Images, October 1977

{ A rural produce stand featuring fresh coconuts. }

{ A young coconut palm plant. }

Letter, September 28, 1977

Dear Mom, Dad and all,

Thanks for the farm value statement. <Hopefully it’ll meet with approval in the embassy here and make the processing of Sofia’s visa easy.> The vice-consul said the important thing was to demonstrate that the farm was of sufficient size & worth to support us as well as yourselves, & I think the statement definitely does that.

As far as taking the money out of my bank account, yes, October 1 will be plenty of time. I miscalculated my quarters-of-a-year, sorry.

I would like to know when Dad plans to have his operations. Bruce wrote about the same time you did saying they would operate on Dad over Christmas vacation.

<Sofia & I talked it over and decided that if the operations were going to take place in late December or early January, we would try to leave here as soon after I finish Peace Corps service as possible so as to be there to help out.> I finish December 14, so if we go by plane, and only spend a couple days in El Salvador en route, we could be there in time to cut the Christmas tree!

We’d also like to make a stop in Nashville on our way north, if flying by way of that city doesn’t boost our fares too much. Anyway, please let us know for when the operations are being planned, so we can plan accordingly.

There’s not much new here. <Things are going well for Sofia & I, though we are a bit bored and starting to anticipate the big move coming up.>

Looks like we are going to become godparents before we leave. <Two of Sofia’s married sisters are pregnant, and one of them, who expects to give birth in early November, has already asked us to be the little one’s "padrinos {godparents}.">

Take care,

<Dean & Sofia>

Journal, September 27, 1977 PM

I’m in the process of cooking beans as I’ve been all too often in the last 5 months. It’s the closest to assembly line work I’ve ever been, and I sure don’t wish I ever get closer!

<Mom wrote to say there will be no problem with Sofia & I living at the family home for a few months after we reach the states.> She said Dad needs two operations for a double hernia he’s developed. She suggested he might wait until we were there to have the operation so that I could help out with the work.

All well & good. <As Sofia put it, that way we are there to help instead of being a bother (ayudar en vez de molestar).>

However, Dad’s condition started my brain speculating as to what would happen if his recovery is less than complete, and in general, what will happen to the farm as Mom and Dad become too old to run it? <Whatever the outcome of the operations, the time will be ripe to discuss the fate of the farm while Sofia & I are in residence there.> We will enter a potentially high-pressure situation down on the farm!

Everyone knows Dad’s favorite choice for his successor, and with Tom likely to go away to college next fall (leaving only Carla to help with farm work), I’m certain he’ll find the time ideal for #1 son to start taking over. I’m not afraid of the pressure. I can cope. The truth is my mind is bubbling over with ideas about what needs to be done to make the farm a viable enterprise in the next generation.

I’m not willing to give up my academic goals to farm full time just now, but I am willing to adapt my studying strategy to help out on the farm if it’s really necessary. I believe that at least 3 of the second generation (Bruce, Jan and I) are determined to keep the farm in the family. That’s important. If we take looking after the farm as a communal interest, we can probably meet personal goals, and keep the farm truckin’ no matter what happens to Dad’s or Mom’s health.

Letter, September 8, 1977

Dear Mom, Dad and everyone,

How is everyone? <Sofia & I are fine, looking forward to a 4-day weekend starting September 15 (It is Central American Independence Day).>

I’m sorry to hear about Belle, but it was to be expected that she wouldn’t last much longer. Did you exhibit any cattle at the fair?

<Sofia & I presented our papers at the U.S. Embassy to apply for her visa, and they told us to come back some time in October.> You have to enter the U.S. within 4 months of the date your visa is approved it turns out. I don’t need my birth certificate (sorry for the hassle!) because they’ll take my passport as evidence.

Since I am a Peace Corps Volunteer they require me to demonstrate ability to support my wife before I can take her into the U.S. One way of demonstrating support is a job offer, which I consider pretty difficult for me to get after 3 years of being outside the U.S. Another possibility is to say I am initially going back to work on the family farm. In that case I would need a statement of the value of the farm & of personal assets from you, Mom & Dad, to demonstrate that the farm can support more than one family. I don’t like to ask you to do this, but I am asking because it will be a lot more secure than trying the job offer route. Please let me know if you are willing to do the statement of farm value & assets, so I can get busy on the job-hunt otherwise.

The statement of farm value (estimate) and other assets needs to be notarized, the vice-consul informed me, in order to be acceptable to her. That’s the extent of what she told us. We have all the other paperwork in order to get the visa. I’m glad I started on it early to find out about this support business before the last minute!

We haven’t tried the baked beans yet, mainly because I’ve been staying out of the kitchen lately!


Journal, September 6, 1977 PM

<Yesterday Sofia and I celebrated 6 months of marriage. It in no way seems like it’s been that long.> I skipped out of work at twenty to four to take a bus downtown & buy roses. At 5 PM I was received at our apartment door by a vision in yellow. <Sofia had a candlelight dinner on the table, and was waiting for me all pretty & perfumed.>

I felt like a bum with 6 kilos of rice in a bag under one arm, my shoulder bag of odds & ends over the same shoulder and flowers in the other hand. I had on a grungy blue T-shirt with stretched out neck & a pair of well-worn blue jeans. Still she treated me like royalty, so I couldn’t complain.

The meal was excellent and we had both wine (domestic) and beer (a bottle for the two of us) to go with it. <Sofia’s “inventions” nearly always turn out delicious (and always are at least edible), but her roast beef in beer sauce was especially fine, with rice, garbanzo beans & tuna.>

We made several toasts to ourselves & our future together.

<Sofia’s mother is starting to lobby against our going to the States, not to me but to Sofia.> She has gone as far as to say she looks on it as a punishment from God for sins she’s committed, having her daughter taken far away from her. <She tells Sofia she should try not to get pregnant because it could be hard on her if she goes to the States pregnant. She adds that if Sofia should become pregnant she should do everything possible to convince me that it’s better to remain here. I think she’d almost rather see Sofia pregnant & near her.>

So far we’ve been lucky as Irishmen with the prophylactics. <Sofia has an appointment with a gynecologist September 26, and we’ll try to get pills prescribed again.> Even if she does, she won’t be able to start taking them ‘til late October. So it goes.

Letter, September 1, 1977


How’s things? <Sofia suggested that since I missed your birthday I could send you one of these special air letters with scenes of Costa Rica. This one even includes a shot of Sofia’s hometown, San Antonio.>

In the last 3 years I’ve only been around you for a month - it’s kind of incredible. 5 years ago I wouldn’t have anticipated that it was so easy to lose contact with the members of my family. So it goes.

You are a senior this year if I’m right (& just turned 17). Do you have plans to enter college next fall? I’m planning on re-entering college as an undergrad. again to pursue a “technical” career in math. & physics. <Sofia has a strong desire to study too, so we may all 3 end up as students at the same time.> Weird, but interesting!

Best of luck Tom, & try to write me some time, huh? Last chance before I come up north!


{ Photos and text on air letter: }

Aerial view of the beach and the Tourists' Promenade in Puntarenas.

Traditional colonial Costarican costumes.

View of a Costarican countryside.

San Antonio de Belén, Heredia, Costa Rica

Banana plants


Images, September 1977

{ A beach view in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. }

{ Another beach view in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. }

{ An iguana sits on a stump just above the beach. }

Journal, August 17, 1977 PM

The king is dead . . . Elvis Presley died yesterday at 42. I find it incredible and sobering, though I was never a really avid fan.

If I die at 42 that means I have 17 more years to live. Sobering, yes, sobering!

Another thought: During my three years in Peace Corps and outside the U.S., I have missed many landmarks. Nixon was still President when I left. I missed the whole Ford presidency, the 1975-76 recession, several grand international incidents . . . and now the untimely death of rock & roll’s undisputed monarch. What great changes in my native land. Presley was a symbol of something, but I haven’t got it defined yet. Perhaps it was the emotional shout in the dark of his largely un-political, un-vocal generation (emotional but not political).

On the other hand, Ronald Jimenez, a fellow worker at CIGRAS and recent visitor to the States, says college students still crowd into dormitory TV rooms to see old, old reruns of Star Trek. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

<Is this the month Sofia will turn out to be pregnant?> In the past month we had no grave accidents with prophylactics, but even so my most beloved woman will soon be a week overdue for her period. President Carter has said (as did President Kennedy and who knows how many of us peons!) that life isn’t fair. <If Sofia really is pregnant this time I will never again question the inherent injustice in human existence.> I may cry also!

Journal, August 11, 1977 PM

Fred {Tracy} and Marlene {Johnsjoy} came July 31 and left August 6. <For a while I thought Sofia and I were going to be responsible for completely ruining their vacation, but as it turned out it wasn’t so bad. Our landlady Lolita had convinced Sofia & her older sister that it would be ideal to take Fred & Marlene to the Nicoya Peninsula, & take Lolita & herself along as a “third couple.”> About the time we found out that the accommodations Lolita had reserved for us in Santa Cruz had bats as well as mosquitoes, noise and communal sanitary facilities, I was figuratively kicking myself in the butt with my boot for not summarily quashing the plan. This was after Lolita, walking on a level street, had fallen on her face, bruising her nose & cutting herself inside her mouth. It was obvious that I was the key person, the one who should have known better.

We did finally arrive at Tamarindo beach & spend one much-needed afternoon & evening living first class (in an $18 per night motel with pool, etc.) on a fantastic, unspoiled beach. Marlene’s face at last ceased to resemble that of an unwilling (but determined to endure) traveler through hell, & brightened to enthusiasm.

