2.16.2016

Journal, April 7, 1976 PM (Wednesday)

I’m ready. I not only am all packed for my trip to Costa Rica, I have already locked the suitcase, & laid out my clothes for tomorrow. <I had the suitcase all closed once & remembered that I hadn’t put the pictures from Christmas in - after I gave Sofia permission to kill me if I forgot them!>

It was not an eventful day. I put in my morning appearance at El Maizal, ate some frozen jocotes and 2 ripe mangos. I reminded the agrónomo {agricultural extensionist} that we need to start selling rabbits, again. We have 87 rabbits, Aristides & I calculated. There will be more tomorrow as one female rabbit is due, & pulling fur from her chest!

I planned to play some softball in the afternoon with the Plan Basico {Basic Plan} girls. I put on my running trunks, muscle shirt, tennies and baseball cap (it was un-Godly hot!), and rode down to the school on my bike, but they didn’t show. It’s not the first time that teacher has told me there would be practice such & such a day, and then skipped out! I consoled myself by going swimming and running on the beach.

I experienced guilt feelings for doing absolutely nothing Peace Corps “mission” related all afternoon, but really there was nothing for me to do at El Maizal. I hustled & did it all in the morning. I won’t be completely content as long as I’m in a flunky job like this though. I’ve got to do something which furthers my search for answers about life & the universe. Reading is the only activity I have right now which is pointed in that direction. And of course people watching & analysis, which is a constant. I have been feeling the need to write strongly since I’ve been alone, since Jay left. I can’t get started though, shoot down all my ideas before they get to my fingertips! I guess the need isn’t strong enough to overcome my self-doubt & fear of ridicule yet. Here ends volume I of my "memoirs", never thought I’d get this far!

Journal, April 7, 1976 AM

I’m still reading "You Can’t Go Home Again". {Thomas} Wolfe will get bogged down describing one person or one event with endless petty superlatives, repeating & repeating his main point until you are sick of hearing about it. But then he’ll write a passage where you hang on every word because it just drips with the truth that only a man who has tirelessly analyzed his own experiences can tell. I think Wolfe limited his experience & thus his perspective though by spending most of his adult life in the center of New York City. His is a hard, callous portrait of life. Man endures it, defies its constant attempts to squash him. There is little of man exulting in the beauty and power of nature, love for land tilled with your own hands, or the exuberance of passionate love (of a woman or of nature) in his writing. They are not part of Wolfe’s vision.

I tattooed goats yesterday, and counted new baby rabbits, and turned over the compost in our compost pile. If I didn’t know it was a compost pile, I’d swear it was just a pile of heating stinking manure, just like we make at home when we can’t get on the fields in midwinter to spread it! It’ll be great organic fertilizer in any case.

Aristides brought a big bag of jocotes for me. They were ripe ones (you can eat them green too), bright red outside and yellow & sweet within. They are something like plums, but smaller and sweeter. I ate hundreds of them at this time of year in San Isidro last year. Everyone there seemed to have jocote trees. I forgot my bag of jocotes at El Maizal yesterday. Or rather, I forgot the half a bag I didn’t eat there!

I planned to spend the afternoon writing my article about the animal health conference for the Peace Corps Newspaper. I got all set to write, and along came Elena. First time I’d seen her to talk to in a while, and she was up for talking. I pretended I was trying very hard to write, but she seemed not to notice. So I dropped my pen, and started asking her questions. She’s still taking sewing classes and hanging around home. No wonder they get married, the alternative is prolonged, absolute boredom! We got to talking about Jay and Susan. She (Elena) had assumed Susan was Jay’s sister or some other relative (so she said). I said no, just another of jay’s many friends or "novias {girl friends}", if you prefer that term. Then she wanted to know how-come-is-it Jay has so many “novias” and I have only one, and her an unseen, & thus questionable entity off in Costa Rica? She was being as forward as she dared, telling me she was open to the suggestion, but I ignored the implication, and answered with my one-good-novia-basta {is enough} line. Lord I’m not ready for romantic involvement with Elena of all people. I know her too well!

I did get my article done after she left. I had brought out my sheaf of photos to show her the great change we undergo up north between winter and summer. I tried to center the article around the idea of hicks in the city, but it came out kind of disjointed like my thoughts are these days.

