Images, August 1976

The group from the Planning office at DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} in front of a monument at San Jose National Forest.

Picnic on the edge of the cloud forest in San Jose National Forest. The group is from the office I worked at for 4 months, Department of Planning at Renewable Natural Resources Agency.

Terraces planted to strawberries in San Jose National Forest.

Portable lumber saw being used in San Jose National Forest.

The Rio San Jose just below the main buildings of what was hacienda San Jose before it was purchased by the government and converted to a national forest.

View from a firetower in San Jose National Forest. Below is a planned settlement. peasant farmers have been encouraged to live in a few government built towns instead of dispersed throughout the mountainous region. Metapan Lagoon is in the background.

A bed of orchids in San Jose National Forest.

Sandra Yanira, secretary in the Planning Office of the Renewable Natural Resources Agency, in San Jose National Forest.


Journal, July 31, 1976 PM

I just returned from seeing “Jaws”, the movie sensation of over a year ago. It was just a suspense & gore type horror show, with the scientific twist that seems to be a big winner with North American audiences. It was sort of the old man-eating tiger gig popular in the old jungle movies, gone aquatic. For the high price it cost to film it, it was still a picture that gave the impression of having rather fakey special effects. The roles of the old-saw fisherman & the oceanographer were too pat. Only the chief of police was believable.

Such pictures, with their heroes somehow triumphing against the odds, zero in on a basic need we all have though. I guess I would simply call it a need to transcend our insignificance. Yea, the hero will die & be forgotten and all that, but he had a moment when he was in control, in his glory.

An article I read in the “New York Times” yesterday says we are learning to accept death more rationally, talk about it, etc. But doctors are some of the people most scared of death, says the author. He thinks that’s bad & ought to change. I hypothesize that a fear of death probably helped drive them to become doctors. I think an unwillingness to accept the absoluteness of death is a basic part of the character of Western man. Why should a man, who knows he’s going to die, strive for wealth, power, acclaim, if not expecting some measure of immortality with it.

I think modern man has gotten to where he can handle individual deaths, but is he ready to really realize that his whole civilization is just a match burning in the night; in a few seconds it’ll burn itself out? What drives scientists to work feverishly a whole lifetime, just laying the groundwork, maybe, for a theory? Knowing, as they must, that some of the postulates they have the most confidence in can be transcended by new observations, they strive on. They just want to know (all they are capable of, all they can force their minds to absorb, translate, deduce, create!), and they hope against hope that their intellectual descendents will carry on the “good fight”, and maybe some day, one day, the code will be broken; we will actually know what is going on. We’ll have gained along the way lots of methods to deal with natural phenomena, too, as the engineers follow the scientists along.

And then will we be able to fold our arms, say that’s all very well & accept it? Hell no, if there was no legitimate science, we would invent a pseudoscience to keep searching for an out! I believe with Thomas Wolfe that man’s destiny is to die with defiance on his lips. “Science is an active response to the world.” (Tom Robbins) It’s a defiant response really, systematic defiance, resistance.

Count me among the resistance. If I were ready to accept the Bible or any other written work on faith, I guess I’d be a priest. If I was ready to accept the brief insignificance of my life for what it is, I guess I would be content in sociology or psychology - trying to impart my indefatigable sense of calm and the rightness & logic of it all to others. I’m unstable, passionate, violent, compassionate and indifferent, all inside a second. I will seek the knowledge I never realistically expect to find. Could anyone really have expected Eve not to bite the apple? Snake or no snake, it was there!

My, the thoughts that come to me as I sit alone in Apartment A, Apartamentos San Francisco in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, at around midnight. The neighbors just turned off the U.S. rock music they had been playing as background music. Wait, here it comes again! What a relief; anyone who’s ever been to the movies knows the music only stops when a character dies! Whew, glad it wasn’t me that time!

Journal, July 30, 1976 PM

Our basketball team at work won a game today. I enjoyed playing, but the rampant fouling by the other team (and the Salvadorans on ours), and the weird, seemingly capricious, calling of violations by the referee annoyed me more than I should let it. In the excitement of a game, it’s tough to remember that they are involved in a game they only halfway know how to play, and they feel a tremendous need to impress (or better to beat!) the Gringos {North Americans}. Since the Gringos are taller & all, they feel it’s only fair they should be able to commit slapping & bumping fouls at will, or so it seems! They play basketball rougher than they do soccer. Of course in soccer they know the rules a lot better! Anyway I felt good about a couple shots I blocked. Really, what Mike {Shank} and I have that most of them don’t, is knowledge of how to play defense, and of the importance of position for rebounds. Many of them are good shooters.

