Journal, March 15, 1976 PM (the Ides of March and a full moon too!)

On this fateful night the reader will find our heroes (Jan & Dean) still in Guatemala City. We got fucked over by the guy who sold us our plane tickets. He neglected to tell us that the plane we wanted left from the “old” airport and not from the “new” one in which we bought the tickets. So we waited 1½ hours at the wrong place, just to be told 10 minutes before our plane was to take off that: 1) there was another airport, 2) our plane left from there, and 3) we’d better catch a taxi & hurry if we wanted to make it! I was so mad I almost lost control. Maybe it would have been more fruitful for us if I had.

We are leaving on tomorrow’s plane, even though there was another plane to Flores at 11, since no one at the airport thought to tell us that! We found out at the AVIATECA downtown office, at 10:15. We sent a letter to the management letting them know of our displeasure, but we have no other recourse against them, how frustrating! We had to take a taxi to get to the airport so early, which cut deep into our day’s budget of $10. Well, it is the Ides of March!

We recouped some later though with a great buy on grapefruits (6 huge ones for 25 cents), and a fantastic omlet at a vegetarian place we tried for supper. By day’s end we agreed that living poor for a while really helps us appreciate the really good foods and the free things around us, which we usually ignore in our consuming frenzy.

We saw the full moon rise "gratis {for free}", and were treated to a real show by some umpteen thousand swallows diving for insects & chirping away.

We sent out some postcards, too. <My two went to Sofia and the folks. I was thinking as we strolled back to the hotel tonight, all I need to complete my peace of mind right now is the easy loving Sofia gives me.> Just touching & hugging - caring, inner-warmth. Aaaaaaahhh!

Journal, March 14, 1976 PM

Well, at least I haven’t eaten any chocolate during lent yet!

We went up to Chichicastenango today, and saw some real earthquake damage. The provincial capital of Chimeltenango was nothing but ruins - incredibly wrecked, just heaps of adobe bricks everywhere. The few good wooden or cement buildings around held up fairly well, but almost the whole town was adobe dwellings. I used to admire adobe construction for its simplicity, cheapness, & the way adobe houses stay cool inside even in blistering heat. I still admire these characteristics. But in an earthquake those adobe walls & that tile roof constitute a deathtrap! Give me a wooden shack with an asbestos roof, if I ever settle in Guatemala. And the tremors continue, though I’ve yet to feel one since we arrived.

We also saw refugee camps & the road crew Mexico sent down to help out. Jan bought some cloth & a shirt in Chichicastenango. We’re having trouble keeping to our budget. Jan never learned to live within her means, whatever it was, & our means is doodley-squat!

Jan’s eating almost as much as I am, & tires out much faster than I do. It’s the vicious cycle of being overweight. You don’t exercise more because you tire rapidly, & you tire rapidly because you’re overweight, & don’t get enough exercise. It’s really a shame she hasn’t found the selfdiscipline to break the cycle yet. As she says, I’m going to lose weight on this trip because she’s on a diet!

Journal, March 13, 1976 PM

We are in the Belmont {hotel} in Guatemala City tonight ($1.80 / person). I saw something near the bus station when we arrived that brought on one of those: "There but for the grace of God go I." moments. I saw the hotel where I stayed last time I was here & half of it had fallen about a floor (in the earthquake, presumably). The center rooms (where I stayed) were worst mangled of all, of course! I had Jan take a picture of it.

We bought plane tickets to Flores (A town near Tikal which has some ruins of its own & a lake!) for Monday. Tomorrow we are going to the market day in Chichicastenango, famous for display of Indian handicrafts - especially woven stuff. The plane was cheaper than we figured, so maybe we’ll be able to buy some stuff tomorrow! We’re on a tight budget.

We saw some of the earthquake damage today. The physical damage isn’t as bad as I had expected, but it’s easy to see how 27,000 died. Poor sections of town, like the area near the bus station where most of the buildings are either old or of poor construction, were hit hard. Well constructed buildings generally held up, though some, like the National Palace have cracks all the way up the sides of them. Some brand new buildings, which weren’t built well enough, were considerably damaged as well. As seems generally to be the case, the hardest hit by the quake were those least able to stand the loss. Numbers of refugees are still camping in parks and public squares throughout the downtown area. The whole city seems grimy & kind of dreary. What a contrast from how I found it on {Central American} Independence Day (September 15th) last year!