I ate supper, tried to watch the sun set (It went behind a cloud before it got to the horizon, & I gave up on it.), washed off the “tattoo-adora”, and read some more Thomas Wolfe.

I tried sleeping in the hammock, but was restless, and slept poorly because it doesn’t allow me to toss & turn as I’m prone to do when I’m not physically tired enough to sleep soundly. It rained last evening, how refreshing & renewing. I love that ozone smell, can get high on it!

Journal, April 6, 1976 AM

I finally got all the tattoo-able rabbits done yesterday, & did a lot of other chores as well. They had not given the goats any silage since the last time I did it. I could tell by the way I closed the silo. They’ve gotten awfully skinny - Aristides says one falls down by herself - but they haven’t figured out why! So I gave them some silage. I won’t have them die in my presence at least!

The “Plan Basico {Basic Plan}” girls from Metalio were practicing softball when I rode by in the afternoon, so I stopped in to help out their coach. It’s been a while since I played, but it’s always fun. He’s got some girls who really can play, & some who have a lot to learn, but none of them are sissies trying to be dainty, they all come to play! That’s one aspect in which they’re way ahead of the average school girl softball team back home.

That wore me out, & I didn’t get anything done last night. I have to write an article for the Peace Corps Newspaper about our two day animal health conference, and today will have to be the day.

Letter, April 5, 1976

Jan,

I see what you mean about entering a different time warp, even your letter was so fast-paced I had to read it over 3 times to fully digest it! I’m getting kind of restless, feeling that I should stop wasting my time here & start getting about the business of my future life. But Metalío gives me time to reflect & sort things out, and your letter helped show me I still need that. I better know exactly where I want to go before I re-enter that world, or the tide will get hold of me again and start washing me out to sea. So I’ll probably continue reading novels, playing with Physics from time to time, & trying to put together a viable life plan.

Jay & I skinned and cooked a rabbit shortly after I got back - with help from Susan, the goat lady. Susan used to raise & show goats like we did cows, & she knows lots about them. She reminds me of the average farm girl you might have met at State Fair when we went, very nice & quite pretty too. She & Jay are headed for Belize right now. I’ve got the place to myself until I head for Costa Rica the 9th.

Mom sent the pictures & I showed them to Jaime Olson. They came out great (all but one a half-drunk guy took!), and of course he liked them. He & Pilar always seem to take a good picture.

I got real tattooing pliers from the Ministry of Agriculture and went wild tattooing rabbits today! That huge brown female rabbit had about 11 babies last night! The goats are eating grass & weeds in the melon patch now. They don’t give them silage & they forbid me to milk them anymore. Grrrrr!

<Sofia thought I was awfully preoccupied when I left Costa Rica, & assumed it must be her fault.> I wrote her it was just tiredness & my thoughtful nature, but by her second letter (3 were waiting for me when I got back from Belize.) she had let it slide, so no big thing. She’s getting into her studies at the university now & she writes me things like I felt when first exposed to higher education. I hope & believe it will open up a whole new dimension of life for her, as I think it did for me. I feel a little like a parent, hoping my kid will derive the same insights from something which I did! The more she grows intellectually, the more I stand to benefit all the way around! And you know what a greedy macho {male} I am!

I wish you luck in cutting down on your smoking without breaking off from your friends. It’s tough. Among the guys I trained with in Costa Rica, drinking beer is a social necessity every time we get together - not that a little dope doesn’t float around too. It keeps me from doing heavy thinking when we get together, because we drink every afternoon & evening, and then my head’s not clear ‘til next day. I guess the majority of humanity is in the same rut - they’d rather not think too much.

I hope you can get it together to go to Belize or Costa Rica for August or January. Buena suerte {Good luck}, eh! Que tal el Español {How is your Spanish}?

Love,

Dean

Journal, April 4, 1976 PM

The line above {referring to the last line of my previous journal entry} sums up my day, tattooing rabbits and letter writing. I feel very “caught up” and very tired at 9:14 PM. I will clear off my cot, find a sheet, & sleep it off.

Letter, April 4, 1976

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

Thanks a whole bunch for sending the pictures. There’s going to be some very happy folks in Costa Rica when they see them. I already showed them to Jim Olson (the husky guy with the mustache in a couple of the pictures) and he liked them a lot. Got a couple real good ones of he and Pilar, his fiancé (as you’ve already seen of course).

