Images, September 1976

{ The Pastures & Forages group playing football on the beach at La Libertad. }

{ Football on the beach at La Libertad. }

{ Football on the beach at La Libertad. }

{ Diego, Chico and Jaime on the beach at La Libertad. }

{ Rosa and Edwin with Mike on the beach at La Libertad. }

{ Russ and Fred on the beach at La Libertad. }

Edwin, Mike and Rosa Staigers and Diego Cox at Puerta del Diablo, a popular tourist spot near San Salvador.


Journal, August 31, 1976 PM

<The world is treating me right, I got a letter from Sofia today.> She didn’t say anything very surprising, but it was a good letter, full of zest for life & affection for yours truly. What security it means that someone cares especially about me!

The frijolies {beans} got cooked last night, though it took a lot of time. Gerardo {Chavez} told me jokes to keep the time moving along, and kept apologizing for keeping me up. It was well worth it. Gerardo & his family are A-1 folks!

I played basketball after work, although our game was canceled. The other team withdrew from the league! Mike {Shank} & I got into a couple pickup games. The last one was good, full court & we ran a lot. I surprised myself by being in better shape than I expected. We have a new player for our league games. He’s a little guy, but fast, a hustler and a good ball handler, great on the fast break, We’re going to be a fair team!

I got fitted for my suit jacket and vest this evening. Hey, it is going to be snazzy (a favorite word of my Dad)! A custom made suit of clothes, with vest, for $80, and it is good quality material as far as I can tell. <Now if only Jaime {Olson} & Sofia like it.> Russ did! The cloth of the jacket looked good on me today. A trifle conservative, but a kind of cloth you could wear anywhere & not wipe people out!

Journal, August 30, 1976 PM

A nice peaceful day. I just did a little reading at work about living conditions in Costa Rica, outside the meseta central {central valley} & about development planning.

Costa Rica isn’t quite paradise. The government largely neglects the population outside the meseta central, according to the author. I believe it. The working class in the country’s center is really a privileged class compared to the campesinos {peasant farmers} of the outlying, largely undeveloped, regions.

I left work early to see the doctor at Peace Corps Office. Tonight I’m finally putting it to mu amoebas with 4 big yellow pills, which I took after supper. I repeat the procedure tomorrow evening.

Right now I have the woman from the tienda’s {store} beans cooking on my stove. She ran out of gas for her stove & had the beans already soaking. They’d have spoiled, so I came to the rescue. Now I have to stay up ‘til they’re done. Think I’ll go over to the tienda & kill time until they’re ready.

Letter(2), August 29, 1976


I’m becoming such a social creature lately I begin to wonder if I’ll ever be able to shut myself off enough again to study Physics & Math seriously. Now that I’m in the city all my friends from the “campo” {rural areas} stay with me when they’re in town and of course they like to go out for beer & pupusas, to eat, to the movies. Also my Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) neighbors invite me places & I reciprocate and that’s another whole cycle. Then there’s the people at the little store on the corner. I go watch T.V. and buy sweet bread & they invite me to soccer games, etc. I had the man who runs the place make me a pair of pants to go with my green suit jacket - they came out nice, fit perfectly. All in all I’m enjoying myself (except when my intellectual bent suffers guilt pangs!), but I can’t live cheap like in Metalío. The season of weddings & people leaving (with attendant fiestas {parties}) seems almost upon us. Two friends are getting married in September & October - to say nothing of Jaime in November. The first guy from my training group goes home September 18, and from there it’s a steady stream. I’ll be about the last since I’m staying ‘til December. Parties and weddings, more expenses!

I got you a Honduras hat (you can expect delivery by special messenger a little before Christmas!), and I like it so well I wish I could find one a little bigger for me. It was the only one I could find in the whole “Cuartel” tourist market.

I’m really glad I’ve gotten into my present job. It gives me more insight into what a career as an applied or research social scientist would be. So much politics and “professional bias” enters in. There is nothing approaching pure science when the object of study is human society. I find myself being continually amazed at how much government has gotten involved in the lives of its people. The old small farmer individualism flares up in my soul from time to time, and I wonder if we’re all destined to become workers under the mandate of a socialist state one day. The government here has initiated a big land reform project. They are taking a big chunk of land in the eastern zone, and are going to buy up holdings over 50 manzanas per person (about 75-80 acres). It’s a necessary thing and, even with the almost assured horrendous governmental inefficiency, it will do a lot for the peasants. I’m irrevocably for it. Still I wonder what Dad would do if the government told him he had to sell everything over 100 acres? He’d probably organize with other farmers (as has happened here) and try to resist it. Such a program might cause violence even in Wisconsin! Here there is talk of a coup, among other things. It will be a real test of President Molina’s strength in the military, and of the military’s grip on the government, this agrarian reform. A bomb has already been set off at the Catholic university {Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) or Central American University}. (They endorsed the project.) I hope more violence doesn’t follow!

No word yet about my extension / transfer to Costa Rica. I have my fingers crossed, but am afraid they’ll keep me hanging until the last minute.

Good luck with your Spanish. I don’t know about softball in Costa Rica, but here it is the women’s sport, and they have an industrial women’s league in the capital. I think they must play down there too. Hope you can keep the day care center going. Amazing indeed the political waves in social programs!



Letter, August 29, 1976

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

Hope the rain has continued up there, August has been very dry here & on the east side of the country an awful lot of crops were lost. I guess England is the worst dustbowl of all from what the papers say – worst drought in 500 years. Time seems to be trucking right along even though I have no idea what I’ll be doing this December.

I don’t see any way that I can be kept from coming home for Christmas, that’s as for sure as I can say about anything! But from there, I might be another year in Peace Corps in Costa Rica (They’ve given me no word yet.), or I might go back to college. A friend is going to wait out the winter working on a Quaker dairy farm in Costa Rica after finishing Peace Corps service in December; It’s another possibility.

My work here is going fine. I am taking part in a couple socioeconomic studies. I’m getting a chance to see what being a real practicing sociologist is all about. I don’t think it’s what I want to spend my whole life doing.

