unattractive to me sexually, but then there’s Sofia.> Sometimes I think there would be nothing wrong with a side relationship - especially to give me a little sexual release! But the guilt of it could get heavy. <I would gladly give Sofia the same freedom, but the cultural milieu she lives in wouldn’t permit her to exercise such freedom.> Nor is she ready to cope with it. <I’d have to do it on the sly, and I don’t know if I’m ready to stop being 100% frank with Sofia.> But then . . .

Journal, May 27, 1976 PM

The guest who slept on the other tijera {cot} last night was one of Ed’s CREFAC school children. He had run away from his grandmother. (I’m not sure if I wrote about the evening she & the other members of the family came over to see Ed to ask him to help them find this kid.) Ed had brought him home after he turned up at the CREFAC Office. Ed’s a real father figure for the kid, you can see, and a guy like Ed would be a good father figure for any kid.

The kid went along with us to eat pupusas {Salvadoran snack food} & celebrate Larry Allen’s departure. The most sacred of all intra-Peace Corps rituals has to be the despedida {good-bye party}. It was a mellow fiesta {party} - bittersweet as departure parties have to be.

I was supposed to go to Metalio today, but the Peace Corps pickup is in the shop, so maybe next week. Chico {Rodriguez} had promised me that pickup, but for the umpteenth time promised something he could not deliver.

So I spent another day at the office, reading sociological studies. Oscar, my counterpart, really tore into the Le Baron Association study (a study of sociocultural and economic factors affecting the potential for a big land buying & parcellation project to be financed with a lot of U.S. money). The thing seems pretty qualitative, a little shallow and somewhat stereotypic & even sensationalistic in a few of its findings, but Oscar has found some of their economic indices & methodology interesting. That will probably be the most useful stuff we can pull out of the study. Take their methods and apply them in a more thorough study with more respondents & greater detail in the data collected. Oscar is intelligent & seems to soak up whatever material you expose him to. I think his weak point may be statistics though. He had a heck of a time with some economic calculations Mike Shank worked out. It was simple marginal cost, marginal return stuff, which I looked at and picked up quickly. He finally talked Mike into redoing his analysis in a form which would be less rigorous but easier for those not versed in economic statistics to grasp. He’s a talker, tough to tell what’s pure B.S. and what he’s really sincere about.

I made up a whole pound of rice tonight. Never again, it took over an hour. I fried up a little piece of meat & part of a carrot to go with it. Ed had a visitor in for popcorn & beer, so I scarfed on popcorn too. I didn’t make supper ‘til late and had to forget about getting any reading done tonight.

<I got two letters from Sofia today.> One was very long and so full of her essential goodness it really got to me. I’m not over it yet!

Journal, May 26, 1976 PM

I had a good day at work, then a party for Larry Allen at night (pupusas {Salvadoran snack food}, popcorn & beer). I have a guest in the room tonight, it’s late and I don’t want to keep him up.

Journal, May 25, 1976 PM

The old lady who ran the boarding house near old Peace Corps Office, the one I’ve stayed at alone or with some of the pastures and forages group so many times, died yesterday. She was killed in a gruesome accident less than a block from her front door, run over by a bus. It made the front page of “La Prensa Grafica” {local daily newspaper}. I feel like I should do something, but they probably buried her today already, and I hardly know anyone at the place except her. And there’s nothing to be done for her now. She was a good, decent human being. If there’s a heaven she’s already there, and if not she lives on in her children. Here one day, gone the next, the suddenness and finality of death never stop being surprising (when it’s someone you knew).

Journal, May 24, 1976 PM

First day on the job at DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables, the Salvadoran government natural resources agency}. They put me to reading MAG’s {Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia’s or Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle Farming} 1976 yearbook & their department’s 1975 one. I yawned profusely.

In spite of that, the thought entered my mind this evening that if things go well for me at DGRNR and I find the reforestation project worth my time, I might re-up with Peace Corps and stay ‘til next July. With the readjustment allowance increase, I could make a cool $1,000 extra in those 8 extra months. <I could marry Sofia in August, take her back to Wisconsin and start school only a semester later.> If I could get the expense paid trip home for a visit out of Chico {Rodriguez} & John {Jones, Peace Corps El Salvador Director} for staying 8 months instead of a year, I’d just about do it! <I’d be able to visit Sofia “seguida” {often} until we’re hitched & save a lot of airfare.> It’s a very sensible alternative to going back to the U.S. and coming back 6 months later, already “metido” {immersed} in a very different life, and picking up on the relationship. It all stays inside my head though until I see how things go at DGRNR!


Journal, May 23, 1976 PM

We went to the San Salvador cemetery today. I had heard it had some impressive and fascinating monuments, but even so was not prepared for the grand tour we got. Ed {Shiffer} knows people who live in the shanty town near the cemetery. He works with their kids through CREFAC. And it turned out the father of 2 of the boys who went with us & the family of another man who came along are tomb & monument builders. They knew the cemetery like I know the creek-bottoms back home!