Journal, March 12, 1976 PM

Today we went to El Maizal in the hope of finding some newborn rabbits - no such luck. So we split early and spent a long afternoon at the rancho {beach house}. I spent a good deal of time just laying in the hammock thinking. I speculated on the outline of a treatise on religion, centered on the idea that man created God in his image, to serve his needs. <I also decided to look into getting a job on a ship for 6 months to make some money - how much a little money might simplify things between Sofia & me!>

I worked 8 physics problems, & then Jan & I went to the beach to wait for the sunset. It’s her last day in Metalío, probably forever. <I read over a paragraph of philosophy Sofia gave me as we walked.> All about how to live your life in peace and serenity. The man who can follow that advice will be a saint (not the author, but any man who really follows it all)! It’s very deep & there is much truth in it. I must remember to thank her for giving it to me. Like some of her letters I’ve reread, I found much more in it on the second reading. She thinks deeply about life, more deeply than I sometimes give her credit for doing. I always seem to end up loving her as a person, and wanting her companionship more after the second reading. A longing for the time we won’t have to write letters & be lonely is what I feel this minute. I’ve been sitting here groping for the exact verbalization of my state and the old term "longing" comes goll-darned close.

Journal, March 11, 1976 PM

And as he wrote he could hear the compelling music of the Metalío Fiestas Patronales in the background ...

Today I read a chapter of physics & worked a couple problems. <I wrote a letter to Sofia, to send before we leave for Guatemala.> I did not go to El Maizal. We (i.e. Jan & I) went to Acajutla by bicycle. We saw boats & modern port facilities & whore houses & palm-leaf shacks & muskmelons. We ate one muskmelon. We tried to get a couple pictures embodying the incredible contrasts you see in Acajutla. We went to bed.

Journal, March 11, 1976 AM

We tattooed more rabbits yesterday, and spent the afternoon lounging around Kikilita & on the beach. Tough life! Jan is sick of spending even the mornings at El Maizal already, so we plan to take the bikes & go to Acajutla today. She’d never make it in Peace Corps - no patience.

I got all my mail answered last night - cranked out 4 letters. So now I’m left with no excuse not to do some physics tonight. It’s high time I got back at it. Discipline, discipline!

<I mailed letter #2 to Sofia yesterday morning, and will write another tonight if I can.> Just so she stays satisfied and doesn’t forget me between trips. I’ve already let her get much too close, it would hurt to let go. It’s a pain in the butt just to be thinking about her and not be able to be with her ... So, that’s life.

Journal, March 10, 1976 AM

Jay & Jan slept on the beach last night - hope the waves didn’t wash them out! I stuck to my hammock, have slept in it every night at the rancho {beach house} since Jan arrived. Sleeping in a small hammock leaves me aching all over, but this big cloth one is very nice.

<I wrote to Sofia last night & plan to mail it today.> I’m trying to write her real often (every 2 or 3 days) so she doesn’t get insecure about me forgetting her like she did between visits before. She seems to need lots of positive reinforcement, and I’ll do what I can to provide it.

Jan & Jay just got back, feeling chipper, and won’t let me concentrate on this.

Journal, March 8, 1976 PM

We’re back at Kikilita, and Jay’s just arrived. He’s telling Jan all about a gory movie dramatizing the true story of some plane-crash victims in the Andes, who survived by eating their dead compatriots.

It took most of the morning to get back here - a lively turtle could beat these buses! We went to El Maizal in the afternoon, and Profy {Gomez} was there. He was all charm & wit for Jan & I - didn’t say a word about his quitting & neither did I. He’s busy orienting his replacement. We checked out the rabbit situation. Antonio & his brother did pretty well keeping the records up in my absense - only one card got lost!

Jan doesn’t see how I can take it day after day at El Maizal with so little to do and such incompetent people to work with. I’ve become “acculturated” I explained. <Not satisfied with that she kept prodding and I had to admit that if I weren’t involved with Sofia I would be gone by now most likely.> Really, I don’t know if that’s accurate. Sometimes I think I’m just obeying the laws of motion like any other hunk of matter - a body at rest ... And now back to “Slaughter House Five” the third in my big 3 by Kurt Vonnegut.

Journal, March 8, 1976 AM

Jan & I are in Santa Tecla. Ed Schiffer came out to Metalio with a guy who had a rented car - showing him a little of the country. We took the opportunity to see La Libertad - me for the second time, & here we are.