Work was a daylong party. They extended the week’s vacation for the Fiestas Agostinas {August Celebration} by a day. I plan to get out to Metalío next week; spend some of my vacation seeing what’s going on at El Maizal.

Journal, July 29, 1976 PM

Another day ... I watched Poland go 4 goals up on North Korea at the tienda {store}. They won the game of course, & will play East Germany for the Olympic title. They play like the Germans, well-disciplined precise passers who just wait for one defender to be out of position and, bam, there went the pass & the shot! Soccer, when well played, is really exciting to watch - faster moving than anything except hockey.

<I went to the office, and wrote to Sofia.> He cumplido mis deberes pues, buenas noches {I have met my obligations, so good night}!

Journal, July 29, 1976 AM

I played buckets {basketball} after work yesterday afternoon, and I was so worn out I went to bed about 8:30. I had hoped to go see a little of the Olympics on T.V., but just couldn’t make it. I had a slightly sprained ankle too, and had to take aspirin to get to sleep.

I’m feeling the effects of that antibiotic; I’m all bound up, still can’t shit properly! I just hope that it’s done its job. Today should tell when it passes on out of my system.

Mike {Shank} gave me some more stuff to write up on the coop studies at work. Looks like I’m going to end up writing up as much of it as he has, almost. He’s leaving after tomorrow, so I’ll be unofficially in charge of putting it all together. The big question is if the “heavy weights” in the office will accept it essentially as written, or order a complete revision. We’ve put in a lot of work - especially Mike - and we want our ideas to come through. A ver {We’ll see}!

Journal, July 27, 1976 PM

I lied down at quarter to nine to get a little sleep so I could maybe go catch some of the Olympics at 10. It’s quarter to 12. I must have something wrong with me; all I want to do is sleep! I took 2 super parasite killer pills recommended by Steve Hays tonight. I hope they work; they have succeeded in drying my mouth out.

The Russian Olympic basketball team was eliminated by Czechoslovakia 89-84. So the big U.S.-Russian rematch will never come off. The U.S. has to get by Canada yet to make the finals too. Maybe there will be a brand new champ this time. Only the U.S. had won Olympic basketball titles until Russia knocked us off on a much-disputed last-minute play 4 years ago.

Intestimicina, that’s the superdrug, and boy do I feel spacey. I hope it’s done its job by morning!

Journal, July 26, 1976 PM

I got my letter off to Juan Coward {Peace Corps Costa Rica Agriculture Program Director}, major accomplishment. I had planned to write 2 more letters tonight to finish off my pending correspondence, but I got home late, puttered over supper, read about the Viking mission in the newspaper, and now I have no energy left.

I’m going to stop taking my cold medicine. I think it may be what is sapping my energy and making me constipated! If it ain’t the disease, it’s the cure. I think I’m about over the chest cold I’ve been suffering from though.

Reading about Viking makes me itch to get back into science. The things they are finding out daily during this mission! It really represents man’s boundless energy and insatiable curiosity being put to its best use. The idea of colonies on other planets or moons is being removed from its shelf in the science fiction section and brought over into the realm of realistic future possibilities. <I wonder if Sofia would like to be a Martian pioneer.> Ha, she doesn’t even think much of the idea of going to the U.S.!

Journal, July 25, 1976 PM

Que tranquilidad! {What tranquility!} I have the place to myself tonight, and after some work, have things pretty well in order. I’ll be glad when Mrs. Zúniga comes Tuesday and does all the dishes. Ed {Shiffer} and his army of CREFAC kids left a mountain of them in the sink last night. I moved them out to the pila {traditional outdoor sink}, but am running out of necessary items like teaspoons & coffee cups. I am becoming a coffee addict; I had 5 cups today. And to think I never drank a cup in my parents’ house, ever! I think it’s the pressure I’ve been feeling lately to get things done, & my lack of sleep. But today, after Ed, Jaime {Olson} and the CREFAC kids were all gone, I wrote 4 very necessary letters. I also made yogurt, and did a little shopping.