<I guess you figured out which one is Sofia with no trouble!> I love the picture of her & her grandparents, with the unpainted house, the flowers & the corn stalk. And she’s a head taller than either of them!

<I’m leaving for Costa Rica this Friday to spend the week before Easter with Sofia and the Castillo Murillo family.> It’ll be a good time to be away from Metalio. Easter week is the time when every Salvadoran who possibly can goes to the beach & Metalio is one of the popular ones. Also, April is the hottest month of the year in El Salvador (because it’s when the sun passes directly overhead on its way up to the Tropic of Cancer, Tom), and nowhere is it any hotter than here at sea level.

Did Jan bring you the “Tico Times” to look at? The “Tico Times” is one of 2 English language newspapers published in San Jose, the capital {of Costa Rica}. There are a lot of North Americans living in Costa Rica, especially retired people. They are even supposed to be getting a T.V. station in English for them now. Costa Rica likes the income from those pension checks being spent there & they have made it convenient for many pensioners to make their homes there.

Jay {Hasheider, the other Volunteer at my site} and I killed, skinned and spit fried a rabbit the other day. We got sick of telling the folks at El Maizal it was time to start eating or selling the excess rabbits & took matters into our own hands! Neither of us had ever skinned a rabbit before, but it came out just fine – we even ate the liver, heart & kidneys. Two friends of Jay’s were over & between the 4 of us it was all we could do to eat it. Big rabbit! With salad & beer it was a feast!

I spent today tattooing rabbits with a tattooing jobber I borrowed from the Ministry of Agriculture office in Sonsonate. At last I think we’re going to be able to keep track of which bunny is which! Too bad they don’t have the Peter Rabbit legend here; we could make a fortune selling “Easter Bunnies”.

Well I hope you had a good time in Baltimore.

Take care,

Dean

Journal, April 4, 1976 AM

The kid who is supposed to sleep in the other room of the rancho {beach house}, just to look after things, has a buddy over. They’ve been talking since about 4 AM, and at quarter to six they turned on the radio. Sometimes I wonder who should be paying rent here!

I got out of San Salvador about 10 and was eating at Don Tin’s at 12:30 yesterday - a fairly fast trip. I finally got the mosquito netting sewed onto the frames after having promised Jay over a month ago that I’d do it.

Today it’s back to tattooing rabbits and maybe letter writing. Life goes on.

Journal, April 3, 1976 AM

Today is sister Donna’s birthday. I had completely forgotten until I wrote the date just now. Sorry Donna!

I’m up and writing before the other guys have finished sleeping off the night before, same as yesterday. Russ just asked me what I was reading.

Yesterday we went to a modern, clean slaughterhouse that ships meat to the US, Quality Meats. Just a Salvadoran Oscar Mayer plant! Then we went to La Libertad for lunch & a short swim. All in all it was a pleasant time together.

After a meal & beer I hit the bed at about 9, and was too tired to rise again. <I’ve been lying here thinking about Sofia & I for a few minutes. I got 2 letters from her & 1 from her sister yesterday.> She’s enjoying the university, says she likes philosophy. I’m pleased as a proud parent. I know university study is going to expand her perspective immensely if she sticks with it. Greedily, I want her to study so I can reap the benefits of her increased maturity and worldliness. Why not?

I just wish we could do it together - learning & loving, tranquility base! But she’s not ready for a US university yet, and the University of Costa Rica is too much or a step down for me, even if I could afford study abroad. But the logical course is so cold!

Journal, April 2, 1976 AM

Yesterday was a great reunion for the Forage group. When I arrived at Peace Corps Office at 9 AM, Diego & Jaime & Miguel were already playing darts in back. Mike’s growing a beard now, which gives us all face hair. About 10 or so we got the meeting going, but Russell still had not appeared, and I was beginning to wonder if he’d make it at all for this conference. Doc. Eisenhower told us a lot of good stuff about animal health problems. God he’s sharp & energetic. He’s really gotten a handle on the problems in the El Salvador livestock industry since he’s been here!

We ate lunch at the “Greasy chicken place” at noon, and por fin {finally} Russell appeared shortly thereafter. He was smiling that huge smile which completely dominates his small face, and toting his harmonica, como siempre {as always}. Another vet. {veterinarian} gave us a slide show on vesicular diseases in livestock in the afternoon, & we made plans to go to some slaughterhouses & end up at La Libertad today.

