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!