On their last night here we went to Chalet Suiza {Swiss} for a very tranquil meal. The food was reasonable considering the quality & the place’s uniqueness, but they nail you for drinks and desserts!

Fred is working hard, enjoying it and talking about spending as many as five more years in El Salvador. He can see the growing dangers of the radicalizing political climate there, but apparently puts them aside and concentrates on work. I hope he doesn’t get shot in the back by either leftists or an increasingly paranoid government - rightist coalition. It worries me more than it apparently worries him. He’s very practical. I hope his is the right approach.

Marlene is an unlikely mate for Fred. She’s strong, yes, and loyal & good, but she’s a musician and music teacher, and likes petty luxuries like taking a dip in the pool at midday & worrying about keeping her tan even. She’ll “rough it” for Fred, but ‘con nada de gusto {without enthusiasm}.’

<Sofia & I are now definitely committed to living within the means afforded by my salary.> Reason: We shot all our extra funds during Fred & Marlene’s visit. <And we have to buy a “Dia de la Madre {Mother’s Day}” gift for Sofia’s mom and there are festivals in La Asunción this weekend!>

It’s time to get serious about my Scrooge role, but my heart’s not in it. <Sofia jawbones stricter budgeting, but forgets her own advice when she sees (or thinks of) something she wants or “needs.”> So it goes.


Images, August 1977

{ Fred Tracy and I taking a nap on a grassy hillside. }

{ Two tiny islands in the Gulf of Nicoya. }


Journal, July 27, 1977 PM

<Friday night Sofia decided she wanted to get drunk on guaro {Costarican rum-like liquor}, just to experience it.> It was an experience I will never forget. She’ll not forget it soon either, though there are parts the liquor spared her memory.

{some text not transcribed}

She drank a third of a beer Monday night and decided she had developed a revulsion for all alcoholic beverages! She claims it may be a year before she takes up drinking socially again.

Fred Tracy and Marlene Johnsjoy are due to arrive in Costa Rica Saturday night. They’ll be here a week. We’re overjoyed and have been sporadically making plans how to help them spend their vacation.

Journal, July 13, 1977 PM

<Monday night Sofia’s period began.> Two months running we have won at Russian roulette! I felt great relief. <Sofia admitted she really hadn’t wanted to become a mother so young.>

We are in for another month of the game though - at least one more. <Sofia visits the gynecologist at Hospital México the 24th, and if he OK’s it she’ll try another type of contraceptive pill.> ‘Til then we’ll be relying on the workmanship of Arkwell Industries to keep those sperm from their goal! I hope to reinforce Arkwell with contraceptive foam if I can buy it reasonably here.

My almost 3 years in Peace Corps have been excellent training in anxiety tolerance, but even so birth control with condoms is a whole new test of nerves.

An old theme again drew sparks last night. <Sofia still resents the fact that I was Jaime’s {Olson} best man in spite of her fight with Pilar {Campos Gonzalez, later Olson} & Marita {Pilar’s mother}.> I still believe that I did no wrong in keeping a promise to Jaime which I couldn’t see breaking at the last minute because of something I didn’t know much about, much less understand. I assumed it was a personality conflict.

<Sofia is definitely a grudge holder, perhaps more so than anyone I’ve known well.> To her, a social slight or personal insult is sufficient reason to hate a person perpetually. It’s a bit frightening. When she spoke frankly, she said she felt I had walked all over her dignity by participating in the wedding, and causing her to go to it. She said at times she thinks she’s capable of seeking revenge, given a proper opportunity. My mind wandered & wondered. I found no guilt in me and speculated: How often can we return to this same difference of perspectives . . . with no possibility of resolving it?

Journal, July 6, 1977 PM

{some text not transcribed}

<My diabolical mind is considering alternative strategies if Sofia really is pregnant.> I’ll first try getting a decent paying job here, doing my job hunting on the side and not quitting Peace Corps until & unless I get something solid that looks attractive. If I don’t find anything I’ll finish my Peace Corps term and we’ll go to Wisconsin, where I’ll have to get hold of something fast & start saving up for the doctor bills. <As Sofia says, it is something that had to happen sooner or later.> But I’m still clinging to a wild hope that perhaps it won’t be sooner!

<Sofia is having all kinds of strange pains.> Last night she said it all: “O me va a venir una tonelada de menstruación, o es que tengo tu hermanito adentro {Either I’m going to have a ton of menstruation, or I’ve got your little brother inside me}!” I guess I could handle her being pregnant. It may indeed be a positive thing if it gets me out of this melancholy Peace Corps rut and into something more interesting.

Today I’m fantasizing what it would be like if I got a job as an ABS (American Breeders’ Service) representative here. I think I could handle it for a couple years if the money was good.

<Sofia and I had a real drinking good 4th of July.> First there was the American Community picnic at the {U.S.} Ambassador’s residence, with free beer, hot dogs, etc. I entered a pie-eating contest to get a shot at a blueberry pie. I lost, but still got my fill! We drank 5 beers each, plus lots of hot dogs, ice cream & other crap. Then there was the Peace Corps bash at the Tropical Brewery. It was 25 Colones apiece for all the beer you could hold. We got our money’s worth, 7 beers each plus bocas {snacks}!

Among the PCVs {Peace Corps volunteers} at the bash, I only knew about 4. I met two more from Wisconsin. I do believe my state contributes a disproportionate number. All in all they weren’t much different from Peace Corps El Salvador as a group. <Sofia met another tica {Costarican} married to a PCV and had a good rap with her.>


Images, July 1977

{ The Guaria Morada orchid is the national flower of Costa Rica. This one is being transplanted by Sofia's grandmother. }

{ The painted ox cart is a Costarican national symbol. This painting of a man with his oxen and cart is from a 1970s postcard. }


Journal, June 27, 1977 PM

<Beware world, there is a distinct possibility that Sofia & I will be parents within about 9 months.> {some text not transcribed} I’m ‘afeared’ it could be the real thing this time!

Journal, June 23, 1977 PM

<Studying has become a vice with her, Sofia says.> She expects she’ll always be around universities, all her life, because she receives little rushes of pleasure from gaining new insights. Any resemblance to me talking to myself was purely coincidental, but did not go unappreciated.

My wife really opened her mind up and let me share some of her most carefully guarded secrets. It happened last evening as we were returning to our place after having a beer at El Ranchito. Walking the nearly deserted streets of Santo Domingo at about 8 PM, she told me I was the first person she’d ever been close enough to to be able to express her barest perceptions of life and society to. She never could openly admit her hunger for knowledge to others, even in her family, for fear of it becoming the subject of subsequent jokes. I know the apprehension well. God, how parallel run our minds. She credits me with being the inspiration for her to strive to show herself a truly good person through her acts and relationships.

That’s a heavy responsibility to shoulder. But her irrepressible, insatiable love for me gives me a confidence I’d never known the like of. She says she’s done nothing for me in return for what I’ve done for her. She doesn’t realize what an intense, comforting warmth she’s brought to my soul.


Letter, June 14, 1977

Dad, Mom & all,

I hope all’s well up in the north country. In the last few days we’ve been getting a short break in the rains, it clouds up in the afternoons, but only a few drops fall. <Sofia’s Dad planted some corn in the little lot by his house about May 1st and it looks like it’s almost ready to tassel.>

It sounds like Mom is really getting heavy into the gardening & landscaping this year. I always liked the yellow raspberries we used to pick across the road before urban expansion wiped them out! The blueberries will be nice to have near the house too. I haven’t found a name for blueberries in Spanish yet. <I guess Sofia will have to wait ‘til she gets to Wisconsin to find out what they are.>

<Sofia and I kicked the intestinal parasites, and things are going very well for us.> She’s been doing very well in the university, and her scholarship has been renewed, meaning she won’t have to pay any tuition. Also, she’s been talking with her professors and they’ve promised to give her summaries of her course work last year, which will help her get credit for her courses here if she studies in the U.S. She has a month of vacation starting June 24th.

Pilar and Jaime Olson are in Wisconsin now. Pilar’s brother says they just got word recently that they had arrived up in Neenah. I guess they had no hassles in El Salvador.

I’m becoming an expert bean cooker! These days I spend two days a week cooking beans all day at work! (It’s for the bean storage experiment we’re doing.) It has it’s rewards though, I take cooked beans home and we only have to add salt, onion & a few other things, & warm them up.

Carl Reed (the other Peace Corps guy where I work) made baked beans one day, so the Costaricans could try them. He made them with a lot of brown sugar, and they didn’t go over real big! They were good, but because they were sweet, you couldn’t eat very many before you got sick of the taste. If you think of it Mom, could you send me your recipe for baked beans? I’d like to try it with the beans here. Also, I could use a good basic white bread recipe. I made a “no-knead” bread from my beginner’s cookbook, & it wasn’t too bad, but I’d like to try regular bread & all I have is a recipe for whole wheat.

That’s about all I can think of. I hope the crops continue to do well there. Let me know if Belle has a heifer. It would be nice since the old girl isn’t going to be limping around too much longer!