Ed won’t be back for 3 weeks. I should get just about everything caught up I need to, if Jaime doesn’t come into town either!

The soccer game was well worth seeing yesterday evening. We got to the stadium at 1:30 PM for a 7 PM game, but wouldn’t have needed to. We got to see two preliminaries though. Ed was higher than a kite all afternoon, playing cards, buying beer & peanuts for the kids. The game between Porussia (?) of West Germany and the Salvadoran Olympic team ended 2-0, but was very tough-fought until the Salvadoran goalie had to leave with a twisted ankle, and the Germans snuck in a goal on a penalty kick from outside the larger boxed in region. That shot the home club’s morale. The Germans were a wonder to watch with their pinpoint passing and sophisticated team play. In ability I think the Salvadorans were probably their equals, but the Germans’ superior organization on offense allowed them to control the ball & the game. They just waited for El Salvador to make defensive errors. They waited the whole first half while El Salvador played flawless defense, but eventually their patient precision paid off. Around the stadium after the game everyone was coming up to us Gringos and saying, “You are Germans right?” It was a strange and funny twist on the usual line, “Usted es de Los Angeles, verdad, ó de Nueva York?” {You’re from Los Angeles, right, or New York?}


Letter(2), July 25, 1976

Hi Jan,

Thanks for the airline refund. It came at a good time as I’m finding it impossible to save any money right now. City living is expensive, especially when you have friends that want to go have some beer, see a movie, eat out, etc. Jaime Olson has been in town for most of a week and stayed with Ed {Shiffer} and me. We always do some drinking when he’s around, he’s a true Wisconsin beer drinker!

I’m sending a newspaper clipping that might interest you. The place where I trained (We went out there one day didn’t we?) is being converted into the new campus for Costa Rica Academy. If you could land a job there you could live in San Antonio until you got your bearings. I know it’s about impossible this year, but maybe next.

If I am successful in my most recent gambit, I will be spending a year in Peace Corps in Costa Rica starting in January. When I was there for the 4th {of July} I talked to the acting director and the head man in agriculture. They weren’t too encouraging, but I think there’s a good chance they’ll find a place for me. The people in El Salvador will recommend me pretty highly I think. If I extend & get vacation leave I’ll be home for Christmas. A real urge to see the family, some friends & just familiar territory is buildin’ up in me! I’m applying to U.W. {University of Wisconsin-Madison} for the spring term to have an alternative in case they don’t allow me to transfer to Costa Rica.

<Sofia is fine, by the way, working as a secretary for an underwear firm – of all things – and going to the U. {National University} nights.> Her youngest brother had a broken leg when I was there though. Jaime asked me to be the best man for his wedding, so it looks like I’ll have to buy a suit & God knows what all else. Sounds like it’s going to be a big old wedding. I’m not overly enthused about it yet, but I guess I can stand to be a best man once in my life.

I haven’t got a Honduras hat yet, but expect to eventually. Things are tense between “them & us” right now. Soldiers and civilians have been killed in border clashes and the OEA is trying to arbitrate. I’m sure smuggling between the countries continues though so there should be hats around!

I want to get up to Guatemala and buy at least one blanket and maybe more if I have money. I plan to take off some weekend in September or October. I’ll go to Costa Rica in November for Jaime’s wedding (it’s the 20th) so, if you want something special from either place, send money!

Work is going well. I’m writing up part of a study of fishermen’s co-ops. Jay {Hasheider} says El Maizal may finally get their cows, but they have no crops planted yet. I hope to go visit Don Tín and everyone during the August holidays.

Tell me about the presidential race and important state and local races. The attitude here is that Carter will win easily & most Volunteers favor him because he seems morally astute and he’s an outsider – bound to change things! What’s your impression of Mondale?

No more run-ins with the cops! That was a sobering experience. Without the umbrella of U.S. Embassy protection a person is at their mercy.

Take care,


Letter, July 25, 1976

Mom, Dad and everybody,

I’m sorry to hear about the big drought up there. They even had an article about it in Time Magazine. It must really be bad & here it’s raining like mad as I write! Will there be any oats at all? God I hope it’s rained by the time you get this letter! If not it will look like a Martian landscape up there. (Isn’t that Viking mission {the NASA Viking space craft was in the news at the time} amazing – the precision planning that must go into such a feat!)