We saw a monument with a stylized airplane on top, built over the grave of an Italian pilot who apparently was an aviation pioneer in El Salvador. We saw another monument which had, mounted on top (covered with a thin concrete coat), the motorcycle on which the man buried below had died. The front wheel was all bent up from the impact! We saw “la Novia” {the Bride}, a marble monument with a beautiful statue of a bride in front of it, which our guides said was erected in memory of a young bride who died at her wedding, emotionally overcome. We saw a monument with a huge basement where all Spanish citizens who die here are supposedly buried. We saw several graves of presidents and a few of martyrs to freedom or patriotism. God it is incredible the expense they go to to “honor” their dead here. They build tombs you can walk into the upper part of to place flowers on marble altars, with pictures of Christ or of the deceased inside. Towers & statues are not uncommon. One of the old presidents (Gerardo Barrios, I think) has a monument with a life-sized statue of him, lying on his deathbed, with his wife weeping over him, done by a local sculptor who still lives. He’s the guy who made the big push for the introduction of coffee culture here (our guides affirmed) in the 1870s & 1880s when the market for indigo went to pot, D.E.P.D. {Descansa En Paz Divino or rests in divine peace}. The Jews bury their dead in their own closed piece of holy ground - no admittance - and the boys claimed their funerals always start on the dot! The poor bury their dead across the road from the rich, and those who build the great tombs live in the shanty town on the other side of the cemetery wall near a big gully. But surely the tomb builders will have nice tombs one day if they teach their children well!

Claudia Lars has a precious chapter in “Tierra de Infancia” in which she recounts a favorite tale of her grandmother’s, “La Virgen Era Una Indita” {The Virgin Was A Native}, in which the virgin was an indigenous Salvadoran who by a bizarre set of circumstances left her native “pueblo” {country} and ended up having her son in far away Bethlehem. Por mala suerte {Unfortunately}, she stayed in Palestine and never returned to El Salvador where, surely, her noble son would have lived a long, full life & not been crucified by “los cheles y los judios” {the whites and the jews}!

Journal, May 22, 1976 PM

What a homebody I have been today. I went shopping this morning, and must have spent 17-18 Colones, but I have enough stuff to last me all week, I think. I made some salad dressing this noon, another lifetime first, and had some for supper (not bad!). I feel like I’m really becoming a cook because I looked at a recipe in a book, left a couple things out & added a couple more. I fried up the yuca in vegetable oil for lunch. <It came out surprisingly good, but not quite as good as what I’ve had at Sofia’s & Pilar’s.> But for a first try, stupendous!

I played homebody, as I say, all afternoon. I wrote 3 letters (Mary, Jan, home), read some Claudia Lars, the “Prensa Grafica” {local daily newspaper} and “Scientific American”. I continued reading after supper (meat loaf balls & a super salad, with my dressing), and have been left in a pensive mood, considering the ultimate insignificance of my life, and the futility of striving. Look at the great minds - Galileo, Da Vinci, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, John Maxwell, Einstein (How many others?). They saw beyond the accepted model of the universe in their times, and yet the average highschool youngster today can get a better understanding of the physical universe (at least on an intuitive level) than any of them achieved before they died. And when you’re dead that’s it for this particular set of gray matter with its complex cross circuits and unique waves! Se acabó! {It’s over!}

All one puny human can hope for is to increment the body of knowledge (be it a millimeter or a country mile), and hope that that corporate entity somehow survives. Survives what? And for how long? Hope against hope.

But is it necessary to make science, surrogate religion? Science is fascinating to do & read about. I find myself excited about this socioeconomic study of the upper Lempa valley, the problems foreseen, possible techniques to overcome them, etc., etc. I get immense pleasure from reading about the latest theory of the composition of Jupiter’s 4 biggest moons, or the mechanics of the Jovian atmosphere, or the ingenious new instruments and techniques which made possible the observations which have led to the theories. Discovery, from learning to walk, to trying to conquer death, and all those “eureka” moments in between, has to be the basic driving force behind scientific man.

A person should hedge though, I’ve come to believe. I was a true believer in social science until I got deep enough into it to see what I now feel are its inherent limitations. The constantly evolving social context, for example, in which technology is so integral a part. I may find physics at its depths no less limited. The way to hedge is to put some thought and effort into your day-to-day life. Try to “marry well”, raise children “right” and do the little things around your home “que le da la gana” {that you feel like doing}. What to hell, chances are infinity to one you’ll never understand the universe, even if you arrive at the point where you think you do!

I made a mental note while on the bus today, coming back from the market, to enter in this journal a special phenomenon. That is the existence of indigent (usually blind) guitarists who enter a San Salvador city bus at one point in a route, play a song or two for the passengers, pass to the back of the bus collecting coins in a hat or container, get off the bus & wait for the next one to repeat the process. They are often grotesque looking individuals (dirty, missing teeth, stunted, stuped), but invariably deft guitar players. Those I’ve heard have not had fine voices, but have made up in emotionality what they lacked in smoothness & clarity. It’s a job for them. They are not beggars and they have a certain air of professional pride about them. I happened to be on the bus with such artists on both my trip into San Salvador {from Santa Tecla} & my return trip.