Take care,

<Dean & Sofia>

Journal, June 3, 1977 PM

Yesterday was the day for vulgar discussions at the “kitchen table” in the CIGRAS café. Ramón and Carlos Chavarría agreed that a man’s only companions were his testicles, and his only friend his penis. Ramón took great pleasure in telling me how you have to lick a woman’s clitoris until you get it up, etc., etc. Later the topic was venereal diseases and how to treat them. Carlos C. said he once had a case of gonorrhea it took him six months to cure. Almost all the ticos {Costaricans} had had crabs and many had had gonorrhea. Venereal diseases {V.D.} must be rampant in this country, due in part to the male custom of going whoring frequently. <Sofia has told me about a few grotesque results of untreated V.D. - deformed kids, sores around the mouth, etc.> How lucky I was not to pick up anything in my few experiences with prostitutes.

Journal, June 2, 1977 PM

Today is the second in a row that I’ve played soccer with the CIGRAS boys. I think I’ll take tomorrow off to get my head straight. Yesterday was a pretty clean game. I only got the sore on my leg reopened, which is inevitable when I play. I vaguely remember that I was bemused by my observation that “ticos {Costaricans}” are incredibly prone to blowing their own horns. Gerardo Arce and Ronald Jimenez are the “stars” in this activity, but all my “compañeros {companions}” take their turns.

Today the game got heated because the other guys (We seem to always ‘randomly’ divide up into almost exactly the same teams.), who always beat us, were down 4-1. Since they simply couldn’t bear losing, we played until nearly 1:30 PM. I finally gave up & left, and shortly afterward the rest followed. Apparently the other guys put in two quick goals, because they were down 7-6 when I left, but claimed to have won by a goal.

I got my anger up in today’s game. Carlos Chavarría nailed me in the genitals with a hard-kicked ball and ran off gleefully calling “hand” (in accented English). When the jolt of pain subsided, & after uttering a few random oaths in mixed English and Spanish, I hollered, “Me dió en los huevos y dice {He hits me in the balls and says} “hand!” Ramón will never get over it. For the next week he’ll be asking me where the ball hit me! I haven’t yet learned to take it well.

Anyway, I started playing hard after that, like the rest. It’s dangerous in a game like soccer where you continually leave your body vulnerable while feet are in the air. Somebody could get seriously injured. I feel like I’m learning how to play though.

Journal, June 1, 1977 PM

My bean cooking experiment is now in full swing. Question to be answered: Why do old beans take longer to cook than new beans, and what can we do about it? No enlightening finding yet. The beans at 13% moisture were as fast-cooking after a month as they were at the beginning.

<Sofia is getting her teeth fixed by a dentist in Heredia that she has confidence in.> I’m crossing my fingers and leaving it all to her. Her family has had work done by this dentist before and have been satisfied with it.

<Sofia is also treating a uterine infection with douches, oblets & neomycin cream.> The douche applicator head looks enough like a penis to be an A-1 dildo. I couldn’t resist. <I taught Sofia the word “dildo” and now that’s what she calls the applicator!>

<Last night Sofia skipped her douche because she felt a flu attack coming on and didn’t want to risk an extra chill.> We are a sickly lot. I’m boiling the water now in Santo Domingo to cure stomach problems. It seems to be working. I’ve got a nasty cold that started yesterday.

It’s raining hard. The rainy season is well underway. <Sofia and I have four corn plants and a bean plant growing in our little patio.>


Images, June 1977

{ The break room at CIGRAS. Left to right: Fausto, Enrique Villalobos and Ronald Jimenez }


Journal, May 25, 1977 PM

<It’s going to cost 2,100 Colones to get Sofia’s teeth fixed up right.> We’ll really be living on a shoestring after we pay that bill! But I knew those “plastic teeth” she had in front would have to be changed. Really, it’s a relief to know the problem’s going to be taken care of. She has confidence in the dentist who’s doing it. I hope her confidence is well placed. I wouldn’t want a shoddy job done for $250 and have to go through it again.

Tomorrow I’m going to Orotina with Ramón and Renán {from work} to plant a corn trial. Ramón had one of his vulgar spells today. All he could talk about was the 14-year-old chics with short hair on their little c***s, and all the beer we were going to consume on the trip. Ramón is a tremendously good person. He’s a Red Cross volunteer, helps out fellow workers by loaning them money, and is the wit who keeps things from being unbearably boring at CIGRAS. So who can fault him for reveling in obscene language and gestures? After all, he is a lone & aging male. The only sticker is that I’m repelled by it.

I really let Ramón down today. I told him I couldn’t touch alcohol tomorrow because of the cure I’m taking for my amoebas. It’s pop & “frescos {natural fruit drinks}” for me.

<Sofia went to the gynecologist yesterday and came back with a ton of medicine, condoms, and lots of info. on family planning.> We tried out the condoms (colored ones like AID gave out in El Salvador in its family planning drive), and they were much better than the Sultans we bought recently. Live and learn!

Journal, May 24, 1977 PM

I have a wife who is no easy keeper. Last night she told me she has to get a new bridge put into her mouth. She had her 4 top front teeth pulled a few years ago by some half-wit dentist. Seguro Social {the national healthcare plan} put in a temporary bridge for her, but if she wants a permanent one she has to get the job done privately. A dentist told her a year ago that it would cost about 1,500 Colones. We have the money, but it’s the only economic cushion we have. Still it has to be done, the sooner the better, and it’ll surely cost less here than in the U.S.

I’m playing soccer at work. Today I received two good licks to the face with the ball, both courtesy of Renán {Molina}. But both were clean plays. Just the chance to get outside & to run is tremendously exhilarating. Why do I want to be a physicist all closed up in a lab, when I was raised on fresh air & sun, and nothing exhilarates me more?

Journal, May 23, 1977 PM

Nothing heavy this time. <Wednesday Sofia & I had a farewell party for Jaime & Pilar {Olson}.> They were scheduled to fly to El Salvador today and go by land from there up to Wisconsin. <Sofia did not let even a glimpse of her extreme distaste for Pilar show. Sofia’s sister’s boyfriend brought three of her sisters to make it a party.> I made cookies & corn bread. <Sofia made the punch, “dulces {sweets},” potato salad and arroz con pollo {chicken & rice casserole}.> Lolita Gonzalez {our landlady} joined us for a while. It was a “twanis” evening, to use Costarican slang.

Journal, May 17, 1977 AM

Why socialism? Where did Daddy fail? Why didn’t I absorb his undying faith in the free market, and his reverence for pure capitalism unhampered by government intervention?

I’m coming to believe that socialism is where the world’s nation states are headed, of necessity, though indisputably they are heading there at varying rates of speed, with accelerations, decelerations, backpedaling, the whole shebang!

Capitalism is a very fine system for exploiting abundant resources. You turn some reasonably sharp and self-interested folks loose in an incredibly resource rich & undeveloped piece of real estate like North America was in the 1600s, and you ought not be surprised when they build the most powerful and rich capitalist state on Earth. Even in this, the most nearly ideal situation pure capitalism has had to develop on the planet, its inherent vices have been manifest. Man as entrepreneur is not content to only exploit land with his own labor or machinery. He must have other men beneath his power, and he will go clear to Africa to bring to his capitalist paradise men who he can have as completely under his power as the animals he keeps. Man as entrepreneur so easily becomes insatiable in his greed!

Capitalism is wrong-headed to begin with. According to capitalist philosophy the whole society gins by each of its members pursuing vigorously his own self-interest, stoking the fire of his own greed. Some mysterious invisible hand was supposed to make it all work. Actually government has always had to have its hand in the “free enterprise system” in order to keep the greed of powerful men or groups from getting completely out of hand. As resources have become more limited, and as technology has become more complex, government has had to stick its (far from invisible) hand into the economic system clear up to the armpit.

Socialism starts with the central idea that society’s function (and thus government’s function) is to equitably distribute available resources among societal members. It shows its hands right out in front, manipulating the economy for the social welfare of the people. Sure we still need the entrepreneur, but perhaps we can reward him with a “people’s hero” medal, national acclaim and security for his family instead of with an empire?

Journal, May 16, 1977 PM

<This month Sofia has taken to keeping her own record of our spending habits.> She’s determined that we’ll come out 100 or 200 Colones in the black this month. We’ve had no big flings this month. I don’t believe we’ve even gone out for a beer! If we don’t break even this month we probably never will on my salary.

<Sofia says she’ll start working part-time if we don’t make money this month.> Certainly we wouldn’t have to be as uptight about money matters if she could work without undue stress.

I’ve decided recently that I clearly prefer socialism as a form of government, among the types of governing systems I’m familiar with. I’m not for it as a dogma or even an ideal type. I just think it’s the most workable way to equitably distribute scarce resources among members of a society. I’m even toying with the idea of becoming active in a socialist leaning political party when I return to the U.S.

Letter, May 9, 1977

Mom, Dad and everybody,

It looks like the rainy season is setting in here. It rained both yesterday & today in the afternoon. We’ll be fortunate if it continues to rain regularly, as water is being rationed in many parts of San Jose and the central valley. It’s been so dry the western part of Costa Rica that there wasn’t much of an avocado drop. Other fruit trees gave meager harvests also.

<Saturday Sofia, three of her sisters and I went to visit an aunt of theirs in Orotina.> Orotina is on the western side of the country, in the lowlands and it is hot! It reminded me a lot of my first worksite in El Salvador. Despite the drought, there were oranges, mangos, “nances” {a local fruit, also from a tree}, and avocados, and we carried a lot of fruit back with us. <Sofia’s aunt and her husband have a little farm where they raise a little bit of everything.> Most of the land is in pasture, and they have a few Brahman cattle.

