Journal, July 15, 1976 PM

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

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

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

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

Journal, July 14, 1976 PM

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

It is now 10:30 PM.

Journal, July 14, 1976 AM

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

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

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

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

Journal, July 13, 1976 AM

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

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

Journal, July 11, 1976 PM

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

Journal, July 11, 1976 AM (Sunday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journal, July 10, 1976 AM

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

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

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

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

Journal, July 9, 1976 AM

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

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

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

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

Journal, July 8, 1976 AM

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

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

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

Journal, July 7, 1976 AM

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

Journal, July 6, 1976 AM

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

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

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

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

Journal, July 5, 1976 AM

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

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

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

Journal, July 4, 1976 AM (Sunday)

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

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

Journal, July 2, 1976 PM

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

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

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

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

Journal, July 1, 1976 PM

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

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

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

Journal, July 1, 1976 AM

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

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