Later in the evening we 6 all had a meal at Canton {Chinese restaurant} and a few beers. Just easy talk among friends. Russell plans to marry October 1st, & return to school in the US. Fred has a serious girl back home, & frets some about the responsibility of it, but he never went whoring or anything before, so it’s no big change in his lifestyle. Diego & Fred plan to drive back to the States in a car they’ll buy, & take their time.

I think we-re already starting to dissolve as a group, preparing ourselves for October, when we’ll just pick out our paths & wave to each other.

2.13.2016

Images, April, 1976

Ismael Peña, wife, daughter Pati & friends. San Salvador, {March] 1976.

Ismael Peña, family & friends near his San Salvador home. He's an agricultural extensionist.

Journal, March 31, 1976 PM

Busy day, I did a lot of little chores around El Maizal, including tattooing 17 rabbits. We’ll see how they turn out! They killed a rabbit for the students, & were going to chuck the liver & kidneys, so I had a feast at noon: Rice & vegetable soup, & fried red beans with my “bargain of the week”. Rabbits have big livers too!

Would you believe I sewed again tonight - some pants I need to wear in to San Salvador tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing all the guys tomorrow, especially Russell {Soules}. They say he’s getting married, but hasn’t decided when (or maybe she hasn’t told him yet!).

Something Jaime said to me is still stuck in my mind. I guess it offended me a little. He said (extremely matter-of-factly, as he does most things), "You’re smart, Dino, but you’re not a genius." Now that seems harmless enough, but actually I still hold some hope of doing something worthy of genius yet in my life. Although Einstein proved himself a genius at 24, Walt Whitman was over 30 at the first publication of "Leaves of Grass", and Carl Sandburg was past 65 when he began to show his "genius". Jaime will never do anything worthy of genius because he’s already resigned himself to the fact that it’s not possible for him, but he doesn’t have to make it his business to shoot down the rest of us dreamers!

Journal, March 31, 1976 AM

I picked up Jay’s mail and hit the road yesterday, reaching Sonsonate by 10:30 AM or so. Wonder of wonders, they loaned me the tattooing machine from the MAG {Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia} office with no holdups! So I’ll give ‘er a try today.

I took it easy in the afternoon, sewing up my cutoffs, and trying to fit a spring I bought onto the gear-changer of my bike. <After supper I finally got at the letter to Sofia.>

I tried to tell her how much I respected her for coming right out and telling me she thought I was preoccupied and somewhat annoyed when I left Costa Rica - possibly because of something she’d done. I don’t think anyone has ever been so completely open with me ever, except Jan, and only on this last visit did we seem to break down the last barriers. <Sofia says her love for me is so pure she’s not afraid to tell me all her thoughts.> Now ain’t that a beautiful situation (siempre y cuando es verdad, no {as long as it’s the truth, right}?).

Then I explained to her that I was just generally run down when I left her, from doin’ stuff alternately with her & Jan. <Jan’s negative feedback about Sofia had me a little "pensativo {worried}", too, but I didn’t lay that on her.> I always filter what I tell other people, even if only a little bit!

Journal, March 30, 1976 AM

Well, Jaime and I are set to go to Costa Rica April 9. I got all my little errands done yesterday except picking up Jay’s mail. I’ll do that this morning, & then hit the rode for Sonsonate. I filled out my absentee ballot for the Wisconsin Primary {election}. I voted for Udall, although from Sunday’s {New York} Times, it sounds like he’s playing up to H.H.H. {Hubert Humphrey} more than I’d like to see. I think a Udall victory in Wisconsin would keep the campaign interesting by putting another name in the running, a liberal alternative to Carter. Jan says Udall has a chance, but the Times says Carter is "leading". It’s all kind of a circus anyway. Who knows what Carter or Udall would do as President?

Jaime tells me there’s a meeting on animal health with Doc. Eisenhower scheduled for Thursday & Friday. Chico’s {Francisco Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} out of the country, so there’s no way to find out if he officially sanctioned it or not. I think I’ll come in to see the guys. I haven’t seen Russell {Soules} in ages. We ran into Willie at Peace Corps Office, yesterday. He’s gotten married since last I saw him, and is working on a residency for his wife in the US. It seems his grandmother is near death, and he’s going back to help run his grandpa’s farm for a while. Under his callous exterior it seems Willie has a soft spot in his heart at least. He’s still crazy as ever of course. He said he got married for convenience, just papers he says.