<Sofia was born near where her aunt and uncle live, and some of her older sisters lived most of their childhood years there. Sofia showed me the house she was born in.>

May 11: I’m so busy running around these days, I got torn away in the middle of this letter & didn’t get back for 2 days. Would you believe the people at the church somehow screwed up in copying Mom’s name and it ended up Patty Jean Geise in the official records in the Register of Deeds Office in San Jose? So it goes. Today I took them a copy of my birth certificate and they promised to correct the error. I hope they get it straight this time!

I’ve been doing a little cooking lately. I made banana bread in the electric fry pan twice, & it came out excellent both times. I made 2 batches of cookies without burning a one! I had bad luck with my first attempt at corn bread, but the second time it game out good. (I got some pre-ground corn that they had done a toxin test on at the lab!)

I’m sending 2 rolls of film in a separate package. I don’t know what all is on them, but if there are some particularly interesting shots, send me a copy. Otherwise, hang on to them & we’ll see them when we get up there.

<Sofia & I got stomach parasites on our honeymoon!> So it goes. She has got some medicine & is curing herself, but I have to take 3 more stool samples before Peace Corp’s doctor will give me medicine for mine. Such is life under government bureaucracy.

Take care,


Journal, May 3, 1977 PM

It just began to rain. It’s coming down hard, could be the “aguacero {downpour}” that marks the coming of the rainy season. But then again, no, it just slowed down a bit!

Things are going well with the marriage, except for the financial picture. We spent 460 Colones more than my Peace Corps living allowance last month. <Sofia offered to work half days. I’ll have to accept her offer if we don’t fare better this month.> She’s promised to economize seriously. I don’t know if it’s possible for us to live on 1,900 Colones per month without incredibly spartanizing our existence. With her studying & me working, it’s tough. We both travel daily to & from, have social functions, etc.

<Sofia’s doing well in sociology & really likes it.> Now she’s getting into methods & statistics, and has taken a liking to it, even though it involves math. She is taking karate seriously too. She says she’s going to get her first colored belt soon!

My beans arrived for my “endurecimiento de frijoles {bean hardening}” experiment, and I’ve been busy getting the thing going. I’m learning how to do a fungus test, germination, and a test of seed vigor along with the cooking tests. I feel I’m learning & so am quite content at work.

<I’m enjoying being witness & advisor in Sofia’s intellectual growth.> She continues to impress with the cleverness of her insights, & her honesty & openness in discussing ideas.


Images, May 1977

{ Front view of the house on Sofia's aunt's farm near Orotina. }

{ A pair of calves on Sofia's aunt's farm near Orotina. }

{ Me with a burro on Sofia's aunt's farm near Orotina. }


Letter, April 27, 1977


No I haven’t forgotten you, it’s just taken a while to find time to write. <My job has been intensifying at least insofar as quantity of work and Sofia keeps my off hours filled with all kinds of stuff - most of it very pleasant.> All in all it means I don’t often have one of those hours of complete inactivity in which to let the mind float & invent - something I had in such abundance back in Metalío. Something lost & something gained; I really enjoy my present situation too, but must make more of a special effort to find time for letter writing.

<Sofia is taking karate lessons as a special activity at the university.> It’s great to see her taking pride in her physical condition and gaining confidence in her ability to go places alone, be able to defend herself, etc. So many, many women are handicapped by their fear of physical assault, robbery by force, etc. It’s a psychological handicap (though the dangers are real!) that pushes them toward the sheltered life of the house (bound) wife. Now if she just doesn’t get ornery and break me up some day! I’m helping her practice at home & picking up a few tactics too!

Jay wrote a letter for the two of us. It arrived shortly after you and Barbara left. He has an apartment in Belmopan, the capital of Belize, about halfway between Benque Viejo and Belize City. He invited either of us to drop in, too bad the letter missed you. Anyway, you can write him c/o Ministry of Agriculture, Belmopan, Belize, Central America. He’ll be there 2 years. Perhaps you’ll get another chance to pass through there. <Sofia & I hope to go through on our way north in January.>

Money really is tight, being married on a Peace Corps salary. Living in rural El Salvador, alone, I had more money than I knew what to do with earning $165 per month. Now I’m earning $229 and wonder how we’re going to break even in the long run. (Right now with wedding gifts & money I brought from the States we’re fine, but that will trickle away.)

I sold my bike. A friend wanted a bike real bad & I planned to sell it before leaving here, so what the heck. <I have little chance to use it since Sofia & I go places together nearly always, & with school activities she hauls me to & family stuff, etc. I wasn’t riding at all.> The guy’s buying it on the installment plan so that means ¢100 extra coming in per month.

Things are really tense in El Salvador. The foreign minister was kidnapped and will be killed if President Molina doesn’t release some political prisoners. Molina is stalling for time, while searching house to house in San Salvador. I bet that means some poor folks get roughed up! It’s very different reading about a political crisis like that after having lived in the country. It is so much more real, not just something that happens in some obscure place on the map. El Salvador could be close to a military coup. If Molina and his protégé General Romero lose face in this thing, they could lose the support of both the military and the rich oligarchy. Indications are that Borgonovo, the foreign minister, is from a well-heeled & powerful family & he is getting praise from all over the diplomatic community. Heavy situation!

Bruce wrote me about the incident with Donna at the Edgerton Hospital. Sounds very fucked up; she better beat the wrap if she wants to continue working as a dietician. (Boy I talk tough!) Seriously, I find it all very strange . . .

I read a Time {Magazine} article criticizing Carter for not playing Washington backroom political games & for being impulsive and overly idealistic in foreign policy. Northeastern intellectual snobbishness I call it. Carter has made a lot of friends among freedom oriented Central Americans with the human rights “impulse”. I think he could push it farther, like cut off military aid to Nicaragua, Guatemala & El Salvador maybe. I hope Carter doesn’t listen to Time. He gives the impression he’s a moral person; I hope it’s so. I think maybe the press prefers a wheeler-dealer like Johnson, more exciting.

Enough B.S.,


Journal, April 18, 1977 PM

This journal has converted itself from a daily affair into a weekly. I always expected that I would end this diary as abruptly as I started it a year and 4 months ago. It appears I was wrong. I continue to write occasionally even though my former obsession of writing daily without fail has become absurd to me.

<Sofia & I went to a cattle show Saturday morning.> It was the Costarican national livestock exhibition, and took place in a facility behind Bonanza Restaurant near the Herradura Inn hotel at the crossroads where the San Antonio {de Belén} - Heredia road crosses the divided highway between San Jose and Alajuela. <My passion to evaluate cattle & talk about cattle was reawakened, and I bored poor Sofia with the relative merits of animals we saw.> I’m only interested in dairy cattle, other breeds of cattle and other species don’t interest me as much. <Sofia says she could be happy on a dairy farm.> I guess I could be too if I’d let myself. Not yet though. I’m not ready to resign myself to that life yet!

<I struck Sofia a brutal emotional jab Friday night, half unwittingly.> I arrived home first and put myself to straightening up the kitchen & warming beans & rice for supper. <I knew Sofia had class until 5 on Fridays, and she’d left a note explaining that the striking resemblance our apartment bore to a rat’s abode was due to the fact that she had spent the entire morning typing an assignment for “Human Relations” (& washing 2 pairs of my jeans, I was out of clean jeans), and had not had time for anything.>

What happened was that when she arrived & found me in the middle of household tasks, she began to tell me all about her day, like a traditional husband boring the wife with office chit-chat. I suggested she could help out by setting the table. She began to do so. She looked over what was on the stove (rice, beans, empanadas and milk for hot chocolate) and said abruptly, “You could have cooked up eggs.” Without 2 seconds hesitation I replied, just as abruptly, “Why don’t you go to the devil, huh?” I had intended only to play the frustrated, overworked wife to her dissatisfied husband, being more than a bit amused by the turnabout, but she took it directly to heart and went to the farthest corner of the apartment (which is located in the shower of the bathroom) to cry.

I didn’t realize she was seriously wounded, assuming it a playful maneuver, her leaving the room. I sat down to eat at least part of my supper, since it was at optimum eating temperature and would surely be cold by the time I returned from making love to atone for my imaginary crime.

<When I went into the bedroom and did not find Sofia lying in ambush there, I realized something was amiss.> I found her huddled against the wall of the shower trying to look small & not wanting me to see that she was really crying. She sent me to eat, claiming lack of hunger, but was not above telling the story from her angle in which she was ‘just about to fry up the eggs’ when she “suggested” that I “could” have made eggs, and I turned on her in mad rage and fairly screamed that she ought to embark immediately for Satin’s domain. Who ever said marriage was a piece of cake?

Journal, April 12, 1977 PM

Life continues. <Sofia and I are still enjoying each other’s company, “still checking each other out.”> We had a pretty active Semana Santa {Easter week}. We went to Orosi and to Lake Fraijanes, and also on a picnic in the pastures near her folk’s house in La Asunción. She likes to go places & do things, and I find it entertaining too, although at times a wave of boredom & guilt sweeps me away. I need purpose and direction to be content. If it is that I’m capable of being content! <Sofia notices when I’m even a little bored or distracted by thoughts beyond the immediate.> It can’t be helped. It’s the way my mind works.

I am busy nearly every waking minute, and yet I feel like I’m not doing anything of worth. <I only feel genuine & complete fulfillment when I make love to Sofia, and when she snuggles up beside me and places her head on my chest to sleep.> The tremendous emotional attachment we have developed in our month of living together, and the thorough understanding we have of each other’s inner motivations, does not cease to amaze me. I feel like part of an epic love story, and as a character in the tale, incapable of describing adequately its power and many facetedness.