I had a nice 4th of July in Costa Rica; I went to a picnic at the U.S Ambassador’s residence. It was nice, like a small town affair, but the president of Costa Rica spoke also (in almost flawless English). Jaime Olson asked me to be the best man for his wedding, November 20 in Costa Rica. It’s going to be a big affair, sounds like, with his folks coming down for it and all. I’ll have to buy a suit, but it’ll be much cheaper here than in the States so it’ll be a good investment. <However, stuff for the wedding, and a ring I plan to buy for Sofia about that same time, are going to require that I have you send me down some money from my savings.> I’d like you to take $500 out of my passbook account and send it down (as a certified check) as soon as you can. I want to have the money in September in case I get a chance to go up to Guatemala and buy a couple things. I put $400 away last year when I had no expenses, so I’m not really spending much that isn’t Peace Corps earnings anyway.

Another thing. I’m trying to get an extension / transfer to spend a year in Peace Corps in Costa Rica. If I do, I will be home on “leave” for 30 days during December & January. If I don’t, I’ll be home in December looking for a job & getting ready to go to the U.W. {University of Wisconsin – Madison} for spring semester. I have applied to U.W. and told them to send everything to Friendship, so anything you get from them for me, open it, read it, & if I have to do something or sign something, send the form on to me. I’ve had lousy luck corresponding directly with them. They insist on sending things by ground mail which takes 1 to 2 months. I just got a notice of a loan payment due which they sent May 15th! I have no idea what became of my other U.W. application, the one for this fall.

Anyway, I expect to see the land of milk & honey again come December – even if I freeze my butt off! I really do miss all of you, but December’s a long way off, so I better not think about it.

Mom, could you send me a ballot for the November election? I don’t want to miss my chance to vote & I’ll be here until December for certain now. Boy that business with Bobby Veeder is a shock. How’d it happen, was he drunk? That sounds like something I’d read in the papers here!

Well, take good care of Lisa’s darling { A cow named Lisa had a female calf. } – who’s the father? I hope ole Belle is still around when I get there in December. I hear “Hoard’s Dairyman” {a Wisconsin-based magazine for dairy farmers} ran an article on how much dairy cattle have improved in Costa Rica in the last 10 years. That true?



Journal, July 25, 1976 AM

It is 12:30 and all hell is loose here. Ed {Shiffer} has at least 10 buddies over. We went to the soccer game - a German team against the selección nacional {Salvadoran national team}. I hope I get a few hours sleep. Ed leaves on the 8:20 plane for Rhode Island.

Journal, July 23, 1976 PM

Jaime {Olson} never made it out here tonight, and he’s got my key the fink! Ed {Shiffer} says that’s why he never loans his key out anymore. I was locked out until he came home. I sat over at the store and watched T.V. (and scarfed sweet bread - I’ve become an absolute addict lately). There’s a really good comedy show on T.V. here (I have to get that name down some time!) where 5-6 guys do situations; they are hilarious. Good old slapstick, wisecrack comedy!

I felt rotten all day at work, a combination of my cold, my cold medicine and the beer I drank last night! It was just as well ‘cause I was doing depressing shit - going through questionnaires and tabulating people according to age, literacy, sex and if they worked or not. Then I cracked out all possible percentages for my table - row, column, by sex and full table. I won’t use most of them, but I had the calculator going, & this way I can pull out anything I want later. One of the girls in the office had a birthday, so we had a hamburger, pop and dessert to celebrate. We each put in 1.50 Colones earlier in the week, and gave her a little cake & a present. The food wasn’t filling so I snuck out and got 3 pupusas {Salvadoran snack food}, rice and a stuffed pepper after we had sung “Happy Birthday” mas ó menos {more or less} in English.

We played basketball after work. We lost by 8 points. The other team was rough! They fouled out 3 guys. The referee was slow and moody, and Mike {Shank} got kicked out of the game, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, and my body felt 100% better afterwards.