Fred Tracy hit town yesterday afternoon, & we went to eat with him last night. He’s a truly hardworking and dedicated {Peace Corps} Volunteer, and never satisfied with how much he’s doing. We went to see Ron & Nancy Shiflet at their San Salvador house, but no luck, they weren’t home. Jaime & Fred are both pretty down on Ron. They say he hardly goes to work, has the subdirector of Ganaderia {Livestock Farming} pissed off at him, and never gets out to the campo {rural zone}. I’ve only seen him once or twice around the {Peace Corps} office, & he says he’s not doing much. He shouldn’t slack off in his support of the other guys like that though - they’re bitter.

<I haven’t written to Sofia yet - wrote 3 or 4 lines.> It’ll have to wait ‘til I get to Metalio.

Journal, March 29, 1976 AM

Yesterday was a scorcher, and just when I was ready to take it easy for the evening, along comes Jaime with 2 Salvadoran buddies from Anamoros, and a full bottle of Tic Tack {Salvadoran liquor similar to vodka}. I really hate being put in that situation. Nearly always, when you are with Salvadorans, and they are drinking, they obligate you not only to drink, but drink exactly as much as they do. And at the least they want to get drunk enough so they can just barely stagger home & fall into bed. I was lucky, they had all been drinking at a soccer game and were way ahead of me, so I was able to match them beer for beer, & drink a shot of Tic Tack too without really getting wasted. I got bloated on the beer though, and started yawning because I was exhausted, and this offended one of the guys, since they were ostensibly trying to show me a good time, and I wasn’t enjoying myself enough to satisfy him.

I took 2 aspirin before retiring, and don’t have a hangover as of yet. Sometimes they sneak up on you after you’ve been up a couple hours though!

I left Metalio after breakfast with Jay, who was bound for Sonsonate. I did some shopping in San Salvador, & then hit Peace Corps Office. I hit the jackpot on mail, as I expected after more than 3 weeks. <Sofia had 3 letters waiting for me, and there were also a letter from home (with the long-awaited Costa Rica photos), and one from Bob & Fran Redman.>

<Poor Sofia!> I was worn out when I left Costa Rica, from catering to her & Jan both for a week. Apparently it showed. She wrote in her first letter that she felt I was very distant from her at the time of my departure, that she had done something wrong, etc., and that was why I was acting like that. God, I didn’t mean to leave that impression, it was just the fast pace of doing something with Jan & then something with her. They both got more rest than I did! And being with Jan was especially taxing because we tried to do & see a lot, and I always had to do the asking & explaining, & the extra running around. <By her second letter Sofia had let that lie, but I’ll have to write her about it and try to explain.> She’s too perceptive for her own tranquility, like me, reading much into people’s actions or appearance.

In the afternoon I went to Ismael Peña’s home for a long delayed visit. He wants badly to study in the US and is trying everything he can think of. I have my doubts about him making it. You need either money to completely finance yourself, or an impressive academic record. He has neither. However, he has work experience in his field of interest, irrigation, and seems willing to sacrifice in order to study. I translated a letter for him, so he can send it to the Rockefeller Foundation to ask about their scholarships. It’s a long, long shot, but he really wants to keep trying.

<He gave me a US map in Spanish which I’ll take down to show Sofia & Pilar.> It has Wisconsin clearly marked, and you can even see the Castlerock & Petenwell flowages near home! It took me ‘til 5 or so to get away from Ismael. He’s like LeRoy Heitman, up home, loves to B.S.

Journal, March 27, 1976 PM

I spent the afternoon with needle in hand today, mending a few of my clothes. I’m slow at sewing anyway, & I haven’t fixed up my stuff in some time. I didn’t finish.

This damn pen is giving me trouble. The first one of this brand I bought worked fine. However, I bought that one in Costa Rica & this one here. God it’s hard to get a decent pen in this country.

Journal, March 26, 1976 PM

Today it was Jay’s turn to be angry at the El Maizal folks. Someone broke one of his special thermometers for taking soil temperatures, a $30 thermometer. Of course we will never know who broke it or how, since they are all like sly little children in such matters. I guess it is our fault. We North Americans just take a long time learning that you can’t trust anyone with anything, even to leave something that’s of no value to him, alone! And the general attitude among the most sympathetic of the people at El Maizal is, you should expect that kind of thing if you try to do something here. It’s very stifling to what little initiative I have left.