I feel insecure in my work situation. Carlos Reed seems to be doing something very worthwhile, budgeting his time, playing the complete lab technician. I’m dabbling in things that interest me but little. I have to be careful not to let my ‘give a damn’ attitude surface. I read dull research articles to pass the time and possibly find a tidbit of useful or interesting data. I help Renán {Molina} with any routine lab task that comes along. In terms of personal or technical intellectual development I accomplish precisely diddley-squat.

On the political scene, 3 bombs were set off in Costa Rica yesterday. The intelligent guess is that they protest the killing of Carlos Agüero Echivería, a guerilla of the Sandinista liberation movement, by Nicaraguan authorities. Agüero E. is the son of an exiled Nicaraguan and a Costarican woman. Born in Cartago {Costa Rica}, he was raised here and studied here before entering law school at the Central American University in Nicaragua. After a trip to Cuba he joined the Sandinistas. Apparently he had friends here. I saw his picture in the paper. He looked like an intense idealist. I’ve seen Fred Tracy with a similar set to his jaw, and a similar stony look in his eyes.


Journal, March 31, 1977 PM

I’m losing interest in this journal. It seems like just another chore writing in it. I’m not doing anything at all unique or especially interesting. My work is boring. My love life is fine, but who needs another love story?

I don’t know. I feel like a lackey stuck in another of an endless series of ruts. Keep at it even though you’ve forgotten why, some day . . . I should be writing something creative if I’m going to write!

I should be reading, investigating, cataloging facts & experiences, codifying my philosophy of life. But I’m a lackey. Who knows if I’ll ever stumble out of my series of ruts and onto an idea?

Journal, March 29, 1977 PM

Things usually manage to royally cross up our expectations. Reading over my entry for March 24th, I note that the expectation of dining with Steve Pamperin was not fulfilled. He and Jaime {Olson} had a fiesta {party} at work and came back late. <I didn’t wait for them because Sofia was feeling sickly.> I had left her at her folk’s and didn’t want to hang around the Campos Gonzalez house too long alone, knowing how fiestas with PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} often last into the night. <My expectation that Sofia was better was blown to bits too.> She didn’t feel normal again until she finished taking the Ampicillin pills.

Steve & Jaime showed up red-eyed & drowsy to have a drink with us and talk a bit. They’d kind of expected I’d wait longer. It was better I didn’t. <It spared them seeing Sofia vomit supper.>

Saturday I went to La Guacima to visit Jaime & Steve. I had to take a bus because I was too late to go with Neil {Dingot}. <I let Sofia set the alarm & she didn’t realize that you have to pull out the stem.> I made it and met a few of the trainees. I also rapped with Neil a bit, and saw the hole for their silo.

We went to Alajuela on Sunday, ostensibly to show Steve around, and walked into the middle of a “Festival de las Flores {Flowers}.” We went by Skip Baker’s place. It was good to see him again. He and Neil Dingot are such a pair of sharpies, but not just sharp, really intelligent, business oriented types. Skip is headed to the States (New Hampshire) with wife Ana & baby sons Michael and Alexander. Looks like he’s giving up the life of the petty wheeler-dealer a la Costa Rica to go up north and look for something more stable & settled. Skip’s got the education, experience and brains to do miracles in some company’s international division. He’ll have no problems.

He’s into raising kids through the difficult years right now. Long, lanky, red-haired Skip with his huge handlebar below the long, pointed schnoz is a loving father (in his semi-cynical, tongue-in-cheek way). He doesn’t care if his son is an athlete he drawls, just so he’s President of the U.S. or something! With tiny, petite, teeny-bopperish-looking Ana they make an unlikely pair of progenitors for two robust, healthy little boys. But it is so. <I hope Sofia & I have as cute a pair of offspring (but not for 5-7 years).>

<Sofia was back in the pink of health Sunday.> She out ate everyone (Jaime, Steve & I included) at lunch, and was full of energy and antojos (impulsive desires). Last night we went to a bachelor party for Renán {Molina} (my lab partner at work), and I believe she out drank me! She had more energy left this morning too! {some text not transcribed}

Journal, March 24, 1977 PM

{some text not transcribed}

<I believe Sofia is getting over her vaginal infection.> She didn’t vomit up lunch or dinner yesterday, and even went to karate class for the first time. Monday we paid 70 Colones for a doctor’s appointment and 110 Colones for Ampicillin pills & some antiseptic ointment. I think he was a good M.D., though he gave her a “Pap” test and advised her to go off her Yermonil birth control pills for a month after taking them a year, etc. The darn pills are so strong they upset her delicate stomach. Tuesday she threw up after every meal! Apparently by taking the pills with bananas and limiting her diet primarily to fruits, milk & soft-boiled eggs she has resolved the problem. Last evening she seemed so vibrant & energetic I can’t help thinking she’s nearly back to normal.

Tuesday my “Scientific American” {magazine} arrived. Today I read an article on the moons of Mars. <Sofia said she wishes she could read it since it looks so interesting.>

Today we go to San Antonio {de Belén} to take Steve Pamperim to dinner at her family’s house. <It should be a stimulating evening, especially with Sofia’s older sister’s romantic interest in Steve.> She ought to make a good meal!

Journal, March 21, 1977 PM

<Sofia is still feeling sore in the abdomen.> She has some kind of infection in the urinary tract, I think. She urinates often and it is painful for her. Whatever it is has been building up since our trip to {Playas del} Coco. Today we’ll make our third attempt to consult with a doctor about it. <Sofia tried in Heredia Friday, and we tried in Alajuela Saturday. Sofia is being strong, but I’d like to see her cured quickly.> It’ll be expensive since we have to go to a private M.D. Not until Saturday will the Seguro Social {Social Security, the national health care plan} inspector be in Santo Domingo so we can see about getting health insurance for her. I’m feeling the weight of my responsibility to her. Right now I have a bit of cash in reserve, but what if I didn’t? I may not 6 months from now!

When I run the calculation through my head, starting with the 1,953.40 Colones I make per month, I just shake my head & wonder how we’ll come out! <Take off 700 Colones for rent, leaving about 40 Colones per day we have left to spend for everything else, including the electric bill, food, clothes, Sofia’s study expenses, etc.> I picked up a 44 Colones check for beer last evening! I see lots of home-cooked rice & beans in our future.

Steve Pamperin arrived yesterday by plane from El Salvador. <Sofia & I just caught him at the bus stop. We were late.> Jaime {Olson} didn’t meet him because he was in Guanacaste with his charges {Peace Corps trainees}. We drank beer & caught up on “old” friends and the political situation in El Salvador. Things are extremely tense there. The church has apparently come out quite openly against the government due to a priest being murdered near Aguilares. Steve is glad to be leaving in June. I’m glad to be out. He shares my preoccupation for Fred Tracy.

Letter, March 20, 1977 ?

{ Thank you }

Mom, Dad & all,

Just a note to say thanks for coming down, and for the pressure cooker, too. <I read the instructions & showed Sofia how to use the thing to make beans, works good!>

Things are going all right here. <Sofia has some kind of urinary tract infection & the pills for it are hard on her stomach, but she’ll be through taking them in a couple more days, and should be back to normal.> She’s started classes at the university {National University, Heredia} now, so it looks like from now on we’ll both be bustling around.

I sure enjoyed your visit, & hope you got back in good shape! <Did I tell you Sofia’s parents had never been to the airport until they went to see you off?> It was a big deal for them!

Take care,


Journal, March 18, 1977 PM

I abruptly ended my epistle yesterday when the beer truck arrived. I didn’t even put a period to the last sentence until just now.

Today I should recap my folk’s visit, since I’ve neglected everything concerning that week except our lovemaking! It was a good visit. <Mom & Dad approved of the kind of folks Sofia’s family is, and they approved of my family (not just my parents, but Jan & Barb, and Mary & David as well).> The little ones were, as expected, a big hit with everyone. They enjoyed the serenade and wedding, though the communication gap left them a bit frustrated. Dad danced! I never had seen him dance before, but at the reception he pranced around light-footedly with both Mom & the new bride.

Mary had all she could do with the little ones & David took lots of pictures. Jan danced a bit. She’s thinner, in better shape than in years & she was burned from her visit to Ojo de Agua {swimming resort}. She caught a lot of lurid looks from the Costarican males, but didn’t seem to mind. Chito (Pilar’s brother), half bombed, tried to hustle Jan & Barb, calling on all of his limited English!

<When Sofia & I got back from Playas del Coco {Coco Beach}, we took Dad, Mom & David to visit her grandparents.> Mary watched the kids. The folks enjoyed the visit, but the highlight of their week, at least for Dad who was always the most vocal, was the train trip to Puerto Limón, which they took Wednesday.

<In the evening my entire family delegation, and Barb Walsh, got together with Sofia’s family to have supper in the family home.> It was a genuine Costarican feast, but I couldn’t do it justice, having eaten a monstrous lunch at El Cencero in Alajuela with my folks.

Jan & Barb left on the morning Tica Bus, and the others on a 3 PM plane. <Sofia’s parents made their first trip ever to the airport to see my folks off.> It was not showy, but a deeply emotional farewell. I felt the same lump in my throat I’d experienced when Jaime’s {Olson} folks said goodbye to Pilar’s folks. Only the lump was bigger, I almost choked on it. They were all my people!

Journal, March 17, 1977 PM

I hope this is the last time I have to wait on a beer truck for a while! I’m at El Ande, for I hope the last time in my life, waiting for the Cervecería de Costa Rica {brewery} to come get their damn cases of empty bottles and beer, and leave me in peace! I don’t even like the music they’re blaring over the sound system here. Some Latin Donny Osmond!