Journal, July 22, 1976 PM

Not only Jaime {Olson}, but also Jay Hasheider is here tonight, so I have done 0 {zero} since I ran into Jaime at Peace Corps Office after work. He just stands around & talks, and occupies all my time. I will be glad to leave Peace Corps, or at least Peace Corps El Salvador, to get away from all the people I can’t say no to, and who basically believe life is for passing the time. Great people, but I can’t help feeling that passing time is wasting it.


Journal, July 21, 1976 PM

I’m feeling worn out and drugged up. I got some cold medicine (pills and syrup) from the Peace Corps nurse this afternoon, and took a pill and a teaspoon full. I ate supper and then just conked out on my bed from about 6:30 ‘til 10:30. I got up & finished my application for the University of Wisconsin {Madison} for next spring. I’m applying so as to have an alternative if they don’t accept me for an extra year in Peace Corps in Costa Rica. I’ve had such bad results the last two times I applied to school, that I’m going to mail this application “certificado” {certified mail} and have all their return correspondence sent home so the folks can censor it, and send me by air anything I need to answer. I have no clue as to what became of the application I submitted last spring. I think it’s still possible a response of some kind will arrive by land mail.

Hopefully all this extra sleep will put me back near 100% for tomorrow. I have to write Juan Coward in Costa Rica (Agriculture Program Director there). Now that I have Chico {Rodriguez} and John {Jones} moving. I also have to get on repairing and selling my bike. The rim which lacks a spoke is in Peace Corps Office, just got to get it to a repair shop.

I’m lost in my day-to-day “metas” {goals} for the time being. Same thing with my work at DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}, just cranking out a write-up for a study (as my highschool Physics teacher Don Koleck would have phrased it). The terminology “crank out” describes the process well; it is not an especially creative thing, you are a sophisticated machine analyzing data - probably less efficiently than a good computer would - and summarizing. It’s only a semi-thorough and semi-important study (fishermen’s coops in El Tamarindo and La Unión) so motivation comes hard. I write and am reminded of one of the quotes I copied into my little book, “To feign to approve of what you do befits the temperament of a lackey.” I guess that’s what I am right now, though I keep thinking the big {Río} Tamulasco thing {watershed study project} will give me a chance to use my Rural Sociology education and my personal experience to make their study a good one. They are serious about that study and that will help. But where will a good study take us? Will they pay any more attention to it? How will it make the agencies who are to carry out the project any more efficient? “Between the ideal and the real falls the shadow.” (T.S. Eliot)

Journal, July 20, 1976 PM

I watched the Olympics again tonight, and so will come up short on sleep once more. There is a beauty in sports that really attracts me. For me the athlete is as much an artist as the singer, painter or writer. He perfects a style and in many cases a grace that fascinates the observer. Well, perhaps that’s stretching it for the robot-like Russian basketball squad, but who can adequately describe the beauty of the swimmers & gymnasts?

Work was more of the same, which means the two fishermen’s coops & writing up the study, today. We played some buckets {basketball} after work - the stiffness is just setting in.


Journal, July 19, 1976 PM

I finally saw Ed Shiffer’s commercial today. At about 10:30, during the Olympic game telecast it came on. There’s no getting around it, he plays a faggot {homosexual} hair dresser & he’s funnier than hell at it! They had called me over to the corner tienda {store} after it came on about 7:20, but it didn’t come back {on} in the next 45 minutes.

Jaime {Olson} is giving Ed all kinds of shit about that commercial. He’s showing his reactionary side. There is always some real sentiment behind kidding, believe it!

I talked to {Peace Corps Director} John Jones this afternoon, & have him ready to write me a recommendation to Peace Corps Costa Rica. I have to give him a short resume to get the thing rolling.

Jaime & Ed are looking for Ed’s fuse wire (the fuse is for the shower) and he {Ed} is drunk still from a party some Salvadorans threw for him. Now he’s attempting to change the fuse. It’s better than the commercial!

Journal, July 18, 1976 PM

Jaime {Olson} is here tonight, so we drank beer, played sheepshead & generally wasted the night away. <I had already wasted the day - wrote just half a letter to Sofia - so what-the-****!>

I had a nice early afternoon meal at Gerardo’s tienda {store}. They sure are good to us - chicken , salad, soup, rice & fruit drink - really great. God what a weak disciplined, lazy f***er I am when I have friends around!