There is a large land reform project starting here and the landowners and businessmen don’t like it, are organizing against it, and are putting lots of anti-agrarian reform articles in the papers. The political situation is pretty tense, some people predict a coup. They need land reform here, there is such a gap between the big export farmers & the peasants, but the project will probably be mismanaged as has occurred with previous government projects. It’s hard to say what will happen.

I got the 2 rolls of film, thanks. I also got the picture of some strange people in overalls. I readily recognize Dad & Joyce, but Bruce, Tom & Carla change markedly from one picture I get to the next. I think Tom must have passed me in height by now! How was the fair {referring to the Adams County Fair}? Are Le Roy and Wilber {local farmers who showed cattle at the fair, and were bitter rivals} still battling it out for the champion {Holstein cow} as in years past?

I hope someone finds my “Scientific Americans” useful. I had intended to have them sent here until October, but I sent them notice in plenty of time, so they changed the address immediately upon receiving my letter, computers!

I’m suffering from diarrhea and stomach pains tonight. Every time I think I’m finally immune, I get another attack. What a drag! Tell Dad to take the $500 out of my Golden Passbook {bank savings account} (please). I don’t feel like starting a correspondence directly with the bank, so otherwise it will have to wait until December. I appreciate the gesture, but you know Peace Corps will give me $2,000 when I leave (if in December, more with another year {as a Volunteer}) so I won’t be indigent!



Journal, August 29, 1976 5:30 PM

I finally broke my string de veras {really}. I have, so far as I know, written in my journal either in the evening or the next morning since I began last December. Today I slipped up. I was too lazy to write last night, and this morning I left the house early to go see Gerardo {Chavez} play in a soccer game. Until now it never crossed my mind that I was neglecting the journal. I’ll have to watch myself for a few days. If I break off this journal, when I do, I know how it’ll happen. I’ll neglect it for 3 or 4 days and then decide: “Well nor that I’ve gone this long, I might as well forget about the darn thing. I just don’t have time to . . . with all the stuff I have to . . .”

Yesterday I went with Russ Soules, his novia {girlfriend} Hilda, and 2 of her sisters, to the Cathedral in San Salvador. I was a witness for Russ & Hilda, for some of the wedding papers they have to fill out. Now my name, and those of my folks are recorded for posterity in the record books of the San Salvador Cathedral. I feel almost immortal.

Actually, Russ and I met the women folk at the Cathedral, so on the way and before they got there, he was trying to sell me on how good looking Hilda’s younger sister was. I had met Hilda before, and knew she was a nice looking chic, so I was expecting to be struck dumb by the sister. Old Russ must have been playing matchmaker. She was nice & taller than little Hilda, but not a knock-out.

We talked for quite a while tough, while the Padre {Father} gave marriage instructions (or whatever it is that takes them forever to do!) to the “novios” {couple}. Then she started to arouse my interest. She’s kind of reserved, a third-year chemical engineering student who Russ labels the “brain” of her family. She was attracted to me too, and I played with that knowledge a little bit. <In other words I neglected to tell her about Sofia. She’s the kind of chic I might go see again if it weren’t for Sofia & my commitment to her.> But not now, too dishonest, and too much mental hassle. I’ve often thought that if I could run across a chic that was attracted to me, and who was interested in a very sexual & very temporary thing, I wouldn’t feel inhibited. I don’t even think my conscience would act up. <I’d go into it just for a good time, & it would pose no threat to Sofia because it would be on a whole different level.> Maybe I could keep myself convinced of that! What you need for that here is an upper middle class chic, with U.S.A. morals, or a divorced chic of 20-25 years. There are quite a few of the latter!

After the Cathedral, Russ and I went to get coffee to the Continental, a restaurant run by a Spaniard who spent a lot of time in the States. We {my group} went there a lot during our first month in country. I associate it with Bob & Fran Redman. I told Russ about where I was getting my suit made, so we went down to check it out. He’s torn between renting a tux and buying a suit. I ended up getting a vest to go with my suit. What a spender I’m becoming - as if I had money! In a neighboring store he found one tux for rent that happened to be his size! He’s going back with Hilda.

We got buzzed on three large size barrelitos {tap beer} over lunch & had a good talk. Russ struck me as very mature as we rapped, & very sure of what he wants and where he’s headed. He’s got an assistantship to study Latin American Affairs at Ohio University on the graduate level. Hilda may turn out to be more of a social climber than would be desirable, but Russ already has his strategies for managing her. He talks about “strategic flare-ups of anger!” I’m glad his life is falling together. <I don’t know that mine ever will quite like that, but with Sofia, tal vez {maybe}!>

I went to Hilda’s with Russ. He hauled his kerosene stove up there from Peace Corps Office. Hilda wasn’t there, but the sister, Rosa Amita (Rosamita?), was. She asked me when I would stop by again. “A ver” {We’ll see}.

Today I got back on the straight and narrow, however. <Hilda & Russ came out to visit, & I made a point of showing all my pictures to them, and identifying a certain familiar face as Sofia, mi novia {my Girlfriend}.> Sunday afternoon visits are a nice little diversion. They help us waste our lives away a little more pleasantly, together.

Journal, August 28, 1976 AM

I was alone in the house last night, but didn’t get here until 9:30. So it goes.

I spent the day at the A.I.D. Rural Development Office & Peace Corps Office yesterday. I found a whole stack of materials on regional development that I want to go through from A.I.D.’s library. Chico {Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} gave me an unsigned & undated report which he claims is the first proposal for agrarian reform ever submitted in El Salvador. It should be interesting reading.