What a life I lead! This morning I measured the last 100 of some 700 grains of rice for the replication of a weird experiment Dr. Mora thinks is “muy buena {very good}.” I’ve been sitting here adding up the pages in my account book & reading La Nación {newspaper}, things I can’t seem to find time for at home now that I have a wife to occupy my time. <Last night Sofia was feeling sore in the abdomen and cold, but wouldn’t go to bed alone, & let me catch up on a few things.> She hung around in her flimsy nightie rubbing her body against my shoulder and shivering.

Journal, March 16, 1977 PM

<Yes, our lovemaking has been superb, and Sofia has taken to household tasks so dedicatedly that I feel embarrassed at times having her doing so much for me.> She finds tasks for me when I’m around though. She’s no martyr or willing slave.

<Several of her sisters came to visit Sunday with one sister’s boyfriend.> Monday it was her mother who came, to help wash clothes. <Yesterday she went to La Asunción and brought her younger brother back to keep her company.> They’re checking up on me! But then I give a damn. <Sofia’s done wonders in the apartment, and she makes good meals.> They leave us alone in bed! <Once Sofia’s into school she’ll be too busy to keep such close contact with them.> More important, her mother will eventually accept the fact that she’s a mature & competent married woman.

Journal, March 14, 1977 PM

Of right I ought to write a book today. I’ve felt the need and desire to get down on paper both events and feelings during this intense last week, but simply have not found the time. I’ll try to summarize a few highlights.

<Lovemaking with Sofia:> It has been the most powerful emotional experience of my life. Descriptive terms like “getting your rocks off,” “fucking” and “screwing” were appropriate for describing my few brief encounters with prostitutes. <They don’t apply to what I experienced with Sofia.>

{some text not transcribed}


Journal, March 5, 1977 AM

Today is the day (we hear the mice say). Today is the day of the great mouse ball!

Yesterday was hectic & sometimes headachy, but last night was for the fairy tales! Dave Quarles arrived from El Salvador. <Sofia’s sister’s boyfriend & I stole a bag of ice from the Hotel Irazú (where my folks are).> The serenaders played so beautiful. Two bottles of Jack Daniels bit the dust. Fred & I killed the last quarter of a bottle of guaro {Costarican rum-like liquor} to climax the party! <Sofia was beautiful in her “mono {coveralls}.”> No más {more}!

Journal, March 3, 1977 PM

I think I was sick of sitting around in El Ande by about 11 AM. At noon the administrator, Don Miguel, came over to rap. He’s very friendly and acts like he’s sincerely interested in you. But what an S.O.B. of a businessman. He was going to get the pop for me & handle it all for 30 Colones per case (plenty expensive enough for the 25-30 cases involved). When I came back to confirm the deal, the price was 36 Colones with no explanation. That’s why I’m still waiting for the pop truck, which was supposed to arrive at 10 AM.

When the beer truck finally came at 12:30, Miguel backed me (unofficially) to save me the deposits on the cases, but then chimed in with the beer company dude to try and convince me to buy 20 cases instead of ten and forget about buying any Tropical {brand} beer. I stood my ground calmly for once, but it was disconcerting to have the guy I’d just been chummily B.S.’ing with turn and put the pressure to me like that.

Journal, March 3, 1977 AM

Here I sit, waiting on a beer truck and a pop truck in El Centro de Recreo del Ande {Ande Recreation Center} in San Antonio {de Belén}. It looks like things are fairly well under control as far as wedding preparations are concerned. I need something to put the ice & beer in yet, and something to chip ice with, but the beer company should be able to help me out with one thing, & I have a screwdriver and a heavy wrench for the other!

It is cool and breezy this morning, and El Ande has some beautiful flowering bushes. Pigeons are breakfasting in their house attached to the tree next to the one my table is under. “A peaceful, easy feeling,” I’ll accept that phrase.

<Staying over at Sofia’s last night was a good lesson in human relations.> Living alone, even for a short time, one tends to forget that others hustle & work as much or more than he does. <Sofia’s older sister was still at the sewing machine cranking out wedding clothes when I went to bed at 10 PM. This morning another sister and a brother were off to work by 6:15. Sofia was up at 5:30, as were her mother and an older sister.> She gave me a delicious ‘good morning’ kiss! <Her father was hopping around in his cast by 6:30, getting ready to paint the stairway leading to the house, and his wife was reciting the list of errands he had to do today.> I don’t know how he does it all with a cast on one leg! Yesterday he killed a pig, and last Saturday he went to Heredia to buy 20 liters of guaro {Costarican rum-like liquor}.

They have painted that house inside and out, put in light fixtures, fixed up the bathroom and put in shower curtains. It’s been a lot of work & expense for them, this wedding. For me that is part of the beauty of it. It’s such an anti-economic undertaking, all to create meaning in the lives of two people and two families. Perhaps meaning creation is the great mission of human beings. If so, then the religious scholars, the scientists, the poets, the painters and sculptors, the architects and songwriters are all on the frontier. Making wholes from bits of knowledge & materials. Creating reality from facts and objects.

Journal, March 2, 1977 PM

Today is another pretty average work day, but tonight and tomorrow the wedding prelims take over as the major focus of my actions. <I have to buy more liquor in Heredia today, and Fred will be at Sofia’s for dinner tonight.> Tomorrow they deliver 10 cases of beer to El Ande (and possibly the pop if I find the proper place to order it from today).

I feel more nervous about getting everything organized than about actually getting married. The decision to marry and undergo the hassles of a big wedding celebration has already been made. I’m immersed in details of the event. That in no way implies that I have no doubts about the whole enterprise! <Sofia is a high risk person to marry.> She is opinionated and demanding, perhaps even “high strung” fits. She expects a lot from me, but conversely she promises to give a great deal. She’ll never bore me to death, though she already bores me at times with her gossiping with other women & her detailed analysis of trivial internal matters of her family. She’ll pull a new initiative or attitude out of her hat every little bit! She may become a monster if she doesn’t adjust to the fact that I can’t and won’t attend to her needs and whims with the good-natured solicitousness her family does.

<Sofia says I must correct and constructively criticize her so that she may grow.> She says her family doesn’t do it enough and that she can take such things better from someone she loves. I hope she was sincere about that, because I’m making a special effort to make mental notes of things she does that I disapprove of, and finding an opportune time & way to express the gripe & suggest alternatives. It’s tough. <Sofia is an argumentative person, and if the criticism is not properly aimed & properly cushioned, she starts a frontal defense (or counterattack) without pausing to consider the constructive merit of the gripe.> I even love her in those moments. She’s so open and frank and blunt without malice! But I’ve yet to live with her. We could clash royally, who knows?

Journal, March 1, 1977 PM

This may be the last installment before the wedding. I’ll work yet tomorrow, then take Thursday & Friday off to run the last-minute errands for the big fiesta {party}. In the last week, I‘ve been in San Antonio {de Belén} more than I’ve been home. I get home at 11 or 11:30, drop into a deep sleep, and get up at 6 to start over. Dr. Mora has given me things to do at work, so I haven’t been able to get back to the computer science book.

I’m going to have an adequate family representation at the wedding. Jan is coming, along with Barb Walsh. They’ll be here Thursday. Mom, Dad, Mary, David and the little ones will arrive Friday. It’s great, but also means I’ll be running myself ragged-er these last days before the thing.

Another late news item: Gerardo Chavez, Doña Teresa and Doña Lupita from Santa Tecla {El Salvador} are coming to the wedding as well! They also expect to arrive Thursday. I want to try to meet the Tica Bus they come in. <I’m trying to get Sofia to find them a place to stay in La Asunción, but so far she hasn’t said “sí ó no {yes or no}.”> What a grand gesture of friendship it is for them to come so far & spend so much money to see me married! They are so poor, I don’t see how they justify it, but aren’t they wonderful!

<Sofia & I have been having our arguments lately.> It’s like we’re trying to lay the ground rules for the marriage, and surely looking for that magic answer or glance or something that will tell each of us he or she is right to take the giant step of marriage with the other. We have yet to banish the doubts, but we always finish by clinging to each other and to our decision.

Fred Tracy laments that his friends generally change when they get married. They no longer find time for their friends and they “become older.” <It’s happening to Sofia and I for sure. Her younger sister is mad at Sofia & tells her she’s crazy to marry.> I’m getting to be so practical, I’m liable to turn into a CPA at any time!

It’s impossible to judge our relationship at this precise point. The marriage process is a strain on any two people. It’ll be like a cool evening breeze when it has all blown by & we’re left together, in the apartment that first night, at the beach the following day, ah!


Images, March 1977

{ The Catholic church in San Antonio de Belén where Sofia and I were married. }


Journal, February 23, 1977 PM

I made it home on the bike last evening in 35 minutes, only getting off once to walk up part of the hill between Tibás and Santo Domingo. That hill is a bear going either way! They ought to have built a big suspension bridge between the two towns. As it is you have to go down into a deep gulley and then come back up out of it. It’s so steep that even in the lowest gear on the bike, you are straining away to push the pedals. You can’t get a run at the hill either because the other side is too steep to let go and race down. Also at the center of the gulley is a bumpy one-lane bridge where the cars take turns crossing.