I went to Sonsonate this afternoon, to cash a check, and see about getting a tattooing machine from MAG {Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia}. I’ll try MAG again Tuesday. Nobody with authority to loan the tattoo-er was present.

I got a new "matata" {woven bag made of hemp} in the market, the largest and best made one I’ve yet bought. I gave my last one to Jan, to carry stuff onto the plane in Belize.

<I miss Sofia keenly today.> I have the urge to write her, but will wait. I need feedback. Lately all the negative aspects of having a foreign girlfriend have been in my head. The courting and marriage process will be expensive & time consuming. And there are no easy short cuts unless I hit upon a get-rich-quick scheme. Love is a hassle.

Journal, March 26, 1976 AM

Yesterday was a downer; it had me wondering why, as I swore to myself. I went to El Maizal while Jay & Susan took it easy at the rancho {beach house}. I discovered that in my absence they had broken or stolen my milk bottles, stolen the plastic "guacal {bucket}" in which I had milked the goats, broken the only decent silage fork, practically stopped feeding silage to the goats, thus leaving the silage rotting in the silo, and hadn’t given salt or hay to a rabbit even once! Why, why do I try? At least if I were working with private farmers, they would be interested in improving their operation in the interest of economic gain. At El Maizal they don’t even seem to care about that!

I laid a few of my complaints on CREHDO’s lawyer (an intelligent dude), but he wasn’t listening, only getting off on practicing his English with me. So it goes.

Eating at Don Tin’s was about the only pleasant part of the day. He’s what Dad would call “a real swell fella”. He just can’t do enough to be helpful, & see that you get served quickly, etc. Plus, he’s always got some new thing on his mind to tell you about or ask about. He’s probably 70+ years old, but he’s always thinking, planning and figuring: how to improve his business; what they ought to do to improve Metalio; even what’s wrong with the Salvadoran government. His ideas are not B.S. either. They make sense.

I plan to milk the goats today, but what I get is mine. If I’m feeding them silage, providing and cleaning all utensils, and milking them, I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for the milk too!

Journal, March 24, 1976 PM

We are about to have more cantalope - dessert for an incredible evening meal we devoured tonight. We bought a rabbit from El Maizal and roasted it over an open fire. We also had a salad (enough to feed a small army) and fire-cooked potatoes. What an unreal feast - with beer & dope to top it all off, and now cantalope. None of us had ever skinned a rabbit & fried it before, but the maiden voyage was an unqualified success. Oh what you can do with a little initiative and some luck!

Jay & I spent the morning at El Maizal doing doodely-squat. At about 10 Blanca & 2 friends showed up at El Maizal. I thought it might be heavy, her coming while Susan, the goat lady, was around, but nothing happened. They met, talked, etc. Poor Blanca, she’s so crazy for Jay, but he’s a wanderer & a pleasure seeker - so it goes. So we all went to the beach in the afternoon. Low tide came conveniently at about 2 PM. Some days things just fall into place, & just living the day is sufficient. No left over energy to spend wondering about the why and how of it all!

Letter, March 24, 1976

Jan,

I got here!!

I got to Metalío about 3 PM today. I ran into Jay, “the goat lady”, and another {Peace Corps} Volunteer on the bus from Sonsonate. I spent 21 hours on the bus from Flores to Guatemala City, and never did get all the way there! I got off at Jutiapa, about 40 kilometers from the El Salvador border, and took local buses from there to El Salvador & Metalío. I came in at a different place than we left through, & I think it saved me time & money as it turned out.

I expect to get your card when I go into town Monday, so I won’t even ask how you made out. I hope you sent the card from Miami & not the Belize City jail for paupers!

It’s really much too soon for me to start trying to communicate through letters with you. I sure enjoyed the month or so we had together. I hope to see you this fall in Belize or Costa Rica.

Much love,

Dean

Journal, March 23, 1976 PM

I never did get to Guate {Guatemala City}! I got off the bus at Jutiapa, since it is 40 kilometers from El Salvador, and took another bus to the border at San Cristóbal. Once in El Salvador the bus service was more regular & reliable. You can cut El Salvador in a lotta ways, but it has buses going almost everywhere & lots of them (and often full to overflowing!). The blocking of the cross continental {Pan American} highway by the earthquake has really fucked up transportation between Guate {Guatemala City} and the northern part of the country.