I went to the A.I.D. / Peace Corps informal monthly discussion forum at 3:30. It is held the last Friday of each month. This month’s topic was small implements for the campesino {peasant farmer}. Two PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers}, Jim Monachino and Ron Roffer, have pushed and finally won some little acceptance for a project in this country to promote the use of hand & animal-powered tools. They put together an outline which shows the basic direction they want to head with the thing. Then, to the meeting, were invited people from this country & other international agencies who have experience with and/or interest in small implements. The result was an interesting discussion of the subject, with many ideas and viewpoints expressed. The most impressive was the head of the Taiwan Agricultural Mission, who told how the Chinese have been using & improving hand tools and other small scale machinery for over 100 years, and how many of their implements might have application here. I talked to Jim & Ron over supper at Pizza Boom. They are enthusiastic, even rather loud (with the somewhat abrasive New York accent), but are doing their homework & know the problems facing them. They caught me on some points I knew little of nothing about. Jim says, “We’re covered.” The only thing is getting their ideas into the agencies here without losing their vitality. They are in no hurry; they want to prove their implements work first. That’s a sound strategy too seldom followed here, good field research.

Journal, August 26, 1976 PM

I was so buzzed last night that I actually wrote after midnight, and knowing it still put down yesterday’s date and scribbled my brief entry. I looked at my watch, it was 12:20 and the date had already changed.

Tonight I expect to catch up on my sleep. I already took an hour’s nap after work and feel pretty good, but I’ll go to bed early just the same. It’ll be the first time this week or so it seems. Plans may be changed though, I saw Russ Soules in the Peace Corps Office, and he said he was coming out. Jay {Hasheider} said he might also, vamos a ver {we’ll see}!

I did some more stuff on the fishermen’s co-ops study today. I saw that in their last revision they eliminated the part of my analysis of “El Socio Adentro de la Cooperativa” {The Member Within the Cooperative} where I discuss sample size & sampling method, and the limitations it places on the generalizing of the study. Oscar told me a few days ago that they were going to change some of my stuff because the small numbers of respondents would be criticized by other “tecnicos” {technicians}. I thought he meant they’d have to yank dome of my tables. Instead they eliminated my disclaimer, siting the study’s limitations, but left all my tables & analysis! That’s being rigorous! I consider it somewhat (get me “somewhat!”) unethical, and will now try to get some info. On the data collection, sample size and limitations of the study put into the methodology section of the write-up, where it really belongs anyway.

Chico {Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} has been busy writing up & refining his prestudy outline. It’s coming along. Now he needs to dig into some pertinent literature to reinforce and rigorously define his research problem. Chico’s got the soils & forestry volunteers all excited & enthused about his subproject within the Tamalasco watershed, so I hope he keeps on it. Even Fred Tracy is fired up about it, and he’s been a PCV {Peace Corps volunteer} as long as I have. Even us old-timers still get inspired (and sometimes fool ourselves!). I hope the whole thing goes. It’s a chance to make more fruitful use of some PCV manpower & technical expertise in something which could provide a firm basis for the development of the upper Río Lempa valley.

<Yesterday at work I wrote Sofia.> Jay had got me worrying about the problems of being married & studying, and about the mess I’ll be in if they don’t give me a year’s extension in Costa Rica. <How can I ever be sure that after we’re married Sofia won’t turn on me and say, “Look man, I don’t want to (or can’t, etc.) work and can’t study in the U.S., and you have to support me. What does it matter if you don’t ever go back to school, you can get a job with what you have if you want to.”> I told her again in the letter how important it is that I study, & that it’s not going to be a life of luxury; that if she thinks we ought to each complete (or at least get through undergrad.) our studies before marrying, I could handle that. She tells me so little of what she’s really thinking. Perhaps she fears she doesn’t have much of a hold on me yet, and doesn’t want to risk offending me. When she has me on the line it could be a whole new ballgame! I certainly hope not. As I get older I am becoming less and less of a sports fan.

Journal, August 25, 1976 PM

Steve Hays said goodbye to the single life with a “despedida” tonight. I’m drunk and have to take a piss. In the words of the great Samuel Clemens, “I will to bed!”.

Journal, August 24, 1976 PM

Another busy evening at Dean’s boarding house. Jaime {Olson} checked out this morning, and Jay Hasheider checked in tonight. I’m getting to bed about midnight, same as last night when I played sheep’s head with Jaime & Dean Current until this hour. It’s fun having people around, but expensive, and I don’t get my little projects done. I’m forever going out to eat, or to the movies.

I don’t feel tired, but surely I’ll be dragging tomorrow, it being the second day-after of a late night. Today was productive at work. I cranked out my draft of the conclusions for the fishermen’s cooperatives in El Tamarindo & La Unión.

I bought a suit today. Rather I made the down payment and they took the measurements. It isn’t like the one Jaime {Olson}, Diego {Cox} & I looked at. It turns out they didn’t have any more of that material. I picked it out all on my own & am now experiencing post-purchase doubts. It will cost me 145 Colones ($58) all told.

Journal, August 23, 1976 PM

Ed {Shiffer} is coming back. He sent me a letter - got here today - saying he will be back September 31, but he has to mean August 31, because there are only 30 days in September, and he says he begins work in Bogotá, Colombia on October 1. Good for Ed, he finally got a job that pays!

Jaime’s {Olson} still here, but went somewhere with a friend tonight. Any time now he’ll be back, he said 7:30 and it’s pushin’ 10 o’clock. I’ll bet he had a few beers!

<I bought Sofia a gift today, a gold-leaf butterfly pin. I’ll send it down with Jaime, with instructions to Pilar to wrap it and give it to Sofia on her birthday.> I spent 89 Colones for it, but it was the only thing in the jewelry store I went to that I really liked. I had thought about getting her something other than jewelry for once, since in general I don’t give a damn about such trinkets, but the very extravagance of jewelry makes it a more intimate gift than say a leather handbag or a peasant blouse. All part of my socialization, I know.

<I plumb forgot to get birthday cards for Bruce & Tom, and I was right there in the “papelera” {card & novelty store} getting one for Sofia.> It’s selective forgetting. They do seem far removed. I’m sure they’ve changed a lot, become very independent, etc. And they don’t write me.