I felt like a real little homemaker last night. I made soup; I went to buy groceries; I cleaned some beans and put them to soak for cooking tonight. I had left food wastes in a box in the kitchen, and the ants & flies were after them. I had to bag them up (and then I forgot to put them out for the garbage pickup today). I also dusted and swept. God, how the dirt accumulates in that place. Santo Domingo is so windy, the place is open under the roof, and we have a gravel road in front. Dusting & sweeping should be done daily, but I don’t have time. I must go pay respects to the priest in San Antonio {de Belén} once again, so the clothes will pile up.

I’m into subalgorithms now in the computer science text. Yesterday I put screen windows in plastic pail lids for Carlos’ {Reed} experiment, but today I am mostly unoccupied. I think the background from reading the text may serve me some day. I’ll almost certainly have to take a computer course when I return to college. Anyway, it’s good discipline & keeps the mind ticking away.

Journal, February 22, 1977 PM

Fred Tracy is in Costa Rica. <Sofia and I went to Pilar & Jaime’s to look and there he was.> We did a lot of talking over his & Jaime’s supper, and over 3 pitchers of beer at the Jardín Cervecero {bar} later on. <Sofia liked Fred from the first, which was satisfying to me.> I’m pleased when she sees the same good traits in people I do and appreciates their worth.

Poor Fred, he’s working hard and yet is a bit unhappy. He claims he can’t get into the same kind of relationship with new PCVs {Peace Corps volunteers} that he had with people in our group. He talks in that special semi-awed tone he has about what a special group we were. I too feel a special thing for the group. We were all pretty sincere, open, flexible and curious people, but I fear Fred is letting his nostalgia impede his adaptation to new situations, new people, new realities. I made the statement that it would never be the same even if the group did get back together again. Fred insisted, “For some of us it’ll be the same.”

Fred is so good as a worker & friend that I wonder how he can treat Marlene like he does. He spends little time with her, makes few sacrifices for her, and she’s another Pilar (i.e. a near saint). I guess he’s not ready to appreciate a good woman companion yet. Who am I to judge?

Fred brought me a bottle of Jack Daniels, and news that Dave Quarles has come back with a “pansón {belly},” and toting some of the filthiest pulp books Fred ever saw. I wouldn’t have expected Dave to get fat. I’m a bit disappointed, though for sure he’ll work it off in the heat.

I rode the bike here to CIGRAS today. It took 45 minutes, despite my horrendous physical condition. I walked the bike up two steep grades.

Journal, February 21, 1977 PM

The other day when I was deep into computer algorithms and the jargon they contain, I wrote a couple doodles concerning mankind and marriage. I’ll store them here for future reference or disposal!

<Yesterday I awoke with a firm determination to have a serious one-on-one talk with Sofia about the need for more communication between us.> I went to her place. <I took her down by the little monument to the Virgin near her house, though we didn’t get away without her young nephew.> And I hemmed and hawed around for a while trying to find the words to verbalize the doubts and worries that were floating around in my head. I pretty well succeeded, eventually, and then she began to talk, and we found that the same instinctive mutual understanding that was evident in our long letters was still there though it had been a while since we had reached in and pulled the shades to expose it to the light.

I’m vastly reassured. <With Sofia I’ve nothing to fear but my own insecurity!> Her impulsiveness and brashness is complimented by a sensitivity and a profound rationalness. If my arguments are sound I can convince her.

{some text not transcribed}

Letter, February 18, 1977

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

If you want warm weather you’re going to get it when you come down here. The days are already very warm, and it never rains. March they tell me is the hottest month of the year here so you can leave your long undies home! However, in Santo Domingo, where I’m now living, it is quite cool & windy in the evenings. I wear a sweater or overall jacket, generally.

I want you to bring me down a couple things when you come.

First, I need 4 rolls of film for the girl who’s going to take pictures at the wedding. She needs KODACOLOR 2 for a 35-mm. camera (the film has a number, but she didn’t know it, but with the type & camera type you should be able to get it). The rolls are 36 picture ones, for prints, and she wants 4, OK? I think I’ll send the film back with you to get it developed too since they don’t do a good job of developing color shots here.

Second, I need to get a statement from the bank in Adams which gives my total interest earnings for 1976 (that would include the Golden Passbook account & 2 C.D.’s {certificates of deposit}). It looks like my income for 1976 may just squeak over the minimum for paying Federal tax. It depends on how much of my Peace Corps allowance is taxable. They raised our readjustment allowance, plus I got special pay for home leave & that may do it. So if you can get a statement of my interest, I have the W-2 from Peace Corps & am getting the other info. I need.

Don’t bring down any wedding gifts please. If we get some stuff from people here that we won’t use right away we may send it back with you. Things like china that would surely break if sent back by freight. <If you want to bring some little gifts for Sofia’s family or the family I lived with in training, that’s OK.> The cheese and sausage I brought went over well. They’ve never seen cottage cheese, and the U.S. produced liquor is much more expensive here than there (just ideas).

Wedding arrangements are coming along. Today we go to see the priest, with Jaime & Pilar as witnesses, to get the preliminary paperwork taken care of. <I’ve got my suit, & Sofia’s dress is about done.> My biggest problem right now is groomsmen, since I know so few Volunteers in Costa Rica, and most of my male friends here in general are married. Not too grave.

I really want to know what time you’ll be arriving so I can meet you at the airport. I’ll probably take that day (March 4) off from work to run errands anyway, & may rent a car if I can afford it. <That night some local musicians are going to come and serenade Sofia.> You’ll want to see that.

Take care,


Journal, February 16, 1977 PM

<It’s been a week since I wrote, and looking back on the last lines I wrote, I reflect that Sofia was cariñosa {affectionate} Wednesday night and even more so Thursday when she came to my apartment chaperoned only by one of her oldest sister’s sons.> {some text not transcribed}

Thursday night I rode my bike to Heredia. Friday I washed & waxed it, and Saturday I rode it to San Antonio {de Belén} “para marcar en bicicleta {to visit the girlfriend on my bicycle},” as Enrique Villalobos put it. From San Antonio to Heredia the slope is all towards San Antonio, so riding there was easy. I made it in half an hour. <I arrived at 7:20, in time to catch Sofia heading out to exchange a coverall the family had bought her.>

The pill is having its effects. <Saturday Sofia said she had felt faint & almost passed out the night before, and Sunday, when we went bowling with Jaime & Pilar, she got almost unbearably irritable at one point. The common wisdom is that on the pill the body thinks it’s pregnant, so this is a preview of what Sofia will be like in the early months of pregnancy.> Oh boy!

<Monday, Valentine’s Day or Día de los Enamorados, Sofia was going to prepare me supper at the apartment, but some little bastards (local boys on vacation from the colegio {high school}, surely) teased her (she was alone) and came & sat in front of the apartment.> She got scared and left. So I went to San Antonio, feeling like a true bashful beau with flowers & a gift. I only lacked the slicked down hair and ’57 Chevy!

She received me very warmly, wearing her new coverall (“mono”, a present fad) for the third straight day. Last night I made a super vegetable & rice soup, and washed pants. <Today Sofia will bear up and go to Santo Domingo again.>

I’ve been reading an introductory computer science text at work last week & this to fill abundant idle time. I think I’m in chapter 5, learning about algorithms to formulate problems for computer solution. The logical nature of computer programming appeals to my order-loving mind, but the redundancy and general drudgery of setting up problems for a half-wit machine doesn’t appeal. It’s essential that I understand programming, but I don’t really think I want to write too many programs.


Journal, February 9, 1977 PM

Last night I bought the necessary parts and fixed my bike up. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a spring for the sprocket changer I had so I finally gave up & bought a new changer (108 Colones). I tried finding one in San Salvador and in Madison {WI} with similar luck. The one I bought is a very popular brand, so they should have replacement springs when I need them. Who knows if it’ll still be popular when I need a spring!

I took the bike for a spin at 9:30 or so. It worked A-1, and I got a pleasant rush just bopping around on it. It felt as good as it used to in Metalío. Now I need to wax it to slow down the rust. I may ride the bike to San Antonio {de Belén} Saturday for the exercise. I want to ride it here to work, but the first time will have to be a weekend so I can check the time necessary for the trip, & the feasibility of it. There is a steep, steep hill between Santo Domingo & Tibás!

I finally got a cutting board and celebrated by making hamburgers with green peppers & onions. I also cooked up some beans last night, making a hell of a mess when they ran over.

I bought two rat traps and a knob for a kitchen cabinet as well, and a covered pail to store food in (against rats). I put the knob on & set the traps in between baking beans & fixing the bike. This morning I found the bait gone from one trap, but the trap not sprung. Those rats are intelligent (and possibly experienced in handling traps)!

I’m reading from a computer science text to keep occupied today. Things are at a stand-still in my experiment, & Dr. Mora is busy. Carlos & Renán are both (seemingly) busy so I feel a little guilty.

<Today I hit the Post Office, the bank, and then lit out for San Antonio, hoping to find Sofia “cariñosa {affectionate}” today.>

Journal, February 8, 1977 PM

Yesterday I completed my wedding attire by buying a tie and a belt. I found to my great surprise that leather belts are cheaper than plastic ones in San Jose. I wonder if that holds for other leather goods. I of course bought a leather belt.

<Sofia and her younger sister waited and fed me supper at the apartment.> They must have had an adventurous afternoon from appearances. They planted a leaf in a plastic cup I had some seeds planted in. They burned a fuse on the outlet where I usually hook up the radio and the electric fry pan. Probably had them both going at once. They apparently set my two plastic bags of garbage out in the wind, and the shit was in the gutter in front of the place when I returned. This morning I found that the frying pot (It has handles like a pot, but is shallow like a frying pan.) was put away wet & with rice residue still lingering in it.