<I wrote a letter off to Sofia while near the capital - they get there faster and more reliably.> I attempted to explain to her my determination to study physics & my just plain need to know - to be learning. I hope a little got through, but it came hard. It would have in Spanish or English.

So back we go to Metalio, after a grapefruit!

Journal, March 7, 1976 AM

As the world turns, things keep on changing. Day before yesterday Jay told me he thought Profy Gomez had quit as head of El Maizal. Yesterday at 1 PM the new boss came out with {Professor} Flores & the "motorista {driver}" to discuss our roles (Jay’s and mine) in El Maizal - under new management. Now I’m officially (instead of unofficially) going to be working with rabbits, goats & other livestock. So it goes!

If you have read any Kurt Vonnegut you’ll know where I borrowed that last expression from. I’m on "Slaughter House Five" now after reading "Breakfast of Champions" in Costa Rica and "Mother Night" yesterday. "Breakfast of Champions" was good and "Mother Night" was really excellent.

We are what we pretend to be! He gives the reader a message not unlike that of Solzhenitsyn - we have to cultivate & develop our souls to be decent human beings, not hide them behind masks for convenience - because the masks are part of us too!

Evil is man’s desire to hate intensely & with God on his side! I think there are other evils, systematically perpetrated by corporations or bureaucracy with no feeling attached other than expediency or interest in profit making. However, man’s need to have a scapegoat - someone to blame & hate when things seem all fucked up - is certainly the root of great evils as well (as Vonnegut lucidly demonstrates in "Mother Night"). Nationalism running wild, super patriotism is certainly one of mankind’s most fearsome obstacles to peace and survival.

I also watched the Sun go down yesterday with Jan. She & I think so much alike on politics, on where the world’s headed, on controlling technology, that it’s mind boggling sometimes. Like we were twin software hookups for the same brain. But we have our divergences.

<Sofia is the main one right now.> Jan still thinks I’m making a mistake, though she only cautions me to take it slow & be sure. <She strongly dislikes the very loving, special treatment Sofia gives me, & corresponding special attention I give her.> I think she finds it artificial - is convinced it must be. On my part it’s not. <I feel Sofia is accepting me freely and uncritically as her lover, her man, and I respond in kind.> I’m willing to take her for her lovingness, her "cariño {affection}", whether she educates herself & gets a career going, or just concentrates on home & family. As Vonnegut wrote ("Mother Night" again): We all have need of uncritical love ... make love when you can, it’s good for you!

<Jan suggested yesterday that maybe she’s even a little jealous of all the attention Sofia gets from me.> The same thought had crossed my mind. Jan & I are more than siblings, we’re friends, and she demands attention from me, & I from her. She especially needs some brotherly love right now ‘cause she’s bummed out "de nuevo {again}" with men, is caught in a dilemma about her work, and is troubled by the image of her child in an inadequate (or totally fucked!) home. God, I love Jan. She would be a saint if she could give up men, but she loves them too much to, & the children. And she’s nobody’s fool!

Journal, March 6, 1976 AM (Saturday)

We made it back to Metalio yesterday, & after a good night’s sleep in my hammock I felt so good I did limbering up exercises this morning.

We got Jan a Guatemalan visa yesterday, and the guy told us you can get from Tikal to Belize by local buses, so it all looks pretty encouraging. We figure to leave Saturday or Sunday (14th or 15th) after a restful week here. Jan didn’t get a Gamma Globulin shot because they gave us the runaround, and we didn’t want to wait around all afternoon in town.

Sister Mary wrote me a long letter warning me about all the pitfalls of marrying a foreigner, but saying she’ll support me if I do. A very older sister letter - don’t think she realizes I’m 24 and will do what I want regardless. I’m still little Buster to her! But she’s concerned about me.

Walking over here from Don Tin’s last night, Jan started talking about having kids (She said Joan Baez’s book made her want to have kids again.), and she came around to speculating about her child. He’s 8½ years old now - that fact staggered me! She still feels giving him up for adoption was her best choice, but wants to find out where he’s at and what kind of family he ended up in. She talked of going to a legal aid service to see if she could trace him. I asked her what she’d do if she found him, & she didn’t know, but I had to agree I’d want to find him if he were mine - just to know.