The lighter side of that is that now Guatemala is in no position to assert it’s manifest destiny to annex Belize. It has enough problems trying to supply the north of its own country to say nothing of troops in Belize! Local jokes suggest Guatemala was punished by God for its evil designs on Belize, or that the British deliberately started the earthquake by setting off an explosion in a deep hole! As one Belizean told me, "The people thinking 'those white people very smart, so maybe do this thing'."

The goat lady is here with us in Metalio as is Mike Steppling (a PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer} from Sonsonate). Jay is having a good time with his latest woman, of course. She is already telling me what the goats need - she knows a lot about milking goats, obviously. She used to raise goats up in Washington.

Journal, March 23, 1976 AM

I’m still on the bus that was supposed to get me to Guatemala City at 3 AM. The driver & his helpers lost track of time & we spent 4½ hours in some bend in the road in eastern Guatemala. We left Flores at 11:30 AM yesterday & will be lucky to make the whole trip in 24 hours. I’ve been off this bus 3 times since the trip began.

Well, continuing the report on my two fellow North Americans, and their conversation night before last: They outlasted me & I don’t know if they ever said 'good night'.

We’re hittin’ the road again, hope we make Guate {Guatemala City} by noon!

Journal, March 21, 1976 PM

I’m in Flores again, on the trail home. I plan to take a little R. & R. and leave on the late bus tomorrow - some time between 9 & noon.

I am listening to two fellow Norte Americanos {North Americans} discuss very profoundly (if circularly) the problem of disappearing wildlife in the U.S. At this moment they are on the topic of the brutality of deer hunting, & the paranoia it engenders in male deer! Good God, if they’d keep their environmentalist bias pragmatic, people wouldn’t laugh at them, & they might have a chance against the NRA {National Rifle Association}. I agree we need to protect wildlife (and watersheds & natural vegetation) but management is the key word, not humane appeals to spare a game animal suffering.

And now on to world weather irregularities - a topic which interests me too! I like the theory that the weather between about 1910 & 1960 was unusually mild & constant in comparison with the earth’s long history, and that we are headed for more feast & famine variations in the future.

Now they’re finally saying good night (I hope it don’t take half an hour!), so I’ll follow suit.

Journal, March 21, 1976 AM (Sunday)

It’s 10 AM and I’m just getting around to writing. I’m on the bus headed for San Ignacio and then the border with Guatemala. The cement boat wasn’t due back for a week or 10 days, the manager said, so I couldn’t make it - no money to wait that long.

I said good-by to Jan this morning at 7. It’ll be August or else December before I see her. I hope she can make it down to Costa Rica (rather than Belize), but she sounds more tentative & doubtful now than she did when we were down there. I guess she’ll have to get back and see how she readjusts to her present situation before she decides if she really thinks it will be worth the hard work & selfsacrifice it will mean. It sure was pleasant having Jan around. I feel reassured about the sanity of my own life plans after conversing intimately with her for a month.

A forgotten travel note: We have seen many British soldiers in Belize - especially those off-duty in Belize City. The most interesting of them was at the Mayan ruins with Rudolf. As we neared the top of the highest ruin, here were 2 short-haired, baby-faced young men in civilian clothes, but cooking their food up in army type field mess equipment, and with an assorted collection of field glasses & telescopes laying around. Rudolf caught on immediately and said, “British checking on Guatemalan troop movements, hey?” It took me until I saw all the British in Belize City to assure myself he was right.

<I got to get a letter from Sofia soon.> It’s been much too long without contact. I start to think evil thoughts, like it really wouldn’t hurt her if I had sex with another woman. Really, objectively, that’s true, but she couldn’t take knowing about it, & I would feel very evil & advantage-taking keeping it from her.

Journal, March 19, 1976 PM

We’re in Belize City tonight and are about to retire after a real day of extravagance. We had 3 ice milk cones apiece today, and split a bag of popcorn in a movie we went to (and to beat all we walked out of the movie after halfway ‘cause it stunk). Yes sir, we lived high on the hog today. However, we ate no restaurant meals, relying entirely on cheese, bread & fruit. You can get Kraft cheese in Belize for 80 cents / lb. and we are enjoying it. Rudolf was right about the cheap ice milk too! I didn’t find out about getting a cement boat yet - none in port - but will try tomorrow. We have our budget worked out through Sunday, & tomorrow we plan a big breakfast here at Posada Tropicana, and sweet & sour shrimp at a Chinese restaurant!

Jan & I are sharing a bed tonight ‘cause it was so much cheaper.

<Man I got to get back to El Salvador & get some letters from Sofia, soon.> It won’t help much though. Love by mail just ain’t the same, no-how!

Journal, March 18, 1976 PM

We had a great time today, thanks partly to Rudolf, a German tourist who is staying here in the Central Hotel in San Ignacio, also. We met him this morning and went with him to see the Mayan ruins at X______ {Xunantunich}. They were interesting, but already too “restored”, and they were continuing to rebuild the main “temple” with rocks, sand & cement! Once completely “restored” one would imagine, tourists will flock in to marvel at its perfection!

It was a relaxing day & a peaceful one. Rudolf gave us advice about Belize City, & we gave him info. about Flores & Guatemala in general. We also rapped about Germany & the U.S. and world affairs, and Americans affinity for McDonalds. Jan & I each had 3 beers today - a treat we haven’t allowed ourselves since leaving El Salvador. We have to make a 5 AM bus, so it’s time to hit the hay.

Journal, March 18, 1976 AM

We’re in San Ignacio, in Cayo District of Belize. We have heard nothing but negative stuff about Belize since we’ve been here! A Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) told us Belizeans (especially in the capital) are distrustful of gringos {North Americans} & she and another guy both said Belize City was a real dump - not to go there to spend much time. Well, we’re going today anyway!

In this town the people speak some Spanish and some Creole (a form of bastardized English which is almost impossible for us to follow). Most everyone can speak English as well, so we have no problem being understood, etc. We are far from the coast, yet there are many Caribbean Blacks even in San Ignacio, & they were playing some “Caribbean beat” music over at the local soccer field when we went over to watch them practicing last evening.

The people here aren’t farmers. The PCV said they import almost everything but bananas, oranges, and rice & beans. Thus food is expensive, & there are no cheap El Salvador style "comedors {small restaurants}", at least not here. The people don’t keep animals around the house (chickens, pigs, a cow) as in El Salvador & Guatemala, even though there is grass & surely food garbage to feed them. They aren’t farmers! The PCV says there are about 60,000 Belizean "creoles {natives}" in the States - mostly illegally - and this is part of the reason for their standoffishness toward gringos. The U.S. has been cracking down on illegal aliens lately.

We left Flores at 10 yesterday, after a morning swim. What clear warm (super clean) water, & full of little fish that would come up & tickle your legs if you sat still long enough! The bus ride was dusty, but not bad, & we managed to bluff the Guatemala border people into not charging us extra, even though we went through before 2 PM, when they "officially" reopen the border. We had a scare on the Belize side when they asked how much money we were carrying. Then Jan showed them her airline ticket, and they must have assumed it was for both of us, ‘cause they passed us right through!

We hope to see some Mayan ruins & maybe take a swim before we leave here today, con suerte {with luck}.

Journal, March 16, 1976 PM

We are in a 1.50 Quetzal / person place with toilets you have to sit sidewise on, in Flores, Guatemala. We had another day of ups & downs, and plan to head for Melchor de Mencos & the Belize border tomorrow. We are bypassing Tikal after having our fill of being around tourist types and their counterparts, the petty con artists, ever since we entered the country. It’s a shame to miss it, but with time & money short, we could only make a quick run around things, & it would have been grueling with all the bus travel.

After eating like flies for the last 3 days in Guatemala City, we ate an enormous meal tonight (fixed home-style by a wrinkled Mayan woman downstairs), and I have a stomach ache. I feel like after Thanksgiving dinner at home - like a balloon ready to burst.

We survived the Ides of March, though there was a tremor at 4:10 that morning and one at 4:30 this morning. The occurrence of these tremors in the wee hours of the morning, plus the fact that the February 4th earthquake here also took place in the "madrugada {wee hours of the morning}" (at 3 AM), led me to speculate that perhaps tremors are most likely to occur when the earth’s surface is coolest & thus contracted relative to the constant T {temperature} layer below it. This would cause an increased stress, which might lead to sliding of "plates" of the earth’s surface. I wonder at what times of day other big quakes have occurred.