I was a little disturbed by some of these discoveries. The garbage I more or less scraped from the gutter, the fact that they didn’t tell me about the blown fuse, and the wet, dirty pan. I hope that it was all just goofing off because the two were together. {some text not transcribed} <Sofia must make some adjustments when she’s with me all the time.> She says she likes to do things well, have everything orderly, etc. Yesterday leaves me wondering.

I went to see Dr. Pardo {Peace Corps doctor} about a little lump I have just above my right ankle. I’ve had it for 2+ years and just got around to asking an M.D. about it. He says it’s a type of cyst, and that it will swell up, burst & drain now and then, but that it is nothing to worry about. I also asked him about Peace Corps responsibility toward non-U.S. citizen wives and he confirmed that it is zero. If we have a child, I can get money for that, whoopy shit! He said he will do medical consulting for my future wife, but medicine, exams, hospital is all strictly our problem. <It is a big risk for Sofia unless she works & thus gets automatic health insurance.> I’ll ask her if there isn’t a government plan whereby you pay a premium and get healthcare when not working. She’s had health problems before, so it’s dangerous to be without coverage.

I ran last night & physically I feel tip-top today. I really must discipline myself to get frequent vigorous exercise. I feel much more relaxed and take a more positive, constructive attitude toward the world when I’m in decent physical shape.

Journal, February 7, 1977 PM

<Sofia and her younger sister came to visit me at CIGRAS today. They had come to the university to check on her sister’s grade on the entrance exam.> Apparently she didn’t do well enough. Her name was not on the list of those admitted. I’m sure a disproportionate number of the top scores on the exam are made by kids who went to the best (& most expensive) “colegios {high schools}.”

The Universidad de Costa Rica is largely a school for the children of the wealthy, from appearances. Anyway, the girls weren’t here very long and didn’t really seem to want to be introduced to everyone. Renán said he was sure they weren’t relatives of his because he didn’t have any relatives as good looking.

Friday evening I went with Ramón to see a man about a bed. The guy will make me a bed with headboard & cabinet for 650 Colones. That’s dirt cheap, but it won’t have a nice thick mattress on it. I plan to give him the go-ahead today. I can always buy the big mattress later if I think I need it.

<I helped paint the front of Sofia’s family’s house Saturday.> I spent from before 9 AM until almost 8 PM there. They fed me good & I didn’t work all that hard. I sure burned my arms though, painting in the hot sun in my T-shirt. <Sofia & I were wearing matching playfully loving moods, and it was a very pleasant day, all in all. Poor Sofia jumped off a chair & broke the bottle of paint thinner, so other family members went on a wild goose chase trying to find more so we could continue the job.>

{some text not transcribed}

Yesterday we spent a mostly boring afternoon at the Campos Gonzalez home. <Boring primarily because Jaime {Olson} was off visiting and I was left with Pilar, Sofia and Marita.> They hadn’t been together for a good gab session in some time it seemed! We watched “El Chapolín Colorado” and “El Chavo del Ocho,” ate hamburgers with Pilar & Jaime, and went to a pretty dull mass.

<I recall that Sofia was in a talking mood all the time I was with her.> We were discussing drinking problems. <Her sister’s boyfriend has one.> Her father had one for about 2 months after his mother died. My father never drinks more than one drink at a sitting. It seemed I would start a sentence and she would go off on another 2-minute burst of family wisdom & gossip. I was developing a headache by the time I left her at her gate. <Her sister’s good old boyfriend had waited and gave me a ride as far as Heredia.>

Journal, February 4, 1977 PM

<Sofia and I talked with the new priest (one of the two) this morning.> It was kind of an anticlimax. As it turned out, he was no spit & polish Spaniard, stickler for details, but a young Spanish priest with a mod hairdo who came here from the U.S. where he had spent 2 years in New Mexico. He will marry me with just my passport and my witness. We go back to see him the 18th at 7 PM. I think with him I might be able to talk about religion on an intellectual level. Perhaps I’ll get the chance.

<Sofia & I both had rather long days yesterday, & we clashed a bit.> I was in one of my preoccupied states of mind where I almost shut out all other stimuli. I was thinking about how to get a bed to fit in our tiny room, & how I might measure the room to be sure, since I have no ruler. <She was being hurried by her sisters to leave right now, & then I made a highly ill advised comment about her having served 2 meat dishes for supper. It turned out one of her sisters had bought “mortadela {lunch meat}” after Sofia had already gotten veal to make.> But she got angry with me first & then threw that crucial information in as a “besides” when she was scolding me. And oh how I hate to be upbraided before other people! I then completely clammed up & was sullen. Twas no big thing, but every such breakdown of communication worries me.

I ran off my frustrations taking a jog around Santo Domingo. Today I plan to attempt bed buying in Santo Domingo. Ramón {my coworker} says he knows the furniture dealer on the corner.

Journal, February 3, 1977 PM

Monday afternoon I bolstered up my courage and boldness, and called the Costarican YMCA office to ask Brad Smith, who is the subdirector, if he would consider taking pictures at our wedding. I had met him (just briefly) at Peace Corps director Gary O’Neil’s going away party, and noted that he was a photography buff. It was highly presumptuous on my part & I fully realized it. I was so nervous & keyed up about it that I talked fast & sat there by the phone almost visibly shaking and feeling my heart pounding on my ear drums when it was over! He must be a very decent person. He took it well, & promised he would ask a friend who had done such things before if she would do it.

Tuesday afternoon I dropped by the ACJ (Asociación Cristiano de Jovenes) {YMCA} to see Brad. I arrived carrying my shaving kit, a bundle of hangers, a cooking pot, my shoulder bag with my usual junk plus a kitchen knife and some garlic gloves in it, and a paper bag with two glasses, a spatula and a potato peeler in it. I was wearing my jacket (despite the heat) in order to carry it over to the apartment in Santo Domingo. I had not taken time to shave that morning. He was busy with a man who sounded important, so a very proper young lad conducted me to his office where I awaited him.

He promised that he or Catherine Lambert would take my pictures. <I asked him to come to dinner some time at Sofia’s.> He asked me to keep an eye out for an apartment in San Jose for a friend of his. <He said he was very busy right now, but would try to come out to Sofia’s in a week or so when things calmed down.>

I still don’t like having asked the favor, but Brad Smith has made it very easy on me.

Feb. 1, I ate leftovers and tried to get things somewhat organized in the apartment. Feb 2, I took flowers & popcorn (in grain) to Doña Carmen’s as a “recuerdo” and carried off the last of my stuff. She said she & Don Fabio would almost for sure go as Padrinos {Godparents} for our wedding. Her mother keeps getting worse. I think Doña Carmen is finally starting to accept the fact that she’s dying.

<I ate at Sofia’s and we had an animated necking session.> One day of not seeing each other made all the difference!

<Tonight Sofia has promised to prepare a meal at our apartment, and we’ve invited her sister and the sister’s boyfriend.>

I want to get a line on a bed today.

Journal, February 1, 1977 PM

Today I move into the apartment in Santo Domingo. <Yesterday Sofia and a sister went over to clean the place up and make me supper.> They said the people came out of their houses to stand and stare at the two of them! <The sister says she even heard one old guy whose wife had called to him from inside say, “Just a minute, I’m watching the girls go by.”> I’m not sure if they were doubtful about the girls’ moral standards or just plain curious.

<In any case, Sofia made me a fine, fine supper, her sister ironed all my clean clothes (including the T-shirts & she’d have ironed my BVDs if I had any clean ones laying around!), and the house was uniformly spotless, with a smell of strong disinfectant. Whatever else she may be, Sofia is a cleanliness & orderliness freak.> Grandma Jefferson would have loved her from all reports!

I had to go back to San Antonio {de Belén} last night, so I took the bus to Heredia with the girls. Once there, they informed me that there was no bus to San Antonio until 10 PM, but that we could go to a movie. Obviously they had it set up ahead of time. I was trapped. They were clever enough not to tell me about the San Antonio bus until we were in Heredia, so I couldn’t suggest an alternative, like listening to the radio or walking around Santo Domingo.

For movies we had a choice of “The Guns of Navarone” and “Tu me Enloqueces {You Drive Me Crazy}.” Fortunately they were cheap, 6 Colones. The women folk went for the latter picture. It was an Argentine version of the old & best forgotten Elvis Presley line of pictures where nothing mattered but his voice & posing, and of course the beautiful chic. The “tipo” (star) even looked like Elvis, & wore open-chested garb to show off his hairy chest like Elvis. The chic was an overdone copy of the “old” Ann Margaret image. Needless to say, it was diverting!

Poor Doña Carmen! Even on my last night in her house I arrived late (10:30), and this morning I gulped breakfast and ran. Some boarder and “adopted son” I’ve been of late!

<Night before last Sofia and I got back into the heaviest theme we ever touch on.> I feel I am largely wasting my time here, intellectually, and she immediately assumes that includes her, though I try to explain I’m only talking about my job which is not furthering my long range intellectual goals much. She then attacks (and from that point dominates the conversation with her doubts and preoccupations). She fears I will one day shut her out almost completely in favor of scientific interests, and warns she won’t tolerate such abandonment of her & especially of her children. She says she sees the makings of a “mechanical existence” in my personality already. I counter warn that she must cultivate her own interests because I will not devote my life to being her caretaker and entertaining her. As before we reached no conclusions. Only time will tell, and neither of us is ready to give up our relationship to go look for a potentially better one.