Journal, August 22, 1976 PM

After a day marked by nonaccomplishment, I don’t feel it would be proper to write a lengthy entry. Better to go to bed and hope tomorrow will bring inspiration.

Journal, August 22, 1976 AM (Sunday)

Time is growing short for our little forage and pastures group. Mike Staigers will be gone in less than a month. In two months, Diego {Cox} and Dave {Quarles} should be gone for good. Russ {Soules} will stay on ‘til December like me, and Fred {Tracy} will stay a whole extra year. Jaime {Olson}, of course, will get married November 20th in Costa Rica, and from there may do one of several things. Diego and Jaime are already talking about all the things they are going to do only once more.

<My major accomplishment yesterday was mailing a letter to Sofia.> I read the new New York Times in the Peace Corps Office. Ford & Dole is the Republican ticket. Robert Dole is a “by-the-book” conservative, and a gung-ho party man. Apparently he was chosen for his acceptability to Reagan, as a gesture of party unity. His choice makes the ticket very narrow, two Midwestern GOP old-timers. It’s a shame Ford couldn’t have broadened his political base instead of being forced to toe the conservative line by Reagan. Ford’s sort of another Eisenhower for me. He’s too conservative, like he was wearing blinders and couldn’t see beyond certain traditional policies, but a man of integrity and a basic sense of decency. Carter is still a big ‘?’. If he turns out to be something a little different than the populist, reborn Christian peanut farmer, bent on toting a new broom to Washington, now we can opt to sit pat. (Silent Cal?) Ford at least offers four years of nothing earth-shattering. Reagan vs. Carter would have been much different.

Journal, August 21, 1976 AM

We left Santa Tecla at 6:10 AM, on the dot for El Salvador! It was an enjoyable trip. Both seeing the Forest & Conservation District at Metapan, and eating a picnic lunch & drinking some vodka & pop with the folks from the office, were pleasant. The district is located in the Río San Jose watershed, and used to be a hacienda {large farm} by the same name. DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables} headquarters is the former hacienda mansion – a 3 story “split level” affair on a ridge above the river, which they claim is over 300 years old. If that’s true, it’s a remarkable house, well-constructed. They’ve done some good things in the district, like massive tree planting, zonification by land use, setting up a saw mill, terracing to grow vegetable crops. But they still aren’t realizing the potential of the place as a field lab. They have transplanted apple trees (from the U.S. rather than Guatemala!) 3 times. They are horribly stunted, but still had quite a few apples on them. They have tried producing potato seed, but can’t always get the chemicals they need at the proper time, so they haven’t gotten far.

I went with Hector, Francisco, Roberto Campos, Maria del Carmen, Oscar Nuñez and Sandra. Francisco turned out to be even more boorish when he’s drunk than when he’s sober, but the rest were all pleasant to be with. Oscar N. turned out to be a real wildman and tremendously funny when out of the office. He entertained us all. Sandra too surprised me in how much she loosened up. She is so tough-looking I have to control myself around her. Another surprise, little skinny Sandra is all of 23 years old, divorced, and has a 4 year old son! The world is full of surprises.

Jaime {Olson} & Diego {Cox} are here. They got in last night after I got back from Metapan. We went out so they could eat, in the middle of a big downpour. I had gone out for pupusas {Salvadoran snack food} earlier in the evening.

Journal, August 19, 1976 PM

Jay {Hasheider} showed up last night about 11 PM – I was sound asleep. We B.S.’ed a while, and in the morning we put together a super breakfast. Jay made eggs with tomatoes & onions, and we had creamed beans, coffee, grapefruit juice and “pan dulce” {sweet bread}. So I got a late start going to work, and said ‘fuck it’ and went to try to change some money to dollars at the Reserve Bank. I want to get that $500 the folks sent changed to dollars or Costarican Colones because it appears there’s a run on the banks here. The transformación agraria {agricultural land reform} is causing some panic among people with money. They are buying dollars at as much as 2.80 Colones a bank teller told me yesterday. I got $80 but wasted most of the morning.

My counterpart, Oscar, balled me out for being late, mildly. But he told me to leave a note next time.

Tonight, I went to a concert. Barbara Kelly, a PCV {Peace Corps volunteer}, was the soloist on cello. Tomorrow, we leave at 6 AM for Metapan and Monte Cristo.

Journal, August 18, 1976 PM

Ronald Reagan has been nominated and they are in the process of making a well-organized “spontaneous demonstration”. The commentators pick Ford to win by about 40 votes (over the 1,130 he needs). So goes the Republican convention.

I replanted my beans (all 4 kinds) this evening. This time with fertilizer but without soil insecticide. I have visions of the seeds suffering from fertilizer burn or getting gobbled up by soil insects. I picked out all the grub worms (gallina ciega) I could find, and some small worms too, but who knows. Well, anyway I’m doing it to learn, & if they don’t come up I guess I’ll learn something too.

Journal, August 17, 1976 PM

It just began to rain, sounds like quite a storm. Unfortunately my beans will not benefit from the rain. I dug them up and threw away the dirtin the pots when it dawned on me what the powder I had gotten from Steve Pamperin, and used as soil insecticide really was. Atrazine, I remembered the smell from when Dad used to mix it up to spray on the corn. I have followed in the illustrious footsteps of Harry Brokish, who put a pound of atrazine on the area in front of the Delta Theta Sigma Fraternity house in Madison, and killed even the quackgrass for over 5 years. Harry is the one who left Steve this atrazine, too, in an unmarked piece of paper!

The beans had sprouted, at least 80% of them, so perhaps they would have grown, I’ll never know. I think the atrazine would eventually have killed them. Or at least stunted them so as to make them unthrifty. Tomorrow I’ll try again.

I went on a buying spree today, bought new shoes, a carrying bag, a Honduras hat and a giant towel. The shoes were 13.75 Colones, less than $6 for work oxfords, and they are real leather. The hat is for Jan; I promised her one when she was here.