Journal, July 18, 1976 AM (Sunday)

A war of words is taking place in the Salvadoran press over the government’s announcement of the first agrarian “transformation” project. The project, which will be carried out in an area along the “litoral” {coastal} highway in the eastern part of the country, is big, stretching from Usulután almost to San Miguel. They will buy up landholdings of more than 50 manzanas {35 hectares} (leaving the owner 50 manzanas if he chooses), and distribute lots to campesinos {peasant farmers} in sizes ranging from 5 to 50 manzanas, but undoubtedly much closer to 5 manzanas in nearly all cases. Anyway, an organization of business interests called ANEP has purchased space in the official paper to call it the first step on the road to socialism, and a threat to free enterprise. The government has answered with (at least 2) 2 page ads defending its case in social terms (very cogently I might add), and emphasizing the long-term health of democracy in this country.

Yesterday, for example, the government had a two page ad, an organization called “Comite pro Defensa de los Derechos Humanos” {Committee pro Defense of Human Rights} quoted James Madison in a short ad calling the agrarian transformation project a threat to liberty, and three labor organizations let be known their unqualified support for the project in an ad titled “A Quien Representa la ANEP?” {Who Does ANEP Represent?}. I hope the government can carry out the project efficiently. I distrust the ISTA {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria or Salvadoran Institute for Agricultural Transformation} bureaucracy from my experience working in conjunction with them, but this is such a big thing, President Molina will be calling the shots all the way, and those who don’t produce will get the ax! It might go a long way toward transforming ISTA! Ed {Shiffer} talked to a university student who invariably criticizes the government, & the guy said this project is clearly capitalistic and organized down to the last detail. Although a socialist by inclination, the student is all for it. I hope the coffee oligarchy and other landed interests don’t prove too much for {President} Molina to handle. If he gets unwavering support within the military, I think his position is solid, but if not he could be ousted or, more likely, have his chosen successor preempted by a man more committed to the “terratenientes” {large land-owners}. Molina’s walking the line; give the little pudgy guy credit!

I got zero goals completed yesterday. Today I’ll write some urgent letters. I have no “ganas” {desire} to do so now, but will not let myself leave this little house ‘til I’ve made some progress.

I saw another movie last night (“Chato’s Land” starring Charles Bronson). Three movies in three nights and none of them very special - I must cut out such extravagance!

Carter-Mondale, I saw the NY Times for the day before Carter announced his choice, and it seemed that Mondale was the man considered most desirable by party regulars. Mondale is young and has a reputation for competence. He could have a shot at president, a good shot if Carter is elected & has a credible 8-year record. He stood to gain more from accepting the nomination than most others. I pointed to him early as a pragmatic choice. Carter-Mondale, I’ll almost certainly end up voting for them. James Reston writes that people considered FDR {Franklin D. Roosevelt} an unknown quality who was fussy on the issues, and that {Harry S} Truman was mortified at JFK’s {John F. Kennedy’s} lack of experience. Carter is just new enough to Washington and tough-minded enough that he might prove great. Or he might make a couple early misjudgments and never recover the public confidence. I like the possibility of change more than the guaranteed conservatism of Gerald Ford, though. And if Ford is forced to put {Ronald} Reagan on his ticket, he’ll steer even farther right. When the chips are down, the Republicans will always opt for the businessmen, and subject the workingman’s interests and social programs to “benign neglect”.

Journal, July 17, 1976 AM

Today I am finally going to have to get a few things done. Last night I got some yogurt made & cooked my own breakfast for the first time in a while. But then Ed said Art & Lila Eisenhower were driving to the movies (“The Man Who Would Be King”) so I went. They have a VW Microbus. What a difference it is to go somewhere on private wheels!

I got a ride with Art to DGRNR (Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables) in the morning as well, so I was really spoiled yesterday.

We played some basketball at noon, 3 Salvadorans and I. Two Salvadorans who knew what they were doing & were tall, creamed me and another who just liked to pump from 15 feet on in. The one guy, who works in the garage at DGRNR, has a lot of ability & plays daily. If he’d had a little more training they might have shut us out. He can dribble circles around me, but didn’t know enough to drive the basket. They say we’re going to have an office team, start practice Monday. The exercise will be good for me.

Well, first order of business is to get those beans cooking!