Work is slow, but Sartre made some good points today: “Thus the best way to conceive of the fundamental project of human reality is to say that man is the being whose project is to be God.” That falls in line with my idea that man has created God and the myths surrounding him. God is the ideal of our consciousness - complete freedom and complete power. He is his own creator (reason for being) which we aren’t.

Sartre goes on to propose the possibility of an existential psychoanalysis, which he sees as more useful than empirical psychoanalysis of the type Freud pioneered. I like his approach. I find myself agreeing more & more with his perspective on things. I’m anxious to see where his approach leads him in the social sphere.

Journal, August 16, 1976 PM

I took it easy today, went over to Peace Corps Office after mailing my letters and going to the bank. I had intended to go to A.I.D. and check out their agriculture socioeconomic studies, but Chico {Rodriguez} gave me a study I hadn’t seen, I sat down to read it, & never got over to A.I.D.

I got letters from Jan & Mom. Jan says my “Scientific American” is arriving in Friendship already. I told them to change the address over in October. It must be that they have their address system computerized; you get a card, you change the address, bleep! At least they aren’t lost, but damn it, I got the subscription to keep my brain stimulated down here!

Mom sent me the $500 I had requested, by moneyorder. However, they took the money out of their account instead of mine. I wish they wouldn’t play around like that, but it’s very parently of them. If I can’t jawbone Dad into taking the money out of my account, I’ll have to pay them back in December when I’m home. I’m not going to start a complex correspondence with the bank.

I bought fertilizer for my mini bean trial today, but am going to use the campesino {peasant farmer} system of not fertilizing them ‘til they come up. That way if they don’t make it I don’t lose the fertilizer.

I read 2 sections of Chapter 3 in Thomas (my calculus book). That’s what I have to do, just a couple sections a day until I get to Chapter 7, and can review those problems I already worked out.


Journal, August 15, 1976 PM

At last I have caught up on my correspondence. I feel squared away with the world. It took me most of the day though. I’m such as slow letter writer. Other than write, I just goofed around with household chores, made yogurt, ground up some beans for “frijoles molidos”, knocked down a wasp’s nest.

I reopened my calculus book today for the first time in a long spell. I had worked through most of Chapter 7, Methods of Integration, sometime last year (in San Isidro). I need to get back at it, sharpen my math. I just read through 7.1 and Chapters 1 & 2 today. After over a year’s layoff, I need to reintroduce myself to it!

Journal, August 15, 1976 AM

I planted my own little bean trial yesterday. It consists of 4 varieties of beans: common red, common black, gandul and lablab. The last two are a couple of “wonder beans” presently being promoted in El Salvador. They are higher in protein than the common varieties, though not on a level with soybeans. The catch is that they lack an attractive flavor, and need to be prepared in special ways. I hope to get some soybean seed and inoculant from Dave Quarles to round out my trial. With all the rain yesterday my seeds may rot, & the trial never get off the ground, but I’m hoping for sun today.

Yesterday morning I went out to the airport with Steve Pamperin to send off some legume seed by air. Some professor in Colombia wants a bunch of legume seed from here to try out down there. 225 lbs. there was of it, in 6 big sacks! He can plant a lot of legume pasture with that! <I also took the opportunity to send another letter to Sofia, congratulating her on her academic feat.> I’m back to dreaming about the two of us becoming Ph.D.’s and maybe distinguishing ourselves in research or literature. I guess there’s no harm in having high aspirations!

I went to see “A Man Called Horse” at the 11 PM movie with Steve Pamperin. Another descendent of the Tarzan series, the mighty white man, invincible yet gentle and compassionate. It supposedly depicted Sioux rituals accurately though, and the rituals were interesting & savagely beautiful. The callous casting out of the old who lack relatives to care for them had to be accurate.

Journal, August 14, 1976 AM

Boy I needed a good night’s sleep after yesterday, and I got it. I got up early, getting less than 5 hours of sleep, and darn near fell asleep in my chair at work, despite the aid of a cup of coffee.

I wrote up the first draft of a letter to the University of Wisconsin Genetics Department. I feel kind of foolish writing the thing, but I noticed an interesting connection between an article in “Hoard’s Dairyman” and one in “Scientific American”, and felt the need to let someone (to whom the information might be of use) know about it. In the “Hoard’s Dairyman” a guy discussing sex control in cattle A.I. {Artificial Insemination} said they had already found a way to “label” the Y chromosome in human sperm with florescent dye, and hoped to do it in cattle sperm, to be able to identify “enriched” sperm mixtures under the microscope. Well, I had read in my March “Scientific American” where some folks at Stanford had a new apparatus which allowed them to separate cells if they could be distinguished by marking one type with florescent dye. The machine employs a laser and two light-sensitive receptors to “read” cell size and coloring due to the dye. It gives a charge to fluid droplets containing cells of a given specification, and thus they are directed to the proper receptacle by an electric field. Why not use the device to separate X and Y sperm? If you can “mark” the Y sperm it should be feasible. Of course I am no chemist, and don’t know all the possible problems involved, but it seems to me that science is on the verge of making possible sex control (in humans, cows, who knows what all, with the help of A.I.), and I want to know if geneticists realize how close they are!

I played buckets {basketball} with the “Informatica” {Information Technology} team again yesterday. Mike {Shank} and Francisco weren’t there, so we almost didn’t have 5 guys, and we were losing 39-26. But we won when the officials’ table told the opposing captain he had fouled out, & he got pissed off and refused to leave the game! What weird games they play here! So much arguing and so many whistles that the game never develops a rhythm.

<I got a ride to Peace Corps Office from team captain Morgan, and there found a letter from Sofia.> What a great letter! I don’t know who she borrowed the lines from or if she did, but they were sheer poetry, and then she dropped the big one: She scored the highest of anyone in her group on their midyear exams at the university {Universidad Nacional}! I may have a fucking genius on my hands! She’s more like me than I thought. All the time saying she was worried about earning her credits, and that she didn’t really study much, and then coming out with the best exam. Worriers make better students I guess.

Her reaction was very different from mine though. When I got a 4.0 cumulative for my first semester in college, I said to myself, “Oh no, here we go again!” I had been valedictorian of my highschool class (96.2 average), and feared I was in for another 4 years of being treated as a brain instead of a human being. I was pleasantly surprised. College is open enough that most folks don’t know your GPA, at least until after they know you. Highschool was a bummer; everyone knew & it made it tough to be accepted as a person. <Now Sofia doesn’t seem to have any reservations, she’s “feliz como una lombriz!” {happy as a worm} ‘o sea’ {or that is} happy.> I feel like throwing in my lot with her may be the biggest piece of luck I’ve ever had!

Journal, August 13, 1976 AM

I just can’t get rid of Dave Quarles; he is here again tonight. He talks incessantly, & demands attention, but the truth is, I enjoy hearing about his ideas & projects. He is a genuine super PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer}, leaving no stone unturned to try to be more useful, and learn more in his role as an extensionist. And on top of all that, he is always so fed up with the inefficiency and politics in the extension service here that he claims it is hopeless, and he is going to quit. He never will though. Dave loves extension work, and there is always the new crop variety, cultural practice or chemical wonder to capture his interest. Where would agriculture be today if there hadn’t been lots of crazy guys like Dave?

Journal, August 11, 1976 PM

I have visitors again tonight, Jay Hasheider and Dave Quarles. I expected Jay, but Dave was a surprise. We went out for pupusas {Salvadoran snack food} and beer with Steve Pamperin, and lots of B.S.’ing. Gary Forest left me 3 “Hoard’s Dairyman” magazines to look at. Wow, what nostalgia, reading about some {Artificial} Breeding co-op’s new “hot” bull, and about the value of computerized cow matings. They had a short article about a dairy cattle show in Costa Rica by the guy who judged it. He was very impressed with their cattle.

I talked to Chico {Rodriguez, Peace Corps Agriculture Program Director} today. He was all inspired about the study he wants to do up in Chalatenango – the Río Tamalasco area. He has a good approach, if he can implement it. He wants to look at the technological stages that farmers are in. Do a typology, then look at the cost-benefit of raising farmers of a given stage to the next higher one. He also wants to organize 5-10 PCV’s {Peace Corps Volunteers} to work on plot work and analysis to find out what the transition really does cost (a pivotal item). It all sounds good, and I even got enthused about it, but I don’t know if Chico will ever follow through. It’s going to be tough, & he does have to be a Peace Corps PTR {Program Technical Representative} too! I’m all for him though, he’s trying, and if he does it, it will be useful to DGRNR {Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}, and maybe have broader applications. His approach appeals to me much more than the general, unfocused and “we have to do such and such a study, so” approach at Planificación {Planning}.

Chico said he talked to Juan Coward about Jaime {Olson} and me wanting to transfer down there. He wasn’t very encouraging. He said that Juan said his recommending us would help our chances, period.

<I got a letter from Sofia.> She says she can’t make it up here in September – exams in school and a big paper, etc. I expected that outcome, but it still was disappointing. I guess more so because she sounded pretty down, said I hadn’t written much and she couldn’t find a telephone to call me on September 15, so she thought she’d have to forget it. Poor kid. I’m going to have to write her and find something cheerful to say.

Gert {Verberkmoes} wrote too. She says the long drought in Wisconsin broke July 23 with a big tornado. It took down trees in her neighborhood. I hope they got the rain without the extras at home.

Journal, August 10, 1976 PM

Today I make good my promise of some time ago to tell you the name of that funny Latin American T.V. show. “Chespirito” is the name and it is just plain cute. I went and saw it again tonight. I’m in some danger of becoming a T.V. addict all over again. I was badly afflicted during all of my pre Peace Corps life.

Mrs. Zúniga, the housekeeper, reports that Ed Shiffer will be back about August 31, that he will stay here 2 months, and then spend a month in the U.S. before beginning his new job in Colombia in December. Sounds like he got the job, good. Meanwhile Miz’s {the cat} young’uns are starting to wander around, and will soon be eating me out of house and home.

I went to the A.I.D. office this morning, looking for a lead on studies of river basin development. I want to get some methodological jumping off point, and I need it now, before the pressure is on to put together an interview form and go to it. I got a couple possible things out of the visit, and want to go back some day to browse through the stuff they have on hand there. I want to find one or more really well conceived and well carried out studies.

Rafael (#2 boss of my subsection at Planificación {Planning}) said he turned the stuff Mike & I have put together on the fishermen’s cooperatives over to Tito (the boss), who is just back from some conference or other. He hasn’t been around since I began work there {at DGRNR, Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables}. I gather he’s the intellectual heavyweight of the office, so everyone will wait for his judgement before agreeing that we done bad or we done good. He hasn’t said a word to me since he returned (yesterday). Perhaps he hasn’t noticed me yet. I’m more interested in how he’ll react to that little bit of work I’ve done.

Journal, August 9, 1976 PM

Back to “normal”. I went to work today, and things were the same as I left them. They still are working on the budget, in August, and I am trying to get the study of the fishermen’s cooperatives in El Tamarindo and La Unión organized, so when they are ready to look at it, it will be all but written. I still need to write up the conclusions and recommendations.

Doctor Zavaleta said my feces sample came up negative once again. He says if I keep feeling bad we’ll start treatment anyway. Actually I’ve felt pretty good & stopped shitting so irregularly since I went out to Metalio. I’m sure I have amoebas though. I leave lots of gooey feces on the toilet paper; when I’m healthy it comes up clean. Oh the advantages of putting your toilet paper in a separate receptacle! You get a chance to inspect it.

Dave {Quarles} & Gary {Forest} helped me finish off my oatmeal this morning. It’s getting even more expensive, so I’ll have to find a substitute breakfast. Tomorrow it’s just eggs & beans.

I wrote to the woman. Nothing to say. Hope she lets me know the story for September pretty soon.

Wow, did we have an earthquake tremor today. I had all but forgotten my nervousness of a while back. It lasted 20 seconds and was pretty strong. I put a book over my head; people at work barely noticed.


Journal, August 8, 1976 PM

I have to take some time and write a little about today, even if it means losing precious hours of sleep.

This morning I wrote a note sitting on my cot in Kikilita {beach house #2}. Since then I went swimming with Jay in the ocean & estuary. That took up all morning. We didn’t take Modesto {the caretaker’s son} over to El Maizal to see the doctors. As it turned out, the friend of Dr. Suarez who “evicted” us from his rancho {beach house #1} for the last two nights, is a doctor, and was already in the process of prescribing stuff for Modesto’s leg. Relieved of that burden, we decided it was high time we hit the ocean. We were very cautious though. We rode a few waves, but came in farther when it got choppy. Swimming up the estuary from the mouth was great. We had an aiding current because the tide was coming in, & you could just float right on up stream. We arrived back at Kikilita after noon. I was really burned, sleeping is going to be painful tonight.

Good old Don Tin gave us lunch on him today, & Santos was there to send me off too! I got a picture of Santos, Don Tin & Doña Reina with me before I headed out. <Don Tin & Santos promised to serve as judges of Sofia’s fitness to be my novia.> If she comes up I will of course take her to Metalio.

I took the slow bus in and made it by 4:30. As I was chopping my carrots to throw in the rice for supper, over wander Dave Quarles and Gary Forest. They wanted to go to a 5 Colones movie called “Emanuela”, but my budget said no, & I talked them into “3 Days of the Condor” for 1 Colon here in Santa Tecla. We were not disappointed by the picture. We all came out of it numb. It was very well done, & too, too believable. Gary says it’s based on a book written by a former CIA person. It got us discussing the sinister side of our U.S. government, & what (if anything) can be done about it. Make their operations public, make them accountable to the people, but there is value in their contingency plans & hypothetical “game playing”. No answers.

Then comes the view from the personal standpoint. How much, as a person of conscience, should I have to do with a government involved in such things? It comes back to the quote I have by Reinhold Niebuhr in my little book. Paraphrased: We have to keep risking our integrity to try to solve the problems which confront our civilization, but we must never give in to the “ends justify the means” adage. We must always use the most humane and just means possible. So we have to get involved with our government, or we will deserve fascism.

But government is always a dirty business, attracting so many ambitious men. One can devote too much energy to it, and waste life struggling in a hopeless attempt to make the system follow some model. It’s not for me.

After beer, popcorn and some tamales (provided by the “dueña” {owner} next door), Dave began talking about his travels in Europe. On $500 he spent 10 weeks in Europe, Turkey & Israel. He did it by living in youth hostels, having an international student card, and hitching. What a chance to see places, know cultures & meet folks from the world over. Why didn’t I do it? No vision, I’ve been going through life with blinders on. Ha, and now I plan to get married and add the yoke! So many things have to be relegated to “maybe someday.”

Tomorrow it’s back to the job, oh dull life. More self-discipline is the answer. Study calculus, Dino, make a useful person of yourself! Forget the writing dream, you have nothing to write about yet. Leave it for “if all else fails!”

Journal, August 8, 1976 AM (Sunday)

I didn’t go into Santa Tecla. Jay {Hasheider} talked me into staying, since we “knew” the doctor’s friends would be leaving last evening. As it turned out, we walked over there {the doctor’s beach house} after supper, and they had left, but only momentarily, and would be back to spend the night. We fixed Jay’s bike & came back over here to Kikilita {the other beach house}. Just before we left the other place, Jay noticed that Modesto, the kid of the cuideros {caretakers} (don Adán y familia {and family}), had some kind of infection on his right leg. It looked like several infected wounds or huge pus-filled pimples around his knee & extending up onto his thigh. We are going to take him to see the doctors at El Maizal today. Jay decided. It looked so bad he felt something had to be done right away. I had to agree.

Yesterday morning we went to Sonsonate to get a tube for Jay’s bike. We stopped by the home of Conrad Ebish’s girlfriend, Ana, and there found her & Conrad, and some baskets Jay had had purchased for him in Nahuizalco. Another of Jay’s schemes was unfolded before me. He plans to send back the baskets and some “pastes” (a plant that when dried & cleaned out makes a natural scrubber) to a sister and have her check into markets for them. If there is demand for something he’ll ship big quantities & go into business.

Anyway, we spent the day buying “pastes”, going to the Post Office to check mailing rates, and shooting the breeze with Conrad and Ana. It was all pretty pleasant and relaxing, and as Jay says, a year or so ago he wouldn’t have spent a day like that. He would have thought it was a waste of time. That goes double for me. It is a waste of time, but also a way of passing the time, and after all that’s what a great part of our lives are devoted to – passing the time – rather than financially or intellectually productive activities.

Journal, August 7, 1976 AM

We are at Kikilita {the other beach house} this morning, Jay & I. We got surprised by some friends of the doctor last night about 9 PM, and decided that our best course of action was to split. A whole bus load of folks, with what looked like a week’s supply of grub, showed up in a VW microbus. I never stop being amazed at the number of people they can get in a single vehicle here!

We arrived here last night just before the rain started, luckily. It rained hard & blew hard. I think I’ll go back to Santa Tecla today. Another night of not knowing where I’ll be sleeping doesn’t appeal to me! And Jay plans to go into Sonsonate to get a tube for his bike.

Journal, August 6, 1976 AM

I’m at El Maizal again this morning, this time with Jay {Hasheider}. I spent most of yesterday here waiting for him. He was in Metalio at the rancho {beach house}. I spent last night there with him, having my clothes & stuff here, so it is almost noon, and I’m just getting around to writing.

Jay is stimulating for me. He’s got so many ideas & ongoing and potential projects, mostly crazy, but what energy and ingenuity! Last night we spent a couple hours just B.S.’ing - refreshing. Today he talked me into letting him try to get plates for my bike, & then sell it for me - for half the profit over & above 300 Colones guaranteed that I get. I must be crazy, but he’s going to do the running around he says!

Journal, August 4, 1976 PM

The fast lasted until 5 PM (excepting one Coke that Gerardo forced on me while I was over at his tailor shop). I broke it when Steve Hays invited me over to have tamales de elote {young corn tamales} with his fiancé and him. I went home and cooked up 4 eggs, since now that I had agreed to go eat tamales there was no reason to fast! I needed to eat up the eggs anyway since I’m going to Metalio tomorrow, & they probably wouldn’t keep.

The tamales were fine, and with beer and conversation, were a pleasant end to my day. Steve’s woman is intelligent and witty, yet has that reserve you only find in people from the campo {rural zone} here. She’s tremendously likable and cute like a little pixie. She’s also got her ideas - a Catholic communist or communist Catholic. Steve insists she can’t be both, but she embraces both the church and a Leninist bent Marxism without feeling at all uncomfortable. She also can make tamales and quesadilla {a cheesy sweet bread}, and she has very nice legs.


Journal, August 4, 1976 AM

A pause
it is all so simple, so obvious
you are not nothing
you are the very next thing
you exist for a moment
(so very wrapped up in that moment)
striving, grasping, trying
all in a moment
and God, eternal life
fools you have no perception

I really was aware yesterday, of the futility that is my life. I was down to not being able to escape the meaninglessness. Finally, to salvage something from the day, I tried to capture that moment of realization when you can’t escape the simple, dismaying truth. We are just biological organisms, advanced yes, but we can’t transcend our animalness. God, we invented him to comfort us and lend meaning to our existence. We call a book His and yet we retranslate and reinterpret it to fit our evolving concept of Him and the universe He created. All very fitting, to be expected.

The full realization of our insignificance is the first step on the road to the comprehension of our significance. We are the “best and brightest” there is, as far as we know. We are capable of seeing ourselves in the scheme of the whole universe. Who else is? Thousands of us dedicate our lives to the gathering and codifying of knowledge about this thing we are a part of. Ha, world & universe are our labels. Who else has labeled reality to such a degree, & debated over its essence?

I pretty well shot yesterday on that pair of pants. I finally got the material in the afternoon. I went into San Salvador with Mario {Chavez} and his mother. We saw the parade of queens and clowns for the August Festival. There were lots of semi-pretty to pretty girls on floats. The Salvadorans get off more on the clowns though. There are always men dressed as women, strutting their stuff like whores. There is an evil king, who is as ugly as he can make himself. There was a black-faced clown also, whose significance, if any, I failed to catch.

Sartre was discussing choice and freedom yesterday, but I only half caught it. What I really want to get to is how he translates his basic postulates into a socialist philosophy.

I was feeling physically queasy and restless yesterday. I think the amoebas had a hand in it. I just kept stuffing food into my body although I wasn’t really hungry (Never gave myself a chance!). Today I will attempt a fast for disciplinary reasons.

Journal, August 3, 1976 AM

I nearly didn’t get around to writing at all today. I had to take an umbrella over to the tienda {store} early so Gerardo {Chavez} could take it to work. Then I started talking to him about making me a pair of pants, & he came over to see my suit jacket. He wants me to sell him my bike too, so it was a chance for him to see it. I went over to the place where he does his sewing to look at material samples (taking the jacket along) and by the time I got back, I had forgotten about the diary.

I got the bike fixed & running now. I want to sell it quick, before I’m tempted to start riding it around.

I am feeling rotten today. However, my feces sample came up negative, so I had to take another yesterday. This one better come out positive. I could die waiting for the sample to prove I’m sick! (But don’t count on it.)

Journal, August 2, 1976 PM

I lacked one washer, or I’d have had the bike all ready to go yesterday. I believe that washer must have either disintegrated or been eaten by Ed’s {Shiffer} turtle! I looked everywhere to no avail.

Sartre says the reason or motive and the end are part of the action, that they all come into existence together and “explain” each other, but no one is cause of the others. It’s true I think. We have a basic freedom to act, once we are aware of the alternatives, even though when we act we can legitimately contend there were “reasons” for our action. Being aware of alternatives to our present state is crucial. Sartre gives the example of worker revolts in the 1830s. The workers revolted & were in control of Lyon, he says, but once in control were at a loss for what to do & went back to their homes. They lacked a vision of a world which could be “better for everybody”. Their present condition, though wretched, was not unendurable because they were unaware that it could be different. Needless to say, Marxism was the doctrine which gave the workers a vision of a better world on the horizon.

In the evening I was restless, and took a walk around Santa Tecla. The women sell fruits and vegetables, or clothing items, or snack foods in the streets until well into the night. The ice cream venders hang around near the 2 movie houses & the 2 central parks with their little 3-wheeled push-type freezers. Other women are slapping together pupusas {Salvadoran snack food} in their chubby, damp little hands. They sell on the sidewalks near the second park, or in little shops all over town. Everywhere it’s buying & selling. I can never walk around this town anymore without buying a little something somewhere. You don’t have to enter a shop, they are there in your way, asking you to buy, beseeching you.

At the Terraza ice cream parlor I note the entrance of a dude and his mall, flowered shirt unbuttoned almost to the waist, with immaculate white pants, high-heeled, recently shined shoes, greasy hair. In Chicago you could be sure he was a pimp, dressed like that & showing off the hair on his chest. But this ain’t Chicago, & he’s just another working class hero, out on the town on a Sunday night.

I came across a drunken group near the first park. It’s so easy to see how people get macheteed or shot by friends or acquaintances while drunk. Men have the habit here of poking and jostling each other for laughs, like school boys back home. So if one guy is drunk maybe he pokes a little hard, or maybe he says some curse a little too vehemently, & if the other guy is drunk too, maybe he calls him on it. I’ve seen it happen so many times, & I try to avoid places where folks drink seriously. Usually they just gesture at wanting to fight, and let their buddies hold them back & calm them down. But once in a while – especially if one or both are armed – they